Financial mistakes you made during the early years of adulthood have the tendency to stick with you well into the future. Not only can past transgressions affect your financial footing, but also, they can keep you from getting ahead.
Here are some common financial mistakes people make as they’re learning to navigate the financial landscape, and ways to fix them after the fact:
Adding credit card debt. Going out nightly and booking expensive vacations adds up, and if you can’t afford to pay for your lifestyle upfront, a credit card is a common way to fund these purchases. If you can’t pay off your credit card bill each month by the due date, your balance will be rolled over to the next month with interest charges added.
While following this pattern for any amount of time will hurt your credit score, it’s also important to understand that spending more than 30 percent of your available credit isn’t good for a credit score either.
The easiest solution? Don’t use your credit card unless you know you can pay the bill off completely when it’s due.
Not considering your credit score. Building a good credit score is the key to getting good loan rates, which will save you thousands of dollars on home and auto loans, credit cards, and other types of credit. It’s a hard thing to consider when you’re young and don’t have much credit, but improving your credit score by paying bills on time, not using more than 30 percent of your available credit and applying for credit infrequently, among other good money habits, will make your financial life easier.
If your credit score isn’t where you want it to be thanks to bad decisions you’ve made in the past, get in the routine of checking your credit score each quarter. If you do have a problem repaying a lender, or a collection agency is after you, work out a repayment plan.
Falling behind on student loan payments. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study, for those aged 18 to 24, student loans are the highest source of debt (28 percent), followed by credit card balances. In fact, the average debt for this age group is $22,000.
While student loans can be considered good debt because they typically have low-interest rates and tax advantages, ignoring your student loans and not making payments can lead to defaulting on the loan, which will ultimately lower your credit score.
What can you do if student loans are still hanging over your head? If you’re unemployed or not earning much of a salary, ask your lender to allow you to put off payments for at least a few months. Remember that you may still be required to make minimum payments, so be prepared to allocate some funds in this direction.