The 5 Worst Pieces of Financial Advice Your Friends Give You

by Jacob McMillen on 13 May 2014 6 comments

We all love our friends. That's why we keep them around. It's always good to have other voices and perspectives in our lives, letting us know when we're doing well, walking a fine line, or just plain wrong.

Sometimes, our friends are a valuable source of wisdom in our life. But let's be honest. Sometimes our friends give bad advice. And I mean really bad advice — like horrendous, usher-in-the-apocalypse type stuff.

If your friends are the opinionated type, you can even expect a never-ending barrage of article quotes and obscure, unverifiable facts backing up their awful counsel. In fact, baseless articles, regurgitated through your friends, are probably the source of the worst financial advice you've ever received. (See also: 11 Ways Your Friends Can Save You Money)

Let's take a look at this poor guidance — the worst pieces of financial advice your friends give you.

1. You Can Afford It

At some point in our lives, each of us is tempted to keep up with the Joneses. Much of our society operates on a mentality that says, "If I can buy it, I can afford it."

The trouble with this mentality is that it's a poverty mentality. It's like a farmer eating all of his wheat instead of planting enough for next year's crop. Just because you can afford that new car your neighbor bought doesn't mean you should buy it. In 20 years, you won't care about what model vehicle you drove this year. You will care about whether that $20k turned into $0 or $75k.

2. You Need to Take a Long Vacation

Somehow, we've fallen into this mentality where a two-week family vacations are a mandatory part of a every year. Just considering a departure from this trend will illicit correction from our friends and coworkers. "No vacation!?" "Inconceivable!" "You should really put your family first."

Life-work balance is important, but no system works perfectly for everyone. For your family, a week-long vacation might the most stressful week of the year. Why waste all your disposable income to meet a quota? If a few weekend getaways with the spouse and a monthly day-trip with the family make more sense, go with that. (See also: 14 Affordable Weekend Getaways)

3. School Is Worth the Debt

Education is definitely important, and numerous studies have confirmed that degree-holders make more money in the long run. That being said, there are plenty of low-cost options for acquiring a college degree.

Unless you have some sort of highly lucrative job opportunity secured pending graduation from a specific university, taking out $50k+ in student loans makes little sense. There are hundreds of affordable college options. No degree is worth spending the entirety of your twenties in financial shackles.

4. You Need to Save More Money

As Wise Bread readers know, aggressive saving is important to long-term financial wellbeing. Saving tips are a staple on any website dealing with personal finance, and virtually everyone these days has their own personal collection of wallet-sparing tricks.

The problem, however, is that saving money doesn't increase wealth. Investment increases wealth, and a simple "You should save more money!" approach will sink your chances at living the life you desire.

If you have cut frivolous expenses from your spending habits, the next step is not to find more joys to cut out, but rather, to find positive investments to place that income in. If a tight budget isn't enough to get by, you should be looking at alternative income sources, not attempting to squash all remaining pleasures out of your life. (See also: 30 Great Side Jobs)

5. Invest in "Can't Miss Super Opportunity, Inc"

As noted above, investment is the key to financial success. If your friends are all millionaires, this article doesn't apply to you, and you're pretty much set for life anyway.

For everyone else, just realize your friends would be making ridiculous amounts of money if their investment ideas were worth the time they wasted telling you. Three out of four venture capital backed startups fail within the first four years. And it's even worse for bootstrapping startups that don't secure venture capital. Investing in Can't Miss Super Opportunity, Inc based on a random friend's suggestion is essentially gambling... with the additional risk that a loss could cost you a friendship, too.

What's the worst financial advice you've ever heard from one of your friends? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

#1 is so true.. especially when it comes to eating out and entertainment heh.

Jacob McMillen's picture

Absolutely. I've been guilty of that one myself. I tend to focus more on increasing revenue than cutting moderate expenses, but sometimes, I have to buckle down and realize I can't afford to go bowling tonight.

Guest's picture
Paige

Totally agree on all points... I think the hardest part for younger people, especially, is learning it's ok to set those boundaries and say "no" specifically in the "investment" arena. Unfortunately we often equate money or things (over-giving) with love. i.e. "if you care about me you'll financially support this venture." "If you love your family you'll make that way too expensive and stressful vacation happen no matter what" "I am going to love myself by purchasing that car that I really can't afford" It's ridiculous... Loving your articles, Jacob McMillen!!

Jacob McMillen's picture

Fantastic point Paige! Equating love with money spent is so incredibly unhealthy. Thanks for the feedback!

Guest's picture

Good article. Particularly #1. It's very tempting to live in the moment.

I would also add though "You can't go wrong investing in real estate!" - although they may have stopped saying that now. Lots of people have learned that you certainly can. There is always something people say "You can't go wrong..." with but investing is never that easy!

Jacob McMillen's picture

That's so true. Nothing in the realm of investment is a guarantee (not even Treasury Bonds).