Who’s Right? Who’s Wrong?

Recently, I heard some pretty strong (but valid) criticism of The Simple Dollar (that applies to most personal finance blogs out there):

You are a guy in your [thirties] who lists no credentials except the fact that you made it through a “complete financial meltdown” a few years ago. You have no professional training and don’t even mention where you went to college.

I don’t claim to be a guru, but I have had sufficient education to know that financial expertise is not something that can be learned through experience and introspection. Intuition in this area can be very misleading.

[...] People should not make financial decisions based on what their neighbor says, on the spoutings of someone on a website, or on what your gut is telling you. Seek out a qualified professional and get a second opinion.

This is just a blunt restatement of criticism that I hear on a daily basis. I hear time and time again that I’m not a financial expert, that what I write is of dubious benefit, and that I should just shut my mouth and let the “experts” do the talking.

So, let’s go through this step by step.

First of all, I’m not a financial guru, nor do I claim to be. All I can do is share my experiences and what I’ve learned along the way. I spend a lot of time educating myself on financial topics (see those weekly extremely detailed book reviews? I’ve been doing those every week for three years), trying new things, and asking questions. More importantly, I try to apply as much as I can to my life to see whether it actually works or not.

I choose to share all of that on The Simple Dollar and, more importantly, I include with it a lot of details of my own life. That’s an important distinction from the work of most financial “gurus” who offer up advice. Why? All advice comes from a perspective of some kind. Different people have different individual risk tolerances. They have different life experiences that have led them to different values.

The end result is that most financial “gurus” offer at least somewhat differing advice from one another. One easy example that comes to mind is the differing perspectives that Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman and David Bach have on repaying a list of debts. Ramsey advocates paying off the one with the smallest balance first. Bach recommends paying off the one with the highest interest rate first. Orman suggests a hybrid plan, where you focus on the highest interest rate debt but make more than the minimum payment on the other debts.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? It’s not that simple. All three of the plans have advantages and disadvantages. Ramsey’s plan has the psychological benefit of a quick success – it’s easiest to eliminate your lowest balance debt. Orman’s plan also has a psychological perk – you’re making up ground against all of your debts. Bach’s plan is the best one from a pure mathematical perspective – over the long haul, it wins, but you may have to wait a long time to feel the success of removing a debt.

Ramsey and Bach and Orman came to these conclusions because of their life experiences, their own research and investigation, their own risk tolerance, and so on.

You can find many, many differences between financial “experts” along these lines. Most of the time, the differences are more a matter of perspective than a matter of fact. But here’s the catch – different solutions often work better for different people. Dave Ramsey’s solutions might work best for some of you. Suze Orman might give the right advice for others.

The catch is that you can’t know which one is “right” for you or “wrong” for you at first glance.

What’s the solution, then? Get your personal finance information from multiple viewpoints. Try to find answers that work well for you and follow them. Most importantly, don’t simply follow the advice of the first person you read.

So why do I write? I try to synthesize as many different viewpoints as I can find, figure out how they fit in my life, and share that experience with you. That’s the same package you’ll get from any personal finance blogger who is passionate about their audience and aren’t just trying to sell stuff.

Perhaps you gain value from that – if you’re a regular reader, you probably do gain some value from that.

That doesn’t mean, however, that The Simple Dollar is any sort of substitute for doing your own legwork and finding your own answers. Take my viewpoint as one of many – with mine, you might not have the value of a degree in finance, but you do know where I’m coming from in terms of background, life experiences, and perspective.

Good blogs bring something to the table that can’t be brought with a book and a television show – a synthesis of ideas, an interaction with readers, and a perspective that is nuanced and clear. After all, there are almost 3,000 articles at The Simple Dollar now, and readers who have been following over the long haul have a very strong, detailed picture of who I am and where I’m coming from. That’s an aspect no “guru” can give you from an infomercial.

Oh, and by the way, I went to Iowa State University.

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229 thoughts on “Who’s Right? Who’s Wrong?

  1. lou says:

    Love your blog, caveats and all!

  2. Jen says:

    Obviously this person is not familiar with you and your site! I can’t recall you ever proclaiming to be a guru or expert or anything of the sort; just a guy who is sharing his experience and guiding others to find their way. Keep it up, you rock, and I look forward to reading every day!

  3. Well written, Trent. I’m not sure why there’s so much criticism about this and other personal finance blogs. You have never claimed to be a “financial expert” or “guru,” nor have you ever advocated that people take your advice and implement it in their own lives blindly. What you have clearly offered is a perspective and the willingness to spend time delving into books and financial topics more deeply than many of us have the time or the inclination to do ourselves.

    I read this blog because it offers another view of personal finance (a topic of interest to me), and I take the information I gain here and add it to the all the other financial information I read about and have gathered in the past.

    It seems to me that if people do not find value in reading personal finance blogs, they should simply not read them.

  4. linlu says:

    I have an issue with financial gurus, especially those in the financial reporting industry. Those that tried to warn us were ridiculed, almost sounds like what this person was trying to do. I don’t know how long I have been reading your column, but yours or another’s so called ‘unqualified’ blog actually got me started on the long road to recovery using the snowflake/hybrid method. Neither of which I would have known about since all the “gurus” I had been exposed to at that point all recommended paying off the highest interest first. So your site is valuable in that it doesn’t present simply one side of view.

    Also I am highly suspicious of any financial advisor, as I truly believe they work to steer the market in a certain direction on the stocks they are seeking (a)to buy (by bad mouthing them and giving that company horrible reviews) or (b) to sell (by regurgitating the lies of the CEOs or other manipulations spread by other parties).

    So I prefer to learn from someone who has been there and doesn’t recommend stocks. As I believe that is the only way to not have a conflict of interest at best.

  5. Strick says:

    Strange criticism. Folks seem to be missing the point of the information age (sharing of ideas). Hopefully the people that have these criticisms don’t think that they should be blindly following advice from anyone, even the “experts”.

    And frankly, its refreshing to hear opnions about load funds from someone other than a broker, about bankruptcy from someone other than a bankruptcy attorney, about investing from someone other than CNBC, all of whom have their “expert advice” influenced by their own self-serving interests.

  6. Pete says:

    Trent, I think this kind of criticism is actually more about the medium than the message. Let me explain.

    A lot of people simply miss the point of what blogging is all about. Like probably most of your readers, I read a lot of blogs about a lot of different topics. Although some blogs are written by people who are “bona-fide experts” in their topic area (Seth Godin comes to mind), the vast majority of them are regular people who have something important to say. The whole point of blogging is that it makes anyone a publisher. That is both good and bad — but much more good, in my view. It does put more responsibility on the reader. It is my job to discern who has something worthwhile and truthful to say to me, and to create my own filters accordingly. This can be a chore — but I would rather do it myself than trust the editor of the local paper or the national news magazine to do it for me.

    In other words, carry on. The fact that you have a broad audience speaks for itself.

  7. Ian P. says:

    Some folks need to realize the nature of the “blog”. It’s one guy giving us his opinion. Take it or leave it.
    In Trent’s case, I give weight to his words because he is pretty well read. He has read more finance books than any five MBA grads put together. He’s like the “Will Hunting” of finance (remember the Matt Damon movie?).

  8. chef says:

    Trent – you’re the man. Thanks for not being an “expert” – the people who write that stuff to you are probably just upset that you’re helping people like myself learn how to handle their own finances (and investments) without the assistance of a broker for a small (read: large) fee.

  9. Deb says:

    I am more interested in reading how ‘regular’ people like me are making their personal finances work than in reading “experts” who are making a lot of money sharing their financial perspectives and doubtfully have the same money concerns I do. I’m a CornShucker, but go Iowa State!

  10. Pattie, RN says:

    By the rationale of this critic, all weight-loss sites not run by a registered dietician should shut down, all medical inofrmation sites not written by an MD should be history, and all book reviews not written by English Lit PhD’s need to be closed down. That is just silly and short-sighted. You present well-researched information and opinions that are very clearly your own, with no misrepresentation of your background or credentials. I enjoy what I read, and take information I can use, and let the rest go where it is needed. You owe no one an apology for doing a fine job here. Pattie

  11. Claire says:

    It’s probably easier said than done, but ignore the negativity. You have your audience, and if those people don’t want to be a part of it, they can just move on. You offer a valuable service – experience with financial mistakes and growth – to those of us who want to listen.

  12. Neal Frankle says:

    I work in the financial services industry and I love your blog.

    I also feel that this person hasn’t read your blog much.

    This is a place that creates a community and an exchange. I don’t feel like this is a dogmatic blog. You express your opinions and you allow others to do the same.

    What’s wrong with that?

    And by the way, as a financial professional I can tell you that many “novice” investors have better sense than many professionals.

    Keep it up. I hope you don’t take that attack personally.

  13. Michael says:

    Sounds like sour grapes. You’re a blogger with great ideas. I don’t think anyone takes 100% of your suggestions and runs with them. If they’re like me, more often than not your basic suggestions make sense. You’re one of many resources, and probably the most personable, the most real, without the ‘I WILL GET YOU RICH!’ mantra being shoved down my throat.

  14. Salvatore says:

    Trent, what appeals to me about your blog and why I keep coming back day after day is the fact that you are a regular guy and not a financial guru. I can relate to your story and am hoping that in 5 to 10 years when I find myself in my thirties with a family I will have some of the financial stability that you now have. Right now I am in a big hole, but I can look up and see you up there and know that there is a path out of the hole for me and that motivation is reason enough for me to keep on reading the advice you have to offer.

  15. Brittney says:

    I really don’t get why people care what you write on your blog…and why they then waste their time writing to tell you what they think! Lame.

    I love your blog, and use it as a supplement to my own research. I think it’s very important to get your information from multiple sources. For instance, if you just listened to CNN all day, you’re only getting the information their station wants you to get. Listen to CNN, read a paper, and check out different blogs.

    You are awesome! Keep up the good work!

  16. Colin says:

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    That’s golden.

    Last I knew, Trent, your advice hasn’t caused an economic meltdown like what the “financial experts” have done.

    Yes, listen to the experts because the stock market is flourishing. Thanks, that made my day.

  17. Scott says:

    I’m sorry to generalize, but most of the “experts” I personally know are crooks.

  18. Brad Martin says:

    This is my first time posting something. I love the site and view it often.

    I disagree with the person who said “financial expertise is not something that can be learned through experience and introspection”. So does that mean you learn from academic theories or only financial advisors with “credentials”. Of course not. You also made a good point about different financial perspectives. Go to a CPA, Stock broker, Certified Financial Planner, or Accreditated Financial Counselor. Each of them bring different experiences and knowledge. Also many of the “credentialed” people do not have your best interests at heart. Again, the example of a stock broker versus a CFP. My guess is the person is a financial advisor and is upset at the quality and value your site/blog offer.

  19. Laurie says:

    I read your blog everyday. Sometimes I find information that fits my needs, and sometimes I do not, but I still like to read it. I am not here for you to solve all my financial problems, but it is much nicer to get information from someone who has actually been there, not just giving information that they received in a classroom. Thank you for what you do.

  20. Laurie says:

    I read your blog everyday. Sometimes I find information that fits my needs, and sometimes I do not, but I still like to read it. I am not here for you to solve all my financial problems, but it is much nicer to get information from someone who has actually been there, not just giving information that they received in a classroom. Thank you for what you do.

  21. Gavin says:

    Ditto what everyone else has said. You haven’t held yourself out as anything but a very thoughtful regular guy. Your humility and willingness to admit mistakes are the reasons I read the blog and find it not only useful but inspiring.

    But gosh, if only you were an “expert” like Madoff and all the other selfish clowns who’ve driven our economy into the ground. [/sarcasm]

  22. LisaB says:

    I suppose the meltdown the financial system is currently experiencing is more reason for confidence in our highly educated financial “experts”?

    This is a Blog, and I’ve taken note of the caveat at the bottom of the website “Trent is not a financial advisor and no information found on this site should be construed as financial advice.”

    Bottom line, there’s a difference between education and wisdom. Not everyone who has obtained the former also has the latter (and vice-versa).

  23. Stacy6 says:

    I actually trust your information more than I would that of some “guru”. First of all, your attitude always seems to be “this is my experience, take it or leave it” – the average guru always seems to be proclaiming theirs to be the Only Way. I don’t trust people who claim to be messiahs. Second, you’re very clear about where you get your information, what books you’ve read, and how things impact you. I appreciate that transparency.

