Remembering June Walbert: Tips to Hang Your Hat On

June Walbert

This week I lost a friend to cancer. June Walbert was a mentor, a sounding board, a teammate, and above all, a trusted resource. She used to joke that she was my work wife …work sister was probably more accurate. But we definitely looked out for each other. I participated in and had a front row seat for her difficult journey over the last year and take comfort that she is in a better place.

Over the past 10 years, her passion at USAA was to make the world a better place to live in. This manifested itself in two primary areas: her work with the Animal Defense League and her tireless efforts to help folks make smart financial decisions.

As a professional farewell to my friend, I thought I’d write this post in her honor. Although not an exhaustive list, here are a few items that I know June felt strongly about. By championing these ideas and actions, you and I can keep her message alive.

Adopt a dog, period. I put this first, because in my heart I think it would have been first for her — yes, even in front of budgeting, although she would have argued that you’d save some money adopting. She didn’t just talk it —she lived it and passionately promoted it whenever she could. Come to my house and you’ll find Sammy and Sheila, two of probably hundreds of dogs June helped find homes for.

Drive it until the wheels fall off. June advocated buying decisions that enable you to meet your long-term goals. In fact, she gave me more than a little trouble regarding the frequent turnover in my garage. Here again, she walked her talk. She owned her 2006 SUV outright — she needed something to haul around her furry friends! —and would have driven it for years. Now that’s an example to follow.

Have a spending plan. If I had a dime for every time I heard June say, “Whether you make $50,000 or $500,000, you need a budget,” I’d be in the Bahamas right now. Budget talk, software and aggregation programs are everywhere today, but tools and action are not synonymous. Spending less than you earn and saving consistently would be the ultimate tip of the hat to June. As I write this, I’m smiling as I recall June scribbling out her budget on the back of an envelope. Yep, true story.

Planning and preparation are critical to success. I always felt a little envious when I watched June do an interview, video or presentation. She was silky smooth. She had a knack for delivering the right words at the right time and normally with a touch of humor. Having spent time with her, however, I knew that her skill was not just a magical gift; it resulted from hours of practice and preparation. No matter what challenges we face, that’s a valuable lesson.

We never know. Songs have been written about the uncertainty of life. Wise advice urging us to acknowledge this alarming reality abounds.  We just don’t know what the future holds. That means now is a great time to make amends, patch up relationships and focus on the things that are truly important. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

It was an honor to call June my friend. She made me a better financial planner, a better communicator and a better person. I’m not sure she would have hung her hat on these five points (other than adopting animals!), but we can all honor her memory by promoting and following through on these ideas. Rest in peace, buddy.

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