Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Perfect Guru

A Consumerism Commentary blog post regarding Suze Orman got me to thinking:

If I could design my own "perfect financial guru" to help guide the masses, what would he/she be like?

1. They wouldn't sell out to promo things like 0% new-car financing.
Okay ... so you're a popular financial persona, a media darling. You have a strong voice and camera presence, a large following, a decent "tell it like it is" attitude, and a handful of worthwhile books to your credit. A great way to steamroll all this is to do commercials which tell people that 0% financing makes a new automobile a "smart buy." Come on — you're not stupid. You know the real numbers. Go "smart buy" yourself some integrity.

2. They wouldn't try to make debt reduction sound easy.
Because it isn't. Telling people that erasing "a latte a day" from your expenses, and then using fuzzy math to prove your theorem that this is the way to financial freedom, won't cut it. And slapping trademarks on these silly aphorisms ("Latte Factor," "Debtabetes") is about a nickel away from pathetic, in my opinion. I'm looking for ways to either dig out of a financial pit, or strengthen my money foundations. Am I supposed to take that litle circled-letter-symbol seriously?

3. They wouldn't try to make wealth building sound simple.
Because it isn't. Often-quoted double-digit historical stock market returns mean nothing from this point forward. And using such return rates to tell folks how much they'll have saved and compounded in ten years by following your trademarked method is downright ridiculous. This is just telling people what they want to hear, and it serves no useful purpose . . . other than getting them to throw money at a market which is often portrayed as something akin to "Everyman's Savior."

4. They wouldn't jackhammer the audience with repeated references to "money management by scripture."
Yes, there are some decent biblical references to money and finance. And, as best I can tell, it does no harm to quote such common-sense stuff if it makes people sit up, relate, and take notice. But telling folks that, per the Bible, tithing ten percent of your gross income to the church is "what God wants" — regardless of your current financial position — is a quick way to get me to discredit your message at the starting gate.

5. They wouldn't write books which are geared simply to . . . sell more books. Or board games.
Most of us, I suspect, know the culprit here. I won't name any names, but his initials are Robert T. Kiyosaki. What a wonderful series of books he has decorated the "Entrepreneur" sectioned shelves of Barnes & Noble with — so chock full of hazy "real life" anecdotes, simplistic circle and quadrant drawings, and . . . not much else. If you have good stuff to deliver, then deliver it. Please leave the self-aggrandizing salemanship in your office.

6. They wouldn't rely on high academic credentials to earn my respect.
A large and time-expansive body of academic research in, say, the bankruptcy arena, doesn't necessary mean your numbers are always beyond reproach. Even if you are good friends with Dr. Phil.

7. They wouldn't continually refer to near-bankrupt debtors as "victims."
Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't. The fact that you absolutely had to have your child attend the best possible school in the best possible district is no excuse for the fact that you're walking a financial tightrope, with a negative net worth, no retirement to speak of, and little more than $37 in savings and a box of Duracell batteries set aside for life's inevitable emergencies.

I'm sure there's more I could add, but for now, I'll stop here. I would absolutely love to hear others' comments on this topic!

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— Posted by Michael @ 3:35 PM


Great post....helps separate some of the wheat from the chaff. I do find myself quite motivated every time I catch a bit of Suze on TV so I"ll use that for what it's worth.

I suppose every and any "guru" would be flawed...they're only human, right? ;) But you've done a great job of shining the flashlight on the flaws with an intelligent critical eye and the right amount of humorous snark.

now *that's* edutainment.


Hit the nail on the head. Especially regarding the purple and black books at B&N.

Another I might add is to that my financial guru would be open to more ideas than just their own. One example would be Dave Ramsey with credit cards.

The tough thing is that when you're in sales, you have to take your stance and go for it. Extreme sells. And Extreme w/ a hip name? Sells even more.


Jesse, you're right about the sales aspect of it. But the whole "hip name" thing bugs the crap out of me.

You might be on to something with the "more open to other ideas" concept. I'd like to see that, too.

But I can't see Dave coming off his "NO credit cards for ANY reason" stance. Ever.

** Comments Closed on this Post **

Thoughts on my personal finances, goals, experiences, motivations, and accomplishments (or lack thereof).

My financial life began turning around when I took responsibility for it.
— Dave Ramsey


Start (2005-12): ~$21,900
Currently: $0
[About Our Debt Paydown]


Savings Goal: $15,000
Currently: ~$15,115
[About Our Liquid Savings Goal]