Hey party people, happy Monday! I am thrilled that today we have a very special How My Blog Changed My Life. If you’re new here, this series was born after my realization of just how much my own life has changed because of this blog — which spurred me to reach out to others and showcase how this unique medium can truly be a life altering experience. This is especially true for today’s guest, J.D. Roth, founder of Get Rich Slowly.

J.D. has gone from being deep in debt to being a renowned personal finance expert who has built one of the most popular personal finance blogs around.  I am inspired by everything he has accomplished and am grateful to call him a friend.

Read more about his journey below and on his blog, jdroth.com.

September 2014 @ FinCon. J.D. was cold so I let him borrow my poncho

September 2014 @ FinCon. J.D. was cold so I let him borrow my poncho

What was the inspiration for starting your blog?

I started “Get Rich Slowly” to share what I was learning about saving and investing. I’d already been blogging for NINE years when I started the site (I was blogging before “blog” was even a word), so I had a handle on how to write for the web. But I was just learning about personal finance. I was deep in debt and trying to figure things out. I’d written a popular post at my personal site about how it wasn’t possible to get rich quickly, but it WAS possible to get rich slowly. Based on the response to this article, I decided to start what I thought would be the first-ever personal-finance blog. Little did I know that folks like Jim and Harlan and Ramit had already been doing this for a couple of years. In time, this new hobby became my main blog — and then my main job.

What has been the most challenging part of having a blog?

Blogging can be challenging in many ways.

For one, there’s the decision about how public and/or private to be. How much information is TOO much to share with readers? And how opinionated should you be?

Some folks are so scared of stalkers that they try to be completely anonymous. That’s fine, but I think anonymity makes it more difficult for an audience to connect with you. They want to know who you are and what you’re like. It’s perhaps no surprise that the most successful bloggers I know are the least anonymous. And, in fact, here’s a little secret that we very public folks seldom reveal: The blog posts in which we bare our souls the most are often the most successful. When I write something vulnerable that I’m scared to share, that’s what usually makes my readers most excited and loyal.

It can also be tough to know which opinions to share — and how strongly. Obviously, you have to share your opinions on the subject you cover. What’s a financial blog without a position on debt reduction or investing? But what about your private life? Should you share your political views? Your religious views? Your views on sex and dating? Some people would argue that it’s good to share your opinions, even if you make people angry. These folks argue that controversy grows an audience. I see their point, but I’m not sure it’s necessary to take a stand just to spark interest. I’ve always tried to be very even-handed, only taking a stand when I’m moved on a particular issue (not an entire platform). For instance, I rarely discuss my religious and political ideals, but I have no problem saying that the U.S. health care system is FUCKED UP and as imperfect as it is, nationalized medicine is a better option. See? I’m taking a stand on an issue, but not revealing my complete political leanings. (For the record, I’m a small-l libertarian. IN GENERAL, I’m an economic conservative and a social liberal — very Oregonian — but that’s not always true. Like, I support socialized medicine.)

One other ginormous challenge is keeping a blog fresh without it becoming a chore. Blogging is work. Too many people jump into blogging with the belief that they’ll make money online quickly. Well, guess what? To do well, you have to be able to write well. You have to be able to network. You have to be able to market yourself. You have to exercise a lot of self-discipline and develop skills in many areas in order to succeed. I believe strongly that MOST bloggers would profit from taking a writing course from their local community college. Learn to tell a story. That’s the best way to make your content relatable for other people.

In what ways, direct or indirect, has your life changed because of your blog?

My life has changed completely because of Get Rich Slowly. Ten years ago, I was fat, deep in debt, and increasingly unhappy with my marriage. After getting out of debt, I sold Get Rich Slowly, and that took my financial well-being to another level. (I often say that I no longer need to save for retirement. I still have to work to cover my day-to-day expenses, but my retirement is taken care of because I sold the site.) My financial success gave me confidence to lose fifty pounds and to start traveling the world. And, ultimately, it gave me the courage to make some deep changes with my personal relationships. Plus there are all of the great people I’ve met (like you, Melanie!) and the places I’ve been able to go as a result of my blog. And the opportunities, such as writing a book and magazine column.

What have you learned from blogging?

Because of my blogging success, I’ve become MUCH more confident (and extroverted) than I was when I was younger. I’ve come to believe all of those obnoxious self-help tropes: If you don’t try, you can’t succeed. You make your own luck. It’s hard work that creates change (see: http://i.imgur.com/xWzjHUQ.jpg). Etcetera. Etcetera.

Here’s one important lesson, especially as your blog audience grows: Never assume anyone reads your blog; but, at the same time, always assume everyone reads your blog. What I mean by this is that you can’t assume that your friends and family read what you write. You can’t assume that your colleagues read what you write. Maybe they do, but maybe they don’t. When you see folks in real life, don’t be offended if they haven’t been following you online. (My girlfriend doesn’t read my blog, for instance.) On the other hand, EVEN IF YOU BLOG ANONYMOUSLY, you should assume that everyone reads your blog. You shouldn’t publish anything for which you’re unwilling to accept the consequences. I’ve heard tons of real-life examples from friends and colleagues who thought it was safe to grouse about a person or organization only to have their comments create terrible drama.

