They Said It First . . . and Better

The hardest part of writing a personal finance blog is finding fresh material. Most things have been said before and better. All the important points have been regurgitated onto the screen thousands of times before. If a PF blogger wants to make a difference she needs to find something to add to the already large heap of material available.

The trick to wealth is a very short story: save half your income, invest in index funds, avoid debt like the plague. Everything else is opinion. Everything else is nothing more than ways to spend less and learning to live on half your income without feeling cheated so you stay the course. The real trick is to get readers to apply the simple message.

Then the truth hits home. Even brilliant new ideas come crashing to earth as the blogger reads the PF universe. The new idea was said before and without a doubt, better. It is a sinking feeling when it happens. You pour your soul out onto the page only to discover weeks or months after publication another PF blogger already wrote the story. You feel like a hack.

You keep writing, keep hunting for the elusive fresh story. It’s new to you so it does not matter. Your story, your writing, is a journey of discovery; a story you can’t keep inside; a story you must tell. So, several times a week you sit in your chair and push your index finger (in honor of index funds) down your throat until you ralph up another classic. And you hope and pray it all makes a difference for at least one person. Otherwise you are only wasting your time.

Misunderstanding the Greats

Reaching a lost soul is more than being first and better. Not every messenger gets through. Most never get past the front gate and dogs. The evidence is abundant and clear. Millions of people, many millions of people, are living in a financial purgatory. They heard the message before and it didn’t sink in. Or maybe you are the first to reach the gate. Now to get by the pit bulls.

Many came before The Wealthy Accountant. Get Rich Slowly and Jim Collins are two that come to mind. Last year Collins published The Simple Path to Wealth. Many bloggers wrote reviews of the book. Not me. I was never asked and probably would have found an excuse not to anyway. I don’t know Jim from Adam. Never met the guy. The only thing that came to mind every time his name came up is a picture (facial side view) where he is looking up with a weird expression. I thought he was a pompous ass.

First impressions are a bitch. Too bad we can’t control how people perceive us the first time they see us.




I probably ran across Collins’ blog in the past and it didn’t tickle me on first glance so on I went. It happens. Then people started talking about his book. Big deal, I thought. Another PF book from an arrogant know-it-all.

Here is the weird part. The forward was written by a client! Here is a guy well respected in the community getting awesome reviews and I was taking a pass. (Well, I was busy!)

Then Collins did something only a genius in marketing would do. He gave away free copies of his book at Camp Mustache SE where I was speaking. My intense love of books is the only reason I didn’t chuck the thing before packing my luggage for the trip home. The Simple Path to Wealth would be a great book for the waiting room at the office, I figured.

Back home, I took the book to my office and put it on a shelf next to my desk. I need to briefly vet a book I plan on sharing with clients. One day during lunch I started paging through The Simple Path to Wealth. Acid swelled in my stomach. All my preconceptions died instantly. This is one of, if not the best, PF book I’ve ever read. It is so simple and to the point. And I loved the style of writing. Where the hell was this Collins guy all these years I was looking for good PF reading material? Oh, yeah.

Confession time. I recommend certain blogs to clients in need of guidance. I, ah, ahem, sometimes recommend Collins’ blog. I also recommend Mr. Money Mustache, Mad Fientist, and Money Boss a lot. There are plenty of newer bloggers with great material, but I tend to start with the alumni because they tend to have more material and are better at sharing it, hence their longevity. Then there is this crazy accountant from Wisconsin who thinks he knows what he is talking about and is really full of shit. Just saying. Look out for those bloggers. They can really mess you up.

At Camp Mustache I discovered Collins has family about 40 minutes south of my home. Small world.

I never met Jim, but look forward to the day I do. My first impression was wrong and the same happens every day to every PF blogger. No single blogger will get’em all. The PF blogger universe is small. We all know each other or know of each other. Best not to talk smack about a peer. I have met Mr. Money Mustache (he is also a client), the Mad Fientist, and J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly fame and now writing Money Boss.

A Hack Shows Up

Have you seen the work from these guys? When I say they said it first and better, I mean it! There was a time when I read a post each day on Mr. Money Mustache until I finished the entire blog. Then I went back and re-read it again. I couldn’t get enough. When the right blogger comes along and says the right things the right way it pulls you in hard.

Then the lump in my throat reappears. Every time I open the laptop to bang out another post I feel like a fraud, a hack. Sure, I have new material. Still, there are times I am burping up the same hash. My only solace is that I may be saying this different enough to save that one wayward soul passing by and saw the same picture of Collins I did and had the same reaction before reading the guy first. (Collins does have other pictures which strike me just fine.)

