Misconceptions about Personal Finance

The importance of financial planning at an individual and family level cannot be overstated. For years, people and even governments have been trying to inculcate this habit into the masses. However, they have found it difficult to do so. This is because there are several misconceptions related to personal finance, which are common among people. In this article, we will list some of these common misconceptions and explain why they are incorrect.

Misconception #1: One Time Activity

The most common misconception about financial planning is that it is a one-time activity. Many people believe that if they attend some kind of seminar or read some kind of book on financial planning, then they have done financial planning. Obviously, this is not the case, and financial planning is a lifelong activity. It needs to be done extensively over a period of time. For instance, personal financial goals need to be set up periodically. These goals then need to be adjusted over a period of time based on new information coming up regarding the incomes and expenses of the investor. The goals of the plan to achieve them may have to be readjusted and rebalanced many years over the journey. Hence, reading a book or attending a seminar is just the first step, which only becomes meaningful when several other steps are taken after it.

Misconception #2: All about Retirement

Financial planning is thought to be an activity that is performed by old or middle-aged people. The notion is that only when people are close to retirement should they take stock of their finances. However, this is also obviously not true. This is like saying that the right time to study is the night before the exam. If we keep on delaying financial planning, then the years of old age become extremely stressful, and also, the probability of meeting financial goals decreases exponentially. The right time to start financial planning is very early on in the career of an individual. This is because time is the most important factor in compounding, and by investing earlier, investors can take advantage of the magical effects of compounding.

Misconception #3: All about Taxes

Many people think that financial planning is just another fancy name for tax planning. This is the reason why they avoid financial planning because they may not fall in the higher tax bracket or because they might feel that they do not have enough savings so that they can invest and finally save themselves from taxes. Tax planning is only a part of financial planning, and that too a pretty small one. There is a lot more to financial planning, which can benefit investors even though they do not fall under a higher tax bracket.

Misconception #4: Only For the Wealthy

There are several people who believe that tax planning is only for the wealthy. The reality is that even middle-class people have an income that they need to optimize in order to meet their goals. In fact, since middle-class people have a shortage of income, they need to work harder in order to meet their goals. Hence, it would be fair to say that the situation of lower and middle-class people improves greatly once they start using the principles of financial planning.

Misconception #5: All about Investments

Financial planning works holistically. This means that the goal of financial planning is to ensure that you have all the resources which you would need at your disposal. For instance, when a person grows old, their health is also likely to deteriorate. Hence, one part of financial planning deals with obtaining various kinds of insurance so that the medical needs of the investor are met at a later stage in life. Similarly, financial planning also takes care of emotional needs, housing needs, and even the need for leisure and entertainment. Financial planning encompasses the entire range of activities from saving in the youth to spending in old age. Like tax planning, investments are also just a part of the financial planning process. Investments are a significant part of the process but do not encompass the entire process.

Misconception #6: Do It Yourself

There are several people who understand that financial planning is important but do not want to take the services of a specialist. This is because they think that the services of a specialist are expensive and that they can manage their finances themselves. This may be true to some extent if the person is well-read in the field of personal finance and is also financially literate. However, many people are not financially literate. They may be doctors, engineers, and journalists and may be well versed in their own fields. However, they might not know the nitty-gritty of mutual funds and insurance products. Hence, hiring an expert may be a good idea. There might be some fee involved, but it may prevent a lot of expensive mistakes which can adversely impact the net worth of the investor.

The bottom line is that people have several misconceptions about personal finance. Hence, the first job of a personal finance expert is to educate investors about why this kind of thinking is flawed and why it must be avoided. Educating people may be extremely difficult since they are quite reluctant to discuss their finances. This is the reason why personal finance is a challenging field.


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