For the 1st anniversary show, we welcome one of the “Godfathers of Personal Finance Blogging,” Get Rich Slowly founder JD Roth! We get into Star Wars, living in an RV, and turning a website into a full-time income.
- MarketPlace Money
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich
- Mr. Money Moustache
- Money Boss
- J.D. Roth
Eric Rosenberg: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome back to the Personal Profitability Podcast. As always, I’m your host, Eric Rosenberg. And today we are recording a very, very special episode – the One Year Anniversary of the Personal Profitability Podcast. We started on the first Thursday of January 2015, now it’s the first Thursday of 2016, so episode number 25.
And for this episode I was thinking, ‘How can I do something really special?’ I want to make it pop, as what Vanilla Ice would say on his Real Estate show. So to make it pop, I thought, ‘I want one of the best guests if not the best guest we have had ever so far on the podcast.’ And this is someone I’m gonna tell you a little bit about, and if you haven’t read who he is yet and how we met. So I think it’s kind of a funny story.
So a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away in Chicago, Illinois or actually a suburb called Schaumburg, was the first ever FinCon, the first ever Finance Blogger Conference. It wasn’t even called FinCon yet then. And I went alone, I knew I was gonna have a roommate, someone I have met through the Yakezie group that I’ve talked about before. But I didn’t really knew anybody, I never met anybody in person that I was going to see at this conference. And at the time there were a few bloggers who were, we now refer to them kind of as the ‘Godfathers of Personal Finance Blogging’, they were around at the beginning and they’ve built up these huge audiences and ended up selling their blogs to a big company. We’ll talk a little bit about that later.
So this person who we have on right now is listening to me talk. It’s kind of funny to have him listen while I’m talking. We met the first time, I walked in the hotel and I walked into the lobby, checked in and I turned and saw him sitting there. I recognized him and I knew who he was, because of his name badge partially, but also because I was a big fan of his site, Get Rich Slowly, which was at the time, maybe the biggest or definitely the top few biggest personal finance blogs there are. And I very quickly introduced myself and I was actually kind of nervous. I didn’t know, I was like, this guy is a huge deal, who am I. I felt I was like meeting Michael Jackson in the 80’s or something, but the blogging celebrity equivalent. And the next morning, he did the opening key note for the conference and he came out and introduced himself in Klingon. So he came out and started speaking Klingon or his friend was speaking Klingon on stage.
JD Roth: He was dressed up as a Klingon.
Eric: Yes, dressed up as a Klingon and spoke Klingon. And I thought, ‘Man, this guy’s a bigger nerd than me. I only speak Klingon in private with my friends. This guy’s doing it in public.’ No, I don’t actually speak Klingon. I don’t know if you do. But I’m really excited to introduce, after that very long drawn-out intro, JD Roth, who is on with us. So give everyone a big hello.
JD Roth: Hello. Thanks, Eric. That’s awesome. And what you don’t mention is now, when we are both actually home, we’re pretty much neighbors in Portland, Oregon.
Eric: Yeah. So I really got to know JD about two years ago when I moved to Portland from Denver. And at that point we met at a few more conferences, so I definitely knew more of who JD was and I think he recognized or knew who I was. So when we got together, we do regular finance blogger happy hours here, we call them FinCon locals. And I got to really know JD, we’ve ridden bikes around town and when he is in Portland…
JD: Yeah, plus Eric organizes or did organized, I don’t know if you still do, and I don’t really actually remember what you call it …
Eric: The Portland Cruiser Ride
JD: Yeah, and it’s like weekly pub crawl on bikes.
Eric: We did that for one summer. And now we have the baby and so we, since Jennifer couldn’t drink this year, we decided to take this year off, so we had to not do it this year.
JD: That was a lot of fun. You know, I think Kim and I only did it the first time.
Eric: I think so. You guys never made it back, I was a little sad that we never had to ride our bikes more together.
JD: It’s surprising because we both like to drink and we both like to exercise.
Eric: What better can you do? That’s how I’ve actually met my wife, on the Denver Cruiser Ride. That’s a big part of why I wanted to bring it here.
JD: We had a lot of fun and I have a lot of memories from that night including, we ended the night at this very hole-in-the-wall bar called like something …
Eric: Pub at the End of the Universe
JD: Pub at the End of the Universe
Eric: Which is funny because I actually live a block away from there now
JD: Yes. It might be your regular watering hole.
Eric: I have not been back, not out on a Cruiser Ride actually; there’s other bars that I have gone to and neighborhoods.
JD: I don’t know whether you remember but I don’t get hit on often so when I do get hit on, I remember it.
Eric: It’s a notable moment?
JD: Yes. I was getting hit on by like this 50-year old gal there who wanted me to go home with her. I was like, ‘Really?’
Eric: It was a fun night
JD: Crackin’ me up
Eric: And they do Open Band Night at that bar, I think it’s on Thursday nights which is the night we were riding. So in a lot of places do Open Mic Night where you can bring your guitar and sing a song or do your standup comedy thing. I just sat down at the drums and started rocking out even though I really don’t know how to play drums at all. But if you have enough drinks, you can do anything, really. And think you’re really good at it.
JD: Exactly right, man. And I think it’s great that you mentioned the whole nerd stuff and the Star Trek stuff and you’ve said something about, at the intro, you said ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ which is obviously a Star Wars reference.
Eric: I thought, how timely could I …
JD: Yeah, and so, we’re recording the show on December 19, I hope that doesn’t destroy any illusions for your listeners …
Eric: That’s okay, they can know what we’re doing
JD: And I know we’re airing it on January 7th. So the new Star Wars movie opened yesterday and I know from Eric’s Facebook feed that, I don’t think you’ve seen it yet, right?
