1. Waiting to Start a Budget
Have you procrastinated on starting a budget? It’s time to sit down and get your spending under control. The beautiful thing about a budget is that it not only keeps you on track with your spending, but it tells you what you should feel free to spend. Have you ever eyed a triple-scoop ice cream cone and thought to yourself, “You know what, I’m not sure I should buy this – perhaps I’m spending too much money on little things.” No more, my friend. No more. When you have a budget, you know how much you can spend and still be OK. The long-term benefits of having a budget are incredible. Think of all the money you’ll save, the financial goals you’ll fund and the peace you’ll have with your spouse when making financial decisions together. That’s worth it!
2. Not Paying Off Credit Card Balances Every Month
Credit card debt can pile up fast. If you’re not paying off your credit cards every month, you should start. The interest on credit cards can divert money from other important goals like buying a home or saving for retirement. Budgeting can help you ensure you’re using your credit cards appropriately.
3. Buying a Financial Product Without Doing Your Homework
I know a woman who paid more than $3,500 in variable annuity fees and didn’t even know it. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. If a financial adviser or insurance agent is selling you a financial product, make sure you educate yourself on the product before you sign on the dotted line. (Full disclosure: I’m a Certified Financial Planner.)
4. Neglecting Your Emergency Fund
Emergency funds help protect you from the inevitable. You’re going to have a financial setback at some point. It could be a few hundred dollars, or a few thousand. I recommend you have eight months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. After you use the fund for emergencies, make it your top financial priority to replenish it. If you let your emergency fund slip into the abyss, you might find yourself down the road with more debt than you can handle.
5. Buying a New Vehicle When You Can’t Afford It
Vehicles are important for many people, but they can also become a discretionary black hole. If you are planning on buying or leasing a vehicle when you know you don’t have the money, please don’t. The ramifications of a car payment well exceed the financial hit of the price of the car, and you can end up spending your retirement away without realizing it.
6. Letting Hubris Get in the Way of Smart Investing
If you’re not a financial professional or haven’t been exposed to financial education, you really can make some huge mistakes by going it alone. That’s not to say some people can’t do it, but you may regret it down the road when you try to short a stock (a move that the pros make) and end up losing a huge amount of money. Investing in your own financial education by at least meeting with an adviser, however, is smart. Financial advisers can save you a great deal of time and money, ensuring your investing strategy is relevant for your situation. There are many different kinds of advisers, so do your research on which kind is right for you and your goals.
7. Ignoring Your Insurance Options
If you were to die right now, would your family be financially OK? If not, you may need life insurance. And, that’s just one example. There are a number of important insurance policies you should consider putting in place: disability insurance, perhaps long-term care insurance if you’re over 60 years old, maybe even umbrella insurance. Insurance protects you from financial liability you wouldn’t be able to cover with your emergency fund alone. Don’t neglect it.
8. Putting Retirement on the Back Burner
Saving for retirement is critical. If you’re trusting Social Security to be your sole source of income, think again. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to maintain your lifestyle with Social Security benefits alone. If you would be able to, congratulations, you’re living pretty frugally!
9. Not Getting on the Same Financial Page With Your Spouse
If you want to crash and burn financially, not getting on the same page with your spouse about money is a surefire way to do it. When you got married, you became one – one in purpose. Why not align your financial goals? Talk through your differences, learn to compromise, sail in the same direction. It will be worth it – especially down the road.
10. Letting Recurring Expenses Rule Your Budget
Have a high smartphone bill? Paying too much for garbage service each month? How about that cable TV bill – how many channels do you have that you don’t really watch? Ask these types of questions. They’re good ones, because they focus on recurring expenses. While certain recurring expenses may not cost much each month, they can certainly add up over time. Look for ways you can cut these expenses and just imagine how much money you can earn by investing what you save over the next 10 years – it’s probably more than you think.