Whether you get your financial tips by asking friends and family, checking out library books, attending seminars or searching online, impractical pieces of advice sometimes abound.
Too many personal finance experts tend to populate their cable appearances, books, columns and blogs with the same simple tidbits. But some of that common advice is also not applicable to everyone. For each of these three clichéd tips, let’s look at some other alternatives:
1. In Debt? Cut Up Your Credit Cards
Certain financial gurus advise people in debt to cut up all their plastic and consider using credit cards as the eighth deadly sin. Here’s some advice: don’t cut up your cards.
People land in debt for various reasons, and some – like student loans, don’t have anything to do with credit cards.
If being unable to pass up a sale or discount clothing bin is your trigger for getting into massive amounts of debt, then put your cards in a lock box and back away. If you fell into some bad luck and used your credit card for an emergency, consider a balance transfer.
But just because someone is in debt and wants to get out of it doesn’t mean they’re going to stop spending money entirely. People still need to eat, fill the car with gas, and deal with the occasional unexpected expense.
Some may counter that it’s best to use a debit card, but consider the ramifications of debit card fraud. A compromised debit card gives thieves direct access to your checking account. While most financial institutions will cover the majority of money taken from your account, it can be an extreme hassle to deal with. When a credit card is compromised, the issuer typically reacts quickly – possibly even before the customer notices, and usually offers fraud protection.
It also helps to have a low-interest rate credit card for emergencies. Think of it as a fire extinguisher housed in a glass case. You don’t want to break that glass unless you really, really need it. But you do want the fire extinguisher to be there.
2. Have a 20% Buffer in Checking
Undoubtedly, it’s preferable to have a buffer in your checking account to avoid overdraft fees, but two types of situations typically cause overdraft fees.
- Person A is forgetful, forgets a recurring charge or neglects to check his or her balance before making a purchase.
- Person B uses overdrafts as a form of short-term borrowing because he or she does not have enough money to get by without going into overdraft.
About 38 million American households spend all of their paycheck, with more than 2/3 being part of the middle class, according to a study by Brookings Institution.
It’s simple for personal finance experts to recommend tightening up the purse strings, doubling down on paying off debt, and moving out of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle – but those who don’t have assets and who struggle each month to make ends meet don’t need to hear people harping about avoiding overdraft fees by “just saving a little bit.” Every little bit counts for them.
Instead, let’s offer some practical advice: Those looking to avoid overdraft fees should evaluate their banking products.
Americans who use overdraft fees as a form of short-term lending may want to set up a line of credit with a credit union or have a low-interest credit card for emergencies.
3. Skip That Latte!
Many years ago, David Bach created a unifying mantra for personal finance enthusiasts. The “latte factor” was that you could save big by cutting back on small things.
Bach’s deeper concept – that each individual needs to identify his or her latte factor – got lost in the battle cries, with many people crusading specifically against your daily cup of coffee.
Yes, people should be aware of leaks in their budget. But everyone’s budget looks different. If “Person A” buys a coffee each day, but rarely buys new clothing, and trims the budget by cutting cable and brown-bagging it to work, then leave them alone about their caffeine habit.
People are allowed to live a little when it comes to their personal finances. It’s important to save for the future, but it’s also important to enjoy life in the present. Personal finance shouldn’t be a culture of constant denial either. Create a budget, figure out if you can work in an indulgence or two, and don’t live in complete deprivation. For those working to dig out of seemingly insurmountable debt, then yes, it may be time to identify and limit your latte factor or make an appointment with a financial counselor.
Decide What’s Right for You
Keep in mind, personal finance is indeed personal. A generic piece of advice, like keep a 20% buffer in your checking account to avoid overdrafts, may not be helpful in your personal situation. You need to figure out what works for you, and ask for help along the way if you need it.
Article Source: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2014/07/28/common-financial-tips-you-should-ignore/ by Erin Lowry.