Personal Finance Myths—Busted!

Setting the record straight on common misconceptions.

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It’s myth that young people don’t need to save for retirement. Just ask Brent and Callie Lehman.
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By Donna Hein ● Photo by Chris Mullins

Personal finance advice comes in many shapes and forms. From listening to podcasts, having social media conversations, surfing the Internet and chatting with an acquaintance at a party, we get lots of advice for our financial life.

But do we really know what’s true?

Thrivent magazine asked several Thrivent Financial professionals to share financial myths they hear—and often need to debunk. We narrowed the list to five, then interviewed financial professionals and Thrivent members to set the story straight.

Myth 1:
I’m young; I don’t need to save for retirement.

“When I got my first paycheck after college, I started saving for retirement right away,” says Callie Lehman of Linn, Kansas. Even though she had what she calls “a decent amount of student debt,” Lehman didn’t hesitate to make retirement a priority.

And her parents, siblings and peers encouraged it. “They told me they wished they had started when they were my age,” Lehman says. “They said it for a reason, and I thought it was best to take their advice.”

Callie and her husband, Brent, both in their late 20s, met with their Thrivent Financial professional, Lydia Hiesterman, to help develop their savings strategy.

“A lot of people think it’s not a top priority because of student debt, trying to save for a house, etc. But I disagree,” says Lehman, who works for the Kansas 4-H Foundation. Her husband is the maintenance assistant at a nursing home in Linn, Kansas. The couple lives in Linn with their 1-year-old son.

Hiesterman, of Washington, Kansas, encourages their saving strategy. “I firmly believe in first making sure they have a strong base with insurance, then to start saving in a retirement vehicle.

“Time is on your side when you start young,” she says, “If you have a high risk tolerance, you can be more aggressive with your investments. And the potential of compounding your earnings may be greater.” However, she adds, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results, and everyone’s investment risk tolerance is different.

Most people have room for it in their budget, Hiesterman says. It doesn’t mean it will always be easy, but if you get on an automatic payment plan, it helps. “Set it and forget it,” she says.

Lehman agrees. “If you don’t see it, you don’t even think about it. Plus, I can see us being able to retire early. For us, it’s that balance of saving and spending and having fun while doing it.”

Myth 2:
I should take Social Security as soon as I’m eligible.

You’ve likely heard this statement, or something like it, especially if you’re nearing retirement. While this may be true for some, it really depends on your personal scenario, says Deb Beck, a Thrivent Financial professional in The Villages, Florida.

“I often hear ‘I paid into it this long, and I want to get it,’” Beck says. “Ultimately, it’s your decision, but one of the things you’re going to want to think about is your life expectancy, especially considering family history.”

In many cases, people are living longer today than their parents did, Beck explains. Delaying the start of Social Security may provide a larger check in those later years, perhaps when needed most, she says.

Thrivent member John Pankop of Cromwell, Indiana, retired at age 62. He’s now 66, and after conversations with Beck, he’s thinking about waiting until 70 to start drawing his Social Security. That was not the original plan he and his wife had discussed.

“There is longevity on my side of the family,” Pankop says. “My father died at 90, my grandfather at 95 and my grandmother at 100. I have long genes.”

He’s also run his numbers. “At age 66, I looked at what my payment would be and figured out the amount of money I’d be paid if I lived to 86,” he says. “Then I looked at my payment at age 70, calculated it out for 16 years, and the payment was significantly higher.”

If the longevity proves true, then it will be good that he has the extra dollars later. Plus, he added, he doesn’t need that money right now.

Another consideration, Beck says, is future income needs for your spouse. When one spouse dies, you’ll lose the lower of the two Social Security checks you may have received as a couple. As with longevity, if you wait to start taking Social Security, a potentially larger monthly payment may be beneficial for the living spouse.

“I’ve tossed around the question of what if I don’t live that long or if Social Security will still be here,” Pankop says. “If you need it, then you should take it. If you don’t, it doesn’t hurt to wait another year and then re-evaluate.”

Myth 3:
I don’t need a will.

A will is a must-consider, whether you have kids or not, whether you have lots of money or not. It’s key if you want any say over who inherits your estate—which includes not only money, but everything you own, like a house, car and any possessions, says Melanie Knoepfle, a Thrivent Financial professional in Columbus, Nebraska.

But a will is even more than that. Think of it as a final gift to your loved ones as you make your wishes clear.