Eric: I will be seeing it next weekend, actually a week from today when my parents are coming in town. When I was in the same city as my Dad, I went to midnight showings to see every Star Wars that was released in my lifetime. The first one I did Episode One, I was studying for a month at a Religious Institution in Jerusalem and I saw it at midnight in Jerusalem. It was my first time ever seeing a movie in Israel which is an interesting experience on its own. But pretty much every single person there was either American or British and half of them were in costumes; it was the first new Star Wars movie in 30 years so people are pumped. And all the Israelis …
JD: Sixteen years. Sixteen years; you’re not nerdy enough. Sixteen years
Eric: Sixteen years, my apologies
JD: I just saw on Facebook today that Tess Vigeland who, maybe some of your listeners know her from her work at Marketplace Money, she’s traveling the world right now and she’s in Thailand or Vietnam and she likes to see the Star Wars movie there and they’re on Vietnamese or Thai subtitles, it’s pretty funny.
Eric: Yeah, I saw it with Hebrew subtitles. And the funny thing, this is totally off topic to finance but when you go to a movie in Israel they do, they still do an intermission at the very middle of every movie. And they do it based on the time of the movie and not based on movie scenes so like in the middle of a big lightsaber battle, all the lights came on and it’s Hafsaka, Hafsaka on the screen which means intermission or breaks. So you’re like, ‘Oh man.’ You know what break time’s here in the US in the movies but they still do that there they because everyone smokes so much that they need that break. And they just started, well I guess it’s been awhile, but around that time they had really just started enforcing you cannot smoke in malls, movie theaters and buses. So it’s a new thing ten years ago, sixteen years ago when that all happened.
JD: So I haven’t seen, I live in Portland with Eric,
Eric: Well not with me, but like a mile …
JD: No. Right now I’m in Savannah Georgia for the winter, and my girlfriend and I, Kim and I, have not gone to see the new Star Wars movie yet. I mean it’s only been out a day, eighteen hours, whatever, but I’m such a nerd that because I can’t go see it right away, I bought the Kindle book version. And so Eric, just for you, it’s not a spoiler, I promise it’s not that much of a spoiler, I’m gonna read the opening crawl. Because the opening crawl, it’s in the book.
JD: Alright? And maybe you know all these stuff already.
Eric: I knew a little of them, enough of the Star Wars nerd. I’ve played enough of the video games that I know some of the back story. But I’ve always kind of shielded myself from the forward story hoping someday an official one would come out.
JD: There’s been a lot of talk about why isn’t Luke in the trailers and stuff. And the very first line in the crawl, in the opening crawl, answers that. ‘Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed. With the support of the Republic, General Leia Organa leads a brave Resistance. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help at restoring peace and justice to the galaxy. Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to Jakku, where an old ally has discovered a clue to Luke’s whereabouts …’
Eric: That sounds fun. Well speaking of fun things, I know as I always say, personal finance should be fun, it should not be boring and stuffy. So, we’ve already made it a few minutes in but if you have not already cracked open a beer, here’s your opportunity to hit the pause button, head over to the fridge, grab your favorite beer, wine, scotch, whatever your beverage is. You know I’m always a beer guy, typically. I know JD has a beer in hand, a local Georgia beer. Do you want to tell us what you’re drinking?
JD: Sure. So I will say, for you listeners, my girlfriend and I left Portland Oregon on March 25, 2015, to start what was supposed to be a year-long trip, well to be honest it was supposed to be a six-month long trip …
Eric: We missed you, you haven’t come back. I had to go to Charlotte to see you.
JD: I know. It’s been a lot of fun but eventually we got burned out so we stopped here in Savannah Georgia and we’ll resume the trip in early April of 2016, but anyway along the way we thought we’re gonna drink wine in every state we went to but it turns out there was some really, really crappy wine out there.
Eric: Did you say the worst? I think I remember hearing Wisconsin was particularly bad or somewhere up in that part of the country.
JD: Yes. Wisconsin and Michigan. And even here in Georgia, they like sweet wine, fruit wine. And it is bad. I’m sorry to the listeners who like it but I do not enjoy it.
Eric: Have you ever had an ice wine?
Eric: That’s a totally different, I know it’s a sweet wine, but it’s totally different than all the others. That’s one that I always find kind of interesting. I tried one in Colorado once at a local Colorado winery on the Western Slope, Coloradans call it near Grand Junction. There’s an area that grows a lot of wine, they grow grapes, but they make wine, fruit wines and cherry wines and peach wines…
JD: It’s like north of Ouray toward, like you say Grand Junction
Eric: Well it’s right off I-70, if you go from Denver about 4, 5 hours west towards California, you’ll eventually hit Wine Country.
JD: That is a beautiful stretch of highway, believe it or not. I mean, it might sound stupid to say any stretch of the freeway is beautiful, but that is some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see.
Eric: About an hour east of Wine Country in Colorado, there is a, it was actually one of my family’s favorite vacation spots growing up for a weekend away, Glenwood Springs in the canyon, has the most expensive per mile portion of interstate highway ever built in the United States.
JD: But it is amazing. I’m surprised they don’t use it video games.
