A while back, I went to a doctor for a minor medical issue. The doctor gave me some medicine and instructions that I needed to stay away from salt, sugar, cheese, bread, pasta, rice, soda, in short, anything with flavor or anything that is appetizing. I was admonished to increase my intake of vegetables, especially of the green, leafy type, such as that found covering the “lawn” area. I wondered if this were general advice or advice specific to what I came in for. Unfortunately, my wife was in the room, rendering the point moot. Since she is in charge of shopping and meal preparation, I knew my goose was cooked, if uneaten.
My wife and I have had several “heated” discussions about the subject, with the end result being me losing and eating another bowl of spinach. But being the skeptic I am (not to mention my desire for a bowl of chili-cheese-fries) I did a little research. What did my research reveal? The short answer is nothing that was going to get those fries any closer to my belly.
I found that this doctor’s advice was pretty standard advice for the whole medical group he works for. This is their company line. I also found that it fit right in with a speech made by Michelle Obama about eating tasteless food around the same time as my doctor. So far suspicious, but not enough for the fries, but I’m getting closer. I did some research on the recommended treatment, and while the course of medicine was listed, there was no indication of dietary change needed. Still not enough. Because I know the doctor isn’t going to give me deliberately bad advice, getting those fries didn’t look to likely. Then my wife asked the worst question possible:
“Well, is doing what he said going to hurt you?”
Okay, I lost the practicality battle. But in doing so, I was reminded of part of why I started Finance For Youth in the first place.
Very recently, American Express has opened a website called “Get Currency”. This is the latest in youth-centric financial “education” sites put up by a major finance player. Bank of America offers “education” as does Wells Fargo and several other major players. There has been a lot of activity on Twitter recently surrounding American Express Get Currency.
I’m not making any judgements as to how good or bad Get Currency is. I haven’t done any of the research on it. I know a lot of bloggers are jumping on the bandwagon. Many of these bloggers are bloggers that I enjoy reading and interacting with. My concern is in the concept of getting education in making sound financial decisions from a company that profits when I make poor financial decisions.
One reason I started Finance For Youth, and why I decided to write FINANCE FOR YOUTH: THE BOOK is because I couldn’t stand by and see banks and other financial institutions pass advertising off as “education”. It isn’t right. I also think the threshold has to be higher than “is it going to do any harm?”
Let’s look at it this way: Would you take diet advice from a fat person? How about from McDonald’s? Would you take driving tips from Maaco? Yet day after day, we take financial education from those who profit from us staying uneducated. Now, am I saying that these sites are inherently bad? Nope. There’s an old saw that says, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” So there will probably be some great advice in there. But I’m still weary of taking financial advice from a company that makes profit from you not knowing smart financial choices.
I know my doctor will have a problem with this, but I’m taking anything I read from Amex’ Get Currency with a huge grain of salt.
You should also consider being skeptical when given advice. Here are a few things to look at.
- What’s in it for them?
- Good advice is good advice, but if someone stands to profit significantly more if you follow them than if you don’t, be cautious.
- What’s in it for you?
- Some of these groups appeal to something you want or feel you need to give you “advice”. Be sure that the advice will stand up and be right even if you don’t succumb to your wants.
- Who is giving the advice?
- On the other side of this, as I said before some bloggers that I have a lot of respect for are jumping on the bandwagon on Get Currency. Maybe that’s a point in favor of it for you. People you respect generally have earned that respect.
At the end of the day, any advice, any website, any Personal Finance guy or gal might have something worthwhile to say. Don’t jump in with both feet. Be cautious, especially when anybody tells you “jump in with both feet!”. When you start disagreeing with the advice, stop listening to the advisor. Get more than one point of view.
Of course, with all this talk of salt, how could I not show one of the best composers out there doing one of the most fun songs from a movie?