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The 5 worst pieces of financial advice that will cost you time, money and sanity

It’s time to separate the good, the bad, and the ugly of financial advice.Man suffering from extreme heat sitting in front of fan.

Image source: Getty Images.

It doesn’t take much time on the internet to see that financial tips are a dime a dozen. Everyone’s got advice on how you can make more and spend less.

Some of these tips can be useful, but there are also quite a few ideas that are just plain bad. After scouring the web, here’s the financial advice you should avoid at all costs, along with how you can rework it to actually help you.

1. Open your windows instead of using AC

It’s the money-saving tip courtesy of all the people who have never lived somewhere that gets above 80 degrees. Like the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, where I’ve seen it reach 116 degrees in the summer and where I probably would’ve died if it wasn’t for my AC.

There’s also the cold-weather version of this advice — bundle up instead of using your heating in the winter. Again, this may work well in some climates, but not in places where it gets absolutely freezing.

Instead of making yourself suffer when it’s extremely hot or cold, plan ahead by saving some extra money during milder months when you’re not spending as much. For homeowners, you can also get the insulation in your home checked or go with more energy-efficient heating and cooling.

2. Generate passive income by writing books

When you see someone suggesting writing as some sort of get-rich-quick scheme, you can safely assume that they:

  • Have never written a book.
  • Have no idea how much authors get paid for book sales.

Sure, plenty of authors do end up making solid passive income, but there are far more who don’t. If you want to be among the chosen few who succeed, you’re looking at hundreds of hours of work writing that book.

If you want to generate extra income, your best bet is to use the talents and passions you already have. That could be writing for some, but for others, it may be something entirely different, such as web design or marketing.

3. Try to win radio contests for quick cash

Yes, I actually read a column recommending this. As advice goes, it’s about as useful as suggesting that you hit the blackjack tables or buy scratcher tickets to make some extra cash.

Winning radio contests almost always comes down to luck, so they’re definitely not a reliable way to make money. Even if you win one, it’s not something you can replicate in the future.

If you want to have a more productive commute, you could use that time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

4. Save your loose change

Many a family has gone this route, putting a giant change jar in the house and tossing in their extra coins every night. It’s a common recommendation for people who have trouble saving money, but it’s far from the most effective way to save.

There are two glaring flaws with saving your loose change. The first is that to get anywhere saving money this way, you’ll need to pay in cash all the time. Credit cards are a more secure payment method, and there are plenty of excellent credit cards that can earn you rewards on your spending.

The other issue is that the money you save would be much better off in a bank account. In one of the best bank accounts, your money can earn some interest, and it will be safer than it would be lying around in your home.

5. Read self-help books and go to seminars

There’s always a new flavor-of-the-month self-help system people are raving about. “The Secret.” “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” And a million others, generally with some combination of the words “wealth,” “power,” and “success” in the title.

What these all have in common is that they’re designed to appeal to as many people as possible, so they really just find new ways to package extremely general advice and philosophies, such as:

  • Put your money into assets that increase in value.
  • Avoid debt.
  • Have a positive mindset.

Self-improvement is a worthwhile goal, but you’re better off focusing on specific skills over wasting money on one-size-fits-all programs.

Separating the good advice from the bad

Those are just a few of the worst offenders, and they’re proof that you should take financial advice with a grain of salt. Before you follow any supposedly slam-dunk money tips, make sure the potential reward is worth the effort.

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