Eric: I know, I’d totally drive through them in Grand Theft Auto, knock people into the river and stuff
JD: Here’s a sad, sad story. To me it’s a sad, sad story. So on this RV trip, we had a GoPro that we can mount to the hood of the RV or to the hood of the Mini Cooper that we tow. And so on that stretch, I had known in advance that this was supposed to be a great section of highway, I didn’t know how great it was, and so I had the GoPro mounted and on, and it was recording…
JD: But, yes it would have been cool…
Eric: Oh, there’s always the ‘but’
JD: So the little light was blinking, everything on the back of the GoPro told me it was recording but when we got to wherever our stop was for that day, just above Denver, highland mountains, and I looked at the video. It had not recorded! It didn’t see, I didn’t have that.
Eric: My first ever flying lesson, I borrowed my brother-in-law’s GoPro and brought it along. And it was my first time ever using a GoPro and I took a picture of black and the roof of the plane. It’s a still picture and that was all I got for the whole thing. Oh, man! But now I have lots of great flights video.
JD: We have lots of bad, we’re not talking about personal finance at all…
Eric: I now, we should, we need to start drinking our beers so we can start talking about money
JD: Yeah, I am. I haven’t told you what beer I’m drinking
Eric: Yeah, yeah
JD: I was gonna say we have lots of GoPro horror stories from the trip. Like there was a time we’re on this highway, very sparsely travelled, going from South Dakota to Nebraska, and we’re going to see one of Kim’s friends. I went to put the GoPro on the top of the Mini, I’m sitting on the passenger seat trying to put the GoPro on the top of the Mini and I thought it latched in but it didn’t …
Eric: Oh, it fell off the car?
JD: Boom, boom, boom. We had to go back
Eric: Oh, man. They’re durable though, at least.
JD: Yeah, absolutely. It survived. And there have been also different other little catastrophes with it. But they’re durable little beasts.
Eric: I feel like I should set up an affiliate link for Amazon. Like personalprofitability.com/GoPro or something
JD: Do you talk about it a lot?
Eric: No, I never do. But I feel like I should be trying make money off of it. We’re talking about it.
JD: Well I have terabytes of footage from the trip. And I haven’t edited it yet, so when I get back to Portland in October 2016, I’m gonna spend several months editing the footage. And I don’t know what I’ll do with it.
Eric: You can make a movie like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, but it’ll be JD and Kim Go Everywhere.
JD: Yeah, watch our boring video.
Eric: What beer are you drinking? So everyone can hear.
JD: I am drinking, I started off by saying that our intention was to drink wine in every state but there’s some bad wines out there. What we found out really quickly is almost every state has decent breweries.
JD: None of them really compare to Portland breweries, I’m sorry to say.
Eric: Oh, there’s some in Colorado. Colorado has some amazing breweries. I have to say Portland is a little bit better than Denver, having lived in both.
JD: Fort Commons is pretty good; it’s good stuff. My favorite brewery actually is called Ommegang, and it’s out in Coopers Town New York, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is, but they make some great beer. So I’m drinking SweetWater, it’s the brewery out at Atlanta Georgia. I started with their Whiplash White IPA, and I pre-functioned and now I’m on their Georgia Brown which, they call it ‘a river of deep caramel and chocolate malt meandering through undercut currents of hop additions.’ Let’s see.
Eric: I’m not a big multi guy, I like the light floral IPAs, though I have to be honest right now, we’re doing a little fridge cleanout and I’m doing the Hipster Classic Pabst Blue Ribbon. And actually I haven’t opened it yet. Ready, I’m gonna open it. I want everyone to hear the moment.
JD: Nice. Wow.
Eric: I’m thirsty so, cheers everyone. If you’re not at work or driving a car, I hope you can cheers along with us.
JD: This is like the best personal finance podcast ever so far. We’ve talked about beer and travel and Star Wars…
Eric: It’s all really part of personal finance, if you think about it. Everything you do, you’re either enabled to do or unable to do generally because it’s something that has to do with money. You know my biggest restriction that keeps me from traveling the world right now is I have a full time day job and I have limited vacation time. But why do I have the day job? Ultimately, I don’t go for my health, I go for money, right?
JD: Is that one of your mantras, what you just said? That ultimately everything is, I don’t even know how you phrased it…
Eric: I know. It should be a mantra. I feel like when I write my new book, that I should write someday, that should be part of it.
JD: I know you’ve got timelines on your screen right now, but seriously you should write this down because I want you to send me this quote. It was a great quote. Ultimately everything you do, or you’re able to do or are unable to do comes down to money.
Eric: It’s true. That was at 17 minutes and 20 seconds in my time.
JD: There you go
Eric: Now you hear my pen writing. So now the reason we’re really here together, almost 20 minutes in, so JD, as I was saying, in the personal finance blogging world people really look up to him. He’s done some very amazing things and it all started before there was a word ‘blog’ or ‘weblog’. JD started this personal finance website about his, he had some serious struggles getting out of debt, credit cards, consumer and at all kinds of debts. Could you start you story there and tell us first how you got into the debt and what you started to do to turn that around.
JD: Well you kind of mixed a couple of things up there but I will clarify them.
Eric: Well, I know I got the little pieces, maybe not, we turn but don’t always do it in order.
JD: So, sorry, I’m eating peanuts as we talk, I’m eating, I’m gonna make an endorsement here, this is a company out of Washington it’s called CB, just like CB radio, CB’s Nuts.
Eric: Washington State or Washington D.C.?
JD: Washington State
JD: So they make this great lightly salted roasted peanuts and they are by far, by far the best peanuts I’ve ever had. I actually found them at New Seasons, the supermarket that Eric and I go to in Portland. And that’s my first time. And now I order them right around the world we order cases of these.
Eric: They’re like local whole foods, for people who have never been
JD: I keep coughing, including that supposed sneeze when you were introducing me, because the peanuts keep stuck in my little filtery thing.
