October 29, 2010, 6:00 am

Yakezie Roundup

by: MD    Category: Financial Rambling

This week on The Financial Blogger we explained M-35 and what are company is all about. Many readers asked about our company and it was time that we explained it so that you guys know what M-35 is all about. I hope this gives some insight to all aspiring bloggers as to how much effort and time we put into our online business.

Let’s look at the best articles from the Yakezie:

1. 5 Tips to Prevent Overspending @ Budgeting In The Fun Stuff.

2. The 1929 Stock Market Crash @ Canadian Finance Blog.

3. Improve Economics and Help Feed the Poor at the Same Time @ Invest It Wisely.

4. Thoughts For Thursday: I Hate School @ Everyday Tips And Thoughts.

5. Tip Inflation: We’ve Got Nobody to Blame But Ourselves @ Len Penzo.

6. The Best Way To Lose Weight And Become Debt Free @ Financial Samurai.

7. Mint Data: More Than You Care to Know About Other People’s Spending Habits @ Consumerism Commentary.

8. The hedged nature of early retirement extreme @ Early Retirement Extreme.

9. Credit CARD Act and Its Affect on College Students @ Free From Broke.

10.  Using the Time Value of Money to Inspire You to Save @ Money Help For Christians.

11. Do You Exchange Gifts with Your Significant Other? @ Sweating The Big Stuff.

12. 10 Ways We Lose Money Without Realizing It @ Money Reasons.

13. 3 Ways to Supplement your Income with Online Earnings @ Financially Poor.

14. Budget Saving Strategies For Birthday Gifts @ Not Made of Money.

15. My Present Thoughts on Risk and Life @ PF Firewall.

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October 28, 2010, 6:00 am

What You Need To Know About Earning An Online Degree

by: MD    Category: Career

What you need to know about online college

Your career is stagnant and you’re looking to upgrade your current skills or pick up new skills. You could be working in a blue collar position and you feel that the best move at this time is to go back to school. You could just want to increase your current salary to improve the lifestyle of you and your family. You know that education is the best option. You know that you’re ready to go back to college. The only problem is that you really don’t have the time nor do you want to become a full-time student.

Is there a viable solution to this? Yes there is. You could take online courses to earn an online degree. Today’s article will attempt to look at every facet of this option.

First we need to look at important information on an online college degree program:

School is still school.

Just because you conduct your studies online this doesn’t inherently make the studies any easier. You still have to purchase a textbook, do weekly readings, work on assignments, and write exams. The major difference is that all of this will be delegated from the internet. At the end of the day the material will be the same, just presented differently.

Your learning style.

How do you learn best? Do you need a lecture to process a thought or do you prefer to read out of a textbook? You need to be positive that your learning style will match what is required to do well in an online course. Some of us simply can’t learn unless there’s a classroom setting present.

Once you’ve processed the two thoughts above, we can look at the benefits of an online degree:

Flexibility.

You no longer have to worry about sleeping through your alarm clock or trying to attend class when your kid just came down with a bad flue. An online degree program is extremely flexible. You do the work when you want to. You can listen to the lecture at noon while still in your pyjamas. The only constants are that you have strict deadlines and you sometimes might have to go to a physical location to write an exam.

Work at your own pace.

An online education can provide you with the ability to balance work/school. This of course completely relies on your time management skills. If your time management skills are up to par then you could work on your school studies whenever you feel like it essentially. The major benefit here is that you dictate your own schedule, not the college. This is perfect for anyone that needs to maintain a full-time job or feed a family while studying. You don’t have to worry about quitting your job or scaling back your hours at work when it comes to taking an online program. Unfortunately, you’re either going to have to become a productivity ninja or simply sleep less at night.

You don’t have to be a “student.”

I’m not going to lie, I’ve had some frustrated older folks in classes before. Likely frustrated because they have to be surrounded by a bunch of 20 year old punks. One of the major issues with going back to school is that you have to surround yourself with the college crowd. If you’re pursuing undergraduate studies, then this crowd could be very youthful. As a 40-year old you might not want to be listening to who chugged how many beers last Saturday while trying to focus during a lecture. With online studies you can complete your work from the convenience of your own home without having to live the typical student lifestyle.

