What are some of your controversial personal finance beliefs?

INSIDE: Do you have some personal finance ideas that differ from a lot of people? If so, then you have some controversial personal finance beliefs. Get them off your chest by commenting with them below!

Answered this question on Twitter last year, then got re-sucked back into it all again when it bubbled back up randomly this morning ;)

Now passing it on to you to give your brain a work out! Haha…

controversial personal finance ideas

My Controversial Personal Finance Ideas & Beliefs

Here were my answers to it, and then I’ll list out some others from the community I found interesting as well… Maybe you have some controversial beliefs of your own?

Statements I usually get the stink eye on:

#1. Renting is better than owning for a lot of people. Both in terms of money and freedom.

#2. Buying Starbucks is perfectly fine! There are millions of other areas you can skimp on that are less important to you, leave us coffee drinkers alone!

#3. Always tip 20% no matter the service. So many benefits to this like never having to think about tipping again, being a fair tipper each and every time, easily being able to calculate it, and then just walking away feeling GOOD about it overall.

Agree? Disagree?

See you how feel about some of these other comments from the thread ;)

It really is like financial porn up in here, haha…

  • Being frugal won’t make you rich
  • Save before paying off debt
  • Credit cards are a scam. (After 5 years without them, living the same way as before, I won’t ever get one again. – @MichLovesMoney)
  • It’s okay to pay fees to use great banking products
  • It’s okay to work a 9-5
  • Buying items on clearance is not the same thing as saving money
  • Index funds are not the end all be all for wealth creation
  • Do not marry someone with debt if you are not prepared to pay it off with him
  • Side hustles are a huge waste of time and resources. (Just focus your effort on your day job and do It well enough to get promoted while keeping your sanity at home. – @ali_fo_fali)
  • Massive student loan debt can be worth it to increase your human capital
  • I don’t include our home (or vehicles, or any other possession) in our net worth calculation
  • I believe in getting tax refunds. (It’s conscious delayed savings. – @ImmigrantFin)

No real rules to this money stuff – gotta figure it out on your own and then STAY STRONG when people poo poo it!

What others can we add here to keep the party going? :)

(Fun mental work out, @PeerlessMoney – thanks!)

// Pic up top by Prawny

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  1. Aaron January 13, 2020 at 7:00 AM

    Paying taxes is patriotic.

  2. Gene Roberts January 13, 2020 at 7:38 AM

    “Being frugal won’t make you rich” – I agree in the sense that focusing on frugality has a limited potential to improve your finances. I.E. your maximum possible savings is limited to what you are currently spending. Whereas your ability to earn more is virtually unlimited.

    “I don’t include our home (or vehicles, or any other possession) in our net worth calculation”
    Feel free to count (or not) whatever you want. Personally, I see net worth as a measure of financial momentum while some people seem to think of it as more of a “liquidation” value. I count my home equity and vehicles because I think that gives me a more accurate evaluation of where I am financially. But I also track my retirement balance separately since that is the number that determines when I can safely retire.

    “Credit cards are a scam.”
    I get about $700 from my cash back Visa card every year. So, not a scam to me. If you can pay off every month, the right card is a good deal. And good luck renting a car without a “real” credit card. That is one thing a debit card is not very good for at all.

    “Massive student loan debt can be worth it to increase your human capital”
    If you’ve done your research and shown your math on the work that you will have a positive return on the investment then sure. But I think that far too many students (and parents) take it as a “given” that a degree (any degree) is worth the expense (any expense).

    “I believe in getting tax refunds.”
    One pearl of wisdom that I have come to respect over the years is “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” If giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan until you file your taxes is what it takes for you to generate savings, then that is better that not generating the savings in the first place and spending the extra because it is in your bank account. On the other hand, investing that money as you earn it rewards you with more time-in-market and is likely to be slightly more beneficial in the long-run.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 7:47 AM

      I’m with you on the net worth part too. I track it all so I can get a complete *picture* of my money all in one spot. If you’re tracking it for other reasons (or if other places are requesting it from you), then setting it up to better align with those goals are perfectly great too. It’s only being tracked “wrong” if the goals aren’t matching up with the method!

  3. Chris January 13, 2020 at 8:10 AM

    We don’t budget, never really have. I have wanted to before but my husband doesn’t want. I guess he thinks it’s too much like rules.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 11:37 AM

      Does he know budgets can be BIG and FUN too? :) no rules saying it only has to be for boring stuff, haha…

  4. Debt Free in RVA January 13, 2020 at 8:16 AM

    My first thought that comes to my mind is “Buy a used car instead of a new car”. Granted this DOES NOT always work out, and we have not always followed this rule. For example, we bought our minivan new 7 years ago and it has worked out well.

