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The 15 Worst Ever Pieces of Financial Advice

Every bit of financial advice you hear should be taken with a grain of salt, including advice you read here on this site. What works well for others may not work for you (and it may not work well at all).

Some adages are more broadly applicable, though, whereas some dogma is simply dog crap. Steve Adcock, the author of today’s Friday Feature, is focusing on those.

I don’t believe I’m guilty of promoting any of the ideas outlined below, and some have a bit of hyperbole, but I’ve heard each and every one of them in some form from a so-called guru or pundit at some point in the past.

This post originally appeared on steveadcock.us



There’s a LOT of advice about money out there. While some of it is okay, a lot of it (read: most of it) is just plain bad.

Here are the worst pieces of financial advice I have ever heard.


1: You can’t get rich working a 9 to 5.


I’m proof-positive that’s a lie. With proper money management skills, your 9-to-5 CAN MAKE YOU RICH. It happens all the time. I was able to retire early because of my 9 to 5 job.

The key is putting your money to work for you with every single paycheck. The earlier you start, the earlier you can achieve financial freedom and retire.

Here are 5 ways to build serious wealth with your 9 to 5 job.

    • Take advantage of company-sponsored retirement accounts. I always signed up for 401(k) and Roth IRA plans when they were offered, and many of my employers matched 4% of my 401(k) contributions. That’s free money.
    • Ask for raises and promotions. You may not always get a “yes”, but sometimes, you just need to ask. I asked four times for raises in my career and got the “yes” three out of the four times.
    • Show up every day. Work ethic has a way of improving your “luck”. Be a team player. Do what you say you’re going to do. The bar is set pretty low these days. Showing up is half the battle.
    • Switch companies regularly. Every time I moved to a different company, I got a 15% to 20% raise. Taking another position is a great opportunity to ask for more money. In fact, it’s a natural part of the process!
    • Avoid bad debts. I never took out high interest loans. I never paid a single dime of interest on my credit cards. Debts will kill your chances at building wealth regardless of what you do for a living.


2: Follow your passion.


Though it sounds good on the surface, this is bad advice for most of us.

Here’s the problem: Your passion won’t pay your bills, but your strengths will.

Our passions often include creative outlets, like writing or woodworking. Photography. Maybe hiking in nature. While we might be passionate about these things, they tend not to help us pay our bills.

And even with they do, we risk killing those passions because we turned them into full-time jobs that we need in order to provide for our families. Very different ballgame.

Pursue a career that aligns with your strengths.

Maximize your earning potential.


3: Save 10% and you’ll be set.


This is largely outdated financial advice. Why?

      • Life spans are lengthening
      • Taxation is on the rise
      • Jobs are changing
      • Inflation


In fact, you might be surprised at how much money you’ll need to earn every year to make a 10% savings rate enough for a traditional retirement.

A standard 10% savings rate won’t cut it for most of us any longer. Fund your 401(k) and Roth IRA. Build an emergency fund. Aim to save and invest at least 20% of your paycheck.

Your future will thank you.


4: College is useless.


College graduates earn more than non-grads. Them’s the facts. Exceptions apply but never count on being an exception. Don’t allow people to talk you out of a smart career move.

Further, college doesn’t need to be as expensive as we tend to make it. Here are three ways to bring down the cost of college to a manageable level.

Go to a community college: The average yearly cost to attend a community college is only $4,800 for an in-state school, which is a mere fraction of the cost of a traditional 4-year university. 

Instead of going straight to the 4-year school, start at a community college for two years, then jump over to a 4-year school to finish out your degree.

Go in-state: Believe it or not, those out-of-state schools aren’t necessarily “better” just because they are out of state. In-state makes college cheaper. 

You will save 10s of thousands of dollars by going to an accredited in-state university for the same (or similar) degree. This theory applies to private schools as well. Don’t make yourself believe that you need that high-priced education.

Get a marketable degree: This tip won’t necessarily make college cheaper, but it may drastically shorten the time that it’ll take to earn back your money. Marketable degrees are degrees that companies are actively looking for and have high average salaries and good job prospects. 


