The internet can be a blessing and it can be a curse. It is a fantastic place to do research on almost anything, but is the information you find current and accurate? Here are five things to consider when doing internet research into retirement questions.
Check the Date
When was the article or blog written and/or posted? The tax code and rules change often. What was true three years or five years ago may not be true today. Many brackets or income limits are adjusted for inflation each year. Those numbers need to be checked to see if they are the most recent limits.
Check out the Website
What company controls the content on the website? Are they reputable and knowledgeable? Are they unbiased or are they selling a product or strategy? Do a search on the company to see if you come up with positive or negative information. Look for unbiased information.
Check out the Individuals
Similar to checking out the company, you need to check out the individuals running the company. Are they knowledgeable and unbiased or are they focused on selling a product or a strategy? Do a search on the individual to see if you come up with any regulatory complaints against the individual or court cases they were involved in.
Multiple sources can help you confirm that the information you’re reading is correct. If you come up with the same information on several websites, then you are probably on the right track. But keep an eye out for qualifiers such as many experts say or many experts think. Who are those experts? Also, beware of claims that the IRS has given a stamp of approval to an investment, product or strategy. The IRS interprets and enforces the tax code; they do not issue approvals of what promoters might be recommending.
The Golden Rule
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Any website promoting a product, investment or strategy will generally only give you information that bolsters their end goal – to get your money. This is true of all websites, those offering “good” information as well as those offering “bad” information. This difference is that those offering good information willingly give you full, complete answers to your questions; those offering dubious information evade your questions or give incomplete information and pressure you to complete a transaction.