- To steer clear of losing your savings in a stock bubble, do your due diligence before you invest instead of buying a stock because everyone is doing so.
- Unless you are in financial duress and absolutely need the cash for a life or death situation, pay your credit card bills in full every month, and don’t fall for the debt trap.
- Stay up-to-date with the refinancing offers in the market and don’t miss out on the opportunity to leverage low interest rates to protect your hard earned savings from interest costs.
- Make payments for your insurance premiums on time to protect yourself from consequences such as declined claims on lapsed policies and reinstatement charges.
- Maintain a spreadsheet of all recurring payments and diligently update it with any addition or termination of subscriptions to avoid over-subscribing or late payment charges.
There is nothing more empowering than having full control over your finances. But that also brings the stress of making right financial decisions and choices every step of the way. While we get better at making these decisions with knowledge and experience, we are likely to have slip-ups here and there, especially when starting out. Some of these mistakes can cause significant damage to our financial situation. In today’s post, we take a look at some of the most common and potentially costly mistakes people make when handling personal finances, so that you can vicariously learn and avoid those pitfalls yourself.
1. Buying stocks because they’re popular
Over the past year, India has seen a surge in the opening of demat accounts, owing to the extra time all of us have in hand amidst the multiple lockdowns. From joining chat groups that discuss stock tips to taking hints from celebrity tweets – we’re all jumping on the stock investments bandwagon. However, by investing in a stock based on its popularity, you inadvertently become part of a bubble, only to realize when it bursts that very few selected people who got out in time actually make money while the majority end up losing their lifetime savings.
While it is great that more people are starting to invest in financial instruments for wealth accumulation, stepping into the stock market should still be done with caution. Most people, especially those new to the game, are susceptible to investing without enough understanding or research. We must remember that investment is for the long term not a get-rich-quick-scheme. Be it growth or value stocks, you must do your due diligence before you invest. And if trading is not your thing, stick to mutual funds or ETFs for long-term sustainable returns without the stress of stock picking.
2. Paying minimum amount on credit card
The increasing popularity of credit cards in the digital and cashless economy unfortunately has a flip-side to it. Along with the ease of transactions, also comes the increased risk of spending beyond our means. The risk is heightened by the option of making minimum payments, that is the smallest amount you are required to pay before the due date so as to maintain a healthy credit score. This amount is specified by your credit card issuer based on your outstanding credit balance.
While it may seem tempting to pay only the minimum as you juggle numerous bills and payments in a limited salary, you must note that doing so only exempts you from the late payment fees (usually a flat fee between Rs 100 to Rs 1,000). It does not exempt you from the interests levied on the outstanding balance which could amount to more than 40% annually (as most issuers charge 3 to 4% monthly interest). So unless you are in financial duress and absolutely need the cash for a life or death situation, pay your credit card bills in full every month, and don’t fall for the debt trap. Find out more about the pros and cons of using credit cards in our detailed post about them.
3. Not refinancing your mortgage in low interest environment
The pandemic has resulted in the lowering of loan interest rates. And with the RBI Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to maintain the low benchmark, this low interest rate environment is expected to remain unchanged for some time. While this may be an indication of an ailing economy that needs revival, all is not gloomy for individuals. This is the best time you can refinance your mortgage and get the lowest rates fixed for the upcoming years. For a 20 year loan with a 10% interest, you will end up paying 130% of your borrowed amount just in interest. If you were to refinance it from 10 to 9 percent, the interest amount reduces to 92% of the borrowed amount. Therefore, if you’re not aware of the offers in the market and do not utilise the opportunity, you stand to lose significant portions of your hard earned savings in interest costs.
4. Forgetting to pay insurance premiums
Insurance is very likely to be overlooked in our day-to-day finance management, as it is a long-term commitment and usually doesn’t need constant monitoring unlike investments or credit card bills. Therefore, many of us lose sight of the plans we purchased and end up missing the premium dates, especially if events such as relocation, or change of contact numbers result in official communication not being received.
It is not uncommon for people to only realise that their insurance plan has lapsed at the point when they need to make a claim. Imagine being presented with a huge medical bill and lapsed policy that can’t be claimed from! Even if we were to realise before a dreaded claim, reinstating a policy comes with other challenges such as proof that your health is insurable as well as clearing the backlog of premiums along with interest incurred. And let’s not forget that you can only do so within the reinstatement period (usually 3 years). Beyond that, you’re left with no choice but to purchase a new plan, likely at a higher premium owing to increase in age. Hence, missing out on premium payments of your insurance plan today can come back to bite you years later.
5. Not Keeping Track Of Bills And Subscriptions
Blame it on digitalization, but the lack of physical bills and subscription letters has made us lose track of how many utilities and services we subscribe to on a daily basis. From household utility bills, to OTT platforms (such as Netflix or Hotstar), from news apps to cloud storage, everything incurs a monthly cost, charged either to our credit cards or deducted automatically from our accounts. If the payment is automatic, we run the risk of losing track of the amount we pay in subscriptions, which makes expense tracking a challenge. And if it’s manual, there is always a risk of missing payments and incurring late fees, especially if it’s telephone and utility bills. A good way to avoid such issues is to keep a spreadsheet of all recurring payments, that must be diligently updated with any addition or termination. It sounds like a lot of effort, but the money you save by doing that bit of work will make it worthwhile.
Managing personal finance is no walk in the park, and we recognize that. Instead of getting intimidated by the complexity of it, you could take it one step at a time. Staying up to date with the latest information on personal finance – such as interest rates – will also help you avoid the common pitfalls. Our blog is one such knowledge base, covering a wide range of topics on personal finance, that can help you navigate your way through.
Last but not the least, while you mull over these most common mistakes making sure that you steer clear of them, we are working on building a platform that will take care of all your personal finance woes. Maybe one day, managing personal finance will be a walk in the park after all! Stay tuned.