THE MOST SELF-DESTRUCTIVE FINANCIAL HABITS
“You create your own financial struggles in life because of poor financial decision making, frivolous spending, and failing to plan.”
“Most people earn a fortune in their lifetime, but fail to make a financial plan to keep it.”
Money is an important issue. Financial problems can and will cause immense stress. People focus on money way too much and the cause of much human stress is their warped perception of money’s importance. The old saying “if your problems are money problems then you have no problems” is absolutely true. Just like so much in life is about attitude and perception, it holds true when it comes to money as to how you think about it.
The most self-destructive financial problems people have?
Americans have an addiction to spending. They spend too much, have too many toys, throw money away too easily on expensive ventures, don’t pay their debts on time, over extend themselves with too much debt and then file bankruptcy! They don’t make the kids earn it before they give them money, and ignore taking care of the business of saving and covering themselves against financial disasters. The worst affliction I saw when working with my members was their burning desire to constantly spend. I saw people self-destruct from this addictive behavior alone.
Excessive Spending is Financial Destruction: One thing I learned in my thirteen years was people, in general and as a majority, spend what they have left over. Actually, they spend what they don’t have and end up in major financial trouble because of it. People take out second and third mortgages to buy toys…that they don’t need or become bored with in a short period of time. People are so far in debt from spending money on too many toys and accumulations they don’t need that it causes stress. They don’t save for the important things like college funding for the children, retirement, or saving for their dreams. Sure, life is not all about only needs and there are some financial wants, but most of the people I worked with were way out of balance. There is something about American culture that likes to spend constantly.
“It’s not how much money you have or how much money you earn, it’s what you do with it that makes the difference” (like everything in life)
In the late 1990’s, I met with a couple in their late thirties who had come to me for an overall needs analysis, and it was established that they needed pretty much everything. They didn’t have life insurance, retirement savings or college savings. Their main concern was college funding as their children were nine and eleven years old and they had no savings for college. They wanted to start investing in mutual funds (the best choice for college funding of young children) but they didn’t believe they had enough discretionary income to start an account. As we went over their whole financial picture it was revealed that the parents had a habit of spending approximately four hundred dollars a month at Starbucks. It was their treat and they didn’t feel they wanted to give that up. So I recommended perhaps they could invest half of the four hundred a month for college and scale down on their Starbucks spending. They never did start the college accounts nor did they ever do any planning for any of their needs.
This is a typical story. Most of the people I worked with would rather spend than save. Clients would come to me with financial goals, and I would work out a plan to achieve those goals only to have most of them do nothing with it. Or, sometimes they would do one small thing and ignore the rest of the plan. It was very frustrating to recommend such a win-win to clients and have them ignore it.
Debt: “One of the biggest arguments I would receive from my members (clients) was that they didn’t have enough money to do the financial planning that they wanted to. They would cite all the bills they had to pay and when the bills were paid off, then they would think about it! Well, there will always be bills and debt to pay off. When one debt is paid off, there will be a new one to replace it.
“Debt is no excuse for not saving, investing or protecting yourself financially”
“People have money for what’s important to them”
Credit Cards and the FICO: Excessive credit card debt is one of the worst things financially you can do to yourself, in my opinion. The credit card companies are notorious for charging huge fees on the occasional late payment or insufficient funds. They seem to wait until your credit card/cards are maxed out and then send you the letter that they have to raise the interest rate. It’s unlikely if people have a lot of credit card debt that they would be able to pay it off to avoid the increase rate hike so they are stuck paying an interest rate that can be as high as twenty percent or more. If you make the minimum payment, you are barely treading water and so much of your payment is interest. These debt instruments are a financial disaster, and I recommend you avoid them altogether. I understand that debt payments are needed to establish payment history for loans and to establish individual FICO scores, but keep the credit card (one card) used for this credit score rating at a minimum and pay it off every month. I can guarantee credit cards will financially destroy you.
“As I once said to someone I knew who was a spendaholic/chargeaholic with out of control credit card debt “Get rid of your credit cards or they will be the death of you”. He didn’t, and he self-destructed financially because of it!”
Recently I listened to advice from a credit expert about what to do to build up your credit and FICO score. The advice was to not cancel your credit cards and not pay them off every month. Yes, the FICO score is important and this advice is warranted because showing your payment history is important to build your FICO score. However, that advice may be true if all you’re interested in is building your FICO score. But finances are not all about FICO scores. It is more important to be financially solvent and have debt that one can handle. My friends Mark and Linda have one credit card they use only infrequently to order things from the internet. They always pay it off every month to avoid paying interest. They have no bills because they have paid off everything, including their mortgage. However, they recently bought a new car (paying cash for it) and found out they had one of the highest FICO scores possible! Your financial life is not all about your FICO score, so use good judgment when feeling forced to build credit as a priority by using credit cards. Handling your debt effectively is more important.
Portions of this page were taken from my book:
“What Real Financial Freedom Is, How to Stop Struggling Without Enough Money”
Another area of neglect is not investing, saving or taking care of your financial needs, while spending instead. The problem is retirement comes and there isn’t enough, or your child wants to go to college and there are no funds set aside. I could go on and on.
And lastly, not taking my advice. The usual reason is because an adjustment in the way people spend money will be necessary and most people don’t want to stop spending.