We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their worst financial decisions. As college is one of the biggest investments a person makes (the average student debt in the US is more than $32,000), it's not entirely surprising that many of the responses involved school — taking out large student loans, choosing the wrong program, or not understanding the financial aid process. Others told stories about ex-partners, cars, and credit cars. One person even admitted that while he loves his wife, he regrets marrying someone with so much debt.
Experiences like these hurt, and they're hard to talk about. We asked readers to open up about their mistakes so that, hopefully, you can learn from them.
Here are 36 big financial decisions people say they regretted.
1. Her loans are pretty much ruining our lives.
I married someone with a lot of student loan debt. Don't get me wrong, I love my wife more than anything in this whole world, but had I known the negative effect her loans would have on our life, I may have done things differently. Her loans are pretty much ruining our lives. They have made it so we basically can't do anything, even though we both make good money. There are no vacations, no new clothes, no new vehicles, no savings account, no retirement accounts, struggles every month and especially around the holidays, when we can't afford to buy our families presents. Every penny has to be thought about in our lives. I am almost 40, and I am a prisoner to her debt. I don't think people realize just how damaging student loans can be. She has now paid more back than her original loan was for, but still owes the same amount she borrowed. If you can't make double or triple payments, they just never go away. We are currently paying over $10,000 a year in INTEREST alone. It's killing us, both financially and mentally. There is no break from stress EVER. If I could go back, I'd stay with my wife but not marry her, and I would keep our finances separate. I know I sound like an insensitive dick, but the amount of worry I've done over her loans is enough for two lifetimes.
2. I am $150,000 in debt at the age of 25.
Going to college. I know that these days, you can’t start a career without the degree. But being $150,000 in debt at the age of 25 is soul crushing. I can’t even afford health insurance through my job because of my loan payments. I can’t even start my life it seems.
3. I paid for my ex-husband's college education.
Once he went through most of his promotions, he ran off with one of my closest friends.
4. I took a “temporary” job after college.
I took a “temporary” job after college, rather than going right into what I should have been doing. Stayed for two years and was living off of credit cards because my pay was so low, but I was too broke to move two states away to live with my parents. I grew a lot as a person, but now I have a lot of credit card debt. It was very difficult to get a “real” job afterward, and I’m years behind where I should be in my career, leaving me financially stunted compared to my friends. I should have taken more measured steps rather than jumping for something easy/fun on a whim.
5. I sold a bunch of stock options to reinvest in retirement funds.
I started with an internet startup company in 1997. They paid out a small amount of stock options — which grew exponentially in value over the years, especially with splits. I hung in there for five years, allowing my options to fully vest. They were worth several hundred thousand when I left to take a less stressful job.
If I had simply hung on to my full portfolio, without touching it, I could retire today. E-company is massive. Instead, I sold a bunch to reinvest in retirement funds — not a BAD idea, but it has grown a fraction of the stock value. And every time I felt it peaked, causing me to sell some, it took off again, making my sell-off a constantly bad idea.
Now I have to sell some every year to stay "retired" while working other jobs — it'll probably be gone when my retirement fund kicks in. If I had left it alone and trusted in its growth I would be living like a king now for the rest of my life. None of my other investments paid off.
6. The mortgage company, as well as our real estate agent, took advantage of us.
Buying a house back in ‘04 when they were throwing mortgages at anyone and everyone. We were young, naive, and had no idea what we were doing, and the mortgage company, as well as our real estate agent, took full advantage of that fact, lol. We put no money down on an older home and we did not have a fixed rate, so our mortgage shot up to an astronomical amount and we struggled to keep up with the payments. We did several “loan modifications,” as refinancing wasn’t an option. But if our payment even ended up being lowered, it was by $30 at the most, which wasn’t much help. On top of that, we had to replace the air conditioner and the water heater within the first year (despite the appraiser saying they were in good condition), and then two years in we had a slab leak that led to us having to replace all of the piping throughout the house. Over the years it just became impossible to keep the house up — we needed a new roof, windows (the original early ‘80s ones did nothing for the climate control in the house), and had a lot of outer wood that needed to be replaced, among many other things. We spent so many sleepless nights stressing about payments and the house falling down around us that eventually we realized we just had to get out or we would drown in this forever. Also, we didn’t want this house to cost us our relationship since we were having unnecessary fights just because we were under so much stress. We tried a short sale (selling it outright wasn’t an option due to all the repairs needed), but it didn’t happen, and we were denied deed in lieu of foreclosure by Wells Fargo. So we were forced just to let it go to foreclosure and move. It ruined our credit in a huge way, but we couldn’t be happier to be out of that nightmare.