We understand the important information about an online degree. We also understand the benefits of these programs. At this point you might be thinking that pursuing an online education is a viable option for you. Before you make any decisions, it’s only fair to now look at the setbacks of distance education:

Reputation.

An online college or an online program simply doesn’t have the same reputation as a major university. If your employer suggests that you pursue your studies through an online college, then you’ll be alright. However, if you decide to take online courses on your own then you run the risk of having a difficult time with finding work after you’re done due to the reputation. While some online colleges have managed to improve their reputations, it’s going to take sometime until the reputation is where it should be.

Workload.

The fact that you never have to go to a physical classroom will make the online program seem easier than it is. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. You still have to complete the same amount of work with an online college, you just have to complete it on your own time. That lingering term paper will creep on you quicker than ever, especially since you won’t have an annoying professor reminding you on a weekly basis. The finals will come out of no where and you might realize that you only read half of the book. The workload with an online college will definitely surprise many.

Networking.

Some say that 50% of college is all about networking and meeting new people. With an online college program you’re not going to meet any new people. If you’re already working in a relevant field then this might not matter to you. On the other hand, if you’re looking to upgrade your skills and enter a new field, you’ll miss out on valuable opportunities that exist in the college classroom. Some of the relationships that we form in college are priceless. From life long friends to future spouses. If this doesn’t matter to you then you’ll have no problem with online courses.

Now that we looked at every aspect of an online education, where do you stand? Would you go back to school if you knew you could do it on the internet? Have you tried taking online courses?

(photo credit: Andrew Stawarz)

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October 27, 2010, 5:00 am

New Ways To Manage Expenses and Credit

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Personal Finance

This post was brought to you by The Digerati Life, a personal finance blog with resources on debt help, credit management and other personal finance topics.

A good number of us cannot keep track of our expenses effectively. A greater number run out of money and rely on credit then subsequently get into debt. One reason is that an emergency fund was not effectively put into place. Another reason is that overspending is a prevalent issue in the debtor’s life. And still another reason could be disasters that happen along the way: unfortunate events, things breaking down, environmental calamities, investments losing money with market crashes, etc. Either way, there are a million possibilities in which you may need provision ASAP, and while emergency funds are an imperative, there are other options that may also work for you.

While this option won’t likely work with the major store chains, this could potentially work with mom and pop stores and smaller enterprises. It’s actually a pretty common arrangement between customer and merchant in many other countries around the world (particularly Asia). This bright idea is to pay the store a certain amount in advance for goods you would consume in times when you are pretty low on cash. The idea is to have a “debit line” in a store, for a certain amount that you pay them in advance. Much like a debit account, indeed. You can always use cash of course, and doing this sort of thing will prevent you from earning any interest on your savings, but it’s an arrangement that’s still in practice in certain communities.

This could work if you know a store’s owner. This could also work in smaller towns or in communities where everyone knows everyone else. There are two ways to use debit:

  1. Talk to a store owner, preferably a grocery store, dry goods store, or deli owner, and ask if you could deposit, say $100 or $200 in advance, and then when you need it, you can come over and gradually consume that amount. It sounds like an odd set up and is an old-fashioned way to transact with a store that you frequent. It’s probably more common in areas where the idea of using plastic or extending formal credit isn’t as widely accepted.
  2. Get a prepaid Visa or Mastercard. This is the typical way we see ourselves using credit or debit. If you’re thinking of picking up this type of card, why not get a cash back debit card to also get rewards? Store a certain amount in it: $20, $100, $200, $500, $1000 — it’s up to you, and then only use it when you need to. It’s one option you can use instead of banking on cash for your expenses.

These measures are for the incorrigibly spendthrift. Teens and young adults who have yet to grow out of the consumerist and financially dependent lifestyle could use measures like these to help control or manage their outflow. Parents should not do this for them; rather, they should be encouraged to do this for themselves. If you’re a parent of a teen who loves to spend, spend, spend, then let your child know that as much as possible, you won’t be there for him or her if they burn their allowance to ashes before you hand them their next installment. Thus, they should learn how to set aside a bit of their money.

You may want to think twice about the decision to start a child with those credit cards for college students if they tend to use plastic too liberally. A debit card can put a limit on your child’s spending while a secured credit card may be useful for them to build credit while also controlling the amount of credit that’s extended to them. If you’re going to introduce the use of credit to your kids, make sure they are aware of the consequences of falling into debt. Teach them to only use cards if they know how to pay off their balance in full each month.

