Top 3 biggest financial mistakes to avoid (I made them all)

silly meI never cheated in school.

My parents raised me to be a straight-A student. Not only was it important to have good grades, but also to have those good grades backed up by actual knowledge. Cheating was dishonest, wrong, and probably was one of the seven mortal sins.

Fast-forward to when I’m 25 and Farmville is on everybody’s Facebook. My 10-year old cousin shows me his farm, and it looks straight out of PIMP MY FARM. It’s huge and it’s seriously pimped. He has just about every crop and animal in the game (except maybe a unicorn)… wow! My cousin is a genius.

So I pat Einstein Junior on the shoulder. He grins, then logs out of his account to check… his other accounts? How many of these does he… TWELVE?! And He uses them to… pimp his main account?! Oh God my cousin is a sinner!

“Hey! That’s cheating!” I say to him. “That’s not fair!”

“Not fair?! Do you know how much work it is to create all those fake Facebook users and Farmville accounts for each fake user and regularly check them to send stuff to your main account?”

“But the other players don’t create multiple accounts to CHEAT! You’re a CHEATER!”

“That’s not cheating! I’m doing everything I can to grow my farm and that’s a lot of work! If other players don’t use multiple acocunts, maybe they don’t want to win as bad as I do!”

Okay, he has a point. And I need to talk to mom. Hey moooom? I just found another mistake you and dad made while raising meeee!

Financial mistake #1: Being financially independent from parents & boyfriend

Not cheating in school later translated to not cheating in life. And “not cheating” meant no help from anyone, for anything, and not taking any shortcuts.

So I studied for my exams, even when I could have easily cheated and even when studying meant memorizing things I could never apply in life. When I needed a job, I browsed jobs sites and took shitty jobs, even though I could easily get a good job through a family friend’s connections. I insisted on paying my own bill whenever a guy took me out for dinner, even when it was a date and even though I could really find a better use for my money.

But then I realized I can’t face my children one day and say “Yeah, mommy could have been richer and given you guys a better life, but instead mommy wanted to be independent and achieve everything on her own.”

Struggling to achieve things on your own when you could easily get help is just unreasonable – it’s like playing Farmville where you аre the only player with just one account and everyone else is using multiple accounts to get ahead faster.

Doing things on your own takes way too long, and in the end, all you have is the satisfaction of saying “I did this on my own.” Instead, taka advantage of whatever assets you have access to and use every resource you can get your hands on – parents, friends, connections, money.

Don’t strive to be independent. There’s no time for it!

Financial mistake #2: Starting over

Ever since I moved to my husband’s town in March 2013, I’ve felt “attrition damage” on me. I had to get used to a new relationship, new house, new town, three new jobs, start a new dance group, get pregnant and get married. :) So… I’m really happy about all those positive changes in my life, but I also feel stressed out and honestly, a little tired. This has been one huge start-over.

And sure enough, financially speaking, it comes with a cost. I used part of my savings to help my husband pay the car loan, and the rest was split between unemployment and our wedding. What little pile of cash we managed to scrape together after that went towards the apartment remodel.

See how all those costs are related to both of us starting a new life together? (By the way, that is why people prefer cash gifts for their wedding!)

Starting over – or starting something new – always comes with a hit to your money. Sure, there’s the time&effort investment. But the most taxing cost is the stress. Whenever I started something new, I’d worry about whether I’d find enough clients. Whether my clients would be happy. What will others say if I fail. Do I need to tweak my ad a little? Should I offer a discount for new customers?

Figuring out all of that is tiring. And the worst part was that, if I failed, I’ve lost all the time and effort I invested. All those hours. All those conversations. All those favors I pulled. And all those favors I did so I had favors to pull.

Starting over also applies to when you start a new job. Which reminds me…

Financial mistake #3: Job-hopping for better pay and career opportunities

My first “real” job was with the HR department of a large company. It had great benefits, good pay, and we were never asked to work late hours.

