6 personal tales of bad financial decisions

'Real estate riches' that weren't
'Real estate riches' that weren't © Vasaleks/

For Mike Pascale, an artist and writer in central California, the "most painful financial error in judgment was when I succumbed to one of those late-night TV infomercials for 'real estate riches,'" he says.

His $8,000 investment on a real estate "investing program" left him feeling like an "easy mark" for a con artist. The program -- sold over the phone along with promises of quick and easy riches and even a guarantee of at least making the initial investment back -- was supposed to include a personalized expert guide.

It didn't take long to realize the program materials weren't worth the money, and the guide was obnoxious. He inquired about a refund. As it turns out, he had agreed to a 15 percent "service fee," so he gave it another go with a new, nicer guide.

"But he wasn't much help. Worst of all, I found out that I hate real estate and am just not wired for investing in it," Pascale says. "At least I learned valuable lessons. Others have spent years legally trying to battle these unethical charlatans, spending as much on legal fees as they did on the scam. It was healthier for me to move on and focus on positive things."

After a time, he says he did recover financially, "thanks mostly to my wonderful wife."


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