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Are Famous Personal Finance Authors Too Rich To Understand You?

Today I’m going to question the unquestionable in the personal finance world… “Are Famous Personal Finance Authors Too Rich To Understand You?

So what do I mean by this question, especially considering that the larger personal finance authors have access to vast amounts of financial information!

Before I answer that question, let me first define “You“, in my question above!

By “You“, I’m talking about 80% of the population.  We (80%) are the true middle class (middle lower, middle middle and middle upper).  I’m excluding the top and bottom 10% of the population because often time they don’t read personal finance blogs anyway unless they are young and in a transitional phase of their economic life (ex. college students that are poor today because they don’t have a job, but will be making good money in the future).

With my definition of “You” out of the way, let’s continue with what I mean by my question “Are Famous Personal Finance Authors Too Rich To Understand You?

When most of these authors were in the middle class, they lived like we live, ate what we ate, and had the same financial difficulties that we are currently encountering.  They felt the same year end financial crunch, after buying holiday gifts and traveling.  They were cubicle dwellers or worked for “the man” just like us.  They watched how often they went out to fancy or really even modest chain restaurants like “Olive Garden”.  They did this because they were us, and actually lived next door to us.  They were us and walked the walk and talked the talk just like us!

That was then, but now they have moved on and are no long part of the 80%!

So even though many have our best interest in their hearts, they can no longer remember how we live when they were part of the middle class.  Now they go to fancy, expensive restaurants, and they are use to being made over when they visit such establishments.  I’m sure none of the large personal finance authors stay in a Holiday Inn Express, no matter how much smarter they could become by doing so!  Most now have houses that are valued at more than a million dollars… easily, not to mention staff that take care of the house,the yard work, and even handling these rich author’s schedule…  I know that personally, I don’t have anyone handling my schedule except me.

Dave Ramsey's House


Don’t get me wrong, these authors were and are great people that I respect, but they no longer understand us (the middle classes).  It’s like anything in life, you use (or live) it, or lose it, and some of the personal finance authors are no longer living it so they forget both our lifestyle and struggles.

Does this make them bad resources for personal finance information? 

No, but they give out financial advice forgetting what it was like not having money. or they forget what it’s like living in the middle.  They forget what it’s like not getting your child the latest popular gift (whether it’s a cell phone, Elmo whatever, or iAnything) and having your child looking like an outcast in school.  Sometimes it irks me that they chastise us for not being more frugal when in reality they have no idea of our normal living expenses and what our social variables are, and some never will.

This is why I like to read certain financial bloggers that are similar to my middle class lifestyle, ones similar to me, or that have overcome the financial obstacles that I am struggling with, or are just exceptional bloggers in general.

What do you think?  Do you think most famous and rich personal finance authors and personalities understand your struggles?

While I still listen to them in passing, I believe they are too rich to understand me!  Perhaps when I’m rich someday, I’ll tune back into them more.  In the meantime, I am going to find other paths that relate to me and my life in the middle…

If you are a new reader, expect interesting and different ideas on accumulating wealth and living a balanced life for those of us that aren’t rich yet!



38 Responses to Are Famous Personal Finance Authors Too Rich To Understand You?

  1. I have the same thought – way too rich to give any reasonable advice to me…I will never respect a certain financial guru since he has a mansion and has basically gone bankrupt twice before his wealth. Now, I just think he is using people in desperate situations.

  2. I can relate to what your saying here Don. The message people deliver only carries legitimate authority if they are living it. One particular CNN PF duo (remain nameless) often espouse on financially smart ways to live our lives. I honestly wonder how many minutes it takes them sometimes to come up with their 5 Ways to do whatever segments. They are RICH, and out of touch.

    • Politicians, definitely, at least the Senate… House of Representatives has a better representation of the middle classes.

      If I ever become rich, you’ll never now. I’ll be one of the few middle-class millionaire types. I’ve written about such ways quite a few times in the past 🙂

  3. I have the same sentiment although I never held an financial authors in high regard to begin with. It’s hard to take someone seriously that is out of touch with reality, like a few talk show hosts I know.

    • Yep, agree… I don’t learn anything new with such talk show hosts. I use to have a comforting feeling watching them, but not as much now (occasionally, if I’m flipping channels, I might stumble across one and watch for a bit..)

  4. I agree that most people of wealthy means are out of touch with the middle class. This includes every person, from CEOs of large companies to politicians to financial authors. However, if they have a great staff of middle class people and an ability to see life through someone else’s eyes, they can still stay in touch. Of course, this is rarely the case!

    • It’s hard to feel the pain of a real estate tax bill coming due, or the tightness of the year end because of holidays. Even if you can imagine through others eyes, it’s still hard to fully understand.

      But perhaps there are a few…

  5. I don’t think that someone’s wealth automatically excludes them from giving relevant advice to someone who makes less… but it depends on what particular advice. i.e. someone who has worked their way up a company is probably better than giving networking advice to a young college grad without connections than someone who inherited the president’s position from his/her parent. But that’s not to say you can’t learn something from everyone – I think you can.

