Gurus or Gods: Are you taking your PF idol too seriously?

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While aseegsw.org is no doubt the only personal finance source in the world you care about these days, you probably came over to the dark side after reading the book of, listening to the show of, or being told by a friend about a finance guru. These gurus are people that eat, sleep, and breathe finance on the daily. They love it or fame so much that they do it for a living! But are they infallible?

No. The answer is “obviously not”. These people are flawed individuals, not unlike you and me. Many of them built their careers after sucking so badly at personal finance that they hit rock bottom. Which is cool, I’d rather learn from someone who has experience turning financial turmoil into wealth. But I think some people are taking these gurus a little too seriously. Like if you start every sentence with “Dave Ramsey says…”, you may have moved him from guru to god status without realizing it.

Financial gurusI use the cafeteria method for basically all of my belief systems. Spiritual, political, and financial beliefs are not take or leave it in my most humble opinion. I pick out my beliefs from often conflicting sides and I have no problem with that. After all, I don’t think that two people can truly have the same belief system to a T. Once again, this is IMHO, not meant to offend those who have a more controlled belief structure. I think many people would do well to approach financial beliefs in this way.

Let’s take Dave Ramsey for example. He was my bridge to the dark side. As the lovably impulsive person I am, I ate up every word my boy D.R. said. I started every financial sentence with “But Dave Ramsey says…” until I began to read differing opinions and eventually came up with my own set of financial beliefs based on research, preference, and my own moral code.

Ramsey is very sure that his rules for getting out of debt and building wealth are the only right way to do things. This is clear in his radio station (of which I am an avid, yet skeptical, listener) and in his books. There is not much gray area for Ramsey-ites. Is this motivating? Yes. Is he necessarily correct that his way is the right way? No.

As many critics will tell you, Ramsey has not changed his advice over the years. Despite the economic recession, he has not advocated a larger emergency fund. Even though the 80s and 90s are behind us, Ramsey continues to dole out investment advice based on the bull market of the past. Many question how he is getting these 12% returns he talks about so much on such conservative investments. Others feel ostracized by the overtly religious tones of his teachings. Ramsey is not perfect and his financial advice may or may not be perfect for you.

And then there is Suze Orman. She HAS changed her emergency fund advice to keep up with the times. Which would be awesome, if she didn’t give up a large chunk of her credibility by releasing her controversial prepaid debit card that cost $3 upfront and $3 monthly. Oh and a million other tiny fees for things like paper statements, cash withdrawals, or breathing the wrong way. Okay, that last one didn’t happen, but you get my point! And let’s not forget that THIS actually did happen. Once again, imperfect.

Financial gurus are awesome — they can motivate us, inspire us, and give us the tools to start our journeys to debt freedom. They should not, however, attain “god” status in your life. It’s important to think for yourself and not blindly follow any flawed human being without question. They are likely no smarter than you and they are just doing their jobs. Jobs they are paid for…handsomely.

It’s the same with any blog or site you read (even this one!). You don’t have to follow someone blindly because they seem to have their shit together. You have a right to pick and choose your financial beliefs and you should do yourself a favor and take advantage of that!