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Financial Planning > College Planning > Student Loan Debt

9 Pieces of Bad Money Advice Your Clients' Neighbors Are Taking

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Financial planning can be a tough sell. It’s been said a budget is something everyone wants until they actually get one.

You have advised your clients well. However, they see the lifestyles their neighbors are leading and wonder “Why can’t we do that too?”

It’s likely everyone they know is in a similar economic range. They wonder, “Where did we go wrong?”

Years ago, my wife and I would drive through our area in Bucks County. Lots of big houses everywhere. New luxury cars. “Do these people have printing presses in their basement, just turning out money?” we thought.

Then came the Great Recession, the foreclosures and For Sale signs. Apparently they didn’t have printing presses in their basement.

Here’s how your client can live like their neighbors. (It’s an opportunity to communicate why it’s a really bad idea.)

1. Assume the good times will last forever.

You get a good bonus. Your boss loves you at work. The stock market will continue going up. Live from paycheck to paycheck. Assume your next bonus can pay down debt. What could possibly go wrong?

Your advice: Understand why a cash reserve is important. The economy and stock market run in cycles.

2. Don’t save for retirement.

It’s so far away. We will worry about that later. Our parents will die. We will inherit their homes and assets. Our parents are our retirement plan. They just don’t know it.

Your advice: The goal is financial independence. Once you get there, you can stop working if you choose.

3. Live on credit.

It’s so east to pay with plastic! I pay my bills so they keep raising my credit line. I’m earning so many air miles. My concern isn’t paying down these cards, it’s just servicing the debt. Isn’t that the way big companies and governments do it?

Your advice: The debt you don’t pay off compounds at a high rate of interest. Divide that rate into 72 to learn how long it will take to double!

4. Get more credit.

You keep getting offers for new cards in the mail or online. It’s a sign of our success people are eager to lend money to us. They must think we are responsible.

Your advice: you only need a couple of credit cards. You should shop around to get the lowest interest rate possible.

4. Access your home equity for stupid stuff.

We really should take that vacation of a lifetime. The folks across the street went on safari in Africa. We need to do something cool we can talk about. What’s the biggest suite on that ship?

Your advice: You’ve heard there’s good debt and bad debt. What are you using this money for? Adding value to your home? Buying something with no resale value?

5. If you see it and want it, then buy it.

You are into immediate gratification. Your parents and grandparents saved before buying things. Life is short. We should enjoy everything now. After all, things will only get more expensive in the future.

Your advice: Exercise restraint. Touching an item increases the likelihood you will buy it. If you really want it, leave the store and do something else for 30 minutes. Then ask yourself if you should go back to the store and buy it. Often the answer is “I don’t really need it.”

5. Scream if you don’t get what you want.

This applies to both partners. The spouse in one house saying “We need a new kitchen” is downed out by the person in the next house yelling “Why can’t I have a restored 1967 Ford Mustang?” the logic if you make life intolerable for the other person, they will eventually give in.

Your advice: Schedule time for these discussions. Think these things through. How are we going to pay for it? Where will the money come from? Perhaps it’s a reward. Maybe you accumulate the money first.

6. Shop in upscale stores so you can talk about it.

Groceries are a commodity. They go on sale, too. You have plenty of choice where you shop. Some people insist on going to the “Carriage Trade” supermarkets, where they appear to be sending the message: “This is what food will cost in the year 2100.” They have the ability to brag they “only shop at this store…”

Your advice: Shop sales. Once you put the food on the plate, no one knows where you bought it.

7. Eat out often.

You can enjoy filet mignon at home that ran $10 a pound at Costco or you can visit a restaurant where an 8-ounce filet costs $36. It’s been said the cost of ingredients for a restaurant meal should be 25% or less than the entree price. Lets not forget drinks, tax and tip. Why worry? It’s going on a credit card.

Your advice: Schedule date night. Eat out once a week. Make it an event. Learn about cooking at home. Take turns.

8. Replace your furniture every five years.

Who invented “fashion furniture?” The concept is you completely change your look often. This means the furniture doesn’t need to last that long. It wears out quickly. “Our furniture is looking tired. What will the neighbors think? We must replace it.”

Your advice: Buy quality. Buy classics. Good design stands the test of time.

9. Believe everything contractors and design stores tell you.

“Sophisticated people like you don’t want ordinary marble countertops. You want this special stone that only comes from one place in the world. Of course, it’s going to cost you. You deserve this luxury…”

Your advice: Do some research. How much should a new kitchen cost you? Shop around. How much might it add to your home’s resale value? What’s wrong with your current kitchen?

When you and your client have this discussion, they will likely think “What an idiot” about their free-spending neighbors. This should get them back on the financial planning track.

— Check out How to Put the Brakes on Out-of-Control Spenders on ThinkAdvisor.


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