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Are We Finance Experts?

I have written a bit about my credentials in the past on this blog. As discussed previously besides surviving 36 years on this planet I hold degrees in finance and related fields. But what does that all mean? Are we finance experts and what is a finance expert? Is there really such a thing?

Does having a Finance Blog make me a Finance Expert

To date this blog has churned out over 150 Personal Finance articles on practically every area of Finance. At an average of 800 words a post that equates to over 120,000 words. That is more than many personal finance books from so called finance experts. But what does that mean? Do you really know that I am who I say I am? Back in 2014 there was actually a 27 year old finance blogger who claimed he was a self made millionaire. Sadly he was pulling the wool over everyones eyes. Simply because a blogger has 100s of posts says nothing of reality. As Rich from Penny and Rich once stated, I could be a Russian Hacker for all you know. In fact there are some personal finance bloggers out there that I wonder are an agency rather than an individual. So no, just having a well read blog does not mean I am a finance expert in real life.

The Relationship between Experience and being a Finance Expert

Let’s assume though that other bloggers had met me and could vouch I am the person I say I am. (I do someday expect to attend a blogger get together, so sooner or later that will happen). That still does not really mean I am a finance expert. Well what about famous finance book writers. If we assume the media properly vetted the background of some of those more popular personal finance book writers, then faking their background is not likely. But does that mean they are Finance Experts?

What is a Finance Expert?

Google defines an expert as someone “who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area”. The only way to get a comprehensive or authoritative knowledge of something is to both study and experience it. Plenty of Personal Finance bloggers started writing while deeply in debt or quite young. Some mainstream finance book writers have even done so. So the just because someone has started living the FIRE lifestyle and written thousands of the words on the subject, that does not mean they are a finance expert. They could seriously be missing the experience aspect. This can even be true for people portrayed on TV as Finance Experts. As ESI Money once called out, many of them are simply stuffed shirts presenting other’s material.  So we have established why writing a Personal Finance Blog, being a TV personality, or even writing a Finance Book does not qualify one as a Finance Expert. But what if they have a validatable experience and education?

Education and being a Finance Expert

I started this post, and in the past have referenced, my education and experience in Finance. In my case these are a few years of my life as education plus a decade and a half of experience. The thing is, that does not make me a Finance Expert anymore then a high schooler creating his own finance blog. First, from an educational perspective, I strongly believe college teaches you more how to learn then apply. Sure I learned all about a lot of the economic principles I espouse here. Game Theory for example. But did I learn anything in college about applying those principles to my personal finance? Well maybe a bit in certain investment areas, but on a whole no. So education is not the key to being a Finance Expert.

Specificity and being a Finance Expert

So what about my experience. Well I have a lot of experience in specific areas of investing, managing my families finances, and even savings. But there are still many more areas where we have no experience. For example I have no experience being a landlord. I have so little experience in this area if you ever see a post on Full Time Finance in this area it will be a guest post. While I do have experience with student loans, the rules have changed so much in recent years that again only a guest post would provide valuable information. I recognize I can not write on these subjects. If we truly met the definition of a Finance Expert, surely one could write on all things finance. And yet, I have never met anyone who is an expert on all aspects finance. Even people who work their entire lives just doing financial analysis can not be experts on all things Finance. The scope is too wide. So we can establish that no one can be a total Finance Expert.

But what about an Expert in certain areas? If you devoted significant time in college to writing a thesis on Savings Bonds for example, does that make you an expert in investing in Savings bonds? Again, I am going to have to say no. Why? Remember our discussion about the aspects of self in personal finance. Well ultimately after you get past the concept of people as robots you realize that any investment path needs to be tailored to an individuals circumstances. Every person only lives one life. You cannot walk a mile in someones shoes and no person’s situation is identical. What that means is, even as an expert in investing in Savings Bonds your hypothetical person can never have experience being you as you invest in these vehicles. So in a way, we have established there is no such thing as a Finance Expert.

Valuable Expertise, but not a Finance Expert

So how can we have these things called Financial Advisors if there are no Finance Experts? What does this all mean? Should we throw up our hands on learning about personal finance? Well no. As I’ve written before there are still things to learn. By taking input from multiple sources you increase your likelihood of finding someone with related or similar experiences. You can then learn from their failures and successes. A Financial Advisor, meanwhile, can get you started down a path if you need a kick start in a direction. The key is to read, learn, and experience. Then once you feel comfortable, adapt to your personal situation. I regularly read posts from other bloggers tearing down so called famous Finance Experts, and I have to chuckle. Developing and even critiquing a Generic Financial Plan made for the masses is a losing battle. It can never take into account their personal situation. If these so called Finance Experts get their viewers to start down the path then they have accomplished their reason for being.

