September 30, 2011, 6:00 am

Financial Ramblings

by: MD    Category: Uncategorized

Another slow weekend around here. I can’t think of anything to do really do this weekend… Well there’s that one little called the Financial Blogger Conference that I think every single person is attending!

Let’s jump into the links as most personal finance bloggers descent upon Chicago.

1. PT Money. Check out every article on this blog and show your support for Phil!

2. I’m In No Hurry To Pay Down My Mortgage @ Canadian Finance Blog.

3. 5 Lessons I Learned From My First Job @ Christian PF.

4. Why You Will Never Get Rich Cutting Your Budget @ Budgets Are Sexy.

5. 5 Tips for Networking on a Budget @ Experiglot.

6. 10 Ways To Stay Calm In These Crazy Markets @ IS.

7. Dividend Growth Index @ TDGB.

8. The Big List of Little Savings That Go a Long Way @ GPT.

9. How to Set Up an Online Store  @ PIN.

10. How To Buy Stock With or Without a Broker @ Good Financial Cents.

11. Do I Need a Credit Card? @ Studenomics.

12. A Practical Way To Estimate And Budget For Home Maintenance Costs @ Money Smarts Blog.

13. Financial Strategy #5: Maintain Your Own Personal Bailout Fund @ FMF.

14. Inheritance? Forget it. 5 Reasons why Gen X & Y won’t Get Inheritances @ 20-Something Finance.

15. When Was the Last Time You Unplugged? @ Corbett Barr.

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September 29, 2011, 6:00 am

The Thing About Blogging That Most of us Forget

by: MD    Category: Uncategorized

What’s the thing about blogging that most of us forget? What do all new, want-to-be, and even established bloggers forget?

We all tend to forget that you need to love to write.

Blogging is all about delivering value. The only real way to deliver value is to consistently pump out amazing content that helps solve problems. This is as simple as the equation that eating well + exercise= weight loss. We all know what we need to do. We just forget sometimes or lose track of what’s important. How does this happen?

Somewhere between dealing with advertisers, networking with other bloggers, turning down lame guest posts, and “optimizing” our pages we tend to forget that we need to love how to write. I’ve certainly been guilty of this far too many times. There are just so many time-consuming behind-the-scenes tasks that come with blogging that it gets really easy to get lost and forget about the actual writing. We find ourselves worrying about such minute things and we forget what the readers care about the most.

Readers care about checking out compelling articles and maybe learning a thing or two. Readers don’t care about how optimized our pages are or how many advertiser emails we respond to.

Why do you need to love to write? Because all popular and successful blogs have one thing in common. That one thing is super-useful content that’s written in that blogger’s voice. If you don’t love to write then your readers and your peers will notice this right away. Whenever I go through phases where I don’t feel like writing I notice that my traffic goes down and the interaction on my blog decreases. This is likely because people realize that I’m not delivering A content. When I get back into things and put everything into my articles I notice that the amount of links goes up, I get more emails, I receive more comments on the posts, and traffic goes up. It sure seems to pay off to take my writing seriously.

You can argue that you don’t have to love how to write. Sure you can do video posts, podcasts, and other interactive stuff. The question is: how long can you keep it up for? How many videos/podcasts can you do before you need to finally write something?

How can your love for writing impact your income? If you write quality articles your traffic is bound to go up. You’re bound to get more links and more eyeballs. Where the eyeballs go, the advertising dollars follow. The more popular your blog gets, the more advertising offers that will come your way. That’s more income coming in. That’s more money for you. If you don’t feel like writing or if you publish C content you’ll get C results. This means less advertising, less readers, less feedback, and less interaction. Trust me, I’ve seen this happen too many times to me and my peers.

How can you love to write? By blogging about a topic that you already think about all of the time. I always think about personal finance, entrepreneurship, psychology, and getting more out of life. This is why I write on the topic. It’s also why I don’t write about certain lucrative topics out there that I just don’t care about. Writing about a topic that I care about allows me to think of tons of different post ideas on a daily basis. This allows me to love to write.

