Last month, I asked for GRS readers to help me by taking a quick survey about their goals, interests, and preferences. As my financial skills mature, I’m wanting to write different types of articles here; I wanted to be sure you were on board with this.

Fortunately, what you want and what I want seem to be fairly well aligned. I don’t have the space or the inclination to share the complete survey results, but many of you have asked for some sort of summary. I’ve tabulated some of the information below.

Only the 1135 complete surveys were used for calculating results; incomplete surveys were discarded. At the end of this summary, I ponder the implications of the results.

Why do you read Get Rich Slowly?
Multiple answers were allowed to this question, and people could write in their own responses (which 111 of you did!). Here’s why folks come here:

  • 84.3% of you read GRS to improve your personal finance skills.
  • 72.6% come here for tips on how to save and how to be more frugal. This surprised me, to be honest. I’ve been moving away from frugality, but there’s obvious a lot of interest in the topic. So noted.
  • 56.7% read the site because you like my writing style. (Thank you.)
  • 51.3% appreciate the community and/or like to see how others handle their finances. This is good to know, too. I can share more stories about how other people handle money in the Real World.
  • 23.5% are looking for help getting out of debt. This is a lower figure than I expected, but still significant.
  • 14.9% like to hear about specials and offers that might help them with their finances.

In the free-form section, you also noted that you like the gardening project (though to be fair, some of you don’t like it), you appreciate the links to outside resources, and you come here for motivation and inspiration.

What is your primary financial goal?
You were only allowed one answer here, though you could offer a write-in response (which nearly a quarter of you did). Here are the primary goals of GRS readers:

  • 29.8% are saving for retirement.
  • 21.5% are getting out of debt.
  • 13.0% are saving for a down-payment on a house. (Surprising! I should write more about this.)
  • 8.7% are saving their emergency fund.
  • 5.7% want to protect their retirement savings.
  • Only a small percentage say that saving for a car or for their children’s education is their top priority.

Many of you noted that your primary financial goal is Financial Independence or early retirement. (I consider these roughly equivalent.) I’m not sure how I forgot to include that on the list since that is now my primary financial goal.

Which personal finance topics interest you?
With this question, you could specify the degree to which the specified topics interested you. You could also list other topics you’d like to see covered. I’m not going to provide the full data, but I can give you some rough info:

  • Frugality and DIY were by far the most popular topic: 89.8% of you have some degree of interest in this subject (with 61.4% being very interested). Again, I wasn’t expecting this.
  • Budgeting (87.1%) and investing (85.9%) were two more topics in which there was a lot of interest. Savings accounts, etc. had strong support at 77.5%
  • Topics with moderate interest include: home improvements (64.4%), gardening (56.8%), getting out of debt (54.1%), credit cards (47.2%, which surprised me), and health insurance (43.1%).
  • Few of you are interested in credit repair. Only 18.2% expressed interest, while 54.7% have no interest at all. There wasn’t much interest in auto, life, and health insurance either.

Again, there were a lot of write-ins saying that people like to read about others’ experiences and successes. You enjoy stories like that of my neighbor, the real millionaire next door. (He’s in Alaska now, by the way, on the summer portion of his adventures. Just the other day he mailed me a newspaper clipping that mentioned Get Rich Slowly.)

Basically, it sounds like GRS readers are interested in learning about the things they can do to control their own financial destinies. That’s great. That’s what I’m interested in, too.

Questions about saving and investing
The survey contained a number of questions about your habits with saving and investing. The results here aren’t that interesting, but they help me know what kind of info to provide as I do bank reviews.

For example, only 11.7% of you are rate chasers. Most of you prefer to find a bank you can trust, and are willing to give up a little bit of interest rate to do this. Low fees and online features are very important to you.

Probably the most surprising result in this survey came from the question about debt. I expected many GRS readers to have trouble with debt. And it’s true there is a significant minority for which this is an issue — but it’s a minority. Only 13.2% of you say you need help dealing with debt. (And student loans are by far the biggest problem!) Most GRS readers (52.9%) don’t have a debt problem, and 33.9% of you have debt, but are trying to manage it on your own.

