I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from my readers saying they really love my site, and I really appreciate every one of them. But some readers add in a bit extra. Some of my readers seem to idolize me. They make it sound like I have some incredible insight into managing finances that they could never achieve.
But I’ll spill a preciously guarded secret here in the personal finance community:
Anyone CAN Manage Their Finances
Anyone CAN Get Out of Debt
Anyone CAN Achieve More than What They Have Now
Did I say that loud enough? What I’m saying is that I’m not special.
I can totally understand where you’re coming from, though. When I first started this site over 2 years ago, there were already a few players out on the scene. People like Nickel, Flexo and Jim, just to name a few. I looked up to them like a new intern on Capitol Hill looks up to embedded lobbyists, Senators and Representatives.
I still look up to these guys (and gals), but in a different way. They’re still blazing some paths I didn’t even think of, but I’ve also gotten to know them more personally. I’ve met Nickel, Jim and about a dozen and a half other bloggers (Mrs Micah, Plonkee, J Money, Mapgirl, James, MBH, Penny Nickel to name a few) in person at our DC PF Blogger happy hours (One, Two, Three, Four). Heck, I live directly across the street from one of the original PF bloggers. Where do you think I got my inspiration to start this site?
So by chatting with them in person, on IM, or on the MBN Forums, I’ve realized that they’re just average Joes and Janes like myself (I’m a Joe, not a Jane), but there are a few things that make us personal finance bloggers different from our readers, but that you can also apply to your life:
We Share Our Knowledge
When I realize something new about money, marriage, or life, I share it on this site to both educate you and learn more from you through the comments. I’ve been wrong before, and even rather ignorant, but I’m not afraid to share my mistakes.
The same goes for most other PF bloggers (there ARE some who just focus on the finance, not the personal, side of personal finance). The main thing that differentiates us with our non-blogging readers is that we use a public forum, such as this site, to broadcast our messages.
Honestly, if you wanted to start your own site, I advise doing so. You don’t need to try to monetize it, or even try to get more than your dog subscribed. Writing anonymously is a great way to keep yourself on track. It’s quite therapeutic too. I even wrote an article “50 Tips for New PF Bloggers” to help you get started!
We’re Forced to Research
Because we’re speaking to others about finance, we’re (usually) forced to do some research about the stuff we’re saying, lest a reader who actually knows about that subject corrects us in the comments. We have a reputation to maintain and if we want people to take us seriously, we need to do our homework and make sure what we’re saying doesn’t fly in the face of reason or truth. That’s why I don’t really write about investing or taxes. I just don’t know enough about them.
Call it accountability. But you’re also accountable! You need to account for every mistake, or success, you make in your own finances. You can keep it secret from your spouse, family and friends (which I don’t advise), but you can’t keep it a secret from yourself. Trust me and learn from your mistakes or else you really are doomed to repeat them. If you lost money in the stock market, try to figure out what you did wrong. Perhaps you didn’t know enough about the company, or economic trends. Maybe it was just a bit of bad luck (usually not the case). Learn what went wrong, and right, and apply it to the next scenario.
We’ve Developed a Network
I’m not talking about things like the Personal Finance Network I’ve joined, or the Money Blog Network, or the dozen or so other formal groups. Rather, I’m talking about an intangible network where we respect each other, learn from each other, and even confide in each other. We use forums, IM and email, since most of us are across the country, or the ocean, from each other.
But you can create your own network! Whether it’s online by commenting on our articles and creating a discussion, or by contacting us directly (we’re all fairly accessible and appreciate reader questions and comments), or, more importantly, creating your own offline network of trusted, respected peers.
By opening up about finances, and asking questions (but also recognizing others’ hesitancy to disclose some information), you can learn from your family, friends, coworkers and even strangers (although I advise you to be careful about what you disclose). Be the one to initiate the dialogue with those around you, and don’t be afraid to be turned away at first try. If you ask your coworker how much they make, they’ll probably say it’s none of your business. But if you mention you’re worried about your pending retirement, they might open up by asking you questions and then share their own experience and knowledge. It’s all about how you approach the situation. And before long, you have your own personal finance network!
We’re Not Rock Stars
Let’s talk about superstars. Even though The Simple Dollar seems to have acquired legions of super-fans in less than two years, I’ve learned that Trent is really just a normal guy, but with a very good head on his shoulders. He writes in a way that I envy, but he has devoted his life to writing now, while I still slave away in an office all day. He has discipline I could only dream of, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t bother to get my act together and try a little harder in life.
I was actually told by Ana at Debt Free Revolution that she was talking with one of her readers in a forum once, and when the reader found Ana was chatting with me on IM, the reader thought she was now talking to royalty (by association). Since when did I get to superstar status? The thing is I’m not a superstar.
Just because someone writes to an audience of 1,000, 10,000 or 100,000, that doesn’t make them an inaccessible rock star. We’re all regular people who happen to focus on their finances more than others. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do the same. Whether you write about it or not, you should always be conscious of your finances. Money isn’t everything, but it’s a big something. Money is needed for food, housing, heat, clothing and other necessities. I totally understand if you’re just too overwhelmed with all the financial topics out there, but you just need to start with the basics.
I’ve been working at figuring out my finances for years, and still can’t get them right. I recognize that I must continually adapt my financial plans for emergencies, life changes or just different goals. It’s not an overnight event; there’s no financial revelation where you suddenly know what to do. I still make MANY mistakes. Just ask my wife.
Don’t Look for Excuses
So don’t use the excuse that we PF bloggers somehow have a secret insight or talent that you’ll never have. You can easily (probably easier than I can) fix your finances, make goals and achieve those goals. Don’t make excuses for why you can’t seem to accomplish something. Whether you’re making minimum wage at the machine shop or raking it in in the city., we all have the same access to the same information, and the same methods for improvement and success. You just need to take the time and effort to absorb and activate that knowledge in your own life.
So get off your butt and prove to me that YOU’RE THE ROCK STAR!
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