Hi, Joe! First, a bit of flattery. I am a big fan of your blog, and your advice has had a direct impact on my own financial situation. Because of you, 50% of my paycheck gets direct deposited into savings, and I made it difficult to get access to that savings account. Also, because of your podcast, I switched from a “target date retirement fund” to an actual portfolio, which can only be a good thing from this point forward. Also, the book you recommended is one of my favorites. So, it’s an understatement to say that I’m pleased to have made your acquaintance.
Thanks! Any time anyone can glean wisdom from a blog and podcast that refuses to stand for anything…it’s a great day.Now, onto the questions.
What’s your story (your elevator pitch, if you will)?
I’m not great at the elevator thing….I’m a blogger and podcaster. My podcast, Stacking Benjamins debuted May 20th. The website which shares the name will open on June 4th.
The podcast is a magazine-style show, meaning that we aren’t that into hard-core financial topics. Instead, think “Car Talk” when you think of our show and you’ll have a good idea of the tone we’re aiming for. It’s a community based show, meaning that we try to have a lot of different voices on the podcast. You’ve been on the show, Kathleen! It’s fun to make. Hopefully it’s also fun to listen to.It is, Joe! I’ve been meaning to tell you. My car makes this squeaking noise when I drive over 8 mph. What should I do?
What made you decide to start a blog?
I was taking classes to become a teacher and started answering freelance requests to write in my free time between classes. Because of my experience (16 years as an advisor and 10 working with financial media), the requests didn’t slow down. I really, really, really (that enough reallys?) didn’t want to work for other people, so I decided to own my financial writing instead. With a partner we created a site called The Free Financial Advisor.
You recently “came out” and took off the cloak of anonymity. How has your writing changed now that you can more easily be Googled?
I’m used to my name being open to Google (I’m not sure anyone actually Googled it!) from my time working in media. I like the accountability of not having a mask. People want to know that the advice they’re getting is from someone who will say, “Yeah, that came from me.” It allowed me to be even more open about my life than I already had been in the past. I’ve never had a problem being blunt. Now people know where to aim the rotten apples when they dislike something I write.
What’s your next project?
Stacking Benjamins will launch June 4th. Wow, that’s soon.
How will it be different from your first blog?
I never liked the name The Free Financial Advisor. That was OG’s idea (my partner on FFA is The Other Guy, so we call him OG). It has SEO value, but the people that I’m trying to reach could care less about SEO and will stay away from sites that say Free anything. I understood that from the start, but was convinced that it was the best route. I think I was wrong. Rule #1 of any business move: admit your mistakes and move forward….don’t look back.Fantastic advice.
Also, there was the matter of priorities. I’ve already grown and sold a financial planning business. My kids graduate from high school this year. This is my top priority. OG is still an active advisor and has young children. We weren’t moving fast enough for me with FFA. I don’t hold that against OG…we’re great friends and still will do the podcast together. It’s just a reality: having a partner is difficult and there were things I wanted to do that we couldn’t move fast enough on with two of us.
What will happen to the Free Financial Advisor? Will it still be around, or are its days numbered? The content is good, so I hope it’ll stay around!
Thanks! Well, that’s good news if you’ve liked the content lately. We brought on Stan, a new partner, who wrote his first piece last week publicly. In truth, he’s been writing most of the pieces for the last month while I’ve been developing Stacking Benjamins. He’ll write while OG and I maintain the back-end of the site.
What’s the best thing about blogging (other than the obvious “getting to consider Kathleen a friend”)?
That’s far-and-away the biggest reward in blogging….knowing Kathleen. Actually, there is truth there. I enjoy the community. People who are about financial topics are generally a responsible, “let’s live good lives” kind of people. That’s who I like to hang around with.
That’s different than financial advisors. I generally disliked hanging around with those people. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not knocking their credibility. I worked with many great people who were honest and wicked-smart. Here’s what I didn’t like: I’m a nerd, but any time a story’s punchline ends with, “…and then he said the standard deviation was two point four and I thought….you fool!” …it’s time for me to leave that wild-n-crazy party.I love the community, too. They’re decidedly nerdy, but we tell way better jokes!
What’s the hardest thing about blogging?
I have a hard time flipping the switch between “Joe trying to be an extrovert and a part of the community” and “Joe reaching deep in his gut for some honesty that works well on the page.” The systematic marketing regime and the creative process of great content are difficult to balance.
Do you blog full time?
Ha! That’s a loaded question. I’ve become Mr. Mom since leaving financial planning. So, while the answer should be “Yes,” I spend a huge time away from writing. What I like is that this life gives me the flexibility to leave and come back.
I screw up many, many things, but that one I did correctly. I knew that financial planning wasn’t my only love, so I decided to do the thing that paid best first and then do other things I love later. I built, ran, and sold a business managing about $60M dollars in-house and another $120ish million in 401k plans and elsewhere. It was stressful, but fun. Once I sold that business it bought me the ability to be more flexible now.Mr. Mom, wasn’t that Michael Keaton?
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
People who don’t know me think I’m a big-time extrovert. I’m SO introverted it’s not funny. I’m a stutterer, so from an early age I’ve tried to overcome my fear and inability to communicate with people. Maybe that’s why I became a media guy, podcaster, and blogger…overcompensating.Wow, I guessed wrong on that — you seemed like an extrovert to me when we met!
Coffee or tea? What do you put in it?
I never got the taste of tea. I’m a too-much-coffee guy. I prefer it black. I like the taste. If I’m at breakfast I’ll load it up with cream and sugar because it generally isn’t quality stuff.