Getting into Huge Credit Card Debts
JD: Anyway, so I got into debt in college actually. I didn’t have student loans. I was very fortunate. But it didn’t matter because I got hooked on credit cards that I was the proverbial guy who went to the student union and got sucked into the credit card offers.
Eric: Did you get a free pizza, at least?
JD: No. I didn’t get anything besides interest charges. I know. To me it seemed like free money. I mean, intellectually I understood that I was just deferring my payments. But it didn’t matter. It was a way for me to have what I wanted now. I was pretty much an instant gratification guy. That’s something that I struggle with, and still, actually. And so I ended up accumulating a lot of credit card debt so by the middle of 1990’s I had over $20,000 in credit card debt. It felt like a big burden. It felt like I was just chained to the debt and I wanted out of it but I keep making dumb decisions and so I couldn’t get out of the debt.
Eric: Are there any super big purchases that stick out in your memory that you’re like, ‘oh, it was awesome to have but I really shouldn’t have done it’?
JD: No, it was always lots of little stuff. I bought tons and tons of magazines. I can’t even believe how many magazines I’ve bought. I’ve never actually mentioned that before but, magazines are so stupid. You’re spending two or three dollars at the time for something transitory. And of course back then the internet was very young and nowadays magazines are dying because the internet replaces them. Back then that wasn’t the case. I had so many magazine subscriptions, I’d buy tons of magazines, I’d buy lots of books I didn’t read, buy computer games, buy comic books. It was dumb. I know that now. But it still didn’t stop me from doing it.
Start of Blogging Career
JD: So I accumulated that debt and ultimately I ended up with over $35,000 in consumer debt in 2004, my worst. And that’s when I started to try to think things out. And along the way, concurrently I was into computers, I program computers, I built computers, I did computer consulting and I had websites. And in 1997, I think it was, I started my first weblog, but we didn’t call them weblogs back then because the term had not been coined. We called them web journals or online journals. And I’ve read several people doing this and I liked it so I did it myself. And then when Blogger came around, I started using Blogger to create my website. And then ultimately Movable Type and eventually WordPress.
Anyway, and so I had a personal site, where I wrote, I would say I wrote about cats, computers and comic books. Those three things are pretty much my main topics. I was very nerdy. And at some point, I wrote about my struggle with debt, and it was early in May 2005, I wrote a post at my personal site. And I called that post, Get Rich Slowly. And what it was, was a summary of all these books I have been reading about personal finance. And I said that they all say that there is no reliable way to get rich quickly but you can get rich slowly if you follow some time tested advice.
Get Rich Slowly
JD: About a year later, I was trying to come up with some ways to make some extra money, this is in early 2006, and I thought, ‘I should start blogging for profit. I should start trying to make money off from my blogs.’ My first attempt was to do a comic book blog but it turns out I don’t like modern comic books; that was never gonna work. And then I thought, ‘oh, you know that ‘Get Rich Slowly’ article, that was very popular because some very big websites had linked to it. Maybe there’s a market there.’
So I decided to start a website called, Get Rich Slowly. And I thought it would be the first personal finance blog on the internet. Now little did I know, there are already other big sites like Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to be Rich and Jim Wang’s Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, or something like that, it was long and complicated, and Harlan Landes’ Consumerism Commentary.
Eric: Listeners might remember, we had Harlan on, I think five episodes ago, when we recorded live at FinCon. So you can go back into the archives and hear him and his story as well.
JD: Yeah, Harlan’s awesome.
JD: And Jim, Harlan and I, we had sort of informal and frequent mastermind group. The three of us like collaborate, sort of. We come up with great ideas that we never do.
Eric: The Secret Blogging Millionaires Club?
JD: Something like that. We just never do, I mean we wanted to work together but we never have yet. It’s nice in idea.
Becoming a Full Time Personal Finance Writer/Blogger
JD: Anyway, so Get Rich Slowly, I thought I would make maybe, maybe a few hundred dollars a year to help me pay off my debt. My goals for the site were number 1, for me to learn about money. So I was reading books and reading articles and then it was a way for me to do that and get better with money. My second goal was to help other people get better with money. And so as I read those stuff, I recapitulated it. And my third goal was to make a little bit of money for myself.
What I did not expect was how much people liked the site. It was very humbling and gratifying how much people enjoy Get Rich Slowly. So it grew very quickly; the audience did. And so did the revenue. I think the first month, actually I have the print out right over here, I printed this out to remind me, cause I just started a new website. In April of 2006 I made eight dollars and twenty nine cents.
Eric: Nice. That’s, inflation adjusted, that’s probably two or three beers back then.
JD: Might be. The second month in May I made $85 and by June I was up to almost $500, and it just went up from there. And so within a short time I was making as much from the website as I was making from my day job. And I thought, ‘Alright, that’s great.’ And eventually I quit my day job and worked on Get Rich Slowly full time and I started making gobs and gobs of money, so eventually it made more in one month than I would make from working in my day job in a year; which just blew my mind. I didn’t even know that kind of stuff was possible. And that’s the story of Get Rich Slowly. Eventually I sold it. I stucked around and worked at it just as long after I sold it as I had before I sold it. And eventually I thought I would retire from personal finance but that hasn’t been the case.
Eric: So your debt pay-off, that you primarily could attribute to what’s began as side income, Get Rich Slowly. Is that right?
JD: Yeah. I was a combination of things. For me, so you talk about personal profitability and to me profitability occurs when you’re making more than what you’re spending. It doesn’t matter how you get there. It doesn’t matter whether you trim your spending or you increase your income alone. For most people it’s easier to increase your income. In my case, I did both. My debt pay-off came, yeah, because I was increasing my income but also because I was cutting my spending.
