Learning how to manage money can be pretty counterintuitive — like, what do you mean my credit score went DOWN because I paid off a loan??? And because many of us don't get a great financial education growing up, we often end up learning our money lessons the hard way.
1. "I co-signed on a truck for a boyfriend. He eventually couldn't make the payments, and the truck got repossessed. The bank sold it at an auction for under $2,000. It was financed for $15,000, so guess who still has that expensive mistake of the $13,000 difference haunting them?! This dumb girl."
2. "I didn't read well enough into my bank's fees. I knew I was low on money, so I set it up online that things would bounce instead of making me overdraft. APPARENTLY, they charge $37 for a 'returned item fee.' I had $4 in my account; my Spotify payment was $6. It got rejected, they charged me $37 for that rejection, making me overdraft, and then charged me $35 a day for being overdrawn. I ended up over $150 negative because of that missing $2 for the goddamn Spotify payment."
3. "I withdrew my 401(K) from my first job thinking I would get all the money I invested out. I had saved over $3,000 but got a check for a little over $900 due to my balance not being 100% vested plus penalties, taxes, and fees. Now, I make it my mission to inform people not to do early withdrawals."
4. "My wedding. I wanted to get married by Elvis in Las Vegas, just the two of us, but my fiancé had visions of wearing a white tie and tails. I was insecure and just went along with it, and the entire evening was SO stressful and one of the worst nights of my life because I was so worried about what everyone thought and if they were having a good time. It’s been 23 years, and I can’t bring myself to even look at pictures. We’re happily married now, but the wedding was just a colossal waste of money."
5. "Tried messing with stocks out of boredom during COVID. Ended up getting into options and getting myself in a hole. Instead of accepting my losses, I continued to make more risky investments, if you can even call them that. Ended up losing about $20k or so over the course of eight months. I was engaged when I started getting into this and got married about halfway through and did all of this without my now-wife’s knowledge."
"We decided to start looking into buying a house, and I had to come clean prior to applying for loans, so that I didn’t cause some long-lasting damage to us financially. It was a rough conversation, and we ended up moving in with my in-laws as we try to recoup my losses and buy a house down the road.
Was definitely a tough stretch of life. Thankfully, my wife had enough forgiveness to let me make things right. We both have good jobs, and it wasn’t really a life-altering mistake when all things are considered. In therapy now to deal with the mental and marital issues that arise throughout the process.
I strongly advise anyone in a similar situation to cut your losses and have the difficult conversations sooner rather than later."
6. "I was too generous with my siblings. At 21, I was the first financially independent sibling of many. My younger siblings are wonderful, and I valued spending time with them. Since I was in my 20s and making above (not insanely above) market salary, I would pay for the hotel or occasional flight for trips we planned to meet up. Since they were still in school and not making money for many years, it was the logical approach. If we wanted to see each other, I would be the one traveling or paying for them to travel to see me. As they grew older and entered the workforce, most of their salaries exceeded mine."
"I bought a house and poured money into it (didn't profit off of it) and told them it was their turn to come visit me and help me out. ... Not one of them came. Not one of them visited. Not one of them helped me out or offered to pay for anything. I was too generous and feel burned. This has continued for 12 years.
When I asked them to visit me, they claimed to have no time or money but go on to post pictures of vacation in Costa Rica, Japan, staying at the Four Seasons and such. I called them out on it, and they just got angry with me (and still never visited).
It has been four years since I have asked any of them for anything. I am at such peace focusing on the people actually present in my life. I am so much better at spending my money on smart investments, which include which relationships I value. My siblings have still not made any trips to visit me but have asked me to visit them. I have explained many times that I overspent on hotels for us and their airfare and meals in the past, so unless they are the ones to invest their time and money to come see me, I'm not interested. I used to be bitter, but now it's such bliss being totally aligned to what I value and valuing myself first."
7. "Forgot to turn in FASFA on time and lost out on $5,000 worth of grants. Had to end up taking loans out. Tough lesson, but it taught me to pay attention to deadlines."
8. "My father died in 2007 and left me and my sister $115k each. I used it to buy a new house. I was 25 at the time. Didn't know shit about the process to buy a home. So, needless to say, I bought something I couldn't afford. Then, the market crashed in 2008. I lost the house and my inheritance. I was more upset about blowing my father's savings than losing the house. Lesson learned."
"Don't buy something you can't afford. Don't live above your current needs. If all you need is a one-bedroom apartment, then live in a one-bedroom apartment. If you can't afford that, stay with mom and dad, or get roommates. No shame in that game.
I didn't even have a family or a girlfriend. It was such an unnecessary purchase for me at the time."
9. "I took out a loan to buy my first car and learn to drive. I have zero regrets about that, but what I DO regret is not really thinking forward five years (the duration of the loan) and considering how my income would fluctuate over that time. I have a good job now that pays more than any other job I've had, but there were times when I thought I would miss a payment and get charged or have a mark on my credit score. Thankfully, it never happened, but I won't take a loan out again."
10. "Agreeing to not having the septic tank inspected before closing on our home. It was pumped recently, so it must be fine, right? Turns out it was actually in bad shape and needed to be fully replaced. Over $20,000."
11. "I joined a cult. It was one that guilted and manipulated people into giving money under the guise of combating larger societal ills. But the leaders kept a lot of money for themselves without consent from the group, didn’t pay taxes, and were incredibly toxic people who verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abused us. Don’t join a cult, no matter how much you think it’s gonna fix the problems you see in the world. Financial care is self care, and as problematic as money is, it’s a game you have to play to take care of yourself and the people around you."
