5 Money Mistakes Even Smart People Make

Stop making these, and have more moolah, guaranteed!

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You may save regularly,
compare cell phone plans to find the cheapest rates, and think twice before spending an entire month's salary on a bag. And yet, when you check
on your wallet or bank balance, it's not enough. The problem? These five habits, which even the best amongst us may be making...

1. CHOOSING TO REMAIN FINANCIALLY ILLITERATE

There's nothing cool about being cash-clueless, but most of us still don't know our debentures from our Diet Cokes. "Whether it's because they don't have the time to learn about investing and finances or they're not interested in financial matters, many women choose to stay foggy about fiscal," says Frankel. "But it is pivotal to become financially literate—it will help you achieve your personal goals and will allow you to be in charge of your own wealth." To get wise about wealth, make it your mission to spend some portion of every day reading something about money—even if it's just the headlines of the business section of the paper. "Have conversations about money—preferably with someone who knows more about it than you," says Barbara Stanny, author of Prince Charming Isn't Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money. Also, subscribe to (and read) financial planning magazines and newspapers (like Financial Express and Business Standard) and put a link to www.moneycentral.msn.com on your desktop—you'll find it a valuable resource for articles, ideas, and strategies.

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2. SUCCUMBING TO FIRST-JOB SYNDROME

You know how it is: you're fresh out of college, just starting at your career path, and when your first paychecks arrive, there's only one thing you can think of doing with them—splurge. "When you're young, it can be hard to picture yourself as an 82-year-old living on a fixed income," says says Lois P Frankel, Ph.D., author of Nice Girls Don't Get Rich"But it's your responsibility to secure your financial future—and that responsibility begins as soon as you start working." Give yourself permission to take a portion of what's left over from your paycheck, after you've paid your bills, to use as 'mad money'. Spend this on anything you like, but once it's gone, there's no going back to the ATM. Also, make it a habit to save a percentage of every paycheck, advises Frankel. "This is one habit that will literally save you again and again for the rest of your life."

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3. NOT DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN WANTS AND NEEDS

A study of 529 Iowa residents found that women were nearly five times more likely than men to buy something because it was on sale and twice as likely to buy things they don't need. Your closet is most likely proof of this. "Women tend to buy what they want and when they want it—even if they can't really afford it," says Frankel. "We trick ourselves into believing we really need that extra pair of shoes because we have to look good at work if we want that promotion that will in turn lead to earning more money." Aha! See the booby trap? To set yourself free, consciously consider wants versus needs, especially when you're looking at an item that you hadn't planned on purchasing. Also, factor in your priorities. "Do you have an upcoming vacation? Is there dental work you have to get done? Get your priorities straight before making those emotional 'gotta have it' purchases," advises Frankel.

4. NOT GETTING REIMBURSED FOR OFFICE EXPENSES

Hands up anyone who was reluctant to submit an expense bill for the 200 bucks you spent on office supplies, the 150-rupees cab ride, or the 100 bucks you spent on sandwiches for the staff meeting? You're not alone—according to Frankel, many women don't expense work-related costs because they are likely to be concerned about making a negative impression when they spend company money—even on legitimate expenditures. But for each receipt you don't encash, that's money you've thrown away. "Plus when you add up these extras over the course of a year, you'll find they can amount to a significant amount of money," says Frankel.

"Keep all work-related receipts in one place," advises Frankel. "Doing that increases the likelihood that you'll file them." Also, create an Excel spreadsheet to help you keep a tally of your expenses. Then, every month, total them up and think of things you could do or knick-knacks you could buy with that money—that should make you want to ask the company for a reimbursement. 

5. THINKING YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO INVEST

According to findings by Thomas J Stanley and William D Danko, authors of The Millionaire Next Door, starting late is one of the biggest mistakes that people said they made while investing for their future. "The reason that most people start late is because they believe that they don't have enough to make a difference—which is an attitude that creates a catch-22," says Frankel. "When you believe you don't have enough to invest, you don't invest. But even very small amounts can make a huge difference." The sooner you invest, the more time your money will have to grow. For example, if you start when you're 30 and put away Rs 1,000 a month at 8 per cent a year, it will reach just over Rs 13 lakh by the time you're 60. But wait till you're 40 and double the amount you invest to Rs 2,000 and you'll have Rs 11 lakh when you turn 60. So even though you've doubled your investments, you'll get less back simply because you were a late bloomer.

To ditch your I'll-do-it-when-I'm-richer habit, "Commit to an automatic monthly withdrawal from your savings account to a mutual fund then gradually increase the investment to a little more every month," says Frankel. Once you get in the investment habit and actually see your account grow, it will be easier to begin investing larger amounts. "The positive reinforcement of watching your money yield even more money will become a fix you won't want to live without," says Frankel.

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