Welcome to our latest interview with a great money blogger!
As always, our questions are in bold italics and the interviewee’s responses follow in black.
With that said, let’s get started…
Determining Strategy and Overview
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your site.
My name is Dave and my website is The Financial Journeyman. My site was launched in April of 2017. Building wealth has been a passion of mine for a long time. I have read blogs, forum, and websites for many years and decided to launch my own last year. It has been a wonderful experience. The people in the financial independence community are very welcoming.
What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
I try to write content that is relevant. The focus of the content is to reach financial independence and retire early. It is an obtainable goal for most people if they are willing to apply practical applications.
Too many people struggle with money. There is a solution. That solution is rooted in the willingness to change.
Always try to earn more money while you are working. Education is still the key to get ahead. Take advantage of all the training a company provides. Networking is as important as ever.
Focus on always trying to improve your savings rate. Small improvements every year add up. It is the most important factor to reaching financial independence.
Keep investing simple. Avoid complicated investments that you do not understand. Just try to be average and capture what the market returns.
What is your elevator pitch?
When someone asks me what my site is about, I tell them that it is about financial independence with the goal of retiring early. They normally follow that up by asking how long have I been working on that goal? When I answer that I started this journey in 1997 they seem taken aback. That is probably because I look young for being age 41. At least that is what I would like to think. J. Money once said to me that I have been doing this before it was trending. It has always been trending for me.
Who is your target reader?
I write about universal topics tied to personal finance. From time-to-time, I will write content that is for young people who are trying to get their personal finances in order and sometimes I am inspired to write about topics that are for people who are closer to retirement age. Most of the content, however, is all-inclusive. Sometimes I write about paying off debt and other times I write about a 50% savings rate. It depends on what I am inspired to write about.
What special skills, experiences, knowledge, etc. do you bring to your blog?
As I stated earlier, I have been working to advance my career, savings as much as possible, and investing since 1997. Reaching financial independence has been what has motivated me to work hard and to live below my means for all these years. By studying and applying primarily academic theories to my investing, I have reached financial independence at age 40.
What are your general goals and strategies for the next couple of years?
Even though, I am financially independent, I will continue to work for 10 years. Many people look past the benefits of being financially independent (FI) and want to jump right into retiring early (FIRE). After I reached FI, my state of mind has changed. I technically do not have to work, but I am not ready to retire at age 41. Opening a business does not interest me because that would just increase the number of hours that I would have to work. I simply want to grow my career for 10 more years and retire at age 51 or 52.
The whole FIRE movement is great, but FI is amazing too and should not be over looked. In my situation, there is just too much money on the table to walk away from work now. Plus, I just earned a graduate degree three years ago. The degree is paid for, but I want to get more value or ROI out of it.
I have a good job. If my good job turns bad or if the right opportunity presents itself, I have the means to walk away from my current employer. My position comes with a great amount of autonomy, rich benefits, and annual raises. I don’t even use all my annual PTO, so there is nothing pushing me out the door.
When I retire, I want to do so with more than enough money instead of just enough. At retirement, I don’t want to worry about needing higher returns than what the markets can provide. The time is just not right to call it quits. The goal is 10 more years of working and saving between 50-60% of our gross income.
On top of my plan to retire in 10 years, I want to grow my blog over that period. If things go well, I will transition into a full-time personal finance blogger at that time. Until then, I will work on growing this blog on a part-time basis.
Designing a Great Site
How did you come up with the name of your site?
The Financial Journeyman is an example of purposeful ambiguity. The Financial Journeyman has two meanings. The title reflects who I am as well as the process that I followed.
To be a journeyman means that a person is reliable and consistent. I see myself as a contender. I am not a professional financial advisor. Personal finance is just my avocation. Being consistent with my money management, however, has been a lucrative hobby and I want to share about it.
The second meaning is that I write about my journey and relationship with money. It is fun to reflect on what my life was like when I was a young man and decided to take the path less traveled. Covering current topics in personal finance helps me to stay up-to-date with all the new technologies that are becoming available for the individual investor. I see a bright future and want to share the rest of my journey with other like-minded people on my way there.
Do you have a site summary statement/tagline? If so, what is it?
Deciding to be free: my journey toward financial independence.
The key word in that statement is toward. I use the word toward because I don’t think the work is ever finished. It is still a work in progress. Money is hard to obtain, but it is spent so quickly. Once your reach financial independence, the journey still goes on. Fortunes are lost every day. To prevent that, the same level of daily vigilance is required to preserve your wealth and keep it growing after the draw down period begins.
What do you like about the design of your site?
For the first 9 months, I used a stock image. I was never satisfied with it. In December, I had a graphic designer create a custom logo for my site as well as a custom gravatar. It is a map to reflect a journey. It goes well with The Financial Journeyman title. The map shows a starting point as well as having an X to mark the spot. It is not a blind journey. There is a compass to be used as a guide. For me, my compass has been to follow the principles that I list on the K.I.S.S. Approach to Financial Independence page.
Are you active on social media? If so, please give us details on how you use your main selections.
I am on Twitter @TheFiJourneyman. I am very active. Twitter works well for me because I am anonymous. It is a great tool for sharing my content as well as what my friends are writing. Recently, I have joined a couple of private Facebook and Reddit groups. Social media has been a very big help to growing my audience.
Developing Awesome, Shareable Content
What are the main topics you cover and why?
I focus on career and character development, saving, passive investing, and behavioral finance. Most of my topics are centered around planning and balance. There should be no mysteries or surprises when it comes to personal finances. Markets go up and down. Jobs come and go. There are always opportunities and the intelligent investor knows that. I write about having a plan in place for everything that can come down the road. No plan is perfect, but a good plan provides some guidance and can be amended as situations change.
