Top 10 financial mistakes young people make
Whether you’re a young person who recently graduated, just getting your career started
or finally moving out on your own, it can be hard to keep track of your personal finances.
Some of the biggest mistakes are also the most common and can seriously cost you in the
long term. Here are the top ten, along with some tips on how to avoid them.
1. Misunderstanding credit cards
Services like Paypass are making them even easier to use. But credit cards are often
misunderstood by young people, with small purchasing decisions often leading to long-
term problems. Whether it’s cash advances, large balances, only making minimum
payments, paying late or not paying at all, the small piece of plastic can be much more
trouble than you realized. There’s also signing up for too many, unnecessarily increasing
your limit and wrecking your credit rating.
“Credit card debt is spending your future income before you’ve earned it, and not magic
money,” said Lisa Yanaky, a young woman from Toronto.
2. Not utilizing discounts
Banks, car dealerships, even theatre tickets, travel and cultural attractions. There’s a
world of special prices for students and young people out there, but you can’t get to them
if you don’t ask or research them beforehand. Some of the options include the
International Students Identity Card, or the Canadian Opera Company’s program for
patrons under 30.
3. Signing up for a rental/mortgage that’s too much of a burden
If you choose a place that leaves you with only a little bit of money to do anything else,
you’ll be stuck spending most of your time at home. You’re also more at risk of
accumulating credit card debt for making up the difference in your lifestyle or paying for
unexpected costs, like maintenance.
4. Not having a budget
If you don’t sit down to look at what’s left after your wages and fixed expenses, it’s hard
to determine how much you can afford to spend on things like food, nights out, or an
upgrade to your cell phone plan. Not knowing how much you have can easily lead to
spending more than you can afford. A budget can help you determine what you need to
do to pay for your next vacation or make you realize you need to start packing lunch
more than once a week.
5. Not having a “rainy-day” fund
Setting aside money for emergencies gives you a cushion for unexpected events and
helps you avoid adding to your credit card balance. You never know when your car needs
repairs, you crack a tooth on a fall or your bike gets stolen and needs to be replaced. This
needs to be a key part of your budget, even if you start with a small amount every month.
Eventually, the money will add up. You’ll also know the next time something arises,
you’ll be prepared.
6. Failing to realize how “little things” add up
Darren Calabrese/National PostUour daily trip to Starbucks can all add up to to thousands
of dollars a year.
You can call it “the latte factor,” but your daily trip to Starbucks, half-pack of cigarettes a
day or $100 a week at your favourite local bar or restaurant can all add up to to thousands
of dollars a year. A small modification in this kind of spending can help you put aside
more for money for savings, retirement or paying down your debt.
7. ATM fees
The bar only accepts cash (of course) and you have no idea where the nearest bank
machine is. So you use the conveniently-located ATM there for $20. Trouble is that
transaction cost you an extra $3 and you do it four more times during the rest of the
month. All those fees quickly added up to the cost of a lunch.
Try hiding an extra $40 in your wallet for emergencies and stick to withdrawals from
machines that belong to your bank.
8. Falling into the trap of automatic pre-payments
You linked your gym to your bank account figuring you’d never have to worry about
having to pay a bill. That is, until you forgot it hadn’t come out yet and took out $40 for
drinks with friends and left barely anything left. If the bank goes to get the monthly
amount and finds nothing there, you’ll be hit with a giant insufficient-funds fee.
You can easily track this by setting up email reminders or calendar alerts, so you’ll know
when you need to keep a little extra in your account.
9. Opening an account with a significant other
You’re in love. What could show your commitment more than moving in, opening an
account and sharing all your financial responsibilities? Doing so too early or without a
clear plan for who pays what (and exactly how much) could be one of the most expensive
financial mistakes you ever make. Even with a steady job, your personal and financial
situation can rapidly change, along with the status of your relationship. If trust issues
occur, problems can quickly develop and lead to one person shouldering a majority of the
10. Not regularly planning for the future
Have plans to eventually own your own place, go to graduate school or travel the world?
You may think planning for the future is only for people thinking about retirement, but
everyone can benefit from financial advice. Speaking to a financial advisor or financial
services manager can help you figure out what you need to do to afford your dreams.
Also, don’t forget to check in when major life changes occur, as your financial priorities
will probably shift too.