I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve made more than a few mistakes in my lifetime. After all, everybody screws up occasionally; for us humans, mistakes come with the territory.
For example, I remember the time I decided it would be great fun to play Wii golf for eight consecutive hours. So I did.
Unfortunately for me, my middle-aged left shoulder vehemently disagreed — after the fact, of course — and so I spent the next week popping acetaminophen tablets like they were M&Ms. I know.
It can be even more costly when we make mistakes managing our personal finances; I know I still make them from time to time.
Here are 50 of the biggest financial faux pas household CEOs make. How many of these apply to you?
1. Being impatient. People of modest means should understand two important facts: 1) we can’t have it all at once; and 2) saving money takes time — sometimes lots of it.
2. Failing to read contracts before signing on the dotted line.
3. Using payday loans to cover temporary financial shortfalls.
4. Giving your kids everything they desire. It’s hard to get a feel for the value of a dollar when you grow up never wanting for anything.
5. Signing your tax returns without reviewing them — even when they’re done by a tax professional.
6. Buying a new car and selling it after only a few years. Buying new cars is costly because they can lose upwards of half their value by the time they are three years old.
7. Not doing your research before purchasing extended warranties.
8. Going into debt to purchase things that will decrease in value.
9. Maintaining memberships with monthly payments even though you no longer take advantage of them.
10. Using credit card convenience checks that fill your mailbox. You can reduce the temptation by stopping those dubious credit card offers and other annoying junk mail.
11. Failing to track your income and expenses.
12. Not saving part of your income for retirement. Try saving at least 10 percent from every paycheck; it’s never too late to start.
13. Keeping cash in a low-interest earning savings account despite carrying a high-interest credit card balance. Use any savings over and above that needed for emergencies — and riding out a potential job loss — to pay off credit card debt.
14. Loaning money to friends and relatives.
15. Taking a loan from your 401(k) retirement fund to pay for current expenses.
16. Failing to negotiate your first salary. It’s the most important salary negotiation you’ll ever have simply because all of your future salary increases are ultimately based upon it.
17. Investing without an exit strategy. Without one, it’s tough to recognize the right time to cut your losses — or take profits off the table.
18. Buying more house than you need. A bigger house means more taxes, more interest, more maintenance, and more furniture. (Not to mention more housekeeping too.)
19. Keeping a term life insurance policy longer than necessary. Life insurance is important when you have a family that depends on your income; for most folks, it’s only necessary until their youngest child has left the nest, or finished college.
20. Failing to maintain an emergency fund — or tapping your emergency fund for non-emergencies.
21. Not increasing your 401(k) contributions every time you get a raise.
22. Relying on Social Security as your primary source of retirement income.
23. Keeping your spouse in the dark regarding the household finances. Knowledge is power; allowing one spouse to handle all the household bills and investments in a vacuum can backfire in more ways than one.
24. Failing to faithfully maintain your car. By following your car’s maintenance schedule and paying a little up front, you’ll reduce the risk of encountering more costly major issues down the road.
25. Running up charges on your credit card that you can’t pay off in full at the end of each month.
26. Paying the minimum on your credit card bills each month. Here’s a credit card fact: making minimum payments each month will ensure you pay the maximum interest.
27. Buying on impulse — or failing to shop around for the best deals.
28. Carrying comprehensive and collision insurance on older cars; typically, the two combined account for almost half of the average auto insurance premium. Depending on the vehicle, you may be better off only carrying liability insurance.
29. Spending a dollar to save a dime. One of the biggest examples of this is people who end up spending more than they save by driving miles out their way in order to buy gasoline that’s a few cents per gallon cheaper.
30. Assuming past performance guarantees future results.
31. Succumbing to high-pressure sales pitches and cold calls. Be firm and never commit yourself to any type of hard sell without properly researching your available alternatives.
32. Using a credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM machine. Such transactions typically come with onerous cash advance fees. Even worse, there’s no grace period — so interest begins accruing immediately.
33. Failing to take advantage of coupons and internet promotional codes as often as possible.
34. Failing to automate your finances (Part 1). Automatic paycheck deductions not only help ensure you’ll pay yourself first, they’re an easy and painless way to save for retirement.
35. Failing to automate your finances (Part 2). Prepaying your utility bills, the mortgage and other loans online helps eliminate late fees and postage.
36. Thinking you can ignore your monthly statements because you pay your bills online. Automating your finances is a smart money management technique — but putting them on autopilot isn’t.
37. Throwing away perfectly good food. Believe it or not, I save $1400 annually by eating leftovers.
38. Overpaying for car insurance by keeping a low deductible. Remember, car insurance isn’t intended to cover minor fender benders — it’s designed to protect you from losses you can’t afford to replace.
39. Marrying the wrong person. When it comes to money management philosophy, it helps to be on the same page as your mate. In fact, financial compatibility is a key predictor of whether a relationship will survive long term.
40. Not fully understanding stocks and other financial instruments before investing in them.
41. Refusing to treat your household like a business.
42. Neglecting to have a plan (such as a will or trust) that governs how your affairs will be managed after you become unable to manage them, whether due to death or disability.
43. Failing to review and update your savings goals annually.
44. Underestimating the the power of saying “no.” It’s the best way of short-circuiting the urge to keep up with the Joneses.
45. Not taking advantage of your employer’s flexible spending account. These accounts not only reduce your tax liability, but they also act as a de facto quasi-savings plan.
46. Failing to optimize your 401(k) account every year. Diversifying and balancing your allocations will minimize your losses in the event of a major market downturn.
47. Spending more than you earn.
48. Putting aside money for your kids’ college educations before taking care of your own retirement needs.
49. Cosigning loans — for anyone.
50. Having a defeatist attitude. Because no matter how bad things get, those who are determined to succeed know that, over the long run, they control their own destiny. (Trust me: that even applies when you’re playing Wii golf.)
Photo Credit: Pic 2 Fly