What topics don’t you cover and why?
As I stated earlier, my blog is more relevant than interesting. I do not write about extreme financial practices. People in every tax bracket struggle with money. Extreme solutions might be interesting to read about, but very few people can apply them.
For example, if I write a post that suggests anyone can retire at age 28 if they are willing to save 100% of their salary for 7 years and live off wild berries, who would that help? It might receive more traffic. I don’t think that it would help anyone because it is not remotely practical.
Some more specific topics that I do not write about are individual stock analysis, trading ideas, embracing fear, economic projections, politics, get rich quick ideas, or shaming people for spending money.
My site is more geared towards those who want to reach financial independence, enjoy life while working, and reaching early retirement. I propose a high savings rate, avoiding debt, passive investing, career growth, and intelligent consumerism. You only live once, so it is ok to spend money on what you enjoy after you pay yourself first.
What guidelines do you use for length and frequency of posts and why?
My posts are at least 800 words in length. On average, they are around 1,200 words, but they have been trending longer and longer. It is not strategic. I think that I am just getting more comfortable with writing blog posts.
Can you give us three posts of yours that you would you say are Rockstar content (with a brief explanation of each)?
- Individual vs. Institutional Investing. There are individual investors who still think that they can pick stocks and beat the market. If the institutions cannot do it with unlimited resources, why do individual investors who are the last ones to know anything think that they can succeed.
- Writing a Financial Plan. This is a post that received some nice feedback from the financial independence community. It is an actionable post about planning for every stage of your financial life. It was written in a life-cycle style to give some suggestions for everyone.
- 100 Percent Invested in Stocks. This is the first part in a four-part series. It is one of my first posts. It covers my first decade as an investor. The posts that follow are my second decade as an investor, my current investment plan and asset association, as well as how we plan on funding our retirement during the draw down period.
What have been your past sources of traffic? How did you develop them and how successful has each been?
Most of my traffic in the past year was (direct) with 5,403 users. Rockstar Finance was second with 2,613 users. Google/organic was third with 1,326 users. Twitter was fourth with 652 users. With time and SEO, I am planning on receiving more traffic from Google as my site matures.
What are you doing to grow traffic now and in the future?
Moving forward, I plan on doing more guest posts. They are a great way to get exposure to new readers and followers. I am also working on different collaborations with a group of established and up-and-coming financial bloggers. The mutual sharing of content is something that I am going to focus on moving forward.
Deliver Revenue and Profit
Does your blog make money?
Yes, but very little. The site, made over $300 in the first year.
If so, how does it make money?
I put ads on the site from the beginning. My revenue generating sources are affiliate links. In the future, I am going to write an eBook that expands the K.I.S.S. approach. A book is a major endeavor. I am will have to balance my time between writing content for my blog, guest posts, and the eBook.
Are you trying to have the blog make more and if so, what are you doing in that effort?
Yes, I would like the blog to produce more revenue. That is just based on traffic. My focus is more on growing traffic than on revenue at this point. As the traffic grows, the revenue will too. I do not want to put the cart in front of the horse.
What are your future plans for the blog?
My blog is a long-term project. My plans are to keep growing it over time. It has only been around for 12 months and I am happy with the progress. I did not know if anyone was ever going to read it. I am grateful for everyone who does read it. I hope that my posts add some value to their financial thought process.
Tell us something about yourself that you haven’t mentioned on your blog.
I have many interests other than money.
When the weather is nice, I love the outdoors. I live in the mountains and there are many fun things to do. I enjoy bass fishing from my kayak, going for long walks, and shooting sporting clays. I have even learned to enjoy doing yard work.
My home is just outside of Scranton, Pa and is only a two-hour drive from both New York City and Philadelphia. At least once per month, my wife and I like to visit one of those cities. I love sports, so we often go to watch a football or baseball game. Other times we go in to see a show or to spend an afternoon at one of the world-famous museums. Sometimes we just drive in to take a long walk and enjoy a nice dinner.
Taking care of my health is a major priority. I want to live a long life. Every day, I go to the gym at 5 am and workout for 1 hour. I try to eat healthy 80% of the time.
My wife and I do not have children. It was just not in the cards for us and we did not explore any medical solutions. We have a giant Yorkie who is the boss of our house. He is skinny but has long legs like a deer. He could jump on our dining room table with little effort. My wife and I do not even pretend that we are in control.
What is one bit of advice you would give to someone who is just starting a blog?
Be yourself. Develop your own voice. Don’t try to copy what any of the more popular bloggers are doing. They became popular by being themselves.
You must love it. It is hard and can be frustrating. It can also become all-consuming of your mental bandwidth. Even when I am not writing, I am mentally structuring future blog posts. It truly can take over your life.
Name your favorite blog, other than your own, that you read the most.
There are many great financial blogs. I like to read the ones written by bloggers who have followed a similar path as my own. I tend to read blogs by people who worked at a career and are retiring in their early 50’s.
If I had to pick just one, it would be ESI Money. The ESI Scale is the most practical way to build wealth. I related to the approach of working to develop a career to maximize earnings, savings over 50% of our gross income, and passive investing. It is a blog that is full of actionable advice that ESI followed himself to build wealth and retire early.
What is your best piece of money advice?
The most important aspect of building wealth is your saving rate. Without a high savings rate, you will not have money to invest. If you want to reach financial independence, start by saving between 10-15% in your retirement accounts. Every year, increase your savings rate by at least 1-2%. If you do that for 20 or 25 years, you will experience a few booms, bubbles, and busts, but you will most likely end up with a nice sum of money.