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U.S. News & World Report: Blogging Your Way to Retirement Goals

By Emily Brandon
November 16, 2006

Eager writers are blogging about every aspect of life imaginable, so why not retirement planning? Baby boomers and generation X-ers–many of them still decades away from retiring–are finding that blogging can often help them meet their own retirement goals.

U.S. News talked to several retirement-planning bloggers. While a little sleuthing might allow you to figure out who the author of a blog is, some bloggers prefer to keep their identities secret as they share details about their salary, investments, and other personal money decisions. “I don’t reveal real specifics, but I talk about things that are kind of sensitive,” says the 42-year-old author of the popular Free Money Finance, whose day job is as head of marketing for a Grand Rapids, Mich., firm. In his year and a half of blogging, he says, he has learned that “I have more freedom to do that if I blog anonymously.”

Here’s a sampling of what blogging about retirement planning can do for you:

Talking about money. You may not be the sort of person who feels comfortable discussing money over dinner, but online you can get into all the details with others who like to talk about finances. “You’re not supposed to tell people how much money you make or reveal if you are in a bad way financially,” says the author of Tired But Happy, a 29-year-old Philadelphia librarian who has blogged for about a year. “I think some of the attraction of finance blogs is it’s helpful to know what other people are doing, compare yourself to others, talk about things that are confusing or scary,” she adds. “It’s helpful to be more open about it than you can be at a cocktail party, or at work, or even with your own family.”

Holding yourself accountable. Articulating your retirement goals can be a good way to organize and stick to your retirement plan. “The blog helps with motivation,” says the 28-year-old computer science student in Portland, Ore., who writes My Money Blog. “Some months, if I spend too much money and didn’t save enough,” he says, “then I have to blog about it and explain myself.”

Many bloggers also regularly calculate their net worth and strive to make it grow. “Just the virtue of documenting my journey and recording my success and failures along the way helps me,” says the 30-year-old Raleigh, N.C., engineer who writes 2 Million, a blog named for his goal of amassing a net worth of $2 million. “I record monthly my net worth, and the process of writing up that entry and figuring out my net worth has really helped me tune my actions toward making progress toward my goals,” he says. “I have no excuses. It’s all out there, and it really helps me own up to my mistakes.”

Making a little extra cash–and getting free stuff, too. The author of Free Money Finance says he makes from $20,000 to $30,000 a year by hosting advertising on his site. He donates the proceeds to charity. Most of the retirement bloggers interviewed make only a few hundred dollars a month from advertising. It may not be big money, but it is a little extra cash in your pocket that you don’t have to commute to earn.

Some companies promote their books, DVDs, and products by sending them to well-known bloggers in hopes they will write about them online. “Sometimes when a company comes out with a new product, they’ll actually tell bloggers ahead of time and use buzz marketing to promote their products,” says the author of My Money Blog. “A lot of book publishers have contacted me so I can review” works about to be published.

Creating a new kind of community. Many personal-finance bloggers link to one another’s websites and regularly comment on other blogs. Some even talk on the phone. “It gives you a conversation that you might not be able to get otherwise,” says the author of My Money Blog. “A lot of strangers know me better than some of my coworkers.”

Bloggers may discuss investment decisions they are considering, and commentators aren’t usually shy about giving a thumbs-down on what they think is a bad move. “If you get something wrong, people will let you know,” says the Free Money Finance blogger.

The conversation can involve people all over the world. “I try to make it interactive and make people want to come and share ideas,” says Jeffrey Pritchard, 37, a financial planner in Beaumont, Texas, and author of All Financial Matters. The author of Consumerism Commentary, a 30-year-old man who works for a financial services company in central New Jersey, says, “I ask questions, and people can visit and give their suggestions, especially about retirement.”

Saddling yourself with a lot of work. Blogging daily can be a big commitment. Many bloggers write enthusiastically for the first several weeks, but the blogs that make money and receive lots of comments have fresh content every single day. “It’s not easy to talk about money every day for everyone,” says the author of My Money Blog. Says Jeff Hanson, 42, a partner with Ohio Innovation Fund in Omaha and the author of Your Way Ahead: “Find a subject that you feel passionately about, and don’t focus as much on making money. I think if you go into it with the intention of making money, people will see that.”

Lori Woehrle, 48, the Washington, D.C.-based author of Tuna on Rye, a blog about “the sandwich generation” of people who are struggling to raise their own children, care for elders, and plan for retirement at the same time, faithfully sets aside an hour between 9 and 10 each night to blog after her daughter is in bed. “Finding the time to really make a commitment to it,” she says, “can be a challenge.”

Source location: U.S. News & World Report