    This person who is criticizing you seems to be implying that there is no value in the shared experiences of an ordinary person. They say that you can’t gain financial expertise from “experience and reflection.” That’s how we learn almost everything else – why not this? And all those “qualified professionals” your critic wants us to follow and trust above our own experience certainly did a fine job with the wider economy. No, I think I’ll keep listening to what you have to say, Trent, over that “qualified professional” who shrilly insisted on national television that Lehman Bros stock was sound and that no one should sell. Cost investors quite a chunk, that one did.

  24. Des says:

    I agree with what others have said here, and would add that Person Finance is not rocket science. You don’t need to be an “expert” or even have a college degree to know that the path to financial independence is spending less than you earn. BUT you might need someone to remind you of that once in a while. You might need someone to give you some fresh ideas of how to do that more effectively. You might need the encouragement of seeing that someone else has done it, or even seeing someone else fail and pick himself back up again.

    Now, if this were a site on, say, tax deductions or legal advice, then it would be nice if the writer had some credentials. But as far as I am aware, you can’t get a B.S. in Personal Finance.

    I agree that this person is missing the point of blogs in general.

  25. Jessica says:

    Hey Trent,

    I read you through my RSS feeder everyday. Your advice is of sound quality and I enjoy your perspective.

    Ignore the keyboard warriors.

  26. Char says:

    I’m with Colin, hahahah, just look what the experts have given us – if someone doesn’t agree with what you say – MOVE ON. There are all kinds of blogs out there on PF and some I just can’t stand – I don’t bookmark them and move on, they work for some people.

  27. Amanda says:

    I like your blog precisely *because* you are a normal person, and I think your writing has a strong grounding in the School of Common Sense (again, this is good). If I wanted technical blather, I’d turn on CNBC.

  28. Judy says:

    I see this same thing on all sorts of blogs. My take is “If you don’t think it’s valuable, don’t read it.” Some folks just like to complain.

  29. Mark says:

    I don’t know much about Iowa State University being from the UK, but I do now this. Te most valuable learning in life comes from making mistakes. A financial meltdown rates as a big mistake and therefore a very valuable learning point and an excellent basis from which to help others avoid that mistake. Keep up the good work.

  30. waldo says:

    go clones :]

  31. AD says:

    I wouldn’t base my actions on a single blog, and Trent has never suggested that anyone should do so. I base my choices on reading information from mutliple sources, and yeah, The Simple Dollar is one of them. PF blogs have given me a lot of good advice, and tipped me off to subjects I didn’t know about, and could then investigate further.

    To say someone can’t write about a subject because they don’t have the qualifications is ridiculous. I guess only scientists should write about science, and only politicians should write about politics. That leaves a lot of journalists and reporters out of a job.

    Furthermore, to discredit someone who obviously enthusiastically educates themselves just because it wasn’t his or her major or job experience is narrow-minded and snobby. My father barely stuck around to graduate from high school, but he can talk for hours, in-depth, about everything from the Golden Section to the construction of Brunelesci’s dome and beyond. I guess this guy would say that my dad needs a degree in math and art history to be “qualified,” though he could run circles around any graduate student in these fields.

  32. Nick says:

    Agreed Trent. Go Cyclones! :)

  33. Robin S says:

    I’m with Strick (#4). This is a strange criticism. You may consider this criticism valid, Trent, but I don’t. While no one should be taking your advice to be the gospel truth, that’s true of any advice one receives from anyone, on any topic. This reminds me too much of the people who try to tell me I have no right to have an opinion on what my rights are simply because my background isn’t that of a Constitutional scholar.

    I’m curious where the idea that one must be credentialed or formally educated in an area before one is allowed to offer opinions or advice in that area. My degree is in computer engineering, and my career to this point has been focused pretty much on data mining and some application development. If someone offers me advice on database software, I wouldn’t dare dismiss them out of hand simply because they didn’t have the right letters after their name. I would’ve missed out on some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten that way.

  34. waldo says:

    go clones :]
    keep up the good work!

    waldo,
    isu ecpe ’06.

  35. D-Tay says:

    Ummm… that argument is a red herring, the “appeal to authority” fallacy. This person has not addressed any particular idea or article on your wonderful blog, instead going after the lack of credentials. If they did not cite a particular issue that needs to be “left to the experts”, there is no way to determine if you got it wrong.

    The credentials of the person who wrote something has no effect on its validity. A learned amateur can offer good advice and make a valid point just the same as someone with a string of letters after their name.

    Keep up the good work, Trent.

  36. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    I agree with the commenters who thought it was interesting that he cared enough to write you and tell you he didn’t like your blog. Why not just keep moving. Get your advice elsewhere. Many people just need a foundation of the basics in personal finance, which is what I feel The Simple Dollar offers. If you’re investing large sums of money, maybe you do need professional help, but I think the idea that educated people can’t, for the most part, be involved in taking care of their own finances is absurd.

    Oh, and I’ve never heard of Iowa – is that in Japan;)?

  37. Ben says:

    I completely agree with Amanda (comment #18) I enjoy the Simple Dollar because I can relate with Trent and his situations.

  38. A Girl says:

    I used to be a reporter, an editor of a regional newspaper and I’ve written many publilshed articles and one book. From professional experience I can tell you that being a publshed author requires courage. You have an idea, you research it, you write about it (in the case of a blog you don’t have an editor to review your work). And then you let the market react. From following your blog for 6 months, it seems that your market reaction is excellent. Trent–there will always be someone who throws a pot sot or criticism. My guess is they are not brave enough to publish themselves. And. hey, some people just love to criticise others. You’ll have to be the judge of how your critics trend. If enough of them start pointing out a flaw…it probably is one you should look at. In case no one has said it yet, welcome to the published world!

  39. Rob says:

    Very good response, to a good question raised. Keep on with your postings from your perspective
    (from a UK reader)

  40. Brad says:

    I respect and appreciate your advice. In my opinion, you are an expert. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  41. WHAT?!?! You’re not a Guru?!?! How can I be a devout follower of your teachings, oh great one? When you aren’t even a great one? That’s it, I’m going to follow the great Bernie…crap, he’s in jail now…how about the great Cramer…dangit, he won’t come out of hiding until his ass heals from what John did to him…The folks at the greats like AIG, Bear Sterns and Wamu can help me then…oh wait…

    LOL, don’t let the haters get to you. You aren’t claiming to be anything you aren’t. Qualified professionals aren’t always so, even if they have a piece of paper that says so.

  42. Nancy says:

    It always floors me when folks feel the need to bash what they don’t agree with, ie. if you don’t like what you see on TV, turn it off.

    I think what many of us find appealing about your blog is that you are not a financial “expert” because of your formal studies. Much more impressive to me is your “degree” from the school of life and your willingness to share the personal side of your experience. It makes it more “human” so to speak and is what keeps folks reading. There is a tremendous feeling of if Trent can do it so can I.

    We hopefully all grow with our experiences. When I started my current job in a financial institution I was a teller with a few other responsibilities. I am now also a loan officer, the marketing department and take care of business when the boss is gone. I had the basic knowledge when I started the job, but by doing each task, have improved how well I do the job. I went to school for marketing but I have learned the skills needed to do the job well. And do all I can to learn more to improve my skill.

    I like that you are continually learning and sharing. We should all do that when ever we can. Knowledge is power! As they say. If those that think they are more qualified don’t like it so be it. They probably would not like to hear good advise from someone they felt was qualified either!

  43. Lori says:

    My life experience has ‘paid off’ more than my education has. To me it’s all about personality and street smarts. I know some academics may crucify me but they can just go back to school and hide from the ‘real world’ – they are just deferring the inevitable – some day you have to pay back those student loans and that’s going to take some action!

  44. Tom says:

    You don’t need “professional training” to help people see the light of basic personal fiscal responsibility, drawing on a wealth of personal experience and private research.

    What Trent has created with The Simple Dollar is not merely the “spoutings of someone on a website”, (for example: buy this individual stock now but sell this one because I said so). This is not so much financial advice as it is life advice.

  45. Wendybird74 says:

    Trent,
    Apparently this commentor did not read the title of your blog…because I plainly see that it says “financial talk for the rest of us”…not “financial ADVISE to the rest of you”.
    Your blog openly teaches that each person needs to do thier own research when making financial decisions. For the average reader, your blog often brings up a point that may not have been previously considered or clarifies an current financial issue, giving the reader a starting point for thier own research on the subject, but never claims to have the absolute answer.
    One should never fully, blindly believe ANY financial information for themselves, the current financial situation is a clear example of the piper leading the mice.
    Thanks for being a teacher, NOT a piper!

  46. Danielle says:

    I love this blog. I love the advice in this blog. I love the fact that this advice takes into accounts all areas of life (including being romantic in a marriage) that can be part of the life of someone who is concerned with their finances.

    Occasionally, my husband and I make plans to follow the advice we find here. We have everything but the bucket for making homemade laundry detergent. The desire to do this does not come from wanting to save money, but rather the fact that I’m both a at-home mom and an engineer who wants to make a big bucket of goo… and the fact that if it can be more gentle and have less allergy problems, it’s worth MORE money to me (though I’m certainly happy to pay less).

    There was also the advice about putting money toward your house by putting your extra payments into an interest earning account of some kind. We’ve decided to follow this advice… but not until it’s right for us. We’re currently paying extra mortgage insurance because we don’t own 20% of our house, and even if the numbers crunch in favor for the other method, we’re still working on paying a little extra here and there until we get to that point because it’s more comfortable to us.

    But then, I’m content to believe that even if you were some super-educated guru, I still wouldn’t follow every piece of advice without a little independent thought.

  47. kev says:

    If I was going to buy a car or a house or a computer, (two of which I plan to do in the next six months) I think it would be mighty foolish to rely only on the advice of the salesperson; Going in informed is what family, friends and neighbours (and blogs) are for!

    Same applies to finances. I might not make any investing decisions based on what I read in a blog, but at least I’ll have a more robust understanding of the market when I talk to the professional.

    An informed consumer is a confident consumer, even if that information was gleaned from “unqualified” sources around us; and a confident consumer is less likely to be taken for a ride by the less scrupulous types out there.

  48. Emily says:

    Trent,

    I’m chuckling about this mislead criticism. First of all, how many average folk are going to actually seek out and pay a so-called “expert” for financial advice. Like Colin says above, look where these experts landed our economy!!!

    Trusted “experts” and financial gurus have been fleecing the common folk in this country for decades. From high financiers to Wall Street to the Federal Reserve to elected officials and even local banks. These are the people who have framed our entire economic system and created the financial infrastructure that was built on nothing more than air (money on paper with no backing) and finally floated (or was that crashed) to the ground when a few strong winds finally and inevitably blew in.

    Check into the meaning of the term “fractional banking” if you want to see how the banking industry really works (and whom it benefits). Also check out a book called “Money” by James E. Ewart (published by Principia) if you want to educate yourself on how the “experts” work.

    Some of the most financially secure people I know who have no debt and large sums of cash in savings and/or investments (including hard assets of gold and/or silver bullion) are those who had common sense and trusted their guts. They not seek expert advice and often eschewed the advice of experts and professionals.

    Many of the so-called experts take jobs managing and investing people’s money without having any kind of financial education or experience other than some basic in-house training offered by the company for which they work. Those people are no more experts than many of us out here, you included Trent, who have taken it upon ourselves to self-educate and trust our own intelligence and common sense.

    Please, blog on!

    Best regards!

  49. kev says:

    If I was going to buy a car or a house or a computer, (two of which I plan to do in the next six months) I think it would be mighty foolish to rely only on the advice of the salesperson; Going in informed is what family, friends and neighbours (and blogs) are for!

    Same applies to finances. I might not make any investing decisions based on what I read in a blog, but at least I’ll have a more robust understanding of the market when I talk to the professional.

    An informed consumer is a confident consumer, even if that information was gleaned from “unqualified” sources around us; and a confident consumer is less likely to be taken for a ride by the less scrupulous types out there.

  50. Rebecca says:

    Good lord, people actually tell you this? “You’re not an expert, you don’t have credentials, so you can’t have anything good to say”?

