Why This Blog

This is not an advice blog, really. It is a blog about advice, and as a side-effect it contains some advice of its own. But the main topic here is the advice given by others and how bad it is. And not just any advice. I mean to talk about advice on a single subject of almost universal interest: money.

Money, or to use its proper name, personal finance, is one of the major genres of advice in the media, up there with dieting and sex. Of course, I’ve never read a dieting book and I’ve never flipped through a sex manual without a smirk, so for all I know the advice given on those topics is similarly lousy. But I have read a lot of personal finance books, articles, and blogs, and I’ve even managed to sit through some TV shows and heard some rather tedious radio call-in shows on money. Some are better than others. Some have good production values and a few are even entertaining. But they all seem to fall down on content. The best ones give advice that is only approximately sound and the worst say things that are just flat out wrong.

My qualifications for giving personal financial advice, and for criticizing the advice of others, are thin. Then again, the qualifications of the established experts in this field seem no more substantial. Mostly, what they have that I do not is the circular proof that they are qualified to give advice because that is what they do professionally.

I am an unemployed finance guy. To be more specific, I used to run a hedge fund. (The fund’s end was not dramatic, BTW. No frauds or spectacular losses. We had a mediocre year and my partner decided he wanted to do something else with his life, so we closed up shop.) I studied economics at an Ivy League college, got an MBA in finance at another Ivy, and have the usual assortment of licenses and letters after my name. All told, I have spent twelve years being paid rather nicely to invest other people’s money. So listening to what I have to say about personal finance is not the craziest thing you could do, even if I do not have my own TV show. Yet.

Then again, I am unemployed. That’s not exactly a unique situation right now, particularly in my line of work, but still a person might reasonably wonder: if I was really as smart about this stuff as I apparently think I am, would I have the free time to write this blog? That’s a good question for which I have no answer. But it does bring up a fundamental difference between advice on money and advice on, for example, dieting and sex.

Writing a book or blog is a natural next step for a person who is very good at dieting or sex. There is only so much weight a person can lose and only so much sex a person can have. (So I am told.) Opportunities to do either of those things at a higher or more advanced level are limited. So sharing the secrets with others in exchange for fame/money is about all you can do.

This is not the case with money. A person good at money generally keeps working at adding zeros to his net worth until he can buy an island to retire to. So who, you might reasonably ask, writes all those books and gives all those seminars? People who are clever about money but so naturally generous that they want to share their insights with others rather than profit by them personally? Can I interest you in a bridge I have for sale over the East River?

There is another, much more serious, difference between advice on dieting or sex and advice on money. If the advice everybody got on dieting and sex was faulty, that would be somewhat unfortunate for the nation. We would be a little chubbier and a little less happy in bed. But if bad advice on money is widespread and followed we’re all in big trouble. If, to imagine a far-fetched example, millions of people were told to buy more house than they could afford, the inevitable housing price bubble might set off a crisis in the capital markets that could plunge the whole world into a recession.

Left wing types like to fantasize that the economy is controlled by a small and sinister elite. That might have been true somewhere at sometime, but it is very far from the reality of the here and now. Ours is an economy controlled by millions of ordinary people, each with responsibility for a tiny bit of it. If a lot of them do a bad job of running their slice of the pie, then we all suffer, even those of us who are clever and thoughtful about money.

The premise of this blog is twofold: that personal finance advice ought to be taken seriously and that it needs to be a lot better than it is now.

No Comments

  • By Toni, July 27, 2010 @ 11:16 am

    About that bridge…. ;o)

    I love your writing style and find your opinions amusing, refreshing, and mirroring my own. Over the next few weeks, I shall be working my way through your articles.

    So, are you writing a book, living on your personal island, or gainfully employed now?
    Time for an update, methinks!

  • By Vitaly Tennant, November 2, 2010 @ 11:45 am

    Awesome stuff, I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  • By Jose, July 26, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

    I can’t help but stumble through this and wonder how many millions you are worth? By rule I don’t take financial advice from broke people…and since you have lots of time to blog you must be broke as hell.

  • By mdc6_5, August 26, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    google is doing their bit again and I found your site in a search. I’ve read a few of your pages and love them. congrats on the job but i hope you’re going to keep the blog going – even if it’s sporadic. a breath of fresh air is needed in the financial services sector!

  • By Shelly, September 7, 2011 @ 5:06 am

    Hi,

    I am Shelly, a writer for various sites. Today, while searching for a suitable blog, I just come across yours. I have gone through it and found it very resourceful. I must appreciate your hard work and wish you good luck.

    It will be my pleasure if I can contribute some quality content absolutely free of cost for your site. The content is original, well-researched, analytical, relevant and copyscape proved. If its OK with you, I would like to include links back to my site in the article. I will give you the total rights to edit the article and modify it as per your needs.

    Let me know your thoughts. Waiting for your positive reply.

    If you have any questions, please contact me.

    Regards,

    Shelly

  • By Cole, October 22, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

    Hi Frank,

    I like the premise of your blog. I agree with you, there is a lot of bad advice and a severe lack of basic personal finance education out there.

    I am new to the personal finance blogging community so I’m trying to reach out to a few blogs that resonate with me and ask for any advice. Basically what’s worked and what hasn’t, if you had to restart from starch what would you do differently or the same?

    If you would like you can check out my blog (website listed in the form to leave this comment, would post here but I’m not trying to spam you) and let me know what you think or shoot me and email to discuss my above questions.

    Thanks,

    Cole

  • By Tim Hider, January 29, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    Frank – Read this post and the one about Longevity Insurance. Great stuff and looking forward to future posts.

    Tim
    Momentum Risk Transfer

  • By Fotowoltaika, August 12, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

    I think that this it’s a very interesting idea and I agree with you. This post has in fact rich my knowledge and experience, I’m happy. I found this site and I can share with you my observations and thoughts. If you have new solutions or contrivance, please send me a notice by email.

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