But Steve, I’m not a computer person!


Believe it or not, not all marketable degrees are technical. 

A few examples of non-technical marketable degrees include:

      • Marketing
      • Nursing
      • Economics
      • Physical therapy
      • Finance


5. You only live once.


In other words, “Spend your cash on temporary happiness crap“.

How about this: You only live once. Achieve FI and do whatever the heck you want for the rest of your life. That sounds much more satisfying to me.


6: Never use a credit card.


Using a credit card responsibly is one of the best ways to maximize your dollar. Why?

      • Points
      • Build credit
      • Fraud protection
      • Acquire airline miles
      • Warranties on purchases


Let credit work for you.

Now, it is true that millions of people are deep in credit card debt. And, credit card debts tend to be very high interest. It’s one of the worst types of debts in existence.

As a result, it’s also true that credit cards need to be used with discretion. However, diligent use of credit cards has a wealth of benefits, making them a smart way to spend money provided you can stay out of credit card debt.


7. Renting is throwing your money away.


Homeownership is MUCH more expensive than people realize.

      • Taxes
      • Interest
      • Maintenance
      • Repairs
      • Opportunity cost


Though owning your own home provides a wide range of financial benefits, renting gives you options that homeownership doesn’t, and it’s the right financial move for many people.


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8: You gotta hustle 24/7.


This awful advice traps people into a life of burnout. Your rest and relaxation time is required to hustle. It’s healthy. Without rest, there’s no hustle.


9: There is no such thing as good debt.


Untrue. Smart debts pay off.


“All debt is bad” is elementary school thinking. It’s just untrue.


10: Crypto is the future. 


Nobody knows that. Not you. Not me.

Never take advice from people who believe they can predict the future. Ever.


11. Watching Netflix will make you poor.


Watching Netflix isn’t the issue. It’s a lack of motivation.

An unmotivated person who cancels Netflix will replace it with another distraction. You aren’t lazy or unmotivated because you watch Netflix.

Just keep it in moderation.


12: Read 5,000 books a year.


Reading is overrated. Doing is underrated. The marketplace does not care how many books you’ve read.

It cares about what you can do. Stop stacking knowledge and start gaining experience.


13: Your credit score doesn’t matter.


It does. A good credit score means things are cheaper. What types of things?

      • Car loans
      • Mortgages
      • Business loans
      • Insurance rates
      • Security deposits


And, don’t forget: Employers and landlords can check your credit.


14. Don’t worry about saving, just earn more.


This is a fallacy. The more you earn, the worse your spending problem gets if you don’t have it under control.

You will NEVER be able to out-earn destructive spending habits. Ever.


15. Investing is gambling.


With gambling, your odds are not good. Investments, however, have a clear and direct history of making a LOT of people filthy rich.

      • Not your salary
      • Not your savings
      • Not your upbringing


Your investments.



What is the worst piece of financial advice you have received?


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18 thoughts on “The 15 Worst Ever Pieces of Financial Advice”

  1. someone once told me not to invest in the stock market .
    according to him , stock market is just a gambling game , which consumes all our wealth .I was small at the time and didn’t knew whether or not he was right.
    on this note i just want to say that ,think critically about any advice you receive. Does it make sense?Do your own research on it and then conclude it.

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  3. no one realizes that 5000 books per year is 13+ books per day?
    try to do that and you won’t have a job or a spouse or much of anything else.

