Making the right money moves is a lifelong process if you want to achieve financial independence. The good news is that if you can avoid just five big mistakes, you’ll have a lot more spare cash — both now and in the future — to accomplish all of your important goals.
- Waiting too long to start saving for retirement
If you made the maximum IRA contributions at age 25 , assuming your investments earned an average of 8 percent a year, you’d end up with more than $1.5 million in savings, compared with around $435,000 if you began investing at 45.
- Buying a home that is too expensive
Buying a home that’s too expensive makes you “house poor.” You’ll pay more of your income than you should toward your housing, which will make it difficult to save or invest for retirement. If your house costs more because it’s larger, you’ll spend more on furniture, utilities, and maintenance. Higher mortgage payments are also harder to make if you lose your job or otherwise suffer a drop in income.
- Leasing (or buying) a car you cannot comfortably afford
A car or truck is a depreciating asset; it loses value continuously. When you finance or lease a car, you pay interest on a vehicle that is immediately worth less than you paid. The average monthly loan payment of $503, could turn into $1.7 million, if you invested these amounts monthly from age 25 to age 65 and earned an 8 percent return.
- Buying depreciating assets on credit
If you can control your credit card use and pay your bills in full each month, then by all means, do so. It’ll keep your accounts active, which will bolster your credit score, and you may earn some rewards like cash back. However, if you can’t, make do with what you have until you’re able to pay cash.
- Paying late on your debts
If you do go into debt, paying on time is essential. A single late payment could cause as much as a 110-point drop in your credit.
Bad credit will get you denied for loans. It could also mean paying thousands of dollars more in interest for a mortgage, a car loan, and other consumer debt. It could even mean the loss of some job opportunities — even prospective employers may check your credit score.