By Carl Conrad
Everywhere you look, somebody’s got a mantra for you – a simple phrase that inspires you or capsulizes some advice that someone thinks you need to know into four words or less. Jingles, slogans, summaries, catch phrases; that seems to be the only way to convey passion, commitment, and discipline nowdays. Have a nice day!… Drive carefully!… Love you!… No pain, no gain!… our team/school/band/coach is the BEST!
And, like a weight loss diet, the financial advisors have created their own mantras for those too debt-heavy or cash-poor to know better. Spend less! Save more! Don’t charge it, ignore it! Like a mother telling you to wash your hands before you eat, this gaggle of financial gurus not only tells you the obvious, but scares the willies out of you with stories of financial damnation!
Why they’re called “gurus” is to give them a mystical title that sounds fancier than counselor, advisor, teacher, coach, or salesman. Kind of like the difference between a janitor and a custodial engineer. It’s difficult to say how one becomes a guru; there’s no degree given for it, no certifying board, not even a conferring agent. It seems that one is just self-anointed as such.
Then, once you have the title, next comes the system, the workbooks, the seminars, the endorsements, the testimonials and, most importantly, the advertising! These give credibility that you’re not just a lot of hot air and slogans because now you have the gift that sells – CELEBRITY! Once people know your name and associate it with a cause of some kind, you’re imbued with mystical powers!
When a FINANCIAL GURU tells you to spend less and save more, that has a much more profound impact on you than all the others around you who have been yelling that same thing for years. Somehow when someone on a stage tells you the obvious, you believe them. When it’s your mother or your spouse or a friend who has been repeatedly telling you the same thing, it’s just something more to ignore, or something too obvious to be of value.
Doesn’t that seem to bring into suspicion the notion that a celebrity guru, who is being enriched by giving you the same advice that others around you are giving you for free, has answers that you just don’t know? Doesn’t that bring into question the need for a personal consultant who will remind you that if you eat that piece of chocolate cake or use a credit card to gamble with, you’re going to regret it later? These people are not GURUS, they’re the CONSCIENCE that you’ve otherwise silenced!
So, when you see a name you recognize on television, hear a radio advertisement, find a pop-up ad or a link on the internet, or receive a packet of information in the mail that seems to offer just the solution to whatever malady you’ve been suffering, think about where you’ve heard it before because you might be able to save yourself some money. It’s probably only a glorified restatement of what your parents told you, a coach pleaded for you to learn, or your grandmother summed up in a snappy phrase. You don’t really need a GURU for that, you just need some discipline and common sense.