  4. In large part, this article is bad financial advice.
    1. You can’t get rich working 9 to 5. This is true. Being retired is not the same as being rich. Many are rich and continue to work because they enjoy their job. You won’t get rich working 9 to 5 unless you are very lucky or win the lottery. You might be perfectly happy but that is not financial advice.
    2. Follow your passion. This is not financial advice. Follow your passion if you want but unless your passion also happens to be something that makes you a lot of money it is not good financial advice.
    3. Save 10% and you’re all set. I agree with this author. It might work out but you’re better to save more if you want financial freedom at some point.
    4. College is useless. I agree with the author. This is a bonafide falsehood.
    5. You only live once. This is not financial advice. While true the statement has nothing to do with finances.
    6. Never use a credit card. Also stupid advice. Using a credit card is great as long as the balance is paid off every month and one never buys what one doesn’t have the money for.
    7. Renting is throwing your money away. Depending on where you live renting might make a lot of sense particularly if you move frequently. Closing costs and real estate commissions can eat away rather quickly at any presumed savings from ownership of you move frequently.
    8. You gotta hussle 24/7. Not sure this is financial advice. You should be smart and measured 24/7 and think about the future but yes, you should take some time to relax and unwind.
    9. There is no such thing as good debt. This is wrong. Good debt is debt you understand and where you have a low interest rate. Interest on credit cards is bad debt. A mortgage at 2.5% is good debt as long as you are still saving and the rate of return on your investments is greater that 2.5%. It’s just math.
    10. Crypto is the future. Nobody know. I agree with the author.
    11. Watching Netflix will make you poor. This doesn’t belong is financial advice columns.
    12. Read 5000 books per year. This has nothing to do with financial advice. If you’re taking time out of potential earning hours to pursue this then it is horrible financial advice.
    13. Your credit score doesn’t matter. Who gives this financial advice? Nobody who knows anything about math, the economy, interest, or money!
    14. Don’t worry about saving, just earn more. Also stupid advice. Do both!
    15. Investing is gambling. This is not advice. It is a statement not rooted in reality.

  5. No financial expert wrote this list. Lots of typical bad financial advice.
    Try learning finance from financial experts.
    Who are the self made wealthy?
    Business builders
    Creators of passive income
    Super saver investors
    The advice about changing jobs frequently as an employee is the worst I’ve ever heard. You will not only be unsuccessful but be poorly respected. Just what we need, a bunch of clock punching robodocs!

    • The whole piece is a list of bad financial advice, Michael. That’s the point.

      And in the physician world, switching jobs may not work well, but it’s common practice in the corporate world to move up the ladder more quickly by hopping from one company to another.


    • As someone who’s followed most of these guidelines for years, my wife and I are looking forward to a very substantial retirement with lots of travel and fun. I’ve worked foer as long as I (mostly) loved the job, even with the usual and infrequent rough patches we docs have lived thru.
      Thanks Michael for affirming what works!

  6. Thanks for great topic,
    Please do give your valuable advice, guidelines, comments on buying or selling an established practice whether medical, Psychiatry or others.
    DB Chandora, MD

  7. So, more on #2 “Follow your passion”. I did exactly that when I went into medicine and practiced for 15 years in primary care before becoming burnt out. Whether you follow your passion or your strengths, or both, you still will encounter burn-out if you over-extend yourself or are pushed to do your job in a mediocre way to save time. My advice is pursue something you can live with and are good at, and change jobs if you aren’t being allowed to do it well.

  8. I am astounded at the number of comments where passions were downplayed and making alot of money seemed to be the way to happiness. This is one of the problems with todays and yesteryears individuals. Your passions are what makes you who you REALLY are and what you STAND FOR. If all you are interested in is making money in the medical field especially in a position which is not where your heart is then you are not really a truly caring person for those with whom you interact.
    Since this is about physicians, which doctor would you personally rather you see or recommend to your family and friends? Think about it.

  9. When I read the bit about follow your strengths, not your passions, for income and financial independence – I nearly stood up and applauded. That is hands-down the best advice on the list, and a much needed blunt truth in today’s “all about the feels” social environment.

    That’s not saying “do something you dislike for a living”, it’s imply putting the pursuit of “passions” in its proper perspective; as my mother used to say: you can’t build a house on love & mashed potatoes.

    Most people like to do what they’re good at; if what you do for a living is aligned with your strengths, and pays well, then you’ll probably like doing it; you’ll be on a path to success – both financially and personally.

    Let your passions be a source of “off the clock” enjoyment and personal fulfillment. Turning a passion into a full-time job is the surest way to suck every drop of joy out of it.

