5 Massive Money Mistakes I’ve Made

by Ron Haynes

Managing your money takes time, effort, initiative, and more than a little knowledge, but the most important aspect to successfully manage your personal finances is ATTITUDE. What is the proper attitude to have? I think it’s one that fiercely guards your resources and doesn’t allow anything to drain them away. But, that attitude must be balanced with a spirit of giving and the willingness to enjoy simple things such as eating a $3 candy bar.

For too much of my life, I had one of the worst attitudes toward money and today I’m regretting it. It’s the attitude of procrastination.

Here are MY top 5 massive money mistakes:

1. Believing that “future Ron” will be wealthy enough to take care of everything from children’s weddings and college educations to paying off credit cards with high interest rates. Today I’m playing catch up. I’m working to increase my Roth IRA contributions so that I’ll have a little more for retirement, I’m very concerned with the kids education even though I have pretty hefty 529 plans on all three. I’m also concerned because my oldest will be wanting a vehicle soon. My daughters will be possibly getting married in about 10 years (hopefully a little longer :smile: ).

I always thought that I would be in a different financial situation than I’m in now. Don’t get me wrong. I make a very good living and I’m in much better than average financial shape, but where would I be today if I had simply planned for the future? Procrastination IS planning, it’s just planning to fail….later.

My advice: Start planning your future today, with the next decision you face. Plan your future. Map out where you are right now and where you want to be. Then put your plan into action.

2. Saving with my right hand and spending with my left. For far too long I prided myself on having a savings account. Most people I knew didn’t have one but I did. The problem was that every deposit I made was followed by a withdrawal. I had my wheels in the sand and wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t have any control over my spending and it showed by my acclaimed savings account getting riddled with excessive withdrawal fees. Savings accounts are not what the bank considers “transaction accounts” and they tack on a fee for having too many withdrawals. It quickly eats into whatever pittance of interest they pay and starts devouring your principle.

Out of control spending is a symptom of a much deeper problem. My problem was a lack of contentment with my situation at the time. I alleviated that lack of contentment by buying stuff, mostly with high rate credit cards. Since stuff never makes you happy, I was going into deeper and deeper debt for nothing.

My advice: Learn the lost art of contentment. Don’t just buy something because you want it. Today, our slogan isn’t I came, I saw, I conquered. Our national saying is I saw it, I wanted it, I bought it with Citibank. Learn to be satisfied with your current situation. Do you really need another iPod? Do you really need a new espresso machine? Do you really need a digital SLR camera? Really, really REALLY “need” it? Will your life be incomplete without it? Really?

3. Shunning frugality. I never considered the word until a few years ago. Frugal was one of those attitudes that I associated with cheap. It meant that someone bought the cheap Chek Cola to the church social. It meant eating oatmeal every day with no butter, milk, or sugar in it and nothing but beans for supper. It meant that someone wouldn’t get the AC in their car fixed and drove around in the 105 degree heat with the windows rolled down, calling their AC system a 465–4 windows at 65 miles per hour. Those aren’t “frugal,” they’re just plain cheap. All of these describe me at some point in my life.

In reality frugality is maximizing every dollar. It is avoiding wasteful expenditures and seeking ways to reduce costs. If I can reduce my living costs just $200 per month, over the course of 25 years (the amount of time until I retire) I can earn about $190,000 at 8 percent rates. If I could make it $250 and realize a gain of 9 percent, it would zoom up to $280,000. Those dollars are in addition to anything else I’ve saved. Remember that a penny saved is MORE than a penny earned.

People fret about earning an additional half point on a bank CD but ignore their ability to put real money into their pocket by practicing a little frugality.

4. Paying high interest debt. I’ve already told you the story about How I Experienced the Double Edge Sword of Credit, so I won’t rehash it here. Suffice it to say that I made some very dumb, selfish financial moves when I was much younger and I’m still feeling the repercussions today. I’m still paying off student loans at age 42. Fourty two. Did you read that number? Are you a college student or recent grad? Do you think you’ll still be paying on those loans in 20 years? You better double up on your payments and get them knocked out ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll be in the same boat I’m in.

Paying high interest debt is a drain on your soul. It is so disheartening to see that you made a $275 payment last month and only $31.58 went to principle, the rest ($243.42) went to interest and to line the pockets of some credit card company.

My advice: Avoid paying interest like it was the plague. Since most people don’t know what the plague was, avoid it like the flu!

5. Spending every penny as soon as I received it. When I first got married, $5 could buy you a very nice lunch. So what did I do? My co-workers and I would go out to eat every day. $5 here and $5 there. My wife was doing about the same thing. At the end of our first month of marriage, I prepared to “pay the bills.” I can still remember walking out of that room and her asking, “How much do we have left?” My reply was, “about $50.” I’ll never forget the shock on her face as she asked where it all went. I showed her how much we were spending on meals out and we made the decision to severely restrict our dining out.

As the years went by, I would get raises and bonuses. Guess what happened to them. They were spent on vacations, more stuff, bills that should have been paid for by an emergency fund, and eating out. I spent virtually every dollar I made, without thinking about the future at all. I never allowed the power of compound interest to make my money work for me, nooo, I was too busy eating it, spending it, wearing it, giving it as a gift, driving it, living in it, decorating the house with it, and wasting it on frivolous stuff.

My advice: Invest at least half of every bonus you get, if possible. I do know that some companies pay virtually all their wages in a bonus structure so you would need to take this into consideration when budgeting a savings amount.

