Last Saturday, Claudia and I took our little chicken to a local baby market (note for the fellas – baby markets are not where you buy babies, although after her third tantrum I was considering putting a $5 sticker on our chicken). There are so many pregnant women at these things if you want to make a buck, set up a table selling epidurals.
It was really busy but we managed to run into an old school friend of mine, Angie. We hadn’t seen her since the last baby market we had attended and she looked a great deal less frazzled than we felt. Angie’s a real pro at these things, leaving her boy in the care of dad at home while she goes bargain hunting. She says she arrived half an hour before it opened to avoid the crowds but I’m sure she pitched a tent the day before and braved the Canberra winter (Canberra’s winter starts in April and ends in September). I talked to her for too long because as I said goodbye I looked around to suddenly realise Claudia had walked off. Without her mobile phone. “No worries,” I thought, remembering what Claudia was wearing, “I’ll just look for the woman in the stripey top.
Apparently stripes are in this season, ‘cause every woman there was wearing bloody stripes. Now I know how a tiger feels when he’s hunting zebra. Fair dinkum, if anyone had a barcode scanner there, it would’ve shut itself down.
After I eventually found her (or more accurately she saw me and yelled out), I ended up in a line in front of a man with what seemed like two female friends, and couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. After all, they were talking about money and that always makes my ears prick.
One of the women was talking about loans and the guy was telling her about rates of tax. He was talking with a degree of confidence that would undoubtedly have made the two women confident he knew his stuff. Problem was, he didn’t. Every single figure he was telling them was wrong.
I realised that these women were financially savvy enough to be at a market that sells secondhand baby and children’s clothing, toys and books, but naïve because they were lapping up what their friend was saying. One thing was very obvious to me – this guy was no professional. This is a very important thing to take note of – unless the friend or family member who gives you money advice is an expert in the area of finance, talk to someone who is.
Don’t take advice from family and friends about money. Guidance is one thing, like “don’t take my word for it, speak to my accountant” or “read what Paul Clitheroe says about this stuff in his book”. Advice like “you should get an interest only loan on your property” is something altogether different.
Family or friends who have been successful in a certain area are likely to steer you towards those same places to try to help you – and it does come from the best intentions. But their situation is different to yours, therefore the best financial tools for you will be different from the tools for the person giving you unqualified advice. Of course I am assuming that the person giving the advice is not your identical twin who is married to the identical twin of your spouse, who you live with and who shares the same job as you. I know, big assumption, and if you are actually in precisely the same situation as the advice giver it will probably work really well. If not, seek out an expert.