America’s biggest money mistakes

What’s the most common money mistake made in the US? Dropping out of college.

We don’t often hesitate when it comes to sharing expensive purchases that we’re proud of. But what about those purchases we regret?

Our research team recently conducted a poll using Google Consumer Surveys asking 1,915 Americans to identify their biggest money mistakes. The most common answer? Dropping out of college, picked by 21% of those surveyed.

This percentage represents 67 million Americans who regret not finishing their education, and it’s an expensive mistake to make, with the average student loan coming in at $22,700. Lower-income earners — or those who earn less than $50,000 — were more likely to pick this as an error they regretted.

Five other familiar financial slip-ups

Financial mishaps were abundant, with others including:

  • Letting your partner control the finances (19%).
  • Having children (12%).
  • Paying too much for a wedding (9%).
  • Excessive gambling (8%).
  • Being caught by an online scam (8%).

If you’ve found yourself nodding in agreement, you’re not alone. More than half of all Americans have made at least one of these mistakes, the poll suggests.

Do men and women make different money mistakes?

Generally men and women admit to making similar money mistakes. Of those who identified dropping out of college as their biggest mistake, 48% were female and 52% were male. Letting your partner control the finances received a similar breakdown, though this time with a split of 52% women and 48% men.

Having children was a 50/50 split for both males and females. And of those admitting that paying too much for a wedding was their biggest mistake, men were most likely to feel the burn with a breakdown of 55%, compared with 45% of women.

Men proved much more susceptible to gambling than women. Of the 8% who identified gambling as their biggest mistake, almost two-thirds (62%) were men. Being caught by an online scam was common for both males (51%) and females (49%), emphasizing the need for us to get further in the know about how to keep our transactions safe.

Too much gambling38%62%
Fell for an online scam49%51%
Paid too much for a wedding45%55%
Having children50%50%
Dropping out of college48%52%
Letting my partner control our finances52%48%

Take control of your finances: Tips for the future

We offer a three practical first steps toward financial fitness.

Compare before you buy

Whether it’s student loans, travel insurance or even flowers for your wedding, by fully comparing your available options, you’ll have a better sense of which works best for your situation.

Another great thing about comparing is that you aren’t rushing the purchase, which means that you can bypass buyers’ remorse and gain extra time to consider whether you really want to go ahead with it.

Seek out financial assistance

To get back on track, be proactive. Research online, talk to a friend or seek expert advice.

When it comes to finance, don’t be afraid to seek out help and take time with your decision. A second opinion could give you peace of mind that the unreal deal you’re looking at is actually the best one.

Get smart about online scams

The Internet is great for many things. Unfortunately, it’s opened the door to cybercrime. According to computer security company Norton, phishing, malware and other cybercrime cost Americans over $20 billion in 2015 alone. Therefore, it’s no surprise that 70% of Americans believe it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay safe and secure online.

You can reduce the likelihood of falling prey to online scams by following a few straightforward tips: never wire money to strangers, pay by credit card (that way, you’ll have some recourse if things go awry), be wary of unsolicited email and, arguably most important, go with your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Picture: Steven Depolo, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)

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