Who is the most dangerous blogger on the internet today? This is a serious question. Think about it for a while.
What characteristics would cause a blogger to become dangerous? To start, the blogger would need an audience to be dangerous. A blog with a modest, but fast growing, audience would have an increasing influence in our society.
Another characteristic might entail new ideas masked as truth. Imagine a blogger telling a story with a broad concept that intentionally excludes many of the facts. A grain of knowledge is a powerful tool to expand learning or it can be a recipe for disaster on a colossal scale.
Have you thought of a few bloggers who might be dangerous? Can you narrow it down to one?
I’ll tell you who I think is the most dangerous blogger on the internet right now. You’re reading him.
That needs some explanation.
Things have been pretty darn good around these parts lately. The Wealthy Accountant received nominations in two categories for the Plutus Awards and traffic is climbing for a variety of reasons, including the nominations.
Traffic is over 80,000 in the last month with October looking to break into six figures. Blog revenues are climbing, too. Certain advertisers have turned me into a project. They want some real estate on this blog. Don’t expect more ads, however. I’ve included enough ad space to break up the page and flesh out the design. I love revenue, but user experience is more important than ads by a mile.
TWA is experiencing more traffic referrals. Other bloggers find my work acceptable periodically so they include a mention on their blog or in social media. It gives me the warm and fuzzy feeling so I always re-tweet and share mentions when I see them.
Interviews are more common now, too. People seem to think I have something important to say because my traffic is climbing. It’s a self-fulfilling feedback loop I have no qualms with. Traffic strokes my fragile ego. There is a satisfying feeling connected to acknowledgement.
Every blog appeals to a certain demographic. TWA has an inordinate number of tax professionals (and government officials) reading on a regular basis. That is why I needed to write this post.
Periodically, traffic spikes to 100 visitors here at the same time. It makes me nervous. This is still small traffic compared to most popular blogs, but it exposes a risk. What if these people actually believe what I wrote? Worse, what the heck did I write a year and a half ago? The risk prolific writers face is not remembering what they published the day before yesterday. It could be age, but it’s not! The sheer volume requires readers to refresh my memory when they ask about my previous work. Feels funny when I get schooled by my previous efforts.
Now we get to the part that makes me dangerous. What I write here is wrong 100% of the time! Sorry.
I better qualify the last statement before I’m hauled away.
When I write on TWA I avoid dry and stale tax explanations. My goal is to write high concept while knowing the details will require working out later.
Take a simple example. If I say donations to a qualified charity are deductible and move on I only told part of the story. On the surface I am right. Pull back the sheets and issues start to crop up.
Charitable donations are deductible if you itemize. Okay, that is still a lie. If your income is high, your itemized deductions might be limited so the deduction is partial.
I’m still a liar! If you retired and have a side gig with no profit and used a Roth IRA to fund your living expenses, you can’t deduct the charitable contribution even if you itemize because you can only deduct 50% of your AGI for cash charitable contributions. The balance is carried over for up to five years where it is lost afterwards.
And I’m still a sniveling liar! What if the alternative minimum tax interferes?
After all the qualifying of my first statement—charitable contributions are deductible—I am still pumping BS. Sitting here writing I can’t think of anything else that might affect my original statement. It doesn’t mean there aren’t any more out there.
As soon as I open my yap on a tax issue I’m a bigger liar than any fisherman who wet a line. And I know it every time I tap the keyboard.
In the tax profession we constantly say “facts and circumstances”. There is no way I can possibly cover every eventuality. I either write dry, staid tax articles where I cover a very, very narrow topic or I write something normal human beings want to read. I choose the later.
Helping the largest number of people requires I write something they want to read.
The Greatest Danger
Tax professionals hound me incessantly. They inform me how wrong I am. I get it.
When fleshing out a concept I intentionally choose what to include. You read that right. I intentionally get it wrong! If I didn’t, I would be bogged down in 30,000 word posts attempting to cover every possible option. Nobody would read it, including your favorite accountant.
Over the next six months I will publish some very complex tax concepts. The first one and a half years of this blog was tame. Now we will start pealing back the tax code in a serious way. Dropping 50 grand into a retirement account is a child’s game from now on. Now we will hyper-charge the wealth building and tax planning process.
And everything I say will be wrong . . . for you. In each post where I expose a massive tax concept I will be thinking of how it applies to a client or a small number of clients. Your facts and circumstances will be different and so the rules for you will be different.