What advice would you give to new bloggers who are thinking of starting a blog?

When people approach me about starting a blog, my advice is to start small. Don’t dive in thinking you’re going to post three articles a week. Don’t place any expectations on yourself at all! Write when you feel like writing. Write what you feel like writing. Do it for love. Don’t do it for the money.

If you’re doing it for the money, you’re most likely going to give up in a few months (or a few weeks). But if you’re motivated by some other passion — you just want to write, you want to share what you know with a certain audience — you’ll be much more motivated to continue. You’ll also make better decisions, decisions that are more in line with the interests of your readers. Usually folks who blog for money do desperate things to enhance income, which simply discourages their readership from growing.

Thanks for sharing your story, J.D.! I also wanted to share with my readers J.D.’s awesome Get Rich Slowly course, which offers one lesson each Monday for an entire year, to master your money and build wealth. I am an affiliate and will make a small commission if you purchase from the link above. As always, I only share things with you that I think are worthwhile, because I don’t believe in wasting time or money! 

Make 2015 your best year yet and learn how to save, pay off debt, invest, and more — and learn from the best! You can get the basic course for as low as $39, which is a total steal for 52 weeks of lessons. 

Get Rich Slowly: The Unconventional Guide to Mastering Your Money


Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

Latest posts by Melanie (see all)

28 responses to “How My Blog Changed My Life: J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly”

  1. Ha!! I LOVE that you posted that picture from FINCON! I had to sit next to JD at dinner in that ridiculous poncho. It didn’t look ridiculous on you, but it certainly did on him. 🙂 I love that JD said to blog for love and not money. I am absolutely in that camp. If I didn’t love blogging, I would have easily given it up a long time ago.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Balancing Priorities and MoneyMy Profile

  2. Michelle says:

    Great interview! Nice to hear from such a successful blogger on how it changed his life, because it definitely did.

    I started off anonymously and it worked in the beginning (I had to be anonymous back then because of the bad family situations I was writing about back then), but I decided to pretty much start all over and “came out” of the blogging closet. Haven’t regretted it since!
    Michelle recently posted…How I Manage My Finances So I Can Save Time and Worry LessMy Profile

  3. I have had the same experience when it comes to believing in all of the self-help jargon – and as cliché as them see to be, they actually work. This story is inspiring!
    Natalie @ Financegirl recently posted…Whether to Save and Invest When You’re Getting Out of DebtMy Profile

  4. I really think you’re right when it comes to the posts that are most popular with readers…the ones where you are very honest and truthful and show that we are all human and even though we as personal finance bloggers in general focus on good financial practices most of the time, we still have our own obstacles and struggles to overcome, and people can identify with that!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Growing My Business: But at What Cost?My Profile

  5. Ben Luthi says:

    Awesome interview! I’m glad JD is still sharing his wisdom with us. And I’m totally on the bandwagon with writing for the passion and not the money. I love writing for my blog so much more than my freelancing clients.
    Ben Luthi recently posted…$100 Amazon Gift Card GiveawayMy Profile

  6. Great interview! I always enjoyed reading Get Rich Slowly and it’s one of the reasons why I started blogging originally. It’s nice to hear how much it changed JD’s life to blog.
    Fig @ Figuring Money Out recently posted…Things That Do Not Affect Your Credit ScoreMy Profile

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post. Nothing like getting wisdom from someone who is seasoned with blogging. I came way out of the closet, but my family and friends are unaware that I have a blog or that I actually like to write. I started blogging out of straight frustration and fell in love with it. I can’t imagine doing anything else as a hobby.
    Petrish @ Debt Free Martini recently posted…Top 4 Reasons Why People Think They Can’t SaveMy Profile

  8. Thanks for sharing the interview. Blogging is challenging job but when you get it going, its one if the best self employed jobs you can have around.
    Amos @ Modest Money recently posted…Cases “For” & “Against”: PPI Claims – Hire A Company Or “Go It Alone”My Profile

  9. Liz says:

    What a great interview. I think I actually needed this inspiration this morning as I was feeling a little defeated by blogging this morning : )
    Liz recently posted…Frugal Fun Winter ListMy Profile

  10. Even Steven says:

    I always enjoy learning a little bit more about JD, as my first blog that I read and began to learn from. Thank you.
    Even Steven recently posted…Eliminate Your Mortgage……We are Mortgage Payment Free!!!My Profile

  11. It nice to hear how other people writing effected thier lives. It kind of inspired to get my blog out of retirement and give it a go once again
    Martha @ Marty Thoughts on Life and Money recently posted…Counting Our Blessings All Year Long : Grateful Jar ActivityMy Profile

  12. Chris Martin says:

    Melanie, Thanks so much for taking up this challenge. It is sites like yours and J.D.’s that inspired My family to share our stories about Debt Freedom. We just started our blog OurDebt.net on January 1, 2015 and already the readership is astounding. Any more advise you have for a someone New to the Debt Fighting and Blogging wold? You can read my families story in Fighting Debt: Our Family Punches Back At Poverty http://www.ourdebt.net/fighting-debt-family-punches-back-poverty/

  13. Lisa says:

    HAHA I still have a picture of him in your red poncho on my phone, too!
    Lisa recently posted…The Year of Less DebtMy Profile

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