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Insane title for a post, but I think it's something that many of us face when we read books, magazines, blogs, or watch television to get a better grasp of finances. There is so much advice out there that it can be overwhelming. On top of that, the majority of it is generic advice.
A few weeks ago I was showing my brother some popular financial magazines at the bookstore. I pointed out some of the articles in them. While they may seem personalize for a specific target (i.e. women, retirees, college students), the material doesn't usually get beyond some general financial advice and principles.
Don't believe me? Let me share some highlights from the biggest personal finance magazines.
People may argue that the articles don't offer anything for them personally. Can you blame the magazines though? You typically have to generalize your advice to reach the widest audience.
I think when people see generic financial advice they think the material is of little or no value to them. Actually you can use that to your advantage. How so? Let me show you by using personal finance blogs.
Bloggers Aren't Experts, But They're in the Trenches
In case you're curious about how many personal finance blogs are out there now, two of the biggest charts include:
There are some personal finance bloggers who do have formal credentials. The majority, like myself, do not. In fact the biggest personal finance blogs, Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar belong to people with no formal financial background. They are regular guys who have decided that enough was enough. They needed to change their habits if they wanted to improve their situation with money.
Why are these sites popular even though the bloggers aren't certified experts? I think a big part of their appeal is how the bloggers share what they know.
As you can see with both list mentioned above, there is an incredible amount of topics covered, whether its couples with no kids, single moms (and dads), retirees, or those who are still raising kids.
However, you'll notice that many topics are discussed over and over on many of the sites. While it appears that all bloggers are just regurgitating the same advice, upon closer look you'll noticed some important differences.
Most (making room for exceptions) personal finance bloggers encourage you to get out of credit card debt. What happens after you do is a different story. Some bloggers advocate cutting up the credit cards and never using them again. Others say take advantages of all the perks they offer and milk them.
What's intriguing is how they all arrived to their conclusions. It was through personal analysis of what they learned and how credit card debt affect them. There is some great information and value with looking at their perspectives.
Giving Readers Credit
I think many of the bigger bloggers understand that most of their readers are intelligent and want to be a part of a productive community. They know that they can't just take what the blogger says and copy & paste it into their lives. They instead embrace the principles being explored and figure out how it can work for them.
It's not just the readers that benefit; bloggers also reap some great rewards. For example, I'm really grateful for readers at Couple Money. I'm amazed at the generosity of those who take the time to follow and analyze our financial progress. I have adjusted some of my plans with tax refunds based on some insightful feedback.
I've also seen some people open up with their own take on how they tackled some financial hurdle. It's incredibly motivating and it really makes the site a two way street.
I know I can't give specific advice to each person, but by sharing my take, I hope to encourage others to improve their own finances. so yeah, you'll see some generic advice, but I hope you can get some value from it.
Thoughts on Personal Finance Advice
I think you have to evaluate what works for you. If you depend on blogs, magazines, or books for all your financial information, you're really selling yourself short.
Nobody cares about your money and financial health as much as you do. Take in what you need from this site and others, process how your situation is related, and make an informed choice.
I'd love to hear your take on using personal finance blogs to improve your own finances.
Photo Credit: laughlin