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July 26, 2012

It's Money Smart Week! Below is a list of six money mistakes families often make with tips on how to avoid them.

1. Living for the moment and not planning.
It's easy to get caught in "keeping up with the Joneses" -- buying the latest fashions, taking a summer vacation because everyone else is or eating out when there's no time to cook -- but consider the cost. Think about wants and needs. Make a budget so you know where your money goes. Maybe involve the family in choosing -- no takeout pizza every Friday in order to go on a summer vacation, for example.

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2. Spending in secret.
Hiding purchase or debts from a spouse, having secret accounts or getting credit cards in only one name signals trust issues. A survey funded by CESI Debt Solutions reveals 80 percent of married folks hide purchases or don't tell spouses about some spending. What you don't know can hurt you, especially when it comes to hidden assets or misinformation on your credit reports. This is a good reason to order your credit report annually.

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3. Having conflicting goals.
He wants a new car, she wants a vacation and the kids want a new television. When you can't have it all, can you compromise? Maybe it's time to have those regular family money talks.

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4. Putting all bets on one person.
What if one person handles day-to-day finances and then can't? Relying on one spouse to do the finances might be convenient, but it's worrisome, too. If spouses don't share financial duties, will they see eye-to-eye? Work out a plan to involve both of you, or maybe even the kids.

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5. Building debt, not wealth.
The average American uses credit cards often. Unfortunately, many don't pay balances monthly. Many of us are so concerned with today's expenses we don't save enough for tomorrow's college tuition and retirement. The earlier in your marriage you stash savings, the more the magic of compound interest works. Open a savings account for each goal (college debt, new car, house, vacation) and put in a little every paycheck. When you save automatically, those amounts add up quickly. Then invest to let you money work for you.

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6. Forgetting the unknown.
You plan to save and invest, but you just can't get the accounts opened? You knew that credit card bill was due, but you missed the deadline? Families are busy; finances get ignored. You can save time, frustration and late fees by putting your financial chores on auto-pilot. For example, direct deposit paychecks and make an auto deduction to savings, use auto-pay for bills and get statements online. Use an email reminder system for key deadlines, like filing income taxes or paying property taxes. As you might guess, there's an app for that.

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