    I read your blog because it makes SENSE. You lay out your arguments and then show your work with links or with a detailed train of thought. We’re not talking rocket science: I can tell when something doesn’t quite make sense, especially if someone cites their references. I can follow you and see what you’re saying, and then decide for MYSELF whether your ideas make sense or not. Isn’t that what everyone should do, whether the blog’s written by an “expert” or not?

    Anyone who says that because you don’t have a piece of framed paper, you can’t have anything good to say is just being elitist and blind. And, quite frankly, insulting to me, as a reader. If you (not being a financial expert) aren’t qualified to give financial advice, then how am I (also not being a financial expert) qualified to make any of my own financial decisions? Obviously I should just not trouble my poor head and let the financial experts make all my decisions for me. For a fee, of course.

    Please. When I’m learning nuclear chemistry, I’ll trust blindly in someone with a Ph.D. When I’m trying to figure out what to do with my money, I’m more than happy to listen to my neighbor, so long as they let me check their sources.

  51. Tay says:

    Sounds like yet another indignant person on the internet to me.

    Besides, half the time you’re sharing tips on how to be frugal with recipes, entertainment and shopping and such. I wouldn’t leave those things to an ‘educated’ financial ‘expert’… those are best as passed along between friends and neighbors. Or, blogs ;) I’m glad you don’t let these cranky naysayers bother you.

  52. Tay says:

    Sounds like yet another indignant person on the internet to me.

    Besides, half the time you’re sharing tips on how to be frugal with recipes, entertainment and shopping and such. I wouldn’t leave those things to an ‘educated’ financial ‘expert’… those are best as passed along between friends and neighbors. Or, blogs ;) I’m glad you don’t let these cranky naysayers bother you.

  53. DaveB says:

    Trent,

    You rock dude! Thanks for being you. There are plenty of guru sites your critics can follow.

    Keep up the great work!

  54. Phil says:

    I come here to read about the personal experiences of somebody who’s trying to improve their financial situation.

    If what I find makes sense and seems to be applicable to my situation, then I might give it a spin – the same attitude I’d walk into a professional’s office with.

  55. Johnny H says:

    “Financial guru” and “qualified professional” are newspeak for robbers. Those are the @ssholes that exist to extract money from you.

    TSD is just a dude, fighting the same battles we all are. The most valuable education is the one you give yourself.

  56. ancienthomesteader says:

    Oh, Trent, you are one smart fox. By putting the financial expert’s opinion on your daily message, you have craftily gotten people to think about why they tune in to your site and also to get their feathers up about the “smart” advisers out there. By now, you know who you are and what your values are. Even if you are only 30ish. I have been a homesteader for 40 years and we supply about 95% of our food needs, our building needs and our fiber needs. We heat with wood, make what we need and find the rest used. If only we could take care of our health insurance needs in a reasonable manner, we would have it made. That being said, I follow your blog and the side sources, and the comments faithfully and exclusively. You’re the best for ideas and common sense. And that being said by one with a degree in accounting as well as an MBA. Keep up the good work and don’t be insecure about your blog ( if you really are!). MSNBC must respect your ideas.

  57. Daniela says:

    Well….anyone who takes a blogger’s advice and forgoes the grain of salt ii not looking at the big picture in the first place. Just as you say, you have to look at ALL advise as one way of many, not ‘the’ way.

    For example i recently read the ‘Smart Cookies’ finance book. 90% of the advice in there did not apply to me, and the 10% that did was not perfectly geared towards me and needed tweaking by myself and a few questions to my bank to work for me.

    I never thought you were misleading in how you presented yourself, or your level of expertise. it is clear that you do a lot of work for this blog and i take your advice with that proverbial grain of salt.

    I think, however, you were wrong to include where you went to school. It is non if my business where you went to school or even if you went to school. By adding that bit in it is as if you do feel you need to prove yourself to the nay sayers. let them believe whatever they want to , the rest of us will continue to read your blog and take from it what we see fit.

  58. Eric says:

    “Seek out a qualified professional…”
    “…no credentials…”
    “professional training…”

    What does this mean? What makes someone a “qualified professional”? What “credentials” should they possess? The critiquer is vague in that aspect. Someone else already mentioned that there is no college degree in personal finance. There is a Finance degree you can get, but they don’t teach you anything about personal finance. It’s all from a business standpoint which doesn’t necessarily translate to a personal one.

    At the end of the day there is no one set of rules. There is no professional standard, or “professional training” with regards to personal finance. There is no certification process to make someone a “qualified professional”.

    If the reader saw something on the blog that was dangerous advice, then by all means comment and SAY WHY. If all he can provide is an ad hominem argument for why you are “wrong”, that really doesn’t say much.

  59. Sherry says:

    As long as you are upfront about where you’re coming from (which you’ve always been), I can’t see where you’re doing anything wrong at all.

    EVERYONE should take financial advice with a grain of salt, no matter who it comes from or how amazing their credentials may be. What works for one person fails for another. It’s about doing plenty of research using diverse resources and finding your own way — which, incidentally, is all you’ve ever said in your blog.

    I love your blog, and I appreciate its contribution. Thank you!

  60. Ken says:

    Yea, all those MBAs and “wise” financial types have done an incredible job, haven’t they?

    We value degrees, diplomas and certifications above everything else. That’s too bad.

  61. Jackie says:

    Plus, take a look at the list of your most popular posts. Could a “financial expert” have written some of those, like the laundry detergent or bread posts? How about #3, 7, 10? Your most popular posts show your mix of self-taught expertise, pragmatism, and aptitude for realizing what people would find most helpful and do-able. What degree, exactly, would have taught you how to do that?

  62. Jeff says:

    Trent:

    Let me start off by saying that I believe you have always been “up front” with who you are, what you are trying to accomplish and how you feel the Simple Dollar can be of use to others.

    I do get my information from many different sources. Some of the time I read every word in a Simple Dollar post and sometimes I skip a particular post because I don’t think it pertains to me. I take responsibility for my financial decisions. I use the Simple Dollar to help me make those decisions.

    A college education isn’t everything. I know a lot of jerks who went to college and some have advanced degrees. Life experience can be as important as formal education. I think you are providing a valid service to others by writing your blog and if people don’t appreciate it, then they don’t have to read it.

    I, for one, hope you will continue the good work. On a personal level, you were very helpful to me in getting my blog started when most people would have ignored my queries. I thank you for your help and inspiration.

  63. Tori says:

    Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  64. Quinton says:

    Trent,

    I know for a fact that your Father is hardly an “expert” at many things, but you have gotten some of that old fashioned common sense from him that many Midwesterners have! :)

    Couple that “experience” with an intelligence and you can do anything that an expert can, but without the price.

    Once upon a time, the medical profession “experts” said they didn’t need to clean their clothes or hands before working on the next patient. Thank Ignaz Semmelweis for your health. He had too much common sense to see what was going on in his field. So he supposedly went insane when he decided to fight against the system.

  65. Andy Andersen says:

    Common sense doesn’t need professional training. And you have a lot of common sense, which actually isn’t so common these days

  66. Chris says:

    I graduated from Iowa State University, too.

    I have a BS in Finance

    I have my FINRA Series 7, 66, Insurance and Annuities licenses

    I am a Financial Advisor, Registered Rep, and RIA

    I have more education and experience than most people and I can tell you with 100% certainty MOST (not all) financial experts are full of crap. We wear suits and will spew our “value statement” to you, the “prospect”, in the hope of acquiring your assets.. That’s the rub. We exude confidence in selling something we have virtually no control over.

    Your blog, if generally followed by your readers, will most certainly leave them better off financially than they were before. Few financial advisors can say the same of THEIR clients, I guarantee you.

  67. J says:

    I guess this guy has never read Dave Ramsey’s books or listened to his show. He goes on and on about how you DON’T need to be an expert to handle most personal financial tasks, and it’s “advice your grandmother would give you”.

    Plus, the genesis of Dave Ramsey was that he was a high-flying real estate guy living well beyond his means, who went through a financial meltdown and had to figure out how to keep his head above water and dig out from the hole.

    And yes, I agree with the others — you don’t represent yourself as some guru, the blog is more of your way of expressing your thoughts and strategies of dealing with finance (and life). Although I agree with a lot of what’s written, there’s stuff I do not agree with, and I have my own reasons. I also don’t agree with all of Dave Ramsey’s advice, either — but my wife and I work out our own plan based on how we want to live and how we want to attack our financial issues. I can’t claim any one influence with the way we manage our money.

  68. NMPatricia says:

    After 34 comments, not sure this is worth it. But I will add my two cents. I don’t read your blog for expert advice. I read it for ideas to pursue on my own. Anyone who trust anyone blindly has a problem. I include doctors, lawyers, and those with advanced degrees. I have an advanced degree and feel that it certainly does not give me magic powers or omniscience. (Had to get the dictionary out for that one.)This guy is way off the mark.

  69. Anna says:

    How many “financial experts” know how ordinary people live? How many of them can discuss cooking inexpensive but healthy eats, recycling old sweaters into stuffed animals, making homemade beer and laundry detergent? How many of them have ever felt the pinch, or known the joy of creating necessities and pleasures out of materials that they themselves would scorn? How many of them are even aware of the cumulative financial effect of ordinary cost-cutting measures?

    I rest my case.

  70. katy says:

    Trent, you’re doing GREAT. Don’t listen to the critics. You share your experiences and hopes with us. What more can anyone ask for? I read your blog and others because it helps me, and sometimes, maybe, my comments help others.

    Have a good weekend and thanks for being here.

  71. Heather says:

    Hi there, You’re doing FINE – I’ve been reading this blog whenever I had access to internet over the last few years and it’s helped me a lot. It’s not the only blog I read, just one of them, but it’s always been particularly helpful and interesting.

    It brightens my day reading these, even though I don’t often comment, so please don’t stop writing.

    Heather
    (18 year old Animation Student)

  72. Katie says:

    Considering my “expert” financial advisor who’d been in the business of telling people what do with their money for a decade recently lost his shirt (and most of his clients) in the market, I’m not entirely positive that being an “expert” is always a good thing. I’ve always thought it was strange that anyone would refer to themselves as an expert on finances or the markets. Most of it is just making an educated guess then crossing your fingers and hoping you aren’t too far off the mark.

  73. Battra92 says:

    Trent, shouldn’t you be daily telling us about your book and your fee based way to save money all the while putting down everyone who didn’t go to the same overpriced college as you. Get with the program, bud. ;)

  74. beth says:

    We’re obviously a biased crowd here, but I’m just one more person reading along because you are a normal guy, Trent, and not a financial expert. Someone with years of Wall Street experience has no idea what life outside the Big City is really like (insert any number of references to last night’s Daily Show here!!) and is not someone I would trust to have some concept of ‘frugality’. You are a real guy, and someone who can inspire the rest of us to look at our own lives and plans so much more than someone who is telling us we’re “doing it wrong!”.

  75. Battra92 says:

    Trent, shouldn’t you be daily telling us about your book and your fee based way to save money all the while putting down everyone who didn’t go to the same overpriced college as you. Get with the program, bud. ;)

    Oh and don’t forget to mention your race every other post. That is absolutely necessary. ;)

  76. Kate in Canada says:

    The Titanic was built by expert professionals.
    The Ark was built by an amateur.
    ’nuff said.

  77. Sean says:

    “Not an expert?” What a load of BS. Anyone who claims to be an expert at all aspects of finance is full of it. As Trent shows, you don’t need to be an expert to have good ideas and opinions, and share them.

    Not to mention, the ones who actually are the real, honest-to-God experts are the same ones who got us into this horrible economic mess. Excuse us if we don’t feel like listening to you guys for a while.

  78. viola says:

    Although I don’t always agree with all of Trent’s opinions, they are far more valid than many of the so called experts out there that have never had to practice what they preach. I mean really, what makes someone an expert? All the PhDs in finance that cooked up mortgage backed security derivatives have managed to make a mess of the entire economy.

    You are an expert in conveying what you went through, which is what many people go through. You are an expert at telling people what you changed about your life and how you’re better off for making those changes, and helping people want to make those same changes. I’ll listen to that “expertise” any day over someone who learned in school investment theory that no longer applies in today’s current market and economy.

  79. el says:

    I don’t think this person has read your blog…you make it clear that this blog is one person’s financial educational experience, and that you are not a professional financial advisor (though I loved comments #13 and #47 – amateurs often best “professionals” who are too afraid to admit they don’t know much more than the rest of us!!). I know I find your site useful, if for no other reason than it makes me think about this stuff.

