After the TSP, I invest my money in Betterment and Vanguard. I track all of my investments with Personal Capital. I also wrote a short, 2 hour book summarizing this site. You can buy it here.
I hate personal finance blogging. Nearly every post is repetitive drivel that doesn’t need to be said anymore. The personal finance game has been solved. Jonathan at My Money Blog solved the puzzle years ago. So did J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly. And Trent at The Simple Dollar did as well. Here’s the solution to the PF puzzle in five steps:
- Know where your money is going (make a budget)
- Spend less than you earn
- Set some money aside (emergency fund)
- Pay off your debts
- Save some money for the future and let compounding interest go to work
BONUS STEP 6! Start a personal finance blog and write about these 5 steps for 3-5 years. Make thousands per month off of Adsense and affiliate credit card links and then sell your site for six figures.
How many ways can you write about these five steps? Personal finance bloggers are doing everything they can to find out.
Everything That’s Wrong with Personal Finance Blogging
Sure, there are some details, like Roth TSP vs Roth IRA, that require further explanation. But those are just details.
The big ideas have already been written about ad nauseum. If I see one more goddamn list like “5 Critical Financial Goals for 20-Somethings“…I will do nothing but rage silently against the internet. And maybe write a blog post about it. How ironic.
But seriously, look at this post. It has, oh, what do you know, 5 steps:
- Make giving a priority
- Develop your career skills
- Eliminate credit card debt
- Build your emergency fund
- Start investing for retirement
This was a guest post on Dough Roller (something I recently did as well) from Bob at Christian PF. Now, I get it. This is not an attack on Dough Roller or Christian PF, merely some constructive criticism. You need to do guest posts to promote your site, get links, improve your search engine rankings, etc. I do the same thing. And I like the Christian PF site, especially the awesome make money blogging article, which was a huge motivator for me to start my own blog.
But look at those last three steps I bolded. How many articles out there give the exact same advice? Hundreds. Maybe thousands. While the first two points are kind of original and something not a lot of people are writing about, the last three points are fluff.
The thing with personal finance blogging is it’s almost always been said before or done before. It’s 2013. Personal finance bloggers have been writing posts for the last 10+ years. You need something very original or very detailed to have anything new to say.
If you’re not saying anything new, you are not contributing to the conversation. You are generating noise, not signal. Noise is distracting. Noise is annoying. Noise wastes your time. Noise wastes your readers’ time.
Please, if you’re going to write something and publish it online, make sure it provides value. Make sure it gives your readers something to think about. Don’t just repeat the personal finance catechism. Be original.
The catechism is important. You must have the fundamentals of PF down before you can move on to the more advanced stuff like early retirement or credit card bonuses. It’s fine to include the five standard pieces of advice, just make sure that’s not all you’re writing about.
With all that said…I’m joining a blogging network. Why? Because I believe it will allow me to reach more military servicemembers and help them achieve their financial goals.
Sam from Financial Samurai created the Yakezie Challenge in 2009 to promote quality personal finance and lifestyle blogs. Every member of the Yakezie network must go through a 6 month trial period and work to decrease their Alexa Ranking below 200,000.
Alexa Ranking is a ranking of the most popular websites in the world, from #1 Google and #2 Facebook, down to the 703,124th most popular website, the one you’re on right now. I’m planning on bringing my Alexa Ranking below 200,000 by March 1, 2014.
One of the requirements for the Yakezie challenge is to write a minimum of 2 posts a week. That may or may not be possible. If I have something new and original to write, I will write about it. I’m not going to just publish fluff to continue to be part of the challenge.
When you look at any top 100 personal finance blogger list, like on Wisebread or Money Crashers, you’ll notice something interesting. Almost all of them are corporate owned. They were either sold to a company by the original creator (Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar) or are blogs run by companies (Quizzle – Quicken Loans, Consumerist – Consumer Reports, Credit.com Blog, etc.).
While there is nothing inherently wrong with a corporate owned blog, the kind of content you get from a corporate blog versus one owned and operated by a smaller team or even just one person is completely different. Corporate blogs are some of the worst offenders of just repeating the PF catechism or running articles that have little to no relevance to anyone.
Besides the corporate blogs on the top 100 list, nearly all the other bloggers offer much of the same old advice, just repackaged in different forms. Very rarely are there examples of truly fresh perspectives or new ideas. The two most original and challenging perspectives I can think of are Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme.
These two pop out because they buck the conventional wisdom. Save 10% of your income towards retirement? How about saving 80% of it like ERE did. These are the types of bloggers we need. The ones that challenge us and offer a different perspective. Not just the same old advice.
Is the Military Money Manual any different?
I hope so. I try to not just preach the catechism and to actually provide fresh, new ideas relevant to savers and investors serving in the military. I try to write about things I’m actually doing to increase my income and savings while on active duty.
There are only a few military specific personal finance bloggers out there. Ryan Guina’s excellent The Military Wallet and Doug Nordman’s The Military Guide are the two best one’s I can think of. However, Ryan separated a few years ago and Doug retired a few years back, so there are no active duty military PF bloggers, other than this site. I hope my perspective, from the trenches, can help my fellow 1.5 million active duty servicemembers.
If I ever do slip into the standard personal finance bullshit that most sites publish every day, I hope someone calls me out on it. I don’t want to add to the noise. I want to be the signal that provides clarity and solid advice to military members looking to achieve their financial goals, whether it’s buying a house, saving for their kids’ education, or financial independence before they’re eligible for military retirement.
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence Faster
I have investment accounts all over the place. To keep track of all of them in one place I use Personal Capital. It combines all of my accounts, shows me where I may be overpaying in fees, and provides beautiful charts showing my overall asset allocation and performance.
I use Personal Capital to track my Roth and Traditional TSP, Vanguard IRAs, banking accounts, SDP, and my Betterment taxable account, all in one place. It's free, secure and presents me with a one-stop dashboard so I can see all my money on one site.
Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place. Trust me, once you try it, you'll love it.
P.S. - If you have over $100,000 of assets and a 401k, you really need to run the Personal Capital 401k Fee Analyzer.
The best way I know to achieve financial independence is to keep your investments simple, diversified, automatic, and low-cost. Costs eat into your returns like you wouldn't believe! A 1% difference in expense ratios can mean $100,000s lost to fees over a lifetime of investing.
Even if you're a DIY (do-it-yourself) investor like I am, you need to check out Betterment. You can read my full review here, but the bottom line is for only $250 per $100,000 invested (0.25% expense ratio) you get simple, diversified, and automated investing. In addition every account now gets free Tax Loss Harvesting+ features, which should increase returns for the average investor more than the minuscule management fee.
If you're not a DIY investor or are just getting started with investing, then you definitely need to check out Betterment. It's what I recommend to my family and friends who aren't strong investors or don't care to learn about asset allocations, diversification, or rebalancing.