Buyer Beware…

A few months back while listening to the radio, I heard a ‘Cash Call’ advertisement touting the advantages of taking out a home equity loan and using the proceeds for things like paying off high credit card debt, remodeling a kitchen, or investing ‘on the dip’ in Bitcoin. Yes, you read that last one right. They actually suggested that you could, or should, take out a larger mortgage on your home to invest in one of the most volatile stocks, with one of the shortest track records, while the price was down. Wow!

I also heard (on the radio) another advertisement from a company that claimed to help their customers eliminate almost all of their IRS tax debts. There were several testimonials from supposed clients who sought relief and had up to 90% of their tax debt expunged.

Finally, I heard (again, on the radio) another agency claim to negotiate on behalf of their clients’ credit card debt owed, and possibly eliminate up to 80% of their credit card debt without filing for bankruptcy. Fantastic! Where do I sign up? (Ok, I’m kidding)

It pains me to hear these ads as I can just imagine the general public believing these half-baked solutions are legitimate financial and tax advice. All of these advertisers have significant disclosures and disclaimers spoken at a thousand words-a-minute at the end of their ad. They also make it sound like you’re a fool for 1) not getting in on the bitcoin craze, 2) paying your taxes as a responsible citizen does, and 3) being a responsible credit card user who stays within her limit and makes monthly payments on time.

People hear what they want to hear. People listen to what they like to listen to. And people will only do things they enjoy–if they have a choice. In general, people really want an ‘easy’ button to help them through the difficult and more challenging times in life.

And how about those FREE steak dinners at Ruth’s Chris Steak House? Have you ever been enticed to attend an investment, timeshare, insurance, or real estate seminar in exchange for a nice juicy steak? You’re not alone. In fact, most attendees go to these events with a closed mind with the sole purpose of ‘claiming’ their meal or prize. However, the majority of presenters at these events are experts in the field of human psychology (aka great sales people) who have crafted a sales pitch of the core product or item they are trying to sell you without presenting full-disclosure on other options or negative effects this decision could have.

All of these advertisements and sales presentations make it sound like you can buy your way out of a problem and, possibly, become incredibly wealthy at the same time (referencing the Bitcoin ‘buy’ suggestion from Cash Call). Do you really think these companies have your best-interest in mind? Do you really think representatives handling the thousands of 1-800 phone number call-center inquiries have any personal stake in whether you are financially better off after they provide you service?

As one who is regulated by FINRA, overseen by the SEC, and monitored by Securities America, what regulatory authority is protecting people who seek assistance from these aforementioned entities? If you think you’re protected, just think of the “Do Not Call” registry enforced by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. A fitting ‘internal’ slogan for that agency might as well be “Do Not Enforce.”

I sometimes joke that prospective clients ‘hem and haw’ about meeting with a financial planner in the same way they put off setting an appointment for a root canal, colonoscopy, or prep for an IRS audit. None of these important aspects in life are fun. But the finding, solution, and outcome of each presents a plan to put you in the best shape to overcome life’s challenges laden upon you.

Facing reality can be one of the most painful decisions people make. Finding truthful advice and honest solutions–the kind your mom and dad would give you after you accidently broke a neighbor’s window, and how you were going to fess up to it–is a lot easier than you think. There are many reputable professionals in our own town that cover nearly every need you can come up with. And I can personally vouch for that!

Like they say, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I’m sure you’ve been fooled, spoofed, or misled by seemingly innocent advertisements streaming across your devices (radio and TV for our older generation). Life is hard, and there is no easy button. Planning takes time, and the first step of a one-year journey starts with ‘a first step.’ We, at Arktos Wealth Management, are here to help you make informed choices in your best interest. Together, we can put you on track with a personalized financial plan made just for you!