Who Can You Trust When Taking Credit and Financial Advice?

Which Road To Take1 Who Can You Trust When Taking Credit and Financial Advice?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.

Filtering Information

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.



Comments

  1. Tori says:

    One thing I have learned is you never take advice from so-called friends about your credit problems. Usually its just a reason to get some gossip from you

    • As much as I’d like to disagree with you Tori, there’s some truth in that statement :) which is why I say, “It is what it is, but will become what you make it”! There’s nothing wrong with letting people know what you’re going through. What’s important is learning to say “it is what it is” and not let any negativity stop you from accelerating the process of credit recovery! You’re the key, not them Tori.

  2. Crystal says:

    I like to look at some of the forums for other people having the same situation as me when I need help. I seldom go to real people

  3. Thanks for the comment Crystal. I think the biggest thing to take from this post is to ‘filter’ information, regardless if it’s from an online forum or a real person. The most important thing is to do some intelligence gathering of your own and weigh the facts versus what’s being said.

  4. Jamie Howe says:

    We recently opened a new checking account here in Florida. I new right before we moved here that there was a discrepancy on my credit report that was done by chase bank, to which I called my lawyer about and he said I had to contact chase. Well, problem with that is that I don’t have a specific number to call. So, it just so happened that chase was offering a good deal if you opened a checking account. While we were there I asked the banker if there was a way he could help me with the issue. Well, he just called me back today and had a number for me to call to get the matter cleared up. He also gave me some off the cuff advice as well on how to build back our credit. And all I had to do was ask. :)

    • That’s great news Jamie. However, I can tell you from years of experience, the best way to handle any discrepancy in your credit report is to first, get your hands on a copy of your report. If you see an error, the credit report clearly indicates contact information for whom is furnishing that incorrect information on you.

      You need to send a dispute letter to both the furnisher of that information and the Credit Bureau reporting it. By fixing it internally with Chase, there is no guarantee that it’s actually been corrected on the bureau level; only that you got it handled with them and your situation opening an account. I have personally seen this exact thing happen only to have it come back to haunt you later.

      Once you get that report, you need to clearly point out exactly what the error is, for example: you might say; this account is in error because…this account is not being reported correctly because…. In any dispute, there are two things that you need to point out and make clear to the bureaus; why you claim an item is being reported in error and what you what the outcome of the dispute to be. For example; after clearly demonstrating why the item is wrong and supplying whatever corroborating evidence you have, you would say; please delete this item immediately.

      There’s not enough room in this space to really give you the full details but in my free video series, I go into depth exactly how to perform what I call a “Credit Audit & Verification” of your credit report. Everyone should know how to do this correctly for exactly the reason you posted.

      Thanks for the comment :)

  5. Candy Johnstone says:

    I love the “Horse-poo” comment. I will gladly read Dave Ramsey’s newspaper column, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for his course! It’s all common sense stuff our parents and grandparent did. (To clarify my grandma was born in 1921 and my mom in 1940, so for some it may be their great [great] grandparents)
    It disgusts me that he and the churches use his course for profit.
    I’ll jump off my soap box now. I too had to file BK spring of last year. Hubby and I were both without work and had 30k in cc debt (smack me now!) We had to keep the 2 car loans and the cross collateralized personal loan. Thankfully we had unloaded the house the year before that. Only 1 year left on the personal loan, 2 yrs left on his car, and 3 yrs left on my car. I’m hoping we can actually get rid of 2 loans next tax return. A recent evaluation of our credit showed that just by plugging away at the loans we kept our credit has come back up significantly in just a year and a few months!

    • That’s awesome Candy – Love your spirit! And by pressing forward, you are both disproving Dave’s statement that filing for bankruptcy causes “life-long” damage, just like I am doing!

      Do you know why your score has improved after filing for bankruptcy? Do you know how much better it could be if you performed a Credit Audit & Verification of your credit report?

      I answer all these questions for free in my video series and show you exactly how to perform the entire process using 3 different versions of my own credit report! Remember, I survived a $1.6 million dollar bankruptcy, foreclosure, short-sale, repossession, tax liens, and more! I created this blog and the free video series to help others who have gone through similar negative credit events.

      There is so much more you can do to accelerate the process of credit recovery for you and your husband – let me help you :) Please watch the free videos, giving me your honest feedback, and I know for a fact it will help you as it is helping me! Thank you so much for lending your voice to the conversation. Please visit with me again !

  6. It’s so important to be critical of any information we receive or read…especially on the internet. I’d consider myself a 2 or 3 on the expert scale, and only in some aspects. But, all of the posts I write are either out of experience or deep research from reliable sources which I will reference in my posts. I have a lot of experience with some things…like free events I’ve gone to or saving money in college, so I guess I’m not giving myself enough credit in those areas on a number scale. The point is I’m not a trained professional.

