By Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Charles Schwab & Co.

Key points

  • These 10 common money wasters may take you by surprise.

  • From scams to hidden fees, things we overlook every day can cost plenty.

  • Be alert and take these simple actions to help protect yourself.

There’s one thing none of us want to be fooled about — our money. Yet there are a lot of ways we all make less than wise decisions that can cost us more than we may realize. So in the spirit of helping us manage our money more wisely, here are 10 common money wasters to consider — and avoid.

1. Phone or Internet scams

Have you ever had a bogus call from someone claiming to be from the IRS? Or a tech company that needs your computer information to fix a problem they’ve detected? Most of us are on to that sort of scam. But while it may be easy to spot and hang up on a phone fraudster, Internet scams can be more insidious. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2015 annual report, losses for 2015 alone totaled $1,070,711,522! And scammers are becoming more sophisticated. So just to be safe, review these best practices for protecting yourself:

  • Never reply to an unknown email.

  • Never click on a link or download information unless you know the sender. Even then be cautious because some links and downloads may contain malware or spyware.

  • Don’t call a phone number provided in an unknown email, even if it has a local area code.

  • Never email personal or financial information.

  • If you receive a suspicious email from a bank or other company, contact that company by phone to alert them.

  • Keep your computer security software up to date.

  • Create secure passwords and change them periodically.

  • Get a copy of your credit report at

  • Designate a single credit card for online purchases.

2. Charging more than you can pay off monthly

Many behavioral economists have reported that people spend more when they pay with plastic. Add in automatic pay options and before you know it, you can easily lose track of what you’re spending. If you find that you consistently carry a credit card balance month to month, try switching to cash, at least temporarily. When you hand over the money, it’s a tangible transaction that makes you focus on what you’re spending — and the fact that the money is gone.

3. Hidden bank fees

Speaking of credit cards, when was the last time you looked at the fees you’re paying? Not just interest payments, but also those added costs that get slipped in — annual fees that you only focus on once a year or foreign transaction fees that you only notice once you get home. These are easy to ignore, but also easy to fix. Don’t just accept them, talk to your bank. If you can’t negotiate a better deal, do some comparison-shopping and switch to another bank.

4. Assuming your credit statements are accurate

Whether it’s an ATM error, faulty math or a refund that didn’t come through, mistakes happen. So always review your statements when you get them. It’s important to do it in a timely manner because you generally must report an error within 60 days. If you see a problem, contact your credit card company right away. And be sure you have receipts or other documents to support your claim.

5. Late or missing payments

Whether it’s for a credit card, student loan or any other kind of loan, being late or missing a payment can have ongoing repercussions. Late fees and interest add up quickly. Plus, you don’t want a blot on your credit rating that can follow you for years.

6. Extended warranties

Here’s where your credit card can be your friend. Many card companies offer extended warranties on purchases as part of their benefits. Why buy extra protection when you’re already covered?

7. Cable, phone or Internet rate creep

Companies depend on our inertia. They know we tend to just keep paying whatever the cost increase because it’s easier than making a change. Maybe now’s the time to do a little price/usage comparison. Internet speeds, TV channels, extra phone services — they’re all good if you really use them. If not, a call to the company and a bit of well-mannered negotiation might lower your monthlies.

8. Unnecessary insurance

Unnecessary insurance can be a costly mistake. For instance, before you’re talked into that insurance policy for your pet, make sure you know what’s covered and what’s not, and the size of the deductible. Likewise, be skeptical of things like travel insurance, wedding insurance — anything with limited coverage and multiple conditions. Or collision coverage may not make sense if your car is very old and not worth repairing,

9. Monthly subscriptions or memberships you don’t use

Are your magazine and newspapers piling up unread? How often have you gone to the gym in the last six months? What about that music service you subscribed to? It’s easy to be enticed into signing up for these types of things — and just as easy to forget them. But the bills keep coming, so do a review and weed out any subscriptions and memberships that you no longer use.

10. Not checking your restaurant bill

Again, mistakes happen. Most often they’re innocent errors and there’s no need to get upset, but there’s also no need to pay for something you didn’t order — or the tab for the guest at the next table!

You may have heard the old saying “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Review — and take action — on these 10 common money wasters to make sure you’re not one of them.


About LRPC’s Monday Morning Minute

Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC (LRPC) Monday Morning Minute is crafted to provide decision-makers with important information about the economy, investments and corporate retirement plans in a format that allows a reader to consume the information in less than 60 seconds. As an independent, objective investment adviser, LRPC has access to many sources of research and shares the best and most relevant information with its readers each week.

About Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC

Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based independent, objective Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) providing investment advisory, fiduciary compliance, employee education, provider management and plan design services to retirement plan sponsors. The firm currently has contracts in place to provide consulting services on more than $400 million in plan assets. For more information, please contact Robert C. Lawton at (414) 828-4015 or or visit the firm’s website at Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser.

Important Disclosures

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance, tax, legal or investment advice. Each plan has unique requirements and you should consult your attorney or tax adviser for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC assure that, by using the information provided, plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations. Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. The statements in this publication are the opinions and beliefs of the commentator expressed when the commentary was made and are not intended to represent that person’s opinions and beliefs at any other time. The commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC and should not be construed as recommendations or investment advice. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC offers no tax, legal or accounting advice and any advice contained herein is not specific to any individual, entity or retirement plan, but rather general in nature and, therefore, should not be relied upon for specific investment situations. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser and accepts clients outside of Wisconsin based upon applicable state registration regulations and the “de minimus” exception.

Additional Important Disclosures

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.