    But, I have a lot of friends and family that roll their eyes at me when I mention the above.

    One other: I keep GOLD as 10 % of my portfolio. I’m talking about real physical gold and SPIDER Gold Fund (GLD). People will tell me I am crazy, but the gold I bought for $ 300 an ounce in mid 1990s is now $ 1,800 per ounce! AND, I only keep it as only 10 % of my total portfolio. I think it is a good investment, and good hedge against inflation.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 11:40 AM

      Oh yeah – precious metals can be awesome and always come back in fashion whenever the market crashes :) But always better to load up before, of course!

      We’re used car people too – never bought new even once yet…

  5. Chadnudj January 13, 2020 at 8:49 AM

    I love the “Paying Taxes is Patriotic” one above, but if I had to choose another one:

    Succeeding at personal finance is at least 50% luck.

    I think the one thing the personal finance world ignores is the role luck plays in being successful — not losing a job, not getting sick, not buying a car that’s a lemon, not getting divorced, even investment returns to a certain degree, etc. are all to various degrees effected by luck, and while there are certain principles that serve you well regardless, actual success at personal finance/reaching financial independence is very much a factor of luck.

  6. Ngneer January 13, 2020 at 9:23 AM

    I totally disagree. Suck it up and hustle and work harder. My parents immigrated here in their 40s and paid off a house and mine and my sister’s school and now I’m continuing to work my butt off to keep the wealth growing for the next generation. There is no luck. Your already got 100% luck by ending up with the ability to be here reading this blog.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 11:47 AM

      Yup, hustle can overcome a lot of unluckiness but luck def. still plays a part in it all. Just being born in this country or having amazing/loving parents sets you up on a better trajectory from the start. The hustle then helps amplify things!

  7. Christine January 13, 2020 at 9:46 AM

    Good food for thought! I am with you on the renting (as I just recently entered the home ownership gig), coffee, and tipping (though that’s only for sit down service…I’m more flexible with other things and sometimes tip more for smaller meals/smaller check, like for a diner at breakfast I may end up tipping 30% or more if it’s a small bill).

    I also was a save before paying off debt person. Having short term savings in general–sitting in a plain old low interest savings account–is generally not acknowledged to be a good thing. But, for me, having that chunk of change sitting there was comforting. Looking back, yeah, I wish I’d had it sitting in something that yielded more, but I know it gave me peace of mind. And eventually, I did just pay off the student loan and car loan, giving me 0 debt. But there was a period of time where my job was uncertain and having the security blanket of not having to dip into my 401k for a loan if something went south was nice.

    I also am a “forget the side hustles” person–but that’s only because I can’t imagine having my full time job and a side hustle or two. Perhaps if I were self-employed or took on a much less demanding job that gave me more freedom. But i’m okay being a slave to the man for now.

    I also think spending money on vacations or other fun things is totally worth it. Not if you truly are putting yourself into debt or spending money that should be earmarked for important things or you have no savings to fall back on, but if it is just that you are using money that could be additional savings or spent on other things, well, you only live once and having the experiences and memories to me are what make up a life. My bottom line is that money is a tool that should serve you, and it’s your decision how it does that. There’s a baseline of what you can do to be a responsible person financially but beyond that, it’s about your own choices (like if I want to buy a friggin’ coffee out!) ;)

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 11:53 AM

      I like having savings with debt too, vs no savings and no debt :) Something really comforting in that, though I wish I were the opposite and slept better with what’s best “financially” haha…

  8. Chris ODonnell January 13, 2020 at 9:54 AM

    I’d say luck is more like 80%. I was lucky to be born a white male in the US – it’s the equivalent of playing the game of life in easy mode – with multiple cheats enabled. Millions of people that are smarter than me and work harder than me will never have my social and financial capital for the simple reason they were not born white males in the US and could not overcome the obstacles from that, no matter how hard they worked.

  9. BC | FrugalWheels January 13, 2020 at 11:04 AM

    That Personal Capital and/or Mint are at all necessary. I seem to be the only FI blogger that doesn’t use them or promote them with an affiliate link. I tried Mint for a hot second and felt it was more work to try to get it to work the way I needed it to than to just look at the accounts myself. I know what I’m spending, I don’t need a machine to do it.

