Fancy yourself a fibber? Probably not. Yet when it comes to finances, even the most honest among us can turn into a bit of a Pinocchio; if you've used a little white lie to justify a splurge you couldn't afford or embraced some myth as your mantra in order to put off financial responsibility, then you're guilty. Here are four fictions that you might have convinced yourself are fact:
1. I DON'T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT MY CREDIT SCORE UNTIL I'M READY TO BUY A CAR OR A HOUSE.
“Unfortunately, credit can take years to build, so if you wait until right before you apply for a loan to improve your score, you won’t have enough time,” says Katie Waters, a Certified Financial Planner and founder of Stable Waters Financial. If you’re using this money lie to justify sending in that Visa payment a few weeks late, consider this: The number one factor that comprises your FICO score is your ability to pay your bills on time. So making a payment by the deadline each month needs to be non-negotiable—even if you’re years away from caring about a car loan.
The Straight Talk: Not sure what your credit score even is (gulp)? Check out CreditKarma.com, where you can see your credit score for free. The site will also grade you on each of the factors that make up your credit score, so you can target your so-so habits.
2. I'LL START SAVING WHEN I'M MAKING MORE.
While it’s true that your earnings might rise over time—especially if you’re just starting out in your career—don’t plan on playing catch-up with your savings in the future. “Lifestyle and expenses tend to expand proportionally to your income,” says Waters. So if you’re living paycheck to paycheck while you’re making $40,000, well, you can probably expect that you’ll have the same money habits even after you get that raise. “You might think you’ll have extra money lying around when you’re making $5,000 more or $10,000 more, but you’ll be in for a surprise.”
The Straight Talk: Start saving now—even if it’s only $20 per paycheck. Having that habit in place makes it more likely you’ll sock away more when your salary increases, says Waters. “If you start flexing that savings muscle now, you’ll be conditioned to put some aside.”
3. I DON'T NEED TO SAVE FOR RETIREMENT—I'LL JUST WORK FOREVER.
This one is more of a whopper than a white lie, because you don’t need a finance degree to know that the odds of being able to work until you die are slim (not to mention, totally depressing). Declining health doesn’t just mean less earning potential, it will likely be one of your biggest expenses. A recent Bankrate study found that a 55-year-old couple planning to retire in 10 years is looking at $463,849 in medical expenses during retirement. Yeah, that’s a cool half million dollars.
The Straight Talk: Retirement feels like a million years away, and you’ve got rent to make at the end of the month. Fair enough. But get thee to HR and sign up for the company-sponsored retirement plan. Saving just $33 a month starting at 25 could mean an extra $3,870 in yearly income during your retirement years, according to Fidelity Investments.
4. I MADE A BIG CREDIT CARD PAYMENT THIS MONTH, SO I CAN CHARGE A FEW THINGS.
“I think this is one of the worst lies you can tell yourself, because it means you’re never going to get out of debt,” says Waters. If you make a $400 payment when you can really only afford to pay down $200, you’re setting yourself up to keep swiping—and could wind up with an even bigger balance than before. “You’re using that big payment to justify charging things to the card, when the truth is you don’t have that money.” And carrying any kind of balance month-to-month is the worst use of your money out there: Most credit cards have an interest rate between 13 and 22 percent, according to ValuePenguin. Chip away at a $1,000 balance just $200 at a time, and you’ll wind up wasting hundreds of dollars on interest.
The Straight Talk: If you’re not able to pay your credit card bill in full every month, it’s time to stop using that plastic. As you whittle down that debt, “double bag the card and stick it in the freezer,” says Waters.