I talk, write, and bloviate…a lot. This means I subject myself to a great deal of criticism. For instance, one of you will criticize my use of the ellipses in the first sentence, and another one of you will criticize my use of “a lot”. I don’t care. I know what I’m doing. I actually don’t mind criticism. It’s a very helpful tool. Sometimes I learn to explain concepts more thoroughly, sometimes I learn that my unique spin on things is needed more than I thought, and sometimes I learn that people are mean. These are all good lessons to learn.
Today, I’m going to focus on four recent pieces of criticism I’ve received. I will share with you my original advice, the criticism, and what I think of the criticism.
Case #1 LegalZoom.com
I think a vast majority of people should have either a will or trust. I believe that most people should have an estate planning attorney prepare these legal documents. That being said, I know many people can’t afford an attorney. I also know this lack of affordability causes people to sit there and do nothing. I find this to be unacceptable. Therefore, since I’m a realest who’s seen thousands of people not take action, I recommend going to LegalZoom.com to get a will started. It is not better than an actual attorney, but it’s a good use of $50ish if the alternative is going without legal documents.
“Your LegalZoom advice is sketchy. People should only use an attorney.”
You are correct. People should use an attorney. But they don’t. Would you rather someone do nothing to protect their family and assets? Well, I wouldn’t. Technical financial advice sucks, ma’am, because it doesn’t take into account human nature. I do.
Case #2 Medicaid
I recently wrote about why Long Term Care Insurance is important. One of my points was that if you don’t have LTC, you must spend down “all your assets” to qualify for Medicaid.
“Pete is misleading and scaring consumers. My mom got to keep $50,000 and her house, when my dad had to go into a facility.”
Not to sound callous here, but $50,000 isn’t a lot of money. In fact, it’s not enough to last a woman for the rest of her life. If she started with $500,000 and had to spend down to $50,000, then I would say she had to spend down all of her assets.
Case #3 Roboadvisors
I think Roboadvisors like Betterment.com and WiseBanyan.com are very good sites that bring a great deal of value to the investment world.
“Roboadvisors will easily be replaced. Roboadvisors pick the wrong investments. Roboadvisors don’t give great service. And 500 other arguments.”
No investing business model has ever served the under $25,000 in investable assets market quite like Roboadvisors. Are Roboadvisors perfect? No. But they get people heading in the right direction, and they nimbly serve the most underserved market out there: people with less than $25k to invest. I personally have more than $25k to invest, and I still use them.
Case #4 Oversimplified Advice
I use lots of metaphors. I sometimes forego technical explanations of complicated financial topics, in order to get people to understand the true essence of the topics.
“Your oversimplification of financial topics does a disservice to your readers.”
I have lots of things I want to say to this person, most of them unkind. So I will stick to this: I stand by everything I publish on the internet, in books, in the newspaper, and in magazines. I stand by every word I speak on the radio and television. I don’t give technical advice. I give practical advice.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.