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Who do you know that consistently makes the worst financial decisions?

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I was reading this Reddit thread and someone asked this terrific question:

“Who is the person you know that consistently makes the worst financial decisions? What have they done?”

One of the responses was:

My good friend, lets call him A, makes about 70k per year but is always broke. He is the first to pick up tabs at restaurants, bought a car way out of his price range, had to get rims and sounds for it, but struggles to feed himself everyday and is constantly borrowing money. He has 5 different pay day loans out, and they take about 1k out of each check.

I love this!!

There are only so many blog posts where I can be positive about how to raise your rates, how to answer a tough interview question, and how to talk to your partner about money.

So today, I thought it would be fun to enjoy some good, old-fashioned schadenfreude.

We all have friends who continue making terrible decision after terrible decision. Leave a comment below and share your best story about your friend/family member who keeps doing it. Keep it tasteful but feel free to be detailed. Enjoy.

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  1. Oh dear. I have a few train-wreck friends and I so wish I could help them, but as you know Ramit, it’s very hard to “motivate” anyone.

    This friend, we’ll call Carla, is married with 2 little kids. Her husband has a good job (I don’t know what he earns) and she works 20 hours a week at a daycare at a gym. She does that for her own fun money, to the tune of $9ish/hour. Yikes.

    A door to door salesman sold her on a Kirby carpet cleaner, and she had to do a payment plan on it.

    She’s almost 37 years old, and doesn’t have $1k in the bank. And yet, she told me that she and her husband are trying to buy a house. They’re renting right now and going month-to-month and the rent is seriously high for the area for that flexibility. Her house was recently broken into (twice) and so I understand the urgency to want to leave asap.

    Perhaps they actually do earn a decent income, but if they can’t put anything down and have no savings for even the most mundane emergency…hopefully a bank won’t give them a loan.

    I have no idea how to encourage her. I doubt she wants to hear any financial ideas from me. Do I secretly mail her your book? 🙂

    • From experience, I’ve found that all my financial issues had roots in something psychological going on inside of me – so until I cleared that up, I was NOT going to listen to anyone else or even admit I had a problem. Because of this mindset, I was able to bury my head in the sand for *4 years* and completely ignore all my credit card debt, the fact that I had no financial cushion, savings, investments, anything, no strategy, no game plan, and no options.

      I don’t think you can motivate anyone – people have to motivate themselves and want to change. Sometimes, a kick in the pants might help. It was hard, but a kick in the pants from a friend woke me up. The downside is, your friend may get mad (but it sounds like she’s also a financial train wreck, so the other option is to say nothing and watch her continue to spiral out of control). Practice a script beforehand so you know how to say something non-confrontational yet truthful … but be prepared for the possibility that she’ll stay rooted in denial and get upset. Even better, tell her about this amazing financial book you read by this guy Ramit and see what she says. If she says, “Man, my finances are a wreck, I need that book”, that’s an open door. If she doesn’t engage, you know she’s not interested.

      Tl;dr: People have to want to change and sometimes it can be really painful watching people we care about consistently choose to suffer over and over again.

  2. I have a different friend, single, early 20s, living in Chicago and earning $49k. She approached me about wanting to get her finances out of control and I gave her some tangible strategies.

    Almost a year later and she hasn’t done anything with it. Still goes out all the time. Still spends on clothes like there’s no tomorrow. Gobs of debt in the form of credit cards and student loans.

    Why do this to yourself? Why live for today and for appearances, and be so freakin broke that you never have breathing room?

  3. My sister is like this. She was 2 months behind on rent. But she lives with an aunt and her rent is only $150 a month. She has a ton of credit card debt that is now consolidated and the company closes each card as it’s paid off-which we all know hurts your credit score. She also goes out all the time and has 3 road trips planned in the next year-even though she owes another family member $800. I even had to cosign her car loan. I really just want to slap her sometimes.

  4. I have a friend who left $3,000 on the table for no good reason. In response to the economic downtown, law schools were giving stipends to graduates willing to work in public interest. All you had to do was sign up. If you found something else, you could decline later. I know he was hoping for something better, but it just didn’t happen. So he lost not only the money, but the chance to gain experience. He was at home, playing video games and watching anime.

  5. One of my closest buddies doesn’t make a ton of money, but also has a low cost of living in our cheap town. His problem is how he finances his party habits. He goes to bars too frequently and probably squanders (at least) $40 each week.

    We both hang with a group that loves bicycles. But his problem is that he’s always building a new bike. That’s not cheap. He has yet to start saving for anything, even a short-term goal. And he’s unfamiliar with his credit report.

    We try to snap him into shape, but it’s as if he doesn’t hear his friends’ concerns!

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  6. I just berated a buddy over the phone.

    This guy can’t stop falling in love. Now love in itself is not a problem. I usually have a girlfriend. His problem is that he allows this to ruin his life.

    On his previous girlfriend he spent all of his money on steroids to get big for her and lingerie to keep her happy. He also travelled far to see her every single day. All while doing this, he was very needy and annoying.

    Then she left him. He spent all of his money, was broke and sad. I convinced him to grab life by the balls. He started his own business in construction and made huge money.

