Happy Saturday and welcome to the 23rd episode of the ‘Blogger Confessions’ interview series on the blog. Today, I’m bringing in Brandon from BrandonRenfro.com to talk about blogging and how they’ve managed to keep everything straight as a personal finance blogger. 

Brandon, take it away.

Blogger Confessions with Brandon from BrandonRenfro.com

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

I primarily write for retirees and near-retirees who are interested in figuring out how to take distributions from their retirement accounts.

Right now, that crowd is mostly baby-boomers. I think of my readership as relatively transient. Most of my readers will come to the blog, hang around for a few months, and then move on with their lives. That’s the nature of my topic. Most people will spend a lot of time up front planning their withdrawals for their transition into retirement. Beyond that, people just want to live their lives. Once they solve their own retirement income dilemma it rarely becomes a hobby.

Secondarily, students and practitioners who are interested in the academic research on retirement withdrawals. I go a little more in depth on some articles, and will likely go a little deeper on a few topics I’m researching right now. I’ll get the occasional email from someone in this crowd.

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

My academic background and tight focus are the two biggest things that make my blog different. Most blogs cover a much more broad array of financial topics such as insurance, savings, taxes, and budgeting. Even blogs that focus on retirement will typically cover more diverse topics than I cover.

Also, the basis for most of my articles is academic research. That’s a little unique as most academic research is typically only read by other academics. I digest the academic articles and re-write them for a general audience. I’ll be doing even more of this in future articles too.

I write articles that discuss the various retirement withdrawal strategies and explain their context. So often, much of retirement wisdom and rules of thumb are applied without taking into account the proper context.

Context is always important, especially in regard to distributions.

For a specific example, just look at the 4% rule. There are really quite a number of factors needed to create relevant context, but you will usually just hear it as “You can withdraw 4% of your portfolio in retirement.”

Makes my nerd-nerves twitch.

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

Trying to strike a good balance between providing valuable content for the readers, while also not being so academic as to be unreachable.

Since I am a college professor, my tendency is to explain every detail.

However, I know most blog readers aren’t necessarily looking for that level of depth. I want the blog to be unique and provide value. There’s somewhat of a tipping point here in that if I go too far I’ll lose the reader. The reader doesn’t benefit from the article unless they… ya know…read it.

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

I don’t, only because that isn’t really relevant for my blog right now. I write partially for academic hobby and to generate publicity for my retirement planning practice. The blog itself doesn’t directly generate revenue in the typical way that we think of blog revenue.

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

No. That may be something I look at later, but right now I want to concentrate on creating content. There would also be some regulatory considerations since I have an advisory practice. I don’t really want to deal with that right now.

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

Loved, although I won’t lose sleep over being hated. I generally get along well with most people and don’t particularly like conflict (says the Infantryman), but don’t mind it for the right reasons.

I am rarely controversial, but that is more a function of my personality than a deliberate move. My blog topic isn’t really a controversial issue either as long as you employ the right mental framework and recognize that there isn’t one correct answer for all situations.

People tend to get the most frustrated when they want to truncate their analysis or find a single, objective answer where there isn’t one.

Students in the classroom sometimes deal with this too. Sometimes the answer to a problem is simply your best approximation. Some people don’t like that uncertainty.

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

Now, no one, although when I first started, ANYONE!

I literally would cringe when anybody told me they read it. I hated my articles at first when I just writing about retirement topics in general.

Mostly, because I didn’t find them as interesting as I do my current articles so I didn’t take the time to write them well. Now, I wouldn’t be horrified if anyone read it. That is what it’s for.

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

My favorite post is the one in which I explain the 4% rule of retirement income. I generally point people to that article as the first one they should read on my site. I feel like it sets the stage for everything else, especially other withdrawal strategies.

My least favorites include any of the lighter articles. However, those have been some of the ones that had the most views.

I don’t have any embarrassing posts right now only because I deleted them all!

9: Explain your writing process

My writing process takes a while, mostly because I tend to go down the academic rabbit holes. Usually, I find myself pulling back at the end. I’ll start with an idea and then read any original research on the topic. I’ll then try to go out and find other perspectives or commentary on it.

By the time I finish all the reading I usually have so many thoughts in my head it’s a little hard to focus on one for a concise blog article.

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

I love Nerds Eye View by Michael Kitces. He goes into extreme detail in every article he writes and I always learn a lot. He blows right past the notion of a general audience reading his articles. His stuff is geared for financial professionals and is very educational.

I also am a big fan of Wade Pfau at Retirement Researcher. He is heavily involved in academic research as well. If he publishes an article, I read it.

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