Personal Finance

6 Lies We’re Told About Money Growing Up

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These common lies and myths are hammered into most of us as we grow up. Some are just outdated beliefs that no longer work. Others are misconceptions from those with a limited perspective on life and money. Some may be the result of billions of dollars in marketing and programming. It is good to be aware of them and reprogram yourself to harness empowering beliefs that can deliver on what you really want.

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6 Lies We’re Told About Money Growing Up

1. Money can’t buy happiness.

Simply having more money in your bank account may not make you happier—at least, not after a certain point. However, anyone who has both been broke and has enjoyed an abundance of money can tell you it’s a lot better to have it than not.

Money does provide a gateway to more experiences in life. It allows you to solve more problems quickly and easily. Imagine you have a relative who gets sick. If you have the funds, you may be able to pay for whatever surgery they need. Conversely, if you’re broke, you may be powerless to help them. No amount of money is better than your health or your family’s health, but having some can empower you to provide resources in times of need.

Money can also buy you freedom. It can give you security and reduce stress, as well as allow you to focus on things you really care about and want to do, whether that is traveling or giving your kids all the advantages to live their passions.


Related: 3 Simple Steps to Becoming the Wealthiest Person on the Planet

2. Wealthy people are thieves.

There are both broke and rich people who seem to believe they can only win, get rich, and feel good if they take from others. Still, to say all wealthy people are thieves and must have gotten there by ripping others off is far from the truth. In fact, those who share and give the most value to the most people are able to gain the most wealth and keep it long-term. This myth is just something told by those without money as a way to justify why they don’t have it.  

3. Money is the root of all evil.

Money—just like political titles, big houses, and fancy cars—is not inherently good or bad in and of itself. This quote has been twisted from what it originally stated, which is “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

If you are only chasing the money to get rich at all costs and don’t care about anything else, then yes, at some point it is probably going to get you into trouble. At least you’ll probably make a few enemies on the way.

Money is just a tool. It can be used for incredible good. There are lots of problems out there, from famine to lack of clean drinking water and sickness, that can be cured with money. It’s all about the priority it has in your life compared to your other values—and what you do with it.

4. Save, save, save.

Some of us with smart and hard-working parents or grandparents were told all our young lives to “save, save, save.” That was supposed to be the key to success.

It just doesn’t work. You can’t save enough, quickly enough to get ahead or stay ahead. The average retirement account balance right now is only around $100k. That includes those who have been working a lifetime to accumulate that and maybe even some who inherited money. You might need several million to get through retirement. The numbers just don’t add up.

Related: 8 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Becoming Wealthy

A new report from CNBC reveals that it now takes an average of 36 years for someone living in San Jose to save up just a 20% down payment on a house! If prices rise and your rent goes up in the meantime, then you might never be able to save that much in your life by just working a 9-5.

If you want to keep up or get ahead, your mantra should be “invest, invest, invest” or “earn, earn earn” instead. That’s what will help you supersize savings, enjoy more free income, and be able to retire.


5 . Money doesn’t grow on trees.

This is a scarcity mindset. If you always think and act out of scarcity, that’s what you get. So many people have gotten into real estate investing and have woken up to just how much money is out there and freely available. Some people dream their whole lives of winning a million dollars. They think that if they hit that golden number, they’ll be set forever. In reality, you can blow through a million bucks pretty fast. There are cars that sell for over $1M. In many cities, the average house starts at $1M. As Grant Cardone puts it, “Millionaire is the new middle class.”

There is definitely enough in the world for everyone to have abundance. It’s about logistics and bridging the gap from where you are now to where you want to be. Increasing the cash flow in your own life is about investing and finding more ways to serve more people.

6. Go to college.

They tell you to go to college to get an education that will land you a good job that pays well, so you can ride it out until retirement. That strategy might have worked a few decades ago, but it doesn’t anymore. Chances are it will just make you even more broke with lots of student loan debt.

