Why I Stopped Reading Get Rich Slowly After J.D. Roth Left

When I first started reading personal finance articles, a website called “Get Rich Slowly” that was founded by J.D. Roth became one of the personal finance sites that I would read on a daily basis. J.D. had a great way of explaining his plans to get out of debt and documenting each step he took on his journey, often taking the time to explain how your relationship with money seeps into your relationship with others, attitude toward work, general self-esteem and contentment with life, and so on. Because he was brutally honest in acknowledging his mistakes along the way, he developed a huge following. His personal touch definitely gave his website that “it” factor that separated his blog from the generic financial content that is commonplace on the internet.

Anyway, after J.D.’s website took off and his passion for writing personal finance articles began to decline (he has multiple posts explaining how finance writing transitioned from being one of his passions into “work” that had to be completed), he decided to sell his site to Quinstreet while bringing aboard a small phalanx of columnists to be responsible for producing the site’s content.

This caused the site to become much more hit-or-miss. Some of the new writers provide expertise, fresh content, and logical thinking (Robert Brokamp comes to mind), while others provide simplistic advice that doesn’t really help you move forward. Eventually, the latter outnumbered the former, and I stopped reading the site on a regular basis.

Perhaps out of nostalgia or a reversion to my earlier habits, I started reading Get Rich Slowly again these past few weeks for the first time since 2011. I probably won’t continue to do so, because almost every article contains a couple paragraphs that is completely at odds with getting ahead or reaching your potential.

I’ll provide an example to show you what I mean. Someone named Kelsie wrote a guest post on August 4th, and she regularly runs the website pinkandrick.com. Her guest post was titled “Why I’m Glad I Took Out Student Loans.” She seems like a very nice person, and I respect her for writing her candid opinions and being honest about her own financial journey.

But there is one paragraph in particular she wrote that I want to discuss:

I realized what I really want. When new grads score their first big job, they think they deserve nice things. The truth is they do. They deserve a nice car. They deserve nice clothes. They deserve nice trips.”

The word “deserve” is probably the most cancerous word in personal finance and other areas of life as well. We don’t “deserve” anything—rather, every day of our lives, we get to make choices between consumption now and delayed gratification. I had a bread bowl at Panera last week. I didn’t “deserve” that bread bowl. Rather, I had twenty or so dollars in my pocket, and I chose to spend that money on a nice soup.

But it was a choice—I could have taken that $5.37 and done something else with it—maybe ate somewhere, maybe save it, maybe invest it—and so on.

There’s no “deserve” aspect to anything in our lives. Rather, we try to maximize the utility of each dollar that we earn with our labor. Each decisions comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Maybe you were thirty years old in 1989, and had to decide what to do with $2,500. You could have gone on a nice vacation. If you chose that, the pro is that you got to create a wonderful set of memories doing something fun in the physical prime of your life. The con is that the money is spent, and you can’t do anything good with it later.

Or you could have bought $2,500 worth of Colgate-Palmolive stock. The pro is that you would have a few hundred bucks shy of $90,000 today, assuming you held the stock in some kind of tax-deferred shelter. The con is that you did not get to have that great vacation memory.

The problem with thinking in terms of “I deserve nice things” is that it creates a pattern when you will always be living at or above your means. Delayed gratification is the regular ingredient that shows up in people who come close to reaching their maximum potential. This is definitely true financially—creating a huge gap between what you make and what you spend is what allows you to reach your financial potential. If you have an “I deserve” attitude as you go through your financial life, it is going to be hard to reach that stage of life where you have thousands of dollars in dividends coming in each month, because lifestyle inflation can be a huge threat to planting the seed capital for tomorrow’s dividend trees.

There are two versions of our ourselves that we try to satisfy—our current self and our future self. The reason I stopped reading Get Rich Slowly is because many of the staff writers began focusing too much on appeasing the “current self” version. The reason why the streets aren’t filled with millionaires dripping cash from their pockets is because it’s very easy to satisfy the desires of your current self at the expense of your future self. But delayed gratification is the core of building wealth. If you make the phrase “I deserve [x]” a regular part of your vocabulary, you’re dooming your chances of building meaningful wealth because your mind and heart aren’t truly committed to it.

