an asian chinese active senior woman having discussion with her chinese agent about her retirement investment plan.

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Throughout the course of their careers, financial advisors see many people make a lot of money mistakes. Some of these mistakes, unfortunately, are repeatedly made over and over again. If they continue to make the same money mistakes, it can have a significant impact on their financial health in the short- and long-term.

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Which money mistakes are among the most common? GOBankingRates spoke to several financial advisors who shared the worst money mistakes they see people make. 

Spending Money They Don’t Have

Let’s start with a money mistake many people make on a repeated basis: spending even though they don’t have any money. 

John J. Chichester, Jr. — CFP and founder and CEO of Chichester Financial Group, said rather than plan and save money for future goods, services or trips, people often run up credit card bills for things they decide they need or want right now. As a result, they end up in debt trying to live a lifestyle they cannot afford. While it does require some sacrifice, the more satisfying approach is to make a plan and budget for future purchases.

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Carrying and Increasing Bad Debt

A big money mistake Jamilah N. McCluney, financial specialist at Black Wealth Financial, sees people making is carrying and increasing bad debt. 

Debt comes in two forms: bad and good. Bad debt is credit cards and personal loans with high interest rates. McCluney said high interest can make it especially difficult to get out of debt and ultimately delays the process of building wealth. 

The solution, for those who carry bad debt, is to create a plan to quickly, completely and permanently eliminate it. McCluney recommends using a few strategic approaches like delaying immediate impulse spending and creating a realistic shopping fund. 

Pulling Money Out of the Stock Market

Most people won’t move their money if the stock market is doing well, but the moment the market drops many investors start to get anxious. Chichester said a common money mistake he sees is pulling money out of the market at the first sign of a downturn. Rather than stick with an investment philosophy based on their individual risk tolerance, Chichester said some people may make the mistake of wanting to sell everything and sit on the sidelines to protect their assets. 

“Taking your money out of the market requires two good decisions. One on when to get out, and a second on when to get back in,” said Chichester. Those concerned about the market going down might not feel comfortable getting back in until after the markets have rebounded. By then, Chichester said they could miss many investing opportunities for this upswing. 

Patience is easier said than put into practice, but Chichester recommends staying the course. Don’t move your money. Continue to keep it invested in an appropriate asset-allocated investment portfolio based on your individual goals and objectives. 

Taking Social Security Early

Just because you can receive Social Security as early as age 62 doesn’t mean you should immediately apply for benefits. 

Kevin Kleinman, financial advisor with Blue Haven Capital, said it’s routine to meet with a client in their 60s who is planning for retirement. Some will indicate they want to start taking Social Security at age 62. 

The decision to draw Social Security early can be an expensive money mistake. Kleinman uses the example of a client who was going to receive $1,740 per month at age 62 from Social Security. This client was planning to take early withdrawals. However, Kleinman said if they could wait until age 65, they would earn $2,235 per month. This would mean receiving an extra $492 each month, or $5,904 per year. Going back to the example of the client, Kleinman said this extra money each month was equal to four mortgage payments. 

For clients, Kleinman said quantifying the extra money in mortgage payments is a great way to understand the added benefit of waiting to draw Social Security. 

Leaving Money on the Table

A frequent mistake Chichester sees employees making is needing to contribute more of their own money into a company-sponsored 401(k) plan to take full advantage of the company match. 

Doing so means leaving money on the table. “In most cases, the maximum percentage needed to contribute is approximately 5% of their total salary,” said Chichester. “If they contribute to a traditional 401(k), the income taxes they save make the impact of these contributions on their take-home pay even less than what they think it will be.”

Not Consulting a Licensed Financial Adviser Before Making a Money Transaction

Kathleen Owens, financial advisor and fiduciary at Aurora Financial Planning & Investment Management, said the worst mistake is people who do not consult a licensed financial advisor before making a money transaction with retirement or educational accounts. Owens has spoken with individuals who regret taking a loan from their 401(k) plan or withdrawing money from a 529 educational account because they did not know about the ramifications of doing so before they did it. 

“Why do I urge people to consult a professional? Because we are held accountable for the advice we give by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” said Owens. “Your friends and family may mean well, but they are not accountable and may not know the current rules.”

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