Should You Take Money Advice From A Stranger On The Internet? In Reddit’s r / personalfinance channel, anonymous users exchange tips on buying a house, choosing insurance and dealing with very personal, differentiated financial situations. (Think: “How do I deal with my dying father’s debts?”)
“It’s like crowdsourcing financial advice” says Dana Eble, a Detroit-based public relations specialist who regularly searches r / personalfinance.
When you are not “To run” Like Eble, think of the site as an old school online forum. After you have registered for free, you can share texts, links and photos with an anonymous username. You can also rate positively, negatively rate, or respond to other people’s content. Posts and replies with the most upvotes rise to the top.
Reddit is organized by communities called subreddits based on interests. The subreddit r / personalfinance has 14.6 million members. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are one of those millions.
HOW REDDIT CAN MOTIVATE AND ENCOURAGE
Being active and aware of your money will help you get the most out of it. But for many, money is confusing to manage and inconvenient to discuss.
Scrolling through other people’s questions, problems, and advice can make the topic more normal and less scary.
The subreddit can even be motivational, especially for those who are just starting to think about financial decisions, says Logan Murray, a certified financial planner from Tempe, Arizona.
“Seeing colleagues getting on with their finances can encourage you to do the same.” he says. “It can make the wheels spin.”
Murray also likes r / personalfinance for sharing ideas like brainstorming passive income opportunities. With this strategy, he says, “People can choose what appeals to them.”
Millions of people who share their money experiences can also help you feel less alone. After all, says Eble, the r / personalfinance subreddit is a positive community with “No shame.”
She recalls the post of a desperate and embarrassed 20-year-old who ran into tons of debt and had to file for bankruptcy. The top answer was from someone who said they had to do the same thing in their 20s and that it will be fine.
LIKE THE COUNCIL – IT’S A MIXED BAG
R / personalfinance “Wiki” Page is on Reddit, but separate from the forum. It’s chock-full of useful, in-depth guides on topics like budgeting and much more. Eble consulted it when she started building her emergency fund and learning a little about 401 (k) s.
As for the contributions and responses, the quality of the advice is a “mixed bag,” says Jeff Ledford of Arlington, Virginia. He frequently browses and replies to r / personalfinance posts and is also a certified government finance manager.
Ledford says some posters have to be professionals because their tips are “to the point.” But “There is also a lot of advice that is better to ignore.”
Curtis Bailey, a Cincinnati-based CFP, has also received solid advice on the r / personalfinance subreddit, especially when it comes to basics like managing debt and cash flow. But he also saw misinformation, for example about taxes.
So it’s hard to tell which pieces of advice are worth taking and which are, well, rubbish. In fact, Preston Cherry, a CFP from Green Bay, Wisconsin, describes Reddit’s r / personalfinance as unfiltered “Garbage data” With “a lot of unconfirmed information.”
Cherry points out that the country has a low rate of financial literacy, which is likely reflected in a community-based platform. So the community aspect of Reddit “Reduces the quality of the information” he says.
HOW TO FOLLOW R / PERSONALFINANCE’S ADVICE?
Use r / personalfinance as a source of motivation rather than as specific advice. Aside from the fact that much of the channel’s advice is unconfirmed, Cherry points out that “Personal finances are personal indeed.”
What works for a Redditor may not necessarily work for you as your circumstances and experiences will be different.
As Murray concludes: “You are responsible for your own decisions and your own research.”
If you’re considering seeking advice from Reddit, try checking elsewhere first. Start with a Google search and look for web pages that cite the source of the information or advice, says Bailey. For example, the page can describe a study that supports the advice, show a calculation, or quote an expert or organization.
TRY OTHER SOURCES OF HELP
If you’re struggling to pay bills or manage debts, these sites can be more helpful than Reddit:
– 211.org: Network with resources and programs to help meet basic needs.
– NFCC.org (The National Foundation for Credit Counseling): Find more than a dozen financial calculators and other tools, such as a monthly budget planner.
– AFCPE.org (The Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education): Register for free virtual financial counseling and coaching sessions.
To easily learn more about personal finance, Bailey recommends taking your reading offline. Rather than skim through individual pieces of advice, read personal finance books that Bailey says can help you “a lot more nuances and depth of understanding.” (To attempt “The Geometry of Wealth” Bailey says.)
With a deeper understanding, you may be more comfortable with money and better equipped to spot shoddy advice – on Reddit or elsewhere.
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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Laura McMullen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lauraemcmullen.
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