Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Financial Advice that Annoys Me

There is a ton of financial advice out there for beginners. While I like to think I'm beyond that stage, I never let myself think I'm too smart to benefit from the knowledge of someone else. After all, until a few months ago, I was what Financial Samurai calls a Financial Dumb Ass. So I read a lot of blogs and articles about finances, including the ones discussing what I consider the basics of dealing with money. And I learn something new every single time.

Honestly, though? There are some pieces of financial advice that get on my last nerve.

I hate the idea that you're not supposed to save until you get out of debt. Yeah, so I'm still paying off debt. I'll be doing that for awhile. What would happen if I wasn't also saving at the same time? My car would break down, or I would come down with a horrible illness not covered by insurance, or my child would incinerate all of my clothes in some kind of science experiment. That's the kind of luck I have. If I didn't have money in the bank, I would use a credit card to cover disasters like those, which would increase my debt.

I do understand that you shouldn't save a ton while making minimum payments. That's dumb because you'll never get out of debt that way. But why not figure out how much you can put toward debt/savings without breaking yourself, then divide that in half?

It drives me insane when people tell you to get rid of your car. I think there are circumstances where it makes a lot of sense to get rid of a car, like when you have more of them in your driveway than licensed drivers in your house. But - stop me if it gets too crazy - what about people who just cannot get by without a car? I can't. I live in a rural area in the middle of nowhere. No public transportation of any kind, not even cabs. I drive 100 miles a day to work and back. My son's school is 10 miles away from my house. We don't even have sidewalks! Every time I see an article about living without a car, I want to kick someone.

I know the majority of people saying this stuff live in a city, and in that case I understand. But there are a lot of people looking for advice who don't have that advantage. I don't like feeling guilty because I can't live without my car. Believe me, I'd love to.

I can't stand being told I'm a bad person if I don't live a 100% crunchy/green/frugal/minimalist lifestyle. Not that any of those are poor choices, but they aren't the right thing for me. It is highly unlikely that I'll ever make my own shampoo or makeup from scratch. I'm not installing solar panels in my home. I don't purchase only organic food. And while some people are able to give that kind of information in a non-abrasive way, there are a lot of blogs that are pretty snide about it. So you've got a smaller carbon footprint than me? That's awesome! But don't make me feel like crap about it. I've learned a lot of cool tips online - I just don't have the energy to implement every single one of them.

Not everyone can be an entrepreneur. It seems every financial guru thinks I'm supposed to dream of owning my own million-dollar business. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to work for myself. But I'm realistic if anything, and I know it's probably not happening for me. Some people are going to work for someone else their entire lives, and they need to know how to survive that financially. It isn't enough to say, "Oh, just follow these steps to quit your job FOREVER!" I need to know what happens if I don't!

The best thing about getting financial advice online is that it's free, minus the cost of your internet connection. The worst thing? You get a lot of generalized, catch-all information that may or may not work for you. I guess that's an okay trade-off, but I still get annoyed sometimes.

These are my biggest financial advice pet peeves. What are yours? 


The Single Saver said...

I am not really an expert on Dave Ramsey's advice, but I do believe he advises saving a $1000 emergency fund before working on debt, for the very reasons you mentioned!

Laura said...

oh i agree with the not saving anything also.
My biggest pet peeve is that some cost cutting advice is not possible living in NYC. Certain things like groceries, rent prices or car insurance -its all more than the national average here! I already live in an outer burrough and i cannot currently get much lower rent!
I recently read a short article in O magazine about a woman who tried to spend $40 a week on groceries. The first item on her receipt was "3lbs Ground turkey meat = $3" WHERE is meat $1 a lb?!? not here!! lol *end rant*

Andrea said...

@The Single Saver - You're correct; Dave Ramsey does recommend a $1000 emergency fund. But I disagree with suspending all savings after that until debt is paid off. $1000 is a lot of money, especially when you've never had savings before, but one problem could wipe it out.

@Laura - That's a good point. Cost of living plays a huge role in what financial advice is useful. On the flip side of your situation, I live in an area where $80,000 buys a nice 3 bedroom home with an acre of land; however, salaries are extremely low as well.

Alltid Blakk said...

