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Taking care of personal finances isn’t always an easy task, and sometimes we make some major blunders. But experts agree that it’s the same few mistakes that are made time and time again.

Making financial decisions without first evaluating long and short-term goals.
It’s almost impossible to decide how much money to put into a 401(k), whether or not to open a Roth IRA, how much life insurance to buy or how to craft your estate planning documents without knowing what your goals and values are. According to Tim Maurer, director of financial planning at the Financial Consulate, “Before you start checking off items on your financial to do list, know what your personal, family and career goals are in life… And without goals, you’re likely to not know where to start in your financial planning”

Values can help determine appropriate goals. “Without the foundation of your values, your goals may be misaligned and then you’re likely to not meet them… or worse yet allow your values to be altered to ‘squeeze into’ a goal,” says Maurer. “Most people simply don’t do these things, and then you’re at the mercy of happenstance, allowing circumstances outside of your control to define your present and your future.”

The idea that people invest their money without a plan also trickles down into some of the other common money mistakes named by professionals. Jay Berger, a certified financial planner in Traverse City, Mich., says that other common missteps include picking investments solely on their historical performance, investing in something that you don’t understand, using a credit card without discipline and not measuring your returns or comparing them to a realistic benchmark.

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By taking the time to develop a plan for investments, people will make it harder for themselves to make the subsequent mistakes. It’s incredibly important to research where your money is going and the institution’s current status. If you don’t understand where your money is or how it works, you’re in the dark when you suddenly have more or less of it.