Because teaching kids about money isn’t required in most schools, parents play a crucial role in cultivating sound money management skills in their children.
In fact, I consider personal finance to be one of the most important lessons moms and dads are faced with passing down, right up there with the “birds and bees” talk and multiplication table.
But let’s be honest: Not everyone is a great teacher. For the same reason I thought babies came from giant birds for more years than I care to admit (that is, until I watched a very eye-opening educational video), not every child grows up learning the skills needed to develop into a money-wise adult. Even the most loving and wisest of parents can mess up sometimes, and it’s often because there was no one willing or able to teach them, either.
And then sometimes the economy implodes, making all previously-known rules about personal finance suddenly obsolete.
Whatever the case, it’s likely your parents taught you a lesson or two about money that just isn’t true today.
5 Bad Money Lessons
1. Credit cards are for emergencies only.
I followed this Golden Rule of finance to a T, avoiding credit cards like the plague throughout my early adult life. Then I started thinking about moving into my own apartment and realized that I wouldn’t be able to pass this mysterious thing called a “credit check,” which most landlords required, without any actual credit.
Credit cards can be a strategic tool used to build up credit and earn rewards. Avoiding them completely will stunt your ability to borrow money, secure a place to live or open utility accounts — affordably. Many people successfully avoid credit completely, but I’d rather not go through the hassle.
And as for a financial emergency, it’s much smarter to have an emergency fund saved up to handle it on the spot, rather than go into debt (and possibly remain there) for an unplanned expense.
2. Getting a good education will guarantee you a good job.
Another lesson I unfortunately took to heart was that the better your education, the higher-paying the job you’d land after graduating. Like many students, I equated “better” with “expensive.”
The rising price of college combined with a dismal job market means this lesson no longer holds true. In fact, it may sound like blasphemy in the ears of older generations, but many young adults are probably better off (financially) skipping college completely and focusing on becoming a part of the workforce.
3. Investing is risky — keep your money in the bank.
Saving money in a liquid savings account or similar deposit product is crucial for meeting day-to-day financial needs. However, when it comes to long-term savings — think retirement — there’s no way you will reach your goals if you keep your money out of the market.
“Saving money in a bank or money market account is a sure way to lose its buying power to inflation,” Leon Shirman of Emerald Hills Capital says. He explains that investing your money in riskier assets like stocks or real estate is, in most cases, the only way to ensure a comfortable retirement.
Assuming risk is the only way to enjoy reward, and shying away from risky investments only holds back your wealth potential. According to Shirman, from a long-term perspective, “saving is a lot more risky than investing.”
4. Work hard for your money and it will pay off.
Rachel Hernandez, author of Adventures in Mobile Homes: How I Got Started in Mobile Home Investing and How You Can Too! told me that as a child, her father would advise that in order to make money, she had to work hard for it. “In working hard for money, I could buy anything I wanted,” she explained, “Though, I was never taught how to save or preserve money and make money work for me.”
Consequently, Hernandez did, in fact, work hard for money, but it never accumulated. “It wasn’t until I actually took the time to learn about personal finance and investing that my life changed for the better. Looking back, I wish I had been taught the fundamentals and basics of personal finance at a young age.”
A lot of people work hard, but without some education and skills in personal finance, they don’t know how to channel that effort into lasting wealth.
5. Money can’t buy happiness.
Maybe you can’t physically exchange money for positive emotions, but it turns out a higher level of wealth actually equates to an overall higher satisfaction with life. Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan recently examined Gallup poll world data to discover that the more money people around the world have, the more satisfied they are.
Ron Nawrocki, fund manager of B. I. Solutions Corp. and host of the Wealth DNA radio show says, “Money can’t buy health or happiness, but neither does poverty…I’ve had a chance to try both – and I prefer wealth.”
I think I will have to agree with Nawrocki — I’m a lot happier when there’s money in the bank and I’m not stressing about how to pay the bills.