Learning is good. It is important. But many may be better off learning real financial skills and how to invest and make money work for them, instead of trading their lives for just enough to get by.


If you’ve heard these things, I urge you to consider who told them to you. They may have been shared out of good intentions, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work. How wealthy have these beliefs made those who perpetuate them? Learn from those who are living how you want to live. Do what they are doing instead.

What myths would you add to this list?

Comment below!

With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling currently manages over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $26MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Through the company he co-founded, Holdfolio, he owns just under 400 units. Sterling was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single-family investing and apartment investing to wholesaling and scaling a business.

    Karen Rittenhouse Flipper/Rehabber from Greensboro, NC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Right on, Sterling. My parents were the last generation to work at one company for most of their lives in order to end up with retirement benefits. Those benefits pretty much no longer exist but that’s what we were encouraged to do growing up because it’s what our parents knew. And what money gives is freedom – freedom of choice that is incredible, including freedom to give, to help others. I’ve spent a good amount of time studying money, wealth and the 1 percent in this country. Over 80% of the top 1% are first generation – they did it themselves. Nope, very few are thieves – they’re hard working and focused. Thanks for your post. We definitely need to think about money differently than our parents did and than we were taught. Social security was a great benefit to only a couple of generations but will probably be gone soon. The government is broke so don’t look for handouts, look for how you can create a safe and secure financial future for yourself and your family.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thank you for your comment along with additional insight, Karen.
    Michael Maloney Jr. from Livingston County , Michigan
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great article, and I do agree for the most part. But in order to invest you must earn earn earn, then save then invest. Saving money is still critical to success in my opinion. Most people aren’t able to invest in anything because they live by the moment, don’t plan ahead, too frivolous and can’t save any money.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Agreed. Earn, save then invest. In that order. Great points.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, Missouri
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Money can’t buy happiness, but being broke can certainly afford to make you unhappy.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 1 year ago
    So true! Dropping some wisdom, Andrew! As always.
    Randy E. Rental Property Investor from Durham, NC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    True. True. True. True. True. True. Good advice.
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the content. What was your biggest takeaway, Randy?
    Randy E. Rental Property Investor from Durham, NC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    It was refreshing to hear/read someone state them all so simply. I had previously come to all those conclusions quite some time ago, but it’s frustrating to hear people constantly repeat them as truth. I particularly am fed up with 1, 4, and 2. I think all of these beliefs exist to help (some) people live more happily without things they need/want that having more money would afford. “Money Can’t Buy Happiness” is not only misspoken, it’s simply wrong. What most people mean is “A person can be happy with very little money.” What they are loathe to admit is “A person can be even happier with more money.” They know it’s true, but if they don’t believe they have a chance of acquiring more money, it can be a depressing realization to admit their happiness is in any way limited. “Save” is a great bit of advice because everyone needs a cushion. However, the better advice would be “Save, then INVEST.” Engineer a way for your savings to create more money for you. So many people are afraid of investing, or entrepreneurship, or doing anything “risky” with their money. And it’s just that mindset that prevents them from generating a comfortable amount of money. They’ll spend hours clipping coupons and chasing sales, but it’s impossible for them to spend 15 minutes reading about investing. “Wealthy People Are Thieves” is … well you said it well enough. Thanks again, Sterling. Keep motoring ahead!
    Brad Taylor from Chicago, IL
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great stuff, and thank you for quoting a great work of literature correctly!
    Sterling White Rental Property Investor from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 1 year ago
    No, thank you! Which one did you hear most growing up, Brad?
    Tom R. Investor from Ridgecrest, CA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    The one I laugh at the most is a penny saved is a penny earned. That’s just stupid. Most interest bearing accounts these days pay less than 1 %. The annual inflation rate is usually around 3% The phrase should be a penny saved is a penny lost.
    Deanna Opgenort Rental Property Investor from San Diego, CA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    A penny saved (ie not spent) is MORE than a penny earned due to taxes. A penny in a savings account is a different matter.
