Money mistakes we're making at every life stage (and how to avoid them)

Healthy tips for your bank account.

By Melissa Browne and Amber Manto
Making mistakes is part of life but when it comes to messing up financially, it can be embarrassing to admit. After all, how much we earn is still such a taboo topic and if you screw up your budgeting, it's hard to pop your hand up and claim fault. This is exactly why we should be talking about potential money pitfalls though, so we learn from each other's stuff-ups.
Now to Love chatted with finance expert Melissa Browne, founder of A&TA and The Money Barre and author of More Money for Shoes and Fabulous but Broke, for her insight into how we can avoid financial hiccups at every stage of life...

University students

With easy credit and student loans it can be tempting to defer a large portion of the debt you've racked up. Yes, it’s incredibly tough to work two or three jobs and study, but it’s far better to walk away from uni with only a HELP or HECS debt rather than a stack of other debts you need to pay back. If you’re financially struggling maybe consider working full-time and studying part-time or working for a year, building up funds and then head to uni with more time and more dollars.
Takeaway message: Pay down high-interest debt as the money become available.

First job

You’ve decided to enjoy your first year of work and get serious about savings later. Eh wrong. Before you know it, three years have passed and you have nothing to show for all your hard work. Your friend, meanwhile, has racked up some nasty credit card debt trying to keep up while another has a large loan for a new car they just had to have. Sure, you want to enjoy life but get into the habit from the moment you start working to automatically transfer a percentage to a savings account you can’t access.
Takeaway message: Start saving now and reap the rewards later.


The danger for singles is they financially press pause until they meet a future partner. Singles need to reject the money message that a man (or woman) is a financial plan and start building assets by themselves. Without a partner to help with the cost of home ownership and bills, you might need to consider other options or become more flexible. This might include taking in a boarder until you can manage rent or a mortgage on your own, or perhaps buying an investment property in your name and continuing to rent somewhere cheaper.
Takeaway message: Start building your own wealth through investment.
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When you’re in the first exciting stages of a relationship you don’t want to think about protecting yourself financial STDs (aka sexually transmitted debts) that can derail you. With money being the number-one thing couples fight about it’s important to talk about it early, to insist on transparency and to understand the financial ramifications of any financial product you invest in. This might be a phone you’re purchasing your partner as a present, through to signing a lease or agreeing to be the director of a company.
Takeaway message: Protect your own wealth be not getting swept away by the magic that is love.
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DINKS (Dual Income No Kids)

Couples who are child-free are generally in a unique position financially. You don’t have to pay for childcare, school fees or have extra mouths to feed and generally have higher discretionary incomes. The trick is to ensure you're still enjoying life but also understanding what your goals, values and priorities are when it comes to money so you’re tempted to save, not spend. This might include planned sabbaticals, extended trips away, helping nieces/nephews or starting a charity.
Takeaway message: Determine your financial goals so you don't frivolously waste your cash.


We might think we won’t try to keep up with the Joneses but when your friend’s child is going to a private school, has a new bike and the latest gadgets and your own child starts asking for them are you going to fall into the guilt trap? It’s important to understand that getting yourself into trouble financially is not helpful for your family. It’s important not to become financially stressed and put pressure on your family relationships by not overextending yourself, whether that’s with the size of your mortgage, the choice of school or any number of things parents feel they should be doing.
Takeaway message: Stay within your means.

Consciously uncoupling

It’s a fact of life that many couples will split and often the only people who win are the lawyers. It’s incredibly important to receive great advice early on so you know what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Whenever possible, agreeing on a fair and equitable split early on means you can start again with more dollars in your pocket. It’s also important not to let emotion get the better of you which is much easier said than done. Don’t give away the lot to charity so you start with a ‘clean slate’. It sounds great in theory but it’s all about looking after yourself financially for the long term.
Takeaway message: Keep a level head so you're not left out of pocket.
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