A writer looks back on her costly mistakes—blowing a generous book advance while pursuing a relationship with a married man:

“I was 27 the year my first novel sold for half a million dollars. During the three years I spent writing the book, I’d gotten by on next to nothing, eating ramen noodles for dinner and living in a rented apartment in Colorado over what may or may not have been a meth lab. I had $10,000 in credit card debt and $30,000 in student loans, and the most I’d ever earned in a single year was $15,000. Half a million dollars, I remember thinking, was more money than I could spend in a lifetime.

“I’d never had money before, and now that I did, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it. I met with bankers and accountants, strangers in suits who helped me divvy my new money into the kinds of accounts I hadn’t known existed, for purposes I hadn’t ever thought about: a CD for the significant chunk I would owe in taxes; a health savings account (HSA) to cover the deductible on the medical-insurance policy I could finally afford; an IRA to protect a portion of the money for the unimaginable day when I would need it to live on. Afterward, they would shake my hand and congratulate me on my success: I was making such good choices with my money!”