    Otherwise, I feel like the FI community has reached the contrarian stage where all the principles are being questions and contradicted. Being frugal won’t make you rich. Maybe, but it’s opposite will definitely stop you from getting there. And don’t even get me started on the housing debate. The only thing I ever see now is how renting is the best thing in the world, and you’re a Jones-chasing fool if you buy a house. These posts are almost alway written by someone living in a house, BTW.

    The bottom line for most of those “unpopular” opinions is that they are pointing to a necessary balance. Frugality is a good thing; cheapness is not. House buying is better for some; renting is better for others. Side hustles can be a nice way to bring in extra money; but overdoing it can stress you out and wreck your day job. Almost all of them come down to balance, which was always the point any way.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 11:56 AM

      If only balance was more fun ;)

  10. Carl January 13, 2020 at 11:35 AM

    The only thing that’s tricky about the net worth one is that whatever people choose i wish they’d disclose it. It’a got to be confusing to people learning about this to not know which blogger is accounting for what in their net worth posts. Even The net worth tracker you have of bloggers is much less useful data if you don’t know whose growing wealth vs someone has $1 million net worth in their primary home and cars and no savings/investments.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 1:24 PM

      True – lots of variables go into it for sure… Like even *where* people live, whether they have kids, whether they’re married or not, etc etc.. Always hard to directly compare, but still much better than everyone being quiet about their $$ like in the real world :)

  11. Kathy January 13, 2020 at 11:46 AM

    Giving 10 percent of your income to the church, aka Tithe. I used to believe this as I knew that church water, electricity and pastor’s salary, etc had to be paid. This was fine until I realized that some pentecostal pastors took it so far that they started telling church members to give than other issues and saying that they would prayer “more powerful” prayers for people who gave more. Those who give are given group prayers and not one-on-one prayers. What?!! The same pastors started getting extremely wealthy while demanding more money for their personal use but were not sharing with the destitute in the church. I no longer believe in tithing because it has been tainted by greedy preachers . I had no problem with tithing more than 20 years ago because greed had not yet really set it.

    1. Amy January 13, 2020 at 12:42 PM

      Oooh yes, I feel you on this one. It was drilled in to me in childhood to always tithe a minimum of 10% to the church. Well, my relationship with God and religion as a whole has changed over the years and I no longer believe in ‘tithing’ out of obligation. Instead I focus on ‘giving’ in general. That could mean a donation to causes, charities, or paying for the coffee of the person in the beat up car ahead of me in line at the drive-thru. And if I want to give to a church, I can also do that, but not out of obligation or with a ‘prosperity gospel’ mindset.

      1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 1:31 PM

        Just heard someone on Twitter say they’ve tithed 10% since being a teenager and was super impressed by it. True there will always be people/places that take advantage of it, but that’s on them at the end of the day and not us. Glad y’all are still giving even if in other ways and it hasn’t stopped you :) I do the same thing too and pass it around, mainly to people/organizations that are local.

    2. Carol Stewart January 18, 2020 at 11:36 AM

      Over 40 years ago, I determined to tithe regularly, and have never been sorry. Don’t let some disreputable creeps sour you on all churches. Be smart with where your money goes.

  12. Amy January 13, 2020 at 12:39 PM

    Love this post. Thoughts below:

    Tipping 20% – Definitely disagree, but I’m also not American. In Canada (BC), servers make at least minimum wage which is $13.85 per hour, and tipping 20% is on the high end of normal. Many servers at average restaurants make a very good salary with hourly wage and tips combined and can serve as a career (said as someone with experience in the industry).

    Side hustles are a huge waste of time and resources – No! Working for the government, I can put in as much effort as I want and it won’t get me ahead earlier the same way it might in private sector. My side hustles have allowed me to save for grad school, get dental work done, and pay for car repairs. With no kids I have plenty of time in the evening and weekends to work for some extra pay until my career-job increases enough in salary.

    I believe in getting tax refunds – It’s like a little bonus every year that I didn’t have to be disciplined to save myself.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 1:31 PM

      Awesome about servers in Canada!! Had no idea!!

    2. Leila January 21, 2020 at 12:29 PM

      Yes to the side hustle portion!

      I also work for the government and working my ass off here won’t help that much.
      Besides, I can provide so much more value with my side hustles and it’s absolutely worth my time, energy, and money.
      I genuinely enjoy my side hustles and I don’t want to work for corporate America much longer, my side hustles will get me out of it.