7. I got a student loan to go to culinary school.
I guess all my financial troubles can be traced to one very bad decision: I got a student loan to go to culinary school. The worst part was that if I had waited a mere three months, I would have been old enough to not be considered under my parents financially and would have qualified for financial aid. If I could go back in time, I would slap myself and tell myself not to waste my time. (Never did anything with the degree — I realized that although I love cooking, working in a professional kitchen may not be for me.) I wish I had at least waited those few months.
After that it was just one bad financial decision after another: three cars breaking down (learned lesson there: sometimes it's cheaper in the long run to just get a new car), two more loans taken out (one a debt consolidation loan and the other a car loan), and I've got collectors calling me and may have to file bankruptcy. Also my dad cosigned on these loans, so I'm messing up his credit too, which makes me feel like shit. I just had a baby so I have hospital bills now too.
Thankfully, I have a good job and my husband just got a good job, so perhaps with careful budgeting we can get this debt under control.
8. I signed up for a credit card and charged two Snickers.
When I was 18, just old enough to sign up for a credit card on my own, I worked at a retail store and had forgotten my debit card one day. I was hungry and wanted to eat something, so I signed up for a credit card and charged two snickers bars to it for around $5. I don’t know why I was the way I was, but I decided to just NOT pay on my credit card and ended up racking up late fees to almost $500. I ignored the statements until I had to ask my family to help me out with that monster of a bill and it just now fell off of my credit statement three years later. Adulting is hard, but thankfully I’m now the financially responsible one in my marriage!
9. The cheaper option is not always the best.
My worst financial mistakes are sometimes going the cheaper route to save money. I bought a $600 bike while living in Japan that I used every day. Yes, I loved it, but I carried my bike a lot and wanted something lighter and faster. I ended up taking a loss and buying a better, $1,500 bike. When I moved back to Michigan, I bought a $3,000 car that ended up being a lemon and I put $15,000 in. I now finance a $15,000 car (that I can afford) and is almost new.
I bought a house for $110,000 (WELL below my budget) that does not have a garage, even though a garage was the ONLY thing on my “need” list. Now, I am looking at putting in a garage for $25,000.
My advice (that I never seem to learn): The cheaper option is not always the best.
10. I financed my ex-fiancée's motorcycle.
Almost a year and a half later I'm dealing with this. I'm having to get the police involved and I'm paying for it every month and I haven't even seen the bike in a year. There's still $8,000 owed. Biggest mistake ever.
11. I loved the car so much I talked myself into it.
Financing a $30,000 vehicle while I was pregnant with no job and behind on my apartment bills. What a genius, right? ... Loved the car so much I talked myself into it.
12. I let my parents take care of all the financial planning for college.
I let my parents take care of all the financial planning for college. They bickered about federal subsidized loan arrangements and which college I could truly “afford” while I was trying to get through my high school exams. If I had known what a burden the loans could be, I would have tried a community college first.
13. USAA did not recognize gay partners, so I wasn't allowed on any of the paperwork.
Investing time and money into fixing up a home that didn't have my name on the deed.
My former spouse and I had a commitment ceremony (gay marriage wasn't legal at the time). As part of a wedding present, my parents sold my spouse and I one of their investment properties at a loss to them to help us get a leg up financially and to own a cheap home that we could flip for a profit at some point. My ex got a USAA home loan (a military loan for those of you who don't know). USAA did not recognize gay partners so I wasn't allowed on any of the paperwork.
I put a bunch of time and money into making improvements to the home. Then my already abusive ex fell off the wagon and started drinking and abusing opioids, thereby making life unbearable. I ended up having to move out for my safety/sanity and I had no rights to the home because I wasn't on the deed. So basically I got screwed and had to live with my parents for a while to get financially sound again.
