Money mistakes can take a long time to recover from, which is unfortunate because they're easy to make. I know this from personal experience because when I was going to school, I made a serious money mistake: I borrowed way too much money.
My borrowing took the form of both credit card debt and student loan debt -- and it took me years and a lot of sacrifice to pay off all I owed. While I've finally become free of these debts, the money I spent on paying them off also put me behind in accomplishing some of my other financial goals.
If you haven't had this financial disaster yourself, hopefully learning from my negative experience can help you to avoid it so you don't face the same challenges I did in climbing out of debt.
This was my biggest financial disaster
When I was in school, it was incredibly easy to get a credit card at age 18 (new regulations have passed since then to make it tougher). In fact, card companies had tables set up at campus events offering incentives, including free food and other gifts, to get you to sign up.
Like many of my friends, I was tempted by these cards and signed up for a bunch. And when they arrived, I used them for everything, from books I needed for classes to takeout food to drinks at the bar. It wasn't long before I had balances on several, leading me to occasionally forget to make payments and resulting in hefty interest charges.
At the same time, I was also taking out student loans -- including to cover things that weren't really necessities, such as a nice apartment and even a car. Many of these were private student loans.
All of this borrowing added up, and when I finished college and law school I had more than $150,000 in student loan debt and about $6,000 in credit card debt to pay off -- even though my parents had provided me with help paying my undergraduate tuition.
I knew all that I owed would keep costing me money and make it harder to accomplish the things I wanted in life, so I had to move home with my parents for several years and work a lot to get a handle on my debt. And even that wasn't enough to deal with it completely, which I couldn't do until years later when my husband and I bought a house that went up in value, and I was able to refinance my mortgage and take cash out to pay my student loans off for good.
My excessive borrowing cost me the ability to invest more when I was younger, it hurt my credit score, and it necessitated a lot of sacrifice to pay it off. For that reason, the youthful borrowing I did was -- and likely always will be -- my biggest financial disaster.
Avoiding money mistakes is hard -- but recovery is possible
I'm definitely not the first person to have problems managing money or to make decisions when I was younger that affected my finances for years. The good news is, if you recognize you've made errors and take steps to correct them, you can come back stronger than ever.
Hopefully, you can learn from my financial disaster and avoid a similar one for yourself -- but if you've made your own money mistakes, don't give up hope, because recovery is possible.