Getting financial advice? Remember to ask this question…

Hands up if you’ve ever typed these lines in Google Search:

  • “How to cope with the cost of living”
  • “How to make a budget”
  • “How to reduce spending”
  • “Ways to increase your income”
  • “What is the best credit card to have”
  • “Where can I get a loan”

Or some other variation of these…

The articles you’ll be directed to are likely short and filled with bite-size information. The advice given is usually generic, and almost always ends in “yes, you too can save money/make extra income with these methods, try it now!”. Then perhaps they will plug in a product or a service.

How to tell good advice from bad

It’s nice to hear advice. It makes you think people actually care for your well-being.

However, as much as we want to believe they have your best interests at heart, you must understand that many parties giving out financial advice have hidden agendas – to sell you products or services – either theirs or a third party’s.

Hidden agendas aren’t bad per se. Sponsored posts or advertisements drive many businesses and while there’s no real hate attached to advertisements per se, sneaky advertisements tends to rub people the wrong way.

Sneaky advertisements usually increase in intensity when the general public is strapped for cash, for instance, during a lacklustre economy.

Sneaky advertisements can exist in many forms. Creative forms too. For instance, one advertisement for forex even disguised itself as a job vacancy.

The Asian Institute of Finance (AIF) also gave out recommendations to financial institutions on how to increase the financial literacy of millennials. Although this is not bad in itself, these too can be categorised under “sneaky advertisements”.

Look at the report, “Finance Matters: Understanding Gen Y (Bridging the knowledge gap of Malaysia’s millennials)”. Here are two screenshots.

In the years ahead, you will be harrased by those who dish out financial advice. And so it is up to you to filter which information is relevant and which is not.

There is no such thing as the “best financial advice”. There are many factors to consider, based on your individual situation.

The one question you must ask after you receive financial advice

Based on the screenshots above, it is all too clear that some companies will do the following:

  • Collaborate with educational institutions
  • Use social media
  • Use market segmentation to their advantage
  • Educate people around you in order to get to your families, friends, co-workers
  • Incorporate more technology

This means you will receive financial advice from the following parties:

  • Schools/universities
  • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • Online and offline spaces you choose to hang out in, including the respective influencers in that circle
  • Family members, friends, and colleagues
  • App store, advertisements in the middle of your online games, etc

It is important to note that not only financial institutions but companies too will use these tactics.

So, when you encounter financial advice, especially from any of the above sources, ask this one question – “Who else offers this product or service?”

The aim is not to NOT use their products or services, but to determine if it is indeed the best option for you.

“Who else offers this product or service?”

It is rare if only one company offers a particular product or service. In their advertisement, they will make themselves out to be the obvious choice but don’t be fooled.

Even if your parents offer financial advice, remember that they must have got it from a particular source – some company wanted them to have that information so they could pass it to you.

Even if an advertisement appears on your Facebook newsfeed or from a friend, never take it at face value. What worked for one person will not necessarily work for you.

Stop yourself from making snap decisions

Snap decisions are the absolute worse. What you want is to be informed about the other choices available in the market by doing your own research.

There’s a reason why telemarketers and direct sales agents continue to exist –it works! People are amazingly susceptible to making snap decisions.

Bottom line

Some financial advice is good for you, while others aren’t. It is up to you to make the best decision for your own welfare.

Make the question “Who else offers this product or service?” a habit when you receive any financial advice. It will save you, at the very least, a few ringgit. And at the most, a lifetime of financial pain.

This article first appeared in ringgitohringgit.com

Suraya is a corporate writer-for-hire and the blogger behind personal finance website Ringgit Oh Ringgit. She is more of a minimalist, less of a consumerist, a konon DIY enthusiast, a let’s-support-small-businesses-over-big-corporations kinda girl. Prior to her current role, she worked in various capacities within the non-profit industry.