Can you believe it? A year ago today, I returned to the helm of Get Rich Slowly. Eight-and-a-half years after selling the site, I bought it back.
During the past twelve months, GRS has been through three distinct phases as I've struggled to figure out my focus and direction.
- First, I tried to manage the blog as a “curation engine”, collecting the best money stories from around the web.
- You folks wanted more of my voice, though, so I spent three months running the site like I used to in the olden days: I averaged an article a day between January and March.
- An article a day was too much — for you and for me. Since April, I've worked to find a balance. It seems that two or three articles per week is a good pace.
In my first year back in charge of Get Rich Slowly, I published 209 articles and sent out 38 weekly email updates. (Each email update is essentially a separate article, most of which is a roundup of cool money stories from around the web.)
Let's take a quick look at where we've been and where we're going.
Twelve Favorites from Twelve Months
Conventional wisdom nowadays is that a blog must be focused to be successful. It has to serve a distinct niche audience. That's smart advice, but I don't follow it.
I love the freedom I have when writing at Get Rich Slowly. I love that I'm able to explore a wide range of topics, from how to get out of debt to how to invest to how to be happy. Not every article is applicable to every reader, but I'm okay with that. Even Money Boss (the site I ran from 2015 to 2017) felt too limiting. Here at GRS, I have no contraints. I'm able to write what I want when I want, and I think that leads to better work.
Just for fun, here are twelve of my favorite pieces from the past year:
- Your lifetime wealth ratio (and how to calculate it). Your lifetime wealth ratio (or LWR) compares how much you have today with how much you've earned during your time in the workforce. It's a way to look at the wealth you've created and gauge how well you've done at keeping that wealth.
- How to prepare for an uncertain future. Our financial decisions are based on our expectations for the future. We base our expectations on past experience — both our own experience and the experiences of others. Generally speaking, there's nothing wrong with this method of planning. It works. But what happens when the old patterns break? What happens when past data becomes meaningless?
- Start where you are. 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.
- How to build a wealth snowball. Spend less than you earn — that's the basic rule of personal finance. If you spend less than you earn, you'll build a wealth snowball that will allow you do do the things you dream of doing and to have the things you dream of having.
- The plight of the poor: Thoughts on systemic poverty, fault, and responsibility. There's a seductive myth that poor people deserve what they get. Look, let's get real. Far more people live in poverty due to systemic issues and/or historical legacy than due to a pattern of financial misbehavior.
- The six stages of financial freedom. I used to believe that financial freedom meant just one thing: Having enough money that you never had to work again. Over the years, I've learned that financial independence exists on a continuum. It's not “all or nothing”, but an ever-increasing range of options. It's a process.
- The high cost of homeownership. For both entertainment and catharsis, I spent some time talking about the high costs of homeownership. My experiences seem typical. Everyone I talk to about homeownership has similar tales to tell. I'll bet you do too!
- How much should you spend in retirement? I've noticed that a lot of retirees — early retired or otherwise — struggle to know how much they should spend. I believe this dilemma exists for a couple of reasons.
- The forever fallacy. 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 possible tomorrows.
- The advantages of buying and owning a home. I've written a lot about buying and owning a home. Much of what I've written could be construed as anti-homeownership. But I'm not anti-homeownership. Here are some of the reasons I choose to own a home.
- The thin green line: Why you should be skeptical of financial blogs. The trouble with the rise of blogging as a business is that the business has become the focus for most financial blogs. Financial bloggers aren't making decisions based on what's best for their audience. They're making decisions based on what's likely to bring them the most income.
- Potential needs versus actual needs: Re-writing my financial blueprint. I've begun to question my compulsion to buy things before I'm ready to use them. I'm questioning my tendency to accumulate things because I might want to use them or I might need them someday. What if I instead gave myself permission to buy whatever I need and/or want — but only if I'm going to use it right away?
Here's where I need your help! As I consider which topics to tackle in the future, I'd love to know what financial dilemmas you're wrestling with today. What's your biggest pain point when it comes to money? Also, what's your most recent big financial victory? Finally, what challenges do you anticipate in the near future?
Your feedback will help me choose which subjects to write about in the months to come.
Where We're Headed
The past twelve months have been both fun and frustrating. I've had a blast re-engaging with you folks (and gradually getting re-acquainted with long-time readers). Plus, I truly enjoy writing about money. It's my calling in life.
At the same time, I'm not so fond of the business and technical side of site management. A decade ago, this wasn't such a big deal. Blogs (and the internet, in general) were less sophisticated and one person could run and manage a site without much hassle.
In 2018, however, running a site is more complicated — especially a site that's 12-1/2 years old with an archive of 5000+ articles. If you've been following along, you know how much I hate dealing with SEO, monetization, social media, marketing, and other similar tasks. Plus, running a big blog nowadays is expensive.
During my first year back, GRS has produced roughly $20,000 in revenue. That's great! Unfortunately, the site has incurred roughly $30,000 in expenses. That's not so great. (And that doesn't even include the costs to repurchase the blog!) I don't need to make big bucks here, but I'm not a fan of working long hours while paying for the privilege.
Update! I tabulated some exact numbers. GRS produced $17,219.69 in revenue during the past year. Site-specific expenses — not counting costs for software, tools, A/V gear, etc. that I bought for the umbrella company — were $28,300.93. That's a net loss of $11,081.24. Translation: I'm currently paying about $1000 per month out of my pocket to keep this site running…plus all of my time. Plus re-acquisition costs.
That's why I've decided to collaborate with my pal Tom Drake, the brains behind MapleMoney (a Canadian personal-finance site). Tom not only knows about the technical and marketing stuff, but he actually enjoys it. What a weirdo!
With Tom diving into the behind-the-scenes tasks, I'm free to focus on my passion and strength: writing.
For the rest of 2018, I intend to publish frequently but on an irregular schedule. Topics will be random and varied. But our goal as we head into 2019 is to develop an actual (loose) publishing schedule that adheres to (loose) monthly themes. Our aim is to *gasp* prepare a lot of material in advance. We believe that doing so will free me (and the rest of the team) to do more creative stuff instead of constantly playing catch-up.
My dream is that a year from now, after we've finished renovating the site, Get Rich Slowly will be an excellent, easy-to-use resource for anyone searching for financial help. At the same time, I want it to be an entertaining and interesting place for regular readers to visit. Most of all, I want it to be an outlet for me to write about money. Because honestly, that's all I want to do.