I Asked an AI Chatbot About Personal Finance — and Was Surprised by Its Answers

You may have noticed a lot of news stories (and tweets, for that matter) about ChatGPT — a newly released “chatbot” from the folks at OpenAI. It’s notable because it uses artificial intelligence (AI).

Many people are trying it out, with interesting results. For example, one person used it to write cover letters for jobs. They were reasonably well received, but deemed to not reflect much personality.

I decided to try it out myself, to see how it would address personal finance issues. The results surprised me.

Image source: Getty Images.

Questions and answers

Here are some of the questions I asked, along with the chatbot’s answers:

How can one get out of debt?

Getting out of debt requires discipline and a commitment to developing a sound financial plan. Start by creating a budget, making a list of your debts, and prioritizing which debts to pay off first. You should also consider speaking to a financial advisor to develop a tailored debt repayment plan that works for you.

I was surprised by this answer because it’s rather true. Discipline and commitment are underappreciated requirements for getting out of debt. The answer was a bit lacking, though, as it didn’t exactly explain how to prioritize debts or what you would do with the budget you created.

The recommendation to think about consulting a professional was a good one, though. Those who aren’t sure how best to manage their finances can often benefit greatly from a pro’s services.

What’s the best age at which to start collecting Social Security?

The best age to start collecting Social Security benefits depends on your individual financial situation. Generally, you can start collecting as early as age 62, but you will receive reduced benefits. If you wait until age 67, you will receive your full benefit amount. It is important to consider how your choice will affect your retirement income and speak to a financial advisor to ensure that it is the right decision for you.

This answer, too, is not exactly wrong. It’s true that most folks can start collecting their Social Security benefits as early as age 62 and as late as age 70 and their benefits will be greater or less depending on when they start collecting.

It is important to consider how your choice will affect your retirement income, but there was little explanation of how it would. I saw what would be a pattern, too, with another recommendation to consider consulting a pro.

What’s your best personal finance advice for 2023?

My best personal finance advice for 2023 is to create a budget and track your expenses. Additionally, it is important to save and invest for the future, take advantage of tax-advantaged accounts, and speak to a financial advisor to ensure that your financial decisions are appropriate for your individual situation.

Again, this is fairly bland and very basic — but not bad advice. It’s not best for all, though, since we’re all different, with different circumstances. Some people, for example, should spend 2023 paying off debts and building an emergency fund before saving and investing for retirement.

It was admittedly fun asking the chatbot questions and seeing what it would say. I asked it about myself: “Who is Selena Maranjian?” And I got an answer that was partially wrong: It said that I have been writing about personal finance since 1987. (I actually started around 1996.)

“She is a longtime contributor to The Motley Fool, where she helps readers make smart decisions about their money.” That part is true — I hope! “Selena is also the author of several books on personal finance, including The Smartest Investing Book You’ll Ever Read.” I am the author of several books — but not that one.

I threw it a bit of a curveball, too, with this question:

What are the best places to travel to?

The best places to travel to depend on your individual preferences and budget. Some popular destinations include Paris, London, New York City, Barcelona, Tokyo, and Bangkok. There are also many lesser-known destinations worth exploring, such as Marrakech, Bali, and the Galápagos Islands.

I’m not sure how it arrived at those answers, but they certainly seem like promising destinations.

Is a chatbot your next personal finance advisor?

Should you start consulting an artificial-intelligence-trained chatbot about your finances? I wouldn’t recommend it. It offered some good general advice, but without examples and details. It also wasn’t 100% trustworthy, as it got some things wrong.

Go ahead and ask it some questions for fun, and know that you’ll likely get some decent advice. But for the best results, delve into your financial condition more deeply by reading up on personal finance and investing topics and by — yes — consulting a financial advisor if you’re not sure what your best moves are.

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