When it comes to managing money, many Australians are living in the moment – only to regret it later, according to recent research from the Financial Planning Association of Australia.
Failing to squirrel away enough money for the future was easily the biggest financial regret, according to the survey of 2635 people aged 23 to 71.
Eighty per cent of working-age respondents experienced financial stress.
So we asked three experts to name some of the most common financial regrets – and explain how to avoid them.
1. Not starting early enough
With the benefit of hindsight, many Australians would have started preparing for their financial future much earlier, said Mary Campbell, owner of Gold Leaf Financial Services.
While you can’t turn back the clock, it’s never too late to start, she said.
“Even if it’s just $50 a month putting into a savings account or putting into your super it can make a big different over large periods of time with compound interest.”
2. Not putting money aside for a rainy day
Saving for a goal, such as a house, is one thing. But putting money aside for unexpected life events or emergencies is quite another.
“Many Australians don’t put money aside in case they get sick, lose their job or suddenly have a death in the family,” Ms Campbell said.
Likewise, having the right insurance in place – such as income protection or death and disability insurance – is crucial.
Some people put money aside for emergencies, but the temptation to spend wins out, Ms Campbell said.
“If they do and something happens like their car breaks down then they regret spending that money on the new TV or that holiday they went on.”
A stockpile of money, kept in a separate account, can also open up choices down the track, allowing you to take a sabbatical or return to study.
3. Falling victim to a scam
This is one of the easiest ways to lose not only money, but also confidence, Ms Campbell said.
One way to avoid being taken for a ride is to spend some time reading the MoneySmart website, which explains different kinds of investments and the way in which common scams work.
Scamwatch also provides information on how to recognise, avoid and report scams.
“The main thing is if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”
4. Being left holding the credit card
Many an unsuspecting romantic partner has been left drowning in tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt, warned Brian Kerr, senior financial counsellor at the National Debt Helpline.
Also referred to as ‘sexually transmitted debt’, this situation occurs when a trusting partner takes out a card for their other half – who usually comes with a bad credit rating.
“Of course the relationship doesn’t work out and the person that takes out the credit card is responsible for the debt.”
The best avoidance tactic? “Let them be fiscally responsible for themselves,” Mr Kerr said.
5. Poor investment choices
Without the proper knowledge, investments can be no better than a lottery, said Dante De Gori, CEO of the Financial Planning Association.
Emotions, and the fear of missing out, especially when it comes to the property market, can heighten the risk, he warns. Borrowing to invest in shares or managed funds can lead to big debts if things go wrong, he said.
So, what to do?
Mr De Gori recommended educating yourself, seeking professional advice and diversifying your investments to lower the risk of big losses.