Try – Fail – Success.
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Who can go through life without making some financial mistakes?
In fact, so personal are matters of the pocketbook that it can be hard to definitely label any one money move a mistake.
Maybe you wanted to go back to school and took on too much debt doing so. It’s a struggle to repay, yet you’re not quite sure who you’d be today without that education.
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Perhaps you risked some of your security in retirement to make your dream of owning a house come true, but when you watch your daughter reading in the living room, no other path seems imaginable.
Many of our financial decisions leave us with both measurable and immeasurable rewards and consequences. And that messy reality can make it hard to know what “the best” money moves are.
To help with that, CNBC recently spoke to financial advisors about the most avoidable blunders they see their clients make. Here are some of them.
Living beyond their means
It’s common for people to spend in a way that leaves them vulnerable down the line, said Barry Korb, a certified financial planner and the president of Lighthouse Financial Planning in Potomac, Maryland.
Recently, Korb found it difficult to persuade a retired couple to trim their overhead. One major expense was their house, which had a wood working workshop. If the two continued spending at their current rate, though, they’d blow through their $700,000 nest egg in under five years.
“Nothing would seem to encourage them not to head off the cliff,” he said.
He recommends people try to be more patient and flexible with their desires. “‘I need it all now,’ is a recipe for having nothing later,” Korb said.
Korb said repeatedly defining and revisiting your goals can help you to stay motivated.
Along the way, a number of budgeting apps, including simplifi and You Need a Budget, will track your spending, making it easier to stay on top of it.
“Tax planning is an easy way to save money if you understand the tax laws, and there are many ways to do it,” said Brad Bobb, a certified financial planner and the owner of Bobb Financial in Springfield, Illinois.
Yet many people don’t think about taxes. They find the rules daunting, or they don’t want to spend the time to learn and understand them, Bobb said.
If you’re overwhelmed, one simple way to get started is to find out how your different investments and accounts are taxed, Bobb said: “It’s something the average person needs to spend some time educating themselves on.” For example, a Roth IRA has different rules than a 401(k) or brokerage account.
Some people will want to turn to a professional. You can always hire an advisor for a few hours and have them teach you about tax strategies and how you should implement them.
Some of the most common ways that people can save money with taxes is through charitable giving and tax-loss harvesting, in which you sell losing assets to offset taxable capital gains.
Meanwhile, Bobb called Health Savings Accounts, in which you put away pre-tax income that can later be used on certain medical expenses, as “the most underutilized retirement savings vehicle.”
Falling in love with an individual stock
One of the biggest missteps Cathy Curtis, a certified financial planner and the founder and owner of Curtis Financial Planning in Oakland, California, sees her clients make is getting too attached to any one investment.
Sometimes a stock was inherited from a family member, Curtis said, and the client can’t bring themselves to sell it.
“I see this often in California with stocks like Chevron, where a deceased spouse worked for the company and accumulated a lot of stock,” Curtis said. “Apple also seems to be one of those stocks that no one wants to sell.”
Yet a large position in one or two stocks can derail a person’s financial plans, Curtis said. To prove her point, sometimes she shows a client a list of once great stocks that no longer exist. (Some examples: Blockbuster, Kodak, Pets.com.)
“What I try and do to help clients avoid this mistake is to continue to educate them about the wisdom of having a diversified portfolio,” Curtis said.