Preventing Summer Injuries

Stealing from yourself

By Kathleen Fox

Are you a thief?

What an insulting question—of course you’re not a thief. If you found a lost wallet stuffed with cash, you’d return it. You can’t even imagine robbing a bank; you’d be too nervous to even drive the getaway car. And every time you’ve borrowed from your toddler’s piggy bank, you’ve paid back every penny.

But it’s possible that, without realizing it, you are stealing on a regular basis from the last person you’d imagine taking advantage of—yourself. Here are some of the ways that bad money-related habits can turn any honest, law-abiding citizen into a thief:

1. Credit card debt.

In today’s world, plastic is practically a necessity. But when you buy more with a credit card than you can pay off when the bill comes, you steal from yourself in two ways. First, the interest you pay adds to the cost of the purchases. Second, you will have less money next month and the next. You’re stealing tomorrow’s available funds to pay for what you bought today.

2. Addictions and other destructive spending.

Certainly, every budget ought to have room for occasional indulgences and treats. But buying lots of stuff that’s actively bad for you—like junk food, alcohol, or cigarettes—not only steals cash that could be used in wiser ways, it also steals from your physical health and emotional well-being.

3. Overbuying.

On a big purchase like a house or a car, consider carefully before you borrow the maximum amount the bank will loan you. Being locked into payments you can barely afford can steal your financial flexibility. It can limit your ability to take advantage of opportunities or cope with setbacks like losing a job.

4. As an employee, giving too little or too much.

Workers who don’t do the jobs they’re paid for are stealing from their employers. But being a bad employee steals from yourself, too. It takes away opportunities to learn, succeed, and build your own confidence and self-respect.

Giving too much at work isn’t so great, either. Focusing all your energy on your job steals time and attention from your family. Working long hours you don’t get paid for can also steal your sense of your own value.

5. Underspending.

Frugality is a valuable habit that can help you build financial security and independence. Yet frugality taken to extremes becomes miserliness, which is another way of stealing from yourself. Underspending on medical care can take from your health and well-being. Underspending on maintenance and repairs can mean having to spend much more later.

You steal from yourself even more by failing to spend money on affordable things and experiences that would bring you joy and enhance your life. This kind of underspending might keep your bank account full, but it can drain your soul.

6. Speculating with your savings.

Before you put money into a high-risk “investment opportunity” that sounds too good to be true, put on your ski mask and tell yourself, “This is a stick-up.” Learn about money and investing to protect yourself from scams and poor investment choices.

7. Not investing your savings.

Fearing risk so much that you keep your savings “safe” and don’t invest at all can steal huge amounts from your financial future. Again, the answer is to educate yourself about investing.

8. Not investing in yourself.

By all means, spend money on classes, career opportunities, and hobbies. Develop and use your unique skills and talents. This is the opposite of stealing from yourself. It’s investing in your own future success, your own life satisfaction, and your own happiness and fulfillment.

Black Hills Federal Credit Union

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