Chronicles Of A Father With Cents

Simple Life. Personal Finance. Family

My Financial Mistakes

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We all make mistakes and having financial ones are no exception. From receiving my first ever paycheck to my recent one, it has been quite a roller coaster ride. I would say I started high from the beginning but went down for long time from being in debt with credit cards, student loans and medical bills but since I got married to Mother with Cents my financial roller coaster has been going higher and higher.

This is a list of mistakes I have made when I was in the financial dumpster.

Not Handling my Credit Card Payments

As a college kid and carrying my first credit card, all I thought was, “Wow, I have money right here and can spend it on anything I want.” The first three months or so with that credit card I paid off my credit card in full until I wanted a futon. For those that never had or heard of a futon, it’s a type of furniture that can convert between a couch and bed. It’s popular in dorms and college kids.

So I went to a futon shop and I picked one that I like and used my credit card to pay over $300 for that futon. This started my history with credit card debt. For about the next 7 years credit card debt was chasing me and unfortunately I put it on back burner. Every time the bill came in the mail I would pay the minimum or a bit above it. There were a couple of occasions that I completely forgot about it and thus missed the payment due date. The credit card company charged me a penalty fee of $35.

Paying the minimum for credit cards is a big no-no. Always pay the full amount

Not Putting A Lot in My Retirement Contributions

When I got my first 401K account from my company, I should have been planning right away to contribute a high amount and look forward to building on that account. But instead I just shrugged it off and was like, “Ehhh, retirement is a long way I’ll just put in 6% for my 401K. I did not have the awareness that the more you put in the better because even putting 10% in start off would have been okay. But for over five years I had only put in 6% and even for about a year 4% so I use that 2% for our wedding. Turns out it would have been okay if I stayed at the 6%.

I also had a Traditional IRA at balance of $2K from an old employer and I let it sit there for almost ten years without contributing a penny. I also had to pay fees at around $50 every year from the funds in that account. It was pretty much a wash because my capital gains and dividend payout was around $50 as well so it was almost like this account was frozen.

For the last three years I have contribute the max for my traditional IRA and close to the max for my 401K. I should have done this when I first had these two accounts but now I was able to figure out that this is best strategy for all retirement accounts.

Unaware How Much was in my Bank Account

If you do not know much is in your account, you could almost say you are bad with money. Throughout my 20s, my financial outlook was to have a positive amount on my checking account and as long as that happens I felt that I would be okay. Oh man, what a terrible outlook that was. You need to keep building on that account and not try to survive every paycheck I received.

Since I have been out of debt five years ago, I keep checking all of my accounts a few times a week and have it all complied on Personal Capital where I can check it all at once. It’s great to keep on building instead of surviving.

No Emergency Fund

This correlates from my bank account mistake. Since I was always having money coming in and out, I didn’t have any thought in my mind of having an emergency fund.

Now I have close to a year’s worth of pay in my emergency fund. And that was from saving more and spending less.

Getting Back Into Debt

For a period of time in my late 20s, I decided after my routine paying the minimum on my credit card payments I took the time to plan out to cut down my debt. This plan was to make payments every single time my paycheck would come in. I had just under $4K in credit card debt when I started to plan this out. For every other week I would pay close to $300 -$400 and I finally see the debt going down to 1K within a matter of three months. I was just ecstatic when the balance was under a thousand and a month later I paid off my credit card.

I should have been happy at this goal after this long in being in debt. I should have made a plan after that I will never go back into credit card debt again. Instead I didn’t really have any plan and watched as my checking account kept building for the next two months. I was going to start paying for student loans and should have planned out how to pay for it. Instead this next category held me back again and started getting into credit card debt once again.

No Clue on What I Was Investing In

About a month after I got out of credit card debt the first time, I received a letter from my bank at the time, Citibank, promoting the other services they wanted me to get into including opening a brokerage account. I was like, “Hey investing in the stock market, let’s try that.” So without any type of research of how to invest or to any meaning to it, I wanted to let other people know I have invested in the stock market but I did not know how to invest. my 401K account is an investment account but I let advisors from Fidelity tell me to put that money into a target date fund and left it alone.

So I went to my Citibank branch and talked to one of their advisors about opening a brokerage account. She was looking at all of my bank accounts and determined since I don’t have a lot of funds that I should open an account exclusively for mutual funds. So I blindly agreed to it without knowing what a mutual fund is. I contributed most of my paycheck to this account because I wanted to pay my student loans with this investment account so why not use almost all of my paycheck money to put it in here. Problem was I barely had enough for the ‘now.’ I don’t why I did this because I built up my credit card debt again because most of my funds were going to this account of mutual funds. I guess I was looking too much into the paying off my student loans because now I have credit card debt again.

