And These are the People You Get Your Financial Advice from?!

As you probably know by now, I started working at a major U.S. bank over 3 years ago.

I went into it with the mindset that my co-workers were all intelligent, professional people. I thought that I’d learn a lot from them that would serve me well in many aspects of my life including my personal finances.

After all, they get paid to deal with money and finance all day, every day so who better to learn from?

I was wrong. Dead wrong.

As it turns out, most people that work at a bank don’t really know shit about money. Sure, they know about procedures and how to count but that’s about it.

They know how to fulfill a role which the bank pays them to do. Some employees are more efficient than others.

In the grand scheme of things, we’re employed by the bank to make the bank money.

Tellers are paid to cash checks and make deposits while minimizing risk to the bank as much as possible. Personal bankers are paid to sell products that the bank will make money on. They are also paid to influence customers to bring their money over from other institutions to the institution that they work for. Managers are paid to make sure that tellers and personal bankers do their job. It’s as simple as that.

Banks are all about sales and selling. If you can sell, you will be successful.

In fact, you don’t need to know shit about banking and finance as long as you can sell your ass off. Guess where the majority of managers are plucked away from? Car sales, retail, and hospitality. These industries don’t have shit to do with banking but they can sell and that’s all that matters. They have the ability to influence clients to give the bank their money so the bank can make money on their money and that’s worth it’s weight in gold!

I’ve seen it all first hand.

If bankers really knew about money and how it works, then why are they still employed? Why do they need a job? Why do they work until they’re 65 just like everyone else?

It’s because:

a) they mainly just know how to sell a product.

b) they only know just a little more about money as their customers do.

c) they’re normal people just like their customers.

The majority of my co-workers are living paycheck to paycheck. A lot of my co-workers are struggling to make ends meet.

They do dumb shit with their money like eat out for lunch everyday. They lease brand new cars. They have a shit ton of credit card debt. They live beyond their means.

Are these really the people that you should be taking financial advice from?!

There are a few exceptions to the rule but most of my co-workers suck with money.

Here’s what some of them do:

  • A co-worker’s husband gets his quarterly bonus. She discusses what they should do with this money with my other co-workers. Suggestions include going on a trip, going out to dinner, and buying stuff. Other co-workers chime in that they should treat themselves because “he worked hard for it.” They proceed to go on a shopping spree at the mall.
  • Another co-worker invests thousands of dollars in marijuana penny stocks. They tank after a few months and he basically losses it all.
  • A co-worker’s husband makes a shit ton of money. She doesn’t really have to work but she works part-time. They have exotic European cars and they have pool guys and lawn guys.
  • A co-worker and I discussed our 401(k) allocations. He goes on to say that I’m investing like a grandpa because I have a decent portion invested in bonds. I tell him it’s easier to keep money than try to make it back when the market declines. He then goes on to tell me that he likes to invest like he’s in Las Vegas and proceeds to tell me about a trip he and his buddies took out there a few years back. Meanwhile his portfolio has lost money but mine is about even…
  • Other co-workers depend on their bonuses to pay off their debts. They budget these bonuses into their budgets and are screwed if we don’t meet our goals. These debts include new cars and additions to their homes.
  • Others have to have the nicest clothes and only wear designer labels.
  • Others have to have the latest gadgets.

If bankers are so good with money, then why the fuck aren’t more of them able to retire early? Why do the majority of them work until they’re 65?

So what you can do to avoid making the same mistakes that bankers make themselves?

  • Take their advice with a grain of salt. Think about what’s in it for them. Think about how the bank will be making money off of you.
  • Look for second opinions from people who are outside of the financial industry. Blogs such as Mr. Money Mustache, Budgets are Sexy, Jlcollinsnh are good places to start.
  • Do your own research so you can make an informed decision and decide for yourself. After all, it is your money!
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6 comments

  1. Reminds me of my co-workers. Granted, I’m not in the finance industry, but I think about 80% of the people I work with have at least a Master’s degree – so they are smart people. What I’ve found interesting, is that the people who think about money most like me aren’t Americans, they are from other countries. I wonder if there is something about the way we are raised in America and our culture that makes us think we ‘work hard’ and constantly need ‘rewards’. I read something recently that Americans work more hours than most others globally (not really new news), I am curious if the lack of time off and down time contributes to our need to spend as a reward.

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    • I think you may be onto something with your Americans working more hours theory. Most of my family is German and I’ve realized that they view money a lot differently than my American friends. To them, it’s more of a means to enjoy life I guess whereas Americans tend to view money and working more of the reason for living; to achieve more and more wealth and “things” is the way to a “good” life.

      Europe (and the rest of the world) has a different work culture to that of the United States. I don’t really know how to describe it…

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  2. Nice article, Marc – people do take financial advice from people whom they probably shouldn’t. Actions speak louder than words, after all.

    Honestly, I never assumed that bankers knew how to manage their money simply because they work at a bank. In fact, the more interaction that I have with people in general, the more I learn just how lazy the majority of people are with money throughout all walks of life – blue collar or white collar, people just suck, in general, managing their own money.

    I take very, very little financial advice from others. In fact, I can’t remember a single nugget of advice that I’ve actually taken from someone other than my dad, who put his money where his mouth is and actually did retire early.

    Most people, as you’ve said, just muddle through, spending lots and lots of money on stupid crap, then lamenting the fact that they “don’t get paid enough” or that “retirement is so far off”.

    You’re right, don’t take advice from these people. In fact, perhaps we should be the one giving advice to them! 🙂

    Like

    • You’re right, Steve; it doesn’t matter what job title someone has, it doesn’t necessarily mean they know or don’t know how to use money responsibly.

      I wanted to be a Financial Advisor for the longest time because I thought that I could really help people retire early and what not but it turns out that that’s just not how it works. I’ll just have to find other ways 🙂

      Like

    • I work at a bank so I see firsthand that a lot of people don’t fully understand personal finance. Hell, some adults unfortunately don’t know the difference between a debit and a credit card!

      Liked by 1 person

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