We're already deep into January and it is much too late to correct the financial mistakes made in 2004 but the Times of London did look at what people did or did not do, and compiled what they call a hit list of the money wasters' most common errors. When we talk about money wasters, we're really talking about those individuals who like to get up in the morning and proceed to rip up $10 bills.

According to the Times, the common theme is a consumer's insistence on loyalty to banks, fund managers, the tax entity, and salespeople. Yes, you got that right, salespeople, like in insurance. The Times says that in many instances, these entities simply do not deserve your loyalty.  Let's look at this closer.

Investments. This is number one. A failure to review your stock market investments regularly. Just look back on last year and you will readily see how easy it was to throw your money down the sinkhole.

Banks.  You still like getting 0.1 percent? There are some financial institutions that offer much more, as high as 3.93 percent. Therefore, switching accounts can make a lot of sense. By the same token, you saw what happened to the housing industry last year. If you were in a position to refinance your home but didn't do so when those rates were so low, then you have been subsidizing the discounted deals being enjoyed by your neighbors.

Insurance. There is one rule that should govern your relationship with insurers: never automatically accept a renewal quote. Keep in mind that once you have been a customer for at least a year, the insurer might just prey on your loyalty. Question the renewal figure, shop around if you have to.

Also, take a close look at whether you still need certain coverage. For example, consider payment protection insurance, which is designed to cover loans, credit cards, and mortgages if you become unemployed, sick, or have an accident. That may seem okay on the surface but in practice it's usually of little worth to anyone except the lenders who earn some $8 billion a year in commissions.

Taxes. You have to watch this area carefully. Many people simply do not take advantage of deductions and allowances. Many others don't understand what money from pension accounts are taxable and when.

Fraud.  Still a big baby and the best way to lose money. Fraud is running rampant now especially on the Internet and via e-mails that seek to elicit bank details. Moreover, identity fraud is quite robust.

The bottom line is that according to the Times, a quick scan through the average person's finances reveals a multitude of sins, with money wasted on everything from dud bank accounts to rotten investments. Hey, anyone want to buy a bridge...cheap?

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