Now looking back on it, I should put all of that money I contributed to my investment account into a good old savings account so this way it was more liquid and use it to pay my student loans instead to having it in a less liquid account and had to pay taxes and fees whenever I wanted to sell the mutual funds I had on there. I probably would have paid off my student loans sooner and I wouldn’t have gotten back in credit card debt. Ahhhh!!!!

Was not watching what I was Spending

No budget, not using an excel spreadsheet, not using a web based money management service, or not even writing on what I spend on in a notebook. No awareness on what I spend got me into my lack of awareness of how I spend my money. When you don’t have your finances as one of your top priorities to handle, it can spiral out of control. You build up credit card debt, you barely make payment on loans, and you take out money from the ATM every week without jotting it down. It adds up to a being in bad financial situation. Watching on how you spend is a contributor on managing your money efficiently.

Today I track all my expenses on an excel spreadsheet. If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know that I post my monthly expense report and keep track of all of my expenses.

Final Thoughts

With the help of reading personal finance stories and Mother with Cents I was able to pay off all of my debt and student loans and now pay off my credit cards in full every month, create a monthly income statement, have greater knowledge of all of my investments and do weekly check-ups on my bank accounts. I have greatly learned from all of these financial mistakes with the next financial goal to keep building on my net worth.

Join the Chain Gang

Thanks to JJ from A Journey to FI, we are starting a chain gang of other bloggers sharing their financial mistakes.  We all hope that our readers will take value in our mistakes and don’t make the same ones as we did.  We hope you step in and join our chain as well.  Here is the list so far:

Anchors: A Journey to FI – My Financial Mistakes, Chronicles of a Father with Cents – My Financial Mistakes

Link 1: ThinkSaveRetire – Don’t brag about success; tell me your failures

Link 2: OthalaFehu – Budget Bungles, Money Muddles, and Fiscal Flubs

Link 3: Turning Point Money – My Financial Mistakes

Link 4: Femme Cents – 7 lessons I learned from my biggest financial mistake

Link 5: Mr. Jumpstart – Recent Financial Blunder

Link 6: The Frugal Gene – Top 5 Sorry Ass Financial Mistakes Of My Early 20s

Link 7: Gen Y Money – My Tell All: Investing Mistakes in my 20’s

Link 8: 99to1percent – Our 6 Financial Mistakes and 15 Lessons Learned

Link 9: Atypical Life – 5 Super Lame Financial Blunders From My Life

Link 10: Winning Personal Finance – My 7 Most Regrettable Financial Decisions

Link 11: Chief Mom Officer – Overdrawn Checking Account – CMO Clan Makes A Big Mistake

Link 12: Foreign Born MD – My Biggest Financial Mistake: over A Million Dollars Worth!

What did think of my financial mistakes? What some of your financial mistakes that you would like to share? Feel free to comment below.

20 Comments

  1. Ouch! I’ve made many of the same mistakes. My biggest mistake was going to a pricey private university and racking up a LOT of student debt for a bachelor’s degree. I just paid it all off, but the road would have been easier had I been smarter about my schooling choices.

    • I know what you mean about being smarter when going to college. I went to a state university(San Francisco State) for my bachelor’s but now looking back on it, I would have saved some money if I went to a community college my first two years, get all my GE classes done then went to SF State or either gone to another Cal State university or even a UC(University of California college). Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Picky Pincher!!

  2. theluxestrategist

    October 12, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Wow, a lot of these are painful indeed. I’m curious to know if you had lower salaries at the time these happened, or if you had a good salary and were living large. When I had paltry income I def got into some credit card debt, but it wouldn’t have happened if I had a steady paycheck.

    Not sure I classify it as a huge mistake, but I didn’t want to get a real job right after school. So I just kind of floated around for 2-3 years with various temp jobs with no benefits.

    A few years ago I spent $1000 on stocks based on what my brother-in-law told me. Well, I lost 90% of my money. Not a huge mistake, but one to learn from. Now I don’t listen to what anyone tells me 🙂

    • My salary when I was going through all this debt was okay at the time. It was mainly the choices I made that got me into CC debt and plus I was living with my parents during this period and so I had no obligation to pay rent. Living large was definitely my mindset back then.
      You should go with your instincts about making investment decisions. Maybe read on better and more experienced sources than your brother-in-law when you are picking out your investments.

