Here is a list of signs that indicate someone is likely to be poor in the future. If any of these apply to you, it might want to consider making some changes.
10. The only type of CDs you know about play music.
Not understanding basic investment tools is one sure sign that you will mismanage your finances. This is especially true because a basic financial education is so readily accessible on websites, through library books, etc.
9. Your bank account balance goes down each month.
You don’t need any fancy charts to see if your net worth is improving or decaying. If you usually have less money in your accounts each month then your lifestyle is not sustainable on your current income. You’ll have to change something to keep from running out of money. Until you make some significant changes, you will continue to become poorer.
8. You carry a balance on your credit cards.
Normal interest rates on credit cards are extremely high. If you are willing to pay 20% in interest each month, it is very unlikely that you’ll make wise financial decisions in other areas. Even if you do, the amount you are paying in interest is likely to offset any gains in other areas.
7. You leave money on the table.
Not participating in an employer matched retirement plan is one way people leave money on the table. Health savings plans and other tax savings setups are other opportunities you shouldn’t overlook. If you regularly skip over opportunities to get free money you are unlikely to do well financially.
6. You look forward to getting a large tax refund.
A large tax refund usually means you didn’t plan ahead correctly. Any extra money you gave the government is basically an interest free loan. If you plan correctly your refund should be very small or you should have to pay a small amount.
5. You notice the “cost per month” price on items.
If the first price you notice on a new item, is the cost per month you aren’t thinking like a financially responsible person. This is especially true on items that you shouldn’t borrow money to purchase like consumer electronics. For items like a car or house, you should make sure you can make the payments, but your starting point for determining if something is worth the cost or not should be the price not the payment.
4. Social Security is your retirement plan.
Social Security may still be around when you retire. It can offer some nice life insurance style benefits right now, but if your entire retirement plan is based on Social Security you aren’t thinking like a financially responsible individual. If this describes you, I’d suggest you immediately sit down and see what your projected SS benefit will be and decide if you can live off that amount. And don’t forget to calculate in 6% inflation which means $100 today will only have the purchasing power of $96 next year and so on. If you were to get fired today, you would be broke in two weeks.
3. Your bank fees each month are more than any interest you earn.
This is similar to leaving money on the table. Financially responsible people pay attention to bank fees. If you are being charged $10 per month by your bank you should know why and you should have a plan for making that charge go away. Banks should be paying you for the privilege of keeping your money, not the other way around.
2. Your retirement plan projects receiving large inheritance.
If your parents or a relative leave you a large amount of money when they die that is great. However if that is your financial plan you may be in for some disappointment. First, if they are truly wealthy they are probably going to be more interested in leaving their money to someone who displays financial responsibility. Second, they may find other uses for their money. It isn’t uncommon for someone to spend their life savings on healthcare costs at the end of their life. With some of the newer technology being developed, it may be possible for people to increase their lifespan but at a very great expense. Don’t count on that money being there.
1. Your wheels cost more than your car.
It doesn’t just have to be the wheels on your car. Any time your financial priorities are out of balance it is a pretty sure sign you aren’t going to acquire any wealth. Other examples include: Your video game collection is the largest portion of your net worth. You don’t have any money to repair your car, but you a new plasma television.
Good management of your finances can have one of the biggest impacts on your productivity because it determines how efficient you convert your time into money into the things you need. On Wednesdays we are discussing the financial aspect of productivity. Watch for more financial posts in the future.
This list describes so many people I know it’s not even funny. Somewhere along the line basic financial education is the United States got lost along the wayside…
I’d suggest that basic financial education is deliberately left out of education in the US. Something so essential to a person’s success isn’t accidentally forgotten.
It ensures that people who know how finance works stay rich while everyone else stays poor. Although, in these days of the internet there is really not much excuse left for being ignorant of the basics. You can find it easily.
Mark Shead says
@Del and Jeff – I think the US encourages people to NOT think for themselves and because of this basic financial literacy isn’t a priority. For example, when people take out loans they can’t afford, the government feels it needs to step in a keep them from getting evicted. I think the government would be better off to focus on teaching people how to avoid the situation instead of trying to fix things after the fact.
ha – no kidding. This describes 75% of the population… #9 can only happen for so long I reckon though. I fall into that one from month to month myself…
Finally someone has the guts to say it like it is! When I see these morons parading around in their $80,000 Escalades with big shiny wheels, they remind me of back in grade school. The assholes always had the fancy bike with the racoon tails on the handlebars.
I wish financial education was more common. I also wish that people who got off to a bad start wouldn’t be afraid to get on track.
I’m currently a grad student living in an expensive area. I make it on less than 20k a year. I’ve got a coworker in her late 20s that makes almost twice as much as me but she’s always bitching about money. She hasn’t saved for retirement, her car doesn’t even have liability (something she got ticketed for) and she hasn’t started paying off her college loans.
