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You Don’t Know What You Have Until It’s Gone

I was in an interesting discussion with my Lyft driver the other day. People are so friendly in the south, including in Mt Pleasant, which was just rated one of best places to live in America by Money Magazine. The saying of “You Don’t Know What You Have Until It’s Gone” as well as “Miss What We (You) Had” came up in relation to the growth and development of Charleston. It is several simple words, but they are powerful and can apply to many situations in life, including to those with financial or personal struggles and the low income. Many people miss what they had…but they only miss it once it’s gone.

This saying can mean many different things. But based on context just a few examples may be.

-It can mean the employee who thought they were unhappy at their job so they left, but their next new job was even worse and had a lower income or other challenges. So they miss what they had in their old job.

-It can be someone who lived a high end lifestyle, did not save a cent, then when they lose their job, retire, get sick, or something changes they relize they missed their opportunity to save/invest.

-It can be the person who made a decision to mistreat someone in their life (physical or verbal abuse, by lying, anger, calling them horrible names or really anything) and then when that person is no longer there, they now realize they didn’t know what they had.

-It can be, using the example of the driver and I, the local residents of Charleston who wanted a little more growth and economic foundation, but now the area is growing beyond their belief (more traffic, less charm, etc.) and losing the small to mid-town feel, which they miss. The driver said the people of Charleston did not know how good they had it, now they are missing the quality of life they had.

-The examples of many people in missed opportunities of careers, businesses, financial goals, not investing, or personal items such as not moving, regrets, not traveling, or whatever.

-It can be someone who gambled, overspent, lived beyond their means and as they age, they miss the money they had and the opportunity they had to make the money work for them.

Many other scenarios can fall into this saying of your don’t know what you have until its gone…as said, simple saying but powerful.

Miss what had, but do not know until its gone

To many people, the Don’t Know What They Had Until It’s Gone can be interpreted different ways. But I do like this interpretation of the situation though. The interpretation of the saying is “Someone said that the Truth is, you knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it”. So the person took advantage of their situation and did not appreciate what they had….job, small town feel, relationship, financial security or anything.

Some of this is also the concept of the grass is always greener. I know of people in the corporate world who thought they were unhappy at their job. Maybe they thought their income was not high enough or they were not appreciated. Or maybe they focused on every bad aspect of their job. So they thought they could do better and left…or were fired as they in effect wanted to be.

Most people also try to get something new or more, such as the latest material item or job. They thought they could get a better job, more income, better hours, happier, etc. They thought the grass was greener, but for many of them it did not work out. They told me, after they left their job and went somewhere else, They Didn’t Know What They Had at their old job Until It Was Gone, and some even wanted to come back to where they did work!

Oftentimes people do not miss something, or someone, until its gone. They assume whenever they needed that something or someone, it will be there no matter how much they mistreat the person. Most people can’t see the impact of the actions they take in their life, such as anger or mistreatment of others, and how it impacts their futures, and they tend to be short sighted.

This is true of personal relationships, work, and possessions. They may not miss some money that they could have saved throughout their life but instead blew on material possessions…so they Don’t Know What They Had Financially Until It’s Gone. They may not miss that person until they pushed them so far away. Or they may not miss that job or career opportunity until its gone.

Often people only realize what they had when its gone. It is unfortunate, but we think the saying applies to financial matters, jobs, and everything in life so worth writing about. We think the point is be thankful and appreciate what you do have (possessions, job, people, etc.) and do not take it for granted, otherwise you may end up missing it when it is gone.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

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