This blog is now a teenager: Thirteen years of Get Rich Slowly
Thie middle of April is a Big Deal in my world.
The trees have nearly finished blossoming, which means my allergies will soon go away. We're seeing more of the sun, which means the worst of my seasonal depression is behind me. Yesterday, on the 14th, Kim and I celebrated seven years as a couple. And today, on the 15th, Get Rich Slowly celebrates thirteen years of existence.
That's right: This blog is now a teenager.
In the Beginning
When I started Get Rich Slowly, I had no idea what it was going to become. I had no grand plan or vision. I just wanted to write about money while accomplishing three goals.
- My primary goal was to document my own journey as I dug out of debt and (I hoped) eventually learned how to build wealth.
- My secondary aim was to help my family and friends get better with their money too. (Although, truthfully, in my entire social circle, I was probably the person with the worst personal finance skills.)
- And, third on the list, I wanted to make a little extra money with the site. I figured if I could make a few hundred bucks with it, I could pay off my debt a little sooner.
On 26 April 2005 — a year before I started this blog — I published an article called “Get Rich Slowly!” for my personal site. Here's what I wrote:
Today's entry is long and boring. It's all about the keys to wealth, prosperity, and happiness. Over the past few months, I've read over a dozen books on personal finance. Recurring themes have become evident.
These books have embarrassingly bad titles, seemingly designed to appeal to the get-rich-quick crowd: The Richest Man in Babylon, Your Money or Your Life, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Think and Grow Rich, Wealth Without Risk, etc.
Some of the books out there — most of them? — really are as bad as their titles. Others, however, offer outstanding, practical advice. The best books seem to have the same goal in mind: not wealth, not riches, but financial independence.
According to Your Money or Your Life, which I consider the very best of the financial books I've read, “Financial independence is the experience of having enough — and then some”. More practically, financial independence occurs when your investment income meets or exceeds your monthly expenses. Financial independence is linked to psychological freedom.
How is financial independence achieved? Again, the best books all basically agree. (To some of you, this will be common sense, stuff you've known all your life. To others, like me, this kind of thinking is a sort of revelation.)
Here, then, is my personal summary of the collected wisdom found in these books.
“It's nearly impossible to get rich quick without luck,” I concluded after summarizing all of these money books. “Getting rich quick is a sucker's bet. There's only a slim chance that you'll have the sort of luck that's required. You might as well play the lottery.”
Instead, I thought the underlying message of these books was simple: “It is possible to get rich slowly, however, with no risk, and with no luck. All that's required is patience and discipline.”
Get Rich Slowly 1.0
A year later, I was still searching for a way to earn money on the side to help me dig out of debt. I decided that maybe I could earn a few bucks by starting a site about saving and investing. I actually thought mine would be the first personal-finance blog on the Internet! (Ha — little did I know! There were already dozens — dozens! — of other money blogs out there.)
On April 15, 2006, I launched Get Rich Slowly. It was successful from the start. For whatever reason, the stuff I wrote resonated with readers. They shared the site with their friends and family.
Within weeks, I had several hundred readers. Within months, the audience had grown to several thousand. Within two years, more than 500,000 people per month were coming to the site. It was crazy. It was completely unexpected. I was shocked. And grateful.
Those early days of GRS were a hell of a lot of fun. I was figuring this money stuff out in real time, and writing about my successes (and, yes, my failures) as they happened. I did some stupid, stupid stuff — but as time went on, I got better at managing my money.
Needless to say, writing about smart money management every day — for 1000 days — produces a lot of articles! Certain articles stood out as particularly popular — I think because they were particularly helpful. Anyway, here are some highlights from the first three years of the site:
- In praise of the debt snowball (28 Sep 2006) — When I started Get Rich Slowly, I had over $35,000 in consumer debt. I lived paycheck to paycheck on a salary of over $50,000 per year. Basically, I was your typical American consumer. To get out of debt, I used Dave Ramsey's version of the debt snowball. A lot of folks want to complain that using this method is based on bad math, but so what? If math were the issue, I wouldn't have been in debt — and neither would many other people. The debt snowball works, and that's why I love it.
- Are index funds the best investment? (24 Jan 2007) — At first, I was a bad investor. In fact, I was a gambler, not an investor. I took chances on random stocks in the hopes they'd shoot through the roof. Reading and writing about money quickly taught me that pros like Warren Buffett (and many more) actually endorse a simple investment strategy for average folks like you and me. For us, putting our savings into indexed mutual funds is the most reliable long-term investment.
