We all grow up hearing the same financial advice: Spend less, save more and invest early. While most of these words of wisdom ring true, there are lots of widespread money management tips that are actually false.
Read on for 7 money myths that might be causing you more financial stress than benefit.
Myth #1: Debit is always better than credit. Do you automatically reach for your debit card when making a purchase? While it’s true that paying for your expenses with money you already have in your account is often the best choice, there is a time and a place for credit cards as well.
The real deal: Credit cards get a bad rap for the debt trap they represent, but they should be your payment method of choice on occasion. First, many credit cards offer rewards in the form of travel miles, cash-back systems and other bonuses. Second, building and maintaining a strong credit history is crucial for your financial wellness; the only way to achieve this is by using your credit cards and paying your bills on time. Finally, lots of credit cards offer purchase protection, which makes them the smarter payment method for big-ticket items.
Myth #2: Buy a home at all costs. It’s part of the American Dream: Go to college, land the perfect job, get married and buy a house, complete with white picket fence and two cars in the driveway.
Unfortunately, though, too many people are fixed on that dream without realizing that owning a home might not be in their best financial interests.
The real deal: For many people, including those who are not yet ready to put down roots or who anticipate a career change that necessitates moving across state lines, renting a home or apartment might be the better choice. It can also be a financially expedient option if you live in a super-expensive area.
Myth #3: Investing is only for rich people. Investing is for people who drive luxury vehicles and have homes in three different states.
Or is it?
The real deal: Anyone with a small pile of money squirreled away can get a foothold in the stock market. A smart investment strategy can be the best way to let your money grow and put you on the track to financial independence. If you’re a beginning investor, look into passively managed index funds for an easy way to start building your wealth.
Myth #4: My partner manages our finances, so I don’t need to think about money at all. Are you living in blissful financial oblivion, confident that your partner is managing your money?
The real deal: Every adult should have a handle on their family’s finances, regardless of their partner’s involvement. While it is fine for one partner to actively manage their money, it is crucial for both partners to be aware of the state of the family finances and to be capable of managing the household expenses and investments if something happens to their partner.
Myth #5: Credit cards will get me through any financial crisis. Why would I need an emergency fund? I have credit cards!
The real deal: Depending on credit cards to get you through a financial emergency is the perfect way to dig yourself into a deep pit of debt. Thanks to interest, you’ll be paying back a lot more than you spend. You’re also more likely to overspend when you pay with plastic.Credit cards should not be relied upon for a real financial emergency, such as a job loss, divorce or illness. It’s best to build an emergency fund consisting of three to six months’ worth of living expenses so you’re completely covered for the unexpected.
Myth #6: I’m so young; I don’t need to think about retirement. Who can think about retirement when it’s so far down the road because they’re just starting a career? Besides, who can afford to save for retirement when they’re bogged down with more pressing expenses, like saving for a house and putting kids through college?
The real deal: There’s no better time to start planning and saving for your retirement than right now. The younger you start building your retirement fund, the less you’ll have to put away each month, and the more you’ll save by the time you’re ready to retire. Gift yourself with a comfortable, stress-free retirement by maxing out your 401K contributions, and/or opening an IRA or another retirement fund. Start today and let compound interest work its magic!
Myth #7: I have enough in my account to cover my expenses so I don’t need to budget. Budgeting is for people who are barely squeaking through the month. I have enough money; so why budget?
The real deal: Budgeting is for everyone. Without a realistic budget in place, someone pulling in a salary in the high six digits can easily spend their way into debt. A budget will force you to make responsible money choices and to be fully aware of the state of your finances at all times.
Which money myths have you bought into in the past? Tell us all about it in the comments.
This month, you’re going to organize your finances. Hold onto every receipt, bill, paystub and invoice you produce throughout the month. Sometime during the last week of May, sit down with all of your paperwork and start crunching the numbers.
When you’re through, you should have all of these questions answered:
How much is my net monthly income?
How much are my monthly fixed expenses?
How much are my monthly non-fixed expenses?
Now that you have the numbers in front of you, work on creating a budget. Designate the necessary funds for your fixed expenses. Then, with the remaining money, determine how much you will spend in each non-fixed expense category; like groceries, clothing, entertainment, etc.
Put your minimum debt payments in the fixed-expenses category, with another category for extra debt payments in your column of non-fixed expenses.
What was the most challenging part of creating your monthly budget?
1. You’re carrying a credit card balance from month-to-month
If you have a high credit card balance and you’re paying just the minimum each month, you can end up carrying this balance for years while paying a lot in interest. You might also be tempted to make more purchases on this card since it already has a balance.
The fix: Try to make double payments and stop using the card until the debt is paid off.
2. You stress about bills
Monthly bills should be fixed into your budget. You should be able to pay them easily without any stress.
The fix: Take a look at your monthly budget and find ways to cut back.
3. You can’t save 5% of your monthly income
If you can’t put away at least 5% of your monthly income into savings, you’re living beyond your means.
The fix: Again, trim your expenses and restructure your budget to include at least 5% for savings.
4. You don’t have emergency and rainy-day funds
Ideally, you should have an emergency fund to cover major unexpected expenses, and a rainy-day fund for small expenses you can anticipate.
The fix: Start building your funds now by putting away as much as you possibly can each month.
5. Your mortgage payment eats up more than 30% of your monthly income
Most financial experts agree that your monthly mortgage payment should not exceed 30% of your take-home pay.
The fix: You have two choices here:
1.) Find ways to boost income. Seek a raise at your current job, freelance for hire or find another side hustle for extra cash.
2.) Scale back your mortgage payments. Consider a refinance. Speak to a mortgage expert at Advantage One to see if this is right for you. If your mortgage is crippling your budget, consider downsizing to a smaller and cheaper place.
6. You lease a car you can’t afford to buy or finance
Can you afford to pay for or finance your car? If the answer is no, you’re in financial trouble.
The fix: Downgrade your vehicle to one you can actually afford.
7. Your financial decisions are influenced by your friends’ spending habits
Thanks to the hyper-sharing culture of social media, the pressure to keep up with the Joneses is stronger than ever. If you find yourself making financial decisions based on your friends’ choices, you’re likely spending more than you can afford.
The fix: Stop looking over your shoulder and keep your eyes on your own life and your own wallet.
If you’re in over your head, Advantage One wants to help! Stop by today and our financial services partners will be happy to guide you out of any financial mess.
What’s your personal red flag that your spending has gotten out of control? Share it with us in the comments.