Top 10 Financial Don’ts

Here I am, doing Top 10 lists this week, and in my morning reading I come across this in the Washington Post:

Group releases list of 90 medical ‘don’ts’

Don’t use feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia. Don’t use drugs to aggressively treat diabetes in those older than 65. Don’t automati­cally use imaging technology for minor head injuries in children and headaches in adults. And don’t give antacids to babies with reflux.

Those are among the 90 medical “don’ts” on a list being released Thursday by a coalition of doctor and consumer groups. They are trying to discourage the use of tests and treatments that have become common practice but may cause harm to patients or unnecessarily drive up the cost of health care.


This is verboten, is it not? A meta-don’t, if you will? First of all, aren’t we supposed to accentuate the positive? Aren’t we all s’posed to be Do-Be’s, and not Don’t-Be’s? And isn’t there all that Appreciative Inquiry stuff and all that The Secret stuff and all that Norman Vincent Peale stuff that says never think about negatives?

And second of all, has it not been proven that human beings can only attend to 10 items at a time? And that that is why, as Psych 101 teaches us, our phone numbers are 10 digits long rather than, say, 90? And that’s also why David Letterman has never pushed through to 11, right? And here these folks are going nine-fold on that. Maybe they need to talk to a marketing professional or some SEO folks.

At any rate, today’s list is Top 10 Financial Don’ts. And in hizzoner’s honor, today we start at 10.


Top 10 Financial Don’ts

10. Buying Complicated Financial Stuff. Don’t buy any financial product or service you don’t mostly understand.

9. Being a Tax No-Show. Don’t pull a Wesley and decide that you needn’t pay your taxes.

8. Being a Bank. If you loan money to someone, don’t ever treat the dollars that you loaned as dollars you’ll get back. They tend to end up being more like dimes (if you’re lucky) or naughts (if your borrower is human). Think of them more as a gift that someday might be returned.

7. Assuming You Are Prescient. Don’t ever make a financial decision that will turn out to be good or bad based solely on your ability to accurately predict the future (exception: if you’re an entrepreneur, you have to do this pretty much every day).

6. Not Understanding TANSTAAFL. Don’t ever think that the world is offering you up a free financial lunch. True, if you have a money manager telling you that your investment portfolio is not adequately compensating you for the risk you are taking and that s/he can make it do so without increasing risk, and if that money manager has a bit of a rocket scientist streak running through his/her money manager soul, then you might be looking at a basically free lunch there (ex the managers’ fees . . . ), but only because you were paying through the nose for your previous lunches. Other than this, in our financial lives as well as all of our other lives, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

5. Thinking that You’re Staring Down an OIALTO. Somewhat similarly to Number 6, don’t ever believe that you are seeing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity floating past your eye-line. You might be, but you just about never are because there just about never are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. That’s why they are once-in-a-lifetime. So do discount your perceptions when that nefarious Oy-Alto twitch hits you.

4. Having CC Debt. Don’t ever get into any credit card debt that you can’t pay off before the credit card company starts charging you interest. As the great and powerful financial-Oz said immediately prior to the puny but cute financial-Toto pulling back the curtain: YOU CANNOT HAVE FINANCIAL HEALTH WHILE YOU HAVE CREDIT CARD DEBT, at which point the lion hightailed it outta there headfirst and pronto (and, yes, I promise that I won’t all-cap you ever again until something as loud as the financial-Oz’s proclamation starts a’flowing through my fingers).

3. Getting Divorced. Most people who have paid for a wedding know that, at the front end of planning, the scale of the numbers can shock you, but that by the time you are nearing the blessed event, those same sorts of numbers are rolling off you like water on a duck — you don’t even feel ’em anymore (self-referential confession: for us it was renting a big friggin’ party tent at the last minute due to unseasonal weather — we didn’t blink an eyelash at that number, though we would have months earlier). Now take away the love and hope part and replace it with we’re-through and dashed dreams and, take all that great food and wonderful times and replace it with lawyers, (hopefully-no) guns and (you betta believe a whole lotta) money. Sometimes divorce is the best thing for all involved. It is never, however, good for anyone’s financial health, except, quite often, the professionals involved.

2. Ignoring Your True Self. As with yesterday’s Top 10 List, we get to the biggies with the last two items. First up is trying to put yourself into some financial life that isn’t right for you.Most often this means working to make a living that you not only don’t enjoy, but that you find to be wrong — just plain ol’ wrong. In the movie Margin Call, for instance, the character played by the great actor Stanley Tucci, after getting fired by a shark-infested, only-one-thing-counts, play-hardball Wall Street investment house, reminisces to the character played by the great actor Paul Bettany about how, in an earlier time, he had helped design a bridge that made people’s lives better, while his work pushing dollars around felt empty:



1. Having Bad Luck. And the number one financial don’t is:

Never have bad luck. I say this somewhat facetiously, but also with some advice, which is that we do, to a certain extent, make our own luck. Make yours good, not bad. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way except for good reason. For instance, don’t walk into a bear while you’re texting. Don’t consort with criminals. Don’t fall in love with people who are very bad for you. And never cut an onion with your eyes closed because it’s making you cry.

And do hold onto the handrail while you’re walking down more than a few stairs (germ-phobes needn’t worry because no one holds handrails — they’re all afraid of getting germs). And do look both ways. And do measure twice cut once. And do follow the Golden Rule

So do be careful. And, above all, mon, do attract positivity into your life.


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