By Brad Thomason, CPA
It is a truism the world over that we do not want the kiddos playing with matches. This is not in service of the fact that the little cherubs are malevolent and destructive creatures who need to be walled off from the means of carrying out dastardly intent. Quite the opposite, they simply don’t have the necessary perspective to see the true scope of the risk. They do not have a solid grasp of just how badly things can get out of hand, just how much real and awful damage can accrue from tiny little portions of carelessness. What they don’t know can absolutely hurt them… and then go zipping right on past to hurt or even kill everyone else in the vicinity.
Today I want to talk about Youtube videos that discuss financial topics. That intro was not intended to be an act of subtlety. If you are running short on time, in fact, you can probably bail now. It’s pretty likely you know what I’m going to say, and why.
For those of you who are still here, I want to make it clear that I do not wish to paint every producer of such content with the same brush. Nor am I going to brand any of them as bad actors. Benefit of the doubt, and all that.
But I will tell you there’s some real garbage on there. So you need to be careful.
I’ve been in the advice-giving business for thirty years, more or less. Almost from day one, I guess, I adopted a rigid position that if you are going to hold yourself out as an advisor on a particular topic, you have an obligation to know something about it. Radical, I know. But that’s just the kind of guy I am.
My position hasn’t moved. Hasn’t even budged. Adherence to this principal has lead to many instances over the years when I told a would-be client, “I’m not the guy you need to talk for that,” where ‘that’ was a topic I did not think I knew enough about to have any business giving advice on. That business walked right out the door to another firm, and I have never regretted it even once.
The old (ancient) principle of being careful who you listen to has not changed. Legitimate credibility springs forth from all the same places that Aristotle described. Here’s a hint: number of followers and number of likes, were not on the list.
There is nothing inherent to Youtube as a platform which somehow diminishes the quality of quality content. Good people do put good work on there. It’s just that there are no barriers in place to make sure that content posted is quality content. If ever there was a place where let-the-user-beware was more applicable, I’m not sure where it would have been.
A common red flag is someone telling you that everyone else on a topic is wrong, and that they alone have the secret knowledge that no one else in the entire financial industry has ever managed to figure out. Which makes the whole notion sound really silly when I say it that way, doesn’t it?
I have something of a bum shoulder that’s been giving me trouble again over the last few months. Recently I have been looking at various content (mostly from physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, etc) about rehabbing tendon damage. Of course, when you look at one video on a topic, the algorithm sends you more; which I admit can at times be helpful. The other day, while scrolling through the suggestions, I clicked on something which looked fairly innocuous and professionally produced. But I turned it off at about the two minute mark, because in the span of one hundred short seconds the guy said, four times, “your doctor won’t tell you this, because he doesn’t know it.”
This quick story demonstrates both how easy it is to get sucked into one of these things; as well as what to do about it.
I do believe that you can find some worthwhile information on Youtube. Just expect to have to wade through a good bit of slop to find it. People who do actual client work are not always the best performers, and folks who look great on camera sometimes say ridiculous things which can lead to great harm if you follow their suggestions. Then again, sometimes the opposite is true, in both cases.
As such, looks, good or bad, may not tell you anything important. Instead, substance is the name of the game. You know, pretty much like it has always been. If it is not obvious why the person doing the speaking would have any special knowledge on the topic, especially if what is being proposed strikes you as radical or just plain goofy, you probably have enough information to know what you should click next.
Followed by promptly forgetting whatever the video said. If you can. I mean, sometimes this stuff is just so zany that it’s hard to unhear. I remember this one knucklehead…
Older blogs (2015-2017)