It’s not just your financial advisors who need to be fiduciaries too. We need to be able to trust people’s online words and suggestions as well.
Trust is hard. How do you know who has your best interests in mind?
We found this out very shockingly in the financial crisis of 2008, when it turned out that people on Wall Street, mortgage brokers, and basically everyone was acting in a way that put their own best interests above (and in conflict with) their clients.
This led to a discussion and resurfacing of the term “fiduciary“, quite probably the most obscure way of saying “not going to actively screw clients over”.
Saying that you’re a fiduciary was actually a discussion point. This blows my mind. That there needs to be a word to describe working in your client’s best interest—and that some people to this day don’t consider themselves one—is more than a little dispiriting.
Now, I’m a financial coach, not a registered financial advisor, CFP, or anything like that, so my whole purpose is that I succeed when you succeed, and not merely about making money, but about your relationship with money.
But I still say that I’m a fiduciary. Because, in the most professional way, duh.
A recent experience made me wonder if we need to expand the concept of fiduciary to the digital space too, for the bloggers out there.
Because trust is hard on the internet too.
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The problem with recommendations
I was chatting with a fellow financial professional recently, when the subject of affiliate marketing came up.
Affiliate marketing is a common topic, especially in the blogger space, and it’s not hard to see why. Recommending products to your readers is a time-tested way to earn income. You put some links on your posts, maybe as part of the content or maybe at the bottom or the side, a user clicks that link which might lead to a purchase, and you get some revenue from that sale.
The more people who click and buy, the more money you make.
This is, as far as I can tell, how the whole travel hacking blogger space functions. Yes, you learn tips on “hidden city ticketing” and cheap ways to fly business class, but mostly it’s “get this credit card and use it for this and that to rack up the most miles”.
And the bloggers get a kick back when people sign up for the credit card.
I love travel hacking (though I envision a day when I won’t care about it at all), but I tend to view pretty much everything everyone says with more than a hint of skepticism.
And it should be obvious why: I can’t know if the recommendation is because this product really is right for me, or because the suggesting person gets a cut if I sign up.
Financial affiliate marketing is a problem as well
Many financial bloggers are all about the affiliate marketing too.
This is evident at FinCon for sure. The expo hall is usually filled with interesting products, but the pitch from them to me is usually, “do you do affiliate marketing?“
Ahh, I see. They want me to sell them on my site.
I mean, there’s nothing wrong with asking. And for certain sites, I could see that being without complication.
But for me, my clients, my work? That would imply that readers will need to think a little harder about my writing and suggestions, saying, “does he really believe that, or is he just trying to get me to sign up for it?“
And that little bit of friction is too much for me. I want people to know that I am someone you can trust. Because I have absolutely zero reason to not work in your best interest.
Shilling for fun and (no) profit
For example, I love Vanguard. I use them for investing, and I will often suggest that others use them as well. They are functional, professional, and cheap. Their products are quality, and their website has lots of good information. Their customer service is good (or at least good enough), and I’ve never had a problem with them that I couldn’t resolve relatively easily.
Now: I get nothing for that statement above. Even a link to Vanguard nets me nothing. Click away, and I’ll get nothing so much as a penny.
I feel really good about this.
I can talk about whatever company I like, and you know that I’m saying it because I like it.
Do you see a connect between this and being a fiduciary? I do.
I’ve been toying around with the phrase “digital fiduciary” to describe how I work in my clients best interest, even on the internet.
The term already exists in a slightly different usage, but it’s not widespread.
What I’m selling
Of course, I’m not writing on this site without any interest to myself. And that’s okay.
I want you to sign up for my financial coaching. I will work with you, one-on-one (or one-on-few) to establish your goals, what your money stories are that may be holding you back, and how to overcome them to be able to make big changes, massive moves, leaps forward that you never thought possible.
I can help you. Send me a note. Here’s a link. It will benefit both of us. And why shouldn’t it?