  13. Shay January 13, 2020 at 1:30 PM

    I was taught to never talk about your finances. My daughter calls it a WASP thing. But if people like you hadn’t shared your experiences I wouldn’t have the knowledge that I have now. I still don’t talk to people I work with about my personal finances, but I now do talk about things like investments, savings, which credit cards are better, where to shop for the best deals, etc.

    1. J. Money January 13, 2020 at 1:37 PM

      Awesome!! That’s a great way to open up dialogues on money – it’s not always necessary to divulge the hard numbers :) And hopefully the more that blogs catch on the more people get comfortable like you in sharing more freely too… It certainly feels we’ve come a long way since I first stumbled across the community over a decade ago! Even bloggers back then rarely shared their #’s and now every other one does :)

  14. LF Tommy January 13, 2020 at 2:49 PM

    Fun read. I can agree or at least go either way on what you have listed. Here’s the one I get push back on: Include Social Security in your long-term retirement planning. It’s mandatory we pay into it so we should plan and expect to get it. We can’t control the future but it’s certainly a worthy voting issue.

    1. J. Money January 14, 2020 at 12:59 PM

      I like to think of it as an “extra” just to be super conservative, but you’re right that it’ll come into many/all people’s lives – especially those retiring sooner than later.

  15. Peerless Money January 13, 2020 at 3:23 PM

    Thanks for keeping the controversy alive, J! I created a headline for a post based on the thread, but I never got around to writing the post lol

    1. J. Money January 14, 2020 at 1:00 PM

      HAH! It’s perfect fodder, as you see here!! :)

  16. Richard January 13, 2020 at 4:33 PM

    Interesting read, but ultimately I take the more cynical view that the general discussion ultimately diminishes and confuses otherwise good principles, usually by their framing. At no point have I heard a credible source say that index funds are the be all end all to wealth creation–just one of the simplest, easiest ways, compared to real estate, for instance. Trashing ‘frugality’ is another false flag, to me; more about semantics. The word itself (frugal, frugality) sounds a little arcane and old-fashioned, a possible insult, whereas ‘saving money’ instantly sounds positive and awesome and gets me excited, all jazzed up, as surely as killer returns in an S&P 500 fund. Everybody’s different, just my take. Beyond that, I think marriage is a patently bad, outmoded idea, across the board, potentially leading to financial destruction or medical bankruptcy, and that tithing is an outrageous misallocation of resources that should otherwise be saved, used to pay debt, or invested. IN an index fund, mind you (lol), unless you know better ways that personally interest you, with less volatility.

    1. J. Money January 14, 2020 at 1:01 PM

      We do like to pick things apart here, don’t we :) But blogs wouldn’t exist without this fun stuff!! Haha…

  17. Norma January 13, 2020 at 6:22 PM

    “Money can’t buy happiness.” 2 yrs ago I bought myself my dream car, a jag with analog dials instead of digital. Maybe not happiness, but it puts a smile on my face when I look over the dash and see the ornament.

    1. J. Money January 14, 2020 at 1:02 PM

      Haha… love it.

  18. Chickenwizard's DivBlog January 13, 2020 at 11:47 PM

    I believe in getting tax refunds. (It’s conscious delayed savings.)
    Me too.
    I claim a zero on my withholdings.
    It’s my summer vacation fund. Last year’s paid for 13 days in Hawaii for the family.
    – John

  19. Mr C January 14, 2020 at 6:16 AM

    Loved this post (and related twitter thread) and really got me thinking.

    I always assumed living in the developing world would be cheap. Experience has taught me it is not. At least its not if you want to maintain the same lifestyle that you would like in the States/Western Europe.

    Your nationality can determine whether financial independence is possible. There are countries where societal norms make it virtually impossible.

    I agree with some of the comments above that generosity is so important – regardless of your age / income level. It really helps us appreciate what we have.

    1. J. Money January 14, 2020 at 1:04 PM

      Many of us do have extreme privelege here for sure…Good to remind ourselves whenever we catch ourselves bitching about 1st world problems :)

  20. Chandrashekhar January 16, 2020 at 3:17 AM

    Interesting article and comments that follow it. I have made time to read most of them, just to get different perspectives.
    Most things resonate well.
    On the frugal thing, I’ve never been one of those guys because I keep remembering “Penny wise, pound foolish”.

    Contribution to Church. I’m from India where there are no hard and fast % on how much one should contribute to a temple or an ashram. I believe in giving for good and for the underprivileged and continue without keeping a tab on %. I know it’s not a lot but not too less – just comfortable for me.

