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The 10 Dumbest Everyday Mistakes People Make With Their Money

Most Americans (82 percent) feel optimistic when it comes to their financial futures, according to the Family Financial Forecast study commissioned by State Farm Life Insurance Companies. Most Americans also have similar goals in mind when it comes to money:

  • 86 percent value having financial security

  • 73 percent value saving for retirement

  • 70 percent value paying down debt

  • 68 percent value building a savings account

Many Americans' perceptions about their financial futures are optimistic, while their actual planning and budgeting falls short.

Interestingly, most would also like their money to go toward similar things:

  • 57 percent would like to provide long-term financial security for their children

  • 58 percent would like to pay for a child's education

  • 54 percent would like to care for parents or grandparents

  • 42 percent would like to buy a first or new home

However, in reality, many of these families are making major mistakes -- from not planning for emergencies to making their ATM passwords easily accessible -- that could keep these dreams from becoming a reality.

"It's encouraging that families feel good about their financial futures, but this confidence should stem from adequate financial planning and preparation," said Susan Waring, CLU, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of State Farm Life Insurance Companies. "Americans cannot just 'hope for the best' when it comes to financial planning. All families must take a critical look at where they are financially and lay out a clear road map that guides them to their hopes and dreams."

How many of these money mistakes are you making?

1. Keeping confidential information with you.
You should not carry your social security number, ATM passwords, bank account numbers, credit card numbers written in a day planner or any other personal, financial information with you. In the event that your wallet or purse is stolen, a thief could easily charge thousands of dollars to your credit cards or take money directly out of your bank account.

2. Throwing away a vulnerable computer.
Computers are an efficient tool to store all of your financial records and manage your money online. However, if you get rid of your computer with the hard drive intact, all of your personal finances (and other information) are free for the taking.

When you get rid of your computer, clean the hard drive, then, said Kevin Barrows, a former FBI agent who now works for Renaissance Associates, a computer forensic firm, "Smash it. Do whatever you have to do to make sure someone doesn't use it."

3. Giving out your social security number.
Writing your social security number on a check -- particularly if you plan to mail this check to a business or other third party -- leaves you vulnerable to identity theft, in which someone could easily clean out your life savings. You should also be extremely wary of giving your social security number over the phone and on the Internet.

Many scammers will call a person pretending to be from an organization and ask for your name and social security number. The same goes for Internet phishing scams. But once you give that out, the person can easily open fraudulent accounts in your name. A cautious approach would also be to not include your social security number on your driver's license.

4. Using file sharing computer programs unwisely.
File sharing programs commonly used to download and share music are capable of sharing a lot more than that. These programs can scan your computer's hard drive and find tax returns, bank statements and anything else you've got saved on there. To avoid sharing your financial information with the world, you must specify which files to share and which to keep private if you're going to use these programs.

5. Writing your pin number on your ATM card.
The absolute worst place to keep your pin number is directly on your ATM card. This, of course, is because in the event the card is stolen, the thief can easily access your account.

When it comes to joint credit accounts, both partners are responsible for paying off debts -- regardless of who made the charges.

6. Spending a lot on items you don't need.
It's very easy to nickel-and-dime your way to the poor house. To avoid doing this, keep track of what you spend your cash on for a week (including the mocha on your way to work, the money you give the kids and the smoothie at the gym). "In three weeks, you'll be able to see where the money is going -- like, gee, the kids are tapping me for $20 every time I turn around . . . so your kids may be your money leak," says Ginita Wall, director of the Women's Institute for Financial Education and an advisory board member for the GE Center for Financial Learning. "Time to corral in the kids -- no more 'Bank of Mom and Dad.'"

7. Not paying off credit card debt.
A good debt is something that will help you build wealth over time -- such as a loan to go back to school or a mortgage. Bad debt is the kind that's accrued from charging groceries, clothing and other everyday items, then having to pay much more than they're worth in interest.

"If you pay only the minimum amount due on your credit card, you may end up paying more in interest charges than what the item cost you to begin with," said Janet Kincaid, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) senior consumer affairs officer.

To avoid this, pay off your balance in full whenever possible, shop around for low-interest-rate cards, don't carry a lot of credit cards (to resist the temptation to use them) and don't make purchases you know you won't be able to pay off in a short amount of time.

8. Not having a plan.
Many people procrastinate when it comes to finances, but studies have found that planning is associated with wealth accumulation. Rather than living paycheck to paycheck, you should develop a plan for saving money for emergencies, for retirement and for other expenses, like your child's education and family vacations. The sooner you develop a plan, the better off you'll be financially.

9. Not negotiating a raise.
Negotiating a raise for your first salary offer can add up to more than $500,000 by age 60. Don't do it after that, and you stand to lose thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Take, for instance, a negotiated salary raise of $2,000 a year. Over 30 years, that's another $60,000.

10. Not paying attention to joint accounts.
If you and your spouse open joint credit accounts, you are both responsible -- either jointly or individually -- for any debts. So if your partner charges a huge debt, then can't pay it off, you are still responsible. Likewise, if late payments are made, both individuals' credit reports are negatively affected. Keep an eye on any account with your name on it, and talk with your spouse if problems arise. Money is the most common thing that couples argue about, so in some events you may be better off keeping your accounts separate.

Recommended Reading

10 Key Tax Law Changes You Need to Know For Preparing Your 2005 Taxes

An Excellent Guide to "Degunking" Your Personal Finances

Sources Dumb Money Moves People Make

Perception is Not Reality for American Families and Financial Planning

MSN Money: 5 Money Mistakes Even Smart People Make

FDIC Consumer News: Common Mistakes Young Adults Make With Money and How to Avoid Them

CBS News: Common Money Mistakes

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