Another example: A recent consulting session led a client to contact his attorney to set up a NIMCRUT on my advice. He cc’d me in on the email. I wrote back a few questions and upon reply came to the conclusion he would be better served with a donor-advised fund. This is a simpler and cheaper solution to accomplish his needs. Once again, it all hinged on facts and circumstances. And we didn’t even debate all the other pitfalls of charitable donations discussed above!
When I throw out ideas it is a starting point. Complex tax strategies completely fleshed out for every possibility is a book, not a blog post.
Tax professionals should know better, yet sometimes don’t. Shame on you. When I provide a concept you need to dig further. Sometimes I include links when I find web pages that add value to the argument.
You, kind readers, are my greatest concern. Some of you are very versed in the nuances of the tax code; others, not so much. Okay, I am not lying when I publish here, but I may as well be if I can’t communicate an adequate message. The concepts I outline work. Your facts and circumstances determine the value the concept has for you. Also remember, you can change the facts and circumstances sometimes to your benefit.
I understand the difficulty in finding qualified tax professionals to help you with this stuff. That is why I encourage tax pros to share their contact information in the forum. Readers, check the forum often. Post questions so accountants can help you and even offer their services.
It’s time for me to get back to work on the aforementioned concepts. The decisions are hard. Your favorite accountant is far from perfect. If you think I said something wrong, do NOT hesitate to leave a comment or contact me. I find real errors periodically and fix them as soon as they are discovered.
The tax code is too large and complex for my work to always be perfect. Tax professionals need to test me constantly for this to benefit the largest number of people, including you, my friendly tax pros.
Finally, everything you read here should be taken like a Margarita. With a grain of salt.
There seems to be an inordinate amount of interest in my writing notes. Periodically I will includes my working notes that spur the writing of a post for your entertainment. Sometimes these notes have been around a while before I write the post. The final product can sometimes be radically different than intended. Writing works that way at times. My working notes are unedited; I will not correct errors in working notes to preserve the process as it was originally produced. Enjoy.
Things have been going pretty good around here. Traffic is up and TWA has been nominated for a Plutus Award in two categories.
My head should be swelling, but instead I am nervous. When I watch the live traffic on Google Analytic I am nervous when 50 or 100 people are consuming my work all at the same time. WHAT IF THEY ACTUALLY BELIEVE WHAT I WROTE?!?!
Blogging tax advice is dangerous and I know it. I make intentional errors for the sake of fleshing out a concept; I incl ideas few will benefit from but have to incl it. Posts need to stay reasonable in length. 20,000 words of taxspeak is sure to snuff out a few lives of readers. Three, maybe four, tax pros might stick around for the punch line, but I’m not holding my breath.
Tax charitable deductions as an example: to a qualified charity they are deductible. Right? No! First you must itemize, not make too much and phase out, have income because only 50% of cash donations count and AMT might be an issue. One simple remark is technically correct, yet fundamentally wrong and I know it when I write. Facts and circumstances change the answer.
So I tell readers donations to a qualified charities are deductible and hope for the best.
It’s the risk a blogger takes daily.
Considering the risks this blogger takes with the public it is a wonder he hasn’t been committed.
The wealthy, well-connected and powerful have controlled the masses by colluding in secret meetings as long as civilization has existed. The powerful retain and expand their hold on governments and common folk as a result.
Power works best when it plans and executed from the darkness, far away from hidden eyes. Some secret societies have become well known. The Illuminati is now a household word, even if their actions are still closely guarded. Other groups are known, but details are completely missing.
The wealthy have a habit of meeting around the world. These gatherings are media events. News outlets are eager for any droppings they can publish. All the good stuff never leaves the room
The wealthy and powerful control the masses by controlling the economy and determining which nations face war. Until now these secret societies and loosely formed groups of power-brokers had no competition. Today that has all changed.
Meet Your New Overlords
Deep in the woods of Wisconsin a meeting of very powerful men (and a few wives to make sure the men did what they were told) gathered to carve up the world. The powerbrokers of yesteryear never saw it coming. Their wealth was made impotent in a matter of a few hours.
Carl (1500 Days), JL Collins (jlcollinsnh) and your favorite accountant huddled around the fireplace (it was cold, windy with plenty of rain, geesh!) as we fleshed out our devious plan to concur the world. The old guard, the unknown names of power and the uber-rich celebrities like Warren Buffett, were systematically replaced.
To the dismay of many, even our fearless leader, Mr. Money Mustache, was relegated to the back burner. (He should have been here if he wanted to retain his hold on power.) (Note: he wasn’t invited.) (Another note: He’s going to be pissed when he finds out.) MMM started the whole cult thing and now he is going to discover what happens when his minions (all three of them) rise up and overthrow the bourgeoisie. Meet your new overlords, people. WE RULE THE WORLD NOWWWWWWW!
