Financial guidance is a tricky game. There are many different approaches to the game and part of being a successful advisor is convincing others that you are already a successful advisor. Thus we set out, based on the overwhelming questions we’ve received from readers about real world guidance, to provide our own tips for choosing the best financial advice and advisors to follow whether you’re seeking advice for making more gold or more cash.
Who is the Expert
For the layman, the quickest and simplest explanation is almost always preferred. In fact, anything more complex than a basic tip or suggestion is most likely not even to be heard. This is not intended as an insult, it is simply the way the mind works. Even the most astute WoW (or real world) trader could be a financial genius but that doesn’t mean that they would have the desire to discuss the finer points of arthroscopic knee surgery or molecular biology or astronomy or even preparing an exquisite seven course meal. Everybody finds some things boring and other things interesting. The fact that we are so diverse in our interests and opinions is really a blessing in that it makes each of us have a potential value that we can choose to contribute to the vast pool of humanity. However, we can actually do or learn anything we put our minds to. This unique skill to adapt and learn is another gift we have. So, if we can learn anything than can’t we all be financial experts?
No. See, the fact is that while you can do anything you can’t do everything. As humans we end up making choices about where we direct our attention and the things we choose to ignore. So at some point you have to sacrifice certain subjects and learn about others that catch your interest. Ideally you find your passion, follow it, and never look back. But what happens when you want to learn about a subject that you did not have enough interest in to study? In those cases you turn to an outside source for guidance.
Enter the financial advisor. This is the person whose mission is to bring you financial advice, guidance, strategy and knowledge about aspects of money that you may not fully understand. The point is that not having a full comprehension of all aspects of finance is completely within reason. The smartest thing you can do is simply apply this understanding towards seeking guidance (as opposed to responding to some spam mail or something and dropping a few grand on a bad investment).
The best thing you can do, as a potential investor seeking guidance, whether you’re a seasoned pro or the newest of noobs, is to develop the skills to comprehend what your being told. No need to fully understand complex finance, but you certainly should know how to discern good advice from bad.
Types of Advice
There are many categories of financial guidance. It helps to be able to identify them if you’re going to decide what works best for you.
- Forecasts- Forecasts are predictions about the future of (ideally) specific markets based on (hopefully) historic data that has been thoroughly analyzed. This type of guidance usually mentions terms like cycles, trends, correlation and probability.
- Strategy- Strategy is an overall approach as opposed to a specific type of guidance. Strategy determines what types of investments you should be seeking and how to set up all of the variables to best succeed.
- Tips and Tricks- These are quick hits based on what is usually an overlooked or not widely known piece of information. It is the number one thing that that average investor asks for and the last thing a good advisor should ever give (we told you it was a tricky business). The reality is that if someone gives you a hot tip you should consider their incentive to do so (see ‘incentives’ below). If we give you an insider tip based on proprietary knowledge we’re breaking the law and if we had a crystal ball to look in we’d already have done so and, chances are, not have told the average investor about it. The best thing we can tell you here is that there are no short cuts, just thorough research and real life experience. Think about this next time someone tells you that they work in finance and you ask for a “hot stock tip.”
- Guidance- A good advisor provides suggestions and guidance based on your situation. This involves listening and understanding on their part before they ever say a word. Guidance is a delicate art and requires lots of patience from both parties. There is also an inferred level of trust and acceptance. Someone who provides decent guidance will only let you take on a tolerable level of risk and is really more about helping you develop a strategy (and facilitating that strategy) than they are about selling you a product or convincing you of anything.
Types of Non-advice
Just as there is lots of advice, there is also lots of non-advice. In fact, non-advice is the most popular form of financial discussion there is. It helps to understand these types of non-advice whilst understanding that it too has value.
- Discussion and Theory– This type of guidance is very general and really more of a discussion of possibilities with in the market. These advisors are often vague and will deliberately avoid making any specific recommendations. Nothing ventured, nothing gained- true. However, these guys know that that the opposite is also true and while nothing is gained by vague theoretical discussion, nothing is lost. Thus, you can’t accuse them of losing all your money or giving bad advice. How could they have? They didn’t really say anything.
- Punditry- This type of advice is designed to make your eyes glaze over. These are the pundits and pontificators. These guys use big words and complex equations with the knowledge that you won’t understand them and will be too embarrassed to ask for clearer language. It is tough to detect this sort of bullshit because it feels counterintuitive. After all, shouldn’t this guy be smart about this subject? Smart? Yes. Confusing and evasive? Not so much. If they’re really smart, and care at all about your money, they will also be able to speak to you in a language you can understand. Every finance pro can do this incidentally, it is the last class they teach us before we graduate, “How to Bullshit and Sound Even Smarter 101”. In fact, we’re willing to bet that everyone knows someone who does this. Typical subjects that perform this linguistic tango are managers and professors- easier to sound smart and intimidating than to actually do something. It doesn’t mean that the advisor doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but it does mean that if you’re going to listen you should ask for a reasonable explanation.
