The true answer to most questions is, "it depends"
February 24, 2017 -
Consider what was required to write a research paper in 1988. I recall it was a major time commitment. It involved several trips to the library and finding information through the card catalog using the Dewey Decimal system. I also remember digging through textbooks for data and reading various industry journals obtained from teachers or professionals familiar with the topic.
If I told my 12-year-old son what was required to gather the necessary information, I would get a look of complete confusion. He would pull his iPhone out of his pocket and ask, “Why didn’t you just use this?” It would be an understandable response from a 12-year-old today; part of a generation that will likely never own a car that operates on gas alone.
The only thing constant is change and we all know technology and the internet has changed human existence ‘as-we-knew-it’ forever. A smart phone and Google together are much more powerful and efficient than interviewing an uncle on his topic of expertise, visiting the library, and owning a set of encyclopedias. It is remarkable to think that conducting a search that is this easy and efficient today is also free. With all this information at our fingertips you may think anyone could learn and do almost anything by themselves.
A search for “running toilet” on YouTube will yield several short videos on how to fix it. Watch, learn, and fix it. Cost = $0. You solved a problem and learned something. Great! But wait, it was also leaking under the floor and valuable art hanging on the wall in the room below is ruined. The YouTube solution did not know that part. A call to Bob the plumber for $100 would have been a very worthwhile “investment”.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for those in any professional service business, the unlimited availability of information does not eliminate the need for ongoing professional advice. As it relates to investments and planning, there is no shortage of information and generic advice available. The internet, friends, neighbors, and radio talk shows contain a lot of great information. Unfortunately, some of this information and generic advice can be hazardous to your wealth. Below, you will find some common personal planning beliefs, along with why they just might not always be accurate.
All of these beliefs are certainly true for some, but may be completely inappropriate for others. Although the information is certainly available, it may be difficult to interpret what is best in each unique situation.
The true answer to most general questions is “it depends”. Ask an accountant any question that ends with “can I deduct this?” The answer is invariably “it depends”. In personal finance, most of the time, there are no right answers per-se, there are merely your answers. Your answers must drive the actions and planning of an effective, personalized approach to investing.
Some individuals, who possess the time, interest, resources, expertise, and—most importantly—discipline, may really benefit with the availability of information. They may not consider a plumber or a financial advisor. Others, who seek advice, not information, may benefit significantly and in the process, save that valuable piece of art, or that crucial retirement plan.