Updated on 07.06.07

What To Do If You Disagree With The Simple Dollar – Or Any Other Financial Guru

Trent Hamm

Inevitably, as you read this site, you’re going to find something that you disagree with – I write on too many topics for all of my readers to agree with me on everything. I know in the past, I’ve had some bitter disagreements with readers on Rich Dad, Poor Dad, pets, housing requirements, and many other things. I’ve had readers call me names and I’ve had readers both publicly and privately vow to stop reading The Simple Dollar and never return because of my “ignorance” or “small-mindedness,” simply because I posted something that didn’t exactly meet their belief structure.

And that’s fine. I’m completely okay with disagreement – if I were not, I would tightly moderate comments and delete everything that wasn’t in 100% agreement with me. Visiting those links will make it very clear that I do no such thing.

However, it does bring up a very valuable point about blindly following the advice of any financial guru (myself included): don’t do it. By all means, use advice as a starting point, but never, ever fall into the trap of believing that what I say, or what Dave Ramsey says, or what Robert Kiyosaki says, or anyone else says, is the absolute final word and truth when it comes to a financial situation. The only person I might possibly attribute that level of trust to is Warren Buffett (for obvious reasons; read his Wikipedia entry), and I still think he overvalues Costco (their P/E ratio seems really high for their growth rate to me).

Here’s why (along with some tips on how to get more out of any piece of financial information).

No answers are absolute. There’s no financial issue that doesn’t have multiple facets. I try very hard to dig through many of them, but there are ones that I overlook – as do all other financial gurus. I’m no expert on the New York housing market, for example – and I don’t claim to be – but I’m still willing to offer my perspective on what I would do if I lived there. Is it the absolute correct path? Probably not. Is it one based on the principles that I’m constantly espousing? Yes, it is. In a nutshell, when you take someone’s advice, make sure you know the principles that the advice is based on. If you don’t know, ask. If you can’t ask or don’t get a good answer, don’t trust the advice.

You might not agree with the philosophy. I’m rather risk averse and I think frugality is a huge component of personal finance – I can be almost obsessive about it. On the other hand, Robert Kiyosaki is very, very far from risk averse, enough so that I consider his advice reckless (and I’m not afraid to criticize him for it). Perhaps you don’t agree with my underlying philosophy – again, that’s completely fine – but you should at least try to understand it. I read and wrote a lengthy review of Rich Dad, Poor Dad so that I could at least understand the philosophy. If something strikes you as wrong, try to figure out exactly why you find it to be wrong – usually, it’s a difference in fundamental philosophy and it’s worthwhile to at least understand other philosophies.

Do your own research. I do some posts on basic personal finance analysis and link to other tools here and there – those are so you can look at a piece of advice yourself if you want to and decide whether it’s right and you agree with it. If you don’t understand how something works, ask – if you don’t think a number comes out right in an article, try to figure it yourself. You’ll do nothing but improve your own understanding.

Recognize that no one is absolutely right. Absolute correctness doesn’t exist in this world. If you find yourself completely disavowing someone because you disagree on a point or two with that person, you’re going to have a hard time finding someone who you can talk to, listen to, and exchange ideas with. Accept that no one is absolutely right – including yourself – and be open to new ideas.

Personal finance is a beautiful topic laden with a lot of ideas, many of which contradict each other. The best I can do is try to overview everything I learn about and then apply those principles that work well for me – anything else would be fraud.

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  1. John says:

    I rarely post to any web site. But in this case, I felt compelled to tell you that your service with this web site is invaluable. I have only been following your blogs for a few weeks and have found the vast majority of your topics very interesting. In fact, you have inspired me to take ownership of my financial situation and become educated on the subject.

    I have my first baby girl on the way in October and your suggestions have already been very fruitful.

    Keep up the good work and don’t let any negative comments affect your drive. Rest assured you have plenty of loyal readers…


  2. Rick says:

    My favorite line in the post was this: “…following the advice of any financial guru (myself included)”.

    Seriously, though, this was a good post. But the problem is that sometimes people just don’t know what to do. For instance, take the question of investing versus prepaying the mortgage. I have my own answer to the debate, but many people simply don’t know which is better. Advisor 1 says investing is definitely better. Advisor 2 says prepaying is without question better. Whom do you believe? Both advisors (which may be PF bloggers) give facts and reasoning behind their conclusions.

    Perhaps what you said is right on target: We need to understand the philosophy (or worldview) behind each conclusion. Advisor 1 is capable of accepting more risk, with the potential for greater rewards. Advisor 2 is settling for a lesser potential for reward, but with a much lower risk factor. You then have to ask yourself, “What is my own tolerance for risk?” Then you can choose which advisor to follow.

