Four Frightening Personal Finance Myths

On the most frightening day of the year, I felt it was only appropriate to address some finance myths that can also have terrifying consequences. Maybe you’ve heard some of these before, or maybe these are new to you, but familiarizing yourself with these four money myths just might help you avoid a potentially hazardous personal finance blunder.

You Don’t Need Credit

Right off the bat let’s start with the idea that you don’t need credit. This myth is perpetuated by the very popular Dave Ramsey, and while I applaud his great accomplishments in motivating his readers to pay down their debt, on this item we disagree. Ramsey believes that you should never buy anything with credit including a home, and that’s great if it’s possible! He argues that you should have no credit score - not a low credit score, but no credit score at all. Unfortunately, for most of us, by the time we’ve graduated college we have at least one student loan that is getting reported to the credit agencies. This means that as much as you try to stay away from making any credit footprint, it’s fairly unrealistic to expect most people to accomplish this.

A better alternative is to work at improving your credit score slowly. Credit can be used in responsible ways such as buying a house or taking out a necessary student loan. If you already have loans it can allow you to refinance these debts at a lower interest rate as well. These are investments and improvements that can pay off if done wisely, and they are also opportunities that may not be available to you if you don’t build good credit.

Click here to read my review of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. 

Credit Cards are Evil/Wonderful

These days there are a seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to credit cards. Confusing… I know. Some people would argue that credit cards are evil. They are an endless cycle of trying to make minimum payments and pay off debt that seems to grow despite whatever effort they make to keep up with them. On the other side of the spectrum, some people see credit cards as a way to build wealth. With all the different credit card rewards out there, it’s easy to find one that will offer you some incentive to spend money you had to spend any way. Cash back, travel rewards, gift cards and the like can be real things of value. The difference between these two mindsets is how your credit cards are being used. Are you able to spend only the money you have, maintain your budget, and pay off your entire credit card balance at the end of each month to avoid any interest charges? If so, spending with a credit card may work for you. On the other hand, if you’re struggling to make monthly payments and stay on budget, leave your credit card at home. Those rewards just aren’t worth the extra expense and stress.

You Don’t Need a Will Unless You Have Lots of Money

Please, please, please write a will. You may feel like you have nothing of value, but if something happens to you, those responsible for your estate could inherit a headache much larger than your assets. The laws in every state are different, but typically without a will your assets will pass to your next of kin which is usually your spouse, followed by your children, followed by your parents. After that things can often get really weird so it’s important to make sure that you write out explicitly who will receive what and also who is responsible for overseeing your estate. Without a will, you run the risk that your assets (however small) end up where you otherwise would not have wished them to go. If you love your family, do them a favor and have a will drawn up. Even something as simple as what Legal Zoom offers can be enough to save your loved ones from the stress of guessing your final wishes.

Finance Rules Work For Everyone

If there’s one thing that seems to be a theme in personal finance, it’s that it can often be confusing. To simplify things, there is no shortage of “golden rules” that you can use to benchmark your finances. You may have heard of the 50/20/30 rule, for instance. It suggests that you put 50% of your monthly budget towards your living expenses (i.e. mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, etc.); 20% towards saving and investing; and 30% towards other lifestyle expenses such as shopping, entertainment, and vacations. This might be a really helpful rule for you, but it also might not be. No one person’s finances are the same as the next, just like you and your lifestyle are unique. You don’t have to stress yourself to ensure that you’re meeting an arbitrary rule. These rules are simply guides to help you structure your money should you need such guidance. While I agree that it’s good to push ourselves to pay down extra debt or put more towards retirement if we can, sometimes you just can’t. By all means, listen to the rules and see if they may work for your financial life, but remember that not every rule will work for everyone. Knowing yourself and how you feel best about your finances is much more beneficial in the long run.

Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook

Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.