  10. Another bad advice purely from a financial perspective.

    There is not much salary difference between various specialties of medicine!

    As an IMG coming to the US, I was open to any medical specialty, as long as it is not the lowest paying one. And guess what, I ended up in Pediatrics. Not only there are far few jobs available for a pediatrician and especially peds subspecialties, but there is a huuuugggee difference in salaries between internal medicine and pediatrics (especially the subspecialties) and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Unless you hate working with adult patients (which almost no medical student does), DO NOT GO INTO PEDIATRICS OR ITS SUBSPECIALTIES. SAD BUT UNFORTUNATE TRUTH.
    I’m not a money minded jerk as I left the lucrative IT field to come to medicine but I feel it is unfair that the system has so much variation for a similar job.

    • I am an Internist. It has it’s pluses and minuses-like All specialties. A Former American Cabinet member once said: “A Baby has a scream at one end, and NO sense of respect on the Other end.” LOL
      One reason I’m Old, and not a Dad.
      With Adult patients, you get drug-seeking, and other sociopathy, as well as Dementing illnesses late in Life. They also tend to have more problems in general.
      I’m an American-Born IMG. I stuck with General Internal Medicine, but it is of course True that Cardiology and Gastroenterology, in particular, are very lucrative. It’s more years of training, and many need to do a Chief Residency to get the Fellowship. In my opinion, we could train Primary Care Physicians, and perhaps Nurse Practitioners, to do Endoscopy and Colonoscopy under supervision. The GI people can pontificate on IBD and Cryptogenic Cirrhosis, but procedures are where the Money is. Okay, let them keep on doing ERCP, when needed. Viral Hepatitis can also be treated by primary care practitioners.
      If we ever get a “Magic Bullet” for Cancer, giving the pills could be the province of Primary Care, too, instead of Hematology/Oncology.
      If those Xenograft transplants pan out for Kidneys, maybe goodbye Nephrology.
      My point is: If we could get the specialists to do adult primary care, we would have less of a shortage of same. Also, more physicians would need to go into FP and IM, or at least do some on the side, instead of relying on procedures.

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  12. The advice above about following your strengths and not your passions is quite possibly the worst advice I have ever heard. People who follow this advice are burned out and unhappy, but perhaps (and a weak perhaps) more wealthy. You can follow any passion you want, but I do agree some passions are higher paying than others. How about “Realistically follow your passion.” Follow your passion, but know that some passions are not likely to be as financially rewarding. If we followed the advice above nobody would be a teacher, join the military, be nurse, etc. Many things are more important than money.

    • Haven’t done the research and may be purely anecdotal, but I would be willing to bet a six pack of the finest beer that those who followed their passions have a higher percentage of burnout and decreased life satisfaction. The whole subject of burnout is another topic, but it can be managed, especially if you are making a good/great income in a job you’re not passionate about. How? By using that tool called “money”.
      Whereas, burnout/stress from a job you are or were passionate about, quickly spirals out of control w/ the lack of that tool, “money”. Simply put, follow the money, develop the life style you want, and then use it to follow your passions. You may even find a middle ground that your money job becomes one of your passions.

      • Definitely agree money can (not will) mitigate burnout (there is research showing annual income does play a role) but my thought is a high-earning career you hate (or maybe tolerate) certainly leads to burn-out (which now needs to be mitigated). A lesser earning career (but still meets basic needs) you love can lead to burn-out, but at a much lower rate than the person who hates their job (and thus, they don’t need the higher income to mitigate the burn-out).

        Obviously it is not black and white, but I will continue to tell people to chase their passion (with eyes open to lifestyle that choice brings) first and then consider money second. For example you love ortho and peds, but neurosurgery pays even more. Don’t go to neurosurgery for sure, and if ortho and peds are truly equal, then ortho might be the smarter choice. On the other hand, if peds is slightly more favored, then the income from peds is well above the national average and you can still live a good life, so peds would be a reasonable choice.



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