Finance experts at FinCon share what they learned from their worst money mistakes

Talaat and Tai McNeely.
Courtesy Ian Wolsten

While attending FinCon 2019, a financial literacy conference in Washington, D.C., the Grow team gleaned lots of great money advice from financial experts, like "avoid the two-income trap" and "start early" when it comes to saving and investing.

Many experts also admitted that, although they are money savvy now, that wasn't always the case. Here are some of the worst mistakes the financial gurus of FinCon made:

Joseph and Tasha Cochran, One Big Happy Life blog

The mistake: Joseph and Tasha were shocked when they finally sat down and tallied up their debt. The total, between student loans and their mortgage, came to $1 million. In retrospect, Joshua realizes that some of that debt may have been avoidable, especially in college: "I studied abroad. I spent an extra semester in school," he says.

What they learned: Now, Joseph says, he wished he hadn't taken out so many student loans. Tasha adds that it's a good idea to look into less expensive options. "There are so many opportunities to continue to invest in your education beyond traditional college," she says. For example, some students start off at a community college and then transfer.

Financial experts reveal their biggest money mistakes

Jeff Rose, certified financial planner

The mistake: Rose says he "used to waste money" on clothes and dining out: "When I started recognizing how much I could have had, how much I could have earned had I invested a lot sooner, definitely a lot of regrets there."

What he learned: Track your money to discover where it's actually going and make a plan for how to spend it the right way. If talking to his younger self, he says, "I would first tell him to stop buying stupid things he doesn't need." It sounds simple, but 60% of Americans don't create a budget, according to a 2019 Credit.com survey, and can easily end up overspending.

Talaat & Tai McNeely, His & Her Money blog

The mistake: Tai worked her way through college and was debt-free her entire life. Then she found out, three months prior to marrying Talaat, that he owed $30,000. Because finances are such a taboo topic, he hadn't disclosed his debt until the last minute. "My husband ended up bringing the debt into the marriage," Tai says.

What they learned: Going forward, they had more open communication about their finances and set up a plan to stay within their means. "Learn to live on less than you make," Talaat says. "If you make $50,000 a year, don't set up a lifestyle that requires $50,000 a year to live on. Make sure you leave yourself a margin to be flexible."

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