Updated: 10/27/2011 1:33 PM ET|
Money errors you're probably making
You'll have a much easier time getting ahead if you avoid these 12 financial pitfalls. Yet nearly everyone makes one or more of them.
Editor's note: This list is based on the book "Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing and Giving Back," by U.S. News senior editor Kimberly Palmer.
Miscalculating your budget
Research suggests that creating an annual budget instead of a monthly one works better, largely because we feel less confident in our annual estimates, so we tend to add more cushioning for unexpected expenses. In one study, college students underestimated their monthly expenses by 40% while overestimating their annual expenses by 3%.
Overspending on housing
It's almost impossible to get ahead financially unless you save a significant chunk of your income -- ideally, $1 of every $3 you earn. But many people get tripped up by their housing costs. Traditionally, financial advisers have encouraged buyers to spend about one-third of their income on housing. But for many people, especially anyone with student loan debt, child care payments or other hefty expenses, that's too big a chunk.
Skimping on career investments
Investing in a career coach or development course can help you snag a promotion, get "unstuck" from a career rut or transition into your dream job. The price of one-on-one coaching typically starts at around $200 an hour, but less-formal advice can come from meeting with more-experienced colleagues over lunch or coffee.
Falling into spending traps
Rewards credit cards sound good in theory, but in reality they encourage you to spend more than you would otherwise. Economists dub this phenomenon "purchase acceleration," because you ramp up your spending when that reward is in sight. Rewards cards also carry a higher interest rate -- two percentage points, on average -- than cards that don't offer rewards.
Failing to negotiate prices
Even department stores often offer some wiggle room on their posted prices, and big-box stores usually match competitors' prices. This negotiating trend has become so prevalent that the advertising firm Cramer-Krasselt came up with a name for such pushy customers: "neo-hagglers." But many consumers fail to realize that prices are flexible, and they don't bother asking for better deals.
Earning income from only one source
The average worker now holds 10 different jobs before age 36. While some of those job changes are voluntary, many also result from layoffs. By earning income from a variety of sources, workers can increase their financial stability. Options for new sources of income include freelance work, a teaching gig at a local community college or a potentially money-making blog.
Taking on too much -- or too little -- debt
Not all debt is bad. It can enable you to return to school, buy much-needed professional outfits before receiving your first paycheck or even cover your rent during a tough month. Being so afraid of debt that you avoid it altogether can force you to miss out on opportunities, while taking on too much can lead to financial ruin.
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