What would you have as your last meal? Rules of this game: you’re not sick, and you have a super stomach which will allow you to eat more calories than normal.
Well, Sloppy Joe’s are just plain awesome, aren’t they? Tater tots. Roasted Brussels sprouts. A good beer…maybe Anchor Steam.Sloppy Joes, I see what you did there.
Name one thing in real life that drives you crazy.
Ha! I can name two: people who want me to save them a seat at a sold-out thingy AND idiots who drive in the passing lane without passing. It DOES matter. Both are inconsiderate beyond belief.
Name one thing on the internet that drives you crazy.
In general I don’t like the way that the Huffington Post has dumbed down everything (I’m picking on them, but look at the front page….none of it is news).
In the financial blogger area, I don’t like it when people adamantly say one method is correct, when it clearly isn’t. After you’ve worked with many people on solving their money puzzle you become a ton more tolerant of the many ways to reach a destination.
What’s the best (or “best”) pickup line you’ve ever heard or said?
Ha! I don’t know any good ones! I said a horrible one in college. A woman left a bar and made a point of saying to me, “We’re leaving here and going to (this other bar down the street). I just wanted to tell you that.”
Now, if someone said that to you, what the hell would you think? Sounds like she’s asking me to come along, right?
So, I convince my buddies to go to this other bar. They weren’t happy, but they went. When we arrived, she didn’t even look my way once. So, deciding that maybe I had to make the move, I grabbed my courage, walked over to the table and said,
“I followed you over to (this bar) and I don’t know why.”
She looked up. All of her friends looked up. She said,
“I don’t know why, either.”
Ouch!Wow, friend! You had some game back in the day. :) I have only told people who I would like to follow me where I’m headed. Otherwise, I lie about which bar I’m going to.
How did you propose to your wife? What’s that story?
That’s the world’s longest story. I’ll just give you the Cliff’s Notes: I took her to the track where were worked as middle school track coaches together under the ruse that I’d left a duffel bag in the stands. I asked her in the stands, at the track.I would like to hear the full version one day, but it sounds pretty awesome even in the Cliff’s Notes.
What did you think when you first found out you were having twins?
Cheryl still laughs about this: I thought it was awesome that my sperm worked extra-well. I’m still pretty proud of that, even though she still says it wasn’t my fault. Apparently the woman makes twins, not the guy. Whatever.Interesting! I would have thought it would be more along the lines of “holy cow can we afford this?” and not “HEY LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!”.
What’s the funniest prank you’ve played on someone?
There was a beyond stupid receptionist filling in one day at our front desk. I’m pretty tolerant of people, but this woman was just completely out there. Another advisor and I did the thing where we called the front desk using the outside line, and pretended we wanted to talk to “Mike Hunt.” I know. Beyond juvenile.
When she couldn’t find him, we asked to have him paged. She paged him over and over and over until the office manager went running for the front to stop her.
I’m still a little sorry for that one.No. You did not! You did. I am so glad I asked.
What are some of your favorite books? Just the ones that come to mind, they don’t have to be the very best books of all time. (Note: affiliate links below.)
You and I share a book that we love: The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach. I love that story. It taught me that love wasn’t this feeling you got when you first knew you liked someone. Love is an orchestra.
I’ve always been an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. I like The Great Gatsby, but maybe like the short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair better. Someone has to slap the person who made the Gatsby movie. What a tragedy.
In business books, The E-Myth taught me more about how to run a great business than any other book. I love anything written by Tom Peters, too. He’s an entertaining business writer.
Finally, I’d say that I loved reading Moneyball. That book gripped me from start to finish.
Same with movies. What are some of your favorites?
I see a ton of movies (72 last year). My favorite movie is Lawrence of Arabia. I can watch that epic story over and over. Also, I’ve seen the original Wall Street a bazillion times. Love it. I like Midnight in Paris. Fargo. Gladiator. Muriel’s Wedding. I get crap from friends about Muriel’s Wedding. Guys who refuse to see it because of the title. Their loss.
Who would play you in the movie version of your life?
Man….really? Do I have to answer this one? I’d say the guy who plays Mr. Bates on Downton Abbey would play me. He’d be awful, but he’d give it a try. By the way, I haven’t seen Season 3, so no spoilers in the comments. Cheryl has seen it and is having trouble holding in whatever the big plot twist is!Now I really feel like the last person on earth who has yet to see Downton Abbey.
Have you ever been in a fight? Did you throw the first punch?
I was in a fight in 3rd grade. My dad told me that at some point you have to hit the guy who won’t leave you alone. That was after he’d told me to avoid fighting the preceding few months. I beat the snot out of the dude, and was crying the whole time I tackled him and pounded my fist into his face. I still hate fighting.
Then I was in a fight in college. I was at The Citadel and really hated my freshman roommate. I was drunk when I came back to the dorm and told him what I thought of him. He broke my nose. I don’t hold that against him. I know what I said and I would have broken my nose, too.
Do you have now, or have you ever had, a tattoo? If so, details, please!
No. I can’t figure out why I’d mess with that real estate. What if I decide I don’t like it later? My sister-in-law has a cool tattoo of a sun on her foot. That one’s pretty cool. OG has tons of tattoos on his arms. They look fine on him.
Where’s your next vacation?
We used AirBnB to rent a house in upper Michigan this summer (near Traverse City, for people that know Michigan). We’ll spend a week doing very little before our kids head off to college. I like that because we usually go places and are busy, busy, busy. I just want to enjoy my family one last time before it goes in different directions.
Please share a joke.
Two peanuts were walking down the street and one was assaulted.Thank you, Joe! Everyone, head over to Stacking Benjamins when it launches on June 4th, or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.