In the post-meltdown era, a time when many ordinary people feel fortunate simply for having held on to their employment, online financial information and advice abound. The wealth gap increased dramatically, so large numbers of online readers are looking for ways to bring home more money . These readers spend many hours per week online, searching and learning. Enter the information providers, who see the opportunity to tap into this growing market for popular money porn.
Before the advent of web publishing tools, knowledge of technologies such as File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and HyperText Markup Language (HTML) were required to publish information on the World Wide Web. But, since the late 1990s and early 2000s, the availability of services such as Blogger and WordPress has caused an information explosion on the Web.
There were around 76 million WordPress blogs worldwide in February 2014, and as of March 2014, Technorati had 1.34 million blogs, with 14,936 dedicated to finance alone. Other sources of online information also proliferated as part of the rapid bloom. Financial news services, everything from Bloomberg to established magazines like The Economist, all expanded their online presence, most often in a bid to generate income from advertising. Then, of course, all the banks world-wide provide online information services on their websites, along with content marketing articles focused on investing and finance.
Furthermore, authors and academics can and do use the newfound avenue to spread their message to an ever-widening audience. All these factors have contributed to a free market where information about money is one of the most popular draw-cards to get the attention of readers. There is also an interesting convergence occurring between news websites and blogging, because news sites such as ZDNet also use a network of expert bloggers, covering a wide range of business technology topics.
There are a few blogs dedicated to finance that are able to impart some financial wisdom with a side of humour and attitude, while others stick closer to tradition, more serious, content offerings. Here are eight prominent online establishments in the personal finance arena.
The Dividend Girl
A blog run by a young woman who started investing at a young age and shares her progress in a highly informative and entertaining way, The Dividend Girl focuses on dividend investing, with which she’s had some clear success. She also has quite a large following, which illustrates that there is a pent-up demand in this niche.
She started in August 2007 with $11,500 in savings, and recently, her investment portfolio reached $190,000. Following her progression and the various decisions she made until she really gained momentum with dividends, is informative, and presented in an easily-read format. She inspires her readers to be frugal, remain balanced, and to work hard.
The Blunt Bean Counter
Mark Goodfield is another great example of a blogger who shares his expertise on tax optimization and saving for retirement, at TheBluntBeancounter.com. He is a professional tax accountant as his name indicates. Since 2010, he has been advocating for good common investment sense, debunking some myths and poking fun at the establishment and himself.
Thomas J. Stanley
In their bestselling book, “The Millionaire Next Door,” published for the first time in 1995, Thomas J. Stanley, PhD and William D. Danko, PhD share fascinating insights which they gained from research and interviews with hundreds of millionaires in the USA. Their findings, in a nutshell, are that the vast majority of wealthy Americans live well below their means and that wealth is not the same as income. If you have high income but spend it all, you are not getting wealthier.
Furthermore, Stanley and Danko found that the majority of wealthy Americans have one main goal: Financial Independence. This means being able to sustain your life without being dependent on a job. The advertising industry and the show business industry have made it their mission to condition people to believe that wealth is synonymous with overspending (‘hyperconsumption’). But people who are millionaires-next-door march to a different drum. Stanley’s excellent blog can be found here.
Stanley also wrote “The Millionaire Mind”, in which he details extensive research into the thinking patterns of self-made millionaires. His findings show that people who become wealthy are those who avoid taking on too much debt and who are able to dodge the bullet of rabid consumerism. But these wealthy people also strive for balance. They do enjoy life and they don’t make money their God. They just don’t fall into the trap of working for lenders for their entire life.
In 2005, David Bach , the national bestselling author of Smart Women Finish Rich, published his powerful book “The Automatic Millionaire”, in which he illustrates how everybody can set up a plan to ‘secure our future and pay for our present’. David states in his preface that his original goal was to help ten million people achieve financial freedom. Bach’s approach shows readers how to achieve wealth over the course of their working life. He calls it “the tortoise’s approach to wealth, not the hare’s.”
Bach’s common-sense approach is really nothing new. Past generations all over the world followed the principles of ‘no debt’ for many years. The basic idea of setting up automatic, regular payments to a savings or investment account is a simple way to build wealth, over time, and it works. Bach’s blog can be found here. He also provides a free workbook on his website. All in all, Bach is one of the rare “financial gurus” whose success is well-deserved.
The Motley Fool
Founded in 1993 by the Gardner brothers, the free website www.fool.com offers stock news and analysis. The Motley Fool was a leader in the early days of interactive financial discussion and could be seen as one of the first purveyors of popular money porn. After finding early renown, which was helped by AOL, the Gardners published several bestselling books filled with investment advice.
Since 2009, Motley Fool Funds has also been running three mutual funds, further building on a reputation which started as an investment newsletter in the pre-blog era. The fool.com website has since hired various columnists and regular contributors who publish articles ranging from investment how-tos to technology commentary to retirement advice. Furthermore, the company has been offering premium subscription services since 2002, and their stock recommendations over the past 12 years (until 2014) have been quite successful. Their recommended stocks clocked up an average return of 149%.
MainStreet.com and TheStreet.com are financial news websites owned by TheStreet Inc, which was co-founded by Jim Cramer and Marty Peretz in 1996. MainStreet.com offers popular feature articles, investing advice, and consumer information, largely aimed at readers who have limited knowledge of financial markets.
In addition to financial advice, MainStreet.com also offers popular advice in areas such as retirement, family, career and lifestyle. TheStreet.com caters to a more professional investing audience, and also recently branched into occasional political and technology commentary. Cramer also recently published a new book “Get Rich Carefully”, which clearly taps into the insecure, shell-shocked psyche of a post-bust America.
Yahoo Finance is a widely read financial news site which offers market data, a ‘My Portfolio’ page and stock quotes. As with all free stock quote sites, Yahoo’s quote information is delayed by at least 15 minutes, not live. The site has quite a few ads and expected links to other Yahoo content. The news portion is little more than an aggregated list of articles from other sources. Overall, Yahoo Finance has limited appeal to someone looking for practical investment know-how and well-researched articles.
Ever-opportunistic, Google has also moved into the financial advice space of course, starting a beta version at www.google.com/finance. Currently the site offers little more than a stock screener and aggregated news content. Similarly to Yahoo Finance, Finance.Google.com offers users the ability to set up a personal portfolio and shows stock quotes, but these are also delayed by 15 minutes. One interesting tool which Google offers is the Trends section, where the site shows movements in stocks based on searches in their engine, tapping into the vast research power of their search capability. Expect to see this site expand over time and offer more interesting tools.