Ever heard some off the wall financial advice? Maybe you were at a happy hour or a family gathering. We all have the family member or friend who has tried to give us financial advice. Just like advice of any kind, it is always smart to check the fruit on the tree. My favorite quote, “Be a Fruit Inspector.” Always be a fruit inspector, especially when considering financial advice. Lets face it, most people’s financial position is not something you want to emulate.
Where do most people get their financial advice?
From their parents. Spending habits, saving habits, and the types of careers they even pursue don’t fall far from the tree. Often, when parents want something better for their children (& I would too) the message is often clear: Go to college! The go to school to succeed in life is a far cry from reality with the cost of college raising daily. However, as much as we focus on how we earn money, the habits we innately inherit sometimes are a huge factor. Just to show you what I mean, I have a list of some really funny and somewhat scary recommendations I have heard over the past few years when it comes to finances. I hope you enjoy :).
Disclaimer: these are all true and have occurred over the last two years, readers beware.
Scenario 1: “Build My Credit”
Random Millennial: I have a lot of student loans and my parents told me to just get a credit card and just max it out to build my credit.
Me: (As I raise my eyebrows, what I really wanted to say is who tells their son that!) Don’t you realize your debt owed is only about roughly 30% of your credit score, not to mention, maxing out a credit card does what?
Random Millennial: Well I don’t plan on buying anytime soon but I want to build my credit.
Me: Go find a personal finance blog, for starters moneylifewax.com
Scenario 2: Mortgage Payoff
Me: I am going to pay off the student loan’s then focus on my mortgage after that as fast as possible, between the two, we are shelling out thousands in interest each month.
Person 1: (Almost in distress) Don’t pay off your mortgage, you will not have the interest to write off on your taxes!
Me: Yeah, but I am not worried about a write off because of the amount in interest I will save over the long haul, not to mention each month.
Person 2: NO! I agree, you want to have the mortgage so you can write of the interest!
Me: Well I think I would rather save the $100,000+ in interest that I will pay over the life of loan then have a $2,000 write off each year.
Scenario 3: The wayyy too common I am focusing on saving
Short term thinkers: We are not going to pay off our student loans or credit cards just yet. We are focused on saving (like using the word focus makes it better)
Me: Yeahhh but how much of a return are you getting on your savings vs the amount of interest you are paying each month.
Short term thinkers: Well we like to keep our savings at a certain level in case of emergency (yes I do agree to some extent) because we want to buy.
Me: Well if you take a portion of your savings and pay off your loans, then take the monthly payment you were paying you would be back at the savings amount within 9-12 months. Not to mention you would have more cash flow for your debt to income ratio when you purchase.
Short term thinkers: Yeah but we want to buy.
Me to Myself: I need to re-read M$M’s recent post on giving people financial advice.
Scenario 4: I need something so I am going to cash out what little retirement I have to get it
Unfortunately, in the boomer generation this is all too familiar. My mom did this on several occasions. It is sad, but people feel forced to cash out 401K’s or pension plans to get something they think they need. My advice is simple on this one: if you can not afford it now, chances are when you are retired you will not be able to afford it, so keep the retirement plan going. Get on a budget and start focusing on down the road.
Read here if you really need extra money: How we make an extra $1000 each month.
Scenario 5: (My personal favorite because this was 100% me) But I Deserve a New Car
I hear it a million times a year it feels like. Yeah, but I work so hard and I just felt like I deserved it. Don’t take this out of context: but who doesn’t work hard? I get it, a new car is nice, I have only had one at it was short lived after I realized what I had done. If you truly want a new car, I suggest get a used car that is NEW to you. 2-4 years off the lot and you will save tons of money, just make sure it is certified pre-owned. More importantly then a new car, we chose to have a vertical alignment that puts things like cars and house on the back burner.
My Key Takeaway:
As I try to inject some humor, even with some of the cringing comments I have heard, I have personally learned something. I realize that not everyone shares my passion for sound personal finance and the happiness that it provides. My wife and I are unique. When we were 15 we had to get jobs and save for our first cars. When I was in college I paid for my car insurance and gas. When I wanted a cell phone my mom said get it but you are not using my credit (this was before every kid had a cell phone) so I had a pay as you go for years. Because of this we are super savvy and we have learned to delay the good for the great.
We still have a lot to learn and far to go, but in the end at times when it feels like you are taking a step back in society’s eyes, you are really only preparing for your quantum leaps forward!
Unasked for advice is called criticism. I am slowly learning that you can not try to save everyone from financial ruin, they have to want to make those changes on their own. People do not care about your knowledge, in fact it rubs them the wrong way. I have already been called money hungry or money focused because I really like talking about it. But it’s OK. Everyone’s different and that is what makes the world great!
Do I wish more people took their personal finances more serious…? Of course, the country would be in a better place. With some 80% of American workers living paycheck to paycheck and the credit card debt over a trillion, I think numbers alone indicate we could use some personal finance coaching. As adults we use money every day. I have not used Algebra 2 or thought about Beowulf since I left high school… but we offer 1 semester of personal finance.
In the end, when 2007 came around, it was not just about the economy. The question should have been what did people do the years prior before the economy took a downturn.
Q:What scary advice has someone tried to give you? Comment below.
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