    Then at the beginning of this year, he met another chick. Fell in love. At the three month point, they moved in together. I VERY reluctantly helped him move, all while suggesting that this is a horrible idea. He didn’t listen. He spent all of his money on furniture, moving costs, and rent. He also worked shorter hours and stopped working.

    Yesterday he called me. After 6 months he’s getting kicked out. She left him. Now he has to spend money on moving out, pay rent until they sub-let the place, and go back to his parents with an empty bank account.

  7. My parents are awful with money. My dad is a Real Estate Broker and when the market was up he made around $800k in two years. Since my Dad was doing so well, my mom quit her job (with great benefits). Well, 2008 came and he couldn’t sell anything. In the meantime, my parents blew through that money. Buying extravagant cars, four wheelers, and other junk. My dad even bought an $8000 guitar.

    The money was gone within 3 years and my parents were hurting so bad that my mom cashed in her 401K. Since the recession, my mom couldn’t find a job up to her standards and has just given up looking. My Dad’s current property sales are just enough to pay the necessary bills. I’m also pretty sure they’ve maxed out all their credit cards and screwed up what little credit they had left.

    For some stupid reason, my Dad never paid taxes on all that money he made. So of course, the IRS came looking for it. Well, my parents had to hire lawyers and use their 401k and recent $100k inheritance (from my great-grandmother) to pay off their back taxes.

    My grandparents hold the mortgage to my parents house and have been nice enough to not foreclose on them (my parents haven’t paid the mortgage in over two years). My Dad has pawned all of those expensive things he has bought for half their original value (including the cars).

    My little brother also just started his first year of college, majoring in finance no less. So I’m having to help my brother pay for some of his college expenses since my parents aren’t able to. Putting a kid through college wasn’t something I planned on doing at the age of 27. Both my parents are in their mid-50s with no health insurance, no retirement savings, and mounds of debt.

    Needless to say, I’ve learned from my parents mistakes. Thanks for the vent!

    • anonymous coward Link to this comment

      Maybe you’ve learned from your parent’s mistakes, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve learned from your grandparent’s mistakes. Why on earth do you believe that you “HAVE” to pay for a brother’s college education? You don’t “HAVE” to pay one penny of a brother’s college education. If a bank won’t loan him money, if a college won’t grant him a scholarship, if an employer won’t give him a job…these objective institutions know something you don’t. I have never seen anything good come of a sibling giving money to another sibling. I have seen a lot of harm come of it, including the complete financial destruction of the generous sibling. Nothing else matters if you can’t say “no” to people who ask you for money.

    • My brother received grants and loans to cover his tuition. I did however, pay for his books and bought him a laptop. He pays for all his other expenses (car insurance, cell phone, going out, etc). I

      I don’t see anything wrong with helping family out in certain situations. Your family has never given you money? My brother is a good kid who also has good work ethic. He’s making good grades and has a part time job. He also responsibly spends what little money he does make.

      I enjoy helping my brother out but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated with my parents lack of financial support.

      (I wasn’t able to reply to your post so I had to reply to my own. Sorry for the confusion)

    • I’m with anonymous coward…I put myself through college with grants and by working 2-3 jobs. It wasn’t easy and it took me 5 years, but I got the degree and graduated with no debt. Let little bro fend for himself and you start saving for your rainy day.

  8. I had a friend in college who came from a really wealthy family with parents who threw money at their (11!) kids. Her dad sent her $2k/month during college (which in a cheap college town can go pretty far, especially at a stone-cold sober school where no one is blowing money on drunken parties), yet halfway through the month she would inevitably be begging friends to spot her for food because she’d spent it all on clothes. (I know, fitting every bad spoiled-girl stereotype.)

    She’s married now, and her dad offered to cover the down payment for a house while her husband is in med school. Now that she has a job, she recently quipped, “I have NO life because of my job…making money is NOT worth all this work!!” Ha ha.

    Bonus tidbit: This is a really sad situation but her reaction to it is priceless. She recently had a miscarriage (sad) and was really upset about it (obviously). So, to make things better….her husband bought her a Louis Vuitton purse. She later shared on the Internet that admittedly it made the situation a LOT better.

    I feel like the stories are only going to get better from here on out.

  9. I have a friend who paid for all of his costs while in graduate school on student loans. Not just tuition, but rent as well, even though he and his wife were both working. This is in addition to the 60k in loans from undergraduate. Now that he has over 100k in student loans, he and his wife just bought new(er) cars. The first car was a necessity. The second car was a stupid decision as he lives half a mile from work.

    To make matters worse, he is stuck in a job that he absolutely hates because he has to pay back all of these student loans.

    Not the worse story ever, but it continuously motivates me to set up my financial future.

  10. I was at a friend’s house who admitted that he’s having trouble making his car payments so he’s getting a cheaper car. His mom also said that she wanted to get a new car but couldn’t afford it. So he actually said to her, “I’m sure you can afford it, it would only be about $300/mo.” WTF! I get so annoyed when people only focus on the monthly payments and don’t factor in interest/extra costs.