Financial Lessons Americans Have Learned From the Past 10 Years

Being financially sound often takes learning hard lessons along the way. With help from MarketWatch and we take a look at 15 financial lessons Americans have learned over the past decade. (The lesson on page 7 will surprise you.)

1. Managing stress will help you financially

Tired and stressed | seb_ra/ iStock/ Getty Images

“Virtually all of my worst spending mistakes in 2018 were during situations where I was stressed out and feeling completely overworked,” Trent Hamm of says. He suggests working on alleviating your stress first, before you try throwing money at your problems.

Next: No-fun zone …

2. Be careful with your hobbies

Pile of coins | iamnoonmai/ iStock/ Getty Images

Hamm explains that over time, items needed for your favorite hobbies can turn into items you have to manage and maintain instead of items you actually enjoy. Take inventory of how much you’re actually enjoying spending money on your hobby before it becomes a burden.

Next: On that same note …

3. Consider selling things you don’t use

Buy and sell from your phone | marchmeena29/ iStock/ Getty Images

Hamm suggests adapting the Marie Kondo philosophy and selling items you don’t use. Not only will you be tidying up, but you can also make money in the process.

Next: A very helpful hint …

4. Do your homework before buying a car

Buying a car | djiledesign/ iStock/ Getty Images

You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but it really will help you in the long run financially if you study up before buying a car. “Know exactly what you want before ever contacting the dealer, seek out only models matching what you want online before stepping foot on the lot, and really only looking specifically at those models,” Hamm says.

Next: Something to consider …

5. Look at how much it costs to be social

Hundred dollar bills | R&A Studio/ iStock/ Getty Images

No, we aren’t suggesting you abandon your friends if they want to go out to dinner every once in a while. Just take note of how much your social circle can set you back financially. Recommend doing more dinners at someone’s house as opposed to always going out on the town, for example.

Next: This really will help …

6. Write your financial plan down

Money transaction | Ridofranz/ iStock/ Getty Images

As Hamm explains, writing down all of your financial options before making a decision can help you to better visualize things. It can also help you save money in the long run.

Next: Why not give this a try?

7. Do your financial planning after you exercise

Training on treadmill in gym | nd3000/ iStock/ Getty Images

“I’ve made it a point to go grocery shopping and make other financial decisions right after exercise,” Hamm says, “simply because I’m taking advantage of a sharpness of mind that isn’t always there at other parts of the day. It keeps me on task, and being on task at the store means that money stays in my pocket where it belongs.”

Next: This is important …

8. Always be proactive

Fanned out money | Avosb/ iStock/ Getty Images

If you read or watch something that gives you financial advice you want to implement, it’s best to try putting a plan in motion as quickly as possible. “When you read about a good practice you could incorporate into your life, don’t just let it slide by,” Hamm says. “Rather, make an honest effort to actually do it – and soon.”

Next: You’ve probably heard this before as well …

9. Don’t just save — invest

Piggie bank | Rostislav_Sedlacek/ iStock/ Getty Images

“Investing introduces the power of compound interest, which is the growth of interest upon interest and principle,” MarketWatch says in the 2018 article “All Americans Should Know These Financial Lessons Before Leaving High School.” Saving is great, but investing sooner rather than later can pay dividends down the road.

Next: This can be a big help …

10. Fully understand loans

Money | marchmeena29/ iStock/ Getty Images

Whether it’s a student loan or a car loan, knowing how interest works is important. “If borrowers had a better understanding of how interest works, they might borrow less,” says.

Next: In a similar fashion …

11. Fully understand how your credit score works

Credit report | scyther5/ iStock/ Getty Images

MarketWatch thinks the basics of how a credit score works should be taught to individuals as early as high school. “High schoolers should know that a late payment could trigger a fee and lower your credit score,” they say.

Next: An interesting take …

12. Know your worth in a new career

Throwing money around | Milkos/ iStock/ Getty Images

If you’re a newbie, don’t scoff at minimum wage. “People sometimes look down on minimum wage jobs as beneath them, or dead-end,” Workopolis says of turning down low-paying jobs like working at a fast food joint. “Well, it turns out that fast food and other service industry jobs can actually be the jumping off point for future career success, and people who work them end up earning higher wages later than people who didn’t.”

Next: A word of caution …

13. Be careful with who controls your money

Check | AndreyPopov/ iStock/ Getty Images

This goes for high schoolers whose parents can rack up debt in their name to elderly people getting catfished out of their money. Long story short, always have an eye on where your money is and where it’s going.

Next: We all need to stop doing this …

14. Stop justifying unnecessary purchases

Money gift | artisteer/ iStock/ Getty Images

We all do it — buy things we don’t need and try to tell ourselves we need them. LifeHacker offers up some help in breaking this bad money-wasting habit.

Next: Last but not least …

15. When it comes to home improvement, give yourself time

House remodel | Feverpitched/ iStock/ Getty Images

“When you’re taking on a big project, make your time and cost budgets high rather than low. Give them both some flexibility and breathing room,” Hamm says. “That way, when surprises happen, you’re prepared for them, and if everything goes well, you’re done early with money left over.”

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