America’s Biggest Money Mistakes

With the average US student loan coming in at $22,700, it may come as no surprise that over 1 in 5 Americans (21%) say their biggest money mistake was dropping out of college. That’s about 67 million Americans who regret wasting money on dropping out of college.

This finding emerged in a poll of almost 2,000 Americans, commissioned by comparison website and conducted by Google Consumer Surveys.

The second-biggest money mistake Americans admitted to was letting their partner control their finances, cited by 19% of people surveyed – an estimated 62 million Americans. Of these, just over half (52%) are women. The question of managing money jointly or separately is one that all couples have to address at some stage in their relationship, but clearly for some it can go too far in one direction.

To regain financial control in a relationship, it’s important to communicate openly and regularly, and have an honest discussion about each other’s attitude and approach to money.

Dollar mistakes
photo credit: John Holcomb / Flickr

Rounding the top 6 money mistakes were: having children (12%); paying too much for a wedding (9%); gambling too much (8%); and getting caught in an online scam (8%).

What’s gender go to do with it?

Perhaps it’s not surprising that men and women fessed up to different money mistakes. Men were more likely to point the finger at dropping out of college, with 11% citing this as their number one mistake, whereas women were most likely to have regretted letting their partner control their finances (cited by 10% of American women).

When it came to celebrating their love, men were more likely to believe that their wedding cost was a financial mistake, with 55% of respondents who stated paying too much for a wedding being men. Interestingly, very high earners – with incomes over $150,000 – were most likely to regret paying too much for a wedding. And they were also likely to regret giving their partner the credit card (11%).

Generations under the microscope

The two generations often pitted against each other, Generation X and Baby Boomers, have at least one thing in common when it comes to money matters – both mentioned letting their partner control their finances as their main mistake. The generation gap came back into play, however, with twice as many Generation Xers admitting gambling was a money mistake compared to Baby Boomers.

As for the younger Generation Y, the number one money mistake they admitted to was dropping out of college. Overall, Generations Y and X were both three times more likely to have said dropping out of college was a money mistake than Baby Boomers.

How to avoid making more money mistakes

It’s never too late to take charge of your finances and work towards avoiding future money mistakes. Here are some simple tips:

  • The best place to start is by creating a budget. Subtract your monthly expenses (such as mortgage or rent, utilities and the like) from your monthly income, and allocate up to 30% to savings and debt. The rest is your living expenses.
  • It’s never too early to start planning for retirement. The earlier you start, the more your retirement savings will earn through compound interest. Look into your company’s 401(k) policy and contribute at least as much.
  • Don’t neglect to protect yourself with insurance. The younger you sign up for life insurance and disability insurance, the lower the rates will be.

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