What do Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki, David Bach, and every other personal finance expert out there have in common? They don’t know you but they know exactly what’s wrong with you and how to fix it. Suze Orman thinks you’re a moron, that you need tough love, and that those 0% financing offers from Ford are awesome. Robert Kiyosaki says that you suck like his poor dad (who isn’t real), you should aspire to be like his rich dad (who also isn’t real), and that you should buy one of his books. David Bach thinks, without the indignation that comes with a Suze orman, that you should get out of your own way and make things automatic. I think you should ignore personal finance experts… all of them.
You might think this is a self-serving Devil’s Advocate post – and it is, because personal finance bloggers aren’t experts. Then again, bloggers don’t treat you like crap and tell you how you need a wake-up call (that’s Suze), bloggers just write about themselves and invite you to check out how normal and bad at personal finance we are. Experts? Heh, totally different animal… here’s why you should ignore them.
Cater To The Masses
This isn’t really their fault, it’s a product of the marketing machine that drives their popularity. On the web, you have folks who talk about themselves and by nature fall into a small niche. You have the family of six, you have the bloggers battling debt (or just finished), you have a fee-only certified financial planner (JLP has never ever written a post selling his services), you have the husband-wife tandem, and you have a whole host of other blogs that fall into one niche or another. None of those sites are trying to be everything, they’re only trying to be themselves and therein lies their popularity. When you graduate, you perhaps find the debt bloggers and the tandem bloggers to be your thing. As you get older, you might find the family of six or the CFP blog more your style. With so many options, you can find one that works for you.
Since they cater to the masses, usually their advice is too general to be of true value. I’m not saying that bloggers are better in this case, I’m just saying that experts aren’t going to give you the level of advice that you need. I’m also not saying you should run out to a financial planner and pay for advice, I’m recommending that you ignore the big names in the bright lights and read articles written by folks who aren’t so keen on hearing or reading themselves. Read from the perspective that you’re reading valuable information that may not be valuable for you. Don’t read from the perspective that you’re going to do the next thing that comes out of an expert’s mouth. Experts in any field are wrong often enough that listening to them 100% of the time will result in disappointment.
A product of their popularity is the fact that experts simply aren’t accessible. You can certainly try to ask them a question but the reality is that an answer won’t be thought out and personalized. If anything, you might get it read on-air and get a simple 30-second response (or a 5 minute chastizing). Why is accessibility important? It’s not tremendously important but if you have a specific problem and you want to hear an experts opinion, the likelihood of them happening to answer that problem is zero.
Was that a compelling enough argument against experts? Maybe, maybe not, please let me know. Think I was too harsh of Suze Orman? (I don’t think I was as harsh as she generally is) Think David Bach shouldn’t have been lumped in with the experts? Fire away!