Liam Croke: The best and worst financial decisions we have taken

When I meet people and we start talking about their finances, invariably they tell me what they think was the best financial decision they have ever made or the worst.

When I meet people and we start talking about their finances, invariably they tell me what they think was the best financial decision they have ever made or the worst.

In many cases people were lucky and unlucky with the decisions they made. I met someone recently who chose a tracker mortgage over a variable rate one back in 2006, not even knowing what a tracker mortgage was and I met umpteen people who chose not to opt for a tracker for exactly the same reason.

“I am sure if you thought about it, it wouldn’t take you long to recall what you thought turned out to be the best or worst financial decision you ever made.

“Has it changed your attitude and approach to finances? It almost certainly has.

“I am going to share with you now what six very different people across Ireland have told me were their best and worst decisions.

John – Best Decision

“The best thing I ever did was taking out a serious illness policy eight years ago when I moved house. When I was talking to my mortgage broker at the time she advised that I should take out a serious illness policy for the amount of my mortgage. This was a big ask because the difference in monthly repayments from what I would have being paying for just life cover only was about €100 each month.

“I was unsure but for peace of mind I went ahead with it, just in case.

“Two years later I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy which prevented me from working at the time and will probably prevent me from ever working at what I used to again.

“Luckily cardiomyopathy was covered under my serious illness policy which paid out a lump sum which paid my mortgage off in full. Things are still difficult financially but are made a little bit easier not having to worry about how I will repay my mortgage.”

Paul – Worst Decision

“I am 67 and after I pay for utilities, food and my health insurance each week I have €13 left for myself until I get my old age pension again.

“Every Wednesday I go to my local and I spend my €13 on three pints – that is the highlight of my week.

“My biggest regret was not saving for my retirement. I didn’t ever save. I always promised myself I would but life got in the way and I never got round to doing it. I always thought the state would look after me or I would inherit or win money but none of these things ever happened and I probably always believed they never would either.

“So, I have no one to blame only myself. I tell my two sons that whatever they do, put money away for when they reach my age, no matter how small it is because I don’t want them to live like me.”

Penny – Best Decision

“My best decision was to overpay on my mortgage.

“I took out a mortgage in 1995 for £58,850 for a term of 30 years. The rates were much higher than they were now but I paid a little bit more each month than what I was supposed to and rather than having my mortgage paid off in 2025, I am going to be debt free next month.

“I guess another great decision and it was linked to my mortgage is that I bought in a great location – I was lucky in that I never wanted to or want to move.

“I could have sold my property and made twice what it cost me and up-graded to a bigger house but it would have meant taking on a bigger mortgage and I just didn’t want that.”

Julie – Worst Decision

“My worst decision was to take out an endowment mortgage. I was advised by a broker at the time that this was going to be the best thing I ever did – a “no brainer”, he said.

“I was supposed to have huge surplus when my mortgage was paid off, tax free as well.

“But in the end the return on the endowment policy was nowhere near what I was told it would be which left me with a €27,000 shortfall to repay my mortgage off.

“I have zero faith in brokers ever since and if someone tells you something and it looks too good to be true, it probably is, it was in my case.”

Tony – Best Decision

“My best decision was to put money away for my daughter’s education. She graduated at the end of August with her degree in sports science.

“I started putting money away when she was seven just in case she wanted to go to college – she wanted to be a TV newsreader back then. I wanted to do it because I never had the opportunity myself so I wanted to make sure she had the chance I didn’t have.

“And boy, am I so proud of her now and proud of myself and my wife, if I am honest.

“We feel proud that we have given her the best possible start to her adult life and career. Without doubt putting that money away each month all that time ago into An Post was our best financial decision”

Jennifer – Worst Decision

“My worst decision was to invest in bank shares. I was advised by very own “premier wealth insurance and investment manager” – that’s a mockery of a title by the way. They patronise you into thinking you are important to them when you are nothing of the sort.

Anyway he advised and most importantly facilitated me buying shares in a bank he worked for – he even got me a loan of €75,000 to buy shares that are now worth €1,300. I am going to pay back the bank I bought the shares in €112,304 over 10 years on something that is currently worth €1,300.

“That was my worst decision and I learned that no matter how much someone tells you a particular stock is blue chip it means nothing – don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”