I’ve learned lots of lessons from three years of blogging. Some of them I probably knew intuitively, but blogging has provided tons of concrete examples since starting my journey into the personal finance community. Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is to take action. Wanting, hoping, and planning only get you so far. If you want to achieve success, you have to move forward. Here are some of the biggest lessons learned from three years of blogging.
Consumer Debt is Holding You Back
For years, we fell right in with the 70 percent of Americans who feel debt is a necessity in their lives. As long as we could afford the payment, we could afford the purchase, right?
The problem with consumer debt is how much it limits choices and freedoms. Once your whole paycheck is eaten up by monthly payments, you have no option other than to keep slogging away. Forget trying self employment or taking a month off to travel. You aren’t able to take on anything remotely risky, and heaven forbid you actually lose a job or suffer a pay cut!
Debt also gets in the way of setting ambitions goals. The thoughts of passive income, financial independence, or early retirement seem like pipe dreams with $30,000 of credit card debt standing in the way. Why dream if you plan on having debt payments forever?
Paying off debt is not easy. Having a blog does not erase debt, but having a strong community of debt slayers behind us helped tremendously and allowed us to accelerate our payments to a level we never though possible. If you want to pay off debt, start today. Life is so much better on the other side.
Once we paid off our credit cards and car loans and swore to never take on debt that didn’t earn money for us, our eyes were opened to new possibilities. I made the mistake of thinking everyone else would want to hop on the gravy train with us, but I was wrong.
While most of the people you come into contact with on a daily basis will say they want to be out of debt, work less, or retire with adequate savings, almost none of them are willing to make the changes in their current lifestyle that cause that to happen. We’ve tried giving financial advice to relatives. I’ve tried explaining how to make money online. We’ve talked about other ways to earn and grow money while lowering taxes with people we know and trust. Almost all of them smile, nod, and walk away thinking we are touched in the head.
I am very sure we would not own our four rental properties, contribute nearly as much to retirement, or travel like we do without knowing the people I’ve met from blogging. People in our “real life” don’t think that way, and that’s OK. If you don’t physically know people who support your lofty ambitions, search them out online. I promise they are there and I am richer, literally and figuratively, for knowing them.
Personal Finance is Personal
Although most personal finance people agree that finance is personal, I think many of us are guilty of being judgmental. I know I’ve read a few posts from various bloggers and thought how wrong their ideas or plans were. In reality, people who are brave enough to share their financial goals, triumphs, and failures are usually on the right path, whatever path that is.
Some of us want to earn and save as much money as we can to retire early. Others want to save enough to retire at a traditional age while spending more now. Many aren’t sure but keep trying different things until they find the right direction. None of that is wrong. The wrong thing happens when you don’t pay attention and wake up one day nearing retirement with no plans, no savings, and no idea who will support you during those golden years.
I used to think things would magically work themselves out over time, but now I know it’s all on me. After reading so many blog posts, financial books, and doing hours of study, I now feel very comfortable about our finances and believe we have an excellent chance of having enough money in retirement.
If you have no clue, try running your finances through the free calculator at Personal Capital. Even if your retirement picture is scary, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.
Have You Been Wanting to Start a Blog?
If you have any sort of desire to become a blogger, do it. I think blogging has the worst hourly payment rate for about six months, but if you can stick with it, you’ll probably make some money.
I am a part time blogger who isn’t very online savvy.
That being said, over the past three years I’ve made about $30,000 from blogging and projects that came as a result of having a blog. I can’t even begin to count the amount of money I’ve made indirectly from articles, advice, and support received online.
You can start a blog today for cheap by buying a domain name. (I got mine through GoDaddy for less than $5) and signing up for hosting. I strongly recommend starting a self hosted blog. If you ever want to make a penny, this is the route to take. Bluehost is very easy and only costs a few dollars a month.
The rest you can figure out by reading tutorials online or consulting with someone to get you started. My blogging partner Grayson at imark Interactive is great if you need some help. If you’re like me, you won’t want to invest a ton of money in the beginning. I blogged for a year with a free WordPress theme and a header purchased from Fiverr!
The point is to get started. If you hate it, all you have to do is stop. I strongly suspect you’ll be more like me and decide that starting a blog was one of the best things you ever did.
Bloggers, what is the best thing you’ve learned from blogging? Non-bloggers, have you considered starting a blog?