Some of us handle our money flawlessly, perfectly, even brilliantly all of the time.
But most of us don't.
Most of us make mistakes here and there. We make some mistakes more than others, because of our personalities, our upbringing... or sometimes even our gender.
It's ridiculous, but true.
We've heard it firsthand from our readers. In fact, we went through hundreds of reader submissions and found examples of the most common stories that cross our desks every day.
Let's be clear: Not all women make these mistakes. Not all men avoid them. But in our experience, these are a few female financial problem areas that can lead to major debt and lots of stress.
Ever bailed out an ex? Indulged in a little more retail therapy than you meant to? Or woken up one day and realized you didn't know as much as you thought you did about managing your money? You just might recognize yourself.
Of course, if you don't, good for you. We're just saying, bad money snafus happen to good people. But read on: We'll show you the top seven mistakes women make -- and what to do instead.
"When we were together, I let my ex stay with me rent-free until he found an apartment, lent him my furniture and paid for every date because I had a job and he didn't. When I lost my job, he paid for my rent for a few months and bills, etc. Now that we're broken up, he wants me to pay him back for the rent he insisted on covering. I am still on unemployment and barely getting by. I feel so guilty because we didn't end up as the forever couple and while I can't (nor would I...) calculate all of my assistance getting him settled in NYC, he can quite easily."
A 2011 study from Eversave.com found that 67% of women have felt guilt about a purchase. But that's not the only opportunity for guilt: There's also staying in a job you feel guilty about abandoning, giving someone money because you feel guilty about their situation and, oh, doing the opposite of what you want when it comes to working after having children because you feel guilty about being a good mom (more on that here).
This guilt effect might not be limited to finances, either. Some studies suggest that women are more inclined than men to feel any kind of guilt. And we'd argue, more likely to bail out their exes, too. Keep reading for more on that type of financial transgression.
"I committed the financial sin that I said I would never do. Ever. I allowed my boyfriend to use my credit card to help grow his business. Let's just say it's added a new, uncomfortable facet to our relationship."
It's long been said that women are more empathetic than men -- they're instinctively attuned to what others are thinking and feeling. But one study published in Psychology Today suggests that this empathy isn't an innate quality... it's just that women try harder to empathize. Another study found that women feel equal levels of empathy no matter how they feel about the other person's morality, whereas male empathy is conditional on a moral judgment. In other words, they empathize only if the other person is worthy. So when women are actively trying to be understanding and naturally not judging, you get saviors.
The savior lends money to her mother/sister/friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/neighbor to alleviate their burdens... by taking on that burden herself. The next time someone else's finances look tight, direct them toward our financial planners instead. Lending money is a lovely gesture, but it's even nicer to help them set up a long-term financial plan.
Not Advocating for Yourself
"My boyfriend of two years talked about selling his condo and buying a house. I wanted to have the security of a definite future and commitment with him, so I gave him $10,000 toward the down payment. However, two years later, I'm no longer crazy madly deeply in love and have no intention of selling my home and moving in with him in 'his' house. I could really use that $10,000... I don't know how to tell him."
Women can have trouble saying no. Whether in the office or at home, some women have a hard time advocating for themselves, especially when it means turning down a request. And it's understandable. Studies show that although women who advocate for themselves in the workplace are rewarded with due promotion (nice!), such behavior is often perceived as "aggressive" and "unlikeable" when it's from someone wearing heels (not nice).
But you can do more than just ask nicely to get your money back. It's important that you sign a contract or agreement when borrowing or lending a considerable amount of money. In fact, documents like prenups were created for just this sort of situation. In Getting Hitched Bootcamp, we cover those documents, as well as all the right and wrong ways to combine finances with someone you love.
"Recently, a vendor set up shop in the lobby of my workplace, selling jewelry and page boy hats. I love page boy hats and thought I would purchase just one or two since they were only $5-$7. Well, somehow, I lost control and spent approximately $70 on page boy hats and jewelry! When I think of it, the emotion was so strong. I had a fabulous time being out of control for probably less than ten minutes."
Everyone knows that a lady can't resist shoes. (Kidding!) But retail therapy, or shopping to influence your mood, is both common and unwise. A survey out of the University of Hertfordshire found that the primary motivation for 79% of respondents to shop was to "cheer themselves up." We've talked a lot about bad spending triggers in the past, and emotional spending is one of the main culprits. If you find yourself booking a few too many retail therapy sessions, consult our guide to extricating yourself from a spending spiral.
But know it's not always your fault: Here are nine secret ways stores seduce you into spending.
Letting Someone Else Handle the Finances
"I divorced my husband after seven years together (and two children) and discovered that I did not exist! Nothing, including car insurance and license plates, belonged to me. I had no credit, which I needed for car insurance. Since then, I've been rebuilding my credit, starting with the money I earned from melting down my wedding ring."
We constantly hear from women who spent years taking the hands-off approach to their finances, but are thrust into responsibility and look to LearnVest as a place to gain all of the financial knowledge they need. We're more than happy to help out! It's crucial to not only build your own credit history (so you can take out loans for major purchases down the road, like a house or car, but also to save for retirement (especially as a woman -- here's why) and know the financial basics in case you ever need them.
If this resonates in your own life, sign up for Take Control Bootcamp, our free, ten-day bootcamp that will help you master your finances from retirement savings to emergency funds.
Not Talking About Money
"I'm in $15,000 of credit card debt and I only make $40,000 per year before taxes. I have three children under ten -- and my husband doesn't know my situation."
We get this confession. All. The. Time. It's terrifying how many couples don't discuss their finances until something goes terribly wrong. To be fair, the blame for this mistake probably lies equally with both partners. We like to use the term "financial intimacy" to describe a situation where both partners in a relationship have an awareness and mastery of the finances -- and we actually have an entire awesome bootcamp on it, but just to emphasize how common it is to dodge the money talk, another reader story:
"I was married for 24 years and didn't discuss money with my ex because I didn't want to deal with the stress and arguments, or him nitpicking what I spent and why. He lost everything gambling, and I found out we were losing our home two days before we had to get out. He gambled away all our savings, CDs and traded in stocks to cover expenses he couldn't pay because of his addiction. Now my credit is ruined and I am stuck living with my parents again."
Putting Children First (and Only)
"My finances were solid until I quit my job to give birth to my daughter. All of a sudden, life was about our precious newborn. Our spending became more focused on baby needs and our income and savings tapered off. I'm now in my sixth year of ignoring my student loans, but they have certainly not ignored me -- offsetting my federal tax refund several times, contacting my relatives in other states, attempting to sue me and putting black marks all over my credit reports. I now owe at least $143,000."
You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can assist others. It's as true in personal finance as it is at 30,000 feet. Waylaying your retirement money for your child's college tuition or draining your savings for summers away at camp will leave your children's support system (you) unbalanced.
Obviously, we leave it to your discretion when deciding which expenses for your children come first, but a situation like the one above isn't good for anybody, including the kids. You're no good to your family if you're no good to yourself. We've discussed before why splurging on yourself (or even just taking care of your expenses!) is so critical to the well-being of you and your family.
This story originally appeared on LearnVest.com.
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