    Dave Ramsey has helped a lot of people, but I think that it’s good that you question his advice. I know several people that bankruptcy has rescued. Although you hope to never have it happen, it doesn’t always ruin the rest of your life. His advice is good and encouraging, but no one is perfect and says the right things all the time.

    I use annualcreditreport.com, too. The best. No hidden fees or weird programs you have to sign up for.

    • Here’s a quick tip; if you dispute an item contained in a report obtained through annualcreditreport.com, the bureaus have 45 days to respond to that dispute, instead of 30.

      As for Dave Ramsey, what I prefer to say is that I questioned a comment and opinion of his that I know for a fact is absolutely incorrect, from my very own experiences.

      You may not be a “trained” professional, as you state, but I for one give you an enormous amount of credit for sharing your information and experiences and putting it out there for all to read! Hope you’re having a great weekend at the RADical days in Pittsburgh :)

  7. Alan says:

    Amen, Lou.

    Yep, expert is a relative term, and with information overload on the Internet superhighway these days, it’s even more important to process information critically. Not enough people calling horse-shit :)

    Thanks for directing my attention here. Great post, man.

    • I about spit my night-time tea out as I read this comment and I couldn’t agree more. I guess it’s up to us bloggers to, as Cooper Anderson says, “Keep em’ honest” :)

      Thanks for the comment Alan and I love the “Finance For Couples” Blog! Like you say; Nothing says romance like talking finance!

  8. Jonathan says:

    I think you and I are on the same page when it comes to experts, trust but verify. Everyone is out there selling something, their ideas, their method, or a product. Caveat emptor!

    I’m generally wary of the advice of others; however, that isn’t to say that I’ve never been inspired to take action on an idea planted by someone else that I internalized through my own independent edification.

  9. Although we can learn for each other, if there is a need for expert information, then we need to see an expert. Problem is people don’t know who to go to for their particular problem. I highly recommend fee-only financial advisors that are members of NAPFA, and the Garrett Planning Network. Pay for service is the way to go or else you will be at the mercy of a commissioned salesperson, or internet marketer, or blogger, or a beat you into submission TV person (she who shall not be named). I have seen too many innocent people think they are doing the right thing only to find out years later that they were going down the wrong path. A life time is short- don’t short change your financial future-pay for help from a fee-only financial advisor that actually does practice comprehensive financial planning (not just investment management).

    • I can only imagine to whom you are referring to; “she who shall not be named”. Definitely not America’s most trusted personal finance expert :) I like your site and it seems to have a wealth of information.

      I especially liked your “The 7 Steps to Build Wealth in 2012″ post and your advice to Kamil in the comments section. And Yes; Your Labradoodle puppy Goldie is cute! :) Thanks for your comment.

      Wishing you the best!

  10. I think you hit the nail on the head by saying to do your own research. Even “experts” often are selling a product or service and it is up to you do make sure you are taking the right steps. Otherwise, you could be following Bernie Madoff. There is also a huge difference between life changing and life damaging. With the right attitude, you can turn just about any horrible life event into a learning experience and use it in a positive way. If we’d never gotten into debt, I would never have been so driven to save and invest now.

    • Well stated Kim. The right attitude, or mindset, was step #1 for me in recovering from financial hell and it sounds like it was for you too. But like me, your situation drove you to become a better, more informed person, in order to save and invest to build a better future. It’s the same road I’m on now and I applaud you for your drive!

  11. You always have to assess the short and long term implications of that advice as it applies to your situation. Does it make sense, or could present long term problems for you. I believe you should make an effort to read up and educate yourself extensively about whatever help it is you need. That way you can make an informed decision after weighing all the information instead of just trusting what one person or company says.

    I wrote a post a while back titled “Be Your Own Money Expert” that might be of interest.

    http://www.cfinancialfreedom.com/CFFwordpress/be-your-own-money-expert/

  12. Renata says:

    I grew up convinced that all professionals have integrity and are experts in their field. After all, we spend many years of our lives studying, educating ourselves in one area or another, so that we can achieve the designation of an expert. I see it as a badge of honor. That is what I value. I think most people do as well. If you a physician, for example, who works long hours in her chosen field of expertise, you are likely to believe that your financial advisor is as dedicated as you are and has the integrity that you do. There is an unspoken understanding at play. You resist having to spend a lot of time and effort on extensive education in finance. You don’t have the time. So, you rely almost automatically on the value of trust and integrity. It is almost like a cycle of trust. I hope this makes sense.

    • Yes it does make sense Renata. Unfortunately, the landscape is littered with people who’s money has been stolen because they worked on trust and integrity.

      Unfortunately, as I say in the piece, even if it’s a doctor or tenured professional, I confirm and clarify what they say. It’s my life, my money, my future and I believe I owe it to myself to go that extra mile to make sure the information I’m being given is correct!

      The great thing about living in these times is that we have the resources available at our fingertips to ‘confirm and clarify” and “research the research”. Thank you so much for commenting on my blog and please continue to stop by! :)

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