Personal Finance

A List of Famous Money Experts (And How to Spot a Fake Financial Guru)

When it comes to personal finance and investing, what famous names can you trust for solid advice and who should you avoid?

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I can vividly remember the day that I read my first book from a personal finance expert. I was a high school senior and I remember being so enthralled with learning about investing and the power of compound interest.

Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was to have found a book that was written by a scrupulous financial guru who gave sound advice. Unfortunately, many others have been duped into making bad money decisions at the bidding of famous money experts.

Below, we take a quick look at 10 of the world’s most famous (and infamous) money experts. Afterward, we’ll discuss how to identify a real financial guru from a fraudster.

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10 Famous Money Experts

Here are 10 of the most widely-known names in the personal finance and investing worlds (ordered alphabetically). Seven of these gurus were legit, while three were more interested in padding their own pockets than the bank accounts of their followers.

Ivan Boesky

In the 1970s and 80s, Boeksy grew his stock brokerage company by speculating on corporate takeovers. His personal fortune skyrocketed to more than $200 million. And he fully cemented his celebrity status after being featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1986.

But in 1987, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) started investigating whether his investment decisions were based on leaked information from corporate officers. Boeksy admitted to his unethical behavior and agreed to work with the SEC to inform other involved parties.

Ultimately, Ivan Boesky became the first Wall Street trader to be charged and convicted for insider trading. He spent 3 years in prison for his crimes. He was also forced to pay a record $100+ million in fines and was banned for life from working in the securities industry.

Warren Buffett

At 90 years old, Warren Buffett has been one of the most widely respected names in the investing world for well over half a century. He’s been chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. since 1965 and has been a billionaire since 1985. Today, he is one of the richest men in the world despite the fact that he’s given away the vast majority of the wealth that he’s accumulated throughout his lifetime.

Buffett is probably the most famous proponent of value investing, which focuses on companies with strong fundamentals, cash flow, and long-term growth potential. Countless authors have distilled his ideas in book form, including The Essays of Warren Buffett, which pulls directly from Buffett’s own annual report letters to Berkshire shareholders.

Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky is a personal finance journalist who serves as the financial editor for NBC’s Today Show. She’s also appeared as a money expert on a variety of other programs such as Oprah, Live With Regis and Kelly, and The View.

In addition to her on-air work, Chatzky produces a great deal of written content. She’s been a contributor, staff writer, or editor for many popular publications such as Money Magazine, Parents, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, SmartMoney, and Forbes.

In 2018, Chatzky launched HerMoney, a website and a podcast that empowers women to change their relationship with money. She’s also authored 10+ books, including her most recent work, Women With Money.

Barbara Corcoran

Barbara Corcoran is probably best known for her long-standing role as one of the Sharks on the popular Shark Tank TV show. She’s also laid out her investing strategy in her popular book: Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business.

Before her work on Shark Tank, Corcoran was a New York City real estate tycoon. She sold her real estate brokerage, The Corcoran Group, for $66 million in 2001.

Corcoran regularly contributes to a variety of financial media outlets. She is a columnist for The Daily Review and Redbook and has written a number of books. She is the host of The Millionaire Broker with Barbara Corcoran and has appeared as a guest expert on shows such as Larry King Live and NBC's Today show.

Jim Cramer

Jim Cramer started his hedge fund Cramer & Co in 1987 after leaving Goldman Sachs. Cramer boasted that he sold all of his stock holdings on the Friday before Black Monday in 1987. He also says that the compounded rate of return during his tenure (after all fees) was 24%.

Some of Cramers bold claims have been disputed. But despite these criticisms, Cramers Mad Money show, which airs each weekday on CNBC, has been one of the most followed and referenced DIY investing shows since it launched in 2005. Each day, Cramer gives his advice on stocks to buy and sell.

