Personal finance rules can keep your money on track. But although money experts recommend specific moves, it's okay to break some of these rules. The truth is, there are no hard or fast rules when it comes to managing your finances. And recommendations that work for one person don’t always work for another. Here are seven personal finance rules you should break -- if it doesn't work with your situation.
1. Max out Your 401(k) Plan
There are several personal finance rules that money experts preach, such as maxing out your 401(k) plan. This makes sense from a long-term financial standpoint. If you contribute the most to your 401(k) plan over the next 30 or 40 years, you might qualify for an employee-match, which can result in a more comfortable retirement. But before you max out contributions, take a look at your personal finances. Do you have money in a liquid cash reserve? If not, you might contribute less to your 401(k) now, and focus on building your emergency fund. You can always increase contributions to your retirement plan once you have a 3 to 6-month emergency fund.
2. Save for Your Kid’s College Education
Some parents don't want their children to be burdened with high student debt, thus they start a college savings account early. There's nothing wrong with paying for your child's college expenses, but you shouldn't pay for college at the expense of saving for retirement. There are several options for paying for school, but only a few ways to save for retirement. So, if you have to choose one over the other, retirement savings wins.
3. Pay off Debt before Saving
I've read several personal finance articles that preach the importance of paying off debt first, and then saving. But without a savings account for emergencies, one major setback can put you back into debt. Both moves are important, but I wouldn't say one is more important than the other. If possible, attempt to pay off debt and save simultaneously. Or if you're really focused on paying off debt, make sure you have at least $500 in your savings account before dumping all your disposable income on debt.
4. Save 10% of Every Check
This is an excellent way to build your savings account fast. But let's be real, 10% of every check is too much for some people. Take a look at your budget, reduce spending, and then determine a realistic amount you can save each paycheck. If you can only save 5% or 6% of your money, this is better than nothing.
5. Buy a House
It's the American dream, and the so-called best way to invest in your future. But buying a house isn't for everyone. Not only is there the expense of down payment and closing costs, home maintenance can take a chunk of your money over the years. And in some places, renting is actually cheaper than buying. Therefore, if you need to build an emergency fund or pay off debt, you might rent for the time being to free up cash in your budget.
6. Never Use a Credit Card
Some people feel credit cards are this evil device that keeps us trapped in debt. And to some degree, they have a point. But when used responsibly, credit is a useful tool. It helps us establish a credit history, we can earn reward points and save on future purchases, plus credit cards come with a few amazing perks like payment protection. The key, however, is paying off balances in full each month.
7. Never Lend Money
Whether you're cosigning or giving a friend money to pay bills, some money experts recommend never lending money because it can complicate relationships. But honestly, it's hard to turn away from someone who needs legitimate help. For that matter, if you're going to lend money, only do so if you can afford to lose the money, and get an agreement in writing.
Money rules vary depending on the expert you speak with. And while many of the rules you read online are practical and smart, sometimes you have to find your own financial way. What are some other personal finance rules you can break?