Frank Talk on Finances
Laying bare their money secrets, bloggers trade strategies for retirement. Many are young. A few even make a buck
It isn't easy to talk about money. When Jonathan Ping graduated from college and married, he finally achieved a steady stream of income. But his head became filled with questions like, "Should I open a Roth IRA? Which broker is best? What funds should I buy? Should I pay down my student loans first?"-topics he didn't feel comfortable discussing over dinner or at work. So, Ping, a 28-year-old computer science student and part-time research assistant in Portland, Ore., started My Money Blog to converse with like-minded people about one of his favorite subjects-financial planning for retirement.
Like Ping, baby boomers and generation X-ers-many of them still decades away from retiring-are finding that articulating retirement goals online helps them organize and stick to their retirement plans. "I think most bloggers started doing so because they didn't get the information and/or interaction they needed from their coworkers or friends," says Ping, who has been blogging for two years. "Online I can ask for additional details or why someone chose one investment over another."
Worth. Some bloggers regularly calculate their net worth and their attempts to make it grow. "Just the virtue of documenting my journey and recording my success and failures along the way helps me," says Brian Jaeger, 30, a Raleigh, N.C., engineer who writes 2 Million, a blog named for his goal of amassing a net worth of $2 million. "I record monthly my net worth, and the process ... has really helped me tune my actions toward making progress toward my goals. I have no excuses. It's all out there, and it really helps me own up to my mistakes."
For his part, Ping is actively increasing his net worth as well. "The blog helps with motivation," Ping says. "Some months, if I spend too much money and didn't save enough, then I have to blog about it and explain myself."
By having an open and honest conversation about money, many bloggers are earning dollars, too. John Nardini, the 42-year-old author of the popular Free Money Finance blog, says he makes from $20,000 to $30,000 a year by hosting advertising on his site. He donates the proceeds to charity. However, most bloggers make only a few hundred dollars or less each month from paid advertisements on their blogs. It's not big money, but it's extra cash for which they don't have to commute to earn.
And the perks aren't bad either. Some companies promote their books, DVDs, and products by sending them to well-known bloggers in hopes they will write about them online. "Sometimes when a company comes out with a new product, they'll actually tell bloggers ahead of time and use buzz marketing to promote their products," says Ping. "A lot of book publishers have contacted me so I can review" works about to be published.
Starting a blog just for a little cash and free stuff might be a mistake, though. Blogging daily is a big commitment. Only about 55 percent of all blogs have been updated even once in the past three months, according to Technorati, a company that tracks 63 million blogs. The rest are either neglected or abandoned. Many people write enthusiastically for the first several weeks. Then their posts become more and more infrequent. "Finding the time to really make a commitment to it can be a challenge," says Lori Woehrle, 48, the Washington, D.C.-based author of Tuna on Rye, a blog about "the sandwich generation" of people who are struggling to raise their own children, care for elders, and plan for retirement at the same time. Woehrle faithfully sets aside an hour each night to blog after her daughter is in bed.