Financial blogs for people who are in okay shape looking to do better?
March 18, 2009 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for financial advice resources that are beyond square one. I've tried following sites like The Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly, and I Will Teach You To Be Rich but these sites seem catered to people who are in a rough spot with lots of credit card debt, etc. I don't need advice on cutting up my credit cards or reducing my power bill (I know little stuff adds up and I'm doing all right with the little stuff). I'm looking for square 2 advice: investing, financial planning, real estate, tax shelters... I have a good job, a house, little debt, and some savings. Now what? I'm looking for advice on how to go from okay shape to better. Not bad shape to okay. Any good resources out there? Keep in mind: I am a financial and investing moron. I am looking for layman-friendly resources. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
13 favorites but 1 (unhelpful) answer so far. Hmm. Investopedia has a lot of good info, and lately I've been loving the planet money podcast (they also have a blog).
posted by lohmannn at 12:33 PM on March 18, 2009

I was going to recommend some of the "basics" materials from The Motley Fool, but when I went over there to find a link, it looks like they no longer have the series of articles I remember reading. (In fact it looks like they've gone all Jim Cramer and gotten into stock-picking pretty heavily.) They used to make some very solid arguments in favor of the index-fund-based, passively-managed style of investing, which I happen to think has a lot of merit. I think a lot of the material got incorporated into this long article. I would seriously consider not reading past Step 5 though, since that's where it goes from passively-managed to actively-managed stock trading, and that's where you can start to get into hot water if you're not careful.

I guess a lot depends on exactly how much time and energy you want to expend on financial planning and money-management in the near and far future. There are a lot of sites around dedicated to "hands on" investing, but if you started to go down that path and then walked away from the controls for a while, you could potentially get wiped out. Seeking Alpha falls into this category, IMO; a lot of people on there seem to be bordering on day-trading. That's not necessarily bad, you should just be aware of the perspective.

Although I haven't yet read it, I've heard Bogle's "The Little Book of Common-Sense Investing" recommended several times (supposedly Warren Buffet likes it); it might be worth a look. "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" is a classic for good reason and might be worth a look as well. (Apparently the same author has a guide to investing; I've never read it but it looks interesting.)

Speaking generally, assuming you're out of debt (that's generally step #1, setting aside special cases where the interest rates on your loans are lower than your probable yield will be), your next should be getting your retirement plans in place. It's only once you have that set up to your liking (and socking away 10-12% of your gross income into it, automatically, using some sane/conservative market-following strategy) that you should start pursuing any other investments or attempting to beat the market.

Just so you are aware of my bias: in general, the only time I purchase individual equities (as opposed to putting money in an index fund) is when I think that the market is doing something irrational, and/or I know something that I don't think the market-makers do. In general, this means I only buy shares of companies I am very familiar with, or have worked with/for. This, to me, provides an amount of risk that I find tolerable. There are a lot of beat-the-market "strategies" that look suspiciously like gambling to me, and I don't gamble; I don't want to bet against the house unless I realistically think I have some edge.

As for your other subjects (real estate, tax shelters) I don't know much about them — except as a place to live I don't really have much interest in RE, and I'm not wealthy enough to need a tax shelter (unless you are talking about tax-advantaged conventional investments, as opposed to Swiss bank stuff). I would look at any information you get on any financial topic with a critical eye, however, especially aimed towards what agenda the author is pushing and what they might have to gain from pushing it. A lot of tax-shelter stuff seems pretty sleazy so I would be especially careful there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:47 PM on March 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Read the Intelligent Investorby Benjamin Graham. It's a bit large, but you'll find it interesting if you take it a chapter at a time as well as the updated/modern commentary by Jason Zweig. It was written with the 'common man' in mind. If you want to go hardcore, get into Graham's Security Analysis.

If you want something a little more layman than both of those, the Wealthy Barber explains dollar cost averaging and why things like insurance are important, though that most people are improperly insured.

