Our Biggest Financial Mistakes and How to Overcome Them

We’ve all made mistakes when it comes to managing our money, but our financial future is our top worry. According to a recent Edward Jones survey of financial mistakes, not saving enough for retirement ranks No. 1.

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“The biggest thing we found from almost all age brackets is folks are not saving enough for retirement,” says Scott Thoma, investment strategist for Edward Jones. “They feel they haven’t done enough to prepare for retirement.”

According to Thoma, retirement planning has become such a major concern because the savings responsibility falls more on the individuals as pensions fade out. What’s more, the future of Social Security is murky, putting many people, particularly those nearing retirement, in panic mode.

“Usually when we hear people say they don’t believe they saved enough for retirement they also say they didn’t work with an advisor to set up a plan,” he says.  It doesn’t help that many financial firms send the message that people need to save ‘X’ amount for retirement, which can be overwhelming and unobtainable.

Here are consumers’ other top monetary concerns and how to remedy them to get finances back on track.

Mistake No.1: Not Tracking Spending

Thirty-five percent of survey respondents in the 18-and-34-year-old bracket cited not paying enough attention to their spending as their biggest money mistake.

Most people view each purchase in isolation as they go throughout their day, says Thoma, not realizing their purchases are adding up to a hefty tab.

To help get a better picture of your spending habits and identify any unnecessary spending, track every purchase for two weeks.

“If you were saving an extra $100 a month that could mean an extra $100,000 for retirement,” says Thoma. “It’s as simple as a cup of coffee a day.”

Mistake No. 2: Carrying Too Much Debt

While there are acceptable debts like a mortgage or car payment, many consumers are overspending on credit cards and carrying a balance and up paying a lot more than they owe with high interest rates.

To get out from under that debt, Thoma says to track spending and to create a budget that includes paying down debt--starting with the credit cards with the highest interest rate. “If you are paying 18% on a credit card, that’s the first place that needs to be addressed because your are not earning an 18% return on an investment,” he says.

Mistake No.3: Bad Investments

Everyone likes to think they are savvy investors, but most of us are too emotionally involved to be effective investors.

“Changing allocations in a 401(k) on a daily basis or changing strategies on the ebbs and flows of the market” cause a lot of those mistakes, says Thoma.  “Whenever the market is up they feel good and whenever risk rises, they want to get out.” He advises people avoid reacting to every market gyration. “You can’t let the outside environment dictate every single change you make.”

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