Sometimes people think that if they’re single, they don’t need a will. But then your money may not go where you hoped. For example, depending on the laws in the state where you live, your parents may inherit rather than your siblings, Knoepfle says.

“Or if you have family members you’re estranged from, your money may end up going to them even if you’ve not talked in 20 years and you were adamant that they should get nothing,” she says.

If you’re divorcing, and it’s not yet finalized, your spouse may inherit everything when that was not your intent.

“Do you care about a church or charity? Without a will, there is a risk a court won’t give it to the places you supported even if you told them multiple times that you want your assets to go to them,” Knoepfle says. 

If you have kids, a will is the formal record of whom you choose to be the guardian of minor children if both parents die, as well as who should handle the funds that the children would receive.

“Sometimes there are fights between family members as to who should have the children, and perhaps you wanted your best friends to have them,” she says. “Without a will, the court has no idea of that desire and will not give custody of your children to non-relatives.” 

A final reminder on a will—don’t just do it and forget it. It’s important to revisit your will periodically to make sure it still reflects your wishes.

Myth 4:
I don’t have enough money to meet with a financial professional.

Anne Myers had just finished graduate school. The Thrivent member from Savannah, Georgia, had about $55,000 in student loans and about $50 in her checking account and $100 in savings.

“I didn’t have any money, and I knew I was pretty financially illiterate,” Myers says. All that changed when she met with Vann Doubleday, her Thrivent Financial professional in Savannah. They talked about her loans, her goals, and strategies to begin saving for emergencies and retirement.

A year after those first conversations with Doubleday, Myers had about $1,200 in savings and also was setting aside money for retirement. “Within three years, I was able to secure enough savings that if I would lose my job, I’d be set for six months,” says Myers, the assistant director of residence life at a local college.

“Vann told me that the only one who is going to take care of the old me is the young me,” she says. “I had been getting lost in the long-term goals, so he encouraged me to set the short-term goals to help meet those long-term goals.”

For Doubleday, conversations about values and goals are the starting place for developing a short- and long-term financial strategy.

“I like to use a dartboard analogy,” Doubleday says. “If you walk into a dark room and I hand you a dart and tell you to hit the board, it’s going to be hard to hit the target. You can’t see it. Now, I can’t guarantee we’ll hit the bull’s-eye, but I can turn the lights on and show you the board.”

It’s not about how much money you have, he says. It’s about uncovering your passions, offering insight and improving your financial clarity.

Myth 5:
I’m young and healthy. I’m single. I don’t need life insurance.

Brian Steward, a Thrivent Financial professional in Peoria Heights, Illinois, can understand how someone can think that. But in reality, he says, it’s the perfect time to get life insurance.

“You want to lock it in now because we don’t know what the future holds,” Steward says. “I’ll tell people about others in my life—people I’ve known—who said the same thing and their health changed. Then they either couldn’t get life insurance or it was more expensive.”

Thrivent member Michael Kilkenny of Peoria, Illinois, says it’s better to be prepared, which is why he met with Steward a few years ago to discuss life insurance. He had a small contract his parents purchased for him as a child.

“I’m an engineer—I spend a lot of time on work projects thinking about what can go wrong,” Kilkenny says. “It gives me an appreciation of how quickly something can go wrong.”

He’s also had a family member diagnosed with cancer in his 20s. “It’s a reminder of how life, too, can change very quickly,” Kilkenny says.

Life insurance is important, he says, because funerals are expensive, and he doesn’t want to put any family members at a financial disadvantage if the unforeseen should happen.

Kilkenny was 31 and single when he purchased his insurance contract. He’s now engaged to be married.

“Michael purchased a safeguard that even if something should happen to his health, his family is protected,” Steward says.

How Thrivent Can Help

Talk to a Thrivent Financial professional

If you need an answer to a financial question, reach out to your Thrivent Financial professional or contact the Thrivent Financial Guidance Team at 888-834-7434 or guidance@thrivent.com.

Lead or attend a Thrivent workshop

Thrivent also has several workshops available that you can participate in.

Advanced topics led by Thrivent Financial professionals include:

  • Social Security: Timing Is Everything
  • Five Keys to Retiring Fearlessly
  • Prepare Wisely: End of Life Strategies
  • Building Your Retirement Foundation

Or you can choose to host a workshop in your home, church or community. You simply order a kit for $20. Topics include:

  • Do One Thing Different
  • Finding Ways to Save

Visit MoreThanMoneyMatters.com or contact your Thrivent Financial professional for more information.