How could Get Rich Slowly be made more useful?
This was a difficult question to construct. It’s hard to know what I can actually offer and what you want. Those who took the survey were able to rate features on a scale from one to five. They were also able to write in additional features they’d like to see. Here are some highlights from this question:

  • The feature that sparked the most interest was somehow integrating the best posts from the forums into the blog: 71.9% of you marked this as a four or a five. I’ll confess that I spend very little time in the forums myself, so I can see the value of this feature, too.
  • 65.8% of you expressed interest in personal finance calculators. Again, I think this is a great idea. In fact, back when I first started this site, during the summer of 2006, I purchased a license for a set of personal finance calculators — but I never implemented them. It’s time to fast-track this feature.
  • There was also strong interest for a “fine-print translator”, a personal finance glossary in plain English, and more guest posts from financial experts (as opposed to other financial bloggers).
  • What didn’t you want? You’re not interested in a weekly newsletter, in lists of the best credit card deals (oops — already have a guest post on the way about this), lists of insurance deals, or videos from financial experts.

I’m actually willing to bet that many of you would find it useful to have a section of the site devoted to insurance and credit card deals, much as I have a section devoted to bank deals. It’s not something I’d need to write about all the time, but that info would be there for when you chose to do research.

Other information
There were a lot of other themes that came out in the written comments you provided. Here are some highlights:

  • Many of you are interested in increasing your income, especially through hobbies and side jobs.
  • You’re also interested in the psychology of personal finance (which is great because that’s one of my favorite topics).
  • You’d like more book reviews.
  • Most of you seem to love the anecdotes and the personal stories, even if they’re not from me. (That is, you like reading how other people succeed — and fail — with money.)
  • There were mixed results regarding the garden posts: There’s a hard-core following, but some of you actively dislike them. I think we’ll maintain the status quo with these.
  • Get Rich Slowly has a large international readership, and they’d like info that’s less region-specific. I knew this but had forgotten it. (At one time, I had a huge readership in Australia!)
  • Many of you don’t like guest posts, especially from non-experts. Guest posts serve a useful purpose (they give me a break, they provide other viewpoints), but this is good feedback. I actually hope to address this in a creative way by taking on a “staff writer” in the near future. (For more info, see the end of this article.)

To be honest, there were 43 pages of feedback — and that’s with a 9-point font and narrow margins! That’s a lot for me to digest. It also makes it impossible to summarize the many viewpoints.

The median Get Rich Slowly reader — or the average person who took the survey, anyhow — is a 31-year-old woman with a bachelor’s degree and a household income of about $73,000. You work full-time and own your own home (though this was a pretty even split — many of you rent!). You’re married (or in a relationship — sorry about the limited choices to this question).

How do you read the site? 13.2% read the e-mail newsletter, 35.4% read by RSS, and 51.4% come to the site directly. Most of you visit the site almost daily — except e-mail subscribers, who hardly visit at all!

More than anything, this survey confirmed that I’m mostly on the right course. Mostly. You’re interested in saving and investing, you’re interested in retirement and Financial Independence. That’s great. I intend to cover these topics more in the months ahead.

But it was surprising to learn that you really like the frugality and DIY stuff. Not everyone likes this — and there are other sites that do a better job with it than GRS does — but enough of you like it that I intend to write more about it. I’d been avoiding the subject because I thought there was no interest. I was wrong. I’m not going to cover extreme frugality much (I don’t make my own laundry detergent, for example), but I’ll try to do a better job describing the frugal choices Kris and I make in our own lives.

It’s also interesting to note that based on survey feedback — and recent reader e-mail — many of you actively dislike guest posts from non-experts. You’ve asked me to exercise a stronger “quality filter”, and I think that’s a fair request. But it’s also a challenge.

Over the next few months, I’ll begin to work on a book. Based on my conversations with others, it’s clear that this project is going to take a lot of my time. I’m not going to be able to maintain the same publishing schedule (10.2 articles per week) as I have over the past three years. In fact, my goal is to do about half that. (One post per weekday?)

How then to continue providing great content? One option is to feature more guest posts, but that’s likely to leave many of you unhappy. As a result, I’m going to try an alternative.

I’m in the process of auditioning candidates for a “staff writer” position at Get Rich Slowly. This would basically be a second author — a regular guest poster, if you will. I’ll need your help in selecting this person, as you’ll see in the weeks ahead: Candidates are producing their audition pieces right now. (I have all the candidates I need, thanks.) It’s my hope that a regular contributor will be more palatable to you than a never-ending parade of guest authors.

I enjoyed sifting through the survey responses. It’s always fun to hear what other people like about Get Rich Slowly, and how they think the site could improve. (My favorite part of GRS? As always, it’s interacting with the readers!)

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