My parents never taught me the value of a dollar beyond it costing any sense of household calm that might have been. Today, they constantly complain about not having enough money, blaming the stock market for its poor performance over the last decade – which I find ironic since my father spent his career figuring out investment risk as a pension planner for major corporations. If he couldn’t see the crash coming, who could?
I definitely don’t turn to my parents for money advice, but other than the wild west of the Internet and self-help books with a lot of contradictory information, I don’t have one trusted resource to discuss the ins and outs of personal finance with. Not that most people do – I just wish I had someone who I could confide in about my financial concerns and questions.
Yes, there are Certified Financial Planners out there who are paid a lot to do just that. But I find I don’t trust one individual over another. While there’s some pretty basic advice that gets tossed around, everything else is someone’s opinion, however well-educated it might be. The statistics of the past aren’t going to predict World War III or a subtler economic boom or bust.
A few years ago, I did pay for advice. I went to a Career Counselor. She spent a few sessions with me determining that I’m an INFP and what would make me happy in a career. When I had two potential job options on the table in addition to staying at my then stable but unfulfilling role, she encouraged me to go with the one that was less risky, with a very large, very hot startup, where I would have been in a relatively junior role. I chose to not take her advice, thank goodness, and went to work as one of the first employees for a small startup which has since grown, and my career experience has grown with it.
Advice is cheap – or expensive – but it is advice all the same. What’s the average middle class person to do? Invest, invest, and invest until your savings are tied up in a diversified account, and pray? Assume it will return 5%-10% on average over the long term, as long as you have a 30 year horizon to wait to touch the money? Or should you start thinking about other types of investments now — real estate, metals, or businesses, for instance. It’s easiest to just sit back and put a few hundred bucks a month into the stock market, but I feel like I’m playing Russian Roulette with my life, except the wheel doesn’t stop spinning until I’m ready to retire.
Have you every sought out financial advice? Did you pay for it, or find it for free from a friend or family member? What’s the best financial advice you ever got and what’s the worst?