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Bad financial advice. The underbelly of online comments and social media

Frequently I am left speechless by some of the things I read online.  I’m sure you are too.  You will most often find these unruly bits of misinformation in the comments section of social media posts.  It can be hard to watch unfold.

While this can apply to many topics, I naturally I see a red flag for bad financial advice.  Where financial advice is concerned there is a real danger of misinterpretations, assumptions and generalizations in situations where details and personalization is necessary.  

I am frequently reading and reviewing financial articles and information.  Many articles are shared online through social media from a multitude of respectable sources.  These articles are very helpful and accurate if the source is reliable.  

Quality content from trustworthy sources provide valuable information for the average investor looking to learn more.   Until you get to the comments section.   Wow.  The amount of self-proclaimed financial experts sharing inaccurate information is dumbfounding.

I don’t profess to know everything in the financial world.  Far from it.  I think I would be a fool to make a broad statement like that; but here is what I do know.  I am highly educated in this field and I can say without any hesitation the amount of bad financial advice being shared and exchanged in online comments by the average self-proclaimed expert with no credentials is scary.  

It’s the ‘average Joe’ who has enough information to sound like they know what they are talking about, a hearty dose of over confidence, and a desire to be seen as an expert who is the most dangerous.  It’s the lack of knowledge and generalizations that creates a risky situation where incorrect financial information is being spread by someone who is all too willing to share it with the world.  

The problem is, they don’t know what they don’t know.  This makes them a financial risk to anyone who is seriously listening.  Armed with bits of misinformation and an online platform to share their comments they become quite dangerous.

As anyone who reads this column on a regular basis knows, financial literacy is near and dear to me.   The pursuit of doing my part to improve investor education is the driving force behind why I have written on financial topics for over 10 years.  On occasion I have found myself tempted to go online to correct or help, but I have not.  I have learned this effort can be futile.  I have watched as other financial professionals have attempted to insert their voice of reason only to be pulled into a spiral of arguments from internet trolls.  Sadly, it is a waste of time.  

I could spend all day commenting on financial posts in useless effort so instead I share my cautions with investors here. I would be wary of anyone who professes to know things the rest of the financial world simply does not understand.  Run from that.  Don’t be tempted to go down the rabbit hole of random internet know-it-alls.   Quality financial advice from a professional should be unique for each person to suit their personal situation.   

Should you educate yourself on financial topics if they interest you?  Yes, absolutely! My advice would be to make sure you are getting your information from a reliable source.  Read the content and even the comments if wish but I suggest you take the comments with a grain of salt.  There can be a great deal of nonsense going on in the comments sections that can lead you astray.

Work with a financial advisor you can trust.  Work with them for your own situation.  Any time and effort you put into educating yourself and improving your financial literacy along the way is an added bonus.  My hat goes off to you.  Good for you for making an effort to learn about the financial world and how it can help you.

Stick with quality sources for your financial information and trusted relationships and you’ll be fine.   

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Stephanie Farrow, BA., CFP., Stephanie has over 26 years' experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning and Certified Financial Planner designation.  Stephanie has been writing a financial column for local business magazine Elgin This Month/This Month in Elgin since 2010.  Stephanie and her husband own Farrow Financial Services Inc.  About our Farrow Financial Team.

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