Oh don't get me started :)

*Get Rich, be a millionaire!! (I have no need for too much money)

*retire early (and do what ?)

*Follow your true passion, become an entrepreneur (being an entrepreneur is not my dream, more of a nightmare actually)

*always buy a cheap car (oh sooo done that, no thank you)

*do the maintenance for the previously mentioned cheap, old car (if I wanted to work on cars I would be a mechanic, guess what - I'm not)

*It's easy to save, we only live on one income!! (hey we got something in common, so do I)

I know, I sound like a bitter old woman of some sort. Try say "buy cheap old cars" to me, and you can ad crazy to that saying too :)Thanks for the rant, loved it (not just mine, your too!)

Julie @ The Family CEO said...

LOL! I hear ya! For me, I don't want to put all of my belongings in a backpack and live on $500 a year in Thailand. I'm happy for those who do, but it's not for me.

Perfecting Parenthood said...

I disagree about the financial advice too. Every case is specific, so just optimize for your own situation. Getting out of debt is poopoo: I hope I'm never out of debt, but I don't have any consumer debt. I actually did get rid of one of our family cars, but we can't get rid of both -- like you said, sometimes you just can't. And the entrepreneur thing: I bet most of the people who are advocating entrepreneurship on the web are mainly just bloggers or Internet entrepreneurs. Hardly anyone, even the famous PF advisers like Ramit Sethi, seem to do much besides offer advice anymore. In fact, Ramit just sent out an email affiliate link hawking 3rd party products he doesn't even use himself, so he's not out starting businesses.

Margie said...

I totally agree, especially about continuing to save and being a bad person for not being green/minimalist all of the time.

Another one for me is couponing. I don't know if people who coupon have really unhealthy eating habits (since most discounted products are name brand processed goods) or what but I never can save more than a few bucks using coupons because a) I don't buy the products in the first place and b) half the time the generic brand is STILL cheaper than the one that comes with the coupon!

Out My window said...

You do need to save even while paying off debt. Now saving large sums when you are deeply in debt just isn't smart, but I am in debt and I fully find a IRA and we save 10% of my husbands take home pay. Yes we could get out faster but we also need to retire. I too get irritated by the no car thing. My living situation is much like yours. I need a car. I don't want a car (well maybe I do). I also don't lead a super minimalistic life. I do run my own business, but I also work on the side. and I try to conserve money but living without laundry soap is just not in me. I do raise chickens, because I like them. I garden because I enjoy it. But true minimalist...... not so much. I don't coupon unless it is for Diet Coke!

Insomniac Lab Rat said...

Hahaha the line about a child incinerating your clothing cracked me up :)

I'm a financial newbie, and while I can't think of any other pet peeves to add, I agree with the ones already posted/commented.

When I read a blog that I feel is condescending or makes me feel bad about myself (which is different than challenging me to be better), I just stop reading it (I usually give it a few posts). There are so many out there that I know I can find good advice somewhere, and I try to find it somewhere nice!

Andrea said...

Same here - I read a TON of blogs, but sometimes I have to unsubscribe from those that continually rub me the wrong way. Even though I want to get out of debt, I hope I'm never so far removed from it that I start pointing fingers.

TeacHer said...

I am SO with you on every one of these tidbits of financial "wisdom." I live in the DC metro area and living without a car HERE would be pretty tough - I can only imagine how impossible it would be in a rural area. Ridiculous advice.

Another one I hate? "Material objects of any kind don't make people happy - stop trying to increase your lifestyle or fill your 'emptiness' with stuff." I'm sorry, but a dishwasher would make me happy. A washer and dryer would make me happy. A food processor would make me happy. Why? Because these material objects (read those last two words with disgust) would eliminate or seriously mitigate the awfulness of the tasks I hate doing. And that really WOULD increase my quality of life. I don't think I'm particularly materialistic or have any "empty" soul because there are certain little upgrades I'd like to make.

The basics of a healthy financial plan will always be the same: save a portion of your income, keep a budget, borrow sparingly. Beyond that, everything else is a matter of personal taste.

JT McGee said...

I'm with you on the whole debt deal. There are a lot of voices out there giving a lot of advice, and I think some sources (Dave Ramsey) are best left silenced. He's a great motivator, but he's no strategist.

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