Advice is a dime-a-dozen…especially shitty advice. And about money. We humans have a way of taking conventional wisdom and turning it into gospel that gets disseminated blindly and without a second thought. Especially about money. So much of it relates to money.
I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. And let’s face it: It’s kinda fun to sit back and reflect on the money advice that we were given throughout our lives that really does amount to a bunch of bullshit.
Let’s start with a big one:
Save 10% of your income
While it’s true that saving is a critically important component for most of us to derive true happiness later in life, 10% only scratches the surface of what many of us could save. If you are anything like the typical American (and by definition, you probably are), you could probably save considerably more than a mere ten percent. Don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security by setting aside 10% and then considering everything else “free game”. The more you save while young, the better your retirement.
Buy as big of a house as you can afford
The presumed wisdom is that buying a larger house will allow you to “grow into it”. But, human nature makes this advice bullshit. The problem is we humans get used to our surroundings. If we buy an additional 1,000 square feet, most of us will get used to that square footage. When we expand our family, we find a way to argue that we also need to expand our homes. What we expect out of our surroundings expands with our family. Most of us aren’t willing to accept this kind of encroachment into our first world lives.
Start saving for your kid’s education ASAP
Admirable, but bullshit. Take care of yourself first. Similar to the wisdom of being selfish, your top priority is ensuring a fiscally solid foundation for yourself first. Of course, this doesn’t mean blow your son’s first year’s tuition on a new Porsche. It means bank it! Only after you’ve set yourself up to achieve your goals is it prudent to begin funding your kid’s education.
Retire as soon as you can!
Whoa, this is bullshit? Actually, yes. Certainly, there is profound wisdom in retiring early. But there is even more wisdom in retiring when you’re ready. The goal isn’t simply to “not have a job” so you can sleep until 10am, laze around all day and turn yourself into a sloth. Think of early retirement as the beginning of a new phase of your life rather than the culmination of another one. Retire TO something, not FROM something. You’ll drive yourself insane if your only true goal is to “quit work”.
A college education is how you make money
There is no doubt about it – getting a college degree can set you up for greater earnings over the course of your working career. But, it doesn’t just automatically happen. Simply having a degree does not guarantee anyone success. For example, taking out student loans to pursue a degree program without marketable value provides very little benefit to your life and career. Don’t get a bullshit degree and expect the money gates to spread wide and far. If you haven’t yet figured out your direction, consider a trade school first. Your costs are much lower and those skills will directly prepare you for marketable work. Later in life, pursuing a college degree to advance your career is always an option.
There is such a thing as “good debt”
Bullshit. Debt is never “good”. Debt means you owe a creditor who’s making money off of your risk through interest that you pay. Debts are a limiting factor in growing our net worth, and for many of us, debt is addictive. One loan leads to another, and then another. The bank said we can borrow $500,000 for a home, and “that’s what we should spend”. It is true that taking on debt can provide value, but debts also put us in a position of weakness. Weakness isn’t good. Instead of classifying debt as “good or bad”, instead think of debts in terms of the sense they make. Some debts make more sense than others.
Let’s hear it: What financial advice would you consider bullshit?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.