5 myths of personal finance (plus: stupid advice)
July 24th, 2009 - 45 Comments
What are the most common mistakes in personal finance — especially among blog readers?
I recorded a 30-minute interview with Flexo and Tom over at the Consumerism Commentary podcast with extensive notes below. It’s called Stupid Financial Advice + The 5 Myths of Personal Finance.
Stream the interview or download my melodious voice here.
[00:00] Introduction from Flexo
[00:50] Interview with Ramit Sethi about stupid financial advice
[01:50] — The Reddit community
[03:27] — Frugality
[05:09] — Big wins
[08:03] — Knee-jerk behavioral change
[09:41] — The “buy and hold” strategy
[13:10] — Financial magazines leading up to the recession
[16:48] — Finding decent financial advice
[19:01] Ramit’s five myths of personal finance
[20:01] — Myth #1: Personal finance advice is only about spending less than you earn
– Sort of meaningless pablum that lets people feel better about themselves but get nothing done
– And you can just see that’s true by asking a few questions: Are you happy with your finances? How much do you spend on eating out and loans? What’s your system for getting ahead? What are your goals?
– Just knowing a fact doesn’t make it implementable. As we say in persuasion, “informational influence is one of the least persuasive methods available”
– Make it tactical: How do you get the right accounts? Dominate your credit card? Automate your money? Pick the right investments? Handle money and relationships?
[21:33] — Myth #2: Personal finance is about more will power
– If I just try harder…
– Reminds me of weight: If I just try harder to diet…
– Every choice has a cost. Trying to save on 50 things vs. 5 things…
– How has that worked for you over the last 1-2 years? 10 years? Most of us are fat and in debt
– It’s about building systems that handle your weaknesses so you can exploit your strengths. Automate, earn more, cut costs
[22:55] — Myth #3: You can’t save any more money
– Yes you can
– We under-report how much we eat, just as we under-report how much we spend
– You can’t out-frugal your way to rich
– Saving: CEO
– Tracking is #1
– Setting goals is #2
– Automation is #3
– Earning more is #4
[25:18] — Myth #4: Everyone is like you
– MSN readers criticizing my frugality tips, saying frugality is about a lifestyle choice
– “Ridiculous to spend $28k on weddings”
– Silo effect: Sites like Reddit make you surround yourself with people who (1) don’t know anything, (2) act like they do, and (3) they ALL have the similarly kooky opinions!
– Solution is to read multiple CREDIBLE sources
[27:43] — Myth #5: Frugality will make you rich
Myth: “I can save $10 by not buying that book! Ha Ha!”
– Pay for value
– Not just sticker price, but value
– Why it’s crazy for people to try to find these extreme deals on books. If you implement even 1 tip, you’ll save/earn 1000x the money
– Same people who don’t pay end up spinning their wheels
– Would it be worth it to buy a $10 book that has saved people thousands? Scrooge for a few bucks/month if it helps you earn $300/month? Or to buy a course at a community college for $500?
– Focus on value, not cost
BUY AND HOLD
- Unprecedented what’s happened, lot of people to blame (including ourselves)
- But there’s a knee-jerk reaction: BUY AND HOLD DOESN’T WORK!
1. Ok, so what does?
2. The people who pull out of the market now are going to face another, more serious phantom risk: Running out of $. (SEE BELOW)
- We tend to overvalue what’s easily remembered — so you might say, “VWs are terrible cars” when in fact Consumers’ Reports prove otherwise (I do this)
- People are freaking out and removing their money from the market — driven by fear, not educated moves
- Change asset allocation. Change regular contribution amounts. Diversify. Earn more. But PULLING YOUR $ OUT? Worst thing you could do
- And people will face another fear they don’t know today: Running out of money. Not as obvious as losing 40%, but you can’t do much when you’re 82 and out of $
- Focus on the most important things and work, step-by-step, to hit them
BUY AND HOLD 2
- Compare equity returns to any other measure and you’ll see over the last 70 years have shown equities to return the best. PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE…
- But I prefer to use data unlike the other handwavy arguments that involve the gold standard, doom and gloom, and tin cans
Stop reading and start doing. Thousands of people have already bought my book and dominated their personal finances. If you haven’t already bought my book for about $10 (Amazon), take 10 seconds to do it and learn how to turn all this information into a 6-week plan to dominate your personal finances. If not now, when?
(Make sure you forward your receipt to email@example.com for a bunch of bonuses, including something new coming up soon.)
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