Do you care about your financial security? Most people would say yes.
But according to former CNBC host Suze Orman, how you answer one particular question reveals if you're actually serious about your financial health or not: "How long do you want to keep your current car?"
"If you said, 'As long as possible,' you get an A+," Orman writes in a recent blog post. "Any other answer earns an F."
Orman explains that this question is so telling because "a car is a lousy investment" that "only loses value." While owning a vehicle is non-negotiable for many people, the vehicle itself doesn't need to be flashy or expensive. It's a utility that should be driven as long as it remains safe and reliable.
"One of the best ways to build financial security is to spend the least amount possible on a car that meets your needs," she writes. "Forget about the bells and whistles you want. Paying less helps you pay off the car faster."
While Orman says it's best if you can buy a car outright, if you do need to take out of a loan, she suggests choosing a car you can fully own within three years. That way, once the loan is paid off, "all the money you used to pay for the car loan can be redirected toward other financial goals, such as retirement, or saving up for a home, or building a down payment fund for when you do need to get another car."
Orman learned the hard way the financial havoc that can result from choosing a too-fancy car. Back in 1987, she leased a BMW 750iL. "There was a time that I was in a relationship with a very, very wealthy person and I wanted to impress this person and I didn't have money yet, so I went out and I leased a car," she previously told CNBC Make It.
But Orman wasn't spending the money for the right reasons, and the $800 monthly payments ended up being more than she could afford.
She learned an important lesson: "Don't spend money you don't have to impress people you don't even like."
At the end of the day, a car is just a way to get from point A to point B. It's not worth it to blow your paycheck trying to keep up with the Joneses. Your money will go a lot farther in a retirement fund or as a down payment on a better investment: a home.
- Jay Leno and Suze Orman agree: Don't lease a car—buy
- Expert: Stop 'wasting your money' on things that make your life easier
- Suze Orman says this is the 'new retirement age'—and it might make you cringe
Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!