*Update: J.D. Roth is apparently returning to make some occasional appearances at Get Rich Slowly again. 

Originally posted 2013-08-07 16:32:15.

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5 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Reading Get Rich Slowly After J.D. Roth Left

  1. I know what you mean by the "deserve" mentality, which seems prevalent among many young folks today. For example, my younger sister frequently goes on trips all over the world because she thinks she "deserves" them for all the hard work she put into her education and, now that she's done school, her job. When she moved out of my parents' home about a year ago, she rented a relatively pricey apartment and bought brand-new everything (bed, furniture, TV, Blu-ray player, etc.) and a car, because she "deserved" nice things. When she received a hefty tax refund earlier this year, the first thing the money went toward was a trip. I don't even know whether she used any of it to help pay down her sizable student loans or her car loan. As a result of her lifestyle and decisions, she has a low savings rate and whatever savings she does accumulate end up going toward her next big trip. I doubt she has more than $1,000 in retirement funds. Unfortunately, her attitude toward money and finances is common among many of my family members. Fortunately, I've developed a very different attitude! Anyway, that paragraph you quoted really struck a nerve with me and I share your interpretation of it.

  2. says:

    When I graduated college and had a "big" job, my first thought was to buy a new car. My dad talked me out of that. I am forever grateful for that. I escaped the need to always have a new car every few years. My wife is on board as well and recognize the benefits of keeping consumer debt low if not zero. Today, I'm using a 4% Heloc to buy stock in high yielding stock and in turn pay off the Heloc. That will produce passive income for the rest if my life and hopefully for my family as well.

  3. henry says:

    I find there are very few financial sites worth reading the articles written. Most stick to the common themes of: watching the market, listening to financial advisors, being conservative investor (60% stocks, 40% bonds or fixed income) and their focus is always what's hot now. I love the comment "owning dividend paying stocks are great because you will receive an income while you are waiting". Waiting for what? To start buying and selling of course.

    The one site I do go to regularly is the Connolly Report. It's a Canadian site and not open to new subscribers. But he has lots of good info on the site and adds comments periodically.

    I've followed his advice for years and for me it works. I don't watch the market or follow stocks, other than those on my list. I've stopped worrying about price drops and look forward to them. I know which stocks I want to buy and when. I'm not interested in selling or taking profits. I'm interested in the income the stocks generate and the growth of the income, and I don't compare any of my holding to any market index or performance.

  4. This is a funny post indeed Tim! GRS was one of the first sites I stumbled upon when I started to plan our financial reboot while moving from Germany to the US. The site was great in the beginning but after a while it became pretty stale and the "tips" to get rich slowly more and more became sad stories about failed people and wannabe blog writers. Then I read about JD moving away, more and more guest posts took over and then after he had sold the project, I also stopped reading the blog.

    Same thing with the "deserve" mentality. When I came to America a few years ago, that was actually the very first time I ever heard that someone has to deserve this and that. It's an inflationary use of the word. A commercial tells you that you "deserve" a new car to "reward" yourself for the back to school shopping! One of my staff "deserved" a new smart phone (after trashing her 3rd one on our concrete floor) etc. How stupid is that?

  5. Joe Orozco says:

    I feel the same about The Simple Dollar. Great when Trent was fully in control of it, but after he sold it to Red Ventures, well, the quality has drmatically gone down, in my opinion.

    I’m going to go against the grain here regarding what is “deserved.” On the whole, I agree we aren’t entitled to anything, but there is something to be said for enjoying the fruits of our labor. If we focus so much on saving and investing that we never take trips or go the extra mile to spend on a computer with better specs, then it makes the experience of saving a little empty. It’s like deciding you’re going to travel after you retire. What if you die before then?

    At any rate, great site here. Looking forward to reading more.

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