The Facts Behind 12 Money Myths
Fiction vs. Fact
A version of this article originally appeared on Learnvest.com.
The rumor mill isn't just for celebrities.
It's also for money (seriously!). There's a lot of misinformation out there, and we hear it all.
ATMs are unsafe? Travel is only for rich people? No way. Our lives are stressful enough without letting unsubstantiated and untrue fears about money take over.
Take a peek at the top twelve most common money myths that cross our desks, so you don't have to be tripped up by these ever again.
Myth: Checking Your Credit Score Too Often Will Damage It
Truth: Although it will hurt your credit for too many outside agencies (like potential lenders or landlords) to get official copies of your credit report around the same time, checking your own credit score is free, simple and easy. Simply go to Credit Karma and do it in minutes.
For everything you need to know about your credit report and score, start with Credit Reports 101. Need more help? Our checklist "I Want to Get My Credit Report" is just the thing for you.
Myth: ATMs Are Dangerous Because Someone Could Be Trying to Steal Your Info
Truth: People have reported scams in which ATM card readers “skim” the info from your account to gain access to your finances, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use ATMs anymore.
Be alert by regularly checking your accounts for suspicious activity, and keeping your eyes out for anyone who tries to “help” you at an ATM, a machine that doesn’t look quite right or unusual signage that tells you to swipe in a different sort of way. (The New York Times has more tips on spotting an ATM skimmer.) If your card isn’t returned immediately after your transaction or after you’ve pressed cancel, tell your bank right away.
If you do find yourself a victim, your bank should reimburse the money that was lost. If you're unsure of your bank's policy on fraud, we recommend calling to make sure you're covered before something goes wrong.
Myth: Using Cash Is Better Than Using Credit Cards to Track Your Spending
Truth: Although keeping and spending only finite amounts of cash works for some people, we recommend making your purchases on debit and credit cards in order to track them more efficiently in The Money Center. Once you link your accounts to our free tool, it will keep track of and even categorize every purchase you make.
Plus, credit cards offer protections like insurance for purchases, travel insurance and the ability to dispute charges. We only recommend going cash-only if you have trouble controlling your spending. If you're at that point, consider taking our Take Control Bootcamp, a free email program that will put you firmly back in charge of your finances. (And if you do find yourself on a cash-only program, you can enter those expenses manually into The Money Center.)
Myth: Don't Deposit Money at the ATM Because a Human Is More Trustworthy
Truth: Humans can make errors, too. Either way, it’s your bank’s responsibility to resolve the discrepancy. Pay close attention as you make your transactions and immediately report anything that goes amiss. Your bank is obligated to investigate the issue, so make sure that you have all necessary dates, transaction numbers and pertinent info.
Our free Money Center also tracks any deposits and income. If you don't see those little green numbers pop up in your Financial Inbox, it may be time to call your bank.
Myth: Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt ASAP
Truth: The most urgent debt is the kind that charges the highest interest rates. Although $30,000 in student loans may feel like a lot—and you might be tempted to hack away at it as soon as possible—it’s more important to address that $500 in credit card debt first.
Here’s why: If, say, that $500 in credit card debt charges an interest rate of 15% and your students loans have an interest rate of 6%, you’re losing money much faster from the credit card issue. That’s where you should focus your energy first.
To create your own plan for paying off debt, use our free checklist. For more information on debt, check out the debt section of our Knowledge Center.
Myth: The Stock Market Is Unsafe
Truth: This is true, in part. Investing in the stock market comes with real risk, and there is a chance you could lose funds if that’s where you put your money. At the same time, if you’re saving over the long haul, the “safest” place to put your money isn’t necessarily in a bank account. Over the years, inflation has tended to average about 3%, meaning that your money loses that much of its value every year. If your savings account is providing you with a mere 1%, you’re actually losing money because you’re not keeping up with inflation.
Don't be intimidated by investing: The first step is getting familiar with how investing works, which you can do in the investing section of our Knowledge Center. There, you can find an Investing 101 primer, a checklist to guide you through setting up an investment account and more.
Myth: Buy Low, Sell High and You'll Be Set
Truth: This is true enough, but one of the biggest follies of investors is thinking that they can time the market. The majority of professional investors can’t even time the market accurately—don’t get caught up in hubris by thinking you’re the exception. As a result, we recommend against day trading or trying fancy tricks unless you’re a true pro.
One of the services we provide is financial planning, offered by LearnVest Planning. Figure out if one of our plans might be right for you, and fill out a free profile to meet one of our planners, here.
The Sale Price Is the Lowest You'll Find
Truth: First, buying something you don’t need is never a good deal, even if it’s on sale. Second, know that some “sales” aren’t as good as they could be. Before jumping into a deal from Groupon or any other source that offers limited-time deals, quickly search the internet to see if you can find comparable prices elsewhere. If so, take your time deciding whether this is really what you want.
And remember, "sale" isn't just slang for "excuse to buy things." If you feel like you might be over-spending, try one of the tricks recommended by one LearnVester who is by her own admission a recovering shopaholic.
Myth: Travel Is a Luxury for People With a Lot of Extra Money
Truth: Yes, we want you to save. We want you to have an emergency fund and we want you to get closer to your financial goals. But if travel is one of those goals for you, it can be cheaper than you might think.
Before booking a trip, make sure you know how to score the best deals on hotel rooms and the best time to buy flights. Need some inspiration? This LearnVester shares how she saved $2,000 for her dream trip to Paris.
And if a trip truly isn't in your budget, remember that the point of a trip is to get away from the daily grind, recalibrate and de-stress--all things you can do without leaving home, provided you take the time to do it. In fact, we've learned that there's an easy trick to help beat stress, and if you're stressed about money in particular, these seven tips might help.
Myth: You Can Help Your Credit Score By Canceling Your Extra Cards
Truth: We don’t recommend having too many open credit cards because it's tempting to use them all, and creates an administrative nightmare in terms of keeping up with the paperwork. All the same, your credit score will take a small hit when you cancel a card, and a much bigger hit if you cancel a bunch at the same time, including a negative effect on your credit utilization ratio (more on that here).
If you need to, we recommend canceling only one credit card per year. If you have more than that, vow not to use the rest, tuck them away in a drawer, and make a calendar reminder to cancel another one next year, and the year after that. And if you can, try and hold onto your oldest credit card--that long history is good for your credit score and report.
Myth: Your Boss Will Give You a Raise When You Deserve It
Truth: We wish! Unfortunately, this is one of those "If you don't ask, you shall not receive" things. One of the reasons we have a salary gap between the sexes is because men are so much more confident in asking for the raises they deserve.
To get your head in the game, start by reading our Negotiating 101, which is only a small part of our Knowledge Center section on earning.
For inspiration, check out these stories from four real women who took it upon themselves to ask--and to receive.
Myth: The Sticker Price Is What That Item Costs
Truth: You may end up paying more than just the sticker price: Remember that a computer requires software, clothing requires maintenance, and cars require insurance. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have any belongings (like that's going to happen!), but it’s important to go in with your eyes open.
Even if your purchase of choice isn't affordable right now, don't sweat it: The key to happiness might actually be underindulgence!
Related links from LearnVest:
- Spender vs. Saver: How to Live (Financially) Happily Ever After
- How the Right Budget Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
- Sign Up for LearnVest’s Debt-Diminishing Financial Bootcamp