My biggest financial mistake: FT readers’ stories
Following the launch of the FT Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign, we asked some of our journalists to confess their biggest financial mistakes.
They ranged from a “crazy summer” of spending to being among the millions of victims of a scandal in the US mutual fund industry. Other admissions included not signing up to a generous company pension plan and entering a consumer credit agreement with extortionate terms.
Readers found the piece entertaining and thought-provoking. Many shared lessons from their own experiences, good and bad.
Commenters wrote about their childhood financial mistakes and urged others to start saving when young, but to spend before they hit old age. Investing in technology and cryptocurrencies were both popular topics. Extravagant purchases and trips also featured.
The new FT FLIC charity will develop educational programmes to boost the financial literacy of those most in need.
A range of reader comments from the article that appeared on our website and on our social media posts are published below and we invite you to continue the conversation in the comments.
Lost crypto haul
I think I probably take the cake on this one.
Back in 2009, I was emailed a copy of Satoshi Nakamoto’s paper on bitcoin. Found it quite interesting, had a powerful PC with free electricity at work so I downloaded a mining client (cannot quite remember now how it worked), but essentially through mining I built up a nice handful of bitcoin (and I admit I also bought some at the time for the fun of having a handful of change in cryptocurrency).
My mistake? I lost interest and completely forgot about it, upgraded my PC and lost my private keys. My wallet is probably worth £1m+ by now but completely inaccessible. — RuleOfLaw
When I was 12 years old back around 1980, I was playing the 2p “penny falls” in an amusement arcade on holiday. Not satisfied with the return, I moved over to the 10p version, reckoning that some precariously perched coins just needed a couple of mine to shove them over. Within a minute and a half I had pushed in £1.50, which was my weekly pocket money allowance. One week’s worth of money gone in a little more than a minute with no return. So I learned that gambling was a tax on fools. Best to let kids make some mistakes with small amounts of money when they are young, so that they learn and are less likely to make mistakes with more significant amounts later on in life. — Foxy Par
I can personally attest to Isabel’s lesson — don’t regret a fun yet expensive lesson, provided you learn from it.
My own biggest mistake was playing [as] a day trader on Robinhood and letting a huge options win evaporate. Thankfully I treated it as a bet, meaning I did not risk more than I could (and actually expected to) lose. — Sg
Investing in technology
Two biggest mistakes:
Not getting into a certain tech startup. Cost: at least $100 million.
Not getting out of a tech startup. Cost: a few million. — Wenren
Eight in a row
This is it? I made every possible mistake in personal finance:
(1) bought a new car at age 19 with my first meagrely paid job per via a car loan
(2) didn’t [save] and invest a portion of my monthly pay cheque throughout the first 12 years of employment
(3) bought a timeshare at age 22, had to finance it through a personal loan. Never vacationed in it
(4) invested most of my disposable money in shares of the company I worked for (a big bank) all the way through the financial crisis
(5) did not buy bitcoin after hearing about it in 2012
(6) sold all my Tesla shares in spring 2020 because price had run up nicely (before the 5-1 split)
(7) sold most equity holdings in March 2020 and didn’t come back until recently
(8) saw the great opportunity in precious metals in the summer of 2020
Good luck beating this. — Steph. M
House price gloom
Advising a close relative NOT to buy a flat in London in 1999 because “it was clearly the top of the market and the only way was down”…. — likeli1
Start saving early
My worst financial decision was not to start a small monthly savings account as soon as I got a job. After many years, it would have grown to a considerable sum to use when old. My second worst financial decision was not to save a buffer sum, to use when the bills were too many. I promise to teach my children these very easy things to do. This will make their lives much better financially. — IngaBetty
I bought a boat. — Mervyn Keene, ‘Clubman’
Too much of one thing
Once when I was fairly small I was given a dollar for some reason, more money than I had ever held in my hand before then. So I immediately walked to the local deli and spent that whole dollar on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, my favorite candy. At that time I think they were about 20 cents for the two-pack. After one and 1/2 packs, I was unable to continue and felt sick to my stomach. I gave away the rest of them to my siblings and friends.
Too much of one thing is too much, even if it is good! It took me years to even think about eating another one. I should have waited and bought one two-pack a week for a treat. Then that money would have lasted longer, and I certainly would have enjoyed it more. — butterfly antennae
The good life
Hoarding assets (cash, investments, pension) and not living life to the fullest extent possible. Still a good life but time is ticking and we won’t get younger. — 0RK
Minimum credit card payments
My worst financial decision was taking credit card loans and only paying the minimum due on my credit card bills in my twenties. I had to struggle to pay rent and borrow from friends even though I was in a well paid job. — Selva
Not making payments on my student loans when I was able to do so — ginsunife on Instagram
Taking advice from IFAs
Listening to some financial advisors who act as though they understand the markets, but who don’t really know a thing! — Larry Chao on LinkedIn
*Comments have been edited for length, style and clarity