  80. Ivy says:

    One more vote for: -BLEEP- the -BLEEPING- experts. Those “experts” are a large part of what got us into this mess.

  81. Larabara says:

    Amen to that, Anna!

  82. Liz says:

    Trent,

    Ha! Sounds like not only sour grapes from this guy, but allow me to posit another theory – he must be a financial planner and by reading the advice on your blog (e. g. for free), that’s less money for him. If the average person can use the advice on your blog to their benefit, why would they need to pay anyone to tell them the same things, assuming, of course, they even do so? The few and far between times I’ve ever talked with a “certified” financial planner, I got advice I thought was general at best, along with the feeling that it was something I could have read about and figured out on my own.

    I think there will always be some people who will pay financial planners to figure things out for them so they don’t have to. They are looking for someone to rescue them, not realizing that they are the ones who have to rescue themselves. We can all see where that’s gotten us!

    That’s obviously going down a dangerous road, as I’ve read that all most financial planners are interested in is transferring as much of your assets to their own bank accounts as they can. (can’t recall which financial book I read that in; incidentally, it was one you listed in your financial books bibliography)

    Just keep doing what you’re doing, Trent. You are performing a valuable service to all of us.

  83. kev says:

    @Kate, I agree with the sentiment, but your metaphor is a little dodgy!

    The Ark was built by a drunk who crashed it into a mountain; some weeks later he passed out naked in his tent, and was discovered in this state by his son. Rather than face up to the shame of it all, he simply disowned and exiled the son… they never really get around to that part in sunday school though.

  84. Gina says:

    Frankly, I’d rather listen to advice from you than from the parade of analysts, gurus, and other self-identified experts on the financial shows. Despite their disclosures I’m never really sure what lies underneath their recommendations. You are always up front with your opinions and really have nothing to gain from others following your advice here beyond a satisfaction in helping others see their options.

  85. partgypsy says:

    Madoff was a “financial expert”. There needs to be more self-education of finance, not less.

  86. robbie says:

    It’s useful to go through the discipline of becoming credentialled, but if you have no life practice, what have you to offer me? Education is important…but living experience coupled with education is essential. And, anyway, at the end of the day, I’m the one responsible for my financial health, and no financial expert or guru can substitute for self-trust. Thanks, Trent, for sharing so much of yourself. Who we are is the only thing we truly have to offer one another.

  87. Miles says:

    Trent – I follow your blog on a daily basis because I find your thoughtful, common-sense approach appealing. From my point of view, you’ve made better decisions and offer better advice than many with more traditional educational backgrounds. Keep up the good work!

  88. Margaret says:

    That’s like saying only doctors and child care professionals can give you parenting advice. I’ve read a lot of expert parenting advice, and a lot of it I throw out the window and go with what the mother of 5 down the road tells me.

    Ha ha, James NomadRip (comment 24) — that’s exactly what I thought, only you said it so much better.

    When I first started saving for retirement, I went to a financial planner who had all the designations you can get in Canada. She sold us a whole life insurance policy (we were exactly the opposite of what a good candidate for a whole life policy would be); I cashed out my RRSP “to pay tuition” and later I found out that that was the first year that there was a life long learning plan, and I could have loaned it to myself and then paid it back, but she didn’t tell me that (to this day I don’t know if she didn’t know about it or if she did not want to advise me, being a mere FINANCIAL PLANNER!); she gave me some outright wrong information about an RESP (educational savings) matching program, which I found out with a single email to the contact person listed on the government website. I much prefer to read this blog and read some of the books Trent has reviewed and make my own choices. Besides, like many have said, my financial planner only worked with the money we had to invest, she didn’t help us figure out how to get that money for investing.

  89. Paul says:

    I think comment #7 above sums it up nicely. Carry on Trent.

  90. SteveJ says:

    I’m just curious what makes a financial expert?

    I have a degree in my field, certifications, years of experience, dozens of successful projects…and I’m not expert. I still feel competent enough to give advice and have an opinion though.

    Wikipedia: “An expert can be, by virtue of training, education, profession, publication or experience, believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion.”

    Well Trent, if we go by virtues you have at least 3 out of 5. And you have beyond average nailed down. Legally rely is stickier…does this mean my 401K broker is on the hook?

  91. Studenomics says:

    I am currently in the business program and many of my friends are majoring in finance. All I will add is that some of these guys have near perfect grades in finance but I would never listen to their advice because they couldn’t save a penny if their lives depended on it. Then I got friends that major in history but yet they are amazing with money.

  92. Aaron Kulbe says:

    Trent,

    I say it’s time to tell them to put up, or shut up.

    Ask those “professional” naysayers to show you their personal financial statements. At the very least, ask them what kind of debt they carry.

    Also – as others have said already… these professionals aren’t so trusted, and they have a dog in the fight. They make money based on the advice they give you and investments they tell you to make.

    Aaron

  93. Matt says:

    The commenter seems to fall prey to the common misconception that “formal” education is the only valid education. To anyone who takes a moment to think about it, this is quite clearly not true (and I say this as someone who places a great deal of importance on formal higher education in my own life).

    A degree is a signaling mechanism, that’s all. It’s a testament to what you’re learned. But this blog is also a signaling mechanism, and to anyone who takes their time to wade through the 3 year history here, it’s quite clear that Trent has had more education than most. What’s more he’s completely open about it. Unlike a professional financial planner, whom you know little to nothing about, all of Trent’s history, all of his successes, all of his failures, all of his education, is right here for anyone to look at if they want.

  94. James says:

    Your advice is the right price–free! Mostly I find it useful and it does the right thing, provokes me to think about my financial perspective and behaviour. And for that, your blog is very worthwhile!

  95. sara says:

    If it’s any consolation, I value your opinion, and look forward to your next post each day, whether I ultimately read it all the way through or just skim for the highlights. I’m smart enough to know you’re a regular guy with regular experiences and, having worked in journalism for years, don’t particularly subscribe to the idea of a true “expert.” We’re all subjective, fallible human beings with infinitely varied viewpoints. Yours is one of them.

  96. I’m amazed that people still look down upon others who don’t have the “proper credentials.” My father-in-law never went to college, or even finished high school, and he built his business into a success all by himself. You don’t need a piece of paper to be successful, just the will to be a success. That’s why you’re successful, Trent. Keep doing what you do, I’ll keep reading.

  97. Ellis Benus says:

    Experts write the manufacturing deatails of products. You know, the long paragraphs of crap no on reads.

    Amateurs that use the products writer reviews. You know, those insanely helpful, first hand, non-biased tidbits of actual experience with the product.

    I’ll take the amateur, and that includes you.

    Moreover, it’s the experts that got us into the financial crisis we’re in today. It’s the “amateurs,” you know, the people who go to work everyday and run their own companies creating jobs.

    Whoops. I’ll take the “amateurs” again.

  98. Carrick says:

    What the F????? People who not only think that but actually take the time to write it are a) idiots, b) angry people, c) have way too much time on their hands, or d) all of the above. There’s so much wrong with their statement that I barely know where to start. (And I didn’t bother to read all 54 comments, so sorry if I’m repeating what a million people have already said.)

    First of all, it’s not like Trent ever claimed to be an expert. I’ve at least perused every single post on this blog (yep, seriously), and from what I can remember, Trent’s always come at the finance issue from a “here’s what I’ve learned” perspective.

    Secondly, Trent basically just analyzes, condenses, and compares what “real” financial “experts” say in books and whatnot, so it’s not like he has some crazy new idea he’s trying to pawn off on us based on a falsified “expertise”. I’ve found many of the tips here in other “expert” sources, so the fact that it’s coming from this blog rather than those sources directly is really irrelevant.

    Thirdly, why do we need an expert for anything and everything?? If I’m going to a doctor, yes, I would like an expert, but frugality advice??? I wouldn’t care if my next-door crack pot neighbor came up with some crazy new way of saving money–if I liked it, I might give it a whirl. I’ve found PLENTY of things on frugality tips that are even crazier than anything here, most certainly not from “experts”, but I’d still give their ideas a whirl.

    Fourthly, HELLO, this is the INTERNET. You can find anything and everything on the bleedin’ internet–that’s what makes it so great! It’s a completely unregulated force of creativity. I’m sure there’s a blog out there by by some guy who claims to be god–of course he’s not actually god, but what an awesome blog to read! If you don’t like it and insist only on reading “expert” blogs, then don’t read it!!

    And fifthly, by this point, after zillions of posts, tons of research, and actually being able to make a living off of a blog that’s been rated in the top FIVE personal finance blogs on the internet, I’d feel pretty confident calling Trent an expert in personal finance. :)

  99. kz says:

    @ Brittney: you write “I really don’t get why people care what you write on your blog…and why they then waste their time writing to tell you what they think! Lame.”

    After that, you go on to say what you think. So it’s only lame if you disagree? Your feelings and thoughts are only valid if they support the viewpoint of the blogger? That’s one step away from the crazy “you’re either with us or against us” attitude that’s pervaded in our political life for too long.

    I read this blog regularly, and have for over a year. I’m interested in the stuff that Trent writes about and like his voice. But I don’t always agree with him, and I let him know when I don’t. Not because I think that I’m ‘better’ than him or because I want to try and change him, but because I feel that part of blogging is the discourse, the back-and-forth exchange of ideas. In fact, one of my criticisms of Trent has been that the discourse seems to have fallen away quite a bit. I know he’s a busy guy, and there are a large number of comments on his posts, but I am really disappointed that more of an effort isn’t made on his part to join in the conversations that occur after the post.

    So I don’t at all agree with the sentiment that the guy above (the one who inspired the post) wrote, because I agree with the rest of you that Trent’s never suggested that he has all the answers or that any of us should follow his advice blindly. But I support that person’s (and any person’s) right to criticize and offer up his comments. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  100. Kate says:

    I’ve got very little faith in the “experts” these days, and am glad my parents taught me the value of thinking for myself. I enjoy reading your blog for new ideas you provide and the useful feedback from other readers in the Comments section. It is one of the first sites I check every day!

    General financial knowledge in this country needs to be improved and it is a shame it is not emphasized more in our K-12 educational system. I think a Personal Finance course in college should be mandatory! Your blog helps increase people’s awareness and make their lives better.

    Keep up the good work, Trent.

  101. Stephan F- says:

    Considering how the “experts” got us in this huge mess. I’d rather have amateurs at the controls.

    Obviously this is a very insecure person who’s livelihood is going away because he never took the time to figure out what he does.

    Pity him.

    Keep up the good work and keep the faith.

  102. lee says:

    Trent, it is hard to believe the amount of cr$#p people spew at you just for having a blog on the web. that sucks, man.
    this blog is obviously your point of view on frugality, etc. i suspect that few if any take it at 100% face value as the absolute truth.

  103. CF says:

    I’m with Liz, #52. This moron probably makes his living on the ignorance of others, and by enlightening people, you’re taking food off his table (or more likely slowing down his payments on some overpriced MBA degree).

    And while I know you didn’t write this so you’d hear all the positive feedback, but yours is, hands down, the #1 PF blog out there. Keep ‘em coming.

  104. Trent, its pretty obvious. You’re right!

  105. john d says:

    @Ivy lets not forget, experts brought us collateralized debt obligations, NINA loans, credit default stock swaps, and a grade ‘A’ rating on subprime loans…

  106. Jeff says:

    Ridiculous criticism of your blog.

    I’m in my late-twenties, and recently ‘mastered’ my financial situation a couple of years ago (partly in thanks to this and other blogs). I’ve not formal training, yet I know confidently help a lot of my friends and family in their own financial situations – Often it’s simply common sense.

    Furthermore, I know of at least a few individuals who have studied business, accounting or economics in university and have no grip on their own finances, facing huge credit card debts.

    Keep it up Trent!

  107. Jeff says:

    ..I also need to start proof-reading my posts before submitting.

  108. A familiar experience after meeting with bank financial planners was arriving home with something else – that I didn’t want. I don’t really blame the reps in most cases. They have completed a course in a career in which they have an interest. I suspect that it is conducted by their employers and includes a certain amount of salesmanship and perhaps biased advice. Some are more aggressive than others though.

    A good financial adviser would be better then an inexperienced self managed investor with poor judgment is all I know.

