"Please Advise"

If you’re trying to create a pleasant ending to an email, you’ll want to steer clear of the phrase, “Please advise.”

In theory, the phrase “please advise” is just a sincere request for advice or guidance. But it seems like it really only gets used when someone wants to be passive aggressive.

Here, I’ll prove it to you. You’ve never gotten an email that sounds like this: “Hi, we’re really excited about the cookout this weekend and wanted to know what kind of food we should bring. Please advise!”

No, the “please advise” emails usually sound more like this: “Hello, we haven’t received payment for invoice #34007 which is now 14 days past due. Please advise.”

In other words, “please advise” is usually a special code used to convey annoyance, frustration, or a sense of “you need to get your act together or you’ll be hearing from our attorney/collections agency/mafia hitman.” But as the person using the phrase, it feels so much nicer to just say “Please advise.”

In the financial world, you’ll also find some special codes to make things sound kinder and gentler. Here’s just a few examples:

“High-Yield Bonds.” This is a special code for “junk bonds.” Now, which investment would you prefer to have in your portfolio—high-yield bonds or junk bonds? There’s certainly a use for junk bonds, but you can see how you’d automatically have a different feeling about them if you only knew them as “high-yield bonds.”

“Tax-Free Income.” At some point, you’ve probably heard commercials on the radio talking about special accounts/investments/strategies to create tax-free income in retirement. It all sounds very intriguing. But in this case, “tax free income” I just a special code for life insurance. They’re trying to sell you a life insurance policy, have you over-fund it for a few years to build up a nice cash value, and then withdraw from the cash value later to create income for yourself. It’s not a scam—it’s a legitimate strategy that works. The only problem is that it’s usually not necessary and sometimes an inefficient way to create that tax-free income for yourself. More often than not, it’s just a way to sell life insurance.

“Market Correction.” It sounds so much less daunting to talk about a “market correction” instead of a “market crash.” But a correction is defined as a decline of 10% or more. That means you could get away with referring to a 25% loss a “correction.” So if you have $500,000 in the market and you experience a 25% decline, that means that you lost $125,000. But you can see how it doesn’t hurt quite as bad emotionally when your stock broker says, “Yes, we had a market correction this quarter.” It makes it sound like something was wrong and the market was just retreating to where it should have been in the first place.

So just understand that people in the financial world are no different than the people in any other industry that want you to buy their stuff. Be aware that special codes like these exist and make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into.

And I can’t help but notice that some of you reading this blog post haven’t yet reached out to us for help. Please advise.