And I made the same mistake with Tim Ferriss. I refused to read his stuff due to one Amazon review where a guy said Tim spent the first half of The 4-Hour Workweek bragging about how awesome he is. I looked at Tim’s picture and came to the same conclusion I did about Collins with one exception. I felt Ferriss was waaaaay too promotional. In some ways he is and he is not as frugal as I want to be.

Recently Ferriss published Tools of Titans. Ferriss put together a massive volume of personal stories from the most successful people alive. The idea intrigued me so I bought the book. This softened me to Ferriss. Recently, I broke down and borrowed The 4-Hour Workweek from the library. The Amazon review was 100% wrong! What an idiot I was! The 4-Hour Workweek is not Ferriss’s victory lap of bragging. He does mention early on several successes, but it all lends to the message provided throughout the book. The book is really about gaining control over your life, especially emails, phone calls and other crazy stuff killing entrepreneurs.  The advice is solid.

I tell these stories so you don’t make the same error. Bloggers who stood the test of time have earned a look-see. Their survival alone makes them required reading. How did they do it? What part of their message resonated with the masses? There are so many lessons to learn.




It has All Been Said before and Needs Saying Again

Most of what you read on PF blogs is nothing new. Each blogger shares her worldview. The stories are different; our styles unique. Sometimes out face alone can draw in a reader or push her away. (I can only imagine what my puss does to the unprepared as they open the about page on this blog. Some bald dude with attitude. You should see me in real life. I’ll haunt your nightmares.)

Writers are their own worst critics. As a group we tend to look at our work with a twisted face, unsure if we conveyed the message we wanted or if we said it in a way people will fully comprehend. Writing is a difficult form of communication. Not everyone has a way with words.

Then there are guys like Pete (Mr. Money Mustache), J.D. Roth (Money Boss), and Collins. They are fantastic writers who draw you in.  Collins’ only mistake was to let me see his picture before allowing me to read the book. (The picture in question is on the back cover of the book.) The talent of these bloggers is significant. They are also must-read blogs.

Someday I hope I reach the same stature. I see a lot of new PF bloggers—many of which I know personally. I belong to this generation of bloggers. My past work doesn’t count. This blog is where the tire meets the pavement. I pray I am communicating a message people find entertaining and useful. My dream is to open the door for a few wayward souls and show them the way to financial freedom.

Just one more cow.

There is only one last matter I need to remain cautious of. This PF blogger community is very small. I said that above. That means at some point Jim will run across this little flirtation of mine. Not that he will care a lick about anything I write (probably thinks I’m a pompous ass), but that someone will tell him I was talking behind his back.

The next time I am at a conference I will need to lay low. If you hear a story about some accountant getting his beak busted at FinCon or some such event, know Jim Collins recognized your favorite accountant and sent a message about what he thinks about my work.

Then again, he vacations with family 40 minutes south of my farm. A pleasant summer drive north for 40 minutes to kick the shit out of an accountant is something most people would do even if I didn’t say anything about them. That is all I have for today. I need to build a wall around my farm before summer gets here. You know, to keep the cows in. (And pissed off bloggers out.)



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Keith Schroeder

16 Comments

  1. Stafford on March 10, 2017 at 8:17 am

    As someone who is just getting started in the personal finance blog world, I have to say I totally get where you are coming from in this post. I’m constantly wondering, “why would anyone care what I have to say when they can just read MMM?” It can be mentally draining, but I think the important thing is to start a blog for yourself. Write about things that you are passionate about and enjoy the ride.

    • Keith Schroeder on March 10, 2017 at 10:31 am

      Stafford, you have to keep producing regardless. It is hard work. MMM may have said it first and better, but you DO add something fresh and new: you. That is why we have to keep pushing forward.

  2. jlcollinsnh on March 10, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Hey, I’m not a pompous ass, I just take weird pictures.

    Or maybe I am a pompous ass AND the camera hates me.

    Anyway, trust me, that one on the book jacket is far, far better than most. It is maybe the only one I’ve ever taken I even kinda, sorta like. One of our Chautauqua attendees took it a couple of years back as a candid shot. I have no idea what I’m looking so raptly at, and she doesn’t recall either.

    Next time we are in WI, you’ll have to come down and visit and decide. If all goes well, that will be this May.