    Melanie Hartmann Flipper/Rehabber from Baltimore, MD
    Replied about 1 year ago
    All of this is so true! Even going after a promotion at work, I’m met with people attempting to make me feel guilty for attempting to “take” more money. I’ve realized this year that my attitudes towards money very much followed along with the myths you posted. It’s conscious effort to begin shifting my money mindset but I realize it is absolutely necessary to do! Thank you for posting!
    Lane Crownover from Florence, Mississippi
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Gotta admit, all I heard growing up is save, save, save. I never listened, because it never made sense to me. You save money your entire life just to end up with a small pile of cash worth less than when you earned it. Unfortunately, I decided in my unwise youth that saving was pointless. Now ,I’ve learned enough about investing that it actually makes the saving part a whole lot easier.
    Bjorn Ahlblad from Shelton, Washington
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thanks for an interesting read. My fav money old school money dictum: “Take care of your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” Advises you to focus on low priority stuff-the verse should be the reverse. IMO anyway.
    Paul B. Rental Property Investor from Dallas, TX
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I haven’t heard that particular saying, but there are many other similar beliefs out there, like the idea that every penny (or every dollar) matters. Once you have at least a middle-class (or maybe upper middle-class) income, it is not worth the effort to trim a few bucks from your spending, like giving up a cup of coffee at Starbucks or driving five miles out of the way to save a nickel on a gallon of gas. Your efforts are far better spent on either reducing major expenses, like a car or home, or finding ways to increase your income, like investing or starting a side business.
    George W. Flipper/Rehabber from New Jersey
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I think that number 6 is so spot on. I Personally did not go to college, i know many people who went and spent massive amounts of money to have debts they’ll be paying off for a very long time. I feel that going into a trade has taught me much more about money also on how to run a service business day to day and fixing issues on buildings. On top of that with my experience in my trade i will get a professional license and can start my own business. All while being completely ahead as far as debt goes. I Think the reason many people were told reasons 1 through 5 were because of the environment they grew up in. Especially that wealthy people are thieves and that’s why i think a lot of people end up getting stuck in the same cycle as their parents as far as wealth goes.
    Karl B. Rental Property Investor from Los Angeles, CA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I once heard a quote that went something like: “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it’s better to cry in a Lamborghini than on a bus….” It’s one of those quotes that makes me grin.
    Steven Farrell Investor from Tyler, Texas
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Reminded me of this little story: An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?” The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.” The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?” To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.” “But what then?” Asked the Mexican. The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!” “Millions – then what?” The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
    Cornelius Charles Investor from Oxnard, California
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Where did all the anti-college talk come from lately? Just like anything else, you need to do your due diligence. If you are only going to college to party, or to study something like under water basket weaving, then you’re probably not making a wise choice. But if you study a STEM field, my guess is you will come out financially leaps and bounds ahead of those without a college degree. Of course there will be exceptions, but I bet that will hold true in most cases.
    Chand Ramlakhan
    Replied 8 months ago
    Exactly! And no one said you HAD to get massive student loans without a plan for paying it back.
    Eric Haskell Rental Property Investor from Central Maine
    Replied 8 months ago
    #6 was preached in our high school and it was expected by my parents and most others that they go to college even if they had no idea what they wanted to major in or do after college. I was fortunate enough to pick a maritime school vs. a traditional state college. The total out of state cost for 4 years including room and board, food, books, tuition, etc. was around 70k. I chose the school because as a marine engineer I knew I could make more the 1st year out of college(working 180 days) than the total cost of 4 years for the bachelor degree and uscg license. Now the same school costs 160k for 4 years and most other colleges in the Northeast are much more. If it weren’t for the 100% job placement I had when I graduated and the drive to make as much as I could while working offshore on ships, I would have been better off with just going to a trade school for plumbing, Hvac or electrical. Its too bad the U.S. doesn’t focus and promote the trades more like Europe does. If I had college debt, was making 40-60k a year out of college it would have been much more challenging to save 50-70% of my income.