- Which online high-yield savings account and money market account is best? (21 Mar 2007, although this link is to a recent update) — As I started learning smart money habits, I realized it was dumb for me to leave my money in a big national bank that paid me no interest. But where should I save my money instead? To find out, I polled GRS readers. Whoa! Who knew this simple question would create such a huge response? Readers left over 1700 comments with suggestions about where to get the most bang for my buck.
- Free at last! Saying good-bye to 20 years of debt (03 Dec 2007) — It took a lot of time and effort, but my new habits finally paid off. Three years after starting my quest, I wrote a check for the last of my consumer debt. From here, I could start building future wealth instead of repaying past folly.
- A real millionaire next door (13 May 2008) — I used to live next door to an old guy named John. John was a retired shop teacher who had managed to build big wealth on a small salary. Now, in his 70s, he spent part of the year working on farms in New Zealand, part of the year on an Alaskan fishing boat, and part of the year puttering around his home in Portland. Later, I decided to interview him about what led to his financial success.
- You can't always get what you want (24 Nov 2008) — Notes from a conversation with my cousin: It's okay to have something in your life that you hate. And it's okay to have something you want. It's natural. The problem is that once you get that thing, you're just going to hate something else, you're just going to want something more. It's not want that's the problem, but the habit of constantly satisfying wants.
So much happened in my life during these years, both good and bad. It seems odd to summarize that entire period in just a few articles, but I don't want to overwhelm you. (If you want to read more, check out the archives.)
Get Rich Slowly 2.0
While the early, heady years of GRS were carefree and fun, running the site eventually became work. A lot of work. Plus, all sorts of stuff was going on behind the scenes in my personal life. My best friend committed suicide. I was unhappy in my marriage. I struggled with my weight. It was all too much.
In early 2009, I decided to listen to the offers from people who wanted to buy Get Rich Slowly. Shortly after the site's third anniversary, I agreed to sell it.
When I sold, I became financially independent. (I was already on a path toward financial independence — or “FI,” as we say — but the sale helped me leap ahead several years.) My plan was simply to walk away and be done with writing about money. Turns out, I couldn't bring myself to do that.
You see, I love the GRS community. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to continue answering emails, sharing reader questions and stories, and documenting what I was learning about money. Instead of walking away, I stuck around for another three years as editor and primary writer.
During that time, we brought in other writers to help me manage the workload. I was always amazed at how each new voice added another dimension to the site. And our content changed in yet another way because I was becoming much more philosophical about money at this time.
I'd always stressed the importance of psychology; but as my financial philosophy matured, I became even more convinced that smart money management was all about mindset, not math. The math is easy. It's the emotional stuff that's tough. Some of the best articles from this era of GRS really get to the heart of these issues, and I hope that what I learned will be helpful to others, too.
- The razor's edge: Lessons in true wealth (18 Jan 2009) — This is perhaps the most important article I ever wrote for Get Rich Slowly, although most people would never know it. In early 2009, my best friend took his own life. It had a profound impact on me. Here I wrote about what I learned from Sparky's life — and his death.
- How to negotiate your salary (06 May 2009) — I don't think people spend enough time looking for ways to boost their income. There's a reason I mention this over and over and over again. Learning how to negotiate your salary is one of the best ways to improve your financial well-being.
- Understanding the federal budget and The truth about taxes (August 2009) — We cannot have informed discussions about taxes and government spending if we don't have the baseline information. Because my own education on this subject was weak, and because I wanted GRS readers to be informed, I spent 12 hours researching a variety of tax topics. These two articles record my attempts to provide that baseline information. (I need to update these for 2019, don't I?)
- Action not words: The difference between talkers and doers (30 Aug 2010) — If there's something you want to be or do, the best way to become that thing is to actually take steps toward it, to move in that direction. Don't just talk about it, but do something. It doesn't have to be a big thing. Just take a small step in the right direction every single day.
- America's love-hate relationship with wealth (14 Nov 2011) — While writing about money, I've noticed that people in general (and Americans in particular) have a complex love-hate relationship with wealth. People want to be rich — but they're suspicious of those who already are. Why is that? How can we learn to be happy for the financial success of others?