Eric: I always say that budgeting is like trying to lose weight through only exercise and not changing your diet. Because you have to think, you have a controllable number of inputs and outputs that you can do in your life. And your inputs would be your revenue, or let’s say, your diet with that analogy, and your output, I guess your burn rate when you exercise, or how much you are able to cut your spending, how much you can budget. You can budget all day, and you’ll never really get rich if your income doesn’t eventually grow. The same thing happens with weight loss, you can exercise, hypothetically if you’re running on the treadmill 24 hours a day, you can only burn so many calories. You can always eat more than you can ever burn. Possibly. The same thing goes with money. As I always tell people, budgeting is important and it should never be forgotten. But once you get those big wins, don’t worry about the nickels and dimes, try to figure out how I can afford the life that I want and keep earning more.
JD: I was going to debate you on one point. You said you can’t get rich by budgeting. And I agree that it’s more difficult to do that but I think it depends on what you define as rich.
Eric: That’s true. You can live a rich lifestyle. But if you’re only earning, let’s say ten, fifteen thousand dollars a year, that’s minimum wage right now …
JD: You’re not gonna do what you wanna do there because realistically there's only so much you can cut from your budget. I would say that …
Eric: You have to eat. You have to have a place to live. You have to have clothes. You have to have medical costs.
JD: You have some indulgences. You have, I mean you’re not going to be happy if you don’t. I feel like at a minimum, unless you’re doing like super extreme crazy personal finance, and I have written stories about people who get by on $2,000 a year, but the average person needs at least a $10,000 to $12,000 a year, to meet their needs.
Eric: Right. The best example, I know someone who very publicly discusses living on a very, very, very, low budget, would be Pete from Mr. Money Moustache. There’s some other similar sites like Frugal Woods, they do the similar kind of, you know, financial independence, it’s what they call it. Trying to live on such a low cost that they can just live and not have to worry about anything.
JD: What do they call it?
Eric: Financial Independence
JD: Oh, right.
Eric: They call them the Fire Movement – Financial Independence Retire Early. FIRE.
JD: So even Pete, Pete does not, his lifestyle is not mere. He would call it fancy. He does call it fancy. And he spends around $25,000 a year for a family of three. And I think that he could get it down to say, $18,000 or $20,000 if he wanted but he doesn’t need to.
Eric: At this point. There was a point, I know when he was, just before he started his site Mr. Money Moustache, he had been an engineer, I think, at a company. He lives in the area just on the north of Boulder Colorado. It’s a fairly low expense city. Living without a car, biking to work, getting most of his entertainment from the library. They’ve really been, I think pretty frugal, under $20,000 at that point before his website exploded in popularity and started making him a bunch of money.
JD: You know my favorite thing about Pete’s lifestyle, so in this RV trip, we stopped and we saw Pete in his city. And I loved the fact that he has purchased a house that backs up to a park. And there are no fences around the park or anything. And because of the way it’s landscaped, the net effect is he doubles the size of his lot. Because there are all these trees at the back into the park which forms the back of his property line, well they’re actually set back a bit from the actual property line, so he has this conversational area with chairs that’s in the park. It was like bonus because of the way he bought his house.
Eric: I got to go over and visit him sometime. Next time I’m in Denver, maybe I should make the drive up and there’s some good beer that is made over at his town, too.
Developing Personal Finance Courses
Eric: So you sold your site, you did well with your site sale. You did it around the same time actually as Harlan, who we just mentioned, and Jim. You also, around the same time which was a huge beacon of light for a lot of the rest of us who were thinking, ‘oh wow, maybe I could sell my site for some huge amount someday.’ And obviously I haven’t because you are listening to a podcast from it. But I know, JD, you took some time kind of on the down low in the personal finance writing space. You’re still writing on the Get Rich Slowly as you said, on and off. And just recently you decided it’s time to get back into it and you’ve been on this big RV trip, can you share a bit about your new online project and how that’s going.
JD: Sure. Absolutely. So you’re right, Eric. So I owned Get Rich Slowly for about three years. I sold it. I stuck around and acted as editor and primary writer for another three years. And then I quit. But even though I quit writing online about money, I was still, I had a magazine column on Entrepreneur Magazine where I wrote every month. I did that for four years. And then my friend Chris Guillebeau had approached me and asked me if I wanted to do a course for his series of unconventional guides.
Eric: Just a quick little aspect. We mentioned Chris before and his book. I was actually giving away copies of his new book in the very first episodes of the Personal Profitability Podcast. And Chris is the guy behind The Art of Nonconformity and World Domination Summit. Listeners have heard of both of those, I believ.
JD: Excellent. So Chris is a friend, he and I had done some stuff together including, I was on the committee that got World Domination Summit started. So he approached me and said, ‘JD, do you want, I want an unconventional guide to money. Do you want to do that?’ So we developed what we called the Get Rich Slowly Course. And as part of that, we had a guide, it’s basically a deluxe eBook, that I called ‘Be Your Own CFO’. And the idea behind it was I wanted people to become the Chief Financial Officer of their own lives. Because I think everybody understands that a business has to make money in order to survive. But what people don’t realize is the same idea is true for personal finance. And I mean, this is what the name that your site goes to.