My Goal is to Provide Ideas, Not a Route

Ultimately I view this blog in the same way. I do not want my readers to follow my footsteps. I try to be objective in referring to multiple possible paths, but I also am cognizant that there are infinite probabilities I have never considered. Instead I hope that some tidbit I lay out is adaptable or gets someone started on their own financial path. If I help one person in that way, then I view this blog as a success. What do you think? Are there finance experts? Until next time…

До свидания .. oops I mean bye 😉

10 Comments

  1. Sophei @ Basic Finance Care
    Sophei @ Basic Finance Care October 9, 2017

    You’ve raised absolutely right question through this article. Actually, we’re just sharing our day to day life experience regarding finance. Our experience varies time & place wise. as a blogger if we think ourselves an expert in personal finance area is just like making not others fool but just proving ourselves fool.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 10, 2017

      Everyone’s experience has something to offer, the key is to pull the string of curiousity once harming it.

  2. Dan
    Dan October 9, 2017

    I would characterize the FIRE blogosphere as populated by freaks and idiot savants who occasionally produce a pearl of wisdom. Many bloggers racked up unimaginably high debt and their eureka! moment is to realize that financial independence involves paying off debt. To me, the fact that they piled up the debt makes me suspect about their judgment.

    There are also a lot of frugal freaks. People who take frugality to an obsessive level. They seems to look upon life as optimization problem. Maximize your savings rate. It ignores that life is about more than your net worth and the whole point of making money is to eventually spend it. It should be maximize your enjoyment of life within the constraints of your savings rate.

    Finally, there are lot of travel bloggers masquerading as FIRE bloggers. They are proud of how they finance their travel but seem to enjoy writing about their travels more than how they financed it.

    My off the cuff estimation about FIRE blogs: Ignore 95% of what you read. Consider, contemplate and/or study more 4.9% of what you read. Act on 0.1% of what you read. That means 5% of what you read has some value & even that may be overestimated.

    Despite all the talk of free will, many people want to be told what to do. They rationalize this by saying s/he is an expert so I should do what s/he says. On the internet, everyone is an expert. People need to be more responsible for their own actions. Whenever anyone tells you what you should do with your money, you should automatically be suspicious.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 9, 2017

      You hit very much on the truth. I actually worry about your last paragraph the most with writing this blog. I seek to raise questions and curiosity only. One can only hope that anyone that may decide to implement something I write about does their own research to ensure it’s applicable to their specific situation.

  3. Damn Millennial
    Damn Millennial October 21, 2017

    A financial “expert” in my opinion is someone who is self made and has a sustainable, enjoyable lifestyle that is repeatable if taught to others. Many people are rich and far from finance experts, they took a big risk and it paid off nothing wrong with that. Then there are those who are rich in wealth but poor in time, in my personal opinion they are not experts either, they are excellent employees. Those who can sustain a great lifestyle off the investments and work they put in once are truly “experts”. First time I have read your blog thanks.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 21, 2017

      First off thanks for stopping by.

      Your response raises a question for me. How do you define repeatable in the context of your statement? Is a high paying job repeatable? Starting your own business repeatable? Does it depend on the type of job or business? Just curious.

  4. Financial Samurai
    Financial Samurai October 28, 2017

    I would say the imposter syndrome you feel is normal. Everybody goes through that, which is why most people don’t dare say they are experts.

    But I think if you put 10 years of your life into something consistently, you can finally say you are an expert on the subject matter. That is my plan by 2019. Before then, I’m just gonna write about my experiences and opinions. What work for me may not work for everybody.

    But I do like it how big publications hire freelance writers to write about things they don’t have any experience on. For example, someone writing about the benefits of homeownership when they’ve never owned a home. It was then that I realized what an opportunity it was start your own personal finance write from experience.

    Sam

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 28, 2017

      I’m definitely focusing on writing my opinion and experience for now. You are correct though, in a land of fake personal finance experts, the man with decent knowledge is king.

  5. Adrian - Investor Tuition
    Adrian - Investor Tuition November 15, 2017

    I really enjoyed reading your post, which I must say I stumbled on whilst aimlessly traversing the blogosphere in order to avoid what I actually should be doing! (mmm I wonder if anyone else does that!)

    You certainly raised some great points about expertise and legitimacy as all anybody really needs to kick off a personal finance blog is an ISP and a couple of newspaper articles to plagiarise. And I have certainly read my share of posts purporting to have been written by ‘experts,’ who have fallen very short on the knowledge component of their post.

    The internet has become quite the tool for researching all subjects but there is certainly no peer review system to ensure quality, so you read at your own risk.

    I do however believe that writing genuinely from personal experience consistently, engenders the required feelings of trust towards a blogger, enabling their subject matter to be accepted as authentic ‘advice’.

    Having been an adviser and then moving into the academic world to instruct advisers. I can say that client relationships are built on trust and blogging, for me anyway, is exactly the same. It’s all about how you build trust with your readers that will make them want to come back and read more. It is, after all, the readers that will determine whether you are an expert or not!

    An interesting post, thank you, Adrian

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance November 16, 2017

      Thanks Adrian. There is certainly an aspect of engendering trust that matters. Even if I’m not really believing in finance experts, I do strongly believe not all financial advice is created equal. You should follow and read those who you trust to at least give you a well thought out and educated answer. Thanks for the well thought up response.

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