When it comes to personal finance advice, it’s only natural to turn to your parents first. Most young people don’t receive any kind of personal finance education in school, and your parents have the benefit of age and experience to guide them in financial matters.
But if you’re relying on your parents for financial advice, you may be surprised to learn that, in many ways, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s not that your parents lie to you about finances intentionally; it’s just that the economic landscape has changed considerably since they were your age. Let’s take a look at some of parental words of wisdom that you may want to take with a grain of salt.
Avoid Credit Cards at All Costs
If you’re very young, your parents probably have what they see as a good reason to caution you against credit card spending. They may be worried that you won’t be able to handle this financial tool appropriately, and that you’ll wind up mired in consumer debt that you won’t be able to free yourself from.
But credit cards are not inherently bad. When you use a credit card wisely, it can help you build up a good credit history, which is something you’ll need when you graduate and want to get an apartment or take out a car loan. You may find that it’s difficult or impossible to do these things with no credit history at all.
Not only that, but today’s credit cards now come with the benefit of lucrative rewards in some cases. And, if earned responsibly, those rewards can lead to free vacations, discounted airfare, and even cash back.
Put Student Loan Repayment Before Retirement Savings
Your parents are in an enviable position when it comes to retirement — there’s no question that Social Security benefits will still be around for them when they reach retirement age, and they might even be able to claim a corporate pension or other retirement benefits. But if you’re a Millennial or a member of Generation Z, you’re going to have to finance significantly more of your own retirement than your parents or grandparents did.
It’s easy to see why your parents want you to pay off your student loans first given the fact that the average new college grad now carries more than $23,000 in student loan debt. But if you’re a new college grad, you’re in your prime retirement savings years — letting these years slip by without taking advantage of them to save for the future could cost you $396,039 at age 65 — and that’s if you’re able to max out your 401(k) contributions every year from age 32 to 65. Definitely make your student loans a priority, but start saving for your retirement right away, too.
Buy Your Own Home Instead of Renting
For decades, home ownership was the best financial decision most families could make. Your parents took out a mortgage, bought a home and accumulated equity, and it helped them achieve financial security. But that doesn’t mean the same course of action will make sense for you.
For one thing, it takes a lot of money just to get a mortgage. Once you’ve purchased your home, you’ll pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a year beyond your monthly mortgage payments for insurance, maintenance and updates. If you’re living on a low income, renting may make more sense financially and it will still allow you the freedom to relocate if a better job opportunity beckons in another city. Don’t buy a home unless you’re ready for the financial responsibility, and you plan to live in it for at least five years.
Don’t Invest in the Stock Market
Investing in the stock market is scary because there’s always the potential that you could lose money. But not investing is just as risky, because traditional bank account interest rates can no longer keep pace with inflation, the way they could when your parents were younger. In today’s world, investing in the stock market is an important thing to do if you want to increase your wealth.
If you don’t invest in the stock market, you’ll never be able to save enough for retirement — you’ll lose interest and dividends income you could have made, and your money will depreciate with time. Make wise investment decisions instead of just sticking your money in a savings account.
Give a Company Your Loyalty and You Will Be Rewarded
The days when companies rewarded loyal employees with job security and pension plans are long gone, if they ever existed. These days, you may find more job security in freelance contract work than in a traditional corporate sphere. If you work for a company and you’re laid off, there goes your whole paycheck. If you work for several companies as a freelance contractor, and you lose one client, you’ll still have others to fall back on while you look for another client to fill in the gap.
You may be surprised to learn that some of the financial advice your parents have given you may be flawed. Times have changed, and what worked for your parents may not work for you. Don’t follow your parents’ advice blindly; do your own research and come up with a financial plan that works for you.