Happy Saturday and welcome to the 19th episode of the ‘Blogger Confessions’ interview series on the blog. Today, I’m bringing in Bob Lai from Tawcan to talk about blogging and how they’ve managed to keep everything straight as a personal finance blogger. 

Bob, take it away.

Blogger Confessions with Bob Lai from Tawcan

1: In at least 100 words, describe the target audience of your blog.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what I was doing when I started my blog, so I didn’t have a specific target audience in mind.

I started the blog to chronical my quest for financial independence and joyful life. However, as I began to write more and more posts and started to connect with my readers, I realized that many of my readers are millennials and young families. Just like me, they are learning key personal finance concepts and building their passive income streams, with the goal of becoming financially independent one day.

Nowadays I write posts targeting these people as my key audience.

On my blog, I have written many posts about how we invest, and how our portfolio generates money for us every month. These investment related posts have attracted readers looking for investment-related knowledge.

In addition, I realized that when it comes to the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement, there are a lot of stories on Americans. Since I’m a Canadian, my aim is to provide a Canadian perspective on how to FIRE in Canada.

2: What makes your blog different from other blogs in the PF blogosphere?

We are a single income family living in a beautiful yet expensive city called Vancouver. I work in the high-tech field while my wife stays at home with our two young kids.

We want to show that it is indeed possible to achieve FIRE with a single income while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

To make things more interesting, both my wife and I weren’t born in Canada and English isn’t our mother tongue. You see, I am originally from Taiwan and immigrated to Canada when I was a teenager.

My wife is originally from Denmark and we met in Vancouver when she was an exchange student during her university studies. Therefore, I provide a multi-culture perspective on my blog.

Unlike some PF blogs, I write many philosophical posts related to happiness, joy, gratitude, and self-improvement. I have been very open and honest about some of the personal struggles I have faced along my FIRE journey and I believe my readers appreciate the authenticity and honesty.

3: What’s the thing that you’ve struggled with the most since starting your blog?

Not publishing articles that are crappy and don’t make any sense, haha!

I’m not joking though, it has been a constant challenge to come up with solid ideas so I can publish quality posts. I don’t want to post articles for the sake of posting (i.e. quality over quantity).

I tend to write things that I find important to me at the moment, rather considering the key terms people are searching on search engines.

Since English isn’t my first language and I work in high tech, grammar is not my strong point. From time to time I have a good idea but when I sit down and start to write an article, I struggle to put the ideas into logical sentences and paragraphs.

So, publishing a post can be a long process for me.

4: Do you publish your net worth on your blog? Why or why not?

I started writing as an anonymous blogger and I set up some hard rules on what I would and would not share on the internet. Sharing our net worth was something I decided not to share ever.

I revealed my identity after a year of blogging because friends and family were quick to discover my blog. You see, I have been using the name Tawcan on the Internet since the 90’s (it was a word I made up, which stands for Taiwanese Canadian). After revealing my identity and having my name out there on my blog, I found it even more important not to share my net worth for me and my family’s privacy sake.

I also think net worth is a very personal number that can vary greatly based on where you live, your salary, your savings rate, and your age. Just because you are 35 years old, it doesn’t mean you absolutely need to have x amount of net worth. Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s a shame that some people find it necessary to compare net worth and look down on someone because they have lower net worth.

5: Have you monetized your blog (ads, affiliate marketing, etc)? Why or why not?

I have. I have a few ads on the blog and I offer coaching service. The coaching topics include but limited to things like getting out of debt, budgeting, managing your spending, setting up an investment portfolio, portfolio review, prioritizing financial goals, planning for FIRE, tax minimizing strategies, and long-term planning.

The coaching service has been quite popular among my Canadians readers.

6: Would you rather be loved, hated or controversial? Explain, please!

Hmm tough question, probably be loved and be controversial at the same time? I want to be loved so people can see me for who I am. I want to be able to have great conversations with anyone.

At the same time, I want to be controversial in the sense that I want my blog posts to force people to think for themselves. I want to push the boundaries and get people to think for themselves rather than listening to the authorities and following the herd all the time.

7: Who would you be horrified to know read your blog?

Nobody. I am proud of the contents I have published on my blog. If I didn’t want specific people to read my stories, I wouldn’t be blogging at all. There is no privacy on the Internet. ☺

I have published some very personal articles. Before posting, my wife asked me if it was a good idea. I think being honest and authentic is important and have gone ahead with my decision to post these personal articles. As it turned out, readers really enjoyed these articles, so I plan to continue being me when it comes to writing and publishing posts.

8: What’s your most favorite, least favorite and most embarrassing post on your blog?

My most favorite post is FIRE. RIP. 2014-2018.

I wrote this post over the span of two or three months. When I first started writing it, things just came out. But at one point I got stuck and decided to take a break. I went back to the post a few times and at one point I almost decided to scrap it because I thought the post was pure CRAP!

In the end, I think I put together 2 or 3 drafts I had previously written into the same post to make it more complete. The post is quite long but it was very well received within the personal finance community. Because it is a very long article, it was maybe too long to read for some people.

So, some people made the conclusion that I have decided to give up FIRE, which is not the case at all. I had a good laugh about that.

My least favorite post is probably 5 Ways to Frugal Living.

It was a post that I published when I first started blogging. Looking back now, I don’t like it because it is pure garbage and doesn’t provide any unique perspective.

Yes, it might have done well SEO wise, but it’s not something I enjoyed writing. Because of that, I have not paid much attention on SEO contents.

There are two embarrassing posts. One is How My Struggles with English Taught me about Financial Literacy. The other is The END.

They are embarrassing in the sense that I shared a lot of personal stories in these two posts. In the first post, I wrote about the struggles I faced when I immigrated to Canada without knowing any English. The second post I wrote about my struggles with happiness and joy and how mentally I was not in a good place.

Being a very private person, it was hard for me to write these posts and then hit the “publish” button. So, maybe embarrassing is not the right word to use because I chose to publish them and it was about being more vulnerable than embarrassing.

9: Explain your writing process

As you can tell from my previous answers, my writing process can sometimes take months and go through many rounds of edits.

I am definitely not one of those writers that can quickly pump out contents.

I take my time to write. From time to time, I would ask my wife to be an editor. When that happens we typically go back and forth a few times and see if we can expand on the idea I am writing about. It’s a very collaborative process.

10: What is your favorite blog in the PF blogosphere (other than your own!)?

My favourite blog is a fellow Canadian, Cait Flanders.

Unfortunately, she has recently announced that she has retired from personal blogging. The reason why I love her blog is her writing style.

Her posts are all very personal, extremely thoughtful, and very deep. I definitely feel a personal connection with Cait when I read her posts. This is something I strive for in my writing as well.

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