It’s easier to lose money than it is to accumulate it. This is because accumulating wealth requires you to make a conscious effort. Losing your wealth doesn’t require much thought at all.

You don’t build wealth without some form of discipline, good habits that you practice religiously and that inch you closer toward your goals. This is the conscious effort. Often, the conscious effort tends to disappear once you’ve achieved success. This is the part where you want to enjoy all the hard work you’ve put into building the life you’ve dreamt of. Your conscious effort can even disappear while you’re still working toward your goals. Reaching new milestones of financial success can enable you to do things you couldn’t do previously; it’s easy to get swept up in your newfound freedom. This is why it can feel like you’re constantly taking one step forward and two steps back.

5 Ways to Lose Your Money

The things that can prevent you from reaching your full financial potential are the same things that can wipe out your wealth once you’ve accumulated it. Here are five ways to lose your money in both instances:

1. Not protecting yourself for your full economic value. People want to pay as little insurance costs as possible for the minimum amount of coverage. Most think that leaving enough behind to cover the mortgage or a few years of their salary is sufficient. But your full economic value is worth much more than this. It’s worth the money you will now and in the future, your net worth now and in the future and your legacy now and in the future. Protecting yourself means protecting against premature death or disability, accounting for excess liability coverage and properly structuring your estate. Failing to do any of these things can leave your wealth exposed to a handful of threats.

2. Failing to offset taxes and inflation. These are two of the biggest wealth eroding factors that are out of your control. First, your money needs to outpace inflation, which is the natural erosion of your money’s purchasing power. For example, if inflation is 3%, then your $10,000 this year will only be worth $9,700 next year. Investing your money is a way to offset inflation. While the goal of most investors is to achieve the most efficient after-tax returns, many of them forget to evaluate the tax implications of their portfolio as a whole. Your return doesn’t mean much if you lose most of it to taxes.

3. Living beyond your means. One of the simplest, cardinal get rich rules is to spend less than you earn. Sure, you may have the huge dream home or the exotic foreign car, but if you can’t truly afford it, this doesn’t make you rich. It makes you house poor and car poor, two of the best ways to lose your money faster than you can earn it. It also probably means that you’re building up a substantial amount of wealth. Here’s another cardinal get rich rule: If you have to finance it, you probably can’t afford it. Debt detracts from your net worth, from your ability to save and achieve your goals.

4. Not saving enough money. If you’re not consistently saving a substantial portion of your income every month, then you’re violating another cardinal get rich rule: Pay yourself first. With American savings rates teetering around 5%, it may seem drastic that I’m telling you to aim for a savings rate of 15% – 20%. But this is what funds your core liquidity, your ability to save for and achieve short-term goals. It also funds your future, and includes saving into different unqualified and qualified investment accounts for retirement, your child’s college tuition, and more.

5. Lacking a defined investment philosophy. One of the best things you can do for yourself before you start investing is to create an Investment Policy Statement. This is a guiding statement of how you will invest according to your values and desires, your most important financial goals. Otherwise, you can find yourself making emotionally charged decisions and engaging in bad investor behavior. This includes stock picking, market timing and forecasting, following investment trends and more. Investors who engage in these behaviors often get burned big time.

Why Does it Matter to You?

If you want to reach your full financial potential, you must understand how each of these five things can deter your success. For instance, protection isn’t just about insurance. It’s about protecting your life’s work from the numerous threats that can destroy it. Inflation alone is enough to erode your wealth. You have to put fear of the market to the wayside, and let your money work for you. Taxes will have a direct effect on the real returns your money produces and can significantly erode them. Include low-turnover and tax-managed investments in your portfolio. We can also offer our clients Separately Managed Accounts, which offer the greatest level of tax control.

Acting rich doesn’t count for much of anything. Most of the truly wealthy people would more than likely tell you that they would rather defy society’s image of being rich than being deceptively poor. Neglecting to pay yourself first means that you may lack the funds to achieve your most important goals or living a reduced lifestyle in retirement. Engaging in bad investor behavior can also guarantee these things. But how can you avoid it? How do you know if you’re making the right investment decision? Easy, refer to your Investment Policy Statement. If an investment doesn’t meet its criteria, then you shouldn’t invest. Period.

Building wealth is no small task, but the work doesn’t end there. If you can’t sustain your wealth, then all your hard work means nothing. Sustaining your wealth is where the real work happens.