Has your family made a horrible $$$ mistake? Survey says most do.

  • Blog Post by: Jeremy Olson
  • September 18, 2012 - 11:18 AM

The release of today's consumer survey -- showing two-thirds of middle-class American families have made a "really bad financial decision" at some point -- was like a punch straight to the gut. Because when you're one of the financial decision-makers in your family, and you make a gaffe like that, you don't forget it. At least I don't, and I'm betting a lot of readers out there can relate.

Not only did 67 percent of middle-class Americans make at least one financial mistake, but 47 percent admitted making more than one really bad error, according to the survey of 2,015 people by the Consumer Federation of America and Primerica. The median cost of these bad decisions was $5,000, but there must have been a few surveyed families who really made some whoppers, because the average cost was $23,000.

The survey did not define the types of mistakes families made, but Stephen Brobeck, the federation's executive director, suspects that a lot of the errors were related to subprime mortgages and credit card debt. (Middle class in the survey was defined as families with household incomes between $30,000 and $100,000. About 40 percent of survey respondents were in this category.)

My financial error was related to the market. Needing cash to make a down payment on a house, I panic-sold a stock on the day it dropped 40 points. When investors jumped back on the stock the next day and it regained much of its value, I was left counting all of the money that I no longer had. Anyone else been there with family financial mistakes? Share in the comments below. Trust me, it'll be therapeutic to share!

Despite making errors, the middle-class survey respondents generally felt their financial decision-making was "good" or "excellent," especially in the areas of budgeting and managing debt. Respondents weren't as secure in their ability to plan for retirement, though. Nearly half of respondents said they would seek advice from a financial professional on savings/investment decisions, while 15 percent said they would rely on Internet or other media for advice and 17 percent said they would just make the decisions without consulting anything.
Middle-class Americans are more risk-averse, according to the survey. If given $1 million for retirement, only 21 percent of middle class respondents would invest the money, compared to 48 percent of high-income respondents.

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