Happy Saturday and welcome to the 45th episode of the ‘Blogger Confessions’ interview series on the blog. Today, I’m bringing in Grokking Money to talk about blogging and how they’ve managed to keep everything straight as a personal finance blogger.
Grokking, take it away.
Blogger Confessions with Grokking Money
1: In at least 100 words, describe the target audience of your blog.
The story behind Grokking Money goes back to a book I came across when I was trying to understand some Algorithms and I found this particular book – Grokking Algorithms to be very intuitive.
It changed the way I looked at this subject and I loved the name. Hence when I decided to write about money, I wanted to share it in a way that lends itself to be naturally understood by its readers. That’s how my blog was named – Grokking Money.
I have dedicated my blog to help people like me who start from no knowledge of personal finance but want to understand how money works and win with their finances.
Most of the articles I share on Grokking Money focus on providing answers to frequently encountered problems in personal finance and how I managed to overcome them. I also have a deep passion for presenting content in a way that is very relatable and easily digestible.
I try to avoid writing about stuff in a cut and dry fashion and often draw parallels from fields that have nothing to do with finance. This helps me think about a topic laterally and present solutions to problems in ways that aren’t very obvious.
2: What makes your blog different from other blogs in the PF blogosphere?
I got interested in personal finance fairly recently.
I was looking at my credit card statements one night in January 2018 and I noticed a suspicious charge on my statement and I investigated further to find out it was a fraudulent transaction and the charges we being applied for the last 14 months. It really made me mad. I couldn’t believe how I could let such a thing happen.
It was also during that time that a couple of my friends had purchased their first homes and my wife wanted us to buy one too.
I knew deep inside that we weren’t ready yet. Something didn’t feel right and I was not able to pinpoint and tell what it was. It was then I began to educate myself about personal finance.
I stumbled upon Paula Pant’s Afford Anything site one night as I was browsing the internet. Her messaging seemed to resonate with me even though I had doubts if it was real and if it could help me fix my own finances. I went ahead and started listening to her podcast.
It was then I realized how much I didn’t know about personal finance.
It didn’t take me long to realize what all I had to do fix my problems. I needed to learn about budgeting, investing, how to become debt free, how to build an emergency fund, how to save for kids college, etc.
I quickly started following other personal finance blogs and podcasts and listened to Dave Ramsey. He was my inspiration to get out of debt.
Thanks to the generous knowledge I found from fellow bloggers I was debt free and had my finances straightened out in less than 12 months. Can you believe that?
It was then I got inspired to start my blog. One night I finally decided to make the move. I decided to register a domain name and start Grokking Money. I wanted to share every single piece of information I had learned during my journey and make it available for free to other people like me who didn’t know how to fix their finances.
Trust me when I say this, educating oneself about personal finance is literally life-altering. All this while I was earning a decent salary and yet I remember how insecure I felt.
I work in Tech as a software developer and yet when we were having our first kid, the only thing that kept me awake was not knowing how I am going to manage our finances with the arrival of the new one. I had literally zero ideas about how to manage money. When I look back at my journey in the past 16 months, I feel so grateful I learned “how to fish” finally. Now I don’t have to worry about “feeding” my family.
My blog intends to pass on this knowledge and really help everyone out there, who is scared and clue about how to manage their money and give them the tools and inspiration to win with money. This inspires me to wake up every single day and work on my blog and adding value to my readers.
3: What’s the thing that you’ve struggled with the most since starting your blog?
My blogging journey has been riddled with quite a lot of mistakes.
When I first began blogging, I was absolutely clueless about how to start a blog or even set up a domain name or choose a host. Heck, I didn’t even know the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org.
In my enthusiasm to start the blog, I had signed up for wordpress.com account (which I continue to use to this date) and only days later realized it’s possible to use wordpress.org, which provides greater flexibility.
My struggles with blogging have primarily been outreach on a specific social media platform – Pinterest. I never had a problem figuring out other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc.
However, Pinterest has been my Achilles heel.
I know that every other successful blogger out there derives tons of free traffic from Pinterest and I am aware of a lot of popular ways people have been able to exploit this platform to generate traffic to their blog. But I haven’t been able to capitalize on this platform yet.
My biggest success seems to come from Twitter, where I have managed to make a lot of meaningful relationships with other fellow bloggers.
I think my next goal is to educate myself about Pinterest and try to leverage it better.
4: Do you publish your net worth on your blog? Why or why not?
Yes, I did write a post on my blog which shared my network early this year. Since I have been tracking my net worth fairly recently, I don’t have a lot of historical data to share.
My biggest year in personal finance is undoubtedly 2018.