What’s the point of all of this? It doesn’t matter if you plan on starting a blog, are new to blogging, or have been blogging since the Stone Ages, you need to love to write. If not, then maybe blogging isn’t for you.

I’m challenging all bloggers to share how much time they have spent on writing vs. other blogging tasks. Please share your answers here with us.

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September 28, 2011, 6:02 am

September Net Worth Update (-5.01%!)

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Assets and Net Worth


Ouch!

 

And…

 

Poor me!

 

That’s exactly the 3 words I thought when I pulled out my assets and liabilities last week to write this post. In the span of a single month, I dropped my net worth by $9,000… how can I lose 9K within 1 month?!? OMG!

 

When a big movement in your net worth occurs, you need to find out what happened!

 

I knew that this wasn’t going to be a nice month since I was taking my vacation right after writing my latest net worth statement but I didn’t expect to see such a dramatic change in my personal finances… as I didn’t expect to go to New York for my birthday the same month either!

 

So Where Does all My Money Go? (that’s also the title of a great blog authored by Preet 😉 ).

 

First there was my vacation when we went to Virginia Beach,

 

then there were both municipal and school taxes,

 

then there was a crazy weekend in NYC for my birthday (I turned 30 ;-D ),

 

then there was the tire that blew on the highway the day I got back from vacation,

 

then there was another great supper at an expensive restaurant for my birthday with friends,

 

then there were “back to school” expenses for my 2 kids,

 

then there was private daycare for my youngest one as we want her to play with other kids her age to be ready for school next year,

 

then there was the market dropping like a rock…

 

all right, so out of all the reasons describing why I feel poorer there is only one reason that was out of my control: the stock market and its mood swings! As for the rest, I have no excuses. I just hit a bigger wall this time as everything happened during the same month. Maybe I needed this to finally put some action behind my words. This is when I decided to take my finances in hand… with real moves!

 

#1 Review my insurance coverage

Believe it or not, you can’t trust anyone. And when I say “anyone”, I also mean the people that you can trust… in fact, you can’t really trust them ;-). When I took my term insurance 3 years ago, I knew my needs and I knew what kind of product I was looking for. That’s one of the main advantages of being a financial planner ;-). However, I don’t know much about insurance pricing and I should have shopped around. Instead, I trusted my wife’s cousin… big mistake!

 

When I reviewed my insurance coverage this month and realized that I could get $500,000 more in coverage while paying $30/month less (without counting the fact that I am 3 years older than when I first signed my insurance policy!). So, the tip of the day: shop around once every 2-3 years for your insurance coverage and you’ll probably discover a few bucks hidden under the mattress!

 

#2 Drop my electricity bill

When I moved in last year, I was on a monthly plan at $300/month. Even though I have a big house, I didn’t expect to see my bill go so high. During past 12 months, I’ve been working on dropping this bill down and having a small monthly plan. I got my electricity spending reduced to $250 per month for the upcoming year. So this is an extra $50/month in my pocket!

 

#3 Restaurants are my Arch Enemies!

When I need to cut down on something to make some room for my budget, I know exactly where to look: restaurants! I really, really, REALLY enjoy food. This is why I always end-up going to good restaurants and picking among the most costly plates. On top of that, I’m a bit lazy when it comes down to cooking over the weekend. I have a bad tendency of ordering pizza or chicken on an almost regular basis…

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve made some modifications in my habits. #1 I didn’t go to the restaurant at all. #2 I cooked instead of ordering unhealthy food! Last Friday, I cooked duck and made a shrimp risotto. Instead of paying more than $100 in a restaurant to have the same thing, we had everything done for less than $30!

 

Communication is the key!

