Personal Finance

America's biggest money mistakes

Feeling financial remorse?

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While getting married and having children are some of life's greatest joys, they also come with hefty price tags, leaving many people, in retrospect, wishing they hadn't spent quite so much.

In fact, they are considered among America's most commonly cited monetary regrets, according to a recent report by Australian-based personal finance site, along with dropping out of college and letting your partner control the finances.

These types of financial mishaps are often a result of not having a plan ahead of time about how your money gets spent, noted Janet Stanzak, a certified financial planner and principal of Financial Empowerment in Bloomington, Minnesota. "It boils down to being intentional." conducted a poll of nearly 2,000 people in the U.S. and asked them to identify their biggest money mistakes.

Click ahead to see the top five results.

—By CNBC's Jessica Dickler
Posted 27 Nov. 2015

Dropping out of college

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With college getting increasingly more expensive, education is one of the biggest investments a young adult can make, and while most agree it is worthwhile, it doesn't always pay off.

During and since the recession, tuition has skyrocketed. At public four-year schools, the cost for the 2014-15 school year rose sharply to $18,943 from the $11,635 price tag in 2000-2001, according to the College Board. Tuition plus room and board at four-year private universities was even higher: $42,419 on average.

Even those who graduate often do so with a hefty amount of debt. On average, student borrowers who graduated this year owe more than $35,051, according to Mark Kantrowitz, a student financial aid policy expert and publisher of And for those that don't finish with a degree, 21 percent said it was their greatest money mistake, according to Finder's report.

"Going to a really expensive school for a degree that leads you to a job that won't pay off those loans sets you up for trouble down the road," said Mike Salmon, a financial advisor at Moisand Fitzgerald Tamayo in Orlando, Florida.

Salmon advises clients to consider all of the options for continuing education, including two-year programs, community college and trade schools. "It's about being wise about taking on that debt," he said.

Letting your partner control the finances

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It's an issue many Americans face fully two-thirds of all couples said one partner or the other mostly manages the household finances, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Yet many agree that letting your spouse control the purse strings at home isn't a wise financial move.

Nearly one-fifth of those polled by Finder said this was their biggest regret. It was also an answer more often cited by women, Finder found.

"In a relationship, we often divvy up jobs but managing finances is something we can't afford to give to one partner or the other," Stanzak said. "There has to be some shared responsibility there."

She suggests weekly conversations about budgeting, expenses and planning about what you want to do with your money.

"Sharing that responsibility is the best path for success together," Salmon added.

Having children

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However sweet they are, the cost of raising a single child from birth up until age 18 for a middle-income family in the U.S. now costs about a quarter of a million dollars, according to the "Cost of Raising a Child" report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which doesn't even factor in college. So it's no wonder 12 percent of the parents polled said they felt the financial blow.

High-income earners, or those making $100,000 to $149,000 a year, were the most likely group to say having children was a money mistake, according to Fred Schebesta, co-founder and director of Finder.

That's because many people don't plan for the biggest expenditures ahead of time, said Salmon. "Run some numbers on the best health-care plans and 529 plans to help with education costs," he said. Even if you only contribute $25-$50 a month for starters that's setting yourself up for savings down the road, Salmon said.

At every stage from day care, to schooling, to soccer practice there are costs related to kids and you need to be cognizant of that, cautioned Stanzak.

Spending too much on a wedding

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Getting hitched with a party, music, flowers, photography and a cake carries a pretty price tag $31,213, on average last year, to be exact, according to the annual Real Weddings Study by, without even factoring in a honeymoon. And some extravagant affairs can cost much, much more.

Long after that special day has passed, couples often wind up wishing they had saved that money for something else, particularly a down payment for a new house or a college savings account instead, Salmon said.

Nine percent of those polled said they regretted paying too much for a wedding, although the majority of those responses were given by men and those making $150,000 or more a year, Finder's Schebesta said.

No matter what the budget, Salmon recommends keeping it as strict as possible and never going into debt over I do's.

"You don't realize there are other important events to come," he said.

Getting caught in an online scam

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Those emails asking to verify your payment information and other sketchy solicitations have caught millions of Americans, according to the Federal Trade Commission. That's money out the window, often with long-term repercussions.

Even with increased awareness and consumer protections in place, 8 percent of those polled by Finder singled out scams as their No. 1 financial blunder.

"In hindsight, it's usually easy to see how you can be taken advantage of," Salmon said. It's often something that seems too good to be true, whether it's a free vacation or a deal on a product or service. Salmon suggests getting a friend or family member to take a look at what's being presented before you take the bait.

Stanzak also suggests using a separate email address for email subscriptions and another credit card strictly for shopping online to track those expenditures closely.

If you're concerned a message isn't legit, the FTC also cautions consumers against replying or clicking on links in the email. When in doubt, search for the company's real contact information and reach out to them yourself.