As someone in the financial service business I have seen a lot of people go broke or stay broke. They all have some common elements.
- They follow the herd. They buy houses to young, have children and get married to young because they are in a rush to keep up with their friends and they are constantly pressured by their families (who are also broke).
- They load up on debt starting with student loans and credit cards they receive in college when they have little income. Most of their money goes to debt service. Why? Because they have to follow the herd and overpay for college and buy things they can’t afford to pay cash for.
- They start saving too little, too late. They also save wrong. Cutting out a $5 cup of coffee a day will not solve your financial woes. Putting 20% of your income away before you even see it will. Cutting expenses won’t save you if you aren’t regularly putting away money; if you are going to use it to assist your savings, cut things that matter and are constant drains on your income, like the cable bill and the timeshare (never buy a timeshare, don’t even get me started).
- They are never willing to sacrifice. See the above bullets. They don’t want to cut big lunches and dinners from their routine, or they have to have 5 star vacations instead of 3 star ones. You know, the herd mentality (all their friends have great lives on Facebook).
- They are always looking for the “big score”. They are going to invent something, be the top seller on Amazon, or grow marijuana. Nobody broke just gets a part time job to supplement their income. They all want to be rich, just like their Facebook friends.
- They can’t hold onto money. As soon as they build a small savings some “emergency” comes up that they just have to use their money for. Money is truly “burning a hole in their pocket”.
- It’s always someone else’s fault. Their boss won’t give them a raise, they missed the promotion because the owner doesn’t like them, their property taxes went up, their union screwed them with a bad contract, their Superbowl box got crappy numbers, etc.
- They just don’t learn from their mistakes and they refuse to take responsibility. They continue to buy stuff they don’t need, subscribe to services they will be stuck paying for monthly (that they don’t need) and make the same mistakes over and over again.
- They don’t invest in themselves. They don’t read books, watch TED Talks take continuing education courses. It’s what I call the golf mentality. I have heard dozens of guys brag about the state of the art driver they bought for a small fortune. When I ask them if they take lessons they look at me like I’m crazy and say “You know how much lessons cost!?” There is no magic bullet to improvement.
- They don’t stick with anything. They start something and as soon as it gets hard or someone is making more money doing something else, they are gone. Consistency and persistence are key factors in building wealth. A fixed sum of money, at regular intervals, over a long period of time will position you for a bright future.
- They always worry about what they don’t have instead of appreciating what they do have. They want what you have and with that mentality, they can never focus on being the best they can be.
There are other reasons why people are broke. Some are beyond control such as illness, divorce, disability, circumstances etc. Some are well within control like just plain laziness. In most cases, especially in the US, being broke is a choice.