Eric: If you wanna go back and read some very poorly written posts from the beginning of my blogging days, so in my first few months of blogging, I wrote posts, my background I have an MBA and two finance degrees, so I’m a very finance-y guy. And I never had the big debt story that a lot of personal finance bloggers started with. For me it was always, we’re making money and we don’t know what to do with it so let’s figure that out together. And I had very early on wrote about a personal balance sheet, a personal income statement and a personal statement of cash flows, which was the three major reports all public companies have to put out every year.
So I say, look at yourself like a business. If you were the CEO of a company you wouldn’t be okay with a part of your company hemorrhaging money and spending and spending and spending if you weren't making enough to make up for it somewhere else. So you’ll be fired, by the board of directors or your boss. If you’re the CEO, the boss is your board of directors. And they’d let you go. And that happens, not all the time, but it definitely happens regularly in the business world. So you have to treat yourself the same why you would treat your company if you were the boss.
JD: Yeah. And the thing is, when people hear this and when they really take it to heart, they get it. It makes sense. So, so much in the personal finance world, I don’t know whether you’ve experienced this but, we will write about something that’s a good idea, I’m gonna use an example that Mr. Money Moustache uses all the time, which is it’s a good idea to bike or to walk instead of drive a car. And there’s so much resistance out there to this idea. But if you frame it in terms of cutting expenses and trying to build profit, if you frame it in terms of managing your life like a business, there’s almost no resistance. I am shocked by how little resistance I get to this notion that you should manage your life like a business. It’s as if in people’s minds it clicks.
Anyway, I wrote that course, I did that course and it came out in April of 2014; so at this point 21 months ago roughly. And I thought I was done, I thought this is where I’m collating all of my ideas about money, everything I’ve learned over the past ten years into one place. And I’m done. I quit writing for Entrepreneur Magazine, I quit writing at Get Rich Slowly. I’m just done.
Eric: I actually have an interview with you JD, a written interview, in April 2014, when that course came out. Anyone of you can go back and see on the site personalprofitability.com, if you just Google PersonalProfitability.com JD Roth, it’ll come up, the URL’s a little too long to hear, it’s actually http://personalprofitability.com/interview-with-get-rich-slowlys-jd-roth/. So if you wanna type that in you can or you can just Google personalprofitability.com JD Roth, it’ll come up.
JD: That’s hilarious. So I began formulating other things that I wanted to do and including this RV trip. Again I thought this was going to be a six month RV trip and it’s turning into much longer than that. But in the middle of the RV trip, the RV broke down. It broke down in a small town called Plankinton, South Dakota, population 700.
Eric: The place you will never forget.
JD: We will never… it was actually fun. We actually met some of the locals. And it’s only like 15 miles from where all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books take place, it’s the Little Town on the Prairie, the Little House on the Prairie set
Eric: Oh yeah?
JD: Yeah. Their home set is like 15 miles from there so we went up inside…
Anyway, at the time my friend, Leo Babauta from Zenhabits.net, he asked me, he said, ’JD, I’m doing this course,’ he called it the Sea Change Course, where he was trying to make everybody make big changes on their lives. He said, “I want to do an episode about money but I don’t know about this. Can you do it for me?” So I said, sure. So I condensed, previously in 2014 I condensed everything I knew about money into the Get Rich Slowly Course and now I condensed it into what was supposed to be a 20-minute presentation and ended up being 40 minutes or an hour.
The Money Boss
JD: And I realized, ‘you know, I’m still interested in this.’ I really get passionate about it. I love it. I love trying to help people get better with money. And so I went back, after doing this presentation, I went back to Kim and I said, ‘I think I might want to start another personal finance site.’ So we racked our brains to come up with names and somebody on Facebook suggested that we call it Money Boss. And so that’s what we’ve got today, we got MoneyBoss.com which just recently launched. I haven’t done a hard launch, it was kind of a soft launch. Then I’ve been writing about financial independence, how to manage your life like a business. And I really want to go beyond just money, I want to talk about, I wanna take a holistic approach to improving your life. Because I think money is just one aspect and it’s tied into everything else, you know.
Eric: That’s actually the four, like one of the four pillars of Personal Profitability, because I like alliteration. There are four pillars on my site and they are Earn More, Spend Mindfully, Grow your Wealth, and Live a Better Life through Mindful Personal Finance.
Eric: So, your new site and my rebranded site, actually this one year anniversary episode, is also the one year anniversary of rebranding. It used to be Narrow Bridge Finance. And if you listen to the very first episode of the podcast, I call it Narrow Bridge Finance still.
JD: Okay, so what the hell is Narrow Bridge? I’ve never understood it.
Eric: Sure. If you go the very, very first post ever on Personal Profitability it tells the story a little bit. But I will tell all of you so you can hear it. It’s a, there is a Jewish song that is my favorite song to sing with, there’s a thing if you go to a religious family’s home or a Chabad house, places that people get together for Shabbat dinners, Shabbat being the Sabbath, Friday night. We often sing songs after we eat, before we say or actually sing the prayer after the meal, cause there’s a prayer for everything for Judaism. My favorite one that always resonated well with me, because I love the song and the melody, but I also love the words, it goes, Kol ha-o-lam ku-lo gesher tzar me'od V'ha-i-kar lo l'fached klal. I think that’s how it all goes.
JD: Your Hebrew’s terrible.
Eric: I know right. In English that means, ‘the whole world is a very narrow bridge and the most important thing is to never be afraid.’ And I always thought that people are kind of afraid of their money. When I started my site, it was right around when the real estate bubble burst. A lot of America went into bankruptcy, it was a really rough time. And I was working in a bank then, I actually just left a job as a bank manager. The bank that I worked at had very, very conservative lending terms so they never got in trouble. But I was seeing left and right people going bankrupt and losing their homes. It was a scary time in the stock market, a scary time for money and I thought it might seem scary but the most important thing is to not be afraid and you can get across it just like you could a narrow bridge. And I actually later found out that the Rabbi who wrote it, I always knew who wrote it, is the Rabbi who founded one of the big Hasidic Movements. I found out he is my great, great, great, great, great, great uncle, I believe. Like seven or eight greats in there.