To protect against accusations of conflicts of interest, Cramer publicly discloses all positions that he holds. And he is prohibited from buying or selling any stock that is discussed on Mad Money for at least 5 days following the broadcast.

Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert who has been sharing financial tips on his nationally-syndicated radio show since 1989. In 2015, he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

Before becoming a media personality, Howard founded and grew the travel agency, Action Travel. Due to frugality and a high savings rate, Howard was able to retire just 6 years after launching his company, at the age of 31.

On his radio show, Clark (as he pleads his listeners to refer to him) refuses to make personal endorsements of any products or services to ensure that his advice remains unbiased. In addition to his radio work, Howard has authored 10 books, including three New York Times best-sellers.

Bernie Madoff

For at least 17 years (and maybe longer) Bernie Madoff operated the largest Ponzi scheme in history. He attracted investors with lofty claims about the returns he could generate through his split-strike conversion investing strategy.

But, in reality, Madoff would simply deposit his investors’ funds inside his own business bank account. And he would withdraw from the same fund when investors wanted to cash out their accounts. The only way that Madoff was able to avoid running out of money was to continue drawing new investors to the fold.

The whole scheme came crashing down, however, during the recession of 2008. After finally admitting his firm’s lies to his sons, Madoff was arrested by the FBI and pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts in 2009. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and was ordered to forfeit assets totaling over $150 billion.

Related: How to Avoid Startling Work-from-Home Scams

Suze Orman

For 13 years, Suze Orman hosted her popular CNBC Saturday night personal finance show, the Suze Orman Show. She also served for 16+ years as the contributing editor to O The Oprah Magazine and the Costco Connection Magazine.

Orman is also an accomplished writer. She is a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, with each of her last 10 books making the bestseller list. In total, over 25 million copies of her books have been sold.

Orman has received a record eight Gracie Awards during her career. In 2013, Forbes placed her in its top 10 list of the most influential celebrities, and in 2020, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance by Barrons.

Charles Ponzi

It’s never a good thing when your last name becomes synonymous with unethical or illegal business schemes. But such is the case with Charles Ponzi.

In the 1920s, Ponzi was able to wrangle millions of dollars from fooled investors by offering 45-day profits of 50% and 90-day profits of 100% on discounted postal reply coupons. Actually, Ponzi was just paying old investors with the cash gleaned from new victims.

Ponzi’s business only lasted about a year before being arrested on August 12, 1920. But he was able to lose an estimated $15 million in investor money during that time. And since then, his name has served as a reminder that if a promised investing return seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Dave Ramsey

After building a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio by age 26, Dave Ramsey ended up losing it all by the age of 30 and declaring bankruptcy. This became a defining moment for Ramsey and he rebuilt his life on a different set of financial principles. Since then, Ramsey has been committed to staying out of debt and has helped countless families reach their own debt payoff goals.

In 1992, Ramsey founded The Lampo Group, LLC and began providing financial counseling to individuals and couples. Not long after, he launched his radio show, which today is heard by 14 million listeners per week on 600+ radio stations.

In addition to hosting his daily radio show, Dave has authored seven bestselling books on money and leadership. And the financial programs that his Ramsey Solutions team has created, such as Financial Peace University (FPU), Legacy Journey, and Smart Money Smart Kids have been attended by over 5 million people.

How to Spot a Fake Financial Guru

Some financial experts just give advice and leave it up to you whether to follow it or not. But other financial gurus (like some of the infamous names above) are also in the business of managing client investments.

And that’s where the real danger can lie. As the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) points out, investment scams are far too common in the United States. But here are a few pieces of advice that FINRA shares on how to avoid them:

  • Question any claims of guaranteed returns: With the exception of FDIC-insured CDs or savings accounts, there are virtually no true investments that can promise guaranteed returns with zero risk. If a financial guru or advisor tries to persuade you differently, you may want to run the other way.
  • Beware of limited-time investment opportunities: Very few legitimate investments are going to be inaccessible next month or next year. If a financial advisor tries to rush you into making an immediate investment decision, you may be dealing with a scammer.
  • Ignore any manufactured peer pressure: We all tell our kids that the “everybody is doing it” line isn’t a good excuse for making a bad decision. And the same principle holds true for investing. Don’t let an advisor’s claim that everyone in a certain demographic is getting in on an investment influence you to invest in something you don’t understand.