After two years with the company, I… got bored. My official statement was that I needed a job with more opportunities, but the truth is I was just bored.

Soon I left this job to work at a tiny recruitment agency with a staff of twelve. (The old place had a staff of over 100 in administration alone.) Work was slightly more diversified, but pay was slightly less secure (it had a bonus system).

I left at six months. This time it wasn’t because I was bored but because I thought I could make more money doing the same thing for myself. I had read Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad and had a fixation on starting my own business.

The business lasted six months before I ran out of loaned money. (I was 24 at the time so… you know. Figures.)

Now I had to find a job again. Unfortunatelly, the recession had already started and job openings were vanishing by the minute. I was able to get a job that paid as much as my last two jobs… but half the pay was under the table.

I stayed at this job about 6 months, but this time it wasn’t my fault – my father had suddenly passed away and I was moving back home with mom.

I think it was the stress of losing my business, paying a huge loan, and losing my father that forced me into a painful but valuable lesson: I had to start being more responsible and think harder before leaving one job for another. That was very risky now – it was just me and mom, and I had nothing to fall back on in case something happened.

So I got a low-paying but stable job, and this time I was in no hurry to look for something better. I stayed at this low-paying, zero-opportunity, boring job for over 2 years. I thought of this job as my Noah’s ark through the recession. And it worked! Ironically, I paid back my loan and built my first emergency fund while on the lowest salary in my adult life.

Then one day I got a call from a family friend who wanted to hire me. Pay was great, the job was great, and there were plenty of opportunities. I rocked at that job! I could easily see myself working here for the next decade…

And then I fell in love with the man who was soon to be my husband. To be with him, I had to switch towns – and jobs! – yet again. As happy as I was to have met a great man like him who loved me with all his generous heart, I was really sad to leave my (still new) job. Plus I had just received a 15% pay raise without even asking for it.

But after all, even the best job in the world can’t compare with finding the love of your life, right?

Just six months into the job – what is it with me and six month periods?! – I packed my bags to move in with my fiancée.

I had a job secured at the time, but it turned out to be horrible, so I quit in just 2 weeks. I found another job which was a little less horrible, and kept looking for something better.

Eventually I found it. Now I work for a big manufacturer with a staff of almost a thousand. We don’t stay in late. We get weekends and holidays off along with maternity leave and sick days and everything. Pay is good, and when you factor in all the other perks, it’s actually really good.

And again, just six months in – seriously, what’s with the 6-month periods?!! – I am going to go on maternity leave. We didn’t plan it that way, mind you – we planned for me to work for at least a year before getting pregnant so I can secure my position herek – but I guess it is just as well.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m now a married woman with a baby on the way, or if it’s because I’m tired of shitty recession jobs, or if it’s just because this is a great place to work at, but I’m determined to stay with this company for as long as possible. Since I started working seven years ago, I‘ve been with a dozen companies, but only three of them were actually good jobs at good companies with good pay.

Besides, think about this. The more I stay here, the easier it feels for me. I get better and better at my job. I get to know more and more of the people who work here. My supervisors have more time and more occasions to judge my work performance. It would be much easier for me to negotiate with them and get a promotion than to negotiate with a new company that only knows me from my resume.

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3 thoughts on “Top 3 biggest financial mistakes to avoid (I made them all)”

  1. Some critics believe that current methods of measuring unemployment are inaccurate in terms of the impact of unemployment on people as these methods do not take into account the 1.5% of the available working population incarcerated in U.S. prisons (who may or may not be working while incarcerated), those who have lost their jobs and have become discouraged over time from actively looking for work, those who are self-employed or wish to become self-employed, such as tradesmen or building contractors or IT consultants, those who have retired before the official retirement age but would still like to work (involuntary early retirees), those on disability pensions who, while not possessing full health, still wish to work in occupations suitable for their medical conditions, those who work for payment for as little as one-hour per week but would like to work full-time.

  2. Yes, statistics are never 100% accurate, but I think I can tolerate an error margin of 1.5% .

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