Now regarding the “store credit” strategy where you ask a merchant to extend you credit based on some amount of money you give them in advance: should you want to use this method, don’t ever forget to get receipts or anything that resembles a certificate, in writing, that you have left money with that establishment. Again, it may make much better sense to keep your funds in a traditional emergency fund, but the “store credit” approach may work for those who find it a challenge to trust themselves with their money.

Some of these measures sound quirky, odd and so old school. But if worse comes to worst, extreme measures may be required. Some people may actually find that some of these unusual suggestions for managing credit could work for them, especially if they are truly finding it hard to save and even manage cash on their own.

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October 26, 2010, 5:00 am

M-35 Explained

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Make Money Online


All right, today, I am going to put my cards on the table. I want to share with you the way we have been building our online company, M-35 since March 2008. At first (even before we had a company), it was just a fun project with no name. We created a financial blog (The Financial Blogger) to see how it goes. My partner already had a few websites of his own and we thought that combining our resources together could lead to something at some point in time. After a year of working together, he offered me the opportunity to buy half of the shares in his sites and a few months later is when we created M-35.

Even then, we didn’t have much of an idea of what M-35 would become. I remember when one of my friends asked me the fatal question: “what exactly do you want to do with your sites?”. Discouragingly enough, I didn’t have an answer. I just replied: “well, we are trying to make it fly”. Make it fly… that was the best answer I could come up with while talking about a project I’ve been working on for almost 2 years at that time… quite pathetic!

Fortunately, we found our way and we now know where we are heading. We have been discussing for quite some time about disclosing the way we manage our online company but now that we are established and that we keep on growing, we have decided that it was the time to share more about “the big picture”.

I decided to explain it as if it was a big company, but in fact, we are far from it! It just looks easier to explain that way!

Blogging Division

This is definitely the core of our company; it generates the bulk of our income and it is also our main focus. In this division, we have 6 writers (including ourselves) and one editor (sorry folks, my English didn’t improve overnight, I have a good friend of mine helping me with this!). This is how we generate content for 5 blogs:

The Financial Blogger – Working 4 days a week, Earning 6 figure income

The Dividend Guy Blog – The Place for Dividend Investors

Intelligent Speculator – Stock picks, Stock commentary and Stock trading strategies

Green Panda Treehouse – Personal Finance for those in their 20s

Do Not Wait – Your Retirement Planning Resources (if you haven’t check it out yet, there is a big contest ending on October 31st!)

We also run smaller financial sites but since they are not developed (or abandoned for the moment), we will not discuss them in this post.

Advertising Broker Division

With strong online relationships with both French and English financial blogs, I was able to establish a few deals for 2010. While this is not a huge part of my time and I don’t know if this will create a steady revenue stream over years, making the link between companies and blogs is very interesting. It is a lot of work (since you are responsible for everything and you have to coordinate the whole advertising campaign). After a few deals, it becomes easier since you are working with an established process.  I hope to be able to broker a couple of deals per year.

Sports Division

Surprise, surprise! I have never talked about us having sport related websites, right? This is more my partner’s side. Our biggest site is Tennis Rulz which is a great tennis reference. This site was created before the techno bubble (crazy isn’t?) and still gathers a lot of attention. We would like to have a hockey website (but that is only to buy hockey tickets through our company expenses 😉 ).

What is to come

For the first time of our young careers (but long if you consider the web industry 😉 ), we know what we will be doing in the year to come.  In 2011, there are basically 2 things we want to launch along with growing what we already have:

#1 Offering products (ebooks, investment newsletters and probably a CFA website)

#2 Consulting services (not related to finance but related to novice bloggers)

Both resources exist already but they are done on a very limited scale. We will now use our knowledge to leverage those 2 projects and make our company even bigger. If you have any questions, please share them ;-D

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October 25, 2010, 5:00 am

How To Launch A New Blog

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Make Money Online


Back at the beginning of October, I announced the launch of DoNotWait.com, a new retirement planning blog. This is the 5th blog produced by our company which includes:

The Financial Blogger – How to work  smarter to make more money.