  109. Shakeahand says:

    based on the loooong list of comments, I can’t really add too much, except to say that you gave me the courage to get on a debt-elimination plan that worked for me, and I’ll be debt free (including the house) in September of 2009. Roughly three years after starting.

  110. Ron R says:

    Expert? Give me a break. Just take a look at Jon Stewart’s vivisection of CNBC, a cable network full of so-called experts.

  111. Jessica says:

    The problem with his (the critic) point is that it takes out the human parts of personal finance. The vast majority of people I know who are in financial trouble don’t need a financial expert – they need real stories of people like them who live below their means, etc.

    And it’s also true that most personal finance doesn’t need an “expert” in order to be understood. It’s almost offensive to assume that all of us out there who have been researching and learning this stuff for several years have nothing useful to say on the subject.

  112. todo es bien says:

    How dare you blog you hack! Let’s see, to summarize your philosophy
    1) Spend less than you earn
    2) Save & diversify
    3) Think about value, and values
    4) Help others around you as much as you can in a responsible way
    5) Try to be a better family member, friend, and community member.
    You are a commie. These are dangerous teachings.

  113. Eric says:

    Trent,

    I’m a bank manager and I love your site. As a financial professional I’m often asked advice about personal finance matters. And my advice is often similar to yours….reflect upon and differientiate between your needs and wants, have financial plans and goals, take ownership for your situation and take steps (big or small) that move you towards those goals. A last one that I often give with regards to personal finance is trust no one. It’s another way of saying take ownership….basically everyones advice is skewed by their own circumstances, so listen carefully and critically to see if it works for your own set of circumstances.

  114. Nicole says:

    @ comment #64, I agree. I am not rushing to lynch the guy who dares to criticize this site because I certainly like it when people provide a counterpoint/play devil’s advocate/keep you honest.
    I certainly wouldn’t support this blogger telling the guy to “shut up.” This is supposed to be a discourse and you can’t shut people down because they don’t agree with you.

    Sadly, my only response to the guy who wrote that would really be “nuh uh!” That is because I am not a writer nor expert at anything, well other than being annoying.

  115. Meika says:

    Trent, you get an awful lot of criticism for writing this blog. I don’t get it. I don’t get why I see the same commenters criticizing your work almost every single day – so much so that I could tell you a couple of their names right off the top of my head. And really, many of them seem to criticize you personally more than your work. Dialogue is great, but civil discourse does need to remain civil.

    I think you should delete comments like that. They don’t contribute to the conversation. I love comments, and commenting, but I skip yours often now because I don’t want to read the personal attacks on you that I know are coming. And I’ll probably get flamed for quashing free speech, but I think it would be entirely appropriate for you to delete every comment that is an ad hominem attack, like the one you responded to today. In case YOU were in doubt, most of your readers clearly don’t care about your credentials, and there’s no need or virtue in leaving that kind of garbage up.

  116. DD says:

    I normally don’t like to rock the boat, but I think the critic has some valid points.

    I never take any serious financial advice from blogs. They may peak my interest and motivate me to do some investigating or to call “my guy”, but this person is right. Trent is no expert, he is a PF blogger.

    A darn good blogger, but no expert.
    Heck, it says so on the bottom of this page:
    “Trent is not a financial advisor and no information found on this site should be construed as financial advice.”

    He/She shouldn’t have gone personal with with the criticism because they could say the same thing about a ton of PF blogs. Not just this one.

  117. dave says:

    i think the criticism is RIDICULOUS. you don’t hold yourself out to be a multi-degree’d expert on finance or anything of the sort. you’re just someone who has been through it and figured it out and who is actually helping people with real day to day issues! you write very well, explain concepts even better, and have the ability to weave your personal story into your articles which gives the Simple Dollar a community feel.

    and in a lot of ways, i think financial expertise is exactly something that can be learned through experience and introspection. sometimes it’s just plain experience and common sense that helps more so than expert charts/graphs/functions and the like. more importantly, speaking to someone who has been through an experience is generally worlds better than speaking to someone who has studied an experience.

    The Simple Dollar rocks!

  118. Ed says:

    To just agree with most everyone else, I’ll quote that great Canadian, Neil Young, “Keep on Rock’n in the free world”. Most “experts” are just glorified salesmen.

  119. Carmen says:

    Oh dear. I hope on the whole that you manage to ignore the fairly personal, direct criticism and don’t wake up too often thinking ‘f**k it; I’m not writing TSD any more!’ Which would be very sad but also very understandable.

    I also liked comment #72 :)

  120. Beth says:

    Here’s my take on this particular criticism:

    A. If you prefer advice from financial professionals, get it from them instead of this blog.

    B. Think about it – if you take Trent’s advice, outlined in this blog, will you be more or less successful than you were before? More or less financially secure? More or less fiscally responsible? If you improve even 50% in this area, the information provided here was worth it.

    Thanks, Trent, for a interesting and informative blog (that, incidentally, has helped me immensely).

  121. Ed says:

    Why would I seek a so called qualified professional when they are worse off financially than I am or even broke. There is something to be said about learning from the “School of Hard Knocks”. Keep up what your doing.

  122. sara says:

    I don’t trust anyone’s advice completely. I enjoy lots of opinions and then distill them down to make a decision. You have a great perspective and have educated yourself quite a bit in your field. Seems like an opinion worth reading!

  123. Jen says:

    Throw down, Trent, throw down! :-)

    To quote my friend Sam, albeit completely out of context, “We are the experts we’ve been looking for.”

  124. KC says:

    No doubt this was written by a financial planner. I read stuff like this all the time on Yahoo Answers. The CFPs get on there and talk about how we should only listen to them blah, blah…eventhough they often give bad advice and are clearly just selling their services.I, like you, am well-read on the subject of personal finance. I’ve come across several CFP who have given advice I wouldn’t follow – they’ve given the advice to me, my parents, or my friends. I’m not saying all are bad, but I’m saying just be careful of the information you receive – rather from a CFP or a finacial blogger.

    BTW, I would take financial advice any day from a guy who drives a crapped out Ford Focus instead of a fancy, new import (or domestic). I’ll bet this guy that wrote you drive a BMW 5-series…just a guess.

  125. SMG says:

    Trent,

    You have been very honest with your readers by sharing your life experiences – good or bad – so that the readers can maybe learn from your experiences.

    There has to be some (i would say a loooottt) value to what you write here at TSD because of which you have such a huge fan following and wide readership!

    Rejoice in that fact, You are doing a great job, so keep it up!

  126. Cynthia says:

    Trent,

    I think that the Simple Dollar is your writings PLUS the community of readers. I love your writings and also really enjoy reading the comments left by other readers. I’ve never even thought of you as a Financial guru, though–this seems a bit of an unfair criticism as it is clear you are writing about your own experiences, rather than advocating what other people should or need to be doing. Nevertheless, I do read thsi site almost every day because it has helped me to to focus on financial goals and also to clarify my thinking.

  127. Dale says:

    Let the experts talk huh? Let’s examine the word expert in the original Latin. EX = HAS BEEN and SPERT = A DRIP UNDER PRESSURE

  128. J says:

    Let’s also not forget that the world’s richest man is a college dropout.

    I’ll agree that this was written by a financial planner, the last sentence really gives it away:

    “Seek out a qualified professional and get a second opinion.”

  129. Kris says:

    It’s a valid criticism, but I don’t agree with it. You are qualified to give advice because people ask for it.

    And, anyone who cares where you went to college obviously doesn’t care about your actual work. They care about the “brand name” you carry, not your true merits/talents as a personal finance writer.

  130. gail says:

    I would always keep the following in mind when it comes to taking financial advice from others, from professional planners to bloggers and everyone else inbetween: No one cares more about your money than YOU…there’s a reason why they call it “personal” finance.

    Keep up the great work, Trent…the holistic, humanistic, and philosophical perspectives your posts bring to the personal finance arena are fantastic and really make your site stand above the maddening crowd!

  131. Kari Laib says:

    First – I find it interesting that this comes up now, when times are bad. Nobody said anything like this when we were in boom times. My belief is that people are frustrated and bitter with the economy and the world right now, and that manifests itself in negative actions.

    Second – On Mad Money Jim Cramer tells people to ‘buy buy buy’ certain stocks to drive up demand and then sells (shorts) the same funds through his hedge fund – something he freely admitted to in an interview to fellow hedge fund cronies. He’s a crook! But his show lives on and people follow his advice. Yet a guy on the internet takes time to study and share his opinions with us, and is UP FRONT with us about the fact that he’s not a financial guru, and there’s a call for him to stop. This effort seems really misdirected to me.

    Thank goodness we live in a country where ALL opinions can be written and spoken freely. Trent, ignore the naysayers.

  132. Jim says:

    What college gives degrees in frugality?

    In general I think the persons criticism is not warranted. You don’t have to be an expert with degrees and plaques on your wall to give your opinion / advice on personal finance. If Trent was giving medical or legal advice or anything of that nature then sure I’d expect him to have certain credentials. But Trents advice is mostly about frugality and basic personal finance.

    What we read from Trent boils down to one guys opinion. Its a well informed opinion IMO, but still just one opinion. You can choose to agree or not.

    If 1-2% of Trent’s feedback is negative then I’d not be worried at all. You can’t please everyone all the time. When you go to eBay and look at the feedback ratings the very biggest, best sellers with a zillion feedback points still aren’t 100%. Thats cause if you get over 1000 people together you’re sure to find 1-2 in that group who are not going to be happy no matter what. Who knows why. Either they’re just sour about everything or they have an agenda.

    Jim

  133. Marie says:

    Trent, given the economic crisis and downfall of these supposed “financial experts,” I would trust your advice over them hands down. I’d much rather here from someone just like me – a regular consumer – than listen to someone with no insight into a regular person’s life pontificate on best practices.

    I find your blogs and other personal finance blogs to be incredibly useful and inspiring. Please keep up what you’re doing, it’s an amazing resource for people like me!

  134. Jessica says:

    These criticisms have the case of the ‘white coat’ syndrome, where one person is the ‘expert’ and the others are peons who need to listen.

    Please, everyone is allowed to share their experiences. You’re not *telling* anyone to do anything. You’re merely presenting your opinions, your ideas, and providing a forum for others to communicate and *think*.

    I think you’re doing a great job, and I come here often just to get something to open my mind. I don’t need ‘expert’ advice. I always want to think for myself.

  135. Steve says:

    “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

    - Theodore Roosevelt

  136. Chris says:

    Why is it that people feel it’s necessary that in order to substantiate claims you must do so with a college education and a statistical abstract? What happened to common sense? If experience cannot be trusted, like what one of your detractors commented about, then what do I trust? Books and second-hand accounts?

    I appreciate what you do and I believe you give good advice and suggestions. It is up to the listener to decide what to do with it. There is no claim of superior expertise. Please continue doing what you’re doing.

  137. Allison says:

    Considering that financial “experts” got us into this economic mess though selfishness, greed and short-sightedness, and considering that “experts” have led civilization into all sorts of modern problems, it is natural for people to start trusting paid experts less and to listen to their family, neighbors, colleagues and gut instincts more.

    I’m an ordinary person trying to live my life without all the complex mathematics designed to help me get rich without trying hard. What’s wrong with living slightly under our means and putting money away in savings? How about paying with cash instead of credit- which means, yes, waiting until we can afford something before we get it?

    Experts have turned us in to greedy, lazy, non-critical sheep. It’s time we start listening to each others’ and our own real-world experiences more, and stop jumping on the bandwagon the latest, greatest financial star is publicizing.

  138. Reflection says:

    I believe this character has missed the statement at the bottom of every page, “This site is for entertainment purposes only. Trent is not a financial advisor and no information found on this site should be construed as financial advice.”

    That said, I trust the posts Trent makes MORE than the “experts.” I may not follow the advice all the time but I know where he is coming from and I’ve read his experiences so I can make those informed choices.

    I don’t mind the criticism as much as the accusation that Trent is not an expert. Anyone who devotes years to learning and teaching is an expert.

  139. jreed says:

    I went to three experts over the past 25 years and I lost significant money in all three investments. All three of them made money upon selling me these investments.

  140. Matt says:

    Trent, ignore these people, stop wasting time on them. I find your writing insightful and helpful.

  141. Jamison says:

    On the Internet, as well as in all publicity, there are three groups: those who love you, those who hate you and those who don’t care.

