Listening to financial experts can be both good and bad. Most of what I know about money has come from one financial expert or another. On the other hand, we need to be initially skeptical of anything new some supposed expert says. Evaluate new information before accepting it.
For example, recent research suggests a link between poverty and brain function in children. The researchers believe that poverty is causing brain impairments. My first thought is that maybe some people have brain impairments which prevent them from making much money, and they pass these impairments along to their children genetically. I may be wrong about this, but I won’t accept the researchers’ theory until I see evidence, and I don’t care enough to pay $10 to see the full text of the study.
I extend this way of thinking to all experts. Some people take anything their doctor says as gospel. My thinking is that like any other field, doctors have wildly-varying skill levels, and it pays to be skeptical of their advice. This doesn’t mean that all advice should be rejected. It means that you should seek second opinions, especially when treatments don’t seem to work.
I like to tell people that “50% of all doctors finished in the bottom half of their class.” This way of thinking pushes me to find the best expert and not just any expert. Three areas where I think I’ve done particularly well are my doctor, car mechanic, and athletic therapist. In other areas, I’m still searching.
Clearly some people don’t see the world of experts as I do. A recent experience illustrates this. A friend I’ll call Jim had a nagging sports injury and wanted advice. I directed him to my athletic therapist explaining that I had seen about 15 different athletic therapists and physiotherapists over the years, and this guy was clearly the best.
I saw Jim a couple of weeks later still complaining about his injury. He said he had gone to a physiotherapist (not the guy I recommended), but it seemed to make things worse. In Jim’s mind, he had followed my advice. From my point of view, Jim ignored my advice. Jim seems to think that all therapists are interchangeable.
People who keep going back to experts who fail them seem to be showing the same attitude as Jim did. If your car needs fixing, you have to take it to some mechanic. If all mechanics are the same, then you might as well go back to the same one who messed up your car last time. But, if you believe that mechanics differ in their skills and honesty, then you’ll keep trying new mechanics until you find one you like.
Whether you’re looking for a financial advisor, or some other type of expert, it pays to put in some effort to be knowledgeable yourself and to seek multiple opinions.