What Makes You the Expert?
Bloggers get flack sometimes. Even here at Wise Bread, we get the occasional, “Who died and made you the King of Frugality?” rant that leads us to continually examine the quality of posts we offer our readers. But perhaps the most enlightening part of writing for such a richly diverse audience is the genuine sharing of knowledge – one that allows for us to learn as much as we teach.
With every claim to a financial expertise, there are some important things to consider:
We are all human. Textbooks cover economics in a theoretical sense, and for the most part, these theories hold true. What the textbooks don’t take into account is the element of humanity, personal decisions, and the feeling and emotion that make up most decisions of a material kind. Love, in particular (or the desire for it) can cloud the judgment of even the most educated economist. Why am I saying this? Because I have known and respected many self-proclaimed financial “experts” who were successful in their finances, until a sticky personal situation came along (like lending money to a relative, divorce, etc.) They were no more able to handle it than most financially-illiterate people.
You can’t sell it ‘til you’ve lived it. A good friend of mine and her family were recently featured on a national talk show in order to get tips from a frugality expert. The expert studied her lifestyle, and suggested some hacks to help stretch her grocery budget a bit further. The entire scenario played out on TV, and I was able to watch my friend’s smile fade as she listened to the “expert” and her tips. Many of the tips were atrocious, and sounded great in theory, but I could tell that this woman had never actually tried most of them (or attempted to make children go along with it.)
I’ll admit that tough times do call for tough measures, but my friend was far from destitute. Instead of getting tips for using coupons, hitting sales, or making her stuff last longer, she got one-size-fits-all cheats for the very, very poor. (And the “expert” seemed far removed from the advice she was dishing out.)
Economy is relative. One thing that I have learned from writing here at Wise Bread is that my economy is not my neighbor’s. Assuming that my rural, farming family can follow the same tips as my fast-driving city friends, it doesn’t mean it will always be. We’ve seen commenters from all over the world that see U.S. values as something to be desired (or in some cases, something to be avoided.) This will affect how our “expertise” is received, and we must always be sensitive to others in this manner.
A good track record speaks volumes. Some of my favorite financial experts have years of experience behind them. They have not only maintained a successful financial picture, but often times they have come from nothing, only to rise above it. They have grown. They have met the challenges. They have been encouraging in their message. Mary Hunt, Suze Orman, the late Larry Burkett, and Dave Ramsey (among others) are popular, not because they have fantastic PR reps (although that helps), but because they have proven themselves. And their message will stick around as a result.
Nothing says it like a testimony. I see more and more “experts” popping up on talk shows, newspapers, and blogs. I am always on the lookout for something that gives credibility to their message. Many of them have really slick websites, have been featured on talk radio, and even speak at sold-out events, but have they ever really helped anyone? Those experts that can provide me with a testimony (or twenty) are the ones I will trust the most. To know their techniques are proven is a must!
Experts are everywhere. Believe it or not, most of us are an expert in something. If you’ve overcome incredible debt, raised a large family on a limited income, put yourself through college, or started a successful home business, you ARE an expert in finances. Regardless of how many talk shows you’ve done, you do have something positive to offer the world. If you heart is in it, and you have a desire to help others, I encourage you to share it!
The world can’t have enough of these kinds of experts.