As you can see from these, most of my personal problems with finances stems from attitude. All of these mistakes could have been prevented with just a simple attitude shift. Don’t let them happen to you!


Check out My 5 Biggest Money Mistakes at Bible Money Matters.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


If you enjoyed what you just read and would like to get FREE email updates with the freshest articles from The Wisdom Journal delivered right to your inbox, subscribe today! It's ridiculously easy and you can unsubscribe at any time. Since your email address is never sold or abused, you can subscribe with confidence, PLUS you'll get free reports/guides/eBooks, subscriber only benefits, and other perks.


{ 19 comments }

MartinFortKnox

Great post. I find myself saving all the time. More than most of my early 30 something friends but financial situations always seem to come up. Being self employed, work gets slow, equipment needs fixing and updating. It gets costly. The hardest part is having a nice lump of money saved but not being able to properly investment for fear of a monetary drout. That bites.

In this society of social glutony it becomes very difficult to adopt the proper habits to create a comforting savings. Frugality is not a value reinforced anywhere I’ve been. It’s a real shame because one day, not too far from now, after the “American Express Presidential Debates” are held at the “MasterCard Presidential Amphitheater” and the new President moves into the CitiBank sponsored White House, America is gonna wake up in so much debt they’ll be hopping the border to steal Mexican pesos to pay their bills with after the dollar is no longer legal currency because us Americans can’t figure out why the National debt is 500 octillion dollars (yeah that’s a real number) but 1 out of 2 Americans own the Sony 90″ plasma. :mrgreen:

One of the most valuable things you can teach your kids is the power of the dollar and compound interest. Get’em saving young. Give’em a budget. If he/she doesn’t use it wisely, take away priveledges. They’ll eventually get it right. If you do this now, the way this country is going, your kid will be the only one in his age class that knows what an index is. Get the kid straight so doesn’t have to experience the mistakes.

Oh yeah,

“I saw it, I wanted it, I bought it with Citibank.”

Great line.

peace

Ron

@MartinFortKnox
The Citibank White House, the Amex Presidential debates? Those probably aren’t too far away from reality!

Patrick

Great article, Ron. Hopefully your experiences will reach a few people!

I appreciate the mention. :)

Ron

@Patrick
You’re welcome Patrick. I hope a few people can learn a thing or two from my experiences!

plonkee

I’m guessing that present Ron isn’t so pleased that past Ron didn’t take better care of his finances. :neutral:

I think it’s going to take me 10 years or more to pay off my student loans in total. Fortunately they are at ridiculously low interest rates, so I’m not too bothered.

Ron

@plonkee
Yeah, I have those loans, too. They’re at low rates, but they still bug me.

Jeff@My Super-Charged Life

Ron – Why do we all seem to have to learn these lessons individually? I can relate to so much of what you have written above. I have made most of these mistakes myself. I hope others will get the clue from your article and avoid what we have done.

Ron

@Jeff@My Super-Charged Life
Why? I don’t know. I just hope my kids listen to me and read this blog to find out a little more about their dad.

Pete @ biblemoneymatters

love the post – it closely parallels the one i made a couple of days ago. If you don’t mind I think i’ll link to your post in mine.

My 5 Biggest Money Mistakes

Ron

@Pete @ biblemoneymatters
You go right ahead. I went ahead and linked to you as well!

My Dollar Plan

Great list. I’ve been guilty of some of these before… especially the saving with one hand and spending with another. Usually it takes the form of doing something to save $5 then turning around and spending $10 on something else.

Ron

@My Dollar Plan
I hear you. I seem to manage to save a couple bucks throughout the month, then something hits that I wasn’t expecting like books for the kids private school, tuition hikes, summer camp deposits, or the power bill comes in at twice what is normal.

CiaranFrom Chance

Great post… (thinking out loud) is this a server crashing post, because it feels like one to me. :smile:

Was reading somewhere the other day it’s not all that uncommon for people to still have student loans into their mid 40′s, kinda crazy. It’s good to see (although still excessive in cost) that schools like Harvard are taking some of the above average returns in their endowment funds and immediately turning it into financial aid and student grants.

Ron

@CiaranFrom Chance
LOL – I hope it’s a server crashing post!
At 42, I still have student loans but they’re only six months old. I think I’ll have them all paid off within 2 years.
Kudos to the Ivy League schools and others that are offering free tuition. I hope my kids can take advantage of it!

LP

Very nice post!
You have the same experience as most of us, but you are writing it down for posterity! that’s good!!!

Maybe younger brains “full of mush”, :wink: will heed the encouragement to head in the right direction after reading this.

On another subject…we have a dusting of snow down here in the Heart of Dixie! Not to worry though….we had 70+ degrees yesterday! :smile:

Virtaaj

Ron, very true what you have written. I particularly agree with point 3, especially when you speak for maximizing every dollar (or in my case, every rupee!). Saving always helps, it is better to live as an ant than as a grasshopper.

:smile:

MoneyBlogga

That’s a great post and I know exactly what you mean. The biggest kicker for me, too, is that I used to equate frugality with being “poor”. I’m sure that those very people I used to look down on back then are, today, living in mortgage free houses with robust bank statements. I’m the poor one.

Ron

@MoneyBlogga:
Like Dave Ramsey says, “If for 5 years you’ll live like no one else (frugality), in 5 years you can live like no one else (wealthy and debt free).”

savingadvice

This article is very inspiring. If only these things were as easily done as they are said. I always say i’m going to save and something always seems to come up. It’s important to set realistic goals and try your best, five dollars saved is better than five dollars in debt. :mrgreen:

Previous post:

Next post: