This week we thought it would be fun to share the worst money advice we've each received.
There's a lot of money advice that circulates out there -- whether it's from family or friends, online and social media, or even from a financial advisor. Although it may be well-meaning, it can be misguided. So we want to share our stories of receiving bad money advice (or just not receiving any good and helpful advice), in hopes of helping you avoid the same experience!
The first piece of bad money advice that I received was to invest Mutual Funds. I purchased and held mutual funds for several years... and years later, my balances hadn't budged at all. When I added up how much I had paid in fees, just to have my money languish, I was disgusted. So, I closed those funds and put them into a self-directed account!
The other (bad) advice that I heard a lot during my MBA, and my early years in my career in capital markets, was something along the lines of the "YOLO" and "work-hard-play-hard" mentality. I had so many colleagues that were living paycheck to paycheck.
Don't squander the advantage that you have when you are young. That is the best time to be living frugally, paying down your debt, and building a nest egg for your future. Maybe it's because I was older when I entered the world of finance, or because I was focused on investing, but I largely ignored the calls to empty my wallet. Instead, I put money away. This meant I paid down my student loan, saved a downpayment, and was able to put away enough money to quit my job and found a start-up. None of this would have been possible without consistently living well below my means, and saving for something I like to call optionality. It wasn't a specific financial goal, but it was the option to have a financial goal once I found one.
When I graduated from school and started my full-time job, I felt like I was entering a new world. I studied finance in university, and for all intents and purposes, I should have been a bit better prepared to manage my own finances by the time I was a real, official, grownup. But, I definitely had to learn some things the hard way. I think my story is less about the "worst advice I've ever received" and more so about advice that I really wish I had gotten.
When I started my corporate job I jumped through all the hoops and background checks -- set my accounts to receive my salary as a direct deposit, signed up for health insurance, setting up savings accounts, the whole deal. But what I didn't realize -- for over a year -- was that I missed signing up for something really important. You see, many companies give their employees an RRSP match (this is when companies contribute a percentage of what you yourself save in your retirement account: basically, free money!). By not signing up, I lost over $1,000 of benefit (which I was especially disappointed about because I was saving the money anyways! Just in a different account!). No one at work mentioned this account... and I must have missed it in the on-boarding. And I, being young and fresh in the workforce, didn't know what I didn't know (so I couldn't even ask!). So, my advice to you is, as soon as you start a new job, make sure to ask if there is employer matching for retirement! It could help you save thousands of dollars for your retirement.
Finance was always a pretty taboo topic -- even getting a credit card wasn't a thought of mine until only recently. The worst money advice I have got is in regards to spending money for myself. Especially as a business student, you are told quite often by peers that "every penny should be invested". This, unfortunately, created a mindset that even buying myself a coffee in the morning, or spending on yourself as a treat because you achieved something monumental, shouldn't be done. Which made the word "savings" become terrifying. Though investing is great and we should be doing it -- it shouldn't make you feel like you have to choose between your current happiness or your future happiness!
Instead, my advice is to have a set amount that you want to invest (could be weekly, biweekly, monthly -- whatever works for you). Or if you have a hard time setting an amount for yourself, you can have a savings account that automatically transfers a fixed amount of money into a separate account. At least this way, you are saving and/or investing money as you wish, and will still have money that can be used for yourself. As someone who struggled with money and who always had a bad mindset when it came to my finances, having a forced saving account allowed me to save an appropriate amount of money every month to invest into different portfolios (mutual funds, stocks, etc.). This also made me feel better about my spending -- as I realized that savings are just as important as spending on yourself appropriately.
I don't think I can pinpoint one specific moment where I received really bad financial advice but rather a series of comments over the years that were unsolicited and in my opinion, bad financial advice. I would say it was even more so just shaming than advice if I'm being honest. I had a very limited knowledge of finance and managing money (only what I learned in my high-school business classes). So what I knew is what I gathered from those around me. Notably, I can think of a number of different times where I was told (mostly by men in my life) that if I want to save my money and be financially successful, I should stop getting my nails done. I shouldn't go out for a celebratory lunch or drinks with friends. Also, that my $3 iced coffees I like to treat myself to, were breaking my bank (not education fees, rent, etc.).
Basically, a lot of the advice I received centered around my miscellaneous spending habits and shaming me for them, but nothing about budgeting, investing, emergency funds or anything actually worthwhile. I was never talked to about TFSAs or RRSPs and investing my money. Though I definitely agree that you shouldn't go out and spend all your money on whatever you want -- we all have different priorities and different spending habits. Getting my nails done or treating myself to a coffee are non-negotiable because they're activities I like to do for myself (and my sanity) while spending within my means. In summary, my really bad financial advice I received was being taught to feel ashamed for spending my money on certain things and worry about these smaller things instead of how to manage and allocate my money properly in a way that I can do both. But now that I'm older and have (a bit) more knowledge, experience, and a budget -- I am able to save and invest my money and even pay off my student loans, without sacrificing those things I like to do for myself.
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