We live in a society that snatches up new ideas and runs with them, without necessarily taking the time to assess the value of them. The unfortunate truth is that not every idea or opinion you or anyone else has is a great one or even halfway acceptable. This is part of the reason we hear so many mixed messages when it comes to financial advice.
Most of the financial messages we receive are opinions. It is not uncommon for two reputable personal finance sources have two completely different ideas on the same topic. The non-expert consumer is left with an uneasy feeling of indecision. So what should you do when confronted with mixed messages?
Sorting Through Mixed Messages
First, you need to look at the reason behind the message. Most of the time, you’ll find the answer is money. Finding out whether a message has been skewed by financial interest is not always easy. Most people want to trust the honest of celebrities and other popular figures. The problem is that those celebrities don’t have the faintest idea you even exist. They are merely trying to pay the mortgage, albeit a mortgage substantially larger than the one you are used to.
Still have the urge to trust celebrities? Look at Montel Williams pedaling payday loans or Suze Orman urging you to buy a new GMC SUV.
Consider the Source
When you receive financial advice, look at how the person giving it makes a living. If he or she makes money from commissions or as a spokesperson, he or she is more likely to tell you to take whatever action that will earn a few extra dollars. This is especially important to consider when hiring a personal advisor or financial planner. It is probably not the best idea to go with someone who makes a commission based pay or who charges based on the size of your account.
Where to Find Objective Information
The best thing to do when faced with mixed financial messages is to check with the government agency that takes care of the financial issue you are confused about. Even then, it can be a mixed bag, though. Consider Greenspan telling us all to leverage the equity in our homes. So many people followed that advice that it led to a national depression.
Still, going straight to the source is often the best way to clear up any misunderstandings. If you do not know which agency handles your specific issue or where to go, simply do a search online for the topic you are wondering about and end the search with the word government. Search around until you end up at a site whose URL ends in .gov instead of .com or any other ending. A .gov ending ensures that the information presented on the site is by a federal government agency and not someone pretending to be part of the government.
If you are still unsure of what to do with a particular piece of financial advice, just ask around. Go to financial forums, read articles from reputable newspapers and journals, then make up your own mind about the best action to take. Just be sure to scrutinize everything you read for potential conflicts of interest. Check with other organizations and professional finance advisors to get sources that are more credible to base your result on. A second opinion never hurt anyone.
In the end, it is best to trust your gut instinct. Too good to be true almost always is. If you have to take a week or so to read the fine print, do it. Never let anyone trap you with a “now or never” mentality. Anyone who can’t give you the time to check it out for yourself is steering you in the wrong direction.
Fletcher Martin is an Internet copywriter and blogger for various publications and his own blog. Read more of his work at unbelievablywritten.com.