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A personal finance rule I’ve seen a lot in recent years is to spend money on experiences, not things. A blogger who writes under the name Mixed Up Money has listed this rule first in a post headlined: “Five finance tips I used to love, but now realize are very stupid.”

Other tips that get trashed are:

  • Pay down your mortgage early
  • Cut your entertainment budget first
  • Move to a more affordable city
  • Don’t take out student loans

I’m bringing this blog post to your attention not because I think these rules are all stupid, but rather to get you thinking critically about the various personal finance rules that get tossed out by writers and bloggers. The best personal finance tips for you are the ones that will make a positive difference in your own life.

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If you’re overspending, it could make sense to cut back on entertainment and focus on experiences instead of things. Maybe you take a trip, but skip buying a new car, clothes and electronics. Consider which rules might help you manage your finances better and apply them. At the same time, you’ll want to identify the rules that are only going to make you feel bad about money.

If you’ve got consumer debt and are struggling to get by on your household income, paying down your mortgage is unrealistic. If your best employment and income prospects are in an expensive city, it may not make sense to move to a cheaper locale. As long as you study something with good job prospects, a student loan can be a good investment.

Personal finance is very rule-oriented, and that’s a good thing because it helps get people thinking about how to manage money more effectively. But not every rule applies to you.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Living the minimalist life in retirement

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A boomer couple sells their big home and moves to rental townhouse one-third the size. Along the way, they got rid of a lot of stuff and saved thousands of dollars in annual living costs. While on the topic of downsizing, here’s a look at what a problem it can be for their families when someone is a hoarder.

The wedding loan trend

It’s a thing in the United States – take out a loan to pay for a wedding you clearly cannot afford. Please tell me Canadians aren’t doing it.

Another travel insurance nightmare

All about a Mississauga, Ont., man who had a heart attack while visiting Las Vegas and was billed more than $800,000 after his travel medical insurance claim was denied. I wrote this column a few years ago on how to ensure you get proper medical coverage when travelling.

A pre-marriage guide to talking about money

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A blogger offers a topic-by-topic list of money-related issues she discussed with her fiancé. A useful reminder that couples won’t agree on all money matters. There will be compromises.

Ask Rob

Q: What are the different skill sets required by financial planners or advisers in building a nest egg for retirement vs. optimizing retirement income to mitigate taxes, reduce Old Age Security clawbacks and optimize inheritance funds? Do you believe these should be two different individuals?

A: Helping people accumulate the assets needed to retire and then make best use of those assets to generate retirement income are basic elements of financial planning. Anyone who has proper accreditation as a financial planner should be well-trained in both aspects. However, in practice, advisers and planners tend to be more familiar with the accumulation side of things. Rather than focusing on the skills needed by a planner to manage a client’s retirement income, I suggest trying to find someone who has extensive experience with this type of planning. Lots of retired clients, in other words.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

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A look at the best credit cards in nine categories, including best overall travel card, best cash back card and best card for students.

What I’ve been writing about

  • Feel like a slave to your debts and your job? A personal finance movement based on early retirement is here to help
  • Memo to federal election candidates: It turns out Canadians do care about deficits and debt
  • How to deke around the $100,000 coverage limit for CDIC deposit insurance (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

More Carrick and money coverage For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group. Send us an e-mail to let us know what you think of my newsletter. Want to subscribe? Click here to sign up.

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