  3. Ouch! A lot of bad decision made. But I am glad you admit to them and now you are trying to turn yourself around. I am currently trying to use less credit card but more on automated pre-authorized payments because I know those bills are paid immediately, not having to pay with my credit card on Day 1 and have to pay the amount back on Day 30.
    Keep up with good work!

    • Thanks for the kind words 6milliongal!! Definitely pay your credit card bills in full every month. We have this system when our electricity bill comes in toward the end of each month we bunch up all of our bills including the CC and pay them all that once. And it’s always satisfying when the CC balance goes to $0 a few days later. 🙂

  4. You shared a lot of your bad decisions but the main thing is that you owned up to it, shared it, and are now on the right track. Props to you!

    I’m in mortgage debt right now but I do want to invest more. Not sure what yet as I have yet to open up a Roth IRA. We are also looking for life insurance too.

    • Thanks Melanie!! The sooner the better you open up an IRA whether it be a traditional or Roth. Having that retirement account early lets you save now rather than wait until your late 40s/early 50s when you start contributing and save aggressively.
      Life insurance is one area I have to look into as well. I do have life insurance and have Mother with Cents and Baby with Cents as my beneficiaries but that’s all the knowledge I have about it. Have to sit down and read up about the benefits of it.

  5. These are straight up “great” mistakes, I’ve hit at least half of them. Investing was tricky…the trick was I thought it was a lot more complicated than it was. $300 for a futon is steep!! In college people brought furniture from people leaving for like $50 just to avoid the haul home.

    • I had those wood futon frames and they can range from $300 to $500 from the store. I should of went to the dorms at my university and looked around for any futons the students were selling or maybe giving away.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experiences so we can all learn from them. I’ve made a lot of investing mistakes… I bought a mutual fund with high MER and was wondering why it lost money, I also panicked when the crash happened and sold a lot of stocks, I bought penny stocks, I listened to Jim Cramer on mad money to buy “the next hot stock”. It took about 10 years of investing and trial and error to figure out what the heck I should actually be Doing. I’m glad we are all learning from experience it’s one of the best ways to learn!

    • Yikes, unless your a day trader, buying the ‘next hot stock’ is not the way to go. At least you learned from your experiences and now have a good understanding of how to invest in the market.
      We all have to go through a bad experience, especially financially, to learn from it and hopefully don’t through it again.

  7. Thanks for sharing your failures Kris! I have made plenty of mistakes too. I even opened a 0% interest credit card (first 12 months) and spent on it when I was unemployed. Thankfully that worked out (I never paid any interest and my credit was unaffected) but it was probably not the best financial decision I ever made…it could have gone the other way really quickly. I think we all have our share of mess ups that really give us a picture of how our money should be working for us. Living at the limits was definitely something that opened my eyes up to how much a budget really matters.

    • No problem Jing. Sometimes we all have no idea what we doing with our money especially when we start earning a paycheck and spend away. We all have to know that we can spend a certain amount in order to us to have a better handle on our money and budgeting definitely helps in that regard.

  8. We had no idea what we were doing when we started investing and went with a target date fund. And we should have been saving and investing in our 20s and 30s (individually, before we married) but didn’t get our act together until our 40s.

    Thanks for talking about your money mistakes. We need more of that.

    • No problem Mrs. Groovy. I wanted to let others know that we all make money mistakes and it’s a matter of recognizing it and taking action.
      I had a target date fund as well for a while. Thought that was the path to go because it sounds so simple by having the fund that fits around the year you may retire. But what they don’t tell you is their high fees. Once I saw how much fees the fund was charging, I sold the fund and went with mainly funds that had low cost fees.

  9. I can relate to a lot of what you said, especially the credit card debt and with the investing. But when you know better, you do better! So good job on gaining control of your finances in all areas!

    • Thanks Kim!! Yes once you gain knowledge of any subject matter especially with your finances and how to manage it you will get a better grip of it. Hopefully more will learn from my mistakes and educate themselves on how to deal with their personal finances.

  10. Damn Millennial

    October 26, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Everyone makes bad decisions, opening up to an audience about them and owning them is commendable. You seem to have done a solid 180 since these mistakes. Is there anything that you think you might look back on in a decade and wish you had done differently that you may be doing now?

    • Good question, hard to say right now but I would say not currently having a Health Savings Account(HSA). I am missing out on the tax benefits it offers and I could use the funds if I’m in the middle of changing health insurance plans. I have to seriously look into it soon.
      Thanks for stopping by DM!

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