Nine Common Wealth-Building Mistakes You Might Be Making

Small mistakes can have a big impact over time.

A mason jar labeled 401(k) sits on the desk of a woman working on a computer in the background.
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Opportunities abound when it comes to making money. But while there are numerous paths for building wealth, there are just as many paths for making a mistake. And not all mistakes are so obvious. If you’re making or saving more and more money year after year, you’re succeeding in building wealth — right? While this thinking is technically correct, you could be making the process more complicated than it needs to be or are missing out on vital opportunities to build wealth smarter and faster.

Here, nine financial experts of Kiplinger Advisor Collective dive deeper on some of the most common wealth-building mistakes that people make and what they would advise people to do differently to maximize their wealth-building potential.

Failing to contribute to a retirement account
“The most common wealth-building mistake people make is not contributing to their retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) plan. I want you to invest in your future self. Enroll in that 401(k), contribute to get the full employer match and aim to increase that yearly. You're going to retire one day. You'll need your younger and more energetic self to save money to help your older self retire well.” — Jason Vitug, Phroogal

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Neglecting to balance safe and risky investments
“A common wealth-building mistake is neglecting to balance safe and risky investments. I advise diversifying your portfolio and staying informed about market trends to adapt your investment strategies accordingly, thus managing risks while pursuing growth opportunities.” — Shawn Plummer, The Annuity Expert

Reacting emotionally to market fluctuations
“When it comes to building wealth, many investors make the mistake of reacting emotionally to market fluctuations. They tend to sell off investments during a downturn out of fear, or invest heavily in a 'hot' sector without sufficient research due to greed. Emotional decisions can lead to buying high and selling low, the opposite of a sound investment strategy and detrimental to building wealth.” — Greg Welborn, First Financial Consulting

Failing to build a solid financial foundation
“Don’t make the mistake of not building on a solid financial foundation. Make sure you know how to manage your money well. It’s counterproductive if you’re regularly overspending, paying high interest on debt or don’t have any savings. Learning to be proactive and intentional with your finances helps you clearly understand where your money is going and maximize your wealth-building goals.” — Chianté Jones, Dollars and Change

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Misunderstanding the concept of 'buy low, sell high'
“Understanding the basics of when and how to leverage your money can ensure you avoid many major pitfalls when accumulating wealth. The concept of buying low and selling high is often very difficult to grasp. When everyone wants something you have, the emotional response is to hold on to it, not let it go.” — Deborah W. Ellis, Ellis Wealth Planning

Neglecting to identify your wealth-building savings rate
“People often make the mistake of not identifying their wealth-building savings rate. Questions around your well-being help you identify the amount that will make you feel secure and fulfill your 'enough' that helps you create your aspirational life. You now have high motivation to fund your savings rate fully. If you don't dig deep on your well-being, you don't unlock a wealth-building strategy.” — Dr. Preston D. Cherry, Concurrent Financial Planning

Mixing up short-term savings and long-term investing
“People may not understand the difference between short-term savings and long-term investing. In other words, people need to balance the need for short-term liquidity with long-term growth. Investors may not realize that they will experience short-term market fluctuations with their long-term investments. Time in the market is more important than trying to time the market.” — Marguerita Cheng, Blue Ocean Global Wealth

Renting rather than owning
“Homeowners have a 40 times higher net worth than renters. Renting is a pure expense for the rest of your life. Homeownership is buying an asset that historically appreciates in value over time. Of course, the location, the type of home, the price point, the mortgage rates and the overall cost to be a homeowner is paramount to consider in maximizing the appreciation opportunity and minimizing risk.” — John Bodrozic, HomeZada

Assuming you can handle more risk than you can
“People tend to think they can tolerate or handle more risk or fluctuations in their accounts than they actually can. People will tend to say they are more aggressive than they really are to try to reach high returns. A person really needs to understand how much they are willing to lose before gaining anything. This helps frame a better understanding of risk and their tolerance to it.” — Bob Chitrathorn, Wealth Planning By Bob Chitrathorn of Simplified Wealth Management

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The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Kiplinger Advisor Collective

Kiplinger Advisor Collective is the premier criteria-based professional organization for personal finance advisors, managers, and executives.