- Growing up, the #1 money rule I heard was “save, save, save” — but I never learned how to invest.
- I was also told that student loans are bad even if they give you access to an education, which I really appreciate.
- Another bad advice I’ve heard: don’t talk about money and cut back on “non-essential” expenses.
My generation — Generation Y — has an interesting relationship with money. We came of age during the Great
, while all “safe” financial institutions were on the brink of bankruptcy and traditional financial advice was being questioned. In the years since, financial literacy movements have sprung up with the aim of giving weary people accessible financial advice.
Since re-educating myself about money using resources from the FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) movement and elsewhere, I have realized that much of the money advice I learned in my youth were dated and, in some cases, downright harmful. Here is all the bad money advice I learned in my youth that I refuse to pass on.
1. Save, save, save
As far back as I can remember, most of the financial advice I received focused on saving rather than investing. Most of this came from my immigrant family, which made me realize the importance of putting money aside for emergencies, buying a house, buying a used car with cash, etc. The financial education I received in my public school was not much better. As far back as I can remember, we have been taught to save rather than invest.
So I put my hard-earned money into high-yield savings accounts, earning a meager APY. This has led to many missed growth opportunities. Investing didn’t even cross my mind. This is partly because I graduated from college during the Great Recession. It was scary to put money in the stock market after millions of people lost their retirement nest egg betting on it.
I finally understood the importance of investing in various online financial communities and started doing so immediately. I just wish I had started earlier.
2. Have at least 6 months of expenses saved before quitting your job
Having at least six months of saved expenses seems like good advice. In my case, I’ve never followed it when quitting a job and it works every time. This is terrible advice because it can prevent you from leaving a stressful job and prevent you from earning a higher salary as a freelancer or in another position. This advice is also no longer relevant, with the gig economy creating income opportunities beyond traditional jobs.
When I left my “dream” job with a six-figure salary last year, countless people told me I was making a mistake. That I should save more and have another job lined up before I leave. That’s what kept me in this role months after I was ready to go. But I soon realized that I was limiting my earning potential by staying in this job. As soon as I left, I not only recovered my monthly income through self-employment (often beyond that), but I worked fewer hours and had more freedom.
3. Reduce “non-essential” expenses
For years, $5 coffee has been demonized as the root of every millennial’s money problems. In my twenties, I started cutting out non-essential purchases like my daily coffee habit and dining out. The result? I was unhappy.
While these expenses weren’t necessary, they made my days at multiple jobs more bearable. Treating myself to an ice cold coffee at the end of a long day gave me something to look forward to and helped me avoid burnout. You can’t just work for a living – sometimes you have to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
That’s when I received contrary advice from a financial expert: “Don’t spend less; earn more.” It sounds like “Let them eat cake”, but it’s great advice. If your financial strength depends on depriving yourself of a daily purchase of $5, then it’s time to make some more money.
Instead of cutting expenses that improve your quality of life, try to find ways to generate more income. I realize that seems easier said than done. But with today’s gig economy and the myriad of online hustles available, that’s not entirely out of the question.
4. Student loans are bad
The student loan crisis is very real and is making life difficult for many people. there is no doubt. But too often the narrative around student loans veers off to “all student loans are bad” and, by extension, “college is a waste of money.”
For me, college wasn’t just about learning a set of skills. It was about learning to think critically, be disciplined and improve myself. I come from a country, Afghanistan, where access to education is limited, especially for girls. Education has always been a huge privilege for me. I knew without a doubt that education was the reason why my family was better off than others in my home country. The rhetoric around the usefulness of a college degree always smacks of privilege to me, because the fact that education was available to everyone (albeit at a high cost) was far from miraculous.
Yes, I accumulated $50,000 in student loans. In turn, I received an invaluable education that benefits me 13 years later, long after my debt has been paid off. Even in my lowest paying job, I was earning more than I would have if I hadn’t graduated from college.
I can’t tell you how many times I went to a job interview and the interviewer told me he was impressed with my educational background. This often kicked me out. So I think this popular discourse that education is useless and loans are bad is wrong. I enjoyed it then and I still enjoy it today.
Building a side hustle into a business has been great. But if things go wrong tomorrow and I have to return to the job market, my degree will provide me with a level of security and an incomparable competitive advantage. Higher education is not waste. Taking out student loans in moderation for a good education can pay off if you have a plan to pay them back.
5. Don’t talk about money
We’ve heard this advice time and time again: it’s not polite to talk about money. We heard it from our parents, our employers and everyone else. But this advice is actually detrimental to our earning potential. I spent years working before realizing that I was earning much less than my peers. A few years ago I was interviewing for a job and got an offer that I thought was fair. After speaking with a friend who had held the same position at another company, I realized the offer was well below market value and I was selling short myself.
I had done my research by checking Glassdoor, but those salary estimates aren’t always accurate and don’t account for niche expertise. By talking with my friend and learning what she was earning, I was able to negotiate a salary almost $40,000 higher than the original offer, plus a signing bonus of $10,000.
Conversations about money are essential, whether with your friends or your colleagues (especially your colleagues). Talk to them not only about how much they earn, but how they handle it. Over the years, I’ve learned about investment opportunities by talking to complete strangers. And I’ve seen how big a gap there is between men’s and women’s salaries when we follow this advice not to discuss money.
6. Having multiple credit cards is bad.
Finally, my favorite tip to ignore: having multiple credit cards is bad. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Over the past decade, travel hacking has opened the door to incredible opportunities through credit card sign-up bonuses. I’ve taken my family on trips to Europe and Asia, booked an impromptu getaway to the Maldives, and taken all-inclusive vacations to Mexico—all using points and miles.
I not only saved thousands of dollars on travel, but I was also able to improve my experience and book trips that would otherwise be completely out of reach. It wouldn’t have been possible without the credit card sign-up bonuses, which have helped me earn millions of miles in a decade.
Right now I have over a dozen cards in my wallet and I know what you’re thinking: Your
it must tank. Despite closing a few accounts over the years, my credit score is currently 760. Having multiple credit cards can improve your credit score, as long as you use them responsibly. This means keeping utilization below 30%, paying your balance monthly, and avoiding late payments.