    Oh, and I had nothing to do with the free copies given away at Camp Mustache. I wish I could claim credit, but I’m not that smart. Maintaining a pompous demeanor takes more bandwidth than you might think.

    Hope to see you soon. Shoot me an email.
    My wife is a truly lovely person and most say having the chance to meet her makes up for my being there too.

    • Keith Schroeder on March 10, 2017 at 9:47 am

      Fuck that was quick! I can feel my nose twinge already.

      You know, sir, everyone I met said you were awesome. And I meant what I said about your book. The writing is clean, inviting and informative.

      I checked, we are connected on Facebook. May sounds like fun. Let’s pencil it in. I would love to share ideas.

      Now I have to wait for Ferriss to plot his revenge.

      • Jlcollinsnh on March 19, 2017 at 3:52 am

        Hey Keith…

        Looks like our WI plans are coming together. Shoot me an email and we’ll compare notes. I’m on FB but try to avoid it….

  3. Gwen @ Fiery Millennials on March 10, 2017 at 10:19 am

    I hear ya on the hella difficult part of coming up with fresh content. It’s a real challenge!

    Also, I’ve been guilty of judging a book by it’s cover. And by book, I mean a blog and its’ writer. Sometimes my initial impression is so wrong, and other times, well…. No one can get along with everyone all the time :p

  4. Keith Schroeder on March 10, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I wanted to mention you in the post, Gwen, but opted to keep the dialog flowing with a certain pattern. At some point I want to write about bloggers like you: relatively new and killing it.

    BTW folks, if you haven’t read Gwen’s work, use the link in her comment to remedy the shortcoming. I vouch for her work. She is awesome in the virtual and real world. Keep an eye on her. Gwen is destined for great things! You want to be around so you can say you were there where it all began.

  5. Chad Burkholder on March 10, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    I started my blog thinking I would be one in very small number that writes about the journey to FI. I quickly found that is not the case. There are TONS of us. I will tell you that While I really enjoyed reading MMM posts, I’m only subscribed to yours. I read every one of your posts. The way you say things interest’s me and that is why I’m not quitting my blog yet. I believe there are plenty of people that will have value in what I have to say. And since there is nothing new that I can write about, my goal is to motivate others to start their journey.

    Thanks for the posts. I would never have thought about writing a post like this one.

    • Keith Schroeder on March 10, 2017 at 5:41 pm

      I am humbled by your compliments, Chad. And please, keep sharing your story. It helps people see there are many paths to FI.

  6. Jerry on March 10, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Well I think different people respond differently to different authors. Being a teacher, I understand that 2 good teachers can be teaching the same material but kids will understand it in different ways. I would encourage you not to think you have to invent the wheel each time you write. Just like when you read a book for a second time, you always pick up something else. I enjoy what MMM writes but not all the time..I look to you to learn and think about other things.

    • Keith Schroeder on March 10, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Thank you for the compliment, Jerry.

  7. John @ MilitaryFIRE on March 11, 2017 at 2:50 am

    That was quick!
    Thanks for the timely advice, encouragement, and perspective, again! As a new member of the PF Bloggers I’d add audience to the list of reasons to keep writing. Each of our social networks or story connects with a different group. I always try to link back to the OG’s when I get a chance, and explain how my particular lens (the military) filters their ideas.

  8. Joel on March 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I often wrestle with this same issue. What can I contribute that hasn’t already been said before? What can I bring to the conversation to add value? It’s one of the reasons I waited so long to get into the PF blog space. Interestingly, this happens in other domains as well. When I sit down at the piano to write music, I think about the order of the chords I’m playing, and how those progressions have all been played before.

    But then I realized, it’s as much about the perspective and the story as it is about the content. I think you provide a unique perspective, being an accountant, that frames certain concepts in a new light. It’s the reason I keep coming back to read your new posts. If you explain something in a new way, if you provide an example or an analogy that really resonates with someone, than it is all worth it.

  9. Matt on March 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks for this great post Keith. I’m young and have been thinking about starting an FI blog to keep myself in check and share my ideas and strategies about reaching financial independence with others. Of course, everything you mention here about others already having said things is in the back of my mind and has kept me from diving in. You made some really great points, and some of the commenters have too. I’ve followed your blog for 3-4 months now and have read every post regardless of if I’m familiar with the topic or not. I like your writing style and your story and am eager to learn and follow along. Everyone responds differently, the main point is to get as much great personal finance info out there to as many people as possible.

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