    The more success you have on your site, the more haters you will find. And they will be relentless. But don’t worry about that. As a matter of fact, congratulate yourself! You have now entered into the big leagues.

    Ask yourself: who on this earth that has had a measure of public success has not also had a loyal band of vociferous opposers? Can you name one?

  142. Alex says:

    The problem with experts is that they are no better than the rest of us. Sure they have “certification” from some organization, but they can make mistakes as easy as the rest, and sometimes have a harder time admitting it, as they tow the industry standard line. No one should do things based on a single blog, book, or person’s advice (professional or not). Multiple avenues of information are truely required to make good decisions.

  143. aura says:

    Hey Trent,
    Great post. Just to let you know, you are a great writer, you have helped me to save big money, I have enjoyed and utilized many many of your tips, I am more connected to the online frugal community, I read your blog every day and love it, it keeps me inspired, your ideas are great, you have helped me to be more frugal, helped me to be able to stay home for the 6 months after my daughter(15months)was born, and some people are just jealous of your success!

  144. Heather says:

    Yes, I like to get my advice from experts – like Madoff. Thanks all the same, I’ll take my advice from Trent’s real life experience over the so-called experts any day.

    Trent, nay sayers like that are always looking for a reason to say that your advice isn’t applicable to them so that they can excuse themselves from trying it.

    Keep up the great work. Clearly a lot of us love you advice.

  145. Beth says:

    I think the criticism is valid — if you’re not capable of using your brain. Unfortunately, many people aren’t equipped with the critical thinking skills necessary to handle the internet, and they don’t understand the concept of different kinds of information for different purposes and audiences.

    When I want an “expert”, I know where to find one. Financial experts can tell us what to do with our money, but that’s not the same thing as living well. That’s why I love blogs — I love the ideas and the comments.

    Keep it up, Trent!

  146. kevin says:

    Two thoughts came to mind:

    First, we have to bear in mind that the “experts” with finance degrees are the same ones who created the current financial debacle.

    Second,I’ve been around long enough to know that a degree in finance — or anything else — does not automatically make one an expert. As I recall Bill Gates doesn’t have a college degree. Would any one challenge his expertise?

    I’ve known new college grads who thought they were experts by virtue of their degree, but nothing, and I mean nothing, will substitute with experience. Education takes many forms and in my view self-education can be at least as valid as formal education.

    Keep it up, Trent. You’re providing a good perspective for us all — without the expectation and motivation of remuneration for your services (I wonder if the same can be said of your critic?)

  147. Di says:

    I think the critic is missing a few very important points. First like you said you don’t claim to be an expert but the fact is that some experts don’t give great advice anyway. Not all ‘experts’ are created equal! Second finance blogs are popular because people are seeking advice and INFORMATION from people who’ve been in a similar situation. It’s easier to relate to someone who’s been in debt, and been in your shoes. When you decide to make a change you gather INFORMATION from various sources and base your decision on that information.

    I think you do a great job with the blog!

  148. Brent says:

    Wow. That guys comment really struck a nerve – 93 posts already.

    I’m a CPA and I haven’t read nearly 156 (3*52) books on finance related topics. But that is really beside the point.

    Today’s homepage has articles on making pizza, feeling deprived, your worst job, a collection of other blogs, and your personal monthly routine. Even if you were not well qualified, I don’t see why any credentials would bee needed for your topics.

    And I loved your last line.

  149. Marc says:

    Credentials don’t guarantee good advice!

    I’d say that the recommendations here are mostly dead-on. Sure they aren’t universal, but they are never professed to be.

  150. brooke says:

    I have to say that I have learned more “guru” names on this site than any other, and I have well improved my own knowledge of personal finance based on your book list and reviews, and that alone is the value, for me, in your site. I read your quick reviews, and then decide if its something I want to delve into or not. I use this site as a teeing off point for ideas, and that is exactly what I feel a good blog does. Thanks Trent, for sharing your time and yourself with us.

  151. J Brown says:

    Has anyone mentioned that professional advice is never free? This information is basically ‘free’. I would expect that if I was paying someone, I would be given the right advice. However, as many of you have stated, all of those guys are now asking for the bailouts or are in jail. It seems that the most truthful and unbiased views are free & actually prove to be the most valuable.

  152. bob says:

    ignore them and keep doing what you’re doing. if they want certified financial advisor or planner, they should be more than willing to pay their fees. Your advise and analysis is well thought out and works for you (and lots of other folks obviously) and makes sense. I’ve yet to see a financial planner suggest I can save money at home. usually their advice revolves around me investing through them (so they earn their fees) or paying them a flat fee and i’ve seen very little of their advice that is better than yours.

    keep on keepin on…

  153. Good measured response Trent. I’m not so sure I could have remained so composed when confronted with such a moron.

    First, you are an expert on your opinion and at the end of the day, that’s what blogging is all about. You could be 100% wrong with your advice (and you are not wrong) but still be 100% right about your opinion.

    Second, you kinda are an expert on Pers Finance… if you’ve read and reviewed a book a week for 3 years that’s a honk’n lot of books. If you divide that number in half it’s still more books and topical study than most get in a formal 4 year education. Career coach, Dan Miller argues that someone can read a book a month for a year an be an expert on a topic… you’re well over that.

    Personal Finance is personal and it is a journey. Even the ‘experts’ often differ – take Ramsey and Kirosoki (sp)… wildly different approaches on key topics like debt…

    Wow, you handled this situation correctly, but it is comical that such morons are out there.

    Thanks for sharing… and for standing strong for us little guys!

    Dave

  154. It’s great to read the support from your readers, Trent. You are a class guy who has never even insinuated you were a financial expert. You blog about both your successes and failures. You are ernest, forthright, and sincere. I agree with others from above…it sounds like this guy is petty, selfish and jealous of your success. You’ve worked hard to make this an objective source of critical information. It’s sad you have take an arrow for trying to do things right.

    That sissy needs to spanked and sent to bed without his dinner.

  155. Chris says:

    About every two weeks or so I pick up interesting ideas from your blog. Some I have tried and work well for me.

    Additionally your book reviews are EXCELLENT. You write in a very informative and friendly style. I’ve gotten better ideas from your blog than I have from so called professionals.

    Don’t change a thing.

  156. brian says:

    I’m glad your not a financial “expert”. The financial experts played a big hand in the loss of 50% of my 401k this year as well as a meltdown of the US financial system.

  157. IRG says:

    Trent,
    How great that you are secure enough to address criticism (even though I agree with others, the one you discussed here just does not apply to you.)

    If I am about to undergo surgery, yes, I want a certain kind of “documented” expertise. (Of course, even then, we all know stories about “good” doctors who’ve made terrible mistakes.)

    Even before our current economic crisis, there was plenty of reason to doubt the “experts.”

    What is laughable is that you have thousands of people who, without even any due diligence, invested millions with some guy like Madoff.

    A financial expert? He touted himself as such. But he was just a thief.

    As others have said, we collect information and research from numerous sources, not just one (yours or any one else’s) and then we must make a decision for ourselves.

    The reality in life? There are no experts. Degrees and credentials don’t make you an expert, as we’ve seen in every field/industry.

    Trent, your stuff is great. You present yourself honestly and you’re fearlessly honest with yourself and others.

    And you’ve done a great job of inspiring and motivating others.

    Thank you and don’t let this kind of stuff get you down.

  158. Yung Chia says:

    Next time someone claims to be a financial advisor (the “professional” or “expert”, as your critics prefer we should see), ask to see their financial statements. Afterall, they want to know about us in intimate detail, should be fair to ask to see if their “house is in order”, so to speak. I can tell you for a FACT, that 90+% will not DARE to show you their finances because they are just as broke and in shambles financially as the rest of us. The same is true of CPAs. And THEY are trying to advise us???!!!

    I’ll take the suggestions and advise here over theirs any day. However, it is a wise man who gets advise from several different sources. Bottomline, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. The problem is that most humans are plain lazy and want a quick fixer upper. The time taken to educate oneself will pay off in the end.

    Keep up the great work in putting this awesome site together.

  159. AnonymousLurker says:

    I won’t pretend to have read the comments that precede me, but I hope others share my view. I have read and enjoyed this blog for three months now, and I have seen fit to recommend it to many of my family and friends.

    I am a financial planner by profession; I advise people on how to handle their personal finances on a daily basis. From this perspective, I say that the material presented here is excellent: It is well thought out, financially-sound, and practical.

    I absolutely agree that different people require different strategies. Temperament, experience, personality, life events…each contribute to what strategy a person should pursue. Often it is not even clear if a strategy will succeed until it is tried.

    To my knowledge, there are no degree programs in *personal* finance. Every expert in this field has attained that status by consistently presenting rational and do-able financial advice over time. Guess what? That’s exactly what our friend is doing with the simple dollar.

    Trent, keep up the excellent work!

  160. Jenni says:

    Yeah, if you and other PF bloggers keep writing and sharing your experiences, ordinary people will continue to learn about personal finance, and then who will pay the guru’s big fat commission check?

    Ignore jealous people, Trent, and keep up the great work!

  161. Suzanne says:

    They are right. You are not an expert. I have yet to receive a follow-up call from you after reading any one of your posts. You haven’t called to see if I thought making homemade laundry detergent was a good option for me or if I was ready to move ahead with purchasing a book you recommended.

    Instead reading your blog is much like a friendship – similar to a good friend sharing a parenting idea over lunch. There are times I think “what a good idea, I should try that” and others when I think “no, that wouldn’t work for me.” I would never think of my friend is an expert in parenting – especially not in parenting my child. I would, however, accept that in parenting her own child she might have ideas that could work for me.

    And so it is with The Simple Dollar, you are an expert in your own personal financial situation and the journey you have taken. You share your ideas and thoughts about that journey and along the way your readers can make a choice as to whether or not to apply those ideas and thoughts to their own journey.

    Thanks for all you do!

  162. brandi says:

    Trent, your blog rocks. I’ve learned more about day-to-day frugality, the stuff that actually saves you money, from you, Amy Daczycyn, and my relatives than from any “expert”. Suze Orman and a few other financial advisor types have been a great reference for me on financial topics such as debt reduction, retirement savings, etc., but most of the financial skills I have were learned from “non-experts”.

    As a fellow Iowan currently living in Vancouver BC, your blog has been very helpful to me following an expensive move to an expensive city. You’re a wonderful writer, keep it up! That guy is an idiot. Who cares where someone went to college? (As a University of Iowa graduate, I’ll overlook that you went to ISU:))

  163. tightwadfan says:

    I think your critic may be conflating investment expertise with personal finance. You do need some professional training to understand all the different types of investment vehicles, but the principles of living within your means are pretty basic and most laypeople can learn them without needing expert credentials, and that is what Trent has done.

    I read PF blogs is because they are written by everyday people like me. Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are millionaires and celebrities so as helpful as their books might be, their daily lives just don’t relate to me. Even Your Money or Your Life or The Tightwad Gazette, as great as they are, were written several years ago. The advice is timeless, but it helps me to read about what happens when people are trying to follow the advice in today’s world. I found Trent’s story of hitting bottom really inspiring and enjoy reading his ongoing adventures in staying the course.

    Most people I know are not frugal so PF blogs help me feel like I’m not alone in what I’m trying to do.

  164. Micaela says:

    I have to agree with all the other people who posted in support of The Simple Dollar. I get professional advice from experts for both long and short term investments, no problem. You just have to call to make an appointment! They will help you craft a plan to meet your goals… as long as you know what those truly are! Sites like these help figure that part out in addition to giving day-to-day encouragement, useful suggestions, and general information on different financial topics. The differences are clear, even if Trent himself didn’t routinely point them out.

    In short, I’m sorry he had to waste a post answering such obtuse criticisms.

  165. Kent says:

    I’m a financial advisor and I don’t mind what you do. I actually enjoy a lot of your discussions around personal debt and budgeting. You deal with these issues in a way that is easy to understand. That makes my life easier because I can use some of the explanations you use and because sites like these help to increase (a) people’s financial literacy and (b) the level of importance people place in managing their personal finances. Sites like these benefit my business.

    When it comes to investments, I agree and disagree with some of the things you say. However, that’s the beauty of the net and social media: it works to increase dialogue and generate discourse.

    People like the blunt and rude individual that you spoke of don’t like you because you make people like us work harder. I think the best example of this is the whole ETF/mutual fund debate. A lot of bloggers are now holding up ETFs as the holy grail of investment vehicles. And, understandably, people like ETFs because the fees are lower than mutual funds.

