Avoiding Financial Urban Legends

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

Urban Legends are the almost-believable myths that get passed around in our culture, never to be fully proven or explained (think Big Foot). Something in our human nature latches onto these stories and perpetuates them. Maybe it’s our affinity for the sensational, or our eagerness to be fooled by things we know could never be real but like to dream about, nonetheless. Whatever the underlying reasons for our culture’s tendency to create and spread these types of myths, we have to be careful not to be fooled (or made a fool of) by them.

Urban legends remind me of the same myths and stories that get spread around the Internet, especially, about money management. You don’t have to go too far to find links that promise:

  • Rapid debt elimination, and it won’t cost you a penny
  • Thousands of dollars a week doing simple tasks from home
  • Early retirement if you join this ‘business plan’
  • Investments that rapidly double or triple their value

Not only are these types of advertisements usually too good to be true; they’re designed to lure you into poor financial choices. Honestly, we all know that debt elimination doesn’t happen immediately, menial jobs from home require an unrealistic rate of output to make money, and most overnight-millionaire businesses or investments are either scams or high-risk. If you’re seriously interested in a particular debt-relief method, business idea, or investment opportunity, check it out on Consumer Reports and with the Better Business Bureau for legitimacy; you can’t even believe all the Internet-based reviews because companies either write many themselves or pay people to.

In addition to these types of get-rich-quick or eliminate-your-money-problems-quick schemes, the online world is also full of plenty of products and services which promise more than they can deliver. Beware of wasting your money on:

  • Miracle creams
  • ‘Natural’ rapid weight loss pills
  • Obscure nutritional supplements
  • Almost anything that offers a no-risk, money-back guarantee

On the other hand, not all financial urban legends sound so unbelievable. For instance, there’s the myth that boycotting certain brands of gasoline will help gas prices go down (you’ve probably received a forwarded email to this effect), that writing a check in red ink will stall it from being cashed,  and that you actually aren’t required to pay federal income tax. There are myths for just about every financial aspect of our daily lives, and some of them sound pretty convincing.  If there’s any question of legitimacy, don’t act on it.  It’s that simple. Ask around, and if no one else is aware of it or doing it, don’t embarrass yourself or endanger your finances.

Believing an urban legend such as Big Foot is perfectly harmless if it doesn’t sacrifice your good judgment or your wallet. Believing in lies propagated as financial opportunity or trade secrets can deeply hurt your  finances, jeopardize your credit, get you in trouble with the IRS, and more. Beware of any money-management advice that sounds questionable or risky, and by all means, don’t believe everything you read.  For more information on the latest financial urban myths (as well as some entertainment), check out snopes.com.

Bonus Tip:

You can seriously cut your Internet and TV costs. Find a Verizon FiOS promotion code here and you might be able to spend less every month.

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