Smart About Money: Getting good advice …

Nick Maffeo Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe and 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss were talking on Rowe’s “The Way I Heard It” podcast about the value of getting good advice.

Both men obviously thought that being able to seek good advice, find it and take it was a vital life skill. They also had harsh words for the many unhelpful experts out there.

Rowe went so far as to say, “Be wary of experts.” Ferriss said he is very skeptical of anyone who refers to themselves as an “expert.” They were also critical of any supposed expert who doesn’t (or just won’t) say, “I don’t know.”

People today have access to more good advice than at any time in human history. People also have access to more bad advice. And tons of biased “advice,” which isn’t really advice at all.

(A colleague looking for a car lease-or-buy calculator online came across a bunch of calculators at the top of the search engine results that seemed to be push-push-pushing leasing. That’s probably biased “advice.” It got her thinking of that classic old line from Hill Street Blues about being careful out there. Especially on the internet.)

A financial advisor who advertises locally on the radio says there are decisions you want to make when you feel good instead of making them desperately or in a rush when you don’t feel good. That sounds like good advice.

Not getting good advice can lead to all kinds of problems, especially when it comes to tax issues. One example: According to news reports, a couple in southern New England wanted to keep the gold they had in their Individual Retirement Accounts in a safe at their house. They claimed they saw an ad that said that was okay.

A Tax Court judge found against them because they relied on an advertisement instead of seeking “competent professional advice.” It ended up being a $300,000 mistake.

That couple paid dearly for not being prepared to hear advice they didn’t want to hear. But that’s a vital life skill too.

(It’s easy to bet the advertisement the couple “relied” on had some version of “Consult your tax advisor” in the small type, with the advertiser providing good advice … and protecting themselves too.)

The headline of a Wall Street Journal “Wealth Management” article said, “For young people, TikTok is the place to go for financial advice.” But, the Journal asked, “Is the advice any good?”

Ideally – in any situation where you’re looking for advice – you want to find someone you feel confident actually knows what they’re talking about. Someone who is not just telling you what you want to hear. Someone who does not have a hidden incentive to push you one way or another. Someone who has recent personal or professional experience dealing with the situation you’re asking about.

It has been said that good judgment comes from experience and experience often comes from bad judgment. Being able to evaluate advice, take good advice and avoid “unhelpful experts” gives you a way to benefit from other people’s experience with as few stops at bad judgment as possible – a very useful life skill overall and often a profitable one too.

Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office – in Canton. Have a question? Email to

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