Common Misconceptions Many Reasonably Intelligent People Have and Your Corrections

Let me set up some ground rules for this thread before we start because it has the potential to be a very informative thread to everyone. We are looking for significant mistakes that many mistakingly believe about subjects of common interest. It also needs to be a significant factual error that is provable. Bad contributions would include something like “Religion!”. Other bad examples would be something factual but so esoteric that most people wouldn’t care enough to keep it straight even if they knew otherwise such as geek trivia. You should also have encountered a number of people making the same mistake in real life.

My contribution:
“Don’t worry about it, it is a tax write-off” - this one appears all over the place in media and even casual speech. I was shocked when I found out that things you can get with a tax write-off aren’t free to the person doing it. It just means that you can use them to offset some income if you itemize your taxes. In effect, you can get a discount on it but you still have to pay for most of it. That is cool but not nearly as great as I interpreted it for a long time and I know for a fact other people still have the same misconception.

Still on taxes.

“I don’t want a raise because it puts me in the next tax bracket.”

The highest tax percentage you pay is only paid on the portion of your income that is in the higher bracket, it is not applied to your entire income. If you get a raise and it puts you in a higher tax bracket, you will still be getting more net income than you were before.

Maybe I’m not understanding. I thought “write-offs” were things whose cost you could deduct from your income, thus lowering the amount of income tax you had to pay. Is that incorrect?

That is correct. However, the term is often used to imply that the cost of the dinner, vacation etc. is paid for courtesy of the IRS. Lots of people believe that and I even seen people on this board surprised when they found out that it simply means you pay less income tax on tax day but in no way is that free. It is just an partially offsetting discount.

I work for the federal gov’t and have co-workers, otherwise smart and informed, bitch about congress’s health insurance benefits. THEY HAVE THE SAME EXACT BENEFITS YOU DO!

The Emergency Room does not have to treat people with any medical condition for free. They* have to* provide life-saving treatment, they **may **provide treatment for acute but not lifethreatening conditions, but they will *not *generally prescribe you birth control pills or refill or write prescriptions for long-term use.

And, no matter what they do treat, you *will *get a bill, and it *will *go to collections and affect your credit rating if you don’t pay it or make arrangements to get it paid through a charity program.

What if you give them the wrong name?

A lot of people seem to think that the indexes in the backs of books are somehow automatically generated via computer.

Actually they are composed by professional indexers (like me!), most of whom do this on a freelance basis.

Edit: This may be esoteric enough to be DQ’ed by the OP’s rules, but I’ve run into enough people who think this that I thought I’d mention it.

“Oh, Mr. Smith! I see last time you were here you needed a Foley Catheter in your bladder. Maybe we better put one in now just in case. Hang on, just let me soak my hands in ice water first…” :wink:
No, seriously, don’t do this. Maybe I have no one in the system with your fake info, but maybe I do, and you’re about to seriously screw up someone’s medical record if I put your information into it. Or you’re going to die if I give you someone else’s blood pressure medicine.

Plus, a lot of people give the same fake information (are they buying it? I don’t know.), so we recognize it as fake, and the nice man in the blue uniform will have some pretty new bracelets for you on the way out.

Common misconceptions about the National Flood Insurance Program. I’ve heard these many, many times.

  1. “If you’re not in a flood zone you can’t buy flood insurance”. FALSE. The only requirement for a homeowner to purchase flood insurance is that the community they live in must participate in the NFIP. That means the community has adopted a Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance. “Community” can mean a city, a county, or other government entitity.

  2. “If you’ve ever flooded you can’t buy flood insurance”. FALSE. There is an exception, if you’ve had to rebuild/remodel and the total of improvments equals or exceeds 50% of the value of your home, you have to mitigate (usually raise the house) but that’s kind of a different issue.

  3. “If you’ve NEVER flooded then you can’t buy flood insurance”. FALSE. See #2.

  4. “If we get a 100-year flood this year, it will be 99 more years until the next one.” FALSE. A “100-year flood” describes the magnitude of the flooding. It is expected to occur at least once within a 100-year period. In actuality it can occur more frequently than that.

That’s a particularly timely post.

Relevant clip from Seinfeld.

I try, Mr. Spaceman-freaky-bird-thingy. :wink:

That seasons are caused by how close the earth is to the sun.

No, you did NOT catch a cold standing in the rain last night. You came into contact with a virus several days ago.

Up until a couple years ago, I did not know about the tax write-off thing.

Mine are hardly earthshattering, but I get asked about them periodically:

Ponies are not in fact baby horses who haven’t grown up yet, they are different breeds. Equines have almost as much size variation due to selective breeding as dogs do, with examples of healthy adults weighing from less than 200 lbs to around 2000 lbs. A baby horse or pony is called a foal; a filly is a female foal and a colt is a male foal.

The education required to become a veterinarian in the U.S. is 3-4 years of undergrad (with prerequisites similar to med school - organic chem, physics, etc.), plus 4 years of professional school, followed by licensing exams. Internship and residency are not currently required for licensure, but they are available for vets wishing to specialize or further their knowledge in their field.

Becoming a veterinarian has nothing to do with being a veterinary technician - they are parallel careers in the same way that doctors and nurses work in parallel. Unlike in human medicine, depending on the state, there is not always a meaningful legal distinction between an unlicensed, on-the-job-trained assistant or “tech” and a licensed veterinary technician who has attended school and passed a board examination.

…Abraham Lincoln loved black people and wanted to free them from slavery so much that he went to war. :o

…JFK was a huge-o civil rights liberal. :dubious:

“If you only make minimum payments on your credit card, you’ll never pay off the balance.”

My parents think this way, and If the following is common knowledge, then please ignore me. The statment is only true if the minimum payment is equal to or lower than the finance charge. However, by law, the minimum payment is always higher than the interest being charged, which means that even if you only made minimum payments, you will eventually reduce your balance to $0.

It’s still a terrible idea, because doing this will maximize the amount of interest you pay in the end. But it will eventually pay down your balance.

Hadrian’s Wall does not mark the border between England and Scotland, nor has it ever done so.

Not necessarily incorrect, but as the thread’s subject implies, the actual benefits are usually grossly misunderstood.

First of all, everybody gets a standard deduction, so the only way “write-offs” would benefit you in any way would be if you itemize all your deductions and they add up to more than your standard deduction. For most people, their standard deduction is usually going to be higher than all the itemized deductions they could legitimately claim. But for the people that do have a lot of write-offs, their benefit would only be for the amount that their itemized deductions exceeded their standard deduction.

And, as Shagnasty touched on, just because you can claim a write-off/deduction for something you paid $1000 for, doesn’t mean you pay $1000 less in taxes. It means you pay taxes on $1000 less income. (And that’s ONLY IF, as I mentioned above, ALL your other write-offs/deductions have already exceeded the standard deduction.) So assuming an average tax-rate of 15%, that one $1000 “write-off” may save you anywhere from $0 to $150 - hardly the “it’s on the government’s tab, and practically free” it’s often portrayed to be when people cite a “write-off” as justification for a purchase.