You better get used to the New World Order. Pete (Mr. MM) used a hands off approach. His days of gently encouraging financial discipline are over! Your new masters will NOT be so gentle and kind. Laws will be passed; governments overthrown; lives sacrificed (your, not mine (I’m allergic to pain)).
Pussy-footers beware! Kiss your credit card debt and Hummer good-bye. Gone are the days of wasteful and reckless spending. SUVs will be driven only by people who actually need them and only when they are loaded to the hilt.
Worst of all, slackers, your favorite, if no longer friendly, accountant has taken control of the council at the conclave and instituted his personal agenda. By decree, all employees and business owners are required under penalty of death to max out their retirement account. (I see you trying to sneak out in back. Might I remind you of the little red dot glowing on your forehead?)
Next, all required investments are invested in broad-based index funds over at Vanguard. John Bogel wasn’t at the conclave, but we deified him as our patron saint. (I know that doesn’t work if you think about it, but this is my blog and I can say anything I want).
Just for the record, this accountant pushed through our Congress of three a Prime Directive: tax preparers get paid double. It’s the single law to serve the sole special interest we deemed worthy of excess spending.
The Wages of Sin is Poverty
I know, I know. You are worried your new masters will be cruel like the old ones, stealing your money, forcing you to work an unsatisfying job for life without any kind of retirement in sight and destroying all pleasure in life. Never fear, my minions.
The leadership of this cult is different. We don’t steal your money! We don’t even ask for a modest donation (except for that tax prep fee thingy). Better yet, we demand you keep your money!!! The world, nay, civilization has never seen anything like this before. The New World Order wrought upon the people of our age will finally allow us to realize the promise of the Age of Aquarius.
Debt will decline, but not disappear. Business debt, mortgages and a few other worthy uses of money are allowed. Excess debt will be something you need to read about in the history books to understand, if anyone can understand such a caustic behavior without experiencing it.
But word has reached the conclave that a resistance movement has developed. There are diehard spenders, armed with maxed out credit cards, crappy jobs, and driving their 12 mpg SUVs headed this way. What will we do? Will our heroes of this new paradigm be doomed before they establish their iron fist? Stay tuned for next week’s episode: The Rise of the Index Investor or Can I Drive Something Reasonable Now?
Whew! Danger has been averted due to the SUVs running out of gas and the angry mob short of cash to fill the tank. It was never a serious resistance anyway. The straw man arguments were nothing more than thinly veiled attempts to keep crazy spending habits. It never has a future.
The laws in our new land are simple and few. Respect tops the list. Responsibility is listed right next to it. The old order encouraged crazy money habits. Spending in the name of saving a non-entity called the economy is NOT allowed in our world ever again. The “economy” will do just fine without a massive overload of stupidity to feed it.
I Can’t Fix You
As we turn serious I must point out I can’t force you to take control of your life and destiny. The message is simple: Save half your gross income and invest in broad-based index funds. Once you reach the magically milestone of financial independence you can spend differently, even more, as long as it is responsible spending and doesn’t put financial independence at risk.
You control your future! Our conclave discussed the topics I joked of earlier. But it is no laughing matter for those under the bitter whip of insane financial behavior. I, and everyone in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community, have no control over what path you choose. The truth is, our conclave prayed hard you would make the right choice, to join us, to feel the freedom only financial independence can bring.
Freedom gets a lot of press. People want their freedom. But what good is political freedom if you are a slave to money? Money feels nothing! It will cut you, hurt you, leaves you to die without one single emotion. Yet money is a double edged sword, a double edge with one side that heals rather than cut. The same emotionless money can be made a slave without any distress on your part. You are harming no one; only putting money in its proper place.
Money, if it has any feelings, would feel loved and wanted going to work creating more money. Investing does just that. Your little soldiers of fortune invested, get to work instantly creating more little monies. Those little tykes instantly take after mom and dad and start reproducing themselves too. And they’re happy! You will never see a happier stack of money than one working to reproduce itself. Only squandering every dime you have drives money to tears. Be kind. Allow money to reproduce.
Remember, it’s the law. I was there when it happened. At the conclave. Where people and money for the first time in history were allowed to live together in harmony.
P.S. If you see any of our conclave members, ask them about the dinosaur.
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.
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.)
