Most of us have made money mistakes at some point. I know I’ve made my fair share. A post on Yahoo! Finance reminded me of some of my past indiscretions. The post looked at some of the mistakes made by Beth Kobliner, Carmen Wong Ulrich and even Dave Ramsey (he even had to declare bankruptcy at one point). While I’ve never been to the point of bankruptcy, I have done some silly things.
My Biggest Mistake: Racking up Debt in College
The truth of the matter is that I could have completed my undergraduate education without borrowing. At all. However, I got a little crazy with the student loans (just because you can borrow the max doesn’t mean you should), credit cards, and having a good time. I really didn’t think about when all these bills would come due, since it seemed like a long time off. And, in the meantime, the minimum payment on a credit card with a $1,000 limit really isn’t too onerous when you have a part-time job.
Sometime between my junior year and senior year of college, I realized what a problem this was going to be. I began working to fix my problem, spending as little as possible and trying to pay down credit card debt. At first, I further compounded my mistake with huge austerity measures that forbade any sort of “fun” spending — even a treat. Of course, I soon experienced frugal fatigue, especially after I married and my husband couldn’t understand my obsession with not buying anything. So, I’d have frugal fatigue, get discouraged by slow progress, and then binge buy — or let my husband binge buy because I felt so bad.
Eventually, I broke out of this cycle as well, but taking a more balanced approach. (It also helped that I graduated from college and got a full-time job.) I learned to enjoy spending money on the things most important to me, and paying down debt in a manageable way. I also learned that there are ways, other than working a traditional job, to make more money. We’re in a better place now, and able to start building wealth.
Smaller Financial Mistakes
Of course, I’ve made some smaller financial mistakes along the way, too. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned through experience:
- Entering a debit as a deposit in my finance software: That was a nasty surprise at the end of the month when I compared my online bank account balance with my own records. Luckily, my parents came to the rescue, and I learned the importance of paying attention and having an immediately accessible emergency fund.
- Managed mutual fund in my Roth IRA: I opened my first Roth IRA with a friend who sold insurance, and had just got his securities license. We decided to invest in the “no load” managed fund he suggested. Well, I know better now. Even there wasn’t a load, the admin fees are quite high. My other accounts are funded with low cost index funds.