Be Wary of Corporate Personal Finance Advice

I think it goes without saying that we should always be mindful of who is paying the money to get their message in our ears or eyeballs, and online personal finance is no exception.

Recently I read a post on a major corporate-owned personal finance blog written by a CFP who calls himself a retirement expert.

Except he’s a retirement expert that says “retirement is too risky” and that he never plans to retire.

Seriously?

That’s like being a member of a church your entire life and having the priest tell you on your deathbed, “I was just joking about that God stuff. It’s not real.”

It’s not hard to figure out why many retirement planners constantly talk in doom-and-gloom scenarios. They want to scare you to sell you things.

In the post, the author hints that the goal of work is wealth building. For me, the goal of work is retirement. I don’t want to work a day longer than I have to.

The corporate blogger said that retirement is dangerous for your wealth.

No shit?

In one of my more popular posts on the Early Retirement Extreme movement, I imagine becoming an “Early Retirement Planner,” someone who works not on commission, but on their success in helping you retire early. This would be in contrast to those retirement advisors who tell you that “70 is the new 60!” as they speed off in their sports car you bought them.

Remember: It’s in their best interest that you work as long as possible and save for retirement as long as possible, even if you die with hundreds of thousands of dollars in a brokerage account, money you never even needed in the first place.

If you want to leave a large chunk of money to your heirs, that’s fine, but it’s okay to ease up and not work yourself to death in the process. Leave a little bit and enjoy your life while you are young.

I left a comment on the above-mentioned post expressing my sadness about the tone of the post, and of retirement planners in general. Someone responded to my comment by saying that studies are showing more people are accepting the fact that they will work in retirement. I replied that I wasn’t surprised that people are changing their attitudes about work, given that Wall Street and multinational corporations have been working to do just that for decades.

If you read the comments on most retirement-themed posts, there are plenty of ambitious worker bees who always express sentiments like “I don’t ever plan to retire!” and “I just can’t see myself ever not working!”

Like I’ve said in the past, I don’t judge people who define themselves by their work. I can’t relate to them, but I’m not mad at them. Some people have found their true callings through work, and I’m glad for those people.

 

Be Wary of Corporate Personal Finance Advice

As the years go by, more and more of the blogs and personal sites you visit are being sold to larger advertising companies beholden to even bigger companies – sometimes unbeknownst to the readers. That makes it easier to reinforce the cultural ideas that are already taking hold: work hard, borrow big, spend it all, what vacation?

Even when they aren’t selling things, they are selling ideas and new cultural norms, and they have nothing but time to wait until they take hold and become reality.

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23 Comments
  1. Excellent advice indeed John. I wrote a post titled, “Who Can You Trust When Taking Credit and Financial Advice” because we, as amateur consumers of information on the web, need to learn how to filter that information. Especially if we’re looking for it to help us with a topic like retirement.

    The second thing I loved you did was lend your voice to the discussion by posting a response and then sharing your experiences here in this post. I don’t think this particular message can be shared enough!

  2. I also have a problem with much of the “advice” being thrown around on the web. So many times people are being looked at as “experts” simply because they write a blog about how they were successful in overcoming a certain situation or because they do certain things themselves rather than hiring true professionals.

    While I see nothing wrong with people expounding on what worked for them as individuals, many do not have the working knowledge or experience to truly advise others. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve seen suggested “action plans” thrown around by bloggers and commenters alike based on limited information provided by an individual.

    Even though no one is perfect, especially me, I think it’s important to consider the source of advice and the qualifications. No one can provide real, accurate answers based on partial information regardless what the issue is, and anyone with any ethical standards would refrain from doing so knowing that it would be wrong.

  3. Great insights John. I think many of the conventional wisdoms about saving for retirement are little more than products of the Wall Street marketing machine. The objective of these maxims is enriching money managers, not enriching investors. And it works: Just look at who’s done best over the past 20 or 30 years!

  4. I’d say people are planning to work in retirement and accepting that as a reality because they haven’t saved NEARLY enough. If everybody would just get their junk together then they can CHOOSE to work if they want while in retirement. Most people will HAVE to work and won’t have a choice.

    That retirement planner is crazy.

  5. Sadly, I think my parents WILL have to work past the retirement age because a) my mother never worked and b) they financed my and my brother’s education. I like the tone of this post, and I think it’s something more people should consider. I don’t really want to be mega wealthy-just comfortable and able to enjoy things.

  6. You have to filter all advice you get, especially from a business who’s sole existence is profit. People should even filter my advice, especially because it comes from my experience and works for me, but might not be the best fit for them. I do the same when reading reviews on products. If they gave it a bad rating, it’s just a sign of missed expectation. If I have the same expectation of the product as the bad reviewer, I probably won’t want it. if my expectation is lower, then i might be perfectly satisfied.

    you must read everything with a grain of salt, and maybe a dash of pepper and some sauteed garlic…

  7. Well said, it’s important to consider the source of anything you read (even though it’s so easy to forget to do this). I agree with Jason @WSL, if we all started saving for retirement earlier in our lives then it wouldn’t be necessary to work so much later in life. I definitely hope to retire someday – I love to work but I have my own projects (such as fiction writing and volunteer work) that I’d love to focus on more when I reach the golden years. I think the sooner we educate young adults about saving and why they should start earlier, then more people will have a chance to save enough to retire someday.

  8. Wow. That’s about all I got. Wow. It never crossed my mind that financial dudes might not give us the best financial advice. It’s like hearing that doctors are giving bad advice to patients so that they can keep them coming back! It’s a crazy thought, but then again… I guess when it comes to money and finances, it’s best to read/listen to a LOT of sources and think hard about your particular situation and what you want out of life. Personally? I plan to retire as soon as I possibly can!

  9. As a financial planner (of the fee-only variety who doesn’t sell anything other than his advice) I would concur that you have to wary of what you read on the web in the way of financial advice. I guess that includes my humble blog as well.

    That said, and I’m not defending the writer of the blog post that you referenced, the definition of retirement is changing and evolving from what I saw of my parent’s generation. Some of us Boomers will work past normal retirement age because we need the money, some because we are not ready to retire in the traditional sense, and others for a combination of these and other reasons. I work with near-retirees and retirees on a regular basis and I see the notion of retirement evolving on a regular basis.

  10. I agree that you must be weary of advice. We all have bias and opinions we promote online and offline.

    I’m curious about your philosophy about work. Where did that concept about work originate? You seem to imply that work is a bad thing or maybe I’m misinterpreting.

  11. I’m trying to work as hard as i can now so that I can at least semi-retire to something I love or like a lot :) I don’t mind making sacrifices right now b/c I see the big picture at the end of the road.

    I always question things I read and especially things I read on the internet. Any joker with a little web design experience can make their site look knowledgeable, just look at mine haha

  12. The mainstream advice on the web is seriously lacking.I’ve set my saving goal, once I hit it; I’m gone and I have no intention going back.

    I have two wonderful children. It is my intention to brain wash them at a young age to think it’s respectful to help take care of Mom and Dad if tragedy should occur. I plan on implementing my sneaky plan by taking care of their grandparents; should the need arise.

    Don’t fall victim to propaganda, be your own propagandist!

  13. These are all excellent responses which shows it’s a “top of the mind” subject for many. I would love for those of you who commented on this post, if that’s OK with you John, to read about how I filter information on the web :) http://theamateurconsumer.com/who-can-you-trust-when-taking-credit-and-financial-advice/

  14. Very interesting post. There are some good sites out there with great information but there seem to be more and more written just for the sake of writing.

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