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Personal Finance Hogwash

5 phrases you need to stop feeling bad about

When it comes to money, there are many opinions floating around. Spend 10 minutes on You Tube or Reddit, search “personal finance” and you’ll get a sense of just how much content is out there. A lot of it is good but some of it seems to be designed to make you feel like you’re doing something wrong. Like there are all kinds of money-making tactics that you aren’t taking advantage of. Like you’re a sucker for following traditional ways of making money. Like you just need to know the secret and you’ll get richer.

Many people get lured into the idea that making more money is easy, but let’s be clear: in personal finance, there are no tricks or secret strategies. The most important strategies for being financially sound are available to almost everyone.

“I’ve heard that…” is a phrase I hear a lot as a financial coach. Some of what people come to me with is legitimate like “I’ve heard that I should have a TFSA” or “I’ve heard that mutual funds area really expensive.” What makes me despair are the ideas people hear that make them feel like they are missing out on some great secret.

The reality is that most people a) work a regular job for a living and b) are just barely keeping their head above water time and money-wise. If this sounds like you, you’re in good company. Most people aren't doing anything extraordinary with their finances.

Phrases to ban from your life

Here are five personal finance “tips” that are commonly-cited but are actually not very realistic for most people. You should stop feeling bad if you aren’t doing these things.

1. Earn passive income.

Passive income has become a personal finance buzz phrase. Passive income means you earn money that isn’t directly tied to how much you work. It comes in the form of rental income, advertising revenue on You Tube, royalties, and dividends among other things. Passive income sounds awesome – sort of like getting money for nothing. This is so far from the truth. Earning passive income requires a lot of work up front and might require sacrifices and risk. For most people, earning enough passive income to make a difference is really hard. Stop feeling like other people are living off of passive income. Most of them are not.

2. You’ll never get rich working for someone else.

This one is probably the all-time winner in terms of making my blood boil. I’ve heard this phrase so many times in my life and I never understood why people think it’s true. Many people get "rich" working regular jobs. You don’t need to earn half a million dollars a year or own a start-up to accumulate wealth. My father is a perfect example: he was an accountant who worked for various companies in his life, having very “average” jobs. He never earned a lot, but he supported a family of six and retired with more money than he will ever need. He got rich by doing the basics: living within his means, saving, and investing in mutual funds.

3. Start a side hustle.

Another buzz phrase, a side hustle is doing something to earn money outside of your regular job. Some examples include driving for Uber, making items to sell, and dog walking. Although this is a great way to make extra money, most of us don’t have the time. Working your regular job and managing your life is just about all you can handle. Staying up until 2am to make more money is probably not worth your health and sanity.

4. You have to trade stocks and crypto.

I don’t have quite the right phrase to capture this concept, but surely you’ve come across this at some point. The stories people share when they made thousands in one week trading crypto or made big bets on stocks. They knew when to buy, and when to sell. They have stock watchlists on their phone. Please listen to me now: don’t feel bad if you aren't doing this. It’s bull roar, as my mother would say. More often than not, people lose big instead of earning big. I was a stock market analyst for 15 years and there were moments when I nearly got caught up in the lure of making big money over short time periods, but the fear of things going down instead of up always brought me back to reality. When you hear stories of fortunes made in a matter of days, have a little chuckle to yourself because these people who think they are smarter than all of the other investors out there are delusional.

5. Investing in real estate is the best way to get rich.

Investing in real estate has a reputation in North America: it’s a sure-fire way to get rich and anyone can do it. Here are some excellent video titles on You Tube: “How to get started in real estate with no money” “$100M in real estate from scratch” “How to build a $200K passive income stream in just 3 years.” Let’s be clear: yes, you can make money in real estate but it’s not as easy as You Tube makes it look. It requires money up front, borrowing huge sums, ongoing work, and taking risks. If you’re ok with that, then go for it. But most of us just don’t need that kind of stress in our lives. You can take your savings and invest in some simple exchange-traded funds and do well.

Stick with tried and true

If you’re feeling deflated thinking that other people are doing great things that you aren't doing, please stop. Most of them are not. The truth is that most people should be using traditional methods for achieving financial stability. Yes, it’s boring, yes, it takes time and yes, it takes sacrifice and self-discipline, but wealth and financial stability don’t come free and easy.


Oct 23, 2023

Number 2 made my blood boil too. "You’ll never get rich working for someone else." BS. While many people get rich setting up successful companies, there are countless others who lost their shirt and ended up with residual business debt that takes them years to pay off. it is near impossible to get rich if you own a small company. (The "big" guys eventually steal all the market share because loyalty, outstanding service and ethics count for very little these days.) I owned a business for 16 years. Started with nothing, and ended up with... nothing except hard-earned wisdom. Although I had a couple "good" years (earning $75K vs. the usual $60K), there were some really tough years when I…


Oct 20, 2023

Real-Estate; I never had a large income but did invest in RE. Where can you get a bank backed leverage in any other market than RE. In 1975 I started my own business with no background in business. A huge learning curve but in 1979 I thought I was finanly getting some feeling of being able to buy a home again but 22% interest rates made no sense, I would be paying the full house price every 5 yrs. 1982 interest rates had dropped to 12-14% double the average long term of 7% but affordable. House prices had fallen 25% so time to get into the market. The following year I bought a duplex with about 10% down. I sold…

Oct 20, 2023
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Every property I have sold I have regretted later on. The money I invested in stocks has grown a little compared to what I would have had if I still owned those properties. Example, one house we purchased for $25,000. is now selling for 1 million.

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