The road to FI (financial independence) is littered with financial blunders.
But, don’t let that stop you. I didn’t… yet somehow I was able to F.I.R.E. at 36.
Today, I’ll share with you a few of those silly mistakes I’ve made… some far worse than others!
Financial Blunder 1
Stole $40 from My Dad’s Wallet
So when I was just 8 years old, I really wanted to get my hands on some cold hard cash! My juvenile desire was so great that I stole two $20 bills from my Dad’s wallet and denied ever seeing them when he came asking us kids if we’d seen it. A month or two passed and I had to launder it.
So, I took one of the $20 bills with me one day when we were shopping in a bookstore. In an empty aisle I dropped the $20 bill, then walked around a minute before returning. When my sister and Mom were in view, I did my best acting, “Oh my gosh!! I just found $20!” After a couple of high fives, I pocketed it and returned it home into my piggy bank.
To be honest, I don’t know what I did with the other twenty, but my Dad never officially called me out even if he had his suspicions. Instead, he taught me the value of money over the years by example. Thanks, Dad!
Financial Blunder 2
Destroyed a Rare Baseball Card
In elementary school, I coerced my friend into trading me a pretty expensive baseball card (worth ~$2000 today) for several other cards that were essentially worthless… yes, I know… that wasn’t very nice!!
To make matters worse, I carried the rare mint-condition baseball card out during recess in my pocket. After playing 20 minutes of dodgeball, the baseball card had two new creases right down the middle of it. This essentially cut the value of the card by 95%… ouch!
Perhaps it was a bit of poetic justice since I wasn’t too nice to begin with.
Financial Blunder 3
Bought a Rental Home That Couldn’t Be Rented
After the last housing downturn in 2008, I finally pulled the trigger and purchased my very first rental home. I was elated because the numbers looked great in my pro forma (estimated projections). I was super proud of myself for waiting until the market corrected itself in 2010.
There was only one problem. I couldn’t rent it out! Turns out there was a long-term (99 year) rental restriction on the property. I was s&$! out of luck. If you’d like to read more about how it all worked out, check out my post – My First Rental Property Was a FAT Failure.
Make sure you read EVERYTHING before you sign your contract.
If I had to do things over again today, I would have considered working with a turn-key provider like RoofStock first. They help new investors vet the entire property for you and provide a lot of hand-holding along the way.
Financial Blunder 4
Worked One Day for a Year
I had been looking for a job during the summer leading into my senior year of high school. Nothing really caught my attention until my cousin gave me a referral to work the concessions stand at the Hollywood Bowl. I excitedly jumped on the opportunity and drove over later that week for a quick interview. They said okay and I scheduled my first evening.
The following week I worked one evening for 5 hours and got paid $4/hour. I made a whopping $20! I never returned after that one night because I started back to school the week after. Additionally, it also took me over an hour to commute to the location, so I also wasted gas and time getting there and back.
Here’s what else was lame. I was set up as a W2 employee so I had taxes withheld on $20. I wasn’t about to file a tax return on $20 of income that year, so I blindly gave Uncle Sam my money for free. Ahhh, to be young and ignorant.
Hmm… I wonder what I did with that 20 bucks!?
Financial Blunder 5
Wasted $300 on a Horse Betting System
As a kid, I was always fascinated by gambling. Trips to Las Vegas gave me googly eyes and my ears focused in the clanging of falling quarters.
My cousin and I realized that we could legally gamble when we turned 18… at least at the race track.
As soon as I turned 18, my best friend and I made a trip to the local horse racing track. We were super psyched to go because we had just purchased a brand new $150 horse betting system that was a sure thing!
It turned out the systems didn’t work at all and we lost another couple hundred dollars in bets that day.
A couple of years later in a college statistics class, I finally studied the expected odds of gambling. I was crushed to find out that the odds were rigged against me from the beginning. Gambling completely lost its prior allure and it’s one of my least favorite past times today (win!).
Financial Blunder 6
Paid a Fake Border Crossing Fee
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when you’re traveling in a foreign country (especially a 3rd world country), it can get a bit stressful trying to comply with pertinent laws, taxes, and fees.
My wife and I were traveling in Central America with some friends and decided to take a quick side tour into Guatemala from Belize. When we got to the border there were signs clearly marked NO FEE to exit or enter Guatemala.
When we entered, we were greeted by uniformed officials asking us to pay an entrance tax. We were a bit suspicious of this tax, but with limited Spanish, we ultimately complied. It came out to $20 for the 4 of us. It wasn’t a lot of money, but when you’re under stress you don’t think as well. We gave them the money and moved on.
I hate getting scammed!!
Sometimes the most thoughtless financial blunders ultimately end up being the most valuable lessons.
You can see when I was young, I made some poor judgment calls because I thought I wanted money.
When I was finally older, I still made mistakes, but it was at least with the right intentions.
I also didn’t quit. Reaching FI is all about finding the proper strategy and then course correcting until you reach your destination.
Readers, what are some of your financial blunders you’ve made? What did you learn from them?