Personal finance bloggers share several deep, dark secrets the public is unaware of. I have the honor of knowing many of these bloggers, some of them personally. When the door is closed and the public is a safe distance away we admit to our small, but select group the truths we all share. If the public knew what went on behind the closed doors of personal finance bloggers they might call the police or at least the mental hospital.
What personal finance bloggers go through to get their words published seems so easy until you know what goes on in their real life. The insecurities, dreams, and yes, even fears, are more profound than anyone outside the industry can imagine. If it were possible for me to pull your chair behind my desk and next to me so you could see what other bloggers really mean in their posts your jaw would flap in the wind. Knowing what I know, you would read The Wealthy Accountant and scream after every other sentence: BULLSHIT!
Yeah, I’m full of shit and so are most bloggers; actually writers in general. We take a certain literary license in our work and justify it by calling it editing. It’s not really that bad, but it is funny to see how your favorite bloggers really think sometimes in private. Today I offer a list of awful truths about personal finance bloggers. Once you are armed with this knowledge, be gentle. We are people too. Just barely.
- We want to help everyone and know we can’t: Writing a blog requires sharing information and stories with broad brushstrokes. Any story we tell or idea we share are based upon personal experiences that worked for us. The problem is that what works for us may not work for you. Your position in life, your health, age, and the city you live in all affect the choices you make. Personal finance bloggers know our advice is given without first knowing the client. In the industry it is called malpractice and personal finance bloggers commit the crime every day.
- Our advice is general and we know our readers will not make the mental leap to modify the information to their personal needs: It is frustrating to watch people trying to live someone else’s life. When bloggers tell their stories many people want to live that exact life. They want to live on a farm like me; they want to own an accounting practice like me, they want to invest like me; they want to live where I live and have a spouse like my spouse. I have news for you. You can’t be me, so stop trying. My life is far from perfect and it takes a lot of hard work to have what I have. I do what I do because it makes me happy. There is no guarantee you will feel the same happiness doing what I do. I don’t want to speak for other finance bloggers, but I want my readers to take my stories and learn a lesson which they can use to live their life better. And for the love of god we don’t want a world full of Keith’s running around. What a fucking mess that would be!
- We are afraid we will do more harm than good: It is too easy for a finance blogger to think their way is the only right way. When I push the publish button there is always a small concern it will do more harm than good for at least one person. If you have a conscience you are bothered by this. The goals of a blog are multiple. We want an audience and a few extra dollars would be nice, but we also want to make a positive difference in the world around us. If you write enough, eventually someone will misread or misuse the information to cause themselves or others harm. It comes with the territory and it concerns us.
- We like people but need to keep our distance to keep our sanity: Speaking in front of a group of people causes some to want to get up close and personal with the speaker. The demands are exhausting. I have a gatekeeper at the office to keep the phone calls away from me which can reach toward 100 per day; it is impossible to return each call. Emails are worse with 300 or more each day. In all fairness a lot of the emails come from business clients. Spam also increases with a public persona, so multiple emails are used. They all take time and believe it or not I actually enjoy quiet time with Mrs. Accountant and alone time. The more popular a blog becomes the more people want a piece of you, making it ever more important to keep distance between blogger and reader. Once again, we hate it. We want to communicate with our readers, but can only handle so many personally.
- We have to say ‘no’ more than we want to; it is a survival tactic: The requests pile up as a blog grows. The more influential a blogger becomes the more speaking engagements are requested. Tax blogs like The Wealthy Accountant get even more requests for services. This is great if my business is growing, but when the house is already full it is hard to fit a large number of new clients in. People also tend to want the blogger himself to perform the work. It just is not possible to write a successful blog, talk to everyone who wants to talk, and get the tax work done. Delegation helps, but truth is I don’t answer many requests and say ‘no’ a lot. I currently am open to a few more speaking engagements per year. There is no doubt those precious few spots will quickly fill because I mentioned here there was an opening. On one hand it is good; on the other it leaves a lot of people waiting for their opportunity. If only I could clone a couple hundred me’s.
- We are flattered by praise; hurt by criticism: Like any human being, personal finance bloggers love a pat on the back. And why not? It feels good to be appreciated. The other side of the same coin is a back-hand. Criticism hurts. It feels personal. We try to contain our frustration and fear it might pour out when we respond. Ignoring the insult is the best answer most of the time. Sometimes it is an honest complaint that deserves honest feedback. You might be on the other side of a computer screen, but remember, words hurt.
