The words mistakes and failure are often used to elicit a sense of shame in people. I think millennials are an optimistic bunch and we love to own our failures. We wear our failures like a badge of honour because we know it takes one step closer to our goals. There’s no teacher like failure and with that sentiment I can easily say that I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes – especially with money. My mistakes are what led me to learn more about money and it’s why if I come across anything related to personal finance, I just can’t look away.
I’m going to share my 6 biggest money mistakes that I’m sure other people have made and will continue to make (though I hope less people will make those mistakes if they read them here):
- Not saving early enough – I don’t think I will ever stop talking about the importance of saving. Saving is the one habit that leads to all the other positive money habits. Once you can consistently pay yourself first, you are able to live on less than your entire paycheck. This will allow you to start building wealth with the amounts save over a longer period of time. Consistency is the most important thing here.
- Buying dumb sh*t – I say this because I did this way more than I would like to admit to. With my first big paycheck I went out and bought a PlayStation for myself because I thought it was a great deal that I couldn’t miss and because I HAD THE MONEY. A few months later, I ended up selling the PlayStation because I wasn’t using it much. I could have used that money for something more useful but instead I sold at a loss because I made an impulsive decision when I had a little cash on hand. The lesson here was that I didn’t need it then and I don’t need it now. Since then I always ask myself, “do I really need this?” when I want a big ticket item and that’s helped me avoid a lot of needless purchases.
- Investing in something you can’t explain – So this is something that I came across early in my personal finance journey when I was reading about Warren Buffet. He says, “Never invest in a business you cannot understand.” Truer words have not been spoken when it comes to investing. If you can’t explain something to someone else, it means you don’t understand it yourself.
Why would you invest your hard earned money into something that you cannot make sense of? You might say that if you don’t understand it’s because its too complicated but so and so made a killing of it. Don’t do it. Don’t base your decisions on what someone else did, it may have worked out for them, but you’re not THEM.I got caught up in this and used a large proportion of my savings to buy Bitcoin in 2017 (before the crash). I didn’t know anything about Bitcoin then, how it worked, how to buy it, how to sell it and how I would even get my money back. I did try to read about it before buying but not at a level where I could explain it to someone else.
I was lucky because I was advised to get my money out because I couldn’t explain to someone what it was and how it created value. I got my money back without losing a dime but many people at that time followed the hype and lost a lot of money.
PS. I’m not saying Bitcoin is a bad investment but before you decide to invest in anything, make sure you understand what it is and the risks associated with it.
- Gambling – I have to admit that when I was at university I was a little hooked to visiting the casino and sports-betting. I did a recent count and it shocked me that I could have gotten a nice used-car in the amounts I spent there. Lessons learned! For me, it all started with gambling small amounts and it spiraled out of control into spending hours a night, at the slot machines. It wasn’t pretty and if it wasn’t for the support and love of my parents I might not be here to tell this story. The moral is DON’T GAMBLE. EVER. Whether it’s your money or the “house’s money”.
- Thinking Saving was enough – If you look at the statistics on inflation and compare it with the interest rates on saving accounts in Kenya you will quickly realize that savings account are barely beating inflation. When I was younger I thought I could just save, save and save and that is all I needed to do to build wealth. Saving is the most important step in building wealth but allocating your savings is what allows your money to work for you. Whether this is through setting up a business or investing in the capital markets. Remember, you need money before you can start making it work for you, so keep saving!
- Not thinking about retirement early enough – I started thinking about retirement when I was 23 years old in my first real job. Now that’s not considerably late to start thinking about and saving for retirement. But if I look back, I could easily have started contributing towards it when I was 18. I can never get those 5 years back but I know that I am still very fortunate that I started. It’s never really too late but it’s always better to start as early as possible. Act with speed and the intent that you will start saving for retirement. Life is getting tougher day by day and you want to have something for yourself when you are older and can’t provide for yourself. So start today and don’t look back!
If you want to more information about saving retirement, I would suggest checking out this post (Money Moves to Make in Your Twenties) to see why it’s such a big deal to start thinking about retirement.
I really hope that you will take heed and learn from my mistakes. I’ve already made them so that (hopefully) you don’t have to. Please stay safe and I look forward to your feedback.