Celebrity Endorsements For Financial Companies Coming Under Fire

This is one of the most gratifying blogs I’ve ever written. I’m going to write about something that really irritates me…and should irritate you too.

Credit & Financial Experts and Credit & Financial Celebrities…what’s the difference?
That’s an easy question to answer. All you need to do is look at examples of each and what makes them unique.
Celebrities are very different. They get paid, and paid extraordinarily well, to give advice on how to save money, get out of debt or get better credit. Each of them sells products ranging from a few bucks to several hundred dollars. Books, books and more books. And, some of them have no background in the field where they are mistakenly considered experts.

It always amazes me how wealthy someone can get by repackaging and selling the same old same old.
For example, how many books have you read that tell you to invest monthly in an interest bearing account and after about 50 years of compounding at 8% you’ll be a millionaire. I think there are two dozen books written about that very simple strategy, but people keep buying them (and writing them). That’s the influence of celebrity.
To get certain of these celebrities to speak at a trade show or a corporate event you’re shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for an hour of so of their time. That’s the influence of celebrity.
I would love to get these folks in a room (disconnected from their army of copywriters and researchers) and quiz them on the really advanced strategies behind credit and finances. That, of course, would never happen. I’d have better luck getting Barry Bonds to submit to a drug test. Those are the different rules reserved for celebrities.
Should there be a line between true credit and financial experts and the so called credit and financial celebrities? And where should that line be drawn and how should it be determined?

Isn’t it fair for you, the folks who buy their stuff, to know if they really are an expert or are simply a talking head that looks good on television or a book cover? How would we know?

Well, here’s what I would consider to be an easy way to determine the pretenders from the real deal. Watch what they’ll put their name on as part of an endorsement deal. That’s the best way to separate the experts from the celebrities.

You’ll probably never see me on QVC selling stuff and you”l probably never see me with a weekly show on some cable network. But, that’s ok with me. I recognize and accept that, right now, nobody knows who the heck I am and that ain’t good for sales.

Here are what I consider to be some pretty egregious examples of celebs gone wild with dollarmania.
Some time ago one of our unnamed celebs endorsed a program with a national automaker’s finance division. The name of the program is being withheld but if you’re interested then respond to this blog and I’ll let you know who they are.

The gist of the program was to convince you that you should finance a new car with them and, in the process, guarantee yourself the same low interest rate on a second new car made by the same car maker some time down the road. Ring a bell?

The problem is that anyone who knows anything about building wealth knows that buying a new car is possibly the worst financial move you can make. I won’t even call it an investment because it isn’t.
A new car loses a significant amount of its value the minute you sign the paperwork and drive it home. You’ll never recover this loss. Consumers have come to accept this as an unfortunate byproduct of buying a new car.
Ok, so you’ve made this mistake once…now you’re being convinced that you should do it again and essentially double the damage.

That’s the difference between being an expert and a celebrity. They can be paid to give you bad advice because their motivation isn’t parallel with what’s best for you.

Here’s what an expert will tell you to do…

Never, ever buy a new car. Buy an affordable and reliable used car after it’s a couple years old. That way it has already lost the lion’s share of it’s initial value (on someone else’s watch) and it may still be under warranty. And, if it’s not under warranty then hopefully the previous owner has already corrected anything that was wrong with it when it was.

Now that you own this car, drive it until the wheels drop off. Then think about another car.
Buying a car is a necessary evil…you might as well reduce your losses as much as possible.

That’s the difference between being an expert and a celebrity. I don’t care about how cool you look in your car. I don’t care that your car has a leather interior. I just care that you can get from A to B safely and economically. And, that you sock away the savings into an IRA or a bond or something that appreciates over time.
Here’s another one that you might be familiar with…

There are some celebs that try to convince you that you should never have any credit cards. Sounds great doesn’t it? You’ll never ever be in credit card debt.

Wow, now I like that idea. Anything wrong with it?

There’s tons wrong with it.

I think that is a horrible idea. I know a fairly well known celeb personally and whenever I go on the radio with him we always argue this point. He says “no cards.” I say “yes cards, but with responsible use.”
Whenever we go to break he always says the same thing to me “John, you don’t know my audience. They do not have the self control to be able to manage a credit card wisely. I have to tell them to avoid all credit cards because they can’t control themselves.”

Wow, what a great concept. Assume all of your listeners are idiots and cannot act like a responsible adult with a
credit card.

Meanwhile the folks who are really taking your advice to heart are unable to buy stuff online, rent a car efficiently and carry around gobs of cash when they go out to dinner or holiday shopping. What a great alternative.

That’s the difference between being a celebrity and an expert. They’ll say whatever it takes to sell stuff and keep their impressive ratings. Us experts will tell it like it is…without worrying about selling our souls to the highest bidder.

Kyle Burton
Director of Communication
Kyle has been covering the online lending and consumer finance markets since 2006, his focus is to uncover topics that help borrowers get out of debt and save money daily. You can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIN and Google+