Over the years, I’ve received an array of financial advice from various people in my life. Some of the advice has been spot-on, and some has been downright horrendous. The worst part about bad advice is that it’s usually unsolicited and almost always out of the blue.
How many times has your long-lost aunt, a co-worker, or someone you barely know advised you on how to spend or save your money? Laughably bad advice has been thrown in my face hundreds of times over the years, if not more.
Some of the worst financial advice I’ve received includes:
“Buying rental property is too risky. You’ll struggle to find tenants and lose your investment to foreclosure!” This advice came from someone who had never invested in real estate before.
“Keep a balance on your credit card every month. It helps you build credit.” An old boyfriend shared this gem with me.
“Don’t prepay your mortgage! You need all the tax deductions you can get.” A hundred people have urged me to sign up for a lifetime of mortgages over the years.
“Don’t put so much into your retirement account. You guys are young and have plenty of time.” This advice came from an accountant!
While people who give advice usually have your best interests at heart, it’s still important to weed the good from the dangerous. Thank goodness I never listened to the people who said I shouldn’t invest so much in my future – and that I never ran up more debt (or stayed in debt) to improve my credit or extend my mortgage interest tax deduction.
And thank heavens I never took financial advice from my realtor or my bank. Good grief. Based on our current income and lack of other debts, I could probably qualify for a $1 million mortgage. But just because someone says you can do something doesn’t mean you should, right?
5 Financial Truths I Want to Scream From the Rooftops
Sure, the terrible advice I’ve been given has left a lasting impression, but I’ve also been offered some amazing advice that I use to guide my financial decisions to this day. While there’s plenty of good advice on the web, there’s some financial advice I wish I could shout from the rooftops! Yep, it’s that good… and it can make a huge difference in your quality of life and the way you build wealth.
Here are five of the best financial nuggets of wisdom I have ever received, along with how they’ve changed me:
“Ride the wave while you can so you’re prepared when it crashes.”
This amazing gem of wisdom came from my friend Sam Dogen at Financial Samurai. I can’t find the exact email where he said this, so I’m summarizing. But, here’s the gist of it:
We were chatting about freelancing, blogging, and entrepreneurship. I shared that I’ve been fortunate to have so many high-paying writing clients over the years and that my blog has done so well.
Sam reminded me that fortunes can change quickly. He said you should work really hard and ride the wave while you can. That way, you’ll be financially prepared when the hammer drops or the winds shift – which they always do.
A lot of people in our personal lives wonder why I work so much when we clearly don’t need the money. This is why. I have the opportunity to earn a lot of money now, so I’m going to ride the wave of success as long as I can. By the time the bottom falls out, I should be set for life… or pretty darn close.
“Live below your means.”
My mom told me to live below my means all the time when I was growing up, but I barely knew what she meant. Now that I have kids and a house, I totally get it. Even though many people might look like they have it all, far too many families use cheap and easy credit to make themselves appear rich.
Unfortunately, it’s all an illusion. Just because you’ve got a big SUV in the driveway doesn’t mean you have a red cent in your retirement account!
By living below your means – and not at or above your means – you can avoid many of the pitfalls of modern life. You can save money for the future and for emergencies, avoid debt, and spend money on the things you really love.
I’m so glad I heeded my mother’s advice many years ago. Thanks to my mom, I had the discipline to buy a $188,000 home when we could easily borrow five times as much.
And, you know what? Living below our means has made it easier for us to live the life of our dreams – to travel every month, never worry about money, and to give our kids opportunities we never dreamed of. That freedom is everything to me, and it’s the result of us living well below our means.
“Pay your freaking house off ASAP.”
This is yet another gem that came directly from my awesome parents. They paid their house off after I graduated from high school and have enjoyed a lot more flexibility since.
In fact, my mom suddenly retired from her job about a year earlier than she planned. She says it was because she had a really bad day and had finally had enough! Most people don’t have the flexibility to quit their jobs and retire early because they have mortgages and car loans and bills to pay. But my parents were smart, and they still are.
One of our rental properties is now paid off, but our primary residence is next. I hope to have it paid off by the end of the year, but it could be paid off early next year.
Either way, I’m never going into debt again after this… unless, of course, I find another rental property I can’t live without.
“Don’t buy stupid, expensive cars.”
This advice actually came from my old boss. They earned an extremely nice living, yet they drove very basic minivans to work. He always said his strategy was two-fold. First, driving basic cars helped them save money on something they didn’t really care about (their daily commute). Second, driving regular cars helped them stay under the radar – as in, it helped them hide their wealth.
Now that I earn more, I totally get that. I also believe that cars are one of the biggest drains on the income of middle-class Americans. The average car payment is around $506 and 68 months long, for heaven’s sake! Stop spending your money on a depreciating junk of metal, and you’ll be a lot better off.
“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
This quote comes courtesy of Dave Ramsey. While I don’t agree with him on everything, this is one of my favorites.
Basically, he’s saying that if you’ll make a few sacrifices now, you will save yourself a lot of trouble. In other words, save for retirement, avoid debt, and keep your expenses low, and you can retire earlier and enjoy a much better quality of life in the future.
This is my main financial goal at the moment. We try our best to keep our expenses low so we can save and invest as much as we can. For us, that means maxing out our Solo 401(k) plans with Vanguard every year, paying off our only debts (houses), and saving and investing whatever’s left.
If we keep living like this long enough, we’ll never have to worry about money again.
When I look at all the financial advice that has served me well, I realize that most of it goes against the grain. Sadly, the best thing for your finances is often the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
Why? Because most regular, everyday people really suck with money… and they’ll work their whole lives because of it.
If you want to be different – and to grow rich – you should strive to march to the beat of your own drum. And yes, that includes ignoring a lot of advice from the well-meaning people in your life.
But, you should also keep your eye out for the amazing advice you didn’t know you needed to hear. Once you have a handful of solid money rules to live by, you can start building the life of your dreams.
What is the best financial advice you’ve ever received? What is the WORST advice you’ve ever received?