Money

The Worst Financial Mistakes People Made in Their 20s

From scamming psychics to supporting your boyfriend, people in their 20s tell us about their worst mistakes.

by Sarah Hagi
Jul 14 2017, 12:00pm

Bout to make some bad decisions. Photo via Flickr user Morgan

Being in your 20s means being pretty stupid about most things. Despite technically being an adult, most of us are huge babies when it comes to finances. Because it's so easy to secure loans, credit cards and other forms of getting fast money and financial literacy isn't exactly taught in school—it's difficult to not do something stupid with your finances.

Unfortunately, being shitty with money always catches up—and will likely pay a much higher price than you ever considered. Here are some of the worst money mistakes you can make in your 20s.

Sam*, 26, designer

Earlier this year my boyfriend of nearly three years decided he was going to go back to school. He didn't take into consideration financial planning or anything like that. In a conversation, he kind of decided I would work for the both of us. I was supporting both of us for rent, groceries and even entertainment. Ultimately, in a hilarious twist we ended up breaking up four days after he graduated because of the stress the financial situation put on both of us. That was a few months ago. To this date he still isn't working and is paying me back the thousands of dollars very incrementally so now I'm going to be attached to him for the next three years. I don't expect to get paid back in full, I would be happy to get even half. That's why it's the worst financial decision I've ever made. My advice would be to set more parameters and have legit conversations.

Brianna, 28, photographer

When my mom passed away I was 21 and I inherited close to $200,000 and I bought my friend a car. I think at the time, spending money gave me an endorphin rush, it made me happier. I went off the deep end and it was supposed to be an, "I'll pay for it and you can pay me back" but I literally just wrote a cheque for $11K without thinking. It was such a bad decision. Even though it wasn't for myself it still lifted my spirits enough at the time. I didn't end up getting the money back really. She was living with me at the moment so she was paying me $500 for rent but living in the Bay area that was nothing. I've never been paid back, but we're still friends. Funny enough, she's traded that car in to buy a new car that's better than my current car. She never talks about it, I never talk about it. It's just one of those things and I suck at confrontation.

Melissa, 28, non-profit program manager

Working at a startup, I was considered a contract employee and responsible for my own payroll. I didn't understand any of this. I was making less than 20k (as a lump sum) and living in NYC which was expensive. I could've handled it better, my mistake was thinking 'I'll deal with this later' and not putting aside a quarter of my income for taxes. Because it was just a lump sum, I didn't understand I needed to take taxes out. They kept telling me I wouldn't be contract anymore and it never materialized. When I left that job and got the job I have currently where I am an actually an employee with a regular paycheque I was like 'OK, they'll just take my tax refund and I'll end up paying my debt.' But my tax refund was only $200 which didn't really work. I ended up talking to the IRS so now I'm on a payment plan and I'm on track to pay it off in the next few years or so. It sucks having this hanging over me and it was actually pretty easy to get, the people I talked to were really understanding and kind. If I had done that years earlier it would've been much easier. Actually, one Christmas when I owed a couple of thousand dollars, they just took it from my paycheque so I had no money a week before Christmas.

Stephanie, 23, journalist

I've always been afraid of seeing a psychic, but I have friends who are really into it. I decided I was going to go because my life was falling apart. I Googled "best psychic in Toronto" and ended up meeting a woman named Delphina who confirmed all my fears and told me I had a dark energy I needed to get out of my body. She made me buy all this stuff and I ended up paying $60 for a reading, but told me I had to go through next steps. I went back a few days later and she gave me oils, a tea I had to drink twice a day, and a candle I had to burn for 10 minutes a day. I also wasn't allowed to tell anyone what I was doing because then it wouldn't work. All of this cost about $400 which was ridiculous. The third time I went to her, she told me I had to get a crystal and take it to a graveyard to break the spell on me. Then she called a crystal dealer on the phone and said he had to give me a good deal for the crystal which was about $1,000. She charged me about $700 which was my whole tax return. I got really scared about and threw everything into the ravine after that.

Jennifer* 27, English teacher

In high school we had a Danish foreign exchange student at our school that I started dating and when I went to college, we decided to go long distance. During that time we did live together for a year, I would visit every Christmas and summer so we'd see each other every four months over the six years. I grew up in a poor household until my mom got remarried, so as a single mother she was bad with money and didn't really teach me anything. I had a gift trust from my great-grandfather and he started it for all the great grandkids and it was basically stocks. Every year the interest from stocks would buy more stocks so it would build and build. We couldn't touch it until we were 21. I didn't touch it right away but I was in university and pretty broke and I wanted to go visit him so I got a credit card and would pay off the balance with the money I had and if I was broke I would use the trust. So it was a couple of hundred dollars at a time but I would do it so often it ended up going super fast. At this point I have $160 dollars left, I think I probably used between $13,000-$15,000 and my mom doesn't know I used any of it.

Joanna, 28, quality assurance analyst

My parents cosigned my student loans and my mom was making payments on them throughout my college so I was relying on her to make payments. When I finished, there's a grace period and they notify you the period is over. When the bill collectors started to call I ignored it, and it started to affect my mom's credit score as my co-signer. I kept saying with the next pay cheque I'll do it. I got married and my husband was like, "You need a good credit score for us to buy a good anything ever." Because it took so long it absolutely tanked my credit score, it was about $80,000 when I started paying off. I wasn't able to get a credit card and when I finally did it had a super high rate, so it was difficult to build up my credit. My credit score is currently "fair" but my husband had to take out the mortgage by himself because they wouldn't let us both get one because my credit brought everything down. Now that I'm actually paying all my bills and staying on top of it, my credit score is moving in the right direction.

Charlie, 27, writer

My cat had a lot of health problems, he kept getting these blockages in his penis and would pee all over the house. I was freaking out and the vet told me the blockages were normal for male cats and there was a surgery that could fix it. I decided to get the surgery because it was a one time thing and it would be fine (rather than going back and forth to the vet). I ended up getting a loan at a place that offers loans for medical procedures on pets and humans. I went to do it and we talked about the cost, it was pretty expensive ($2,500), he basically got his dick cut off. The minimum loan for them was $4,000, so I had no choice but to take out that amount. They offered some months to pay without interest but I couldn't do it because I was a deadbeat college kid. I set up a crowdfunding thing and made up some money to pay it back. I was a big stoner at the time, so most of it ended up going to collections. In a stroke of luck, the collections agency made me pay only $500, so in the end I ended up paying the amount of the surgery itself, but it was very stressful for a couple of years.

*Name has been changed.

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