Whether you're single, married with kids, going through divorce or heading back to study, life can get bloody expensive.
And to make matters worse, we're so cagey around the subject of money, it can often be difficult to get impartial advice on how to save, get out of debt and generally make wise financial decisions.
With this is mind, the team at Now To Love Australia spoke to finance expert Melissa Brown, an author and business owner, to find out the most common money pitfalls at different stages of life, and how they can be avoided.
With easy credit and student loans, when you're studying it's very easy to get into debt. Yes, it’s incredibly tough to work and study, but it’s better to walk away from uni with a reduced debt because you've been paying as you go. If you’re financially struggling maybe consider working full-time and studying part-time or working for a year, building up funds and then head to uni with more time and more dollars.
Takeaway message: Pay down high-interest debt as the money become available.
You’ve decided to enjoy your first year of work and get serious about savings later. But before you know it, three years have passed and you have nothing to show for all your hard work. Your friend, meanwhile, has racked up some nasty credit card debt trying to keep up while another has a large loan for a new car they just had to have. Sure, you want to enjoy life but get into the habit from the moment you start working to automatically transfer a percentage to a savings account you can’t access.
Takeaway message: Start saving now and reap the rewards later.
The danger for singles is they financially press pause until they meet a future partner. Singles need to reject the money message that a man (or woman) is a financial plan and start building assets by themselves. Without a partner to help with the cost of home ownership and bills, you might need to consider other options or become more flexible. This might include taking in a boarder until you can manage rent or a mortgage on your own, or perhaps buying an investment property in your name and continuing to rent somewhere cheaper.
Takeaway message: Start building your own wealth through investment.
When you’re in the first exciting stages of a relationship you don’t want to think about protecting yourself financially. But with money being the number-one thing couples fight about it’s important to talk about it early, to insist on transparency and to understand the financial ramifications of any financial product you invest in. This might be a phone you’re purchasing your partner as a present, through to signing a lease or agreeing to be the director of a company.
Takeaway message: Protect your own wealth and don't just get swept away by the magic that is love.
DINKS (Dual Income No Kids)
Couples who are child-free are generally in a unique position financially. You don’t have to pay for childcare, school fees or have extra mouths to feed and generally have higher discretionary incomes. The trick is to ensure you're still enjoying life but also understanding what your goals, values and priorities are when it comes to money so you’re tempted to save, not spend. This might include planned sabbaticals, extended trips away, helping nieces/nephews or starting a charity.
Takeaway message: Determine your financial goals so you don't frivolously waste your cash.
We might think we won’t try to keep up with the Joneses but when your friend’s child is going to a private school, has a new bike and the latest gadgets and your own child starts asking for them are you going to fall into the guilt trap? It’s important to understand that getting yourself into trouble financially is not helpful for your family. It’s important not to become financially stressed and put pressure on your family relationships by not overextending yourself, whether that’s with the size of your mortgage, the choice of school or any number of things parents feel they should be doing.
Takeaway message: Stay within your means.
It’s a fact of life that many couples will split and often the only people who win are the lawyers. It’s incredibly important to receive great advice early on so you know what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Whenever possible, agreeing on a fair and equitable split early on means you can start again with more dollars in your pocket. It’s also important not to let emotion get the better of you which is much easier said than done. Don’t give away the lot to charity so you start with a ‘clean slate’. It sounds great in theory but it’s all about looking after yourself financially for the long term.
Takeaway message: Keep a level head so you're not left out of pocket.