“Be afraid, be very afraid!” Granted, it may be a little more appropriate for the 1986 film The Fly than for financial advisors, but the sentiment is still the same. I realize it’s a little crazy to think about people who obsess over markets and math as celebrities, but that doesn’t stop a group of “advisors” from trying to be just that. There are household names like Suzy Orman and Dave Ramsey, and there are even local financial advisors with weekly radio shows and catchy names. I’ve checked out some of the books and listened to a few of the radio shows and YouTube videos. There is plenty of content out there to digest, and please make your own informed opinion.
Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I do not believe these people are bad, have malicious intent, or are out to cause harm. I actually agree with some of their advice, and fully understand that they’ve helped many people to turn around their finances in a positive way. That said, I think it’s smart to ask ourselves why they’re on television, radio or any other medium in the first place. Are they promoting or selling something to their audience, like a book, a proprietary financial system, or their planning services? Again, I am not blaming someone for marketing their services or selling something they have written. Walkner Condon Financial Advisors has and will continue to market our services through various means. Where I do take issue is the premise that their radio or call-in show is for the greater good of society or a free advisory service. These shows are for profit, and the hosts are there to make money.
Another area of concern is that many of these professionals do not hold financial planning licenses, nor are they acting in a fiduciary role. Therefore, they are not regulated the same way a fee-only RIA firm would be. They position themselves as “industry experts” or “gurus,” knowing full well that these are immeasurable terms. The vast majority of local financial advisors on the radio buy that time from the radio station. Their shows are sold as a local expert’s radio show, when in reality, it is an advertisement that the advisor purchased. And that means that the person hosting the radio show may know very little about the subject being discussed, and may not be an expert at all.
In the end, I simply ask people who listen to or watch these shows to be aware of what they’re consuming. I will say again that these are not bad people. But, in my opinion, it is highly questionable to give advice to people when little is known about the caller’s risk tolerance, current financial situation, knowledge of financial terms and products or overall financial situation. Not to mention that no financial plan was analyzed before providing what may be completely unsuitable financial advice.
As the saying goes, “let the buyer beware.”