This post from J.D. Roth is part of the reader stories feature at Get Rich Slowly. J.D. founded this site and acted as editor for six-and-a-half years. He now writes at More Than Money. Want to submit your own reader story? Here’s how.
First, the short version: I’m officially retiring from Get Rich Slowly. I may write an occasional guest post here, but from today forward, my online home is at More Than Money, where I’ll write about personal finance, yes, but also travel and fitness and books and philosophy and dating. Plus, of course, my old standbys: cats, computers, and comic books.
This news probably shocks nobody. Before I leave, here’s a longer version of my history here, the story of Get Rich Slowly from Day One.
In the Beginning
I never set out to be a personal-finance blogger. Though I always wanted to be a writer, I always thought I’d write poetry. Or science fiction. Throughout high school and college, I took whatever writing class I could. I edited the school literary magazines. I wrote for the school papers.
During college, I made some dumb decisions. I came from a poor family, but was a at a school with a lot of wealthy kids. (Or kids who seemed wealthy, anyhow.) I desperately wanted to fit in, but couldn’t afford to do so. But then I discovered credit cards.
I started with store credit cards, which allowed me to purchase clothes and cologne. Soon, however, I had signed up for a Visa with a $300 limit. I maxed that out in no time. And so my credit habit started. By the time I graduated from college, I had no student debt but I had plenty of consumer debt.
From there, matters got worse. When I graduated, I had no job and no prospects, so I took a miserable job selling insurance door to door to little old ladies in eastern Oregon. I bought a new car and a new wardrobe. I was essentially paying for three different places to live. In other words, I was digging the hole deeper.
In desperation, I took a job at the family business, a small box manufacturing company in rural Oregon. I was the salesman, but I wasn’t any good at it. I made a meager income, with which I made minimum payments on all my credit cards. I never paid the balances down, though. Any time my credit limit was raised, I simply spent more. I was dumb.
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
In 1998, I had more than $16,000 in credit card debt. I applied for — and was granted — a home equity loan. I used this money to pay off my outstanding debt. I cut up my credit cards. When I was certain that my balances were paid in full, I cancelled the accounts.
I paid faithfully on this loan for five years (it had a ten-year term). But when my wife and I bought our new home in 2004, the intricacies of the transaction (read: my lack of savings) forced me to fold my previous home loan into a new HELOC: $21,000 at 6%.
Couple this with a car loan, a computer loan, and loans from assorted friends and family, and I had accumulated over $35,000 in consumer debt. I was in bad shape. I felt as if I were drowning.
Seeing the Light
Fortunately, a couple of friends threw me life savers. They’d been watching me struggle, and were waiting until I seemed like I finally might be ready to listen. This was the time.
One friend loaned me Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. Another steered me toward the classic Your Money or Your Life. I read them both, and then went to the public library to borrow more books about money. I devoured personal finance manuals. As I read, I began to notice a stark pattern. “It’s impossible to get rich quickly,” these books seemed to say, “but it is possible to get rich slowly.”
Spurred by what I’d learned, I wrote an article for my personal blog that summarized the information in these books. It was a braindump about money. I called this article “Get Rich Slowly”. I had no idea where this would lead.
Getting Rich Quickly
A year later, in early 2006, I was well on my way to paying off my debt. I’d cut my spending in many areas, and was looking for ways to earn more money. “What if I started a personal finance blog?” I thought. “It could be the first personal finance blog on the internet!” Little did I know that there were already dozens — or hundreds — of other personal finance blogs.
On 15 April 2006, I started Get Rich Slowly — this blog. My goals were to:
- Share what I was learning about personal finance.
- Help others improve their financial lives.
- Improve my own financial life.
I wanted to make money from the blog. And I did.
At the start, I made a few pennies every day. Before long, those pennies grew into dollars. And as my audience grew, so did my income. Within a year, I was making as much from Get Rich Slowly as I was from day job, selling boxes for the family business. After about eighteen months, I had eliminated my debt. After two years, I was able to quit my job to blog full time. And within three years, I had sold the blog for more than money than I thought possible.
When I sold Get Rich Slowly, I thought I was done with the site. Because of turmoil in my personal life, I wanted to quit the blog. I wanted to walk away. To do something else. Anything else. In fact, I turned down a bigger offer that required me to stick around the site for three years. I wasn’t willing to make that commitment.
Turns out, that was a mistake.
The thing is, I loved Get Rich Slowly. I loved writing for the site, and I loved the community. I felt a responsibility to the readers. Get Rich Slowly was my baby, and I wasn’t ready to leave. So, I stuck around for three-and-a-half years, writing and editing and performing PR.
I always knew, however, that the day would come when I had to step away. To that end, I worked with the new owners to create a smooth transition. We hired new writers. We tackled new topics. Gradually — very gradually — I stepped back. I wrote Your Money: The Missing Manual. I began to speak at various conferences. I met with GRS readers and began to help them pursue their dreams.
By the beginning of this year, it became clear it was time for me to leave the site completely. All year long, I’ve been working to make that happen.
Now, the time has come. There’s a solid core of staff writers here. There’s a new editor. The audience no longer expects this to be a blog about me and my journey. (And, in fact, when I do write about myself, I get plenty of cranky comments. That’s a good thing! It means the shift has been made.)
It feels liberating to have made this decision. Get Rich Slowly has been an awesome gig, the best work anyone could ask for. I love you, the readers, and I love the work I’ve done. I feel as if I’ve done something good for the world, you know? But I think there’s more good in me. I want to continue helping others. Doing what? I’m not sure. But I’ll noodle that out in time.
For now, I’m happy to learn Spanish, build muscle at Crossfit, and travel the world. I’m also eager to continue meeting GRS readers in person. It’s a blast to exchange ideas and to help others follow your dreams. If you’re ever in Portland, let me know.
Finally, I should note that although I’m done writing and editing here (except for an occasional guest post), I’m not completely done with the site. I’ll continue to act as the site’s face. If a newspaper needs a quote, I’ll give them one. If a conference wants a speaker, I’ll be that guy. I’m proud of the site that I created and helped to build. I want its success to continue in the years ahead.
More than that, I want your success to continue in the years ahead. Be well, my friends, and always remember: The fundamental rule of personal finance is to spend less than you earn.