The world is full of terrible financial advice. Some of it is worse than others, but a certain percentage is just cringe-inducingly bad.
Here’s a roundup of the financial advice we most love to hate.
Skip the latte
Sure, if you really need to save money, it can be helpful to do an audit of what you spend, find the little everyday luxuries you don’t need, and stop spending money on them. But in general, this is bad advice.
Why? It’s a lot of effort for a small reward. (As described in this video here.)
A tall Caffe Latte at Starbucks costs $2.95. Let’s say you buy one every day for a month: that’s $88.50 per month. It won’t kill you to have an extra $88.50 in your pocket, but think of the effort it takes.
Every time you pass that Starbucks, you’re going to have latte cravings. You’ll have to wrestle with yourself—and sometimes you’ll lose. You wind up saving less than that $88.50 per month, and feeling bad about it. There are better ways to save.
Buy a house—the market is hot
A lot of people took this advice just before the housing market crashed—and it took them years to dig themselves out.
Buying a house is a great thing for some people. And some get lucky and sell for much more than they bought for. But thinking of your home as an investment is a bad idea. No one can predict what the market will do, and life circumstances may push you to move before you’ve recouped your investment.
Bottom line? Buy a house when you’re financially ready. And don’t assume you’ll make money on it. You may, but it’s quite possible you won’t—so plan accordingly.
Put a year’s worth of money in your bank account before you (fill in the blank)
Whatever you most want to do—start a business, move cross-country, have a baby—there will be people telling you not to do it until you have a year’s salary saved. This is dumb.
Should you have some savings? Yes, definitely. Is it realistic to build up a year’s worth within a reasonable timeframe? For most of us, no. This advice could leave you waiting years or even decades before you pull the trigger on your dream.
Whatever it is you want to do, people have done it without a year’s worth of savings. Do the research. Talk to those who’ve managed it successfully. Take stock of your finances and see how much you really can save within a timeframe that works for you.
But don’t put your dreams on hold for a savings goal you may never meet.
Not sure what to do with your life? Go to grad school
If you just graduated college and still feel aimless, it can be tempting to go back into academia—an environment you’re familiar with, and one that gave you purpose.
But a Master's degree can be ruinously expensive—adding tens or hundreds of thousands to your student loan debt—and having one doesn't guarantee a high-paying job.
If you know exactly what you want to do and you need a Master’s or Ph.D. to do it, then go to grad school. But if you’re just flailing, there are plenty of ways to flail without adding thousands to your student loan debt.
Financial advice that really works? Refinance your student loan to a lower interest rate
Some lenders offer as little as 2.5% interest when you refinance your student loan. Keep in mind that even a Perkins loan will run you 5% interest these days.
Refinancing is good financial advice because it’s low-effort, high-reward. Refinancing takes about 20 minutes in most cases, and you can save hundreds per month and thousands over the life of your loan. The average amount most people who refinance save is $253 a month, or $16,183 over the life of their loan. It works, and, maybe even more importantly, it feels like it works.
Of course, the amount you could save is different for everyone. Want to see how much you could save?
Check out this student loan refinance calculator to find out.