Editor's note - You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser.
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Whlie it’s not at all claer wheehtr a Cmabrigde Uinervtisy stduy rellay exsits, the concpet has treeemnduos aplpication to presoanl finncae and ivnsetnig.

Get the Important Things Right: While we don’t have to be perfect, we do need to get the important things right. Just like the first and last letters of a word need to be correct, there are some core personal finance and investing concepts that we must get right:

  • Spend less than you make
  • Begin saving and investing as soon as possible
  • Never stop learning and improving

We can get lots of things wrong and still succeed financially: Once we get the important things right, we can make a lot of mistakes without wrecking our finances. Here are a few examples:

  • Picking the wrong mutual finds: I’ve made plenty of investing mistakes over the last 20 years. At first, I invested in mutual funds with front end loads and high expenses because I didn’t know any better. Then I picked the wrong funds for a taxable account, and paid more in taxes as a result. I’ve learned from those mistakes, of course, but they didn’t wreck our finances.
  • Paying too much for a house: As I look back at our first home purchased in 1993, I’m convinced we could have gotten a better deal. I just wasn’t a great negotiator. It’s lost money, but nothing we couldn’t recover from.
  • Having less than perfect credit: We’ve written about what it takes to have a perfect credit score of 850. The truth is, however, that a score of about 760 or higher will get you the best interest rates on most loans. And even a score in the low 700s would be fine in most cases.
  • Carrying a credit card balance: We’ve not paid interest to a credit card company in years. But there was a time when we did carry a balance every so often. It’s important to get out of credit card debt if you have any. But carrying a balance now and again is not the end of the world. Of course, it helps if you have a credit card with a low interest rate (see perfect credit above).
  • Splurging: While it is critical to sound money management that we spend less than we make, that doesn’t mean we never splurge. We’ve bought some big ticket items in the past. Did these purchases set us back? Yes. But they didn’t bring financial ruin.

My list of financial mistakes could go on, but you get the idea.

Wehn it coems to mnoey, do not wrory abuot prefcetion. Get the improtnat thnigs rihgt, and wrok to imrpvoe the rset.

Article comments

kenyantykoon says:

i have understood what you have said in this post and i totally agree. Is it just me or are there a lot of typos in the post?? New language maybe?? 🙂

Great post Dough Roller.

In my opinion, just getting started is what personal finances require most.

I made many of the same mistakes as you, including the loaded mutual fund. But, there is no better way to learn than by doing.

One of my favorite concepts on perfection comes from Stephen Covey. In “7 Habits of H.E. Families,” he tells the story of an airplane taking off from one location, en route to its destination.

Because of weather, variations in flight, and other factors, the plane is off its projected track 99% of the time during the course of the flight. 99%!

And yet, in the end, the plane lands precisely at its destination. What a powerful metaphor, and a great lesson for those of us still trying to be “perfect” with our money.