It never ceases to amaze me how negative folks can be. Especially on the internet where you can hide behind anonymity or you write something outrageous just to ensure clicks to your site. As an avid consumer of personal finance information, I have come across many of these people, whether in the comments or their own sites. Today I would like to address of few of the bigger ones that I have seen. I would have to turn in my personal finance blogger membership card if I didn’t weigh in on these topics (haha).
Topic #1- Suze Orman’s take on Financial Independence
You cannot call yourself a consumer of personal finance information without having come across the controversy stirred up by an interview on Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast with the self-proclaimed matriarch of personal finance, Suze Orman. Ms. Orman has made a career of giving personal finance guidance and advice. Her style is to be in your face and bombastic. Therefore, I was a little surprised to see people get so up in arms about her comments surrounding her hatred for the financial independence community. I consider myself a small part of this community and I heard the comments and my initial reaction was …. “meh.” First, Suze Orman is in the business of being extreme and over-the-top, which she was here. Second, she lives a current lifestyle that is VERY different than most in this community. She made a statement that you cannot retire without at least $10 million saved up. Well, since the FI community views FI or retirement readiness through a lens of math, namely that you need 25 X your current expenses, then why would it be such a stretch to believe that Suze needed such a high figure to reach her version of FI? I think the problem lay in the fact that she has a large audience and people in this community fear that her communicating such a thing would be detrimental to the FI movement. My take on this is…. “So, What?” Suze has her audience. They are not necessarily part of the FI community. Allow her to preach to her followers in any way that she wishes. Secondly, if she didn’t find value in the FI community, she would not have come on a podcast that is firmly a part of the FI community in order to push her latest book. Finally, she was also smart enough to recognize that her comments were not met well in our community and has since backtracked
Topic #2- The “Latte Factor”
Another topic that seems to get much ink (can you call it ink if it is all electronic?) is people weighing in on David Bach’s overall premise that has been dubbed the “Latte Factor.” The concept is that you can dramatically change your financial situation if you cut out that daily latte. Personal finance bloggers across the internet seem to take this quite literally and love to criticize this idea or say that it simply won’t get the job done. My take is that the “Latte Factor” is not about saving that $3.00 per day, but it is about the behavior surrounding that. If you can ween yourself off the daily coffee purchase by making coffee at home, then that is a behavioral change that will be replicated across other aspects of your life. I can’t understand why people are ready and willing to discount all of Bach’s writings based on the fact that they simply don’t see the impact of saving such a small amount. There is no silver bullet that will automatically change your financial life short of winning the lottery. I think the “Latte Factor” is a vital mental shift required to change anyone’s situation. If that coffee brings you tremendous joy and satisfaction, then go ahead and keep on buying it. But even that decision has embraced the “Latte Factor” since you viewed it through the lens of weighing its value against its cost.
Topic #3- Dave Ramsey
The third topic that seems to be a requirement for personal finance bloggers to attack is the Dave Ramsey method. This one is somewhat tricky since most PF bloggers will go out of their way to talk up Dave Ramsey and his work in helping millions of people get out of debt but they also all seem to have an obsessive need to bash one aspect of Dave’s teachings. This is Dave’s assumption that followers of his path can earn 12% returns annually on mutual fund investing. Personally, I disagree with this assumption myself. I tend to have a much more conservative approach to projections and tend to go lower. The same people who bash Dave’s assumptions of 12% with go on to use a number themselves in the 7-8% range. Even that is a guess rooted in that person’s experiences and personal thoughts. All these figures are assumptions, they are not set in stone. Dave’s numbers come from his experiences and beliefs. Honestly, if you were to follow all of Dave Ramsey’s famous Baby Steps and get out of debt, stay out of debt and set up investments, the performance on those investments will dictate how you behave in the future. Dave is not someone advocating for an extremely early retirement where your investment returns may impact your ability to support yourself for many decades. At the point where followers will be impacted by their investment returns, they have already educated themselves and cleaned up their personal financial picture and therefore should be in a better place to self-manage their finances whether the projections play themselves out according to someone else’s ideas.
These are just a few of the common trolling topics that I constantly come across as I dive deeper into personal finance content. I am sure there are other topics that impact each of you as well. Feel free to discuss them in the comments. I would love to hear from you.