In the world we live in today, bad financial advice is swirling all around us. Some of it comes from social media sources like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. (Barron’s reports that more than a third of Gen Z Americans say they get their money tips from TikTok rather than a financial adviser or broker.) And some of it comes from our friends or family members whose advice is well-meaning, but often out-of-date or just plain wrong. Here are five pieces of commonly dispensed financial advice you can ignore.
“Renting a house is just throwing away money.”
It is the quintessential American dream—owning your own home. While home ownership offers many emotional benefits, the financial benefits are less than most people imagine. Statistically home values pretty much keep pace with inflation. “So while you’re building equity and can potentially sell for a higher price than what you bought it for, you’re really not making much more of an investment on your money than you would if you were to keep it in your higher than average bank account,” Author and Certified Financial Advisor Tim Jordan points out. “That isn’t even factoring in the cost of maintenance or updating that is now your responsibility as well as other hidden costs of owning a home.”
For those who want to avoid the responsibilities and costs of home upkeep or just want greater flexibility to change where they live, renting might be a better option. Choosing between renting and owning depends on your lifestyle and financial situation.
"Your child's college degree is a great investment.”
There was a time when getting a college degree was a nearly automatic path to a good job with a generous salary. “[But] a college degree is no longer a win for everyone,” Financial Advisor Jordan points out. “Depending on the degree, it’s way too easy to come out with a high amount of debt. According to the Federal Reserve, Americans owe more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. That is an insane amount of money to get an education! Not only is college much more expensive than it used to be, but there is also much less of a guarantee that you’ll get a job in your field.”
“Think in terms of long-run affordability. (This goes for you and your child, since I firmly believe kids must borrow for school before parents dip into their savings or take out a loan),” advises financial guru Suze Orman writing for Oprah.com. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, says “students should limit their total borrowing to an amount no greater than what they can reasonably expect to earn in their first year of full-time work; borrow more, and the odds of running into payback problems and default soar.”
Furthermore, a college degree doesn’t work for everyone and so the advice to “always get a college degree” is out-of-date. There are other options which may be a better fit for your child. Do your research.
“Whole life insurance is a better value.”
“Life insurance comes in two basic flavors: term insurance and whole life insurance, Orman explains. “With the former, you're buying only insurance; the latter also includes an investing component, which makes it more expensive. The premium cost of a whole life policy is going to be much higher than that of a term policy. This would be justifiable if you were getting a great investment deal. But you really aren't—when you consider all the embedded fees. As far as I'm concerned, life insurance should be about life insurance, not investing. Reserve that for your 401(k) or IRA, and invest on your own through low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or no-load (commission-free) index mutual funds.”
“Frankly, a life insurance policy isn’t a money-making scheme,” says radio personality Dave Ramsey. “It’s there to provide peace of mind for your family should the unthinkable happen. Period. And that’s exactly the way term life works: It’s simple, affordable and reliable. Think of term life as the family bulldog—you hope you’ll never need him to do his thing, but you’re sure as heck happy to have him around the house.”
“If you’re not investing in cryptocurrency, you’re missing out.”
FOMO—the fear of missing out—has lead many people into making bad decisions and the cryptocurrency craze has been driven in part by FOMO. But are you missing out? The short answer is probably not and if you invest in BitCoin, Ethereum, or any of the other estimated 22,930 cryptocurrencies, you better have a high tolerance for risk. Forbes magazine sums it up this way: “Cryptocurrency is a highly volatile asset class with prices that can fluctuate wildly in a short amount of time. This makes it a risky choice. There are a few reasons why you should avoid investing in cryptocurrency, including the volatile nature of the asset, its lack of regulation, and the potential tax implications.”
While many well-known public figures are touting crypto, “tons of celebrities, from Kim Kardashian to Shaq and Tom Brady, are under fire for promoting crypto,” Serena O'Sullivan writes on Komando.com. “One fan is suing his idol Tom Brady for promoting a cryptocurrency that later performed poorly. Remember that celebrities are paid handsomely to endorse products—including crypto. Although it’s tempting to trust your favorite actor, musician or reality TV star, you should know that they don’t have your best interests in mind. They’re thinking of fattening their bank accounts. They don’t care about your financial well-being.”
If you are tempted to dip your toe (and hard-earned money) into the crypto pool, really dig into researching this new form of investment so you have a clear idea of what you are getting into.
“Don’t discuss money with others.”
When I was growing up, asking someone how much money they earn or how much they paid for their car or their house was a big no-no. “Many of us have internalized shame and discomfort when it comes to ‘money talk’,” observes Meredith Dietz on lifehacker.com. “However, opening up conversations about money allows all of us to learn from each other’s mistakes and make more informed financial decisions.” Suze Orman asks “how do people learn if they’re not talking to each other and sharing knowledge? The best way to learn something is by talking with someone who has already done it. If you need to learn what kind of car payment to expect when you’re older, ask someone who already has one.”
Before you listen to financial advice from any individual or website, ask these three questions suggested by Dietz:
- “What are their credentials? There is no fiduciary standard to becoming a “guru.” Check for certifications qualifications like a CPA (certified public accountant) or RIA (registered investment adviser). If they were born into wealth and have a history of trying to be an influencer in one way or another, be skeptical of their tips and tricks.
- Is this too good to be true? Generally, avoid “get rich quick” investment advice. Because if it were actually true, why would this person be sharing it with millions of people? If you can’t run it buy a financial advisor, at the very least, do your own research before trusting an Instagram infographic touting an effective investment strategy.
- Is this person trying to sell you something? This is the most import thing to consider before taking someone’s financial advice. Be wary of buying certain products or stocks, especially when the person recommending them is a stranger on the other end of a TikTok account. At the end of the day, no stranger is looking out for your finances out of the goodness of their heart if they can make a buck buy selling you something.”