JD: I don’t even want to know how that maps out on the family tree.
Eric: It was my mom’s dads, dads, dads, dads, dads something is this really famous Rabbi and I know it’s his grandson. I don’t know, it gets a little blurry when we get that far back in the family tree exactly, how everyone’s related but I know I’m related to his grandfather as a direct descendant. So it’s where the name came from, Narrow Bridge Finance. But I realized after, what, seven years, I was actually standing up in the shower, that’s where all my best thoughts come to me in the shower. And I like, ran out of the shower, I tore out of there like I’ve been shot by lightning, ran down the stairs like dripping with a towel hanging on me and said to my wife who’s in the kitchen. I was like, ‘Jennifer, I just figured it out. It only took me seven years.’ And she looked at me like I’ve lost my mind, ‘What did you figured out?’ ‘I figured out what Narrow Bridge Finance is really about. It’s about personal profitability.’
JD: Nice. I love the name.
Eric: It took some online haggling and deal making to get the domain but I got it. And I rebranded in January 2015, after seven years, now I’m an eight year veteran blogger in personal finance in Personal Profitability.
JD: Nice. Actually one of the formative stories of Get Rich Slowly is very similar to that.
Eric: You were in the shower and you had a brilliant idea?
JD: Well, no, I’m a bath guy. I mean I do take showers but it’s almost exactly the same, seriously. I’ve written about this before. I mentioned earlier when I decided to get out of debt, I decided I wanted to make more money. And so I was in the bathtub, I bought this, I was married at the time and my wife and I had this huge beautiful clock with a tub, we lived in a hundred year old house in Portland. So we purchased this clock with a tub cause it matched everything. And I’m the big bath taker. And I was just sitting in there and I was reading a book called the Millionaire Maker by a gal named Loral Langemier, and I can’t decide whether she scammed me or not but I read the book . Now I don’t want to come out and say she is scammy, she is one of these people who has this conferences that you can attend and purchase things …
Eric: Oh, yeah
JD: So I don’t want to say anything bad about her especially since this book was very inspirational to me. But I’m a little weary, so be careful. I do recommend people read the book, just be weary.
Eric: And after you read the book do they keep going?
JD: I don’t know, just don’t go to the conference maybe. So I read the book, I was reading the book, I was only like 20 or 30 pages into it and I can’t even remember what she said, something about passive income I’m sure, and something she wrote struck me so much that I got out of the tub, there were no towels because my wife was doing the laundry and she had expected me to stay in the tub for a while so she can finish the laundry. So I went naked and dripping wet and sat down at the dining room table, where there’s a pad and paper, and I started writing the plan for making money through blogs. And including, I mapped out this thing for Get Rich Slowly. So it’s kind of a similar story.
Eric: I think that lots of people have shower stories. The first time I ever went to World Domination Summit, which is in Portland and I thought, well it’s here I should go, the blogger who is my first real big inspiration online was Darren Rouse from ProBlogger. And he had a full day like a pro blogger boot camp almost, kind of event. And I went and other friends, friends who have been in this podcast, like Kathleen Celmins, then O’Malley still, I believe
JD: Isn’t that Celmins?
Eric: Celmins, sorry. I always say it wrong
JD: I called you out
Eric: Yeah you called me out. You’re right. Kathleen Celmins. I saw the C, you know when you see something wrong the first time out it get so hard to break it. So yes, Kathleen, formerly O’Malley, we sat together while Darren and so many amazing guests got on stage, actually Pat Flynn, who’s been in this podcast before, was on the stage as well. Chris got up on stage. Throughout the day, one of the speakers was Chris Garrett, I don’t know where I put his book, the ProBlogger book, I have it somewhere unless I lent it out and never got it back. Darren’s co-author was up on stage and he’s also kind of a nerdy online kind of guy but very, very nice. And he said, ‘Okay everyone, raise your hand if you’ve ever run out of the shower dripping wet to register a domain name, because you had an idea when you were showering. And about 20% already put their hands up. I think that’s a great place for idea generation. I used to have kid’s bath tub markers and I brought them in the shower and I just kept them in there. Any time I had a blog post idea in the shower, I’d write it on the wall.
JD: I never knew anything like that existed. Hold on, that’s getting written down.
Eric: The problem with them is, I like really, really hot steamy showers, almost scalding, and the steam makes the marker drip so you have to write, you kind of have to be able to, it looks like the blood dripping in the movie like a horror movie, and people are trying to decipher the writing that’s dripping.
Dealing with Writer’s Block
JD: So this is an interesting thing. What I’ve learned is as a writer we face writer’s block and Jerry Seinfeld has this quote about how writer’s block is just a made up excuse for not getting work done. But he’s full of it. Maybe he can muscle through it but I can’t. And I know lots of other people can’t either. We really do face writer’s block.
Eric: I find that I can always get through it if I have to. But there’s definitely days that I have a flow where I just hit my zone, I’ve written like 7,000 words in a day before when I was really feeling it. And there are days when it’s like painful to write a 500 word article for a client but I just have to get it done. So I almost can but I definitely agree, some days you’re just in the zone.
JD: And so what I’ve learned is that what can really help me is things like taking a shower or a bath.
