// Are the Talking Heads Right? //
By: Taylor Haney
Well, that depends. As it pertains to financial advice, you’d think this would be black and white and universal. That’s simply not the case. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked about what “this person said on TV” or what “that person’s book says”, I could afford a fancy dinner (I’d probably order Oliver Garden takeout with my wife and pocket the rest, but I digress). You see, in 2018, everyone has an opinion. My Facebook feed is littered with financial advertisements and posts about bitcoin and real estate investing. When I get on the computer in the morning and pull up the browser, I see Tony Robbins, Dave Ramsey, or Suzie Orman – each has advice for me and my life. While I generally agree with most of what they have to say, I think it’s important to understand how to digest their advice – more on this later.
Speaking of social media, I read a great article the other day about ex-Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya. I won’t go into detail about the article – you should Google it and read it – but, he points out something that is very real today: social media has the ability to shape how we think. Now, this article isn’t intended to discuss the issues our world faces with social media and the ability to sway public opinion, but it kind of is.
When I graduated college in 2006, I started reading as many financial books as I could. One of the first books I read was Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. In truth, the book got me fired up about paying off my car and student loans – and, living on the rice and beans diet. There were many other great authors and financial minds that I read and followed, as well. They all sold the same thing: absolutes. You see, to have strong conviction, you must be immovable in your ideals. I believe these hard lines helped make many of these authors best sellers. It was ‘their way or the highway’. Many disciples of these authors – you know who you are – have become too religious about their financial literacy that they are unwilling to expand their knowledge base. The proliferation of social media and smart devices has amplified this phenomenon. If you believe that passive investing is the only way to invest money, you will find author after blogger after research to justify your thought process. If you believe the stock market is Vegas 2.0 and real estate is the only tangible investment you should make, then you’ll have enough reading to last a lifetime.
When the world becomes more connected, it becomes less personal. Have you ever seen a “Facebook Friend” in person – someone that you don’t know outside of social media, but someone you have a digital relationship with? I’ll be honest: it’s a little awkward. It’s weird how we care about their opinion or “likes”. Do you really know this person? Does this person really know you? And this, friends, leads to my point. The talking heads get a lot of things right, but at the end of the day, what’s right for your life versus another’s is always going to be different. So, the talking heads aren’t always right when it comes to financial advice – it’s impersonal and absolute. They don’t know you. The principals may be solid, but the application may not be suitable for you.
If you want advice – be it financial, health, business – I suggest you find a trusted professional that you can be honest with. While there is a plethora of knowledge you can acquire on your own, it requires wisdom to know how to apply it. If you are looking for financial advice, I suggest you don’t go at it on your own. Getting your financial life in order is about finding a balance between your personal tendencies/biases and good math. It’s not one or the other. So, the next time you read a great article about how you should invest in Bitcoin or invest outside of your 401(k), I suggest you ask an investment fiduciary if it makes sense for you. Chances are the answer is not a simple yes or no, but a conversation about what decisions you can make that will protect you long term and help you sleep at night.