We all make money mistakes, but some decisions that seem harmless can really hurt our financial future. Here are some top money moves to avoid:

  • Getting an unexpected financial windfall – like an inheritance – and spending every penny. Two-thirds of us will inherit something in our lifetime, and the average is $64,000. But financial expert Mackey McNeill says that most people spend an inheritance shockingly fast. Because when we get a big chunk of money we didn’t earn, it doesn’t feel as painful to spend it as something you worked hard for. Her suggestion: Invest your inheritance, and spend the income from it instead.

  • Cashing out your company’s 401(k) when you change jobs. Nearly half of workers who leave a company take a retirement fund cash distribution. But if we’re not actually retiring, we have to pay an early-withdrawal penalty and extra income tax. We also lose the interest the money would have earned. And that means, we could lose up to 80 percent of our potential nest egg. The experts say you’re much better off rolling your 401(k) into another retirement account, like an IRA or a Roth IRA.

  • Every time we get a raise, we expand our spending to match. Experts call it “lifestyle inflation.” For example, say you get a $200 a month raise, and then you move into an apartment that’s an extra $200 a month. You’ve got a new, “permanent” expense that becomes part of your lifestyle cost. And the more expensive our lifestyle is, the more money we’ll need at retirement to maintain that lifestyle.

Lesson Expert

Jennifer Boller

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