As for web resources, just follow a few market websites that provide information rather than spin and advice (ie not CNBC). After awhile, you'll draw your own conclusions.
posted by hylaride at 12:50 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you've been reading Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar for a while, like I have, you will know that they both very much like "The Intelligent Investor", which is hardly a 'get out of debt' reference.

I would also argue your assertion that GRS and TSD are simply "step one: get your act together" tools, but you and I may very well be simply in different circumstances.
posted by pkphy39 at 1:04 PM on March 18, 2009

mymoneyblog might be of interest to you. it covers a number of topics including investing, real estate, taxes, etc. and jonathan's current financial state seems similar to yours.
posted by theexpgen at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2009

Honestly, I think dollar cost averaging and laddering is bunk. Imagine you have a lot of money invested in Treasuries, and are looking to move into a stock. Dollar cost averaging says to make a lot of small investments over time rather than a single large order. The theory is that this reduces the risk of over paying (Wikipedia suggests even that part is suspect...), but it's bound to lead to increased transaction fees. Nobody goes to the gas station every daily to smooth their price of gas!
posted by pwnguin at 1:07 PM on March 18, 2009


If you have a chunk of money ready to invest, it can make more sense to buy all at once than to spread it out over a period of time. Numbers back that up -- if your timing is right (which it often isn't).

Dollar cost averaging works best when you have a specific amount of money set aside to invest each month. If I had the $5k maximum I'm allowed to invest in my Roth IRA this year right now, I might buy it all (if I thought the market was going to go up. Who knows that, though).

Instead, I've got $400+ each month to invest. In that case, spending that money on the same date each month makes more sense. Buy more when the stock is cheap, and less when the stock is expensive.

Plus, with automated investments, fees and expenses often get reduced/eliminated.
posted by junger at 1:16 PM on March 18, 2009

2nding mymoneyblog, as well as Bargaineering.
posted by jasondbarr at 1:16 PM on March 18, 2009
posted by hardcore taters at 2:10 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

FiveCentNickel is a good saving money focused blog. Over the last year, the author of the blog has shifted from blogging about how to pay off debts to more advice on how to invest long term and spend money in a rewarding but responsible way.
posted by thewittyname at 2:10 PM on March 18, 2009

I have read most of the books already recommended and will agree that they are all fantastic, but if I could only recommend two books they would be, in this order, "The Four Pillars of Investing," and "The Intelligent Asset Allocator," both by William Bernstein. These books cover pretty much everything the sophisticated investor needs to know about creating a solid portfolio of funds for the long term.

Once you have that base down, the Bogleheads Forum is a great place to continue your learning. There is a lot of very well thought out, high-concept, professional advice from that forum regarding estate planning, retirement, investing, and, primarily, asset allocation for equities.

You also may consider looking for a financial planner or a CPA. Often times their advice will be well worth the money you pay them - and generally speaking, the more you pay them...the better and more specific to your particular situation their advice will be.

Good luck!
posted by jnnla at 4:30 PM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Wealthy Barber

Good on the concepts, but for me the folksy tone -- it's written as a series of functionalized conversations -- was so grating as to make it unreadable. YMMV.

The Bogleheads Guide to Investing book is decent -- covers a lot of ground without being condescending.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:41 PM on March 18, 2009

Get your financial advice straight from the source: Ernst & Young's Personal Financial Planning Guide. It covers everything most 'financial planning' books cover, things like cash flow, budgeting, saving, etc, in just the first chapter. But then it goes on tell you how to invest, how to save for getting married, buying a house, having kids, putting them through college, retirement, and managing your estate. It's really quite readable, and there's no need to read all of it at once. But it will pay for itself thousands of times over during your life.
posted by driveler at 6:34 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

J.D. from Get Rich Slowly here. To be honest, I'm in the same boat you are. That is, when I started Get Rich Slowly, I was focused on going from what I call the "first stage of personal finance" (or even the zeroth stage) to the second stage. That is, I was moving from deep in debt to out of debt. Eighteen months ago, however, I paid off my debt, and since then, I've been in that "second stage". I've been building wealth. I've been trying to teach myself about investing. And I've been successful. My finances are in amazing shape. In fact, I too find myself asking, "What next?"

