Inevitably, as you read this site, you’re going to find something that you disagree with – I write on too many topics for all of my readers to agree with me on everything. I know in the past, I’ve had some bitter disagreements with readers on Rich Dad, Poor Dad, pets, housing requirements, and many other things. I’ve had readers call me names and I’ve had readers both publicly and privately vow to stop reading The Simple Dollar and never return because of my “ignorance” or “small-mindedness,” simply because I posted something that didn’t exactly meet their belief structure.
And that’s fine. I’m completely okay with disagreement – if I were not, I would tightly moderate comments and delete everything that wasn’t in 100% agreement with me. Visiting those links will make it very clear that I do no such thing.
However, it does bring up a very valuable point about blindly following the advice of any financial guru (myself included): don’t do it. By all means, use advice as a starting point, but never, ever fall into the trap of believing that what I say, or what Dave Ramsey says, or what Robert Kiyosaki says, or anyone else says, is the absolute final word and truth when it comes to a financial situation. The only person I might possibly attribute that level of trust to is Warren Buffett (for obvious reasons; read his Wikipedia entry), and I still think he overvalues Costco (their P/E ratio seems really high for their growth rate to me).
Here’s why (along with some tips on how to get more out of any piece of financial information).
No answers are absolute. There’s no financial issue that doesn’t have multiple facets. I try very hard to dig through many of them, but there are ones that I overlook – as do all other financial gurus. I’m no expert on the New York housing market, for example – and I don’t claim to be – but I’m still willing to offer my perspective on what I would do if I lived there. Is it the absolute correct path? Probably not. Is it one based on the principles that I’m constantly espousing? Yes, it is. In a nutshell, when you take someone’s advice, make sure you know the principles that the advice is based on. If you don’t know, ask. If you can’t ask or don’t get a good answer, don’t trust the advice.
You might not agree with the philosophy. I’m rather risk averse and I think frugality is a huge component of personal finance – I can be almost obsessive about it. On the other hand, Robert Kiyosaki is very, very far from risk averse, enough so that I consider his advice reckless (and I’m not afraid to criticize him for it). Perhaps you don’t agree with my underlying philosophy – again, that’s completely fine – but you should at least try to understand it. I read and wrote a lengthy review of Rich Dad, Poor Dad so that I could at least understand the philosophy. If something strikes you as wrong, try to figure out exactly why you find it to be wrong – usually, it’s a difference in fundamental philosophy and it’s worthwhile to at least understand other philosophies.
Do your own research. I do some posts on basic personal finance analysis and link to other tools here and there – those are so you can look at a piece of advice yourself if you want to and decide whether it’s right and you agree with it. If you don’t understand how something works, ask – if you don’t think a number comes out right in an article, try to figure it yourself. You’ll do nothing but improve your own understanding.
Recognize that no one is absolutely right. Absolute correctness doesn’t exist in this world. If you find yourself completely disavowing someone because you disagree on a point or two with that person, you’re going to have a hard time finding someone who you can talk to, listen to, and exchange ideas with. Accept that no one is absolutely right – including yourself – and be open to new ideas.
Personal finance is a beautiful topic laden with a lot of ideas, many of which contradict each other. The best I can do is try to overview everything I learn about and then apply those principles that work well for me – anything else would be fraud.