Malcolm “MJ” Harris: 6 Common Financial Mistakes to Avoid

A financial flub can set you back years. From poor credit to having no emergency savings or retirement plan, stumbling into a money mishap can mean a lifetime of recovery. We asked fiscal whiz MJ Harris to share six of the most common financial mistakes everyone should avoid. Check it out below…

All of us are guilty of a few bad financial habits here and there. However, if left unchecked, those seemingly minor discretions can lead to full on catastrophes. Unfortunately, a disastrous moment is exactly what it takes sometimes to whip us into shape and steer us on the right path. It was a health crisis that caused Malcolm “MJ” Harris to get deliberate about his money decisions.

“When I was diagnosed with HIV one of my first thoughts, aside from if [I was going] to die, was how am I going to take care of myself,” says Harris, managing director of the National Care Financial Group. “HIV made me start thinking about my financial future in a serious way, and at a much younger age than most other people. [It] made me think about just how interconnected financial planning is to all of the life events that can happen to any of us—whether it’s HIV, wanting to start a business, [or] anything. Finances are the undercurrent that ties everything together.

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Harris’ circumstances not only led to an earnest evaluation of his own personal financial status, but it also convinced him he needed to help others with theirs.

“One thing that I like about finance is it’s my way of utilizing my skill set to help and empower people,” the former World Bank and Deloitte employee says. “I’m literally helping to change the trajectory of someone’s future by making sure they are financially secure. That can change not just that person’s future, but their family’s future as well. That’s very rewarding.”

As Harris continues to impact lives through the world of finance, he hopes more and more people, especially those within the African American community, understand that working with a financial planner such as himself is not just an option exclusively reserved for the rich.

“If you can’t say for certain that you have a plan for when you retire, [or] that you have a certain plan for what you would do to take care of yourself if something were to happen to you from a medical standpoint, then you probably can benefit from sitting down for a session with a financial planner,” he says. “Less than 20 percent of African Americans utilize financial planning services, so it’s not by surprise that we make up less than 2 percent of the money that transitions generationally. It’s not because we don’t have a lot of it, but it’s because we’re not taking advantage of the financial planning that allows us to be protected and grow what we do have so we can have something to leave behind.”

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Check out some of MJ’s most sage advice for adverting those money pitfalls that haunt us all.

 6 Common Financial Mistakes

Saving only what you have left over

“You should make savings like a bill. Just like you know [you] have to set aside money to pay [your] mortgage, or rent, or car note, you need to make savings a living expense as well. Because here’s the reality: saving right now is paying for your living expenses later, or paying for major goals later. So it should not be an afterthought. It should be something where you know every month [you] take $50, or whatever it may be, out of [your] paycheck [for savings].”

Misusing credit cards

“Credit cards should not supplement your income. If you are finding that you are relying on credit cards to supplement your income on a regular basis, then you’re misusing credit. Essentially, the rule for credit is you should not buy anything on credit that you cannot afford to pay off within at least 30 days. [That’s] the way you maintain good credit, it’s the way you get more credit. If you’re not able to pay your bill off at the end of the month, then you’re overspending with credit.”

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