5 Minute Financial Feature: Technicalities
Question: I see lots of information on online about paying down debt or cutting expenses, but what about people looking for more technical information?
This is a question I often see, and one I even struggle with as a producer of content.
There are a few reasons why you do not see more technical or action-specific information online.
Firstly: Most bloggers and journalists are not professional advisors. So they can only speak about their limited experience or touch on the topics broadly. They could research a topic, but even still without any relevant experience, they cannot validate or even recognize the relevance of their research material.
Quite often, bloggers want to bring attention to the basics of an idea, and let their audience do more research on their own. It’s very difficult to write about specifics that will apply to everyone, so the goal is to provide a path for their audience to follow.
Secondly: The blogger and/or journalist might be a professional advisor. In this case, they may have strict compliance and regulatory requirements for what they may publish online. Many professionals are not able to make recommendations online that may appear to be advice.
Have you ever seen a commercial for a prescription drug? Normally, it promises a bunch of benefits, then it’s followed with the disclosure: if diagnosed with this, or if you currently taking that, then talk with your doctor. Just as it would be malpractice for a doctor to make a diagnosis without doing due diligence, a professional such as an Advisor, CPA, or Lawyer, should not make blanketed recommendations in case the wrong person follows that advice.
The flip side of this is if the blogger works for a professional and provides information to others based on their experience. For example, a legal assistant who works for a lawyer is not allowed to give advice, as they are not insured like a lawyer is. If the legal assistant was to blog or write about how to beat traffic tickets, and use his or her experience as a credential, a person could rely on that information like it was legal advice. If the assistant portrayed the ability to GIVE advice, they could be held responsible if the reader came to harm.
This tendency is for both your safety and the writer’s safety. Imagine crossing the street because I said so! Keep this in mind when reading other people’s advice.
Thirdly: Writing for audiences can be tricky. Financial planning is not a one-size fits all, and advanced planning is highly case-specific. Most articles are limited in length out of practicality, and let’s be honest: how long does your attention span last? Unless it’s something Sci-fi or Thrawn related, I tend to get distracted pretty easily! Sometimes it’s just not possible to discuss all of the variables like exemptions, caveats, and outliers. No matter how hard you try to include everything, something always gets left out due to brevity.
Fourthly: If you want the very best solution, it is not going to be generic or given away for free. Professionals that have worked hard to develop unique and creative solutions are not likely willing to give the trade secrets away in a massive how-to piece, especially if that is the basis of their livelihood.
It is always worthwhile to seek out a professional. Find a competent professional based on referrals and ask if they can help you in advanced planning. Many of the best planning options involve complicated legal documents and tax planning strategies. When you’re trying to save double digits in taxes, it’s penny wise and pound foolish to not retain the best representation.