Eric: Or maybe going for a walk
JD: And actually, is this a Rated G podcast?
Eric: It can be up to Rated R
JD: I don’t know what words I can say
Eric: You can pretty much say anything, just no full frontal nudity
JD: Okay, you may have to bleep some things out. So I have here in front of me the very first thing I pinned on my wall here in Savannah Georgia where we stopped for six months. It says, ‘Are you stuck? Get out of your head, go for a walk, motherf@*%ker.’
Eric: That is not getting bleeped. That is great.
JD: So that is just a message to me to remind myself if I’m sitting here at my computer and I’m really not getting anything done. I need to get up, go outside and go for a 5-mile walk. It takes me about an hour and a half to walk five miles. And invariably walking those five miles is like breaking a dam. Everything just comes flooding out. I always to take a pen and paper with me. Some people could just talk on their iPhone but I am freaky about my voice
Eric: I find getting away from screens, my wife would call me out when she listens to this, ‘I tell you this all the time.’ We surround ourselves with screens so much. Like right now where I’m sitting I have two turned on, one to my right that I keep playing with because I have a phone addiction. My laptop which is closed right now. I have four screens within arm’s length of me right now. I don’t know how many we have in the house, it’s like a gross number probably for a lot of people. But getting away from that, you know I’m a two-monitor guy when I’m working both in my day job and blogging stuff a lot of the time. And it’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole. I have 14 tabs open right now, which 9 are articles which I wanna review for my other project I’m working on, Money Mola. MoneyMola.com, if you’re interested. It’s always like so much information that we’re consuming and taking in and just cutting that off and going on a walk or doing something away, it can just, let’s you bring yourself out instead of keep absorbing other people’s stuff.
JD: So when I was still married and living in that hundred year old house in Portland, we had three fifths of an acre, we had a huge lawn that needed to be mowed, especially say between March and July. I kind of let the grass grow dormant, I believe that grass is meant to be dormant, let it die out in the summer. But when I would go out to mow the lawn, I began to realize I was getting great burst of inspiration because I was just letting my mind go into the free association thing. So I started setting a notebook outside so that I could turn off the mower, go over, sit down and I would write out, spend 20 minutes writing out whatever it is that came to mind. It was fantastic.
Eric: That’s great. So we’re getting towards the end of our time, so before we wrap up I wanna ask if you had advice for somebody who is in debt, can’t figure out what their first step should be. What do you think they should do to get going?
JD: Well I think the key thing when you’re in debt is to realize that the key to everything is actually, like Eric’s site says, personal profitability. You’re only gonna continue to get further and further in debt if you are not earning more than you spend. So you got do whatever it takes, whatever it takes to reduce your spending and/or increase your income so that you got this gap, you create in a personal profit. Because that personal profit is what’s going to allow you to dig out of debt and then eventually build savings and accomplish whatever goals you have for yourself, whatever long term goals you have.
And I think the thing to realize, you know, when I was trying to dig out of debt, one of the things that I struggled with is that I didn’t want to cut back really hard and have to live that way for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to be like, I don’t know, become a monk for the rest of my life. But the thing is it’s not a life sentence. And I see this now but I didn’t at the time. These sacrifices that you’re making, they’re short term until you get out of debt. And sure, short term might mean five years, but so what, it’s only five years. Once those five years are done you’re out of debt and you have a profit already going once you’re out of debt. So you can use that money for whatever you want, whatever it is that you really want to accomplish in life. So I think that’s huge, it’s to understand the importance of profit and the fact that the cutting back is really a short term thing to get you out of debt.
Eric: Great. So one very, very last question before we call it a day. If people want to find out more about you and connect with you and read your amazing words of wisdom online or where ever else they may be, where should they go to find you?
JD: I have many websites. I guess because I’m best known for personal finance and because I just started this new personal finance blog, Money Boss, which is at moneyboss.com, it’s probably the best place to go. And that’s where I’m writing about financial independence and managing your personal life as if you are managing a business. If you’re more interested in the RV trip, then check out farawayplaces.com, where you can find the different places we’ve been this year and where we’ll be next year. And there’s always jdroth.com, where people complain that I don’t write enough I’m always getting emails saying, ‘what’s the deal I thought you’re [inaudible] jdroth.com.’ Well sorry reader if you’re listening to this and I’m making fun of you. But I have good intentions, I wanna write more there but I’m scattered when I’m doing all these other things. At jdroth.com I write a lot about happiness and nerdy things. I have all sorts of articles and the works that are just totally nerds stuff.
Eric: And if you go to those sites, you can find other links to JD’s Twitter and contact forms and other ways to contact him directly as well
JD: I’m the worst Twitter person in the world. I do not get it. I spent the last seven years not getting Twitter.
Eric: It’s like if you strip out the depth and value of people’s very shallow Facebook posts and put them in the fire hose, that’s Twitter.
JD: You see, I love Facebook, I know Facebook gets a lot of crap from a lot of people but I love it. It’s a great way to connect. Just before we recorded this podcast a bunch of us personal finance bloggers were joking around about drinking beer and recording podcast.
Eric: One important writer or blogger mantra, I think it was Ernest Hemingway who said it, but we recycled it and it’s write, drunk and its sober.
JD: I’ve never heard of that, that’s awesome, I’m writing that down, write, drunk and it’s sober.
Eric: But you can’t edit out a drunk out on a podcast. So if you’re recording keep that in mind. Well, JD, thank you so much for the time. It’s ton of fun and very educational and I hope all the readers out there and all the readers out there find it useful as well. And thank you so much everybody for listening till the end. And until next time, stay profitable.