14. I financed law school through loans.
Financing law school (tuition and living expenses) through loans. I’m facing $140,000 at 6–8% interest. Even more foolish was planning on doing government work for 10 years to be eligible for the public interest student loan forgiveness program, but that may be ended (call your reps, pleaaaase). I may never be able to retire.
15. I didn't contribute to a former job's 401K.
Not contributing to a former job's 401K when they matched to a certain percentage ... to think of the money I could have had for retirement ... UGH
16. Getting a car.
Getting a car ... with a payment higher than my mortgage.
17. Borrowing extra student loan funds.
Borrowing extra student loan funds than were needed to pay tuition. I never spent the refund check on anything useful, and now have so much more debt than is necessary. Also, cashing out small 401(k)s when I started new jobs — should have rolled those funds over to be in a better spot now.
18. We bought a house we couldn’t afford, we put our kids in private preschools we couldn’t afford, and we were miserable.
Buying a house at 25. We — my husband and I, who have three small kids — were pressured into it and told that we were just throwing our money away by paying rent. The only homes that were “good enough” by his family’s standards were way out of our price range (we had one income, student loan debt, and about $4,000 of credit card debt.) We bought a house we couldn’t afford, we put our kids in private preschools we couldn’t afford, and we were miserable.
Now, five years later, we sold the house for a profit and are even further into credit card debt, but we are very quickly crawling out. Our house is a smaller townhouse — but we LOVE the community. I work now and we are ok with Not Keeping Up With the Joneses.
I’m harping it into my children to STAY AWAY FROM BUYING A HOME until your finances are squared away. No debt and a hunk of savings for a down payment.
19. Taking out a payday loan.
Taking out a payday loan. It helps immediately, but the interest rates are so high that it makes them almost impossible to pay off without taking out other loans to pay off the previous.
20. Thinking I’d graduate making $80,000.
Law school. Had a scholarship but negated it by taking out extra money in loans for personal expenses. I also did a study abroad program for a summer (which is probably the one part of law school I DON’T regret). And then I made the wise choice of moving out of my parents house after my first year because, you know, I’m smart. The whole time I’m thinking I’ll graduate making $80,000. Nope. Graduated owing roughly $140,000 and started off making ~$45,000. I ended up having to move back home for a few years.
21. I didn't realize I could declare myself financially independent.
I went to college in the late '90s. I dropped out of my first school at 19 and went to live in a city and just worked various jobs for two years. I decided to go back to school in my city. By then I was 21 and had been living completely independently for two years. My mom is well off (retired at 52(!)) but was not helping with rent or airfare home or anything. No complaints — that was, and is, fine with me. BUT I didn't realize I could declare myself financially independent, so all my financial aid was calculated as if my mom was paying for my college. She did help out but I also had to take on student loans. I could have saved me and her a ton of money!
22. My state did not recognize my program as valid accreditation.
I got loans for and signed up for an online pharmacy tech program without realizing my state did not recognize it as valid accreditation. I am still paying for that stupid program five years later...after realizing my mistake and doing what I had to do to get a real pharmacy tech license!
23. I took out a loan through (basically) a loan shark.
I took out a loan through (basically) a loan shark in order to help consolidate debt while I was in school full time. The interest rate was so high that I’d end up paying almost double what the loan was actually worth. BE CAREFUL when taking out loans. Mine ended up causing me to declare bankruptcy.
24. He told me that if I put a car lease in my name, he’d pay for it.
I was engaged to this guy and I didn’t have a car. We lived together in the rural Midwest and I needed one really badly. I had credit, he did not, and he told me that if I put a car lease in my name, he’d pay for it. I was about to go to college and would have no way to pay for it if he didn’t hold up his half of the bargain, but I was young, dumb, and in love, so I did it. He enlisted in the navy and broke his spine in basic. Bam, no money for either of us.
I ended up having to do a voluntary repossession and my credit is abysmal. We’ve been broken up for almost a year, and I’m still dealing with the financial fallout. Moral of the story, DO NOT EVER put anything in your name that you can’t pay for, even if someone else says they can help. It’s your future on the line, not theirs.
