Establishing a healthy relationship with our money is an essential part of having a happy financial future.
What you do today can have a large effect on that future. Sure, it sounds a little scary and foreboding, but as our relationship with money evolves over the years, so do the mistakes. While we might hope to save here and there, life and circumstances derail strategies and cost us thousands of dollars a year in financial loss, all while jeopardizing our security.
While mistakes we make with our money have long-lasting repercussions, certified financial planner, Juli Erhart-Graves of the all-female investment firm, Worley Erhart-Graves Financial Advisors shares with Womanista ways to avoid making money mistakes — all it takes is a little mindful action!
Review bank accounts frequently
Between subscription services and online shopping purchases, Erhart-Graves stresses the importance of reviewing our bank account statements regularly for accuracy and need.
“Some scammers will charge relatively small amounts — under $100 — counting on the fact that many people are not paying attention to the charges that hit their accounts,” she says. While we will definitely notice a $500 unauthorized charge or bank withdrawal, Erhart-Graves says if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy for smaller charges of $50 to go under the radar each month.
To help you stay on track, Erhart-Graves suggests saving your charge and debit card receipts, then match up the charges to your monthly statement.
Make realistic savings contributions
In a study for Northwestern Mutual, researchers found 29 percent of women admitted saving for retirement was a major source of financial anxiety, while the APA found it was the number one stressor among consumers in the U.S. It’s no secret saving up can be daunting, but as Erhart-Graves shares, the problem lies in how women should be saving and how much is needed for investments in retirement.
“In most cases, it’s this unknown that causes such anxiety,” she says. “Although each person’s retirement situation is different, most people need to save 10 to 20 percent of their gross income for at least 30 years.”
From this information, Erhart-Graves suggests if you are not in this range, set a goal to get there over time by perhaps increasing your retirement contributions to one or two percent every six months, or devote annual pay raises to your savings.
“Although setting and achieving retirement savings goals is never easy, we can alleviate some of our stress and anxiety if we do,” she says.
Don’t underestimate bank fees
It’s been reported that the average U.S. household loses an average of $290 a year in bank fees. It might not seem like a lot at first, Erhart-Graves says it’s quite the contrary and asks, “Would you flush $20 a month down the toilet?”
Simply put, bank fees are money down the drain that tend to trickle down over time and in small amounts. As a way to help us understand its impact on our savings objectives, Erhart-Graves stresses to review your bank statements so you know whereabouts your money is going and to avoid bank fees every time you can.
“Remember, the amount you spend in bank fees leaves less for the important things in your financial life — like, an emergency reserve savings, retirement contributions and college for your kids,” she says.
Don’t skip on healthcare
In a national survey conducted by Bankrate, researchers found most Americans don’t have $500 to cover emergencies, like car repairs or even the most important asset, health insurance. As Erhart-Graves expresses, skipping on the latter is one of the greatest financial risks a person can take.
“The tax penalty someone incurs when they decide to forego health insurance is not a reason to get health insurance,” she says. “You want to have health insurance because it limits your financial responsibility when you seek medical treatment.”
From this knowledge, one can avoid paying a penalty by enrolling in an insurance plan. Since we never know when we will need care due to an accident or illness, Erhart-Graves explains that we do know the impact and devastation that the costs of medical bills can have on our budget and expenses.
“As you know, you have a deductible you must meet before your health insurance will begin to pay,” she says. “But just as important is the ‘out-of-pocket’ limit — this is the maximum amount you would be required to pay in a year.”
Although the out-of-pocket limit is usually thousands of dollars, Erhart-Graves says it caps what you are responsible for because without health insurance, there is no cap.
Don’t neglect paying minimum amounts
Just because a bill is not in a large amount, doesn’t mean you should avoid paying it. Unfortunately, many Americans ignore smaller bills for larger ones in hopes it will help lower their debt. However, Erhart-Graves says we must never neglect paying any minimum amount, as the consequences can be crucial to our financial planning.
But as she shares, many consumers don’t realize that the low-rate balance transfers often require the minimum payment to be made on time.
“If a payment is late, the interest rate on the balance transfer jumps up to the standard credit card rate,” she says. “That can result in hundreds of dollars in unexpected interest charges.”
Always have a plan
The single, most important thing the average American can do to secure their financial future and avoid making any further money mistakes is to create a budget and then live by it.
“Get the entire family involved in the budget,” Erhart-Graves says. “We want our children to be good with money, so we have to teach them and be an example.”
However, if budgeting sounds overwhelming, she encourages consumers to start small and pick three to five areas where you want to control spending.
“Set a monthly spending amount for those areas, create cash envelopes for those categories, and then fund the envelope with the monthly limit,” she says. “When the cash is gone, you are done spending for that month.”