The Dividend Guy Blog – A dividend investing resource.

The Intelligent Speculator – Investing and techno stocks commentary blog.

Green Panda Treehouse – Personal finance for the people in their 20s and 30s.

And finally:

Do Not Wait! – A retirement planning blog.

The site was launched back on October 4th with a huge contest (still running until October 31st) where you could win several prizes. After 3 weeks, we can say “mission accomplished”… so far! As the competition is now fierce in the financial blog world, launching a new site is a real challenge.

Why start with a contest?

In marketing, there are zillions of ways to gain your market share (in this case, it’s readers). However, it all passes through 2 major axes:

#1 Quality (i.e. good and up-to-date content)

#2 Visibility (mentions from other blogs, search engine rank, word-of-mouth promotion)

So you may have the best content in the world, if you don’t advertise, it will never be found on the web. This is why we decided to launch a huge contest with many prizes. The interesting part is that we are not financing all of them.

Have people participate

We offer the biggest prize, the iPad, but we contacted several advertisers and bloggers to contribute. In exchange for a prize they are willing to sponsor, they have their logo, a link and a short description of their site within our contest announcement. By involving several people upfront, we were sure to get more visibility and get more mentions across the blogosphere. It was a win-win situation for both bloggers and us.

Get people to take action

Having a buzz around DoNotWait! during the month of October is nice but it won’t serve any good if those referrals don’t stick around for long. This is why we are asking people to register for our newsletter and RSS feed. This gives us the opportunity to show them what kind of content they will find on DoNotWait.

To date, we have gathered 188 RSS readers and 114 subscribers to our newsletter. I didn’t know what to expect but if I look at my other blogs, I think that building a nice readership base in 3 weeks is pretty good. After all, it is almost 15% of TFB RSS readers (which exists since November 2006!).

Communication is the key

As I mentioned before, I have worked pretty hard to contact several bloggers. Since I’ve been around for a while, I have a lot of fellow bloggers who were kind enough to lend me a hand. Here are the things I have done a week before launching the site:

– Contacting personally several bloggers for help

– Creating a mass email to all my fellow bloggers that I know (using gmail contacts)

– Posting the launch on 3 forums (2 private forums and the Yakezie forum)

– Announcements through my newsletters (TFB and IS)

– Spreading the word on Twitter (and have my fellow to RT)

– Submitting my first post to social media (in order to get Google’s attention as soon as possible)

– Commenting on several other blogs (especially the ones with the “comment luv” plugin that shows your latest post besides your name as a commenter

What could have been done differently

While I think we did a great job in launching the new blog, I think we missed a few points. The first one was that the site is not fully completed. By this I mean that we are still working on calculators behind the scenes where I think this could be one of the major reasons why people would like to visit a retirement planning blog. I wanted to have articles written in all categories but this is yet to come too. On the other hand, we have about 20 articles drafted waiting to be published so we were very eager to promote our content.

The second thing I would do if I had to launch another website is to try and get mentioned by the media. By contacting financial journalists such as Larry MacDonald or Rob Carrick, I could have increased my chance to get more attention to the site.

The third thing would have been to send more personal email. The mass email was good but never better than a gold old personal communication between 2 parties. But because it is time consuming, we have decided to create one fat email that fits all and send it to all our contacts.

What is our goal with this new blog?

Now that we are surfing on the attention, it is time to present good content and try to get some search engine ranking. So far, our search engine visitors represent a low 2% of our traffic (which is averaging about 125/day). Once the buzz is over, we will need to get a much better ranking to keep the site over 100 visits/day.

The goal is to crank it up to reach 3,000 visits/day by December by having more search engine traffic. I would also like to increase my number of RSS readers to 250 by the end of the year. This may sound difficult but I’m sure we will be able to do it if we provide quality and helpful content. After all, this site has been created based on the fact that the public seriously lacks resources when it comes to retirement planning.

By the end of 2010, I would also like to start earning a few bucks from it. Because we don’t want to sell text links on this site, our main sources of revenue will be adsense and affiliate programs. We will see how it goes over time but earning $50 per month by January 2011 should be feasible.

I’d like to have your feed back on Do Not Wait!

What do you think of this new blog? Do you like it? Do you find it interesting? Is it missing anything?

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