    This means that where horrid Advisors used to close their eyes and point to a page in the mutual fund prospectus, now they have to actually do work to find the good mutual funds who’s returns justify the management fees.

    It also means that ethical advisors (I like to believe that I am one of these) have to work harder, too. We have to work harder for our dollars because people will debate with us about issues they wouldn’t have before.

    Blogs like this educate individuals, bring more issues out into the open and, in the end, benefit the individual investor. This not only helps the individual, it also helps the industry. Eventually, when people become educated enough, they will be able to tell a con artist advisor from a genuinely ethical and considerate advisor and the bad apples will be competitively forced out of business.

    Keep educating and ignore the cons

  166. Maria says:

    “You have no professional training and don’t even mention where you went to college. I don’t claim to be a guru, but I have had sufficient education to know that financial expertise is not something that can be learned through experience and introspection.”

    It seems I learned somewhere along the way that it’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes than your own.

    I believe I’ve also heard people in differing professions say that they learned more through real-life experience than they ever did in school – this has been my experience as well. I have found some blogs that are extremely valuable, including this one.

    Besides, what other personal finance blog offers tasty, frugal recipes along with talk about finances? ;)

    Keep up the good work!

  167. DonnaSue says:

    Everyone has a right to their opinion. This person obviously feels that “expert advice” by someone who has been educated in the field of finance is more qualified to give out information about the topic and guide people to their own financial success. That is fine with me. That is their belief, their history, their choice.
    However, as a professional in an industry where there is very little education offered, I see the value in experience. I also know the difference between skill and talent. People can go to school their whole lives and develope skills, but the person with talent, with passion, and with motivation to succeed can be far more successful, and in my opinion, a better mentor.
    I have been reading your blog for about a year, and although I would not consider myself a frugal person, I admire who you are and what you do in your own life. I use some of your suggestions that suit me most, like coupons and watching store ads, but I am not someone who will make my own clothes detergent more than once. Like many have said, you filter the information. I generally like you style of writing. The passion you have for your work and your family, and frankly, sight unseen, I trust you more than most people in our government.
    Keep up the good work! Much health, wealth, and most of all happiness to you and your family, Trent. You are on the cutting edge of something we can all benefit from.

  168. Robyn says:

    I think those others who are criticizing your blog are threatened. Maybe people are starting to get it that the experts don’t necessarily have all the authority and expertise, but that “regular” people can educate themselves with positive results – especially in light of recent financial events. You are empowering your readers – showing how you’ve done it. And if you can do this, then other regular people like us can also take control of our finances and become educated, and not leave these personal decisions up to someone else.

  169. Robyn says:

    I think those others who are criticizing your blog are threatened. Maybe people are starting to get it that the experts don’t necessarily have all the authority and expertise, but that “regular” people can educate themselves with positive results – especially in light of recent financial events. You are empowering your readers – showing how you’ve done it. And if you can do this, then other regular people like us can also take control of our finances and become educated, and not leave these personal decisions up to someone else.

  170. Laura says:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=220252&title=cnbc-gives-financial-advice Enough said. Most everything you write is based on common sense. Actually now with the economic meltdowon, common sense is more important than whining about a loss of entitlements because one listened to the so called experts and lost. I am also made fun of because I supposedly “have no life.” But, I have no debt, my mortgage will be paid off well before I retire, I have a job, I lost no money in my 401K because I moved it when things started tanking, which I can redistribute when things get better, all the while raising two kids on my own. Is it hard, in the beginning, yes, is it worth it, you bet. Keep up the good work, Trent.

  171. Those with business degrees most likely didn’t take many classes in home economics.

    And THOSE are the courses that are most applicable to today’s economic crisis.

  172. Huluriasquias says:

    95% of all “Financial Experts” are nothing but SALESMEN.

    The few legitimate ones’ services cost an arm and a leg.

    The Simple Dollar (and several other outstanding blogs) provide mostly unbiased explanations of how things work.

    Keep on the good work.

    H.

  173. Dee says:

    Perhaps those critics would be better off listening to financial “expert” Jim Cramer. LOL

  174. Rebecca says:

    Trent, I think you’ve found a couple 2, 3, or more than a hundred of us are willing to stick up for you. I, too, agree. Keep it up, Bud. We all appreciate what you do!

  175. Lynne says:

    Don’t take it to heart. It’s easy to be nasty when you’re anonymous.

    I’m here because I really enjoy your column, and I enjoy reading the opinions of the community here. I like your tips. I don’t see that you’ve set yourself up as anything other then what you are. Apparently your detractors don’t understand the concept of experience gained wisdom. Keep up the good work; people need a success story for inspiration.

  176. Ann McD says:

    I came to your site because it was recommended to me. I keep coming back to your site because you post interesting, insightful and well written articles. You may not be a financial guru but you sure are a guy worth reading. Thanks!

  177. adam lehman says:

    1. those with business degrees and economic degrees and experts ruined this economy.

    2. we all know how much “learning” is done in college. when you can stay up late every night and get wasted drunk and play 20 hours of halo a week and still succeed, whatever you’re doing is not legit (i.e. college).

    3. the problem with SO much financial advise is that it tries to do math tricks to make money, instead of just handling money wisely in the first place. people don’t get rich because of math tricks, they get rich because of saving money and being shrewd.

  178. Thunderhardt says:

    Trent,
    There’s always one, isn’t there ??
    Thanks for your adivice and articles. I listen to and read all the advice I can about personal finance, then I make my own decisions. You are a great help to many of us who read your blog everyday. You inspire us all. Keep up the great work !!!!

  179. Linda Sharrow says:

    Regarding Homemade Pizza – We do a homemade pizza “On The Grill”. We use a gas grill and get some woodchips smoking, roll out the dough as you normally would and brush one side of the dough with about 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil. Place this side down on the Grill. Get the Grill smoken hot then reduce to medium heat and cook for 4 mins. Take the pizza in the house, place the grilled side up toward you on a pizza pan. Place the tomatoe base sauce and all on the cooked side add the seasonings you like and all toppings must be already cooked. Now, place the uncooked side down on the grill. Return the pizza to the grill and cook for 9 to 10 mins. Do not look at it for 8 mins. No Peeking. The cheeses will melt, the side toward the grill will brown nicely and the taste from the wood chips is as good as a Wood Fired Brick Oven. Give this a shot. It’s good stuff.

  180. Gail says:

    Ha, ha, your unknown critic is as bitter as a lemon!!
    Love your blogs and good intentions for a better and more finacially secure world. Keep up the good work!

  181. Judie says:

    From Wikipedia:

    A guru (Sanskrit: गुरु, Hindi: गुरु, Bengali: গুরু) is a person who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom and authority in a certain area, and who uses these abilities to guide others.

    As far as *I* am concerned, that fits you to a T. I have only 2 gurus at the moment – you and my mac guru, Jason.

    You inspire me to get my act together. Thank you.

    Judie

  182. Rose says:

    Don’t let the critics get you down! It seems they feel they are allowed to give their opinions on you (not being an expert on you, Trent) but you are not allowed to give your opinions because you are not an “expert”!

    Well..who is??? It doesn’t matter how much education a person receives, how many books they’ve read, or how many degrees they have after their name. No one is an expert on someone else’s personal experience. You are sharing your insight based on the experiences you have lived. We, as readers, should learn to educate ourselves as much as we can so that we can apply that knowledge to our OWN lives. How do you do that? By reading, asking questions, studying opinions, experiences, etc. from others, whether “experts in the field” or not. We then should make our own judgements as to how we can make their successful strategies work in our own individual lives. What good is it if we read 100 books from
    multi-degreed financial experts with years of experience in the field if we can’t apply it to our own lives?

    We all have something to contribute in this world. Thanks for taking the time to try to help others!

  183. Pat says:

    I love your blog and I would love a slice of that pizza!!

  184. Shonnie Smith says:

    The “experts,” their elitism and greed are what got us into the mess we are in now. pgannie

  185. Cathleen says:

    hi Trent
    I don’t know why you bothered responding to that turkey!
    I enjoy reading your blog and find it supports my own journey to financial independence.Keep up the good work.

  186. Julie North says:

    i had a financial “expert” tell me to take out a home equity loan so I had cash in case of emergency. Incurring more debt is always a big help when your in financial crisis right? (btw that is burning sarcasm)

    I think your blog is great and as you state – it’s just your opinion. If people don’t like they don’t have to read it.

    Keep it up – Julie

  187. Esther says:

    Just out of curiosity–what is your degree in?

  188. Mary says:

    I know you have lots of support above, but I just wanted to add that I really appreciate your blog and what you are sharing with us. I don’t follow your (or anyone else’s) advise blindly, but based on the amount of time and effort you have put in, I would consider you somewhat an expert.

  189. Sharon says:

    My dad always said that the only thing a college degree proves is that you know how to learn. Trent certainly can learn, and is most generous in sharing what he has learned with the rest of us.

  190. Leah says:

    After 117 comments, I think I’m just throwing in my lot with the crowd, but please don’t stop the blogging or get discouraged by the random irate people who troll the internet. Trollers generally provide negativity, without really helping improve anything at all.

    You do a world of good for those of us who have opted out (even just partially) of the expected lifestyle. We have decided that we don’t have to keep up with the Joneses; we can choose for ourselves what we value and focus on that; we can be frugal with things we don’t care about; we get back in touch with where things in packages come from originally; and we can all-around feel good about where our lives are. It’s about getting in control of your own life. It’s the satisfaction of knowing that you can do for yourself, and not every solution to your problem has to be bought.

    You are a consistent voice to remind all of us that we have options, and for those of us wiht similar values, a reminder and encouragement that we are not alone.

  191. Yvette says:

    I know this has been said in many comments before this one, but let me just add that I appreciate your advice because you are NOT an expert. I read all kinds of advice (from “experts” and otherwise) and I am smart enough to take what works for me and leave the rest. I like that this site offers all kinds of advice that is practical and thoughtful. If you don’t like, you don’t have to read it. I also don’t know of any financial advisor that will give me information about my 401K AND a great recipe for pizza. Carry on, Trent!

  192. John says:

    I can remember reading an article not so long ago by a financial “expert” stating that people who had paid for homes were stupid. He railed about how they could be using all that untapped equity to pay for vacations, stuff, and more stuff. After the real estate meltdown, I’m sure that many who listened to that idiot wished they could have been enlightned by a blog such as your own.

    Keep up the good work.

  193. Marie says:

    I love your site because you keep it real AND I can afford you. (you are pretty much free)

    I can’t afford to buy Dave Ramsey’s and Suze Ormans book/programs – I simply can’t do it.

    Thanks for all of the great articles and oh yeah – I happen to know that a lot of great, successful people didn’t graduate college at all…..

    Is Bill Gates a computer guru????

  194. D.B. says:

    Your blog rocks. If more people read your blog and others like it the United States would never have gotten into the mess it has. If I had children I would make your blog required reading for them. Keep up the good work.

    D.B.

  195. Liz says:

    Your website has helped me a TON, and I’ve only been reading it for a few months. I’ve read many books that you have recommended, and am getting quite an education. I’m already making improvements in my own personal financial situation.

    Thanks!

  196. Brian says:

    Trent,

    As mentioned above, the experts apparently have been clueless to have led us down this path of financial meltdown and NOW ‘living frugally’ , ‘living BENEATH your means’ and ‘saving rather than spending’ is now in vogue.

    “Smart people learn from their mistakes, wise people learn from the mistakes of others.”

    By sharing YOUR mistakes you allow others to become wise. By sharing the things you have learned as a student of life, you help others to improve the quality of their lives.

    Criticism like this is not necessarily bad if taken in the proper perspective(as you have demonstrated by this post). It can force you to do some self analysis of what you believe in or the path you are on in life.

    I enjoy your blog immensely and have nothing but the greatest respect for you and what you are doing.

    Keep up the great work!
    Brian

  197. Kevin says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHHAHHA!
    Now THAT was Funny!

    Degrees, certificates, and fancy book learning will NEVER replace god given smarts, drive, passion, and experience.

    I read this blog and a few others on personal finance everyday, I have learned much. I don’t believe a single one of them is a “qualified professional”. I have yet to read as post or see advice that wasn’t the most well thought out, consistent, and conservative of any financial advice I come across. Trent particularly!

