Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me trust others about money advice. Tony Robbins recently published a book about money, and millions of people follow established “money gurus.”
I’ve also been giving this thought since I received an email from a reader asking me for specific money advice. While I’m pretty comfortable offering general insights gleaned from my own financial processes, and reporting what I learn from people I consider experts, I was a bit thrown by the idea that someone would email me looking for specific direction about what to do with tens of thousands of dollars.
(I simply said that, while I knew what I would do with the money, my situation is likely different, and he should talk to a fee-only financial professional or a registered investment advisor for help with his situation.)
So, what makes you trust someone’s money advice? And what prompts people to trust complete strangers for help with their vital financial decisions?
Look for a Real Connection
When seeking financial advice, many of us look for a connection. We want someone who seems “real.” I try to be authentic when I write, even when I’m acting more as a reporter relaying another’s insights and words.
Many people find genuine connections to the “money gurus” out there. In the case of Tony Robbins, he’s inspired many people toward self-improvement — even if we don’t normally think of him as a “money guy.” Is it any wonder that the people who already feel a connection with him through his other work are now anxious to discover his thoughts on money management?
It’s also common to have “favorite” gurus. Often, these are gurus that we feel reflect our own goals and values. Dave Ramsey appeals strongly to Christians who want a financial philosophy rooted in what they see as Biblical principles. Suze Orman appeals to those who want a little “tough love” and who want to be told exactly what to do in order to succeed.
There’s nothing wrong with looking for this connection and seeking information and advice from someone who shares your values and meshes with your worldview. It makes sense that you would want to be guided by someone you trust to steer you in the direction of your own priorities.
But what about qualifications?
Take Advice with a Grain of Salt
One thing to remember, though, is that many of us write about money, and talk about money, doesn’t mean we have the qualifications beyond our own experiences.
I’ve been reporting on money for almost 10 years, and I’ve made my share of financial blunders. That’s where most of my qualifications for talking about money come from. What works for me might not work for you.
The same is true of what you learn from financial gurus. Much of their advice is very generalized and might not apply to you. And, in some cases, it might not even be completely accurate, since they might not be a true expert in some areas.
While it makes sense to look to others and take advantage of their experience, don’t forget to consider their qualifications as well. After all, it’s your money and (as my friend Larry from InvestorJunkie.com says) no one cares about it as much as you do.
What are some other things you consider before listening to someone else’s advice about your money?