As most FMF readers know, I regularly post questions readers send to me asking for money advice. Then everyone here gets to chime in with their suggestions, thoughts, and opinions and the original reader gets a lot of good information to consider before making his decision on how to proceed.
To this point I haven't listed any sort of guidelines on how to submit such a question, but I think one is needed to make sure we make the most of every opportunity presented. Therefore, here are some things you should consider when submitting a "help a reader" question:
- Give us details. Quite often readers will leave out information that could sway the advice one way or the other, so when you submit your question, take enough time to thoroughly explain the situation so commenters can give you informed opinions based on facts.
- Don't give us too much detail. While we need details, we don't need 10 pages of your life story to answer the vast majority of questions. Give us the facts that are relevant to the issue and leave it at that.
- Don't send in a question that can be answered with a bit of work on your part. I regularly get submissions that could be solved if the person spent five minutes on Google looking for the answer. These questions don't see the light of day here. If you can answer the question yourself with a bit of work, do the work and don't worry about asking the question.
- Realize what you'll get. You need to understand that you'll get opinions/advice from "regular" people, people like me and the readers of this site. In other words, you're not getting thoughts from personal finance "professionals" (in most cases -- there are some that respond here regularly.) So take the answers for what they are worth.
- Have a thick skin. If you've done something stupid or are asking about doing something stupid, be prepared to be told so. The Internet seems to have a way of breaking down people's social "be nice" guards.
- Send in your question well in advance of when you need an answer. I usually write posts a week or so ahead and I do not run more than one "help a reader" post in a day. So you should plan on submitting your question two or three weeks before you need an answer to make sure you have enough time to get responses and have time to consider them.
- Get involved in the discussion. When your question is accepted, I'll email you the day and time it will be posted. Check back at that time, a bit later, and on and off during the next 24 hours. Respond to the questions/comments/suggestions and you'll get much more and much better feedback.
Did I miss anything? Those of you who regularly see and answer these sorts of questions can leave your own thoughts/suggestions below to fill in anything I've missed.
For those of you wanting to submit a question, simply do so by dropping me an email.