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personal finance in the internet age

Next week is the beginning of my second Summer Personal Finance Workshop Series, so I’d like to take some time in this post to talk about why I bother doing any of this. It’s a short story with a surprise (at least, it was a surprise to me), so it’s worth reading.

Set the WABAC machine to 2008. That year, I was beginning to learn the ropes of personal finance — mostly investing at the time, but also some insurance and other topics. So I did what any child of the Internet would do: I Googled until I found a particularly promising corner of the Web, and I took the information there as gospel truth.

This was the wrong approach.

Now, had I been looking for something relatively straightforward, like a piece of obscure movie trivia or a particular cat picture, this would have been the right approach. But I failed to consider that personal finance is very similar to religion and politics: many people believe they have the One True Answer, but there are many One True Answers out there. So if you confine yourself to one group, there may be other ideas out there that you may never even know exist.

Luckily, I eat personal finance books and articles like candy (nerd? yes.) and the more I learned, the more I found that while that first little corner of the Internet got a lot of it right, there was a lot that they put forth that was suspect, or at least not Ironclad Truth. So I looked elsewhere, kept learning, and have since tried to incorporate everything I’ve come across.

And this is what you’ll find today at, in my workshops, and in my one-on-one sessions. On my website, as I recognize that you guys are smart enough to handle it, I’ll often put conflicting (or seemingly conflicting) viewpoints out there. I talk about the advantages of going cash-only and the wonders of credit cards. I discuss the two very different investing styles of the businessman and the academic. (Yes, I do have my own opinions — I can’t pretend to be totally unbiased — but I want to make sure you’re aware of what else is out there.) In my workshops, I recognize that different tools and methods work better for different people, and tailor my content accordingly. (In fact, this year I’ve changed much of my budgeting content to reflect what I’ve learned from clients — as it turns out, not everyone thinks the same way I do. Who knew?) And in my one-on-one sessions, you’ll find that I do as much listening as talking, and if I’m not the right expert for you, I’ll point you in the direction of someone who is.

I also recognize how valuable trust is these days. As such, I don’t accept money from anyone who isn’t a direct client. No affiliate links, no commissions, no referral fees, none of that. If I recommend a product or company, it’s because I like them for who they are and what they do. While I have no problems with the aforementioned tools in general, I personally don’t want there to be any doubt as to where my interests lie.

So if you like this, if you think this approach to personal finance is valuable, then, well, Like it. Spread the word. Click the “share” button at the bottom of this post, or simply Like its link on my facebook page.

You never know whose life you might change.

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