Coronavirus and Your Money: Special Coverage
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Financial gurus Warren Buffett, Suze Orman, Tony Robbins and Dave Ramsey boast net worth figures in the millions — or, in Buffett’s case, billions. Many of their followers can only dream of becoming multimillionaires or billionaires. However, they each offer plenty of practical advice the average Joe or Jane can follow to clean up their spending, savings and investment habits, and retire rich.

Here are seven pitfalls to avoid, along with money management tips from Buffett, Orman, Ramsey, Robbins and other financial experts that almost anyone can implement, regardless of their current bank balance.

1. Spending Too Much on Wants

Too many people spend their lives, and their hard-earned cash, buying things that have little or no lasting value, said Robbins, whose net worth is $480 million, according to The Richest. “You have to decide that you’re not going to be a consumer, you’re going to be an owner, no matter how little money you have,” said Robbins in a CNBC video.

“If you gave up one night out a week of meals, and you had a pizza and saved $50, then you put the $50 aside, and you multiply that over the year, and you multiply that over [30] years — when you’re getting an 8 or 10 percent return, you find that comes to about a half a million dollars just by making that one change,” he said.

2. Overspending on Needs

It might seem these first two mistakes are the same, but some spending can’t be avoided. Everyone needs a place to live, and probably has to spend at least some money to earn a living. Buffett, whose net worth topped $72 billion in March 2015, according to Forbes, is famous for frugal habits in both his professional and personal life. Despite a market capitalization of more than $300 billion, his company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., only employs about two dozen people at its Omaha headquarters, to oversee administrative affairs not handled by its subsidiary companies around the world.

“It is also interesting to note that Buffett lives a simple life, choosing to stay in the same house that he bought in 1958, and keeps Berkshire Hathaway headquarters very modest,” said Doug Bellfy, a fee-only financial advisor at Synergy Financial Planning in Glastonbury, Conn. “Though he could afford to spend much more, he lives under his means and finds frugal ways to stay satisfied.”

3. Not Saving Early

“Well, I think the biggest mistake is not learning the habits of saving properly early. Because saving is a habit,” Buffett said on the Dan Patrick Show. Those who save early will get the most out of compound interest.

The Investment Company of America gave this example on its website: “For example, suppose you have a current salary of $30,000, receive 4% annual raises, and plan to retire in 30 years. You put 4% of your salary into a retirement plan each year and earn an 8% annual return. If you started investing today, you’d have $220,944 when you retire. If you waited 5 years before investing, you’d have $164,878 (assuming the same retirement date, salary, raises, savings rate and return). In this case, waiting five years would cost you $56,066.”

“The fact is, the earlier you begin to invest your dollars, the more time your investment has to compound and grow,” said Paul Tarins, founder of Sovereign Retirement Solutions in Winter Park, Fla. “My advice is that it doesn’t matter how much you can begin to invest on a weekly or monthly basis, you just need to start the process.”

4. Investing Too Early

Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” strategy expands on the idea that slow, steady and smart wins the race to riches. The author, media personality and motivational speaker logs a net worth of $55 million, according to The Richest website. He suggested people start by saving $1,000 as a “baby emergency fund,” then paying off all their debts, besides their mortgage. Once they’ve done that, he said they should establish a mature emergency fund that will cover three to six months of expenses.

Then, and only then, should one consider investing. Ramsey suggested on his blog that people invest 15% of their income, starting out with pre-tax (like a 401k) and tax-free (Roth IRA) savings vehicles.

5. Missing Out on the Match

“If your employer offered you a bonus, you wouldn’t turn it down, right? But that’s pretty much what you’re doing when you don’t take the steps to qualify for the maximum 401(k) match,” Orman wrote on her blog. Orman’s net worth is $35 million, according to the site Celebrity Net Worth.

One in four employees don’t contribute enough of their own salary to maximize their employers’ matching contribution, missing out on an average of more than $1,300 in free money annually, according to a recent report from investment advisory firm Financial Engines.

“Most retirement plans offer some type of employer match,” said Tarins. “The employer match is something everyone should take advantage of. Over time, the match is way too powerful to pass up.”

6. Investing in High-Fee Funds

There’s no need to invest in high-fee funds, when a low-cost index fund can create a diversified portfolio by mimicking indexes like the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, according to Buffett. “If (investors) are incurring large expenses in connection with their investing, they are making a big mistake,” he said in USA Today. However, it can take some work to uncover investment costs, even for a 401k, said Lesley Kilcullin of Kilcullin Financial Life Planning in St. Charles, Mo.

“So often people see the Fees category on an investment statement or 401k statement and think that is their total fees,” said Kilcullin. “They are incorrect with that assumption. Mutual fund fees can be as high (as), if not higher than, administrative or management fees. Unfortunately, you have to dig to find these costs. They are not going to be shown on any statement.”

To determine the fund fees, Kilcullin suggested looking up the funds on Morningstar, or in the prospectus. Or, she said, consult an advisor to help determine the expenses.

7. Doing Nothing

It’s not necessary to implement all these financial tips to start reaping the rewards. Try taking on a tip at a time, said Mary A. Brooks of Brooks Financial Planning in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“The biggest mistake I see is folks doing nothing,” said Brooks. “People read a variety of resources, are overwhelmed by all the input and are not sure what to do first. They put off taking action because they are overwhelmed.”

A game plan is a good place to start. “This doesn’t need to be huge formal statement,” she said. “Even a New Year’s resolution would be a beginning — and beginning is the hardest part.”

This article originally appeared on

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