Thanks for joining us at Club Thrifty! After you’re done reading our sweet post, be sure to check out Holly’s staff post today at Get Rich Slowly.
Welcome back to Club Thrifty! Many of you may have noticed that we have some new digs here. We figured that there was no better way to celebrate our redesign than by interviewing the one and only J.D. Roth.
For those of you who may not know, J.D. Roth is a legend in the personal finance blogosphere. He is the founder of Get Rich Slowly and the author of Your Money the Missing Manual. He also writes about More Than Money at jdroth.com. So, without further delay, let’s get to the interview!
Club Thrifty: Hey J.D.! Thanks for joining us today. Let’s get right to it. Can you tell our readers what drew you to writing about personal finance?
J.D.: I started writing about personal finance as a way to chronicle my own adventures (or misadventures) with money. I was deep in debt and felt like I was drowning. I’d tried all sorts of things to turn things around, but all of my attempts were based on finding “magic bullet” solutions. That is, I tried to find ways to “get rich quick” or to take shortcuts to a debt-free life.
Eventually I hit rock bottom. It was then that a couple of friends approached me and each recommended a book for me to read. One book was “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey. The other was “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I read these books and figured I’d give the authors a chance. They weren’t offering any shortcuts to wealth; they were saying that I’d have to do a lot of hard work and make some sacrifices, but if I did that, then I could be debt free. I could even get rich – slowly.
As I applied the advice in these books, I started reading other books and magazines (and websites). I also started documenting what I was doing so that other people could follow along.
CT: Well, people certainly took notice and connected with your stories. What do you find is the best way to build an audience? How do you best connect with readers?
J.D.: The best way to build and audience is to be open and honest, to be genuine. And to tell stories. I find that people connect well with reality. Instead of writing about theory, write about what’s actually happening in your life, both the good things and the bad. People don’t want to read about perfection. Perfect people aren’t appealing. They don’t seem real. Instead, share the good and the bad so that others can learn from your successes and mistakes.
CT: How long did it take you before you knew that you had something special?
J.D.: I think I realized that Get Rich Slowly was something special about a year into it. I’d had several small successes early on, but I didn’t appreciate what was happening until about month ten. It was then that I had about 12,000 subscribers and my income was beginning to approach the same income I’d earned at my day job. When that happened, I realized that maybe I could make a living at this.
CT: Now, for the question that everybody is wondering about: Who’s your favorite New Kid?
J.D.: Haha. To be honest, I never listened to them, and I don’t know their names. I’m too old! But wasn’t Donnie Wahlberg in the group? I like him as an actor. Since he’s the only one I know, that’s the answer.
CT: Now that you are officially retired from GRS, what are you up to these days?
J.D.: I spend a lot of my time organizing the World Domination Summit, an annual conference here in Portland, Oregon. This year, we’ll have 3000 people come to town to hear speakers like Gretchen Rubin and Donald Miller. I also write a column for Entrepreneur magazine and, in theory, one for the Time.com financial blog. (Though I’m terrible about meeting my deadline.) My personal writing lives at my new blog, More Than Money, which can be found at jdroth.com.
Really, though, I spend most of my time right now focused on getting my life in order. I’ve spent much of the past few years in a state of transition. I’ve undergone a lot of changes. Things are starting to settle, but the past few months have still been filled with a lot of changes: travel, moving, and so on.
CT: I’m glad you mentioned traveling. For those of us who follow your blog, you chronicled a recent trip that you took to Turkey. Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?
J.D.: I learned to love travel in 2007 when my ex-wife and I accompanied her parents to England and Ireland. From that point, she and I started traveling the world: Belize, southern Africa, Italy, France, Peru, and so on. My cousin also likes to travel, and he suggested that he and I go to Turkey together. So we did.
The trip to Turkey was great fun, though I’ll admit Turkey is my least favorite country so far. This shocks a lot of people who love the place. But while I had a good time, I liked Bolivia and Botswana and all of the other places I’ve been better.
CT: Thanks for sharing that! Getting back to blogging, can you tell us about the biggest blogging mistake you have ever made?
J.D.: Interesting question. I’m not sure I have an answer. I guess my biggest blogging mistakes have always come by not assuming somebody would read what I’ve written. As a result, I’ve developed a two-part mantra.
First, never assume anyone reads what you write online. That is, when you meet somebody (even a friend or family member), don’t assume that they know what you’re writing about. Maybe they don’t read your blog and have no interest.
On the other hand, I say that you have to always assume that everyone reads your blog. If you do this, it’ll influence what you write and how you write it. It’ll keep you from saying something dumb that you regret later. I’ve heard many stories of people who thought they were completely anonymous who write things online that they come to regret because they’re not nearly as anonymous as they think they are. I know somebody who got fired this way, and I know somebody who ended up with a divorce this way.
I know these are two contradictory ideas, but you have to assume them both at once. If you do that, it’ll keep you from making big mistakes.
CT: That is great advice. What other advice would you give to bloggers, particularly those who are just starting their own personal finance blog?
J.D.: Don’t do what everyone else is doing. There are tons of personal finance blogs out there. The surest way to get your voice lost in the chorus is to just do the same as everyone else. Instead, do your own thing. That may mean not even reading what other folks are writing. It surely means writing from your own experience and telling your own story.
CT: You’ve made the leap from Get Rich Slowly and have started another new blog. What are your plans for More than Money?
J.D.: That’s a great question. I wish I had a great answer. I fully intend to write there several times a week, but so far I’ve only managed several times a month. I’d love to explore more advanced financial topics at More Than Money, but I’d also like to write about self-improvement. I’d like to write about animal intelligence and old-time radio and comic books and more. Really, though, it’ll be a place for me to explore the person I’m becoming.
CT: Thanks again for joining us J.D.! Any parting words of wisdom?
J.D.: Enjoy life! You create your own reality, so make it a good one. Don’t assume the worst about anyone or anything, but assume the best. Don’t create drama. Instead, be happy and healthy and present in the moment. Life is beautiful, but only if you take the time to enjoy it.
Thanks again to J.D. Roth for agreeing to do this interview! We truly appreciate it. Again, you can check out his new blog More Than Money at jdroth.com.