There’s about fifteen or so writers in the personal finance realm that I make a point of following regularly. I’ve highlighted some of them—Mr. Money Mustache, Jason Fieber at Dividend Mantra, and Greg McFarlane at Control Your Cash—in previous posts already mentioned on this site. The next writer I wanted to highlight is James Altucher who runs “The Altucher Confidential” at www.jamesaltucher.com.
The one common thread that links every finance writer I admire is that they almost all regard money as a tool that can allow them to reach a particular goal in life (whether they want a sweet beach house in Foley Beach, the accompaniment of a gorgeous woman, or the ability to say cyanora to a soul-sucking job, etc.) and they often document the psychological aspects of the journey. Almost all good finance writing focuses as much on psychology as mechanics. We all know the key to a good body is eating better and exercising more. We all know a successful financial life is some variation of living below our means and doing something intelligent with the difference. The best finance writers tackle the mental barriers that can prevent us from bridging the gap between who we are and who we can be (hint: it’s almost always due to some combination of pride and fear).
In the case of Jason Fieber at www.dividendmantra.com, he responds to the societal judgment of “you can’t retire by age 40 without earning an extravagant salary” by running a website that gets updated about a dozen times per month with concrete examples of what he is doing to live off the passive income of dividend stocks to retire earlier in life than most people in society find plausible.
For Greg McFarlane at www.controlyourcash.com, he spends most of his time pointing out that people don’t run proper cost-benefit analyses when making decisions. In particular, he enjoys railing on students that take on six figure debt to get a liberal arts degree (although I didn’t take on debt for school, I’m sure I’d end up in his line of fire for getting a degree in English Literature), and he especially enjoys making fun of Trent Hamm at www.thesimpledollar.com for giving out financial advice that he finds to be a step backwards for Western Civilization, given the lengths to which Trent goes to save a penny (personally, I applaud Trent for putting together a website that he was likely able to sell for seven figures and giving frugality advice that has clearly changed the lives of his audience, but it’s hard not to laugh with Greg when he highlights the posts on The Simple Dollar that talk about $3 swimming suits and picking up cinder blocks on the side of the road as toys for children).
On the Mr. Money Mustache site located at (you guessed it) www.mrmoneymustache.com, Pete does a great job of challenging people’s bad habits and getting them to tackle the fears in their life (financial and otherwise). If you try to explain why something can’t get done, Mr. Money Mustache is going to mock you. And then he’s going to tell you how it can get done. Probably more so than any other site, the Mr. Money Mustache blog provides the best running commentary on how to find the little open doors in life that will put you on the pathway to reaching your potential.
And now, I want to talk to you about the fourth writer I’d like to add to the list—James Altucher at The Altucher Confidential. I can’t do his biography justice—you’d have to read it yourself here http://www.jamesaltucher.com/about/ , but the general gist is that he built a million-dollar fortune, lost it, and he documents the life lessons and psychological fears that dominate his thought process in a very confessional style of writing.
Running a confessional-styled website is tricky business not only because you are making yourself vulnerable to thousands of people hidden behind the comforts of their own computer screens, but also because you run the risk of alienating your audience by making them think “Oh, come off it” when you are sharing with them whatever it is that you fear. Tone is key when running a successful website that is confessional in nature.
I’ll give an example of what I mean. Let’s say you’re an unsatisfied with your weight. If you merely complain about in a straightforward tone, you’ll tick people off and make them think, “It ain’t that hard—just a hit a treadmill, buddy.” But if you start the article off: “As a guy who has been known to eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting…”, then you’re going to successfully connect with your audience and make them feel like a part of you because the effective use of humor invited the readers in. Altucher has that ability to invite people in. That’s the ultimate “it” factor in finance writing, and Altucher has it.
Also, he is probably the best title writer for articles I have ever come across. I dare you to not click on some of these posts from his site:
“How To Create Your Fantasy Life”
“Five Quotes To Make Your BS Detector Better”
“Claudia Is Worried I Will Be Killed For Posting This”
Some writers focus mostly on finance, and generally veer into real life occasionally to illustrate a point about how it informs their financial decisions. James is much more about psychology, and veers into money when he wants to explain how his financial life informs his psychology. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s an important frame-of-reference distinction when you’re trying to figure out the vantage point that a writer is coming from. James does not writer in a senatorial, reserved tone—he is in-your-face about his own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and that naked honesty is what gives his blog most of its appeal. There’s really no one else writing in his style on the internet.