Many people ignore their money situation beyond making sure they can pay the bills every month. Then, one day, a metaphorical light bulb turns on and they decide to get serious about their finances. That trigger often involves a friend or family member introducing a famous financial guru into their life.
I personally believe that these gurus are great for starting on a more serious path to handling your finances. But like any financial advice, you need to verify what you're learning from these gurus. In many cases, following one financial guru for all your financial advice probably isn't the best idea. Why? Not everything that gurus say is a fact.
In reality, much of what these gurus talk about are their opinions. Those opinions can vary greatly from guru to guru, and some even contradict each other. Some financial gurus are great at helping you get out of debt, but less so when it comes to helping you prepare for retirement. Here I will talk about two such mega gurus with millions of followers — myself among them.
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Financial Guru Suze Orman
Suze Orman offers many financial products and used to have her own show on CNBC. I'll admit, I tuned into the Suze Orman Show every week when I was just getting started with my finances.
But I quickly learned that while Orman's advice was good for many people, it could never address each person's specific situation.
One such example is her emergency fund advice. Orman advocates that everyone work toward an eight-month emergency fund. While this may be a good goal for many people, some people may need a smaller emergency fund while others may need a larger one.
For instance, single people in career fields that are in demand might only need a couple of weeks to a month to replace their job if they're laid off. However, someone in a declining industry that has multiple dependents may need a year’s worth (or more) of expenses in the bank in the event of a job loss.
Financial Guru Dave Ramsey
Dave Ramsey offers a nine-week class called Financial Peace University that has changed millions of people's lives. His class helps people follow seven very specific phases in turning their finances around. For many people, it works wonders. However, like with every financial guru, Ramsey's advice isn’t one size fits all.
His snowball method is a well-recognized strategy in debt payoff. It works by paying off your lowest-balance debt first before moving on to the next lowest-balance debt. This methodology works great for many people due to the psychological motivation of seeing visible progress.
However, there’s a faster way to pay off debt. Instead, you could pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, known as the avalanche method. With this method, you’ll pay the least amount of interest possible. My wife and I opted for the faster avalanche method and saved quite a bit of money on interest payments.
Additionally, Dave Ramsey often uses investing examples that include a 12-percent annual return on investments. Unfortunately, using that as a benchmark for returns sets many people up for disappointment when their investments underperform his benchmark. Even if you could realistically achieve 12-percent returns, you'd still earn less after you take out the returns that simply helped you keep up with inflation.
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Use Gurus for Inspiration and to Get Started
Don't let the fact that I don't agree with everything financial gurus say to dissuade you from using them to start your financial transformation. These gurus have a lot of amazing insights that can help you go from living paycheck to paycheck to having a financial buffer.
Just make sure to do some research if something sounds too good to be true or like it might not be a good fit for you. You might find another option that works better for you.