It’s the season of pumpkin spice lattes, hay bales, and the monster mash. As the colors turn, we don our favorite get-ups and head out for a night of fun with our kids or friends to celebrate all things spooky. Fun fact, there’s a psychological reason we love Halloween –– it has to do with the joy of being scared just enough, a little nostalgia, and getting to be someone else for a day.
When it comes to spooky stories, however, we all have different tolerance levels, which got me thinking about some of the absolutely terrifying stories I’ve heard from clients over the years from one of the world’s scariest stressors –– money.
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As a fun exercise, I decided to reach out to my team and the $100K Club Facebook group to hear from the community about their scary money stories! Some are heartbreaking, some are cringeworthy, and all are here to teach us an important lesson –– everyone has bad days with money. It’s what you do once the movie is over that matters.
1. Avoid the bait and switch.
There’s no shortage of bad business deals or scams to be had. It’s so easy to feel drawn to something when there are no (apparent) red flags –– don’t feel bad if you fall for one. Do your best to pick up the pieces and move forward.
“I left my marriage, and we agreed on a “cooperative” divorce. Right after I filed the paperwork, my ex-husband locked me out of all the bank accounts, lawyered up, and left me with no money and two kids to care for. Our lives changed dramatically after that.”
“When I was 21, I got a message from a close relative saying they “had an opportunity for me to make some extra cash,” and I thought, heck yeah! I was young, working a barely over minimum wage job, and this relative owned a small business so I trusted them. Well, as you can guess, this little “side hustle” was an MLM (multi-level-marketing) company. I was promised that I would make back every penny of my ‘investment’ but given very little information into how. I trusted this family member though and dumped all of my measly $500 I had in savings into this company only to break down crying a month later when I realized what I’d gotten into.
“The worst part is when I went to my family member about getting my money back, something they promised me personally they would do if I didn’t re-coup, they basically told me I didn’t try hard enough so they weren’t going to honor that. I was so devastated, and to this day I’m still angry about it.”
“When I bought my first car in my college town right after graduation before moving to a new state, they sold me on this maintenance package that would cover so many things! Only an extra $2k rolled into my loan for peace of mind! I was excited at the idea of not having to budget for repairs or worry about that. Of course, until the first major repair needed to be done and I realized the package they sold me ONLY applied to their dealership. So not only did I pay $2k for nothing, but I also had to pay for a major repair. Lesson learned!”
2. Looks aren’t everything.
If the beauty marketing industry has taught us anything it’s that we will absolutely spend buckets of cash to look (and feel better). Not everything that glitters is gold, however, as you’ll find out below.
“Easily the $1000+ I spent bleaching my hair only to realize I hated myself as a blonde…”
“I had started going to a hairstylist who I LOVED but was a little pricier than I was used to paying. I needed a trim before a big birthday trip and was trying to be cheap so I went to another stylist thinking that a simple trim would be easy enough. I came out with the most severe, absolutely horrid, angular cut and cried in my car on the way home.
“In my distress, I thought maybe cutting my own bangs would make me feel better. Spoiler alert, It did not. I finally called my hairstylist sobbing and begging for her to fit me in. Bless that woman, she did, and I ended up with the cutest cut ever. But that was after spending money on two haircuts in one day and more tears than I’d ever thought I’d cry over hair.
“She still has the voicemail to this day. I will never try to save $30 on a haircut ever again. Worth every penny.”
3. Partnerships can paralyze.
We’ve heard more horror stories than we can count about bad boyfriends, ex-spouses, and current partners taking advantage and ruining their partner’s finances. It serves as a good reminder that having conversations around finances early and often can help soften the blow. It’s also unfortunately a reminder that when going through legalities, getting it all in writing is way more important than trusting someone’s word.
“My scary money story is getting a low paying job after being a stay at home mom for almost two years to help out with the bills only for my husband (now ex) to decide that he wants a divorce and to pay next to nothing in child support the week before the job started. I was terrified.”