When you are getting a little bit tight in your budget, you might have the reflex to keep it to yourself and without discussing this with your spouse. For example, I’m the only one working and managing the finances at home. On top of that, I know that my wife is a bit insecure about money. I used to tell her that everything is fine all the time but now, I had to tell her that we need to slow down at least for a few months.

It wasn’t fun to tell her that we need to slow down but I obviously need to get my spending under control. The days where I can only spend and never look back are over. I’m still in a pretty good financial situation, but I’ve been running from one excess to another lately. This has to stop. Since we can easily save $500 per month in restaurant and activities, we’ll adjust to that for a few months and see how it goes.

 

The good news is that I can always count on my bonus to pay off some debts… but here again, this is a habit I should quit along the way. I should be able to live with my main income and put the bonus aside.

 

So here are my assets and liabilities! (you’ll notice that my RRSP account grew by 9K but it’s because I took at 10K loan to invest in the market dip… the leverage loan is currently breaking even but the rest of my investments had suffered the wrath of the market!).

 

Assets: $524,424

ASSETSPREVIOUS
MONTH ($)
CURRENT
MONTH ($)
CHANGE (%)
CHECKING ACCOUNT$1 000$1 0000,0%
EMPLOYER STOCK
ACCOUNT
$6 867$2 395-65,1%
RRSP ACCOUNT$21 453$30 44141,9%
PENSION PLAN$20 218$20 2180,0%
HOME$345 640$345 6400,0%
COMPANY SHARES$98 000$98 0000,0%
MAZDA TRIBUTE$19 964$19 530-2,2%
MAZDA RX-8$7 600$7 200-5,3%
TOTAL$520 742$524 4240,7%

Liabilities: $346,138

DEBTSPREVIOUS
MONTH ($)
CURRENT
MONTH ($)
CHANGE (%)
CREDIT CARD$18 684$20 72110,9%
LINE OF CREDIT$19 677$19 9121,2%
HELOC$262 836$264 3090,6%
CAR LOAN$19 964$19 530-2,2%
Personal Loan$11 874$11 666-1,8%
RRSP loan$-$10 000N/A
TOTAL$333 035$346 1383,9%

Total Net worth: $178,286 (-5%!)

 

 

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September 27, 2011, 5:00 am

I’ll be Part of The Experts Tables At The Financial Blogger Conference And Nominations!

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business

 

 

 

I’m happy and excited at the same time as I’ll be part of the “ask the experts tables” at The Financial Blogger Conference! Next weekend, I’ll be in Chicago for the first Financial Blogger conference. This was already an exciting experience as I will finally meet most of my blogging idols and friends after 5 years of sending emails!

 

 

 

But the best part has been confirmed: I’ll be meeting with anybody who has questions about valuing/buying/managing/selling multiple blogs. My name is now beside big guys like Mike Piper from Obvlious Investor, Peter Anderson from Bible Money Matters and Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income! (you can see the list of all “experts” here).

 

 

 

The “ask the expert” table roundup will be take place on Saturday. This will be a 30 minutes spot where everybody will have the chance to chat with any of us regarding specific topics. I think it’s an amazing opportunity for me to share my knowledge and connect with other people. So if you are coming to Chicago, be sure to stop by my table to have a chat ;-D

 

 

 

3 nominations for the Plutus Awards

 

The Plutus Awards are the first personal finance awards for bloggers. This year, the winners will be announced at the conference. I was happy to be nominated in 3 categories:

 
Best Personal Finance Blog for Entrepreneur (for The Financial Blogger)
 
Best New Personal Finance eBook (for Dividend Investing)<   Best Personal Finance Blog for Teens or College Students (for Green Panda Treehouse)
 

 
It is a true honour to be nominated for these awards! Sometimes, I compare myself to the “big guys” and often feel that I’m not “that good”. So I was quite surprised to find myself recognized! If you think I should win any of these categories, you can vote here.
 

 

 

Let me know if you are coming to Chicago this weekend, we’ll have a beer together!

