Let me start this blog post by saying that it’s not a post about exactly whom you should trust and believe when it comes to taking credit and personal financial advice. Rather, it’s a post about the process you should go through every time when reviewing any credit and personal financial advice, regardless of where and whom it came from.
If you were to Google the term ‘credit repair’ it would return 65,300,000 results. Obviously you’re not going to visit every site but nonetheless, the point is there’s a lot of information out there if you’re proactively attempting to understand credit, credit reports, and how to accelerate the process of credit recovery. Google ‘personal financial advice’ and it returns another 21 million plus results.
Combine all of that unfiltered information that’s readily available to all of us and the fact that when it comes to financial literacy, most of us truly are amateur consumers; get ready for the long run on the information overload treadmill. If this process wasn’t daunting enough, there are literally thousands of so-called ‘experts’ online when it comes to credit and personal financial advice. The internet is inundated with them and what you need to learn is how to separate fact from ‘marketing’, and the expert, trusted authority, or educator from the ‘hucksters’.
Let me start with the term ‘expert’. Corbett Barr, blogger with Expert Enough wrote in an excellent ‘guest post’ on Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits, that the term expert was a ‘relative’ term. He said someone once told him to think about expertise as a scale from one to ten, not as an absolute. If someone is a two or three on the scale, they’re expert enough to help people who are ones and twos. In fact, they might be better suited to helping beginners than a ten on the expert scale, because they’re closer to a beginner’s level and better understand where they’re coming from.
I couldn’t agree more plus, the term ‘expert’ as it pertains to an online claim on a blog or website, as far as I’m concerned at first glance, means nothing! Now, I’m still going to read the information but how I read it is the key – meaning; every bit of information you read online, you can research for accuracy, especially if you’re being provided with the source of that information. So why in the hell wouldn’t you perform this added step? This is what I mean whey I say ‘how you read it’.
Are You Preaching To Me?
I compare this step to going to a church for the first time and listening to the preacher. As I digest the information he’s feeding his flock, I look to see if he’s using the bible as a point of reference, quoting page and verse as he goes along so that I, or anyone attending that day, can research the information for ourselves later on. Confirm and clarify if you will.
If he doesn’t, and he’s just giving me his thoughts and feelings, well I’ve got plenty of my own thoughts and feelings. Give me some actionable intelligence. Divulge your sources so I can understand why you developed your thoughts and feelings; now we’ve got something. Now you’re educating me and for my money, the same is true about credit and personal financial advice.
In other words folks; don’t just buy everything you read and hear online! I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve read these words. So if I’m an amateur consumer looking to accelerate the process of credit recovery and read online somewhere that if I use a free credit disclosure obtained through Annualcreditreport.com to dispute errors in my credit report, the credit bureaus now have 45 days to respond to my dispute versus 30 days If I had obtained my disclosure somewhere else, I would want to know why!
Go Ahead and Educate Me
I would also want to know what the heck you’re referring to when you say ‘consumer disclosure’ because now I’m really confused. Isn’t that a credit report? (No it’s not! There’s a ‘consumer disclosure’ and then there’s the ‘subscriber version’ credit report. If you don’t know the difference, get educated by taking the free Better Credit Blueprint video course – It’s free!
But, if the person who provided me with this information directed me to the source of their information where I could research it for myself and find out that in fact, the information is factual and accurate; now I start looking at this person as a possible trusted source of information. This means something to me personally. That person educated me and gave me actionable knowledge that I can go out and execute in order to improve my situation. Moving forward, I will definitely want to read more about what they have to say.
But… hold on here for a second; just because this one time they gave us credible information that helps us, doesn’t mean everything they say is gospel. Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t confirm and clarify, and then weigh their comments and thoughts. Let me give you a perfect example of how I weighed some information I recently read from a very credible source.
He Said What?
Dave Ramsey, a nationally recognized ‘financial guru’ said in a post on April 25, 2012 that Bankruptcy is a ‘life changing event that causes lifelong damage’. So let me tell you how I reacted to reading this post, but first; let me start by saying that Dave Ramsey has helped thousands, if not hundreds of thousands avoid bankruptcy through his debt snowball tool. He is both credible and nationally recognized. I’m referencing his post to prove a point, not to discredit Dave Ramsey in any way.
This statement is not only wrong; it can be very damaging emotionally and psychologically to someone contemplating bankruptcy that truly has no other alternative – and I’m talking from experience! Yes it is gut wrenching to go through and yes it changes your life but…you can most definitely recover from it! This is a statement of fact versus Dave’s statement of opinion. Again, I’m talking from experience so I weighed his comments carefully.
There’s a world of difference between the term changing your life and the term ‘lifelong damage’. In an earlier post, I wrote, “it is what it is, but it will become what you make of it’! This is exactly what I was talking about. Needless to say, there were a lot of negative responses to his post and rightfully so.
Reading With A ‘Raised Brow’
Does this mean you should never listen to a word Dave Ramsey ever says again? Of course not. What it means is that you do have to weigh everything that is said or written, regardless of whether that person is considered a ‘financial guru’ or not. At the end of the day, last I checked, Dave Ramsey was not a non-profit and in that respect, he is no different than anyone else; he’s providing a valuable service and he expects to get paid for it. I see nothing wrong with that.
But… when I read at the end of his blog post this sentence “Most bankruptcy cases can be avoided with proper help, such as our ‘Providing Hope’ online learning, certified counselors and the ‘Total Money Makeover’, which you can purchase a 3 month membership to for $25 dollars or a 6 month membership to for $49.95 dollars, I weigh his statement as one of opinion since the comment was not accompanied by any factual point of reference and now here’s how I interpreted the entire post;
First, the title of the post is “The Truth about Bankruptcy”. Being a bankruptcy survivor, I’m interested, so I start to read it. I see where it says bankruptcy causes ‘lifelong damage’ but there’s no factual evidence to support this point so as a bankruptcy survivor, I then call ‘horse-shit’! Then, when I see the pitch at the end for the ‘Total Money Makeover’, well, I have now concluded this message is one of a marketing nature.
Clarification and Interpretation
Let me clarify exactly why I called horse-shit on this statement; Webster’s online dictionary defines the word ‘most’ as “greatest in quantity, extent, or degree: the majority”. Really? The majority of bankruptcy cases can be avoided? According to uscourts.gov, the number of bankruptcies filed in the twelve-month period ending December 31, 2011, totaled 1,410,653. And for arguments sake, instead of using ‘most’ or ‘the majority’, let’s just say half of those, 705,336 could have been avoided? Even though they have to pass a bankruptcy means test? Sorry Dave, I’m not buying it and if you were considering filing bankruptcy and stumbled across this article because you Google’d bankruptcy, you would have to decide for yourself what to make of the entire post and that’s the whole point of this blog post!
Everything you read online should be read with a ‘raised brow’ and you should always research the research! Confirm and clarify – regardless of the source. Only good things can come from taking advice in this manner.
Take No Action – Get No Results!
The moral of the story is this; actionable and intelligent information can be derived from any place and from anyone, especially in the internet age. As long as that information being presented can be verified and substantiated as factual – by you, and is not just an opinion, well then personally, I’m now interested in what that person has to say moving forward but (and there’s always a but); I will always research the research!
Which leads me to my last point; if you obtain information that can help you with your circumstances and you have verified its content for accuracy and credibility, at the end of the day, what makes that information actionable and worthwhile is you actually taking action and implementing this advice. Otherwise, how do you get results if you don’t?
What are your thoughts about the term ‘expert’? Do you research the research when given advice? Do you ‘confirm and clarify’ that the information you have read is, in fact, correct before you take action on it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.