Hands up if you have ever typed anything along these lines in Google Search:
- ‘How to cope with cost of living’
- ‘How to make a budget’
- ‘How to reduce spending’
- ‘Ways to increase income’
- ‘What is the best credit card’
- ‘Where can I get a loan’
- Or some other variation of these
May I just say that the first page of Google results were designed to be there in the first place – someone lovingly crafted an SEO-optimised article, especially for the incoming Malaysian traffic. Oh, Malaysians, especially our generation, will be flocking these articles, desperate for help to counter the rising cost of living.
The articles are likely short and filled with bite-sized information. The advice given are, for better or for worse, generic, and usually ends in ‘yes you too can save money/make extra income with these methods, try it now!’. Then perhaps they will plug in a product or a service.
How do you know if you are receiving good advice or not?
It’s nice to hear advice. It makes you think that people care for your well-being.
However, as much as we want to be in la-la-land and believe that they have our best interests at heart, know that many financial advice have hidden agendas – to sell products or services – either theirs or a third party.
(I have a hidden agenda as well, having this blog. I’m trying to monetise it as an added income stream. Hey at least I’m telling you.)
Hidden agenda is not bad, per se. Without sponsored posts, or advertisements, many cannot survive. They have to make a living too. Let’s be clear – I’m not hating on ads. I’m hating on sneaky ads.
It is my belief that sneaky ads will increase in 2016, simply because companies will get desperate, too, to get your money as you guys are tightening your belts.
Sneaky ads can exist in many forms. Many creative forms. I wrote about how I almost fell for a forex ad which disguised itself as a job vacancy.
The Asian Institute of Finance (AIF) also gave out handy-dandy recommendations to financial institutions on how to increase Millennials’ financial literacy. This is not bad in itself, but some of these can be categorised under ‘sneaky ads’ as well.
Look at the report ‘Finance Matters: Understanding Gen Y (Bridging the knowledge gap of Malaysia’s millenials’, page 36-7 (click here for pdf)
Eh this is important. Here’s the screenshots. This is legit what financial institutions will do in order to get your business, so you’d better be aware.
I guess what I’m trying to say is – in 2016, you will be bombarded by financial advice. And it is up to you to filter which information is relevant and applicable, and which are not.
There are no such thing as ‘BEST FINANCIAL ADVICE’. There’s so many factors to consider, based on your individual situation.
The 1 question you need to ask after you receive financial advice
So, yes, you will get a lot of financial advice. Some will be sneaky, some will be straightforward.
Based on the above screenshots, companies will:
- Collaborating with educational institutions
- Use social media
- Use market segmentation to their advantage
- Educate people around you in order to get to you ie your families, friends, co-workers
- Incorporate more technology
This means that all of the below will give you financial advice in 2016:
- Your school/university
- Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- The online and offline spaces you choose to hang out in, including the respective influencers in that circle
- Your family members, friends, and colleagues
- Your app store, the adverts between your games, etc
I believe that not just financial institutions will use these tactics, but other companies too.
I’ve already seen Private Retirement Scheme infographic that promote one – ONE – company, and make it seem like they are the ONLY company that offer it (for my PRS guide, click here). This was from a reputed financial website, and I think it is sneaky.
So, when you see any financial advice, ESPECIALLY from any of the above sources, ask this one question.
“Who else offer this product or service?”
Let’s break it down why this question is helpful. The aim is not to NOT use their products/services, but to determine that it is indeed the best option for YOU.
“Who else offer this product or service?“
It is rare that only ONE company offer a product or service.
In the ads, they will make themselves the obvious choice as solution, of course. Sometimes it is, sometimes its not.
Even if your parents offer financial advice, remember that they must got it from somewhere – some company wanted them to have that information so they can pass it to you.
Even if it appeared on your Facebook newsfeed, from a friend (say myself), never take it at face value. What worked for me doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
But most importantly, asking this question will…
Stop yourself from making snap decisions
Snap decisions are the worse. They are quick, but uninformed.
What you want to be is to be informed by the other choices out there.
And for that you need time to research, because no company wants to be pitted against its competitors, especially if its inferior.
There’s a reason why telemarketers and direct sales agents continue to exist – it works. People are amazingly susceptible to snap decisions.
When I worked as telemarketer in the insurance line, years ago, I convinced at least a person a day to hand over RM300 a month for 25 years.
When I worked as a promoter for stick-on heat pads, I convinced a lot of people to buy 3 packs instead of one, simply by offering an extra pad.
I think being a former direct seller helped me a lot in understanding the psyche of customers. Now, when I encounter direct sellers, I usually listen to their pitches. If I’m interested, I’ll get their cards. If not, I’ll tell them. Good direct sellers are not phased by rejection, so don’t ever feel guilty for not buying from them, okay?
Financial advice. Some are good for you, some are bad for you. It is up to you to make the best decision for you.
Make the question “Who else offer this product or service?” a habit when you receive any financial advice. It will save you, at the least, a few ringgit. And at the most, a lifetime of financial pain.
I welcome any financial discussions here in this website or by twitter at @chickenflossbun.