  3. laura k says:

    Wait! You said not to follow the advice of any financial guru, including you. Does that mean I should not follow your advice to not follow your advice, in which case I should actually follow your advice? But if I follow your advice, and you say I should not follow your advice, does that mean I should not be following your advice?! :)

    In any case, keep up the good work. A few disagreements never hurt anyone…they just keep us all on our toes and help us learn. The most interesting parts of life are the shades of grey.

  4. William Profet from OneJobTwoSalaries.com says:

    All of us (may be I should say – most of us) are rational creatures and each can decide for him(her)self what to agree and what to disagree. If someone doesn’t like the Simple Dollar advices he/she is free to go to the Sophisticated Dollar advices or whatever other site in this area of interest.


  5. Mitch says:

    If you are the barber on Crete… but anyway. This post gives some great examples.

    Examining the unspoken assumptions is good advice for all disputes and persuasive episodes, not just financial ones. Please teach your children and others in your influence this! Whether it’s about “getting and spending,” or politics, or whatever else, training in critical thinking is important to making considered decisions rather than click-whirr ones, as Cialdini puts it.

  6. Hey, keep up the awesome work!

    Your advice is great, keep publishing what you believe in. There will always be antagonists, yet your advice helps the masses.

    rock on!

  7. Michael Gorsuch says:

    Trent – just writing to tell you that I love this site, and that I think what you are producing here is what a lot of people need to read and ponder. Keep it coming, please!

  8. I totally disagree with everything you just wrote, and I swear that I’ll never come back to read anything else that you write in the future. ;)

  9. Its hard to believe that some people would actually resort to name calling and total disrespect. Blogs are free, its not like we’re paying for a book and feel ripped off. If there is a disagreement I would simply not follow the advice. Your site is one of my biggest inspirations for my own writing. Please keep up the excellent work.

  10. MoneyNing says:

    Well, we will never come again (but wait for our next comment). :)

    Criticism is inevitable and invaluable. All bloggers should welcome them.

  11. David Hunter says:

    1. Agree entirely on Kiyosaki’s lack of risk aversity. You can see it most clearly in his board games. In Cashflow by far the best game winning move you can make is spend all of your money to buy stocks when you can get them for a dollar. This is because the worst that can happen is you lose half of them, and since the sale price is at least 5 times what you paid and can be 30 times… You are still laughing. In the real world, sinking all of your money into a volatile investment… Not a safe game winning strategy. That said, he is good at opening eyes up to the possibility of making money through investing.

    2. Good post I agree entirely. People are responsible for their own life and decisions which means they should try and seek a wide variety of information and then figure it out for themselves.

  12. guinness416 says:

    You forgot to mention the loon who saw a red mist and left a spittle-flecked treatise when you mentioned “going green.”

    I hope you take the same advice. You get plenty of substantive disagreement and advice from people with a lot of life experience in your comments; to me the value of this site is the combination of the comments sections and the posts.

  13. Jen says:

    The Simple Dollar ROCKS! Keep rockin’!
    Some people are always looking for someone to blame for their mistakes. …blame the blogger… tsk, tsk

  14. When people start seeing advice as something to follow blindly without thinking for themselves, they will get into trouble. Advice is someone saying “this is what I would do.”

    When it comes to life advice, this isn’t school and there isn’t one correct answer. The best thing for each person is bound to be slightly different.

  15. Ted V says:

    I thought you were a financial blogger not a financial guru.

  16. Adam says:

    Your hung up on your self a little to much, I mean “Finical Guru”, :rolleyes: please, I can do better then that.

    Just picking at ya!


  17. As in life, there are few absolutes and reasonable people can disagree about money. The key is to understand who is reasonable. Learn the motivation of the person dispensing the advice. Often, the two (advice and motivation) are connected. Strike one. If they’re not connected, listen more carefully (but still follow your gut.)

    By Kiyosaki’s own account: “I’m a best-selling author, not a best-writing author.”

  18. LC says:

    I am actually amazed at how often I do agree wholehartedly with what you write. I also appreciate the fact that in the A vs. B posts you do provide a valid argument for each side, and then give personal reasons why you chose what you did. I think that most intelligent readers can figure out from your information whether something would work for them or not. Those who are “less” intelligent probably wouldn’t be bad off doing either one (i.e. if you are in the position of deciding between investments and paying down your mortgage, you are probably doing ok, and either one would benefit you in some way.)

    It frustrates me when people deride others for making different choices than them, and when they dismiss advice as not practical without really considering it.

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