    • I agree, some authors have good advice, but sometimes there are missing crucial steps towards accomplishing financial goals. If a person can relate to the pf guide, the guide can provide better info because they carved the path, or at least followed the path that would apply to the middle class follower…

  6. I like getting my personal financial advice from a variety of sources. The financial experts I follow the closest are Suze Orman, Ric Edelman, Dave Ramsey, and Clark Howard. Of the three, Clark Howard’s spending habits are probably closest to that of the average Joe’s. That guy is cheap. However, I think the other three offer valuable advice. As far as I know, they haven’t always been rich. So, I’m actually more likely to listen to them than someone who hasn’t already achieved financial success. Now, I don’t agree with everything they say, but combined, they’ve provided me with a diverse array of financial knowledge.

    • Clark Howard is new and fresh, his ideas are golden. The others are rusty and the middle class environment has changed. They are too rich and away from the middle class to understand the new set of obstacles that we experience.

      I say that they are out of touch with the masses, because I’m out of touch with the starving college students (like I once was). I can imagine that if I am out of touch with that population segment, it only stands to reason that Suze or Dave is out of touch with someone at my level.

      They are obviously smart people, and have good advice, but the advice is better if you are in the top 10% of income earnings, or more closely aligned with them. At least in my humble opinion 🙂

  7. Imdefinitely gravitate to like minded bloggers, although I love listening to the advice of people that are 5-10 years older than me too for not only pf advice but parenting and life advice too. They have insight that I may have not discovered on my own yet.

    I don’t follow most a listers in the pf world. A lot of their advice is way to basic.

    • I’ve evolved in my reading habits too. Any pf info is good, whether it be a pf author or a pf blogger. But if you want recent and relevant info, bloggers rule.

  8. I’m not big on the big finance gurus, nor do I usually look for advice from people who have never been in debt. Personally, as someone who is still working my way out of debt, I can’t relate to them at all. I have to find people who are dealing with similar struggles, or at least have dealt with them recently enough to remember.

    For me, when the “You can be like me!” is too far away from where I reasonably see myself, I click away. I have to at least feel like the person MIGHT understand where I am.

    • Very wise Andrea! It makes sense to go to a groups that have similar experiences and especially those that are changing their pf behavior for the better (why reinvent the wheel). Such groups look out for one another, and encourage each other. Totally make sense 🙂

  9. I don’t want you to be a jerk, but I’d like you to name some names here. Which personalities don’t jive with you?

    I’ll jump in.

    For me, Suze Orman doesn’t relate to my life. If that woman stuck that wagging finger in my face, I’d snap it off. She’s rich. I can almost always relate to Dave Ramsey. He’s rich. Clark Howard is decent. I’m sure he’s got bags of money somewhere. I think the Motley Fool dudes jumped the shark when they started smapping my email box w/ every investment scheme imaginable and David Bach has written the same book ten times and we’re still all buying it. Those guys are rich and I’m not a fan.

    I’m not as worried about their wealth as I am with their ability to relate. All the people I named above are rich. Some meet me half way while the others don’t have what I’m looking for.

    That said, I usually want to listen to someone who worked their way up the ladder already and wants to show it to me. I just have to feel they have my best interest at heart.

    • lol on David Bach, I’ve listen to his audiobooks and each are very, very similar (although I’ve heard his newer ones are a bit different).

      My hypothesis, is based on my own behavior. When I was in college, I remember having to eat cheap food like ramen noodles (which I still like today), but I’m missing the intensity of being in that time.

      What I new back then still applies, but there are other things that I’m not aware of that college age students know of.

      After 10 years of being rich, I can imagine that those rich authors are similar to me in that respect.

      Their information is still good, but just not as good as some of the creative alternatives blogs out there.

      If all you have is the pf authors, then go with it. But I just think there are better sources of information for me in the internet age.

  10. Their advice is still relevant, but I can’t help but think, “You don’t live in this situation anymore.” I think it’s natural to want to read people in similar situations. As a teacher, I recently read that low performing students don’t look up to high performing students as a role model, instead they find a student similar to themselves to model after. I think this describes human behavior in general.

    • Yep, and when your bringing in a million plus a year. Do you really worry about gasoline prices anymore? I have plenty of articles about the rise in gasoline prices and how it has affected my traveling plans…

  11. I think recently rich PF authors can still relate to the middle class. A few years of being rich will disconnect them though. I still think they have something to offer, perhaps a different view point than us middle class stiffs. They made it so they must have some secrets. 😉

    • I totally agree with what you said, you understand my post exactly!

      The advice by the pf authors is still good, but gets general as they are rich for longer time periods. It’s only natural that they forget the struggles and money tips and hacks that would most benefit the middle class.

      After reading many financial books, the secret to wealth is this “Do it, try it, make it happen”

  12. It is easy to forget what it was once like. Not to mention that economies and situations change. High school for my kids is much different than when I went. It is difficult for me to remember what it was like.

  13. Andrew Hallam is my favorite PF writer, simply because I feel he has so much integrity and passion, and also because he has practiced all that he preaches. He teaches that anyone can achieve financial success, even on a teacher’s salary. 😉

  14. Objection, I’m in the bottom 10%, I’m middle-aged (i.e. not young), and read all the personal finance blogs and books I can get my hands on.

    So my question is…are there ANY personal finance authors who understand the bottom 10 percent?