 

 

 

Cheers,

 

 

 

Mike.

 

 

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September 26, 2011, 5:00 am

1 Hour Extra For Your Day Job Or To Create A Better Future?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Alternative Income,Business,Make Money Online


Last week, I read a very interesting post by Sunil at Money Extra Blog asking if you would rather spend an extra hour on your profession or on your side business. I found this debate quite interesting as there is a huge discrepancy between what people say and actually do. It’s easy to say that you would spend an extra hour on your day job to increase your chances of getting a promotion but what are you going to do with this hour? The same rationale applies if you decide to use this hour wisely to work on your side business. So tell me:

 

What would you do with an extra hour?

 

I really want to know what you would do and am even more curious about what you are doing right now? Have you taken any steps to free up some time in your schedule? What are you doing with this precious time that you have cleverly wrestled away from one of those time eaters we encounter during a typical day?

 

I’ll tell you what I did during the last 2 years with not one extra hour but one extra DAY working on my side business!

Back in July 2009, I announced that I was working 4 days a week at my day job so I could have more time to hustle for my business. Now, 2 years later, I can tell you that it was the best decision I have ever made in terms of my personal finances.

 

Where I went before working 1 day a week on my side business

2 years ago, our online empire wasn’t that big. In fact, it was limited to:

The Financial Blogger

Intelligent Speculator

Gather Little By Little (which is no longer part of our empire)

 

And that’s about it. We were making roughly $4,000 per month from these 3 sites but it wasn’t enough to justify that we should work more than 10 hours each on the company. It was slowly growing and was easily managed. This is when you need to be cautious.

 

Cautious of falling into your comfort bubble and never escaping it

 

But we weren’t like that. Since we had several projects in mind, we decided that I could start working 1 day per week (which is 6 hours more) to work on these projects. That was really the key; when I worked during these 6 hours, I:

– Don’t write posts

– Barely answer regular email

– Don’t work on our main sites (unless for special projects)

– Therefore, I don’t do regular stuff

 

The key, when you are about to use an extra hour on your side business, is to direct your work towards CREATING VALUE

 

If you use an extra hour to write an article or to answer email, you won’t see much improvement. However, if you use this extra hour to:

– Work on the outline of a new site

– Look for private advertisers

– Create a group project with other bloggers (that will eventually drive traffic and new readers)

– Work on a product

– Think about your long term strategy

 

This is how you will create value and see amazing results. You want proof? Here we go:

In the past 2 years, with only an additional 6 hours per week (and counting 5 weeks of vacation 😉 ), we went from an average of 4K/month to an average of $8,000 to $9,000 per month this year. On top of this, we have diversified our income through a dozen websites and now count 5 major sites in our company. We now have 2 ebooks (Dividend Investing & Escaping the Rat Race) and are presently working on developing 3 other niche websites (which will be bigger sites than our current niche websites) along with 4 book projects on the table (the sequels to Dividend Investing & Escaping the Rat Race).

 

Would I have tripled my day job income with 6 hours more at work?

What would have happened if I had taken these 6 hours and put them into my profession? Would I have been able to earn a sustainable income out of it? I think the answer is pretty obvious: working longer hours at work will at best give you small benefits (such as a bigger bonus or at best a promotion) but it will never scale over time.

 

The best case scenario would lead you to a better job, earning perhaps 10% more income… and probably requiring you to work more hours ;-). In comparison, I don’t work more on my online company but my gross income has tripled. It is true that I had to hire 2 VAs and more writers, but it was also with the purpose of creating a team that will be able to handle the growth over time. With our current team, I know that we can handle double the work we have on our plate right now, without increasing our cost… and without having me or my partner working more than 10 hours per week (+ my 6 hours 😉 ).

 

In the end, it’s not how many extra hours you are able to find in your week to work on your side projects, it is what you do with them ;-). Try to outsource all admin work and focus on value creating activities.

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