Outdated Financial Advice

By now, you may have heard about the famed “Good Wife’s Guide” – a list of 10 steps that 1950’s women could embrace to become the ideal spouse for the men in their lives.

The list supposedly comes from a 1950’s home economics textbook, and highlights what a woman’s role might have looked like back then, some 65 years ago. The text, made up of 10 steps women should strive for each day, includes gems such as:

“Listen to him. You may have a dozen or more important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first, remember – his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”

“Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.”

And my personal favorite….

“A good wife always knows her place.”


The Times… They Are A-Changin’

While there is some doubt as to whether “The Good Wife’s Guide” was really published or is a piece of modern-day propaganda created to illustrate how 1950’s women were often treated like doormats, there is no arguing that times have changed.

Where women were once mostly homemakers, they are now projected to make up as much as 51% of the workforce by 2018. And according to Pew Research statistics, women are outpacing men in terms of college enrollment at a rapid pace and across all ethnicities.

While some of us stick to traditional gender roles when it comes to domestic chores and child care, we’re not the meek and powerless domestic partners we once were. In fact, a study from the Harvard Business Review revealed that women may actually be the drivers of the world’s economic engine. According to the study, women make 94% of the financial decisions regarding home furnishings, decide 92% of vacations, choose 91% of homes purchased, pick out 60% of automobiles, and buy 51% of consumer electronics.

Outdated Financial Advice

That’s right: Times have changed, and not just in relation to a woman’s role in the home and workplace. The world of money has evolved since the 1950’s as well, and much of what was once considered “good advice” is now just as laughable as “The Good Wife’s Guide.”

In our efforts to dig up some outdated financial advice to laugh at, we asked several bloggers and financial advisors to share the most useless and obsolete financial advice they have ever received. Here’s what they said:

You can depend on your husband to support you.

Teresa Mears of Living On the Cheap remembers a time when most young women were told they should count on their husbands for lifetime support. Unfortunately, that very advice has proved disastrous over the years due to divorce and other factors.

Chances are, you know someone who has lost everything or been forced to rebuild their lives after a nasty breakup of a long-term marriage, an unexpected death, or some other disaster that was largely out of their control.

Sadly, Teresa believes many young women still cling to this advice despite changing times and attitudes.

“I am amazed at how many women young enough to be my children think they can depend on a man to support them,” says Mears. “No one is safe from death, disability, divorce, or a layoff.”

Find a solid company and work there until you retire.

While workers from previous generations often worked for the same company for 20, 30, or even 40 years, then retired with a reliable pension plan, that kind of commitment is hardly the norm these days — from either employees or employers.

Because of increased mobility, the constant uprooting of our workforce, and the way companies continue to evolve and grow only to shrink again, it’s nearly impossible to work for the same company for your entire life anymore. And good luck finding a pension at a private-sector company.

Chris Huntley from Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services says he received advice to stick with one employer very early in his career and had to laugh it off.

“After graduating from college, my grandfather advised me to get a good job and work for that same employer for 20 years so I could qualify for a pension, and then leave and do the same thing at another company,” says Chris. “That way I could retire with two pensions and Social Security like he did!”

Everyone should go to college straight out of high school.

Just decades ago, it was accepted that if you wanted to get a leg up in life, you should go straight from high school to a four-year college. Just move from mom and dad’s to a college dorm, sleep on a twin bed and keep peculiar hours, and study hard until your journey culminated in a four-year degree and a rewarding professional career.

Nowadays, students who follow that path are increasingly mired by crushing levels of student loan debt, which begs the question: Shouldn’t young adults have a plan in place before they move away and earn a four-year degree?

Kimberly Parr of Eyes on the Dollar believes so, after receiving similar advice about college – and following it – the moment she donned a cap and gown at her own high school graduation.

“My parents told me to finish college before doing anything else like travel, getting a full-time job, or even really knowing what I wanted to do,” says Parr.

“It worked out for me, but there are way too many college graduates who are waiting tables with thousands of dollars in student loan debt. You don’t need to go straight into college and student loans without a plan to pay them back!”

You should buy as much home as you can afford.

Conventional wisdom of just decades ago told us that you should always buy as much house as you can afford – not only because your home will appreciate considerably, but also for the tax deduction you receive on mortgage interest.

Lee Huff of Bald Thoughts remembers hearing this argument as he grew up, yet questioning it all along.

Sadly, the housing crash of 2008-2009 showed that housing isn’t always such a great investment – especially if you don’t plan to live in your home for a long time. And that tax deduction for mortgage interest? Well, the value of that deduction is largely overblown, and not even worth the effort of itemizing for many homeowners.

Most people don’t know this, but if you don’t itemize your taxes, the value of your home mortgage deduction is nothing. Nada. Zilch. And even if you do itemize, the value of the deduction is limited to any amount that exceeds the standard deduction, which was $12,600 for married spouses filing jointly in 2015.

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Always use a debit card instead of cash… for increased protection.

Financial advisor Christine Beeby Odle remembers hearing about the virtues of using debit all her life, she says. The reasoning behind this? Apparently the FDIC protections offered through your bank were once a good reason to choose debit over cash in-hand. Plus, cash can easily be stolen, whereas debit was seen as much more “secure.”

Of course, the Internet has changed all that – and now cash and credit are king. Where using debit is still as convenient as it ever was, credit has steamed ahead as the most secure way to pay for most purchases – especially purchases made online.

Remember, most credit cards offer zero-fraud liability on unauthorized purchases. With your debit card, on the other hand, your liability jumps to $500 if you don’t catch the fraudulent transaction within two business days – and you could even have your bank account drained with no recourse after that.

You should never talk about money.

When Kylee Della Volpe of Mortgages.com was growing up, she was constantly told it was rude to talk about money. As a hopeless rule follower, she went out of her way to avoid the topic of money at all costs, even when she should have been talking about her finances in an effort to learn more.

Fortunately, that changed over time as she realized she was missing out by shutting the conversation down.

“The older I got and the more I started paying attention, I realized that not talking about money was costing me a lot,” she says.

When she graduated from college, for example, she had no idea how to manage her finances, budget, or invest. It wasn’t that she couldn’t figure it out on her own, she says, it was that she had never taken the time to think through – or ask questions about – financial issues others had already deemed “impolite.”

Learning to budget and to save weren’t the only reasons she found that talking about money was not only important, but crucial for her own financial well-being. Friends can “let you know about their favorite financial planning blog or how they shopped around for a mortgage online before they even set foot in a bank,” she says.

Further, talking about salaries shouldn’t be taboo, either. “It might be uncomfortable, but asking your friends in similar career fields what they make can be absolutely essential to making sure you’re paid what your worth.”

The Bottom Line

As our culture continues to evolve, our attitudes about money should change with it. Fortunately, we’re coming to terms with the fact that many of our old ideas are not only outdated, but downright dangerous.

At the end of the day, it’s up to us to decide which traditions to stick to and which to abandon; it’s up to us to decide whether to take a traditional approach to college or buying a home – or to buck past trends and do our own thing.

The truth is, conventional wisdom is not always right. And sometimes, it’s downright laughable.

Holly Johnson
Contributing Writer

Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.

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