Money: The Most Hated Advice and Why You Should Still Follow It
The reason you might hate this money advice is because most of it starts with “don’t.” Financial experts have a way of making you feel like a kid again — but not in a good way. Most of the time reading a financial book or blog leaves you feeling like you’re a child who doesn’t know any better. All that finger wagging and money shaming can leave you discouraged to the point where you feel like going on a spending spree, so you can ease the pain. No one likes to be chided for simply trying to enjoy life.
Well, we’re not here to point fingers. But we are here to help you make some corrections, so you can have more peace and stop lying awake at night, worried about your money problems. Here is the most hated money advice and why you should still follow it.
Stop buying lattes
The so-called “latte rule” has plenty of people with their undergarments in a bunch. “But I love my lattes!” you might say. Yes, yes, we understand your need for that large cup of fancy coffee, so you can get your day started and avoid making a critical mistake at work. We get it, really.
But do you really need a $5 cup of coffee every single day? You should still follow this money rule but with a twist. We’ll let you have your coffee, but we suggest cutting back, and (gasp) making your own coffee at home a few days a week. Think about that pricey coffee as an occasional treat instead of a morning must.
Don’t compete with your friends and neighbors
So what if you don’t drive the latest car and send your kids to top private schools? Are Mr. and Mrs. Jones going to pay your bills? We didn’t think so. Stop trying to keep up with friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and flashy co-workers. Your end goal should be retiring healthy, wealthy, and happy. It will be pretty hard to take care of your future self if you’re concerned with people who aren’t even thinking about you. Besides, the people you envy are too busy trying to figure out how to get out of the debt they’ve accumulated.
Don’t lend money
Life happens, and chances are pretty high you’ll never see your money again. As if that isn’t bad enough, the strained feelings that result could put a wedge between you and your family member. So you can probably expect really awkward holiday dinners this year. Maybe auntie can pass food to you if the family member who “borrowed” money stops speaking to you and holds the mashed potatoes hostage.
Live below your means
This is likely the classic money advice you hate the most. Just about every expert and wannabe expert will tell you to live below your means. You can probably recite this advice in your sleep. But you know what? It’s great advice.
You can’t expect to build wealth if you continue to live paycheck to paycheck. The money you save by living a frugal lifestyle could be used for a down payment on a home, a bigger emergency savings fund, or even starting a side business. Think before you spend.
Don’t co-sign a loan
Even if your family member swears on his beloved dog’s grave that he won’t default on the loan, there’s still no guarantee he’ll follow through. A job loss, illness, or some other major life event could strike at any time. And if he doesn’t pay back the loan as agreed, guess who’s on the hook. That’s right, it’s you.
Sometimes being kind and helping someone doesn’t work out so well. You might think the chances of you having to repay the loan are slim to none, but why would you want to take that gamble? Be smart with your money, and decline to co-sign.
Set aside at least 10% to 15% of your income
You’ve been working hard, and all you want to do is have a little fun. The idea of setting aside a chunk of your income for an emergency you might never have feels depressing, doesn’t it? Well, you know what’s even more depressing? Having a major financial crisis and not having the cash to cover it.
What if your car breaks down? What happens if you get sick and need to go to the emergency room? “I can always use credit cards,” you might reason. Nope, credit cards will just make an already miserable financial situation even worse, thanks to double-digit interest rates. You’ll be digging a hole that could take years to get out of. We’ll talk about that next.
Don’t use credit cards unless absolutely necessary
Americans love their credit cards. Why wait to buy something when you can just put it on your credit card, right? Wrong. When you get your credit card statement, you’ll not only be paying for your purchase but also the interest on that purchase.
One timeless piece of money advice is to use credit lightly. Don’t reach into your wallet for that magical piece of plastic unless you need it for a purchase that typically requires a credit card, such as reserving a hotel room. Your credit cards are not meant to finance your lifestyle.
Don’t put your kids’ college education before retirement
The last we checked, there are no scholarships for retirement. Your kids, on the other hand, can get a scholarship, take out a loan, or get a job. Once you get old and can’t work anymore, you’ll have very few options for financing your golden years.
Even if your kids say they love you and they’ll take care of you when you can’t care for yourself anymore, you should still put retirement savings far ahead of your children’s college education. What if your children fall on hard times? Take care of your finances first.
Choose quality over quantity
We know you love to hit up the dollar store for those cheap deals. You can buy everything from party favors to meat (but we wouldn’t suggest that). However, going the cheapskate route could be dangerous and actually cost you more money in the long run. Studies have found a lot of your favorite dollar-store items could cause cancer. So put down that cute plastic bath mat, and go to a real store.
Are you ready to get your financial life in order? Here are some online and print resources for your reading pleasure.
Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.