Should You Use Google for Financial Advice?

The easiest way to find an answer to most questions these days is to google it. In fact it has become a standard response to a question hasn’t it?

“What’s the population of France?”

“I don’t know, google it”

“What was the name of that movie with Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman?

“Oh hang on, ahh, wait – I’ll google it”

We use it so regularly it has almost become an instinctive response. Often we don’t even give ourselves a chance to think about what the answer is because we can find it so easily on our laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Have you ever used Google to self diagnose a medical problem? According to research from the Pew Research Center, 35% of adults in the US have gone online with the specific purpose of trying to figure out the medical condition they or someone else have. That sounds like it could be dangerous!

How about asking Google for financial advice?

I know from my blog that people are actually using search terms like “where to invest $100k for income” !!!!

Just out of interest I tried googling “where to invest $100,000”. The scary thing is that the autofill came up with a number of suggestions! There was:

“Where to invest $100,000”

“Where to invest $100,000 now”

“Where to invest $100,000 in 2013”

So, what did I find when I googled this? Right near the top of the ranking was Yahoo answers. Now I think Yahoo answers is a great resource if I want to know how to get a red wine stain off a shirt but no one should be asking Yahoo answers where to put their hard earned $100,000!

One of the other high ranking sites had the headline “How to make $2M risk-free on $100,000 portfolio”. Wow – you should be able to hear the alarm bells when you see that.

It is important to understand when you have a need for advice from a professional. Are your personal circumstances relevant to your question? If they are then Google may not be the best place to find the answer.

Imagine these two people both wanting to know where to invest $100,000. Steve is 35, single and earns $250k pa while Jane is 63, retired and living on annuities and pension income with her husband. Just these basic details are enough to suggest that Steve and Jane will have very different goals, timeframes, attitudes to risk and therefore needs.

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