MAR. 7, 2017 5 min read

My name is Gilbert and I’m a money athlete.

Which means I’m skilled with money. I’m a money athlete because although I come from humble beginnings, I’ve reached financial independence before the age of 30 thanks to frugality, saving 75% of my earnings, hard work, and the compounding returns of index funds.

If you want to learn about money and financial independence, consult a money athlete. This only makes sense because a money athlete has mastered money and has acquired the necessary knowledge and habits.

The problem is there is a gigantic mud pit of so-called “financial advisors” and “investment managers” and “financial planners” mudding the waters and claiming they can help you with your money. And charging you fat fees. And often are the very people who know the least about money.

I was once talking to an accountant at a wedding. We were having a beer at a standing table and got to talking about investing and I explained to this accountant that I follow a simple ultra-low cost passive index investing approach because it’s an efficient way to take advantage of the power of compounding. It’s also the strategy Warren Buffett advises. As well as that of the most important individual in American finance history, Vanguard founder John Bogle. And this accountant says to me, “I don’t know a whole lot about investing. I’m an accountant. But I would have to disagree with you on one thing regarding your investing approach. Which is, you want to find investments that pay dividends.”

I stood there stunned. And almost dropped my beer.

This professional accountant did not know that index funds, stock index funds, pay dividends!

Now I know an accountant is not an investment manager. And it’s fine if an accountant doesn’t know the ins and outs of mutual funds and ETFs. But surely an accountant should know about 1099-DIV forms. The form on which you declare dividend income. The dividend income that comes from stocks and stock index funds! This guy has been in business for decades. Surely he’s had a client whose savings were invested in stock mutual funds or ETFs. And yet he fundamentally didn’t know.

My point is, there are financial “professionals” who don’t know their profession. We call them shmendricks. And you need to be on guard for them.

If I were to guess, the thing that shmendricks have most in common is that they’re not financially independent themselves. And this is the biggest tell they’re not equipped to give you money advice. They need to work their jobs and they need to sell you and they need your money because they wouldn’t be able to support their spending otherwise.

They’re trying to survive, which is entirely understandable. We’re all trying to survive. But shmendricks are rabid animals with debts and cars and large spending budgets trying to survive. And yet trying to convince you that they can help you with your finances. How can you trust a rabid animal who needs your money to give you money advice?

Imagine the irony of someone who is 1) bogged down by mortgage debt, 2) drives to work and 3) doesn’t dictate their own schedule wanting to give you financial advice.

That’s what we call chutzpah.

Before giving your money to a financial advisor, make sure the advisor is financially independent as a minimum requirement because if not, they’re not yet ready to advise.

The people who have the most credibility on the topic of money, and best equipped to offer advice are money athletes and have the following characteristics:

  • They are leaders and beat to their own drum.

  • They were not handed a silver spoon and grew up in poor to middle class households.

  • They know what it means to have to make tough decisions because of money.

  • They understand frugality on a deep level and know it means living life according to your values and your truth.

  • They’re ruthlessly curious and have a wealth of knowledge regarding the practical aspects of saving, investing, personal finance, finance, economics. As well as many other things.

  • Although they have a wealth of knowledge on money matters, they’ll quickly tell you when they don’t know something. And have no ego about it.

  • They have great senses of humor, and are fun to be with.

  • They’re probably physically in good shape.

  • They control their own schedules.

  • And they’re financially independent.

These are money athletes and are the people you want to talk to for money advice.

Of course I know not all financial professionals are shmendricks. There are many great ones. And they care deeply about their craft—John Bogle being the most significant. They’re good and honest people. And they might even be money athletes themselves.

And there are times, for a particular financial situation, it’s wise to consult a financial professional, say, an accountant for taxes. In these cases, however, you still want to consult a money athlete first because a money athlete can probably give you a reference to someone competent. A money athlete will steer you clear from shmendricks.

If you want to learn about money, talk to money athletes because they know money better than anyone. I bet one of your friends is a money athlete.