    I love this bit…
    “financial expertise is not something that can be learned through experience and introspection. Intuition in this area can be very misleading.”

    Riiigghhttt…

    So blind faith in someone with placards on the wall is better? How??

    “Seek out a qualified professional and get a second opinion.”

    Yeah, you bet buddy! I’m thinking that is something that the former Madoff (<–qualified professional) Investors are thinking as they lie awake at night. Pardon me for sounding ignorant but when it comes to money, investments and finances in general what exactly would the qualifications be? That they have placards on a wall and earn fees and/or commissions?

    As for the guys with “sufficient education” and the “qualified professional” thanks but, I’ll pass. When it comes right down to it, it is my money and for better or worse, I am the only one that has a vested interest in seeing that it is protected, grows, and works for me. I’ll stick with my “experience and introspection” or as we in the lowly unwashed masses put it “Go with my gut”.

    Sorry for the rant but it really chaps my derriere when the “educated” types look down their nose at anyone they deem not worthy or “smart”. In my experience those types of people can’t think their way out of a paper bag.

    Trent,
    It is a great and wonderful thing that you do, on your blog each day. Don’t let the turkeys get you down, even if they have “sufficient education”.

    You’ve been making my dollars simple since 2006~ish and as of next month me and the family will be on the most solid financial ground EVER! In large part Thanks to what you write each day.

    THANK YOU!!!!
    Kevin

  198. Larry says:

    I’m wondering why people who don’t feel you should be writing the things you do because they feel you are not a “financial guru” are reading your blog to begin with? Lifelong experiences can only be gained from life itself. What someone will teach you in College is only what someone has already been through in life at one time or another. So why then would you or I now be qualified to help others?

  199. sharon says:

    Trent, Thank you, thank you, thank you for this blog. I love this site especially your book reviews, they’re thorough, thoughtful and definitely save me a lot of time and introduce me to authors I might not read. You provide a valuable service to your readers with the review and sharing your experience. This blog helps me stay the course with regard to my financial plans and living below my means.

    You will always have critics no matter what you do. Sometimes they’re just the external expression of our internal critic (you once mentioned having doubts about what you do)and give us an opportunity to reflect on our purpose. You are helping a lot of people. Keep up the good work. I love your posts as well as the comments of your readers.

  200. John says:

    Trent: I enjoy your articles, lots of throughjt in them. never forget no-one cares for your money like you do! John

  201. Cyllya says:

    Everyone knows you need a financial degree from a prestigious college to know how to make homemade bread!

    Seriously, that wasn’t valid criticism. Hopefully you know that and were just trying to be all PC or whatever.

  202. Courtney says:

    I read this blog because it is personal, and because you do share your POV, AKA bias. Having that perspective is invaluable, IMHO. Keep sharing!

  203. Take the criticism from where it comes and it where it belongs . . . in the circular file!

  204. thon says:

    I think some people place too much importance on a college education. As long as the article helps anyone save a penny towards the future, improves someone’s life out there. Good job.

  205. SA says:

    Reading your blog uplifts me in a not so uplifting time. It brings me optimism and courage to tackle the not so pretty picture. It is more than a financial blog, it is a lifestyle trend thus chimming in with the rest of your faithful readers–you need not pay attention to those criticisms. We know you aren’t an expert and we are ok with that. If I can learn to bake a pizza, declutter my financial documents, learn practical tips for money saving, investing, and learn to be more present in my family life all from one blog…who needs an expert. Thank you for doing what you do..you are very talented and we are reading and using the information and advice despite it not having a degree stapled to it.

  206. Renee says:

    Trent,
    Keep up the good work. You never claimed to be a guru. You are just giving your life experiences.
    Thanks for the ideas.

  207. DrFunZ says:

    The complainer obviously can’t read to the bottom of a web page… here is your disclaimer. He is wrong in criticizing.

    “This site is for entertainment purposes only. Trent is not a financial advisor and no information found on this site should be construed as financial advice.”

  208. That person obviously doesn’t understand the social communicative nature of information on the Internet.

    In my own business, 9 times out of 10 I’ll hire someone with practical knowledge over someone with a degree. The degree can actually be seen as a drawback in some industries (mine for instance in cutting edge tech) where simply someone being right out of college means I have to ‘untrain’ them first.

    I find it odd that in these financial times, with so many businesses failing and overall financial problems hitting everyone (from the average consumer to the most bonus-receiving CEO) that people would have more sense than to believe that ‘education and experience’ is actually playing any sort of role right now. Mayhaps those who criticize you have been living under a rock for a few years.

  209. Sherry says:

    This guy that complained obviously is obviously a sheep. He has believed all the baloney that says that you can’t do anything without a degree.

    Product of higher education without the ability to make a judgement based on data. That’s what he is.

    Continue on – I don’t have the time nor the inclination to read all the books you have. But I have read a few based on what you reviewed. There is so much information out there in the world, I appreciate hearing other viewpoints.

    Keep up the good work!

  210. Financial professionals charge a fee for their services. Right away you never know if they are really out to help, or are simply interested in earning a living. There is no way to judge the value of their advice, unless you want to pay another fee to another planner. Forget that nonsense.

    Bloggers like you have no axe to grind. You offer your experiences, and I, a reader, determine if your idea(s) is suitable for my situation.

    I run my investment blog that way. I offer ideas that work for me. Readers easily can learn what I do. Some follow. Some don’t. But all are better educated for participating in he process.

    Reading your blog is a positive experience.

  211. Dana says:

    Trent- Keep on Keepin’ on!
    I enjoy your blog very much. I would imagine that you may not be all things to all people. So be it.I feel confident to say that you’re comments are a refreshing change to the corporate blather we are inundated with!

  212. Carrie says:

    Don’t know if anyone has referenced this yet, but here’s a great article on the wreckage that Harvard Business School MBA’s have left behind, written by a HBS grad: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article5821706.ece.

    Here’s a sample: “If Robespierre were to ascend from hell and seek out today’s guillotine fodder, he might start with a list of those with three incriminating initials beside their names: MBA. The Masters of Business Administration, that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in.

    From Royal Bank of Scotland to Merrill Lynch, from HBOS to Leh-man Brothers, the Masters of Disaster have their fingerprints on every recent financial fiasco.

    I write as the holder of an MBA from Harvard Business School – once regarded as a golden ticket to riches, but these days more like scarlet letters of shame. We MBAs are haunted by the thought that the tag really stands for Mediocre But Arrogant, Mighty Big Attitude, Me Before Anyone and Management By Accident. For today’s purposes, perhaps it should be Masters of the Business Apocalypse.”

  213. MM says:

    Trent, I support your blog by reading it almost everyday. People are subject to their opinion, and posting your opinion on the internet means just sharing it – not to set the standard of any sort.

    Maybe the commenter you talked about does not have any customers anymore.. that’s why he/she sounds like sour grape…

    I am a graduate of a state university too.. :)

  214. Orion Lawlor says:

    A few years back, I talked with a high-powered “financial expert” about what to do with the extra income at my new job.

    Expert: “No, you shouldn’t pay down your 5% mortgage. After the tax deduction for mortgage interest, you’ll make a lot more in the stock market!”

    Me: “But the stock market doesn’t always go up. Plus, I don’t itemize, so I don’t get the tax deduction for mortgage interest.”

    Expert: “You don’t itemize? You should!”

    … long discussion of state income tax rates, business deductions, morally/legally questionable tax shelters, and the simple and clear standard deduction …

    In the end, I ignored the expert and slowly paid off my house, because I can understand 5% mortgage interest, which is why I didn’t want to pay it for the next 30 years. I understand, and appreciate, owning my own house. I don’t understand the stock market, which spiraled way up, and then came crashing back down.

    Warren Buffet said “You’re right because your facts are right and your reasoning is right—and that’s the only thing that makes you right.” Being an expert has nothing to do with it.

  215. almost there says:

    Trent, the ultimate comeback from the “Big Lebowski”: (DUDE) “Yeah well, that’s just, ya know, like, your opinion, man.”

    Keep on Bloggin’

  216. Renee says:

    Trent,

    I love your blog! I am a new subscriber and I look forward to reading your articles. Thank you for sharing your experiences and knowledge with those of us who are looking for solutions and information about money management. What you give to us is everyday, easy to understand, effective suggestions for improving our finacial health. I love that you share your personal side with the community of readers as well. Be encouraged and know that there will always be someone willing to offer criticism and judgement, even for a job well done!

  217. Karen says:

    Go Iowa State!

  218. Aaron says:

    Keep on keeping on.

    You don’t have 47,851 readers because your advice sucks.

  219. J Ro says:

    I am merely commenting to show my support to you. I won’t be saying anything new. We live in a society where we value the degree much more than what it is worth. Don’t discredit yourself. You have read many books and with that comes a lot of knowledge. You are a Guru. If you weren’t I wouldn’t be reading you on a daily basis. But with any advice, it must be taken with a grain of salt and reformatted to apply to your own life. Not only does your blog provide useful and relevant information but motivation for the enormous hole that many of us are digging ourselves out of.

    The proof is in the support you receive. Well done.

  220. Tanya says:

    As someone who has spent a lot of time in the fanciest of the nation’s universities and as someone who is about to complete a PhD in one of those universities, I have to say that someone who thinks that having official “qualifications” makes much of difference to quality of advice is simply stupid. Whoever wrote that criticism clearly hasn’t read your blog AND clearly doesn’t understand the bunch of “highly educated” people who have driven this country’s financial system into a very, very deep ditch. I’d actually argue that your distance from so-called financial experts is an advantage: less cool aid consumed, less need to do what your peers are doing, and very little conflict of interest with advice-giving. Please do keep up the good work!

  221. Cathy says:

    I read your blog because your a regular guy. I consider life experience surviving a meltdown to be the best person to learn from, rather than paying an ‘expert’. Dave Ramsey, if we recall, also falls in this category.

  222. B Simple says:

    Totally agree with your response. Who wants a financial expert with a lot of credentials but no experience. Just because you a few alphabets behind your name or on your diploma does not mean a thing. Its about life experience. Your blog is about your experiences what has worked for you. You must be saying or doing something right you have over 55,000 readers. Look at the Standford and Madoff situations. They stated they were financial experts and look what happen to those individuals who invested with them.

  223. JS says:

    I don’t want to consult with a “qualified professional” who has an interest in selling me financial products so he can make a commission. I come here to read Trent’s careful, balanced and grounded perspective on financial matters, to give me pointers in my own research. That, and what financial professional will teach me to make homemade detergent…? It’s all about the spirit. :) Keep it up, Trent.

  224. Lou says:

    I have an MBA. But I’m not a CFP, sot when i retired, I spent over $500 for “advice” from a Certified Financial Planner. Much of the advice was wrong, some was merely unhelpful. The graph showing the impact of several withdrawal options was useful, but I could have approximated those calculations myself in an hour.

    At least when your suggestions are wrong for me, I didn’t waste anything but a bit of time.

  225. PointSpecial says:

    Your blog is experiential. You explain what has worked for you and what has not. You also add other insight from people and what has worked for them. You do not claim to be an expert, so the criticism is really unfounded.

  226. Jillian says:

    Thank you for your help. I can’t afford a financial planner right now. I am becoming financially knowledgeable on my own. So, if that means seeking out blogs, websites, and any other streams of information so be it. You are a blessing to those who are on educational path towards financial freedom.

  227. anca says:

    i am very disturbed by these kind of words as i am against prejudices and specialization. i think that people should think for themselves in any domain because the world is not that complicated as it seems to be.
    one must not be a MBA graduate to know that spending less than earning is valuable or setting a savings account or that debt is stupid.
    one must not be a stylist to be able to look good in one’s clothes and must not be a chef to cook a pizza. everything can be learned and practiced.
    i love your site and these are the kind of blogs that made me have more control of my own financial decisions and not some guru that doesn’t have my needs.

  228. gail says:

    Yeah, I can see myself heading towards financial doom because I choose to read your blog and you have no real credentials other than actually walking the walk and talking the talk, LOL. Maybe I should head over to the “get rich quick” websites ;)

  229. Chelsea says:

    “Financial expertise is not something that can be learned through experience and introspection”.. Who the heck is this guy? I believe financial expertise is EXACTLY what is learned through experience. Yikes. He has much to learn. I loved this article, especially the way you handled yourself. Well done! :)

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