Friday, August 27, 2010

Financial advice from TV experts is a no-go

By Robyn Davis Sekula

I ran across a story this week about Glenn Beck's financial advice. First of all, you need to understand I'm not a fan of his. I think he's theatrical and reactionary. I do think he makes some good points, but I can't get through the drama to listen to what he actually says. It's too much to wade through for me.

It bothers me to read that he's been dispensing financial advice. He has no expertise on this, and his idea about buying gold is just plain silly.

I've heard Dave Ramsey address buying gold a number of times, and his point is always this: when an economy collapses to the point that paper money is not valuable, gold is not helpful, either. He points to New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as the most recent example of economic collapse. Were people trading gold coins? Not at all. They were bartering for bottled water, tarps, building supplies, generators and gasoline. Those were the things that were desperately needed and in very short supply.

There's also the journalist in me that notes that Beck is paid for his endorsement of gold as a commodity, and he's likely paid very well. It may even be in his contract to endorse it on his "news" show. Therefore, he's not objective.

I asked Dan Danford, Principal and CEO of the Family Investment Center, to weigh in on Beck, and here's what he thinks:

I share Beck's concern that many political policies discourage entrepreneurship and capitalism. And I also believe that investors have suffered at the hands of Wall Street and supportive bureaucrats. But capitalism grows from the basic initiative of people, and no government has ever succeeded is destroying that trait. I believe, strongly, that creative people find ways to make money and build companies even when the government discourages it. Corporations adjust to changing situations and needs. In brief, I don't think capitalism is dead and I don't believe all the doomsayers about the U.S. economy.

Then, I specifically asked about Glenn's endorsement of gold as an investment. Dan said this:

The time to buy gold is always before people start talking about it. I think Glenn should stick to broadcasting but there are a host of others who disagree!

What it all boils down to is this: if you are taking specific investment advice from someone who is talking to you, and not with you, you're heading down a dangerous path. There are some universal ideas, such as that we all need to save for retirement, and shouldn't have credit card debt. But how to invest that retirement, specifically, is a question Beck isn't qualified to answer, because he doesn't know you.

If you are seeking good, solid financial advice that applies to you, which is what you should want, you need to seek an independent financial advisor who isn't being paid a commission or a fee or anything else to endorse a specific product. That advisor needs to know how tolerant you are of risk, how far away from retirement you are, how many children you have and their circumstances, and whether or not you're divorced, widowed, married or single. All of that is important, as well as 100 other small factors that really change how you save, and what for.

For instance, in my case, I'm self-employed. That fact alone means I probably need a larger cash savings fund than many people, and a qualified investment advisor would tell me that, and NOT tell me to have a bunch of gold sitting around. You can't pay your mortgage with gold if you lose your biggest client.

Listen to Beck, if you like. But take any advice he gives with more than a grain of salt.

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