“The time my ex-fiancé spent my $20,000 college fund my dad had been saving for me since I was born.”
4. Mind the family matters.
Family –– you love ‘em, and sometimes you hate ‘em. Sometimes they’re your biggest supporters, and sometimes, they’re the thief you didn’t know has been siphoning off your savings. Fair warning, the second story is a long ride, but worth the read!
“My grandparents set up investment accounts for my brother and me when we were born, which my mom drained right before we turned 18. Didn’t see a single cent.”
“When I graduated college, I was offered the incredible opportunity to become an au pair in Paris for a year. Given that I would be out of the country for so long, my mother thought it would be prudent for a responsible party to be on my bank account in case of an emergency.
“Fast forward five or so years, and I’m working my first real 9-5 job with significantly more money to my name. During one of my regular financial health checks, I noticed a $100.00 withdrawal from my checking account –– a transfer to a different account. Whose account, you ask? Why, my dear mother’s.
“I was shocked. I texted her to ask what was going on and if everything was okay. She answered that she was having trouble making ends meet between paydays, promising that she would pay me back as soon as she got paid.
“I thought this would be the end of it, and asked her to let me know if she needed money again. The next time it happened, it was about $250.00.
“I asked her if she had already taken the money. She admitted that she had, and apologized for not running it by me first. I thanked her for letting me know, and once again told her that I would appreciate it if she not only ‘ran it by me’ but told me the amount so I could confirm that I could spare it and that I wasn’t taken by surprise when it happened. Then, something else happened.
“My brother, dumped by his partner of about ten years, moved across the country and into my mother’s spare room. He moved in with me for about three weeks, and it was, to put it mildly, unbearable. My mother had made us both Authorized users on one of her own credit cards, and of course, sent a card to my brother for him to use. He maxed out the card.
“He tried to spend about $200.00 on a couple of pieces of luggage, and his card was declined. I ended up paying for the luggage with my own credit card. I then discovered my mother’s credit card with a limit of $18,500 had been maxed out.
“The next time she took the money, again, without running it by me, it was about $100.00 and she admitted it was for my brother’s new iPhone. I politely but firmly told her that I needed to be paid back for the luggage, as well as for the other withdrawals she’d made.
“It took about three months of texting or emailing her once a week for her to pay me back. It took another three to get her to fill out the necessary paperwork to remove me as an Authorized User from her “for emergencies” credit card that my brother had maxed out. I went to the credit union and told them all the gory details. They closed the old account, opened the new one, and got me a new debit card in under twenty minutes.
“It wasn’t a lot of money that she borrowed, and I got it back. The truly scary part of this story is all the things that could have happened had I not noticed. I don’t know how long it would have gone on, or how much money she would have taken if I hadn’t closed the account. And it would have all been perfectly legal.
“If that doesn’t make a person shiver, I don’t know what will.”
5. Fundraising shouldn’t be just plain scary.
“When I was around 11/12, we had to raise money for the school band by selling cookies and cakes and stuff around our neighborhood. If you got past 10/20 orders and so on you got prizes. I had 9 because someone had bought 2 but their card defaulted the previous year, so theirs didn’t count.
“I really wanted the prize, which was this little wallet, so I knocked on the door 4 doors down from us that my mom called “that terrible woman.” When I did she came to the door with a gun. Which is when I learned “that terrible woman” stands for the racist lady who might kill you. So lessons learned and my mom bought the last pie when I got home so I could still get the wallet.”
The Bottom Line
If some of these stories hit close to home, it’s my encouragement to you to remember that you’re not alone. Bad things happen to the best of us, and there are so many great resources here on Personal Capital to help you when they do.
I recommend using the free money-management tools to see all of your financial accounts in one place. You can create a budget, track your expenses, and plan for long-term savings goals like college or retirement. Personal Capital is the tool that I’ve used daily to reach my own saving and investing goals.
Here’s hoping your Halloween is the normal spooky!
Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap of Her First $100k (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this blog post. Compensation not to exceed $500. Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage (www.HerFirst100k.com) to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.