How Bad Behavior Affects Your Bottom Line

Think a misdemeanor will only have a minor effect on your finances? Here’s a look at the costs involved.

Think a misdemeanor will only have a minor effect on your finances? Here’s a look at the costs involved
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"Finally, after 10 years, they considered me rehabilitated after I provided fingerprints to the FBI, who then had to certify that I was not a dangerous criminal, and filled out massive paperwork, including getting written references from three personal friends and three professional acquaintances," he says. He also spent $2,500 for a lawyer to represent him during his case and had to take a $75 eight-evening course that stretched out over two months.

Incredibly, his insurance company never discovered the DUI, so his rates didn't go up (they often will, sometimes three to four times higher than what you were originally paying, according to industry experts).

Career costs. "I was a confused teenager who made a lot of mistakes," says Heather K. van Werkhooven, 33, a Princeton, N.J., social media and content manager for She was a heavy user of drugs, including heroin, when she was arrested 13 years ago.

"I still have to check the box when applying to some jobs and academic programs," van Werkhooven says, admitting that in the past, when she wasn't hired or accepted into an academic program, she would always wonder if it was because of that misdemeanor.

As Roy Cohen, a career counselor and executive coach, says, "The opportunity costs for breaking rules and laws are enormous. I have also worked with clients who were falsely accused of actions that were never proven. Nevertheless, the damage to a reputation when a Google search uncovers the incident is infinite. So are the challenges in finding a new job."

[See: 12 Money Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes.]

Not that a misdemeanor, even a serious one, has to be fatal to a career. Van Werkhooven, for instance, eventually got her act together, attended a community college and earned a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. She earned her master's at the London School of Economics.

"See, I didn't turn out too bad," van Werkhooven says.

Still, the next time you think about driving after having a few too many, begin to litter, plan to loiter, find yourself getting into a fist fight, consider joining the Mile High Club or attempt anything that could get you into legal trouble, consider the financial costs that may be involved. And then do – well, anything else.