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America’s biggest money mistakes of 2019

Over 64 million Americans blew too much money on having fun, again!

When it comes to blowing too much money on having fun, we just don’t learn our lesson. For the second year in a row, America’s biggest money mistake is blowing too much cash while having fun, according to a new annual study.

Letting our partners control our money was the second-most common money mistake, with over one in five (20.9%) of those who make money mistakes admitting this. It was followed closely by dropping out of college – also one in five people (20.2%).

A total estimated 126.5 million American adults — 56.9% of respondents — say they’ve made a money mistake in their lifetime.

Roughly 51.8% of men admit to making a money mistake, sitting just above women at 48.2%.

People in lower income brackets are far more likely to admit to making a money mistake than those in the top two income ranges. For example, a whopping 37.5% of people earning up to $25,000 a year admit to making a mistake with their finances, while just 1.8% of Americans earning $300,000 or more who make these mistakes admit the same. Similarly, 44.7% of Americans earning $25,000 to $50,000 a year admit to making a money mistake, compared with 8.2% of Americans earning $150,000 to $300,000.

Overall, Millennials are most likely to admit to making a money mistake (33.9%), followed by Baby Boomers (30.3%) and Gen X (25.7%).

But it’s not all bad news: The data suggests that Americans are getting financially savvier. Last year, a whopping 78.3% of Americans admitted to making a money mistake, 21.5 percentage points more this year.

Having too much fun!

Splurging on having fun activities like vacations, dining out and shopping was the most common money mistake, with 51.1% of those who have money regrets or an estimated 64.6 million adults. This was also the most common money mistake last year.

Gen X was the demographic splurging the most on fun: almost 60% of Gen Xers who made a money mistake admitted to forking out too much for fun, with millennials were close behind at 57.0% and baby boomers at 42.5%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, singles (53.9%) who made money mistakes are most likely to have blown too much cash on fun, while slightly less of those in relationships (49.8%) say the same. Widows (47.5%) say that laying out too much fun money is a mistake, while those separated from their partners (45.5%) are the least likely to think so. (Maybe they’re spending just as much, but without the regret of those who are partnered.)

Is it a good idea to let your partner handle the finances?

It’s not all smooth sailing for those in relationships, however. More than one in five of Americans who made these mistakes say that letting their partner control their finances was a mistake. Nearly a quarter (23.6%) of women said they’d made this money mistake, compared with 18.4% of men. Almost one-third of those who are separated (31.8%) or divorced (31.5%) noted this money mistake — the highest proportion of any relationship status. Some 23.9% of those married or in a domestic partnership say the same.

Will you regret dropping out of college?

For the third consecutive year, more than one in five Americans who made a money mistake say they regret dropping out of college.

Interestingly, the younger you are, the more likely you regret ditching school. More than a quarter (25.7%) of millennials who made these mistakes say it’s a money mistake, while just 18.3% of Gen Xers say the same. Only 16.13% of baby boomers appear to regret dropping out of college.

Bad investments

Of those who said they made a money mistake, 19.3% said they’d made a bad investment, such as in property or stocks. It turns out the more you earn, the more likely you are to say a bad investment is a money mistake.

Those earning $300,000 or more annually (25%) lead the way on bad investments, followed by those earning $150,000 to $300,000 (20.7%) and $100,000 to $150,000 (16%). The further breakdown:

Proportion of people who made bad investment money mistakes by income brackets

$300,000 +25.0%
$150,000 to $300,00020.7%
$100,000 to $150,00016.0%
$75,000 to $100,00013.7%
$50,000 to $75,00012.9%
$25,000 to $50,0007.2%
0 to $25,0007.4%


Men appear to be more critical of their investments, with 24.7% naming bad investments as a money mistake, compared with just 13.5% of women. Of the generations, baby boomers are most likely to admit to a bad investment (28.7%), followed by Gen Xers (15.9%) and millennials (12.1%).

The cost of having children

Just under 13% of respondents who made these mistakes say that having children was a money mistake. By relationship status, widows are most likely to say so (17.5%), followed by those who are married or in a domestic partnership (14.5%), those who are divorced (13.7%) and singles (9.9%).

Other financial faux pas

Other common money mistakes include gambling, getting caught in an online scam and paying too much for a wedding — all of which men are more likely to identify as a mistake than women. Of American men, 13.6% who made money mistakes admitted to gambling regret, compared with only 7.6% of women.

Men (12.5%) are nearly twice as likely as women (6.6%) to say being caught in an online scam was a money mistake, out of those who made mistakes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, half the number of women regret spending on their wedding day: only 5.2% say that paying too much for a wedding was a mistake, compared with 11.2% of men.

Other interesting money mistakes admitted by our respondents include:

  • Timeshares
  • Spending money on your ex-partner
  • Invested too much at the dentist
  • Credit card debt
  • Leaving a job or staying too long when they were unhappy
  • Buying a camper van
  • Didn’t save enough, or didn’t invest earlier in their careers
  • Trusting someone that maybe they shouldn’t have (a boss, a friend, a provider)
  • Past America’s biggest money mistakes

    America’s biggest money mistakes

    What’s the most common money mistake made in the US? Blowing too much on fun.

    Richard Laycock headshot

    For all media inquiries, please contact:

    Richard Laycock, Insights editor and senior content marketing manager


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