Whether you get your financial tips by asking friends and family or checking out library books, attending seminars or searching online (at sites other than DailyFinance), impractical pieces of advice abound.
Too many personal finance experts tend to populate their cable appearances, books, columns and blogs with the same simple tidbits. But some of that common advice is also ... useless. For each of these three cliched tips, let's look at some better alternatives.
1. In Debt? Cut Up Your Credit Cards
Certain financial gurus advise people in debt to cut up all their plastic and consider using credit cards the eighth deadly sin. Here's some advice: DON'T
People land in debt for various reasons, and some -- like student loans -- don't have anything to do with credit cards.
If being a unable to pass up a sale or discount clothing bin is your trigger for getting into massive amounts of debt, then put your cards in a lock box and back away. If you fell into some bad luck and used your credit card for an emergency, consider a balance transfer.
But just because someone is in debt and wants to get out of it doesn't mean they're going to stop spending money entirely. People still need to eat, gas up the car, and deal with the occasional unexpected expense.
Some may counter that it's best to use a debit card, but consider the ramifications of debit card fraud. A compromised debit card gives thieves direct access to your bank account. While most banks will cover the majority of money taken from your bank account, it's an extreme hassle to deal with. When a credit card is compromised, the issuer typically reacts quickly -- possibly even before the customer notices -- and offers 100 percent fraud protection. A credit card should be used for all online purchases, and you need one to rent a car -- otherwise you'll get a hard inquiry on your credit report for using a debit card.
It also helps to have a low-interest credit card for emergencies. Think of it as a fire extinguisher housed in a glass case. You don't want to break that glass unless you really, really need it. But you do want the fire extinguisher to be there.