Finally, FINRA says that it’s important to check up on any credentials that an advisor claims to have next to their name. Fake financial gurus love to add letters to the end of their signatures to build trust from their victims.

Don’t be fooled. Make sure a financial advisor is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the appropriate state regulator before handing over any of your money.

5 Places to Find a Legitimate Financial Advisor

If you’re looking for an advisor to help you build a financial plan or manage your investments, it’s crucial that you find someone reputable. Whenever possible, strive to work with a fiduciary advisory as they have an ethical duty to only recommend investments that are in your best interests.

It can also be a good idea to look for fee-only financial planners since this minimizes (but doesn’t eliminate) potential conflicts of interest. Not sure where to find a legitimate financial advisor? Here are five places to quickly find a fiduciary financial advisor near you.

SmartAdvisor

SmartAdvisor is a free service by SmartAsset that connects clients with fiduciary financial advisors. After answering a few simple financial questions about yourself, SmartAdvisor will match you up with up to three qualified advisors.

Each of the advisors that SmartAdvisor recommends has been thoroughly vetted. They take care of all the legwork involved with confirming that their SEC registration is active and that they truly have all the licenses they claim to have. They also refuse to work with anyone that has had a serious regulatory infraction within the prior 10 years.

Once you’ve been shown your three advisor matches, you can review the qualification and experience of each. And if you decide that you’d like to move forward with a particular advisor, you can book an appointment right from the SmartAdvisor website.

Paladin

Paladin Research and Registry is another free advisor matching service. Like SmartAdvisor, Paladin Registry matches you with pre-screened financial fiduciaries who meet the requirements you set.

Each advisor that is approved to join the Paladin Registry directory undergoes a careful examination of credentials and ethics. And if you’d like to verify licenses and registrations yourself, you can use Paladins Check a Credential service.

Paladin Registry has been helping investors find fiduciary planners, advisors, and managers since 2004. They’re a Better Business Bureau (BBB) accredited business and boast an A+ rating.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital is often known for its financial tools like its budgeting software, retirement planner, and investment fee analyzer. But what you may not know is that Personal Capital offers wealth management services as well.

Personal Capital offers many of the same automatic investing tools that you’d expect from a robo-advisor. But where they really set themselves apart is by also offering access to licensed fiduciary advisors for all their clients.

The Personal Capital advisory fee for the first $1 million in assets is 0.89%. For that fee, you get professionally-managed ETF portfolios in addition to unlimited advice and planning from their team of advisors. However, the investment minimum is on the high side at $100,000.

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) has been connecting clients with highly-qualified financial advisors since 1983. With its Find an Advisor tool, you can quickly find advisors near you and create a list of your favorites.

And by clicking on the names of any individuals or firms, you can dig deeper into their credentials or find their contact information for setting up an initial interview.

Each of the 3,800+ professionals that are part of its network is a fee-only advisor. Additionally, every advisor is required to sign a new Fiduciary Oath each year and promise to adhere to the NAPFAs stringent Code of Ethics.

Bottom Line

The world's most widely-known names are famous for a reason. Take heed of the acts they have taken to grow their wealth, both the good and the bad.

Want to know more?

Check out the links below to read more about each of the names we mention above:

Clint Proctor

Clint Proctor

Clint Proctor is a freelance writer and founder of WalletWiseGuy.com, where he writes about how students and millennials can win with money. When he's away from his keyboard, he enjoys drinking coffee, traveling, obsessing over the Green Bay Packers, and spending time with his wife and two boys.


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