It was the year that changed our finances forever. I have since then been tracking my net worth on personal capital. As of now, I am tracking my goal to save for a house downpayment and I post my progress on Twitter every single month.
5: Have you monetized your blog (ads, affiliate marketing, etc)? Why or why not?
As of now, I don’t intend to make any money off of my blog. I really want to share my experiences and knowledge I have on personal finance and I want to keep it free.
I do realize there are operational costs (and time) involved in keeping Grokking Money alive. For now, it’s my passion project and I pay 100% of the expenses out of pocket. Hence I don’t participate in any of the affiliate programs.
If in the future I decide to monetize my blog to cover the expenses, I will definitely be 100% transparent about it and will publish the numbers on my blog. I am not there yet, so I want to keep it free at this point.
6: Would you rather be loved, hated or controversial? Explain, please!
I feel in being all of it at different times on my blogging journey. My goal behind starting Grokking Money is to truly understand how money works and share it with others. It’s an honest effort to look at money from a non-judgemental lense and break the myth that surrounds it.
Money is such a topic that can arouse a very different emotion in each one of us. Some of us relate to it positively while others do it with a sense of guilt or shame. I guess my writing tries to attack the why behind money beliefs and how you can tackle them.
In doing, I realize I may question some widely accepted beliefs on the money. This might cause some people to hate me while those that relate to it will love me for it. So what we are dealing with here is purely subjective.
As such I don’t start off with any specific agenda to be loved or hated or be outright controversial. It can definitely be a side effect of who reads my blog and from what belief system they are coming from.
7: Who would you be horrified to know read your blog?
I would be horrified to know if my employer or some of my close relatives find out the real person behind Grokking Money. I don’t mean it in a bad way. I don’t want my employer to think that my passion project is in any way coming in the way of my performing at my day job.
I don’t want my relatives to know about it since they still carry some preconceived notions about money and if they find out it’s me, they would begin to look at me from a different lens. I personally prefer to stay anonymous and give out honest opinions about money.
I realize that with anonymity also comes a lot of freedom and I want to be very responsible with it. I think it allows me to speak more openly without having to look over my shoulders.
8: What’s your most favorite, least favorite and most embarrassing post on your blog?
I am fairly new to blogging but I still have my picks for each one of them.
- Most Favorite – Broken window theory and why it matters
- Least Favorite – 6 tips to boost your monthly savings
- Most Embarrassing – Top 5 ways to invest your paycheck money
I feel I could have done a better job at #2 and #3. Hence they listed there.
9: Explain your writing process
My writing process involves typically starts off with a brainstorming session (typically on a weekend) where I go through all the ideas I had noted down during the week. I listen to a lot of podcasts (personal finance and otherwise) and I often pick on a statement or an idea or a line of argument a guest presented and elaborate on it in my blog post.
I also read a lot of personal finance blogs (although I don’t comment often) and whenever I read a post which I think didn’t speak about a certain aspect of the topic, I pick it up and try to throw some light on that.
The third type of topic I write about include drawing parallels from stories or anecdotes from my personal life and how it can be related to personal finance. This is by far my favorite category of posts since I love stories.
There is an element of charm and magic associated with them and they never go out of fashion. Stories convey profound ideas in the simplest way possible. They often remind me of my childhood and I like to go back that story and listen to it again, but with a new understanding. This is truly enlightening and I love doing it.
I typically do one post a week (I publish every Saturday morning at 6:00 AM pst) and I am often 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. It’s almost like having an emergency fund and not living paycheck to paycheck.
I first outline my posts with important points and visit the topic over and over throughout the week. Every iteration fine-tunes the idea and fleshes out those that don’t seem relevant or need better messaging. This is almost like how I develop code at work. We follow a very iterative model and I guess I am fine-tuned to working on my articles the same way.
I use Grammarly (not a paid-for version) to do the heavy lifting of spell checks and grammar suggestions for me. I am not a huge grammar buff and this is such a blessing. So it’s my shining knight in the armor when it comes to keeping my posts from being preyed upon by grammar vigilantes on the internet.
10: What is your favorite blog in the PF blogosphere (other than your own!)?
I have so many personal favorites when it comes to personal finance blogs. But if I had to pick one, it’s got to JL Collins’s blog.
His work with Stock Series is truly life-changing. In a lot of sense, he is a hero! His blog has been of great influence on my investing style and has helped me stick with Index investing. If there is one person who convinced me to go with this approach, it’s him.
I mean, just check out his Google Talk and you’ll be floored!
Thanks, JL Collins for your amazing work and I will continue to use your work as my go-to resource when I want to introduce people to personal finance.
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Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.