- A place of my own (16 Jan 2012) — The toughest blog post I've ever had to write: After months of hinting at things, I revealed that my wife and I were getting a divorce, and that I'd moved into an apartment of my own. This post explored some of the implications of that decision. (For the record: Kris and I continue to maintain our friendship.)
Eventually, after three years of lingering at GRS, I reached the point where I was willing to cut the cord. I gradually reduced my involvement until I was ready to walk away. I eased myself out of the site and into the life I'd been hoping to pursue.
The Quinstreet Years
I sold Get Rich Slowly in 2009 but stayed on as editor (and primary writer) for another three years. By mid-2012, it seemed that Quinstreet, the company that had acquired the site, was ready to run the site on its own. Plus, it felt like both the audience and I were both ready for me to leave.
So, I retired. Sort of.
Although I no longer had any active involvement in Get Rich Slowly, I still contributed articles from time to time. Plus, I wrote about money for other outlets.
In 2010, I published Your Money: The Missing Manual. (I'm proud of that book but it's sorely in need of an update.) From 2011 to 2014, I wrote the “Your Money” column for Entrepreneur magazine. In 2014, I released the Get Rich Slowly course. In 2015, I started a new site called Money Boss (which is now a part of GRS). And so on.
Plus, of course, Kim and I embarked on our awesome 15-month tour of the U.S. by RV.
I'll confess: I didn't pay much attention to Get Rich Slowly after I moved on. I checked in now and then, but mostly I ignored it. Looking through the archives, here are some of the articles that stand out during the Quinstreet years:
- How to handle people who undermine your success (06 Jan 2012, by April Dykman) — April Dykman was always one of my favorite staff writers here at GRS. I loved learning from her progress. Here she shared some thoughts on how to handle haters in your life. As you work toward a better financial future, you will encounter people who think your choices are foolish. April — and the commenters — have some tips for coping with the criticism.
- The power of personal transformation: Change yourself, change the world (16 Jul 2012, by J.D. Roth) — In July 2012, I spoke at World Domination Summit. This is the written version of that speech, which was all about overcoming fear, finding focus, and taking action. I argued that by finding the courage to change what's wrong in your own life, you'll not only improve yourself, but improve the world around you. (This material has become the psychological core of my financial philosophy.)
- Romanticizing poverty and learning financial independence (03 Jan 2013, by Kristin Wong) — Kristin Wong was another great GRS writer. In this piece, she talks about different perceptions of wealth and poverty — and how those perceptions influence our choices. Her articles always led to great discussions.
- All you need to know about saving for retirement (15 May 2013, by Robert Brokamp) — Before I left GRS, I brokered a deal with the Motley Fool that brought regular contributions from the hilarious (and smart) Robert Brokamp. He contributed many terrific pieces over the years, but I particularly like this crash course in retirement savings. If you're wondering where to start, start here.
- You are the boss of you: How to find success with money and life (01 Aug 2013, by J.D. Roth) — I've always said that nobody cares more about your money than you do. But I've come to realize that nobody cares more about you than you do. The key to success — in every area of life — is to understand that you control your own destiny. If you want to be successful with money and life, you must act as your own boss.
- How to track your spending (and why you should) (24 April 2014, by Holly Johnson) — Holly is another one of the great staff writers that GRS hosted during the Quinstreet years. (I'm excited because she's promised to give me a guest post soon about some of her home improvement fiascos. Should be fun!) I like this article, in which she takes a friend to task for not tracking his spending. He and his wife make a lot of money but they're constantly broke. Why? Because they have no idea where there money goes.
- 29 Ways to build your emergency fund out of thin air (18 Jan 2016, by Donna Freedman) — Donna has contributed a lot of great articles to GRS over the years. (And I hope that at some point in the future, I'll be able to afford to hire her to write here again.) I liked this piece, which provides tons of tips for boosting your saving rate. Saving more isn't just for building an emergency fund; it's also important for digging out of debt and, eventually, pursuing goals like homeownership and financial independence.
During the Quinstreet years, the GRS audience dwindled. This was in part due to the way they managed the site. They had good intentions (and lots of smart people behind the scenes), but they didn't have the same passion for personal finance that I did. Plus, they tended to make decisions that favored short-term results instead of long-term growth. I can't fault them for their choices — they did what was right for them — but I'm sad that the community eventually collapsed.
Not all of the collapse was due to blog management, though. Even if I hadn't sold the site, it likely would have faded eventually, and for a number of reasons: the rise of social media, the “death of blogs”, and increased competition from awesome new sites on a variety of niche subjects.
