I meet a lot of people who have spent years making a financial mess of their lives.

They come to me deep in debt. They often have little money saved. Their retirement portfolios are low or non-existent.

What strikes me most is their regret for not knowing better.

The first step in doing better is to acknowledge what you’ve done in the past to get where you financially are now. Here are seven financial habits you should leave in 2018.

Not saving for an emergency. Forty percent of adults said that if they were faced with an unexpected expense of $400, they would either not be able to pay for it or would have to borrow money or sell something to cover it, says a report last year by the Federal Reserve.

You’ve got to save something. If this means cutting cable for a few months, then do it. You cannot continue to hope that nothing will go wrong and then – when it does – turn to credit cards to bail you out.

Not budgeting. People love to bad-mouth budgeting. A budget is too restrictive, they argue. It’s depressing, they moan. But how’s not being intimately familiar with your inflow and outflow of cash working for you?

If the numbers don’t add up, go back and cut some things.

Not opening your bills right away. I have worked with people who come to a budgeting session with stacks of bills unopened. In one case, a utility company had scheduled to shut down someone’s service that very day. It took just one call to explain to reverse the decision. You’ve got to face the truth of the chaos you’ve created.

Not paying off credit cards each month. Stop using credit to live your best life. If you have any credit cards with balances, spend however many years it takes to get rid of that debt. Don’t charge another thing.

For many of you, even my suggesting that you not carry the plastic is causing you palpitations right now. But if you can’t pay off your credit-card balances each month, you are over your head financially.

Not being able to say no. Stop being the family ATM. Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that you don’t help out friends and family. But if you continue to bail out irresponsible people, you are standing in the way of their financial growth. How will they ever be held accountable for their bad decisions if you come to the rescue all the time?

For years, I felt guilty not giving family money. That was until I realized I was denying myself stuff so that I could save, and they weren’t doing the same.

Not having a plan to make better financial decisions. What steps do you take to make sure a decision you have to make is sound? Think about a poor decision you’ve made in the past that you’re still paying for now.

Not contributing enough to your retirement account. Take a look at the percentage of your pay that you’re saving for retirement. If it’s less than 10 percent of your gross pay, it’s probably not enough. But if you can’t do more, at least do better. Try increasing the percentage a little every year until you hit 10 percent to 15 percent.

Michelle Singletary is a columnist for The Washington Post. Readers may contact her at:

[email protected]

washpost.com


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