I want to shake her sometimes. I want to say, “Quit smoking. Ride the bus or at least buy a car that doesn’t drink gas. Make your own drinks and go to bars less. Quit buying presents you can’t afford to give. Girl, you’ve got the money just make it work for you. Use that employer matching 401k. “
Doug Glass says
Unfortunately the list is all too true for many Americans. And, most Americans have been taught they can have it all and they can have it right now. Hence the credit problems of the masses. Today, the great American dream is living above one’s means.
There are no free lunches and those who abuse money and credit will be in pain for as long as the practice continues.
The government does not the people to be financially secure. They want them to be addicted to government programs. That is there form of self-perpetuation.
I am actually from Canada, I agree with most of your list. Some people have savings accounts and let their balance go down each month. I council people who are new to saving to immediately remove their savings budget into a separate account (high interest is preferable) so that they can spend the rest of their income.
Also, and this may just be my location, I get refunds each year, but I don’t pay taxes on my income. I am a student and I live off of government grants that are not taxable. I get refunds from claiming expenses such as tuition, rent, medical expenses and investment carry-over from my retirement fund. I love my refund each year, and I can’t ask the government for their tax-free loan back any sooner than April.
Well-written, creative list. Good reminders, and I like the way you approached the topic.
I’d say my bank account does go down every month, but that’s because I’m constantly transferring money to savings/stocks. It’s more like an up-down.
How about 10 Signs You Will Be Rich?
Well, I know the poster just expects us to insert the words “don’t”, “doesn’t” and “not” as appropriate in those signs but more direct statements could be better!
Ray The Money Man says
I saw one comment that said it sounded like 75% of the population. I say 90%! LOL
Welcome to the 90’s.
This is what what people must do to make it. It is not a choice of how to invest your excess but that you make it.
William M. Davis says
This was quite interesting list and for that matter true to most of the extent. I just love ‘ Your wheels cost more than your car’
This list makes people very optimistic. If the middle and low classes weren’t given such impossible odds to even get ahead this list wouldn’t even exist.
To make enough money to make ends meet and make extra to invest is impossible without an expensive education. An expense these classes normally can’t afford to begin with. Most people are indebted for half their lives just to go to get an education not to mention a house.
Biff’s comment says it the best. Its what you have to do to make it. I feel for the people that barely make it. I use to be in the same boat running between two jobs donating blood and going to class.
You left out one. My EX- husband spent (and contines to spend) $10 – 20 per week on lottary tickets because he is SURE one day he will win and he will be rich. One reason the man is single now.
I don’t believe you should ever have a “car payment” , if you only have one thousand dollars to spend on a car , you purchase a one thousand dollar car , if you want a 100 thousand dollar SUV you should have an extra 100 thousand dollars on hand to cover the cost in full ect , I feel if you ever have to make “payments” on a car you simply can’t afford that particular vehicle .
Mark Shead says
Consider the following scenario. Let’s say you have a mortgage with $150,000 left on your house at 5% interest. You need to buy a car and it will cost $20,000. You have the cash to pay the entire amount. However, the dealer is offering 1% financing. Do you think you are better off paying cash for the car or using the 1% financing and using some of your cash to pay off your mortgage faster?
Brian Bordenkircher says
As a Financial Advisor I felt so sorry for some people that just didn’t understand the concept of being frugal to save money, that is the first step to building wealth! And sometimes it really isn’t all that slow. I met with people that had come into a half a million all at once and wanted to spend every dime, not realizing the taxes and utility fees for their home, boat, car repairs, etc. When people instead of trying to keep up with the Jones’s, they can start to put away some of their money and allow it to build up interest, doubling, tripling, quadrupling or much more over time. You have essentially written the 10 commandments of what not to do, in order to become financially secure. And on a side note, I know that some people had told me that if they invested and because wealthy that they would feel guilty in some way or form, but the fact is, the more wealthy you become, the more of a positive financial impact you can have on not only your family, but also your community and beyond. Thank you for your great article Mark!
Mark Shead says
I wonder if the people who would feel guilty about making money by investing wisely would feel guilty about winning the lottery or a sweepstakes.
We retired in our fifties. Our kids were finished with college. When I worked, some of my co-workers were broke by the next pay day. There were also those people who maxed out their credit cards. My kids usually worked weekends and summers. I have always been careful with money. If my kids wanted a fad item, they had to earn money for it. They also did volunteer work. Tutoring, peer counseling, volunteering at an animal shelter among other things. One of my kids joined the Navy to pay for graduate school. Another lived with a disabled relative so college housing was free. Then you don’t have huge debts.