3 popular pieces of money advice that are actually just myths
You trust your parents. You've already found that wisdom from mom and dad — like "stand up straight," and "look people in the eye when you shake hands" — pay dividends when you're in the workforce and need to impress.
But when it comes to money advice, do your 'rents always know best? And what about the financial tips you hear floating around: through friends, teachers, partners, mentors and older siblings? There are plenty of wisdoms that get mangled in retelling, like in a game of telephone. Being "conservative" with cash when you're young is smart, for example, but millennials need risk — in the form of stocks — to build long-term wealth.
Surveys suggest that a majority of millennials seek financial tips from spouses or partners — and from family members, too. But as much as you may trust the personal advice of these VIPs in your life, could they be perhaps be mistaken about money?
Here are three big financial misconceptions to watch out for.
Pay others before you pay yourself
Paying money you owe — like your bills, when they are due — is pretty much a no-brainer. If you don’t, your credit could suffer (which means you will suffer too when you aren’t approved for a loan).
But it's very different to pay other people for other things before you "pay yourself." How can you save a little extra money each month if paying everyone else is so important?
At least after you've covered your debts, you should be paying yourself first, before you shell out on other spending, David Bach, author of The Automatic Millionaire told Forbes. Bach was a millionaire by the time he turned 30 and said paying yourself first, by using automatic deposit, is one of the most important steps toward financial success.
He suggests regularly moving approximately one hour a day of your pay, or approximately 12.5% of your pretax income, into a 401(k) or an investment savings account; also, always taking advantage of the employer match on your 401(k) — because you could turn that 12.5% savings into 15%.
That feel like too much money to spare? Rachel Cruze, co-author of Smart Money Smart Kids, told GoBankingRates creating a budget first is a great start to finding "free money" in your monthly cash diet that could be diverted away from — say — paying your Uber driver, and back into your own pocket.
"This is the dreaded 'B' word — budget," Cruze said. "But a budget is really not that bad. Most people find that a budget actually gives them freedom and permission to spend ... It's about knowing where your money is going, and that will make your life a whole lot easier."
Check out Mic's five-minute guide to budgeting.
You're throwing away money on rent
Buying your first home has historically been a rite of passage for young adults, but is it really better to own rather than rent? While the life-stage argument for buying is strong — including building equity with each mortgage payment, putting down roots and having more freedom to customize property to your tastes — the financial advantages are not actually so crystal clear.
Not only does renting buy you flexibility as you pursue career (and salary) advancement — but it allows you to avoid certain financial drains. Aspiring homeowners tend to forget about the "add on" expenses of ownership, such as insurance, taxes, home maintenance and sometimes association costs, according to Forbes.
Home maintenance expenses alone can cost anywhere from 1 to 4% of your home's annual value each year. "People often say that buying a home was the best investment they ever made," Neela Hummel, chief planning officer at financial planning firm Abacus Wealth Partners told Forbes. "The problem is that their return as investors is often worse than they think."
Hummel added: "When calculating how much they made on a home, most people do not include the out-of-pocket costs they incurred through things like replacing pipes, repairing roofs, or numerous other unexpected expenses that come up. As a tenant, your costs are fixed, but as a homeowner, you are on the hook for any repair that comes up."
Also, don’t forget about land costs, which rise approximately 1% each year. Plus, closing costs of simply purchasing a home can add up, tacking on anywhere from 3% to 5% of the home’s purchase price, according to Forbes.
Waiting until you are truly ready to buy is better than rushing into a purchase you may not be prepared to handle. Just because you are renting, doesn’t mean you aren’t in the driver’s seat; additionally, in some cases, you can rent the property first and then consider purchasing it when you are ready.
"If you think you may be buying a house soon ask, 'Do you have a mortgage clause?' You can also ask about a job relocation clause. Simply ask, 'Can you work with me?' Each resident has the power to do that," Tracy Atkinson, director of global marketing and relations for Goodman Real Estate, told Zillow.
Avoid credit cards like the plague
Credit cards aren’t super popular among millennials: As Bankrate found in a recent survey, only one third of young adults between age 18 and 29 say they carry plastic. Many young adults are alarmed by how deeply in debt their parents became and don’t want to follow in their footsteps, David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, told the New York Times.
While these are valid concerns — and it is a very bad idea to pay your credit card late and carry a balance that racks up interest owed — establishing responsibility by opening a card early in life is still instrumental in building credit history. Good credit history means a good credit score, and that's the springboard to obtaining loans for big ticket purchases, like homes.
Even if a home purchase is years away, building credit doesn’t happen overnight and having good credit is necessary to refinance a student loan or finance a car. So you should apply for a card now.
But to be fair, finding just the right card is tricky. And understanding terms, annual percentage rates, eligibility and rewards can feel downright overwhelming. So consider these key points: Are you responsible with remembering deadlines, do bill payment deadlines give you anxiety and have you checked your credit score?
Depending on your answers, you might want to opt for a rewards or cash-back card — or just aim for one with a low APR and no fee.
Finally, if you are having trouble being approved for a regular credit card, consider a secured credit card, which will help you rebuild credit.
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