April 19, 2022
My previous post on the new ASIC guidelines and the issues discussed seems to bring up a lot of emotions inside us.
There are many reasons why, but one is because we live in a democratic country where free speech is supposed to be something we’re allowed to indulge in.
Add to that, the clear power dynamics at play, ongoing issues of trust and regulation, and financial livelihoods on the line in many cases.
But I’m not here to repeat what I said last time. This post is an update on what’s happening and how I’m planning to move forward.
Firstly, I want to take a moment to share how incredibly grateful I am. The lovely comments and kind words of support I’ve received since that article has been overwhelming. Thank you!
When I wrote my article, many people reached out to suggest I was likely exaggerating. And that my interpretation of the rules was overly strict.
But since that time, ASIC has confirmed in meetings with creators that, basically, the harshest interpretation is actually the correct one.
ASIC has also explicitly stated that this applies to any historic content too. So if you have years worth of blogs, videos, or podcasts, these are supposed to be immediately updated with no grandfathering or grace period.
For this reason, don’t be surprised if you see certain people pull their content down entirely. The time it would take to tweak and adjust a library full of content is simply too much to bear.
I’m sure plenty of my content is now classed as ‘illegal’. So I’m expected to go through it all and somehow purify it. Though, to be frank, a lot of it should probably be taken down if their rules are to be followed precisely.
If you see some content disappear, that’s why. I’d suggest you save any content from sites you like, just in case this does happen. And if I don’t answer certain questions or emails, it’s most likely because I’m not allowed to!
After much discussion, thinking, and working through the options, Pat and I have decided to stop the podcast.
The episode that went out today is the last episode of FIRE & Chill. In that episode we discuss the new guidelines, have one last rant, and explain why we decided to end the show.
You can listen here:
I understand this will disappoint a few people, and for that, we’re sorry. But overall, we felt this was the right decision. Who knows… if things change we can always fire it up again in the future!
At this point, the podcast will be removed from directories and apps in the next couple of weeks. But I may leave the episodes up on this site – not sure yet.
I’m in contact with others in the finance space and we’re discussing the developments, as well as a few possible paths forward.
At the moment, here’s how I’m thinking about it.
The blog will continue, and I’ll work within the rules. This means there’ll be very limited discussion about investing or financial products.
There’ll be no recommendations or even general guidance on what to do in these areas – investments, home loans, insurance, super, anything. And I won’t be able to share anything I’m using, doing, or investing in myself either.
Due to the demotivating factors at play, I feel like I’ll probably spend a bit less time on here. So, content and therefore my newsletter might change from weekly to bi-weekly, or maybe tri-weekly (is that a word?).
As for the book, I’m still going ahead with that. But I’ll go back through the draft and consider tweaking some of it.
Most likely, the book will still be against the rules since it’s not robot-speak and there are opinions and general guidance in it. And while the recent guidelines are focused on ‘online content’, I’m sure ASIC could still come after me for a book if they wanted to.
One option that is semi-attractive is freelancing for a third-party.
It may be possible to come under another firm’s financial license after completing a low-level financial qualification. Or it could be part of traditional media which apparently seems to get a ‘free speech’ pass.
There are one or two options which have presented themselves. But the practicalities are still being fleshed out.
The idea is, I could then speak about investing, or whatever else, and people could go check that content out elsewhere. In a more diluted way than previously, given the rules, but better than nothing.
Basically, I’m trying to find a way to maximize freedom of expression while following the rules. And without having to become an international fugitive and write from a discreet location, or set up Strong Money Maldives… as fun as that might be.
There has obviously been counter-takes to my article in the last couple of weeks. Some valid, some nonsense.
I was initially planning to craft a delicious rebuttal or reply to these points of view in this article. But I honestly can’t be bothered. I’d just be repeating myself and massaging my own frustrations, which isn’t a great use of time, energy, or emotion.
But there is one thing I do want to tackle something that irks me.
One missing link seems to be the lack of accountability for our personal decisions in the modern world.
When something doesn’t go to plan, we always want to know who to blame. Where to point our fingers. It has to be someone’s fault. And it couldn’t possibly be ours.
So this is partly why regulators and rules exist. To protect us from our own decisions. Many times, that’s a good thing. But sometimes it goes too far (like now) and it starts getting silly.
Say you follow a blog about nutrition and health.
It has lots of tips on how to get in better shape, there’s recipes and exercise guidelines to follow. There’s a community that chimes in with what they’re doing and how it’s working for them.
Not everyone agrees, but everyone is better off for the discussion. They can compare approaches and listen to the merits of each. After learning about the options and what others are doing, they can decide which route they want to take to reach their personal goals.
Could this be dangerous? Sure. If it’s garbage information to start with, or the reader takes certain tips to an extreme level, or they simply screw up the process with their own poor behaviour in implementing the plans.
And yes, it’s possible they stumble and make a few mistakes along the way. Just as we all do when learning a new subject and trying things out, like nutrition and exercise. We might not feel good and we could even injure ourselves.
But over time we figure out the best approach for us. So do we really need to protect people from the content? Or should they be free to learn from open discussion and then do as they please?
This seems to be the main point of contention. Protect people at all costs, or leave people free to make their own decisions.
Obviously, highly questionable or blatantly dangerous information is different and should be weeded out and shut down. I don’t think anyone actually disagrees with that. But the vast majority of content should, under any common sense scenario, be deemed perfectly fine to share.
Having the ability and channels to complain about or have an advisor sued is hardly ensuring people get good results now, is it?
It’s not preventing the industry as a whole from having to focus on profits more than people. And it’s not stopping them selling complexity when simplicity is all that’s required.
Going by the feedback from advisors (and ex-advisors), that’s partly by choice and partly by being smothered in red tape and costs.
Now I know there would be plenty of truly great licensed advisors we don’t hear from who do amazing work and quietly go about helping clients achieve their goals.
But the current system is not working for everyone. Nor can it due to the high costs involved. So, more regulation is only going to result in less usable information for everyday people.
Yes, we might be ‘protecting’ people in one sense. But overall, we’re certainly not helping them.
The truth is, there are unethical and questionable operators on both sides – unlicensed and licensed. That will remain the same after these changes.
Everyday people don’t need more generic information and fact sheets. They need that information to be translated into actionable takeaways they can actually use.
As I mentioned in my newsletter, if you’d like to express your disappointment and frustration of these new guidelines, you can do so by reaching out to the Minister for Financial Services, Jane Hume here.
She seems to be an ally of ours, so if she hears from the everyday people it’s affecting (and the future people who miss out on the helpful content) she may be able to push the issue with ASIC.
Some of you have already reached out, which is great. It’s far more powerful if any protest comes from the consumers of the content rather than the creators. Otherwise, it just comes off as predictable pushback from a self-interested party and is relatively meaningless.
I’ve already gone against my word and repeated some points in this post, so apologies for that!
There are countless other points we could get into on this topic, but I’d rather just leave it there. The last thing I want is to turn this blog into an anti-establishment whinge-fest.
Overall, this quickly turns into a circular conversation because people on either side won’t agree on what should/shouldn’t be allowed and what benefits/drawbacks are mort important. And while I might technically have time to do it, I don’t have the emotional energy or inclination to argue incessantly. It’s just not my style.
After this post, I’ll keep you updated if there are any important changes. But as it stands, this post should give you a better idea on how I’m planning to move forward.
I hope to keep finding ways to bring you helpful content into the future. And since freedom is more appealing than jail, I’ll (mostly) try to follow the rules 😉
As always, I appreciate your support, and thanks for reading!