Most of us have made a few foolish money mistakes here and there. It’s the car we can’t afford, the personal loan we never should’ve made, or the mortgage that nearly sent us to bankruptcy.
So why do we keep making these same money mistakes?
Most likely, we mismanage money because of a faulty belief system. We’ve bought into some of culture’s most popular money myths. And a lot of times we’ve learned them from a well-meaning yet misinformed parent, teacher or friend.
While it would be easy to sit back and blame others for falling for these money myths, the most important thing to do is realize they are myths.
Myth: Debt is a tool.
Truth: Some tools help you fix things. Other tools help you break things. So in that sense, debt is a tool — it’s a sledgehammer to your financial future. Another way of putting it: Debt is the enemy of your income. The monthly payments you send to credit card companies are monthly savings you could be putting toward your retirement, your kids’ college, and your down payment on a new house! Your income is your most important wealth-building tool. Don’t surrender it to debt.
Myth: Car payments are a way of life.
Truth: If you believe debt is a tool, you’re just as likely to believe car payments are a way of life. The average car payment these days is $504 per month. That’s over $6,000 a year you’re putting into something that decreases in value. Instead, save that money every month for a year and buy a nice, used car for $6,000. The best car is the one without a payment.
Myth: Loaning money to your family shows you care.
Truth: Loaning money to family members is a terrible idea because it rarely gets paid back. And if it does, the time between always makes for awkward family dinners. When Uncle Jim mentions his upcoming vacation at Thanksgiving dinner, you’re left wondering, “If he still owes me $500, how did he just pay for a vacation?” If you’ve got the money, make it a gift. Never make it a loan. Loaning money to a family member is one of the quickest ways to ruin a relationship. And you’re essentially gifting debt to your family.
Myth: You can’t go to college without student loans.
Truth: You absolutely can. Will it be easy? Maybe not. Will it be worth it? Totally. Whether it’s through college-specific scholarships and grants or federal and state aid (that’s aid, not a loan), going to college without debt is completely possible. And what about paying for college out of your own pocket? Rachel Cruze talks about college planning all the time. There are alternatives to loans when it comes to funding college tuition.
Many colleges offer work-study opportunities, which are essentially part-time jobs offered on campus. And no one’s stopping you from getting a part-time job off campus. Working as a barista, waiting tables, or even finding a retail job can bring in some cash to offset your school expenses. Consider even creating your own side business using your skills — tutor other students, pick up some freelance gigs, or start a pet-sitting service. There are plenty of options to generate income while you’re still in school.
Myth: Eventually, you’ll make enough money to catch-up on retirement.
Truth: Prepare for retirement now. But make sure you’re out of debt, and have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses before you start. After that, you’re ready to start building for your future. Don’t put off preparing for retirement if you’re able to start today! According to the AICPA, 49 percent of Americans say they aren’t confident they’ll reach their retirement goals. The more you save now, the less you’ll worry later. Chris Hogan explains how to retire with dignity in his national best seller, Retire Inspired: It’s Not an Age; It’s a Financial Number.
Myth: You already keep track of your money, so you don’t need to budget.
Truth: If you go online and know about how much you have in your bank account, that’s good. But that’s not a budget. When you just track your spending, you’re looking back at how you already spent your money. A budget looks forward. You plan how you’re going to spend your money. When you do this, you can prioritize paying off your debt, saving for your emergency fund, and planning for the future. Without a plan, you’re wandering aimlessly through your paycheck.
You don’t have to keep falling for these money myths. Reshape your belief system today and positively change your future!