Do you ever give someone the advice you wish you could live up to yourself?
Call it hypocrisy or wishful thinking, but we’ve all done it, right? (Please say it’s not just me.) The kind of advice you preface such advice with, “I could do a better job of this myself, but…”
Some people, however, take this kind of note-to-self to a whole new level.
The politician who rails against adultery while his mistress is waiting in a hotel room. The relationship counselor in the midst of a messy divorce.
The televangelist who…well, there are at least seven deadly sins to choose from, right?
Zac Bissonnette has collected sage wisdom from dozens of hypocrites and flimflammers in his new book, Good Advice from Bad People: Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong.
I asked my editor if I could share some of the juiciest money-related examples from the book. She said, “Sure! Just don’t name any specific names.”
She did Bissonnette a huge favor: if you want to know the names behind the hypocritical advice, you’ll have to buy the book.
Okay, you could also just Google the quotes, but then you’d miss out on all the rest of the fun in the book: sports stars, business and political leaders, and purveyors of self-help.
Bissonnette himself comes from the world of personal finance—his two previous books were both about money.
In fact, they were filled with good advice. Someone might want to look into that.
From a real estate hustler:
“I began my career as something of a conservative when it came to finances, believing that simply by conserving cash in accounts that provided compound interest one possessed a very powerful tool in building wealth. I still believe in those principles today, 30 years later, only now I am pushing it to the next level.”
Bissonnette: “[T]rouble started when people questioned exactly whose cash was in those accounts.” The author filed for bankruptcy twice, tried to con a police chief, and in 2012 was sentenced to 51 months in prison.
From a get-rich-quick seminar scam artist:
“If you do for a few years what most people won’t do, you’ll be able to do for the rest of your life what most people can’t do.”
I’m not sure if this actually constitutes good advice, because I have no idea what it means.
Like, most people won’t leave the house naked, but I’m pretty sure doing so wouldn’t make me rich.
In any case, Bissonnette writes, “‘what people won’t do’ included obstructing justice and neglecting to report $9.5 million of income from the sale of his books, tapes, and seminars.”
From a defunct energy company that rhymes with “Kenron”:
“If you’re not afraid to ask why, you can change whatever it is you want.”
In this case, Bissonnette notes, what the company really wanted to change was its financial results.
From a bestselling investment book:
“If an investment seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes. Stick with those time-proven ways to grow your nest egg.”
This one is just too perfect.
The book in question was pulled from the market after it revealed that the authors wildly overstated their investment results, and their strategy actually underperformed the market.
From a ponzi schemer:
“The best chance for the average investor is to put money in an index fund.”
Yeah, you know who we’re talking about here: the guy who stole billions of dollars and now resides in Club Fed. Let’s called him Barney Ripoff.
Bissonette: “If Barney Ripoff somehow becomes to one to convince people to pursue simple, low-cost investment strategies like buying and holding index funds, he will have done far more good than evil in his time on earth.”
From a guy who ran a bank into the ground selling toxic mortgages:
“The no-money down subprime loan [is] the most dangerous product in existence and there can be nothing more toxic.”
As Bissonnette notes, after settling fraud charges related to subprime mortgages, this former CEO “agreed to a lifetime ban from serving as an officer or director of a public company—not that anyone was asking him to.”
From a get-rich-quick author:
“How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings accounts? I rest my case.”
Bissonnette: “How many get-rich-quick gurus do you know who went broke and then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy? Now you know one.”
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Hey, I’m reading a financial advice column right now, by a guy who says the same thing about index funds as Barney Ripoff. What is this guy hiding?”
And I will tell you. It’s all in my seminar, where you’ll also learn how to beat the market, flip houses, and get ripped by drinking coconut water. Yours for only $995.
Matthew Amster-Burton is a personal finance columnist at Mint.com. Find him on Twitter @Mint_Mamster.