Get Rich Slowly 3.0
In 2015, I “unretired” from blogging. I founded Money Boss, a site where I posted long, meaty articles about managing your money as if you were the CFO of your own life. I had fun. The site didn't grow as quickly as GRS had nine years before, but after eighteen months, the site had acquired several thousand dedicated followers.
Then, in the spring of 2017, Quinstreet approached me. They asked me if I wanted to re-purchase Get Rich Slowly. Looking at the numbers, I realized it probably didn't make much financial sense to do so — but I didn't let that dissuade me. In October 2017, I bought Get Rich Slowly.
In the eighteen months since my return, I've published a lot of articles that I think are especially good. Here are some highlights:
- What the rich do differently: Habits that foster wealth and success (18 Dec 2017) — I'm fascinated by the differences between rich people and poor people. Are the differences mostly a matter of class and economic mobility? Are people born to wealth and poverty and destined to remain there? Or are there observable differences in attitude and action that tend to lead people to specific levels of affluence? From my experience, it's some of both.
- Start where you are (04 Jan 2018) — My main message to family and friends who find themselves at forty or fifty and feel behind the curve is: Don't panic. All is not lost. You're not too late. This isn't a contest. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
- The plight of the poor: Thoughts on systemic poverty, fault, and responsibility (28 Feb 2018) — There are very real differences between the behaviors and attitudes of those who have money and those who don't. If we want ourselves and others to be able to enjoy economic mobility, to escape poverty and dire circumstances, we have to have an understanding of the necessary mental shifts. The problem, of course, is that it's one thing to understand intellectually that wealthy people and poor people have different mindsets, but it's another thing entirely to be able to adopt more productive attitudes in your own life.
- The forever fallacy (11 Jul 2018) — The forever fallacy is the mistaken belief that you will always have what you have today, that you'll always be who you are today. The truth is that everything changes. You change. Your circumstances change. The people around you change. Nothing is forever. The challenge then is to balance this concept — everything changes — with living in the present. You must learn to enjoy today while simultaneously preparing for a variety of possible tomorrows.
- The boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness (26 Oct 2018) — Last October, I spent a week exploring the relationship between cost and quality. Quality tends to come with a price. While there are ways to mitigate some of these higher costs — buy used, wait for sales, etc. — if you want to buy new quality items, you're going to pay a premium. Because of this, quality is often something reserved for the rich. Like so many things in life, this is fundamentally unfair. But that's how things are.
- Why frugality is an important part of personal finance (31 Jan 2019) — Depriving yourself of certain “standard” choices now means you don't have to lead a life of deprivation when you're older. When you choose to spend less, you're not just boosting your bottom line. You're also gaining the time and freedom that would have been required to earn that money. Thrift isn't deprivation. It's wealth.
- Saving regret — and how to avoid it (27 Feb 2019) — Very few people regret saving money. In fact, research shows that less than 2% of people would save less if they could re-do their earlier life. On the other hand, two-thirds of people wish they'd saved more when they were younger. Poorer people tend to regret not saving most of all. The bottom line: To avoid regrets when you're older, save more now.
I won't lie. While I'm glad to be back and I've enjoyed the past eighteen months, it's also been tough. I have lots to say, but I've struggled to figure out exactly how to say it. Blogging has changed. Expectations are different. I am different than when I started this site.
I'm constantly wrestling with questions like: How often should I write? (Once a week? Three times a week? At random intervals?) Should I share only new stuff? Or should I republish updated material from the archives? In the olden days, I used to share tons of things from other sites. Should I continue to do that? Or should I focus on my own thoughts? How long should my articles be? (A few hundred words? Or…a few thousand?) What topics should I cover?
If you walk through the GRS archives, you can see how I've struggled to find a rhythm for Get Rich Slowly 3.0.
My publication pattern for the past year has been…well, irregular. There are some months where I write and publish a ton, both from myself and others. There are other months — like this one — during which I publish little. (Real Life has been distracting me lately. I have plenty I want to write about, but no time to do it.) And my articles are all over the place.
I'm not worried, though. I know I'll figure things out. In the meantime, I'm having fun. I hope that you are having fun too. And, as always, if you have any suggestions and/or requests for things you'd like to see around here, please let me know. I want GRS to be a useful resource for you — for all of you.