- We secretly hope to go viral for ego’s sake: There is something flattering about something you do going viral. It is the equivalent to making the local TV news when people actually watched that stuff. Today TV celebrity is replaced by a viral blog, blog post, or YouTube video. And we don’t think small either. Viral is not thousands, it is millions. We want millions—30 or 40 should do— page views. Yeah, I know. Not asking much. Before you think it is all about money, think again. (Okay, so it is about money; play with me on this.) Out ego inflates to the size of a modest planet when we go viral and secretly dream of the day when we win the blogger lottery. Then we can tug at our collar and say modestly, “Yeah! That was me.”
- Sometimes we don’t know what to write: Considering the volume of material I publish it might come as a surprise there are times I have nothing to say. (Dad, shut up and sit down. And stop laughing.) Sitting up at midnight wondering how to present an idea is not uncommon. I have tons of ideas and have nearly 40 in the queue waiting for me to bring them to life. I write the title and give a short description of what I want to present and save it for another day. When the day comes to bring the idea to life it can be a painful experience. Worse, there are times we get a thousand words in and discover it’s not going to work. I say several naughty words, take walk under the stars, and come back and try a new idea.
- Sometimes we are afraid we get too personal: Do we mention someone in a story by name? Do we say things about our personal life that make us squirm? The answer is sometimes and yes. My personal life is fair game. I am the blogger; I am the writer. I should expect a thorough examination of my work. If I put myself out there I must open myself to criticism. (Read the section above on criticism.) Where do we draw the line when it comes to other people? Of course it is a judgment call. The best part is we have no idea how the other party will respond. My policy is to change stories to fit the format of this blog and to protect the people in the story. I’ll mention people by name if they are already public figures or if there is no conflict associated with the story. It is okay to embarrass myself, never another person.
- Some readers scare us: So far this blog has been good. In my tax practice I have had clients and employees drive out into the country just to show up at my house in the middle of nowhere, unannounced. Surprise! It is a bit disconcerting when it happens. Readers can get too close also. My blog is too small at this time to have any issues, but it can happen once you get a significant following. I have been lucky to never have been stalked or anything similar. Groupies make me nervous for some reason. Remember, you know us from our writing; we have no idea who you are, what your agenda is, or what you want from us. Everybody wants to be our friend and it becomes overwhelming.
- We watch our blog stats a lot: If there was ever a blogger who did not watch her stats like it was a directive from god, you will need to provide proof because I don’t believe you. When stats are trending up we are really happy people, even if a bit paranoid. When traffic stalls, or worse, declines, we think we did something wrong. Back in the 1990s when I published my first book on Amazon I watched my ranking daily. (Okay, several times a day. Geesh!) I check all my online properties at least daily or in rare cases weekly. The Wealthy Accountant is my current favorite child. I keep Google Analytics running even when I am not in front of the computer. I check revenue from each source like anyone with an out of control case of OCD. There is no doubt I have a sickness and most bloggers when they start have the same sickness. As long as there is traffic I will check it often.
- We want fame and fortune from our blog and privacy for our family: Earlier this year Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) had an awesome blog post about me and my work. It was flattering, for sure. The issues I never anticipated were with how many people would connect the MMM blog post to me locally. The shocking development was when my youngest daughter came home from school and said the teachers saw me on the MMM blog. People treat you different when they think you have something they want. Everyone wants to stand next to the popular kid. Right? And then you have to act like a dick when you can’t be everyone’s friend. It settled down quickly, but people comment on my national exposure on a regular basis. Flattering and concerning all in the same sentence.
- Most of us make shit blogging, but dammit, the odds of hitting it big blogging are a hell of a lot better than playing the lottery: The most awful truth about personal finance bloggers is that we make almost nothing for our efforts. A few make a large amount of money and a somewhat bigger group make enough to say it is worth the time. For everyone else, we make shit. And that is generous since shit has value as a fertilizer. Blogging is hard work and takes some luck to become profitable. It costs money to run a website like The Wealthy Accountant. Sure, the costs are a fraction of any other business, but the time demands are brutal, especially in the beginning when you are cutting your teeth and trying to build an audience. A lot of great bloggers never get the traffic necessary to hit the breakeven point. It is a cruel joke personal finance bloggers do what they do because they love it. If they do it for money they are gone with the morning dew.
This is the 102nd post on The Wealthy Accountant. My previous experience publishing online and the 101 prior posts here give me the right to share some truths about the group I am a part of. Another truth is bloggers are hungry to meet each other. We need to socialize with people who understand our worldview and the hardships baring our souls online brings.
Now that you are armed with this knowledge, don’t forget to hug your favorite blogger the next time you see her. She needs it, you know.