The Atlantic May 2016 Cover

The Atlantic May 2016 CoverA shocking 47% of Americans don’t have $400 in cash saved for an emergency.

Neal Gabler, a well-known writer, wrote a cover article for the May 2016 issue of The Atlantic where he confessed that he had to borrow money from his adult children and had to have his grandparents cover the bulk of his kids’ college education.

The whole time Gabler was writing books on the history of the film industry and hosting television shows, his poor money habits meant he could barely make ends meet.

Here’s an excerpt:

I never figured that I wouldn’t earn enough. Few of us do. I thought I’d done most of the right things. I went to college; got a graduate degree; taught for a while; got a book contract; moved to a small, inexpensive, rent-controlled apartment in Little Italy to write; got married; and bumped along until I landed a job on television (those of you with elephant memories may remember that for three years, I was one of the replacements for Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on the PBS movie-review show Sneak Previews). Then my wife and I bought a small co‑op apartment in Brooklyn, which we could afford, and had our two daughters. My wife continued to work, and we managed to scrape by, though child care and then private schools crimped our finances. No, we didn’t have to send our girls to private schools. We could have sent them to the public school in our neighborhood, except that it wasn’t very good, and we resolved to sacrifice our own comforts to give our daughters theirs. Some economists attribute the need for credit and the drive to spend with the “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome, which is so prevalent in America. I never wanted to keep up with the Joneses. But, like many Americans, I wanted my children to keep up with the Joneses’ children, because I knew how easily my girls could be marginalized in a society where nearly all the rewards go to a small, well-educated elite. (All right, I wanted them to be winners.)

It sounds like Gabler made many of the same money mistakes many of us make. Every lifestyle choice–paying for private school, living in certain neighborhoods, even our decisions in child care–can quickly add up if you’re not careful.

What money mistakes and do-overs do you think Gabler could have done?