“I just turned 50, and looking back, I can’t say I’ve ever made a good financial decision. I’ve been laid off from work a lot, and most of those jobs were commission-based, so I never had a solid income to rely on. Now we’re almost $30,000 in debt. But I did have a 401(k) from one of my earlier jobs that I never rolled over. So to make up for some of our debt, I took a huge chunk out of that account, and was penalized by like 40 percent, not to mention the huge tax hits.”

- James R., 50
Wayzata, Minn.

When I got married and had kids, we decided to start putting money away for their college education. We never once dipped into those accounts, even when we were really hurting. Even though that meant we didn’t take many family vacations or drive brand-new cars, both kids got through the first four years of college without having to take out any loans. That was the one thing I really wanted for my kids, and we made it happen.”

- Patricia A., 59
Carlsbad, Calif.

The best thing I ever did was to finally meet with a financial planner. My husband and I were struggling since we were both self-employed and didn’t have any kind of retirement account. He showed us a few investments we could start now, and hopefully we’ll catch up before retirement.”

- Lilly M., 51
Topeka, Kan.

I think the best thing I ever did was start a 401(k) and then a mutual fund. My company is very generous when it comes to matching, so I have a sizeable amount saved in the 401(k). My mutual fund is something I add to when I have some extra cash, and I never really have to keep up with it.”

- Elizabeth W., 58
Denver, Colo.