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6 Common Financial Mistakes

Here we will take a look at some of the most common financial mistakes that the majority of people make. You might say, this doesn’t apply to me. Are you being truthful with yourself? My gut tells me you are in denial if you believe you don’t have some sort of financial problem.

1) Frivolous and Excessive Spending
Many people assume that their day to day spending is in control. What is the big deal about the $4 coffee or the $9 lunch? These are normal, right? Wrong. Small purchases add up quickly. The frivolous $15 spent per day is huge when measured on an annualized or compounded basis. $15 x 365 = $5,475. If this $15 per day was invested over 40 years at 8% interest, the balance equates to $1,592,772. Frivolous spending is debilitating. Get your act together. This is low hanging fruit. Be disciplined.

2) Never-Ending Payments
How can anyone gain considerable wealth by staying on the payment plan? Whoever invented lifelong payment plans is a genius. People assume it is natural to have 15 reoccurring payments each month. Anything subscription taking away money from me each month does not feel natural. I am sure you could eliminate half of the plans without much pain.

To name a few:

  • Netflix subscription
  • Cable TV
  • Gym membership that you use 2x per month
  • Fancy cell phone plan

3) Living on Credit Cards
For households that carry credit card debt, it costs them about $1,300 a year in interest. Today, the average household with credit card debt has balances totaling $16,748. Only 52% of credit card owners pay their credit card in full each month. Living on borrowed money will only cause heartache. I have seen too many close friends or family give away their freedom to this kind of behavior. Don’t be another statistic. You will never generate wealth by living on borrowed money.

Never fall behind on your credit card payments. Always pay your balance in full. The U.S.News and World Report explains that 35% of your credit score is based on your payment history. Another 30% is based on amounts owed. Don’t ruin your life by having an unpaid credit card balance. There’s a reason why credit card companies offer huge promotions for new card holders. They count on you carrying high balances. It just means more revenue for the credit card companies.

4) Buying a New Car
New cars depreciate very quickly. Payment plans are debilitating. Don’t get more than what you need. The economic, older car will still get you to your destination. What is the purpose of a vehicle? To get you to the destination. Nothing more, nothing less. So why get the big, expensive SUV with all of the bells and whistles? You are not impressing anyone. The seat is not that much more comfortable. If you can’t pay for the car with cash, you probably can’t afford it. Being able to afford the payment is not the same thing as being able to afford the car.

I feel bad for people when they buy a new car. They post a picture on Facebook and everyone “Likes” their new purchase and congratulates them. Why congratulate someone for signing up for another payment plan? Please, don’t encourage the wrong behavior. Instead, I wish more people would recognize payment plans as a form of bondage. Payment plans are miserable. Payment plans are not your friend. They take all your money each month and charge you interest. Doesn’t sound very friendly to me.

5) Spending Too Much on Your House
Housing is the number one expense for most households. Owning a big, fancy house just means a big, fancy payment plan. Mrs. H and I have chosen to live in a modest condo that is completely paid off. It feels wonderful to not be on the payment plan. We could sell our four paid off condos and purchase a very nice house. Instead, we choose to live in a condo and generate rental income on the other 3 condos. There is always an opportunity cost. People justify buying a huge house as an investment. Over the long run, owning a house appreciates at the same rate as inflation. Instead, I consider a house a liability. It takes money away from your monthly income. Anything that negatively impacts your income is a liability in my book. Minimize your liabilities.

Never refinance your house. Refinancing and taking cash out is a bad strategy. This will reduce your net worth and increase your monthly payments. Also, it will cost thousands of dollars in interest and fees.

6) Living Paycheck to Paycheck
This is a miserable way to live. Just think about it, constantly living in fear of not being able to pay your bills. Always one paycheck from being evicted from your home is a terrible way to live. If you believe it is impossible to save money, you are in denial. There are ways. Get creative. Make sacrifices. Avoid eating out. Stop buying the $0.99 soda on your way home from work. This all adds up.

Here is irony: when you get a 20% raise, you still somehow find yourself living paycheck to paycheck. Living paycheck to paycheck is less dependent on your income and more dependent on your choices. There are many low-income earners that are never living paycheck to paycheck. In contrast, there are many high-income earners constantly on the brink of financial ruin. Don’t make excuses. Life is expensive. It always has been and always will be. Just change the way you choose to live.

Bottom Line
You might say that your scenario is unique and there is no way to get out of the rut you are in. I would say that it is possible to get out of your imaginary long term out. Imagine you and I could have a personal conversation. Within 5 minutes we could come up with 5 relatively simple strategies that could be implemented immediately. You can change your circumstances but you must first Believe it is possible. The work every day to make your dream a reality. Life isn’t meant to be dictated by uncontrolled finances. Money is a tool to gain freedom, not lose freedom.

Contributed by Mr. Hammocker