February 28, 2015 10:00 am

What’s the best (or worst) financial advice you’ve ever received?

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WATCH ABOVE: Personal finance experts share their favourite money tips.

Have you ever received financial advice that completely changed your life for the better? Or maybe you heard something that left you scratching your head thinking, ‘that can’t be right.’ Whether you’re talking to friends and family, or searching on the Internet, there is no shortage of financial advice out there.

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When it comes to money, a lot of people consider themselves experts. But not all financial advice — or financial professionals for that matter — are created equal.

READ MORE: How to choose a financial advisor

We asked a panel of experts the best — and worst — financial advice they’ve come across.

Cream of the crop

“Right from the start, my father told me to put 10 to 15 per cent of your income away every time – pay yourself first,” said Caroline Battista, senior tax analyst at H&R Block.

Paying yourself first means that every time you receive a paycheque, you take a part of it and put it into a savings account – pay yourself before you pay your bills, go shopping, or splurge on a fancy dinner.

So often, Canadians immediately start paying others once they see a paycheque – the utilities companies, lenders, cellphone providers, grocers, the list goes on and on.

But, by stowing away a bit of money for yourself first, before a dime goes anywhere else, you’re guaranteed to save. When you pay yourself last, often there’s nothing left at the end of the month.

Make your savings automatic, said personal finance expert Preet Banerjee. “If you make your savings automatic, a lot of people just don’t notice it after a while, it becomes the new normal – and it’s amazing how much your savings can grow when you’re not thinking about it.”

READ MORE: Planning for a worry-free retirement

Making your savings automatic goes hand-in-hand with paying yourself first. In recent years, banks have made it incredibly easy to set up automatic savings accounts. You’ll determine how much should come off your paycheque every week or month. Experts recommend choosing a high-interest savings account to put your automatically-transferred money into, so you’ll make interest while saving for emergencies and your future.

Some banks offer other automatic savings tools, such as systems that deposit a set amount of money into your savings account every time you use your debit card.

“Live below your means,” said Laurie Campbell,  CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions. “So many people live above their means and therefore they don’t have money to pay themselves first. If you can live below your means, it will help you immensely in the long run.”

Canadians have become increasingly comfortable with debt. For every dollar we earn, we owe lenders $1.63.

So while most Canadians would vastly improve their financial situation by living within their means, experts urge consumers to go one step further – live below your means. Don’t spend every cent that comes in. Save something, whenever possible, by paying yourself and making the habit automatic.

Bad apples

Whether it’s buying too much house or too much car, falling victim to the payday loan cycle or not paying off our credit cards in full every month — there are endless ways to make bad choices with your money. We asked our experts some of the worst financial advice they’ve overheard.

“The first time we applied for a mortgage when we bought our home, I was shocked at the amount of money they were willing to give me,” said Battista. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Getting in over your  head with a massive mortgage is one thing experts caution against, as Canadians continue to pile on more and more debt.

READ MORE: The biggest money mistakes Canadians make

It wasn’t always this way. Whereas older generations managed with a single-car garage and two bathrooms, buyers today are lured by the two-car garage and three+ bathroom home for their family.

The difference, said Scott Hannah, CEO of the Credit Counselling Society, is that the older generations were able to pay their mortgages off. “Now people are retiring still holding mortgage debt,” he said.

“It’s common practice now that home purchasers ask ‘how much can I get’ as opposed to ‘how much can I manage,” said Hannah. Meanwhile, the mortgage lender is asking, ‘how much money can we lend this person without taking on risk?’ Which doesn’t mean the borrower can actually manage that large of a mortgage.

WATCH: What’s the worst financial advice you’ve ever heard?

Campbell said one of the worst things you can do is rely on credit to get you through hard times. “I’ve heard often from people, friends even, ‘why do I need an emergency fund? Why do we need any savings? I’ve got my line of credit, I’ve got my credit cards to help me out during these rainy day periods’,” she said.

Banerjee said that while there’s no shortage of things to choose from, the worst advice usually comes down to people spending beyond their means. “That is basically the cornerstone of the rest of your financial life. If you do not run a surplus today and forever, you’re guaranteed to be in some sort of trouble,” he said.

Other mistakes people make, Preet said, include using a credit card advance to fund a down payment, using student loan money to travel, moving too often and “any investment seminar promoting a ‘sure-fire way to beat the market.'”

For more money tips, go to Globalnews.ca/smartmoney

Do you have a piece of money advice so good you have to share? Or maybe something you were once told that you want to warn people about? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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