Bad financial habits are hard to break.
But if you don’t even know what the bad habit is to begin with, it’s near-impossible to get your finances in order.
So, if you – like most Australians – have never received financial advice, Yahoo Finance asked some of the best money experts in Australia about the mistakes we’re making with our money.
Related story: 9 things Australian financial advisers wish you knew
Though it might be a tough pill to swallow, here’s what they said about the bad habits they wish you would quit from today:
The worst money habit is being undisciplined about money. Using cards at the ATM or in-store to make purchases without knowing how much money is available in the account; being overdrawn and having to make up the shortfall next week or pay continually... This behaviour leads to living hand to mouth. If you have kids, you are not teaching your kids good money habits.
It's so easy to access information on an app on your phone before making a purchase. It will take only a few minutes each week to plan out your spending. There are financial planners, money coaches, or DIY options available to help sort out your money worries, and you'll thank them for it. Being disciplined about money will give you peace of mind and freedom, what a gift to yourself!
Genene Wilson, principal financial adviser, Finesse Financial Advisers
Living for today
The worst money habit or attitude that I come across is people who are just living for today and not planning for the future. They seem to be in denial that one day they will get old. I guess this comes from the classic ‘she'll be right’ attitude in Australia.
Most people don't realise that securing the future doesn't mean an enormous amount of sacrifice. It's just about finding the right balance between living a good lifestyle today whilst also making sure you're planning and putting away for the future years.
Joshua Dalton, financial adviser and director of Dalton Financial Partners
Not making your money work for you
The biggest money mistake Aussies make is allowing lazy money. We all work too hard for it to then let it just slob about not saving us and not earning us as much as it could.
The most common instance is holding savings in an online account paying paltry interest, while paying a small fortune on your borrowings for a house. That makes no sense! You should instead be keeping that money in an offset account against that home loan, saving you more lovely loan interest... tax-free. In fact, the latest reading of my Interest Integrity Index revealed that the average Aussie throws away $150,000 on their credit and loan products. In other words, the equivalent of a Maserati!
But probably worse still: straight up apathy is your economic enemy. And your institutions rely on you being a bit lax to swell their coffers. Price check your utilities, insurances and, crucially, loan interest rates at least once a year. Or I guarantee your hard-earned salary is becoming easy, unearned profit for a greedy company.
Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon, financial educator and author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me
Ease up on credit
Especially this time of year? Reliance on credit. And for anyone using Buy Now Pay Later sites, don’t be fooled – you’re relying on credit too. While you may not be paying interest on late payments (although a lot of people are), research consistently shows that when we use credit we spend at a minimum 10 per cent more than if we used our own money.
Melissa Browne, financial adviser and founder of The Money Barre
In fact, cut up your credit cards this Christmas
It has been a problem since credit cards were introduced in the ‘70s; spending money we don’t have. The average Australian credit card debt is over $3,000 and almost 2 million Australians are struggling to pay their credit card debt.
The winner from all this are the banks who make over $1.5 billion a year in fees from credit cards.
So it’s simple advice but can be hard to follow. Cut up the credit cards and go with debit cards instead. Knowing you need to have the cash in the bank before you swipe the card tends to make people more conscious about their spending habits.
James Gerrard, financial adviser and founder of financialadvisor.com.au
Tame your obsession with property
Property obsession. We love it. We love the shows, the idea of quick success if we do a renovation, put our stamp on it and sell. And then we are onto the next one. Meanwhile all we are doing is spending a lot of money on stamp duty and real estate marketing/sales costs whilst hiking up prices. Then you need another property to do the same thing, to “get ahead” because prices have increased. And so it goes on.
The rise of property prices is forcing people to be hamsters on a wheel, working really hard, sacrificing relationships to get enough money to buy a house that is now around $700,000 to $1million as a starter. When you think a house in the 1970’s cost $6,000, and in 1994 around $150,000, and 2000 $300,000 it’s scary how far we have come.
Helen Baker, financial adviser and founder of On Your Own Two Feet
Invest the money you used to pay for HECS
For those young professionals that have a HELP debt, not taking the opportunity to invest/save the amount they previously had to pay on HELP once the debt is paid off. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to start a decent regular savings plan that has no impact on their standard of living as it was previously just being auto-deducted each month.
John O’Brien, financial adviser and partner at VISIS Private Wealth
Look at how much you’re spending
The most common ‘problem area’ we spend the most amount of time on is assessing expenditure, i.e. your repeatable/regular expenditure that you imagine will continue year on year.
It’s impossible to come up with an appropriate financial road map unless you have a deep understanding of your own cash-flow (both money in and out). Money in is the easy part; it’s the money out that’s that tough thing for so many people we see to get a handle of.
You can’t diagnose a potential problem unless you know the symptoms. And don’t get me wrong, underspending can also be a problem for different reasons vs overspending. But without knowing what you’re spending it’s impossible to diagnose either. My advice: regularly analyse your expenditure and compare how this is impacting your short, medium and long term goals.
Chris Giaouris, financial adviser and principal advisor, Chronos Private Wealth
Ignoring super, living on savings accounts, and living outside your means
Ignoring their superannuation until quite late into their working life. Many Australians only start paying attention to their super after the age of 45 by this stage they have missed out on significant additional growth they could have had. A combination of higher costs and not enough invested in shares relative to their time horizon tends to peg them back from where they could have ended up.
Using bank accounts as a means of long term savings. This turns out to be a poor decision as cash has always been the worst performer over long periods of time.
Overspending on luxuries such as holidays relative to their means and their debt levels. Australians sit on record debt levels relative to other nations. There may be a risk that property doesn’t continue on its historical growth trajectory and a generation will retire with an asset that isn’t worth that much more than their debt.
Alex Ilievski, financial adviser and director at Sydney Wealth Partners
One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is that they build up cash savings, are overwhelmed by the options around what to do with it (property, shares, managed funds etc...) so they do nothing. Doing nothing may not always be the right decision, but it still is a decision.
Glen Hare, financial adviser, Fox and Hare Financial Advice