I recently had the chance to interview J.D.Roth of the incredibly popular personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly.
CD: Get Rich Slowly is considered one the most successful personal finance blogs out there with a staggering 24,000+ subscribers and 8000+ visitors daily. What do you think makes your blog so popular?
JD: I don’t know. I’ve wondered this myself. I suspect that it’s because I mix things up. I post some moderately technical things (“how to open an IRA”), but I also post anecdotes from my daily life. I post about bank interest rates, but I also post tips for hosting a garage sale. It also helps that I post frequently, and that I write well.
Another aspect that probably helps is that I’m willing to engage my readers: I post questions from them, I reply via e-mail, etc. I really do try to make Get Rich Slowly a site that can deal with readers’ personal finance issues.
CD: Your blog often includes personal references to your own life and your own struggle with debt. Do you ever have the problem of keeping your personal life separate from your blog because of this?
JD: Interesting question. I’m not a private person. I’ve always been open and public. Obviously there are certain things that I’m not going to share with anything but my wife, but my personality is such that I don’t mind sharing what happens in my life, even when these things are bad. I’m not going to publish my social security number are publicize my bank accounts, but I’m perfectly willing to talk about the sorts of financial choices I make.
CD: You post with an almost inhuman output (for example 10 posts in the last 5 days). Do you find that pace exhausting at times, if so how do you deal with feelings of burnout?
JD: ABSOLUTELY! It is very exhausting. This is probably the top issue I’ve wrestled with over the past few months. My wife and many other people I respect have suggested I cut my posting rate in half, yet my gut tells me to continue at the present pace. But continuing at the present pace is causing some degree of burnout.
When I experience fatigue, I’ve found it’s best to just get up and do something else for a day or two, something completely unrelated to money or to personal finance. For example, one night when I was feeling burned out, I went roller-skating. It was a cathartic experience. For hours I didn’t think of my writing, and when I came back the next day, I was more productive than ever.
CD: On top of the excellent blog you have also started a forum for your readers recently. Why did you start the forum and are you happy with the results so far?
JD: I started the forum for several reasons. First of all, I was sinking beneath a mass of e-mail. As you can tell from how long it took me to reply to this message, I’m buried in the stuff. I’m beginning to dig my way out, and the forum is largely responsible. When people write with questions, I can now shunt them to the forum. It’s great.
Second, some of my readers were asking for more information. They wanted to talk about personal finance even more. A forum seemed like an ideal place to do this. Finally, I was hoping that the forum might generate some good story idea. So far it’s worked like a charm!
CD:Your posts are always so well written and edited that I have to ask if you are considering writing a Get Rich Slowly book? If so, when would you like to have it out?
JD: Yes, I’ve considered a Get Rich Slowly book. I don’t have any timeline for it. The real problem is deciding what to write about. There are so many personal finance how-to guides that it’s difficult to separate oneself from the pack. I do actually have a couple of unique angles in mind, and I’d like to pursue them. Maybe when I cut back to part time at my day job I can begin to focus an hour a day on the book.
CD:What are you long term finance goals? If they include retirement, when do you want to retire?
JD: My single long-term financial goal is to generate enough semi-passive income that I can semi-retire. I know that’s vague. What I mean is that I want to be generating enough income outside a traditional job so that I don’t have to hold one down. This basically means developing my writing to a point that I’m able to live off the income it generates. When I reach that point, I can quit and stay home to write all day. This isn’t the same as retirement, but it’s close enough for me — it’s doing something that I love every day.
CD: Personal finance as a topic tends to have an almost unlimited amount of ways to present the same core information. Do you find it difficult to come up with new ways to examine those core principles such as living below your means and index investing?
JD: Excellent question. Yes, some days I find it difficult to find new information to present, or difficult to present the old information in a new way. On other days, though, I think that I’ll never run out of things to write about.
CD: Do you have any goals for the Get Rich Slowly blog?
JD: I do. My aim is to have 100,000 subscribers and 1,000,000 monthly visitors by the end of 2009. Those are lofty goals, I know. But they’re also really ancillary to my primary aim. Mostly I just want to write about money in a way that helps others. I had a hell of a time with my finances over the past decade, and if there’s anything I can do to help others avoid the same sorts of trauma, that pleases me. My real goal is to be of service to others.
Oh yeah — as I mentioned, I would love to be able to make my living from my blogs, whether just GRS or all of them combined. I’m on my way there, but still have a ways to go.
CD: Well thanks for your time JD. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.