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MBP #1: JD Roth on Getting Rich Slowly, How a writer built a blog that transformed his life

JD Roth, Get Rich Slowly

I’ve known JD for many years and he’s a modern rags to riches story.

I first met him in person at an event thrown by moneyStrands in San Francisco, a meeting that JD mentions in the chat, and we’ve been friends every since. I could think of no better person to talk to for the inaugural Microblogger podcast and am very thankful he was able to carve out some time out of his extremely busy schedule to record this chat!

How did someone who had over $35,000 in credit card, working in his family’s box factory, turn his journey to financial salvation into a blog that was read by millions and then acquired for millions of dollars?

Listen and you’ll find out.

(If you’re watching Downton Abbey and haven’t finished season 3, there’s a spoiler in here!)

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How JD started a blog web journal about personal finance and how it wasn’t his first blog
  • What triggered him to “take control” of his financial future
  • A brilliant visual about the actual start of Get Rich Slowly
  • How JD gained 20,000+ subscribers and a $4,000/mo business, within a year, through personality, honesty, and storytelling
  • How JD grappled with and overcame Impostor Syndrome
  • How to blog about a subject you aren’t an expert in
  • How his honesty and openness led to opportunities to appear in Women’s Day and write for Entrepreneur
  • How his honesty and openness also makes life a little frustrating
  • How JD discovered he was a writer and how he hones his craft
  • His ratio for time spent writing vs. editing/revising, his one secret tip for becoming a better writer, and avoiding five dollar words
  • How forums did create a community, with one notable downside
  • How to avoid the echo chamber that is your blog’s niche
  • How I provided JD a key piece of advice and also committed the biggest mistake of my life 🙂

I hope you got a ton of value out of this — a big thank you to JD for taking the time to talk to us. We discussed a ton of great stuff and if you enjoyed it, please click to tweet @jdroth and tell him he kicked butt on the podcast!

Resources and links mentioned in this chat:

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The plan is to submit to iTunes in about a month, after we get around six episodes up, then we’ll go to 2 a week for a month, and then to a once a week schedule.

Eh, I got excited, submitted, and we’re on iTunes! It would me a lot to me if you could leave me a review and a rating on iTunes, it makes a big difference and helps others find the show! To leave a review, click here and thanks so so much!

Raw Transcript

Jim: This is the Microblogger podcast, episode one.
Female Announcer: Welcome to the Microblogger podcast. If you’re
looking to build a business you can be proud of, you’re in the right place.
Here’s your host, Jim Wang.
Jim: Well, hello, welcome to the first episode of the Microblogger
podcast. Today I get a chance to sit down with J.D. Roth of Get Rich
Slowly. It’s a personal finance blogs that experience meteoric success when
he launched it many, many years ago. Learn how, in just a few short months,
he was able to gain 20,000 email subscribers, and take a blog that was
earning $0.57 a day to one that would be acquired for millions.
Discuss how he became such a great storyteller, which I believe is one of
the big reasons why it was so successful because he was able to connect
with his audience. And learn about his other successes, his missteps, throw
in a few fun stories, and we basically have a good time. We hope you enjoy
it, I’ll see you at the end to fill in anything I missed.
Jim: Hey, J.D., how you doing?
J.D.: I’m good, Jim, thanks.
Jim: Thanks. I really appreciate you coming on the Microblogger
J.D.: My pleasure.
Jim: Yeah, I just want to get right into it. Everyone knows you
because, mostly of, Get Rich Slowly. You know, you want to go into how you
got started, why you did it, and the whole origin story?
J.D.: Sure, the origin story, just like superhero comics.
Jim: I chose that for a reason.
J.D.: I know. So, looking back, I could never predicted when I was
younger that I would end up writing about personal finance on the World
Wide Web, but looking back, it’s very clear how I ended up there. So there
are a few elements that go into it. First of all, I was always interested
in computers and technology. Second, I always wanted to be a writer,
although, I thought I would end up writing science fiction or poetry
because I was a sensitive guy who also liked science fiction. Maybe I
could’ve written science fiction poetry.
Jim: Well, I mean, Get Rich Slowly wasn’t your first blog . . .
J.D.: No.
Jim: . . . right?
J.D.: No, no, no, no. And then, also, I had lots of debt, so all of
these things combined to lead me to toward Get Rich Slowly. So the way it
started was in college, I came from a poor family and I didn’t really know
how to handle money. And I got to college and there were people who were
much wealthier – it was a private college and a lot of my roommates had
more money than I did and I wanted to fit in. And the only way I could fund
that lifestyle was with credit cards. And whoa, wouldn’t you know it, even
back in 1988, ’89, companies were happy to give students at a private
institution credit cards so they could build up debt. And that’s just what
I did.
So I graduated with the beginning of a credit card habit, and that habit
grew with time so that by 1995, which is four years after I graduated, I
had accumulated over $20,000 in credit card debt. Meanwhile, at the same
time, the World Wide Web had come into existence and I’d started setting
up, I guess, an outpost there – I had a personal website.
And in 1998 I started what was called a web journal back then; there was no
such thing as a blog, we didn’t have a word for it – we called them web
journals. And I wasn’t writing about money, I was just writing about my
personal life. I say that I wrote about cats, and comic books, and
computers – the things I was most interested in.
And this website was just for my family and friends. So time passed and I
continued to write this website. It eventually did move to a blog, it
became very much a blog, and I would write every day. So, during the early
2000s, I was posting every day about all these different things that
interested me, and meanwhile, I was going deeper and deeper into debt.
Eventually, I managed to cut up my credit cards, but I found other ways to
go into debt, like, using a home equity loan, or taking out personal loans,
or borrowing money from family and friends. So, by 2004, I had accumulated
over $35,000 in consumer debt. And around that time, my wife, who is now my
ex-wife, she and I bought a house, a new house. And on paper it looked like
I could afford this house and I was really excited about it, but once I
moved in, it became clear that I was just drowning in debt because there
was all sorts of remodeling that needed to be done and we wanted to buy
furniture. And I just felt overwhelmed, Jim.
So, for once in my life, I listened to my friends, who have been, for
years, trying to advise me to do something different with money, and a
couple of them loaned me books. One of the loaned me Dave Ramsey’s “Total
Money Makeover”, and another loaned me “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe
Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I read the books, and I wish I could say I
changed overnight, but I didn’t.
But I did start making gradual changes