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5 ways to go broke

Getting rich is pretty easy. But many common money-traps can just as easily make you poor, says Mike Finley, author of "Financial Happine$$." If you're wondering why you're never getting ahead, take a look at these five traps and see if you're snared by one or more of them.

Focus on looking good: It's one thing to be in shape and well groomed, quite another to wear the latest designer clothes and shoes and drive in late-model luxury cars. The thing about clothing and cars is that they're depreciating assets. The moment you buy them, they're used and worth significantly less than what you paid. If you pay up for labels and shop till you drop, the value of your "investment" in looking good looks worse and worse.

Consider the person who bought a BMW 750i back in 2011 and wants to replace it in 2014. The car's suggested retail price was $75,000 three years ago, but the same vehicle would go for about $40,000 today, according to That's a $34,000 net cost over three years, or just over $11,300 per year. If this individual had purchased a Honda Accord in 2011 instead of the pricier BMW, he would still have been able to get around, but he'd do that at a significantly lower cost.

Specifically, the Accord that cost $25,000 new in 2011 could be sold for about $13,000 three years later. The annual cost of ownership works out to $4,000, so he has $7,300 more to save and invest each year than the owner of the BMW. That may not make him look stylish, but it does make him look smart.

Live paycheck-to-paycheck: Surveys show that virtually everyone who lives above the poverty line has the ability to save $20 a week. But 28 percent of the population has absolutely no emergency fund, according to That means they're teetering on the edge of insolvency, just begging to be sent over the brink by an unexpected expense, such as a car repair, health crisis or job loss.

Play the lottery: Somebody's got to win, so why not you, right? Unfortunately, your chance of winning is worse than your chance of getting crushed by a vending machine or becoming a movie star, according to the Daily Beast. Indeed, gambling of any kind is a losing proposition. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, 95 percent of gamblers lose in the end.

Buy on credit: There's nothing that can make you poorer than paying interest on purchases that you made years ago, but can't pay off. Consider: If you have a $5,000 balance on a credit card charging 19 percent per annum and pay $100 a month against the loan, you'll spend 100 months paying off the bill and end up paying a total of $10,000 -- $5,000 in principal and $5,000 in interest. If you don't want to be poor, don't buy things before you can afford to pay for them with cash.

Be a victim: The victim mentality involves blaming others for whatever goes wrong, but it's really a way to rationalize making -- and continuing to make -- bad decisions, Finley said. If you want to be rich someday, you need to take responsibility for what's wrong in your financial life, learn from it and fix it.