Ask a friend.
That’s what we typically do when we’re trying to make decisions in life.
Need a new doctor? Ask a friend. Better accountant? Ask a friend. Romantic vacation spot? Ask a friend. New school for the kids? Ask a friend.
Why do we do this? Do we honestly think our assorted friends are experts in medicine, accounting, travel, or education?
Of course not. We think our friends are experts in…us. They know us and want the best for us. They’re like us (at least in some ways). They wouldn’t steer us wrong.
If they’ve already had a certain experience, they can tell us exactly what that experience was like. We reason, “If my good friends liked or disliked x, I probably would too.”
In short, we trust our friends. And, whether we want to admit it or not, we feel a subtle pressure to embrace the ideas and habits of our friend group.
Google reviews and celebrity endorsements are additional ways we “poll others” before we make decisions about certain things.
So what’s the downside to consulting friends (and listening to the opinions of others)? This: Experience and expertise are two very different things. Just because someone had an experience with a certain doctor doesn’t make that person a medical expert.
I say, “Go ahead and quiz your friends about their experiences.” That’s a smart and legitimate step in trying to find a doctor or other professional.
But don’t ask your friends to weigh in on the specifics of an expert’s advice. That’s not wise. Your friends can comment on a doctor’s bedside manner or a CPA’s personality. But they haven’t looked at your x-rays or taken courses in tax law.
So don’t get on Facebook and post, “My doctors say I need bypass surgery. Should I do it?” Your friends aren’t trained or qualified to answer such a question. At best, they will be working off their own limited experiences and knowledge. If you need a second opinion, get it from a recognized expert.
I see this “ask a friend” tendency in my own financial planning practice. People come to me for advice. They leave and call their friends, “He says this…what do you think?”
Look, I get it. Asking a friend gives us a security-blanket kind of comfort. I’m not against that at all.
What I am strongly advising against is allowing the very limited court of public opinion (consisting of your friend group only) to determine whether you make courageous and disciplined decisions about your financial future.
Given what I know about the average financial health of the average American, it is possible (if not likely) that at least some of your friends: (a) live beyond their means; (b) are drowning in debt; (c) don’t save much, if any money; (e) have no idea how they will ever retire or care for themselves in old age; (f) all of the above.
But they will have very strong opinions about how you should conduct your financial life!
Is this the kind of input you want to base your financial future on?
Good friends and trusted advisors are rare. We only need a few.
But it’s best not to get them confused.
If you need some help getting focused financially, I’d love to send you my free e-book “How to Put Your Money Worries In Your Rear-View Mirror – The Financial Freedom Roadmap.” Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you right away.
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