25. Opening up two credit cards as soon as I turned 18.
Opening up two credit cards as soon as I turned 18. I didn't know anything about credit cards. I didn't know you had to pay them back right away. I was a college freshman. They didn't teach me all of that in high school. I maxed them both out in the span of six months and didn't make payments for like three years because I didn't know I had to. Now, eight years later, I almost have them paid off, but my credit score is absolute shit and I'll probably never be able to own a house.
26. Putting my wedding on credit cards.
Putting my wedding on credit cards. I'm pretty sure I could have paid for it but got too lazy to actually save.
27. I financed a second car in my name.
While I was still with my ex, I financed a second car in my name because I was sick of driving him around. In the breakup, he stole the car and pays just enough to keep it from being repossessed but not enough for it to be paid off. My credit score is a joke now.
28. Best decision of my life...having a child...worst financial decision of my life...having a child!
That little poop takes 80% of the money I make. I don't even remember the last time I bought myself clothes. But to be honest I love her more then I ever thought I could love someone, so it's ok, I don't mind one bit.
29. Moving out of my parents’ house too early.
Moving out of my parents’ house too early. They asked me not to and told me to stay another year and save up, but I wanted to be totally independent. So I moved into an apartment that was out of my budget and didn’t have a roommate. I loved it but it took a HUGE toll on my savings and I ended up having to move back in with them anyway. I’m still working on saving up to where I was before I moved out and it’s been a year and a half. Never regretted anything more.
30. Nobody ever explained interest to me.
Applying for a credit card as soon as I was old enough to, via a junk mail form in a magazine. Nobody ever explained interest to me in the correct way. I then opened a second one via my bank when I was 20. I had no idea I would go through redundancy twice a couple of years later, nor did I realise I'd still be paying the damn cards off in my mid-thirties. Credit cards are evil!
31. Honestly, college...
It seems like more and more employers are hiring based on previous experience or if you know someone within the company. It all seems to be about networking and getting your foot in the door early. I feel companies couldn't care less about your degree rather than work experience. Sure, four years of college gave me experience in social aspects and allowed me to learn more in my field, however, it also left me with about 40 years of student loan debt.
When college was done, it was incredibly difficult for me to find a job. It took roughly seven years after college to land the career I now have. Companies didn't want to hire a "straight-out-of-college" person. They wanted someone who had years of experience who wouldn't need to be trained in any aspect. I know so many people who spend four or more years in college, to end up in a career that has nothing to go with their degree. It truly was the biggest waste of money I can think of.
32. Since the HOA is so high, no one wants to buy in my neighborhood.
I bought my first home in January of this year. Some things came up, and I am moving back to my hometown in the spring, so I’m getting my house ready to sell. My homeowners association just announced that they are raising the HOA monthly fee 40% for 2018. My HOA fee is now only $75 less each month than my mortgage payment. Since the HOA is so high, no one wants to buy in my neighborhood, which means I have to let my house go at a $40,000 loss in order to sell it. So, I am now struggling with the decision to let my house go at a $40,000 loss and move home where I need to be — or stay where I currently am. If I could go back, I would have never bought this house.
33. That tweet cost me $60,000 a year.
Like an inexperienced millennial, my Twitter was not set to private. A job I was interviewing for saw that I tweeted about something stupid my boss said a few months ago, so I did not get that job. That tweet cost me $60,000 a year plus benefits.
34. Got a preapproved Discover credit card in the mail when I was 18.
Got a preapproved Discover credit card in the mail when I was 18. Maxed it out within a week. Still paying it off into my twenties. I took out tens of thousands of dollars in federal and private loans to pay for college even though I had no idea what I wanted to do.
35. I got a worthless degree because of pride and internalized ableism.
I became disabled halfway through law school and didn’t want to be the person who quit because they were sick. Now I have six-figure debt and I am not healthy enough to work in the field, so it’s a worthless degree that I only got because of pride and internalized ableism. Believe in who you are now so you don’t screw yourself over in the future.
36. Having a baby. That little motherfucker is gonna ruin me.
Having a baby. That little motherfucker is gonna ruin me. Good thing she's awesome, I guess.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
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Venessa Wong is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Wong covers the food industry.
Contact Venessa Wong at email@example.com.
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