    Tips: Tips aren’t a big thing in India but most mid to top restaurants in India include tip as part of the check and it’s anywhere between 10-15% so I don’t tip extra on that. Where tip is not included, I give but usually based on service – see this as a way of feedback to improve the service.

    A couple of additions to the list could be:
    1. Stop/Curb Impulsive Buying: It can save a reasonable amount of money not to buy stuff out of impulse either at Dutyfree or in sales at CostCo, Walmart or elsewhere. Also, Warren Buffets words linger “If you buy things you don’t need, soon you’ll start selling things you need to survive” or something on those lines.
    2. Buy the shares of the companies where you’re spending: If I regularly drink coffee at a Starbucks & it’s doing well, buy shares regularly. I think this is an idea I borrowed from Peter Lynch, the renowned fund manager.
    3. If you’re planning a large expense, buy shares worth that expense in that industry/company before making the spend. For instance, if you’re looking to buy the latest iPhone, buy Apple shares worth that phone and see if you still want to buy the phone, unless you badly need one. That way, you tend to reduce unnecessary expenses while building a decent portfolio to rely on.

    Wishing happier finances to everyone!

  21. Ryan Schlomer January 17, 2020 at 4:11 PM

    #1 The reason to build wealth is to be able to give generously and have additional time to volunteer.

    #2 Money can make you happy, especially when you save it.

    #3 Kids don’t cost much to raise.

    p.s. I always tip 20% and then add in a few additional dollars based on how much rice my kids got on the floor.

  22. Papa Foxtrot January 26, 2020 at 9:38 AM

    Bonds are rarely good investments.

    Bonds have very small growth for investments compared to others and it would be far better to invest in stocks or higher growth assets despite the risks, especially if you are investing for over 10 years. Some bonds are ok like in balanced funds which allocate risk and diversify a little. For instance, I have a balanced fund which invests in stocks and bonds. The bonds are frequently high yield and they are invested in to allocate risk for the international equities in the fund. Despite having bonds in this fund, my fund’s returns very closely matches the gains of the S&P 500 and it does not drop as much as the S&P 500 during corrections.

    Every other bond was cashed and put towards something else that will have impact my net worth more.

    1. J. Money January 27, 2020 at 6:44 AM

      Probably better for a later stage in life too, like those already retired or nearing it and can’t stomach the turmoil with the markets as much. Or those saving up for something in the more nearer term.

  23. Deanna @ Recovering Women Wealth January 31, 2020 at 7:33 AM

    I simply love this. I saw this one come through last week in my email and was saving it to read when I had time. There are no rules only what is right for you. As a testified rebel from Gretchen Rubins, the 4 Tendencies quiz, I often go against the grain just because. It was a lot more random and scattered in my past before gaining a whole bucket of self-awareness. Now post sobriety/awakening, I calculate my rebellion for what truly resonates with me.

    One outlandish financial idea: it’s okay to borrow money if (big if) there is no interest. For example, I got braces and could pay for them all at once. However, my dentist lets me pay them off slowly. He doesn’t charge interest so I’m doing it :)

    1. J. Money January 31, 2020 at 5:12 PM


      Also less painful paying off in chunks too, cash-flow wise.

      You should blog the before and after pics when you write about it ;)

  24. Carreira Finance February 11, 2020 at 12:11 PM

    1 – tax refunds are not a good thing
    2 – you don’t have to cut everything you love in life to improve your finances
    3 – you can make money out of credit cards

  25. Mitch February 14, 2020 at 9:10 PM

    Oh, tipping! Now THERE’s a topic to get my dander up! Lol

    I worked for years in high school and college as a busboy and waiter. And even for a time in my early 30s in between real gigs. I *refuse* to tip 20% for crappy service. 0-10% for crappy service (there are varying levels of crappy), 15% for average, and 20% or more for excellent.

    I am weirdly passionate about this topic, because I cannot stand it when my friends (who have never worked a service job in their life) feel a kind of moral obligation to pay these “poor people” a “fair” wage. As if they have any idea what they’re talking about! Believe me, an excellent server makes excellent money – and has a great time doing it.

    **stepping off soapbox**

    The only other statement that’s potentially objectionable is “it’s ok to pay fees for great banking products.” I’d need more specifics on that – like what products?


    1. J. Money February 17, 2020 at 3:56 PM

      I think you’re the first server ever to come onto this site and speak those words :) Brave of you!

  26. David Jacobs June 16, 2020 at 4:10 AM



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