My goal over the next year or so is to begin to answer this question, not just for myself, but for others. It's tricky, of course, because I still have many readers who are at those beginning stages, who are struggling with debt and learning to save. I want to be sure there's stuff for them to read, too. (Ideally, this means I'll be bringing in another writer to address their concerns as I explore new territory. But that's putting the cart before the horse.)

I guess what I'm saying is: You're not alone. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of info out there for people who have mastered the basics of personal finance and want more. I think that many people are afraid to write for the web about their experiences when they've moved beyond the basics. They're afraid of liability issues. I do think that Five Cent Nickel and Bargaineering are good choices. Bargaineering, especially, has changed its focus in recent months to become more personal, which appeals to me. (Note: I'm friends with the authors of both of these blogs.) Also, My Money Blog is excellent, as someone else mentioned.

@jnnia is right that the Bogleheads/Diehards forum can be a great place to learn more advanced stuff. I recently attended my second Diehards gathering here in Portland, and it was amazing. These folks know their stuff.

But my real advice is to do two things:
  • Read books. I've read dozens of personal-finance books. Based on what you've revealed of your situation, I recommend The Random Walk Guide to Investing (very layman-friendly introduction, though some of the early material covers debt reduction and frugality), The Four Pillars of Investing (fantastic introduction to investing, including history), and Work Less, Live More (the perfect book for somebody who has their sights on early retirement). All of these are fabulous.
  • Speak with friends. Seek out people you know who are in the same position you are, or perhaps a little more advanced. It doesn't matter how old they are. Feel them out, and see who is willing to share. I have learned tons from talking to friends (including one Mr. Haughey) and neighbors — not about Hot Stock Tips, but about what sorts of things to think about and watch for as you move into a position of building wealth. I'm serious. I've developed an outstanding network of people who have similar circumstances to my own, and I look forward to our chats because we can relate to each other's situations.
As I mentioned earlier, Get Rich Slowly is in the early stages of a metamorphosis. I'm moving cautiously, so as not to shake the foundations of the site, but in time, the content will broaden to include the things you and I are thinking about.

If you are a reader at Get Rich Slowly, feel free to drop me a line. (Use MeMail or get my address from my Mefi profile.) I do my best to respond to reader requests. Especially when the requests mirror my own situation and interests.

Finally, you might actually be in a spot where a professional financial adviser could be of use. There are professional advisers with blogs (I just made a presentation on this subject to a gathering of financial planners!), but most steer clear of them because of liability issues. Find a fee-only planner and listen to what she has to say.

Good luck!
posted by jdroth at 11:20 PM on March 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

Why it's JD! He put it very well, I'll only add that the Bogleheads/Diehards forum was my "next step" after reading Get Rich Slowly and some of it's more detailed links.

The Bogleheads will address your individual financial situation as the principles of Mr. Bogle would likely direct ... you tell them your financial situation (married, debts, savings, investments, investment options (i.e., employer matching? 403(b), 401(k), 457, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, etc) and goals then they'll help you with the Bogle principles and even with asset allocation to some degree.

We ended up switching from my wife's 403(b) to my deferred comp 457 (lower fees and better funds available) and contributing to a Roth IRA via Vanguard. It takes very little attention or action on my end once it was set up and the fees are much lower then we were paying in the past.

JD also recently posted a link to the Oregon State University extension service financial resources which refers to the free Investing in your future course (which sounds like what you're looking for):
1. The building blocks of successful financial management
2. Investing basics
3. Finding money to invest
4. Ownership investments
5. Fixed-income investing
6. Mutual fund investing
7. Tax-deferred investments
8. Investing small dollar amounts
9. Getting help: Investing resources
10. Selecting financial professionals
11. Investment fraud

Best luck, great question!
posted by unclezeb at 9:24 AM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

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