Whether it’s videos on TikTok of 14 year olds sharing how you can make 100% daily returns in crypto or blog posts telling you to never use your 401(k) because it’s a scam, it is safe to say the internet is full of terrible financial advice. Here are the 7 most cringeworthy pieces of advice I have seen that I hope none of you have listened to.
1. Buy as much house as you can get approved for since houses always go up in price
Your primary residence is typically not that great of an investment. In the long run, it’s definitely better than renting, but it is not this amazing investment with large returns (even though in the last few years some people have seen great returns, that is not the normal). Sure, your house may have grown from $300,000 to $600,000 over the past 30 years, but that does not mean you doubled your investment. You have realtor fees, cost of the mortgage, insurance, property taxes, yearly maintenance, etc. When you factor all of those costs in, your return ends up being relatively low. The only reason there is much of a return is because of the leverage you take on when buying a house.
Now that you know it’s not typically that great of an investment, let’s also chat about why you should never try and get ‘the most house you can afford.’ The mortgage companies want you to take on as much debt as possible so they can make more money off of you. Grabbing the largest mortgage will end up resulting in a monthly payment well above 40% of your income which is not in your best interest. It’s hard to enjoy your life when so much of your income goes straight to your house. A good rule of thumb is to try and keep your housing expenses below 35% of your income when you can.
2. Always carry a balance on your credit card since it helps your credit score
I’ve seen more people do this than I can count, and they always tell me that their parents or a friend encouraged them to keep a balance on their card. This is terrible advice. Your credit score does not go up because you hold a balance. The balance that gets reported to the credit agencies is the statement balance, not what is left over after you pay your bill. Use your credit card, but pay it off every month. Holding a balance is a terrible idea that will most likely end up hurting your credit score quite a bit.
3. Higher risk means higher returns, so you should invest in the riskiest investments
This quote gets thrown around all the time and taken out of context. Sure, small companies should have higher expected returns than larger companies as they are newer and have more room for growth. But people use this quote as a reason to YOLO into some brand new cryptocurrency that is worth $.000001. Just because something is riskier does not mean you will get higher returns. In reality, many of these investments go to 0 which is why people expect higher returns since so many fail in the long run.
4. You are better off investing your own money in a taxable account than inside your 401(k), since you can’t touch it until you are 59.5
Your 401(K) is a great tool for retirement. It has both ROTH and traditional options so you can manage taxes in a way that is best for your situation. It has tax deferred growth. And, in most cases, it comes with a match. For example, if you earn $100,000 and your 401(k) has a 6% match, you would receive $6,000 per year from your employer as long as you contribute. That’s $500 a month in free money you wouldn’t get if you didn’t do your 401(k). Use this tool! Do not leave free money on the table.
Additionally, if you ever needed the money you could get it out by taking a 10% penalty and paying taxes on it. You also could take a loan against your 401(k) as well. This is definitely not recommended, but it is an option.
5. Everyone should have permanent life insurance
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard insurance salesmen say this. Any blanket advice that everyone should have something is always a red flag, but this is one of the worst. Permanent life insurance has its benefits and can be useful for a small segment of people, but it is definitely not for everyone.
If you are young and healthy and have no insurance need, do not let yourself get sold on getting permanent life insurance. You have no need for it now. And if you do have a life insurance need, (which you can see if you do from this post) the best option for most people is to get term life insurance as it is a cheaper way to get the proper amount you need.
6. Invest your emergency fund, you don’t want to lose the value of it overtime
I am all for investing, but I don’t think you should be investing your emergency fund. The goal of your emergency fund is safety, not purchasing power. It’s to be there for you when you lose your job or when your car engine goes out on your way home from work. Because of the quick nature of these events, you want these funds readily available and stable when that time comes. If you invest it and the market drops 30% for any reason, you will be very unhappy to have to sell at a loss and potentially not have enough to protect yourself.
Hold your emergency fund in a high yield savings account so it is there when you need it. You cannot put a price on safety! And you can always contribute some per year to keep up with purchasing power.
7. Pay off all your debt before you start investing
I will say that I think this advice is well intentioned, but it is not good advice. Let’s think of a medical school graduate who just now is starting their first real job at 32 and they have $300,000 of student loans. If they chose to pay off this debt entirely before they invest, they probably wouldn’t start investing until they are are almost 40. Starting at 40 puts you really, really far behind (due to compound interest and how it works). Plus with interest rates being low, attacking the debt before investing may not make sense.
A better goal is to find a balance and start paying off debt and investing at the same time. Look at the difference in how much you need to save by starting later. I hope this helps reinforce why you should start right away!
8. Don’t make more money because then you will have to pay more in taxes
This one is laughable since this is not even how taxes work. If you make more money, not all of your money gets taxed at a higher bracket. Taxes are marginal. Just those additional dollars that fall into the next bracket will get taxed at a higher rate! See the chart below!
Hope none of you have been negatively impacted by following any of these bad pieces of advice.
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Disclaimer: none of this is advice, it is just for informational purposes. Talk with your financial planner before implementing any of these strategies.