- Tales of Success- This is the type of advice that consists of not ever telling you what to do but instead, regales you with stories about what the advisor has done successfully in the past. You say, “I have a ton of Titanium Ore right now.” And this type of advisor tells you about how they once turned all of their titanium into bars and had a blacksmith craft a bunch of frost resist gear that they bled into the market and they made a killing. The advisor never told you what to do, or developed a strategy based on your needs but instead told you what they did. Replicating the strategy sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
Reporting (and a little more about us)
It is important to distinguish reporting from guidance. Many people make the mistake of thinking they are one in the same when they are actually quite different. Reporting tells you what’s going on. Guidance tells you what to do about what is going on. Reporting tells you that the market is up today. Guidance tells you why and how to react. Get it?
One of the things we like to do here at WoWenomics is report. Yes, by our own admission, we prefer to not give guidance. In fact, when this blog was in its infancy the team agreed, specifically because we all work in finance, that we wanted only to report… just the facts, nothing more. For a variety of reasons we do more than report these days but our favorite type of WoWenomic study is just that, examination of the WoW economy. Hence the name…
This is also why we welcome all other finance blogs and list them right there on the side bar of every page. We read all of these blogs and are constantly on the hunt for more. We don’t view these as competitors (for one thing no one has any financial incentive here- no ads, no sponsors, no guide books) but rather sources of guidance you can choose to follow yourself. They broaden the picture we see and we hope you use them all, from the smallest and news blog to the biggest and furthest off topic, to learn more about this fantastic virtual economy. And please, tell us all about what you’ve found and share your own theories.
As we already said, no one knows it all. It doesn’t matter how good your investment advisor is they will have to deal with an otherwise unforeseen event. This is why a good advisor will give you more than just financial tips, they will also help you diversify, build a safety net and generally plan for the unknown. This is also why you, as the investor, must understand more than just “buy X stock”. You need to understand the basics such as how long it will take to return your investment and how much you can expect to make beyond your seed investment amount.
At the end of the day there are no guarantees, no 100% winners and no short cuts. If you want to be successful in the market, be it virtual or real world, you do your research and plan accordingly or you turn to a trusted source that does this work for you.
One of the best tools you can use to determine the quality of financial advice is that of understanding the motivation of the person guiding you. Is this person trying to sell you something? Are they advocating a political or moralistic agenda? What’s their angle? There is an old Wall Street adage that says, “Whenever you don’t know who the loser is in a transaction, then the loser is you.” Some investment advisors get paid salary, others commission, others still make money pushing certain financial instruments. It helps to know where the person giving you advice is getting compensated. Do your homework and get the details. A good example is with the televised investment shows on CNBC and the like. These people often seem like educated and respected gurus and that may even be true to a certain extent. But are they in the business of providing you with sound financial advice? No. They are in the business of selling advertising space or air time. These guys benefit when viewership increases and they sell more advertising, not when you do well in the market.
So Wait a Minute, How do I Identify a Good Financial Advisor?
The best financial advice comes when your incentives are aligned with the person providing you guidance. If they benefit from you doing well, in the form of your return business or commissions or similar, then this person is more likely to give you advice they can use. And how can they know when your interests are aligned? Good question. The way they do that is by listening. If you take only one thing away from this article let that be it. One clear sign of a good investment advisor is someone that understands your situation through a series of probing questions and receptive listening. Not the guy with the flashy suit who tells you to buy X stock.
So, Is This the Part Where You Give Me a Hot Stock Tip?
The best thing we can tell you regarding WoW is that if you’re looking to cash in quick, understand the market has trends based almost exclusively on supply and demand. If you want to understand these trends just read the patch notes and WoW finance blogs and react accordingly. Right now, inscription is the hot profession and Titanium the hot item. But this too shall pass and that’s really our point.
If you’re looking for real world financial tips the best one we can give you (with the understanding that we’re not in the business of guidance at all) is that you should invest as early in life as possible in a Roth IRA. This instrument, used in conjunction with a decent 401k plan through your employer, is like the dual-farming spec of real life. It is a fantastic and simple scheme and requires very little beyond your investment and commitment. It is also what we tell every single person we meet who asks for a “hot stock tip” so there you go.