The big story in the Canadian personal finance blog-o-net this week was definitely Sean Cooper’s tire fire of an AMA (ask me anything) over on Reddit. Cooper was clearly looking for some free publicity for his upcoming book — which I reviewed and didn’t really care for — but it didn’t really go as planned after several people questioned him on the validity of his mortgage free in three years story.

The issues basically come down to one thing. Cooper stated he made around $100k a year for each of the three years it took to pay off his mortgage. But once you factor in things like taxes, groceries, house expenses, and a big renovation, it becomes obvious he only had $60,000 or $70,000 a year to throw at a $255,000 debt. The math doesn’t add up.

Sean’s explanation for the discrepancy is… well, nobody really knows. He’s pretty vague with his answers, essentially saying “guys, the numbers add up. Trust me. And no, I’m not going to disclose what I made.” People are saying that’s a pretty weak argument from a person who’s in the credibility business, which is a pretty valid take. It’s all about trust.

And then this comment showed up, which really started to grind my gears:

sean cooper ama

Pardon my french here, but there’s way too much of this kind of bullshit going on in the financial blogging sphere, and I’m tired of it. Criticizing Sean using throwaway accounts or in private messages and behind closed doors is a cowardly thing to do. If somebody thinks the guy is lying or is giving dangerous advice, own up to it.

We criticize payday loans and credit card debt and mutual funds and a million other terrible financial products on our blogs every damn day, yet when somebody presents a message we disagree with, nothing happens but whispers behind the scenes. Electrons fly back and forth with people saying to their friends “Oh. My. God. Did you just see what Nelson wrote?” Meanwhile, my comment section is more dead than Jimmy Carter.

Wait. He’s not dead? Are we sure there isn’t a Weekend at Bernie’s situation going on there?

The point is this. If somebody thinks Sean’s message will ultimately make people poorer, take a stand and say so. They have a responsibility to do so, in a way. And if a blogger is typing something out to a friend they wouldn’t say publicly, then maybe it’s time to hit the delete key. It takes courage to criticize somebody on a public platform. It doesn’t take much to talk shit behind somebody’s back.

Links I liked

1. Let’s start things off with an interesting article from Institutional Investor, highlighting the changes made by Quebec’s giant pension manager Caisse de depot under former BCE head Michael Sabia. Changes included getting out of index funds and taking a far more concentrated approach, despite managing more than $150 billion in assets.

2. This inside look at the Microsoft IPO back in 1986 is a great read for the creepy cover picture of Bill Gates alone. He looks like he’s about to slip something into your drink.

3. Mr. Dividend Growth Investor points out some myths surrounding index investing, which are very valid. Ultimately, investing comes down to consistency. Switching up your methodology because one part of your portfolio is struggling is a bad idea. If there’s one thing we can say about Dividend Growth Investor, it’s that he’s consistent.

4. Andrew Hallam continues to be one of my favorite finance writers. Here’s a piece he recently did for Asset Builder that looks at how Captain Kirk’s mindset can help your retirement.

5. TD Bank’s aggressive sales practices made the news this week, as profiled in this CBC article. One teller said “customers are prey to me. I will do anything I can to make my [sales] goals. I thought this was much ado about nothing, but TD shares slumped 5.5% on Friday because of this report. Investors think there might be another Wells Fargo situation here.

6. The funniest story of the week comes from Business Insider, who profiled a 31-year-old who paid off $220,000 in student loans in three years. Inspiring, right? There’s just one problem. She had all sorts of help from her family, including her mom giving her a job, a free condo, and a free place to live once our hero decided to rent out the condo for more income. Sacrifice is hard, yo.

7. Speaking of which, Paul over at Asset-Based Life has our previous linkee beat. He paid off $65,000 worth of student loan debt in two minutes. No, that’s totally not clickbait. Really.

8. Bitcoin crashed some 20% on Friday because the SEC rejected the much-anticipated Bitcoin ETF sponsored by the Winklevoss twins. Yes, it’s the same twins that supposedly invented Facebook because they had the idea first. I appreciate anything that knocks Bitcoin down a peg. What a dumb asset class.

9. I’m a big fan of Boomer and Echo’s so-called “four minute” portfolio, which gets its title from the amount of annual work Robb puts into it. ETF investing is supposed to be simple, and you can’t get much simpler than Robb’s two ETF approach.

10. Half Banked points out that if you really want to accelerate savings, making more money is far more important than frugality. It’s an important, timeless message that I will pound into everyone’s head until goo comes out their ears.

11. The execution is the hardest part, or so says Studenomics. Nobody wants to hear about the nitty gritty of starting a business or making more money. Remember that when you’re struggling to get ahead.

12. And finally, here’s a profile of a mutual fund that only invests in stocks trading under $35 a share. A bit of an odd rule, but hey, I’m interested enough to give it a link.

Stuff Nelson wrote

1. I wrote about suddenly cheap Under Armor, taking a look at whether the stock is worth checking out for value investors.

2. I recently spent some time talking to “Jerry”, a millionaire next door type who amassed a $2.5 million net worth just after his 50th birthday. Jerry is an interesting guy with a lot to say. I’ll have some more Jerry wisdom next week for y’all.

3. I also spent some time discussing whether the TSX Composite is in a giant bubble. It’s no worse than Toronto housing, anyway.

Tweet of the week

This didn’t even come from me. Way to phone it in, Nelson.

Have a good week, everyone.

Tell everyone, yo!