9 hard truths about money your successful friends won't tell you

What those successful friends of yours are thinking

Never stressing about money
We all have those friends who seemingly cruise through life, never stressing about money or success, and somehow always have plenty of both.

They have retirement plans, businesses and time to climb mountains or run marathons. Basically, they’re really annoying.

For others, failing to save, going deeper into debt and generally stressing about life is the norm. If you’re wondering what those successful friends of yours are thinking — but not saying — about your money habits, keep reading.

Overspending is a difficult habit to break.

1. You need to budget.

You know the guy who you’re always hitting up for money until you get your paycheck? Well, he’s thinking that you would benefit by creating and sticking to a budget. Fortunately, making a budget is as easy as clicking a mouse.

"Find an app or system that works well for you such as Mint, You Need A Budget or just an Excel spreadsheet," said Kate Holmes, a certified financial planner (CFP) and founder of Belmore Financial. "Import the last few months of all checking, debit and credit card transactions and see where things are at. You’ll likely be surprised by some of the category totals."

"Ask yourself how much happiness each item brings. You may find some unnecessary spending you can easily cut out," she said.

Read: 5 Signs You Have a Spending Problem

Here’s a strategy she recommended: 50% of your take-home pay goes for food, housing and other necessities; 30% for discretionary spending; and 20% toward paying off debt and building savings. Of course, any money-savvy friend will also tell you that making a budget is easy.

Staying with it can be challenging.

2. You don't save enough.

We all want to retire someday, right? Well, the bad news is most of us won’t be retiring in style if we only rely on Social Security benefits to live. The average Social Security recipient in 2014 got only $1,300 a month. Those golden years are starting to look tarnished already.

So what can you do? Save in your workplace retirement plan and take advantage of your employer’s matching program, said consumer finance expert Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network. He recommended saving 10 percent to 15 percent of your gross pay for retirement. If you can’t swing that, start with what’s manageable for you.

3. You have too much credit card debt.

The financially savvy see credit cards as a convenience, not a bank account from which to draw. The average credit card interest rate stands at 13%, meaning that everything you buy, from dinner out to a flat screen TV, will cost you 13% more if you don't pay it off immediately.

That's why a good friend would tell you to avoid using credit cards except in emergencies. "Few, if any, investments will return as much," said Gallegos. "Having no credit card debt provides a financial cushion itself."

So the next time you whip out that Visa to fund your latest impulse buy, add in the interest costs and reassess whether it's really worth it.

What will those Steve Maddens cost you in the long run?

4. You never consider the opportunity cost.

Here’s something that most people know but only the financially savvy apply: Every purchase has two costs. One is the price you pay for a product or service. The second is what you’re giving up when you make that purchase, or in other words, its opportunity cost. You bought the shoes but now you can’t afford the dress or that contribution to your IRA this month.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett often quotes his friend and partner, self-made billionaire Charles Munger, when speaking about opportunity cost. They see their biggest business mistakes as missed opportunities that kept them from making more money. They call them "mistakes of omission." They didn’t invest in something when they should have, or they weren’t able to because their money was tied up in another investment.

So what will those shoes cost you in the long run?

5. You give up too easily.

If you weren't born rich, then you will have to work hard for your earnings and adopt a steadfast attitude that could translate into wealth. "Look at every successful person across a wide spectrum of industries and activities," said John Mulry, a GKIC certified business advisor. "All had their obstacles, demons and downfalls, but their desire to succeed and ability to overcome was greater than anything else. They were willing to stop at nothing to achieve."

Most friends don't want to tell you that you're a quitter. So you might have to make the hard call, which is something only winners do. Call it the quitter's paradox.

Related: 10 Personality Traits That Help You Master Your Finances

6. You eat out too often.

Who doesn't love to stop at Starbucks for morning coffee, then go out to lunch with colleagues, and later grab a get-me-through-this-day Frappuccino? But do you know what you're brown-bagging friend at the next desk is thinking? "That's a waste of $25.” One medium Starbucks a day, five days a week, will set you back about $1,100 per year.

Take note: It costs as little as 27 cents to brew a cup of coffee yourself. If you add milk and sugar, the cost climbs to 75 cents. You still just saved more than $900 a year. How does that Starbucks taste now?

If you want that vacation to happen, you have to plan for it.

7. You don't have a clear financial goal.

So you have a friend who runs marathons, climbs mountains and made a million before he turned 30. The first thing he'd tell you is that you need a clear goal to accomplish anything and to manage your money.

"It's very hard to get where you're going without knowing where you want to go,” said Gallegos. "Similarly, it's very hard to save without setting goals. Those goals might include retirement, a vacation, a new piece of furniture, a child's education or time to train for a marathon.”

Whatever the goal, write it down. Then budget for it. If you get stuck, call your buddy who climbed Mount Everest for advice.

8. You need an emergency fund.

Life has a bad habit of throwing curve balls in the form of emergency car repairs, unexpected medical bills, surprise household repairs and so on. Your friends might be thinking, "Does this bozo not expect anything bad to ever happen?"

Whether it’s a job layoff or worse, you want to ensure you can cover all necessary expenses for three to six months, said Holmes.

9. You spend too much on trends.

You know your friend with the iPhone 4, the Old Navy jeans and the stupid TV? She's wagging her well-funded finger at your trending Apple Watch, $300 jeans and genius TV.

The trick is to cut down on the impulse buys and in general trust your gut. You know when you're being indulgent. If not, invite that friend with the ancient iPhone when you go shopping.

Another great trick to curb spending, said Gallegos, is to pay with cash. Two things will immediately happen. It will be much more inconvenient and you will get a very real feel for how much you are truly spending. Gallegos cited research that found that people who pay with cash instead of credit or debit cards typically spend 15 to 20% less. That's retirement savings money, baby.


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