12. "I inherited a good chunk of change from my mom when she passed in my early 20s. I was dumb and loaned $30,000 to my boyfriend at the time who was unemployed, and I never saw a cent back. That relationship only lasted a year and literally gave me nothing but pain and heartache. If I hadn't loaned him the money, I could've been way better off now and not struggling as much as I am."
13. "Freshman year of college, I thought my final exam was at 11:30. It was at 9:30. The exam was 40% of my grade, so I failed. I lost my scholarship and had to pay to retake the class."
14. "Growing up, my family struggled with money. Not because we didn't have it, but because my mom was terrible at managing it. I wasn't told about credit or anything. When I finally got out on my own, I had to learn not to just spend constantly and actually save money."
15. "Started smoking at 14. On and off for decades, off for over a year now, but I must have spent enough to put a down payment on a house between the cigs and associated health issues. Don't start, kids, not even one!"
16. "Not getting collision insurance. I got into an accident where I was T-boned, but because I was crossing at a blinking red, the guy who hit me technically had the right of way. Even though he was speeding, high, had a suspended license, and wasn’t in the intersection when I started crossing into it, the responding officer found me at fault. Because I didn’t have collision insurance, I didn’t get any money toward my totaled car."
17. "Bought a house 50/50 with my brother-in-law. I was in university full-time and working part time. When the first year ends, I find out the joint house account is overdrawn by $3,000 because they hadn't been putting their share in the account. I pay that off, then at the end of my second year, discover three liens against the title in his name for over $45,000."
"We tried to sell house for two years, but no one will touch it. I have now taken out all the loans I can to keep the house...bankruptcy, foreclose, lost over $250,000 dollars on what it was valued over what we had paid for it, not including the $15,000 down payment, and the $20,000 of renovations I paid for. Life lesson learned: Never go into anything financial with family."
18. "In no way am I judging or shaming anyone with implants, let me get that out of the way. My mistake was getting implants when I was 26. I got them removed later because I hated them. $7,500 lesson in just loving who you are."
19. "Not enrolling in my company’s retirement plan that offered 5% contribution match. Lost five years of free money."
20. "I fell for a gift card scam from a guy I had just met when I was 20 years old. I lost $1,000, which was over half what I had in my bank account at the time. I STILL beat myself up over the stupidity of that one."
21. "I let my ex talk me into taking my money out of a state retirement fund when the facility went private and invest it in the stock market because he 'didn't trust the government.' I was vested, and it was the most money I was ever going to make, although I didn't know that at the time. Because I was in my 30s, I invested it in some kind of high-risk stocks along with a safer one. But every time the market crashed, I lost about half of my money, and it never seemed to come back all the way."
"I ended up working for a nonprofit for not a lot, then became disabled. So now, my retirement income is below poverty level when I might be living mostly comfortably instead of worrying about being out on the street if something happens to my present husband."
22. "I was on my honeymoon in Italy and had reserved and pre-paid for a rental car up front. When we arrived at the rental booth, everything was in order. The car was ready; all I needed to do was insert my credit card and enter the pin. That's when I realized I didn't know the pin code for my credit card. We were able to rent a car in the end with another agency, but by not remembering four measly numbers, we lost almost 900 euros."
23. "I bought a salvaged vehicle that looked like it was in great shape. It drove fine, and it was exactly what I needed at the time. About a month in, some frame damage was discovered that made it hard to steer, and I learned there were NO FUCKING AIRBAGS! I tried to turn around and sell it once I found out, but I couldn’t in good conscience sell an unsafe vehicle to anyone. So, I paid $7k to install new airbags and have a few other things done. Once the car was safe, I felt like I could stick with it a little longer. … Then, the transmission started leaking."
"I had grown attached to the car by this time, so I figured I’d at least get an estimate on fixing the leak, even if it meant dropping the transmission. Mechanic gave me a call moments after I dropped it off to tell me he was worried that if he dropped the transmission, he wouldn’t be able to put my car back together, because the repairs on the car were so bad the transmission was essentially holding the whole front end together!! Sold it for scrap and basically lost $15k total on that terrible purchase."
24. "Fresh out of high school, I got my first credit card. I was very responsible with managing my spending. My girlfriend at the time was broke and down on her luck. I used every ounce of my credit and money to help her get on her feet just so she can break up with me and leave me with the damages. I'm still trying to recover. Long story short: Don’t co-sign for ANYBODY. They have bad credit for a reason, SMH 🤦🏽♀️."
25. "From the time I was 24-27, I would charge most things to credit cards (grocery purchases, clothes, gifts, etc.) without paying the balance in full every month. Since I was making some payments, my credit limit got raised for each card. By the time I was 27, I had all my credit cards maxed out with $28,000 in debt. I felt so guilty and was always anxious, even depressed with this debt weighing on me."
26. "I lied about my income and got an American Express card in my early 20s. It had no credit limit and came with an option to pay charges over time. I used it for hotels, flights, nice dinners, and alcohol. $20k later and I had no way to even make minimum payments. They found out my income was not accurate when I tried making a $17k charge and needed to verify through a tax form. They canceled my card on the spot and subpoenaed my ass."
27. And finally, "I took out Sallie Mae private loans for $14k for college. I now owe $37k nine years later at 29."