Many people may not realize it, but there is a strong relationship between psychology and finance. Attitudes about money management can be damaging or empowering, depending on the financial messaging and education that individuals, families, and entire communities receive. Perspectives on financial planning are particularly impactful in the psychology of diversity and inclusion: the decisions that women, people of color, and low-income families make in this regard can mean the difference between generational poverty and a financially secure future.
Too often, people in these groups don’t believe they have enough money to build savings, make investments, or grow wealth. Because salary and wealth gaps along racial and gender lines persist so significantly in the present day, it’s all the more important for disadvantaged groups to make sound financial decisions for themselves, their families, and future generations.
In order to accomplish this, it helps to first dispel harmful myths about financial education, literacy, and planning. Here are seven myths about money that may be keeping you from taking the first steps toward life-changing financial wellness.
Myth 1: Only wealthy people need financial education or planning.
One of the most damaging personal finance myths is that financial planning is for people who have so much money that they don’t know what to do with it. Yet financial literacy is essential for people who are living paycheck to paycheck. In the present, it helps with managing a budget, saving and spending wisely, and planning for unplanned expenses. It also helps individuals and families grow wealth for a more secure future.
Myth 2: You need to have a lot of extra money to plan for college or retirement.
Students and working adults alike often believe they don’t have enough money to plan for major life change expenses like college or retirement. However, setting even a small amount of money aside from your income early in life to place in a traditional or high-yield savings account can help considerably once these events are on your horizon. You can grow your savings even more by making investments with the funds you have.
Myth 3: You need to have significant disposable income to make investments.
Individuals in low-income (and even middle-class) groups often think of investing as something they plan to look into when they have enough extra funds. But investing isn’t only for the wealthy. In fact, investing is a great way to build savings (with potential for more net yield than a traditional savings account provides). You can find resources on saving and investing here.
Myth 4: Investing is risky.
People who have avoided investing may be influenced by movies about Wall Street or news reports of stock market downturns. Yet taking at least some risk is necessary for growing wealth, and stock markets are not the only option for doing so. It is possible and important to make investments whose risk is appropriate for your age, future plans, and current income. There are plenty of resources that can help you get started on the path to a strong investment portfolio.
Myth 5: You don’t need an emergency fund.
Many people don’t see the need for an emergency fund, thinking that their credit cards or savings accounts are the best go-to in a pinch. However, these can increase your debt burden or put your financial security at risk in other ways. Creating and building a dedicated emergency fund, however, can lessen the impact of an unplanned expense on your finances and protect your savings. It’s well worth learning more about how to start one on virtually any budget.
Myth 6: Scholarships, financial aid, and a post-college job will pay for college.
Low- and middle-income families often rely on scholarships and financial aid to pay for college. Yet most scholarships don’t cover the full cost of tuition, and financial aid may not either. Further, despite often requiring a college degree, most entry-level jobs don’t offer salaries high enough to pay off student loans quickly. To avoid the burden of long-term student loans, it’s essential to start saving for college as early as possible.
Myth 7: Your credit score isn’t important, and it’s risky to use credit cards.
Because home ownership is a major and primary source of wealth for many Americans, it’s important to make this transaction possible by building good credit. A good credit score is also necessary for getting hired for some jobs, renting an apartment, or financing a vehicle purchase. Opening a credit card account and using it responsibly is a traditional means to building good credit, and it also offers many other benefits and opportunities.
The best way to avoid falling prey to misconceptions about money management is to seek out financial education for yourself and your community. Gaining financial literacy can not only create a more stable future for yourself, your family, and future generations, but for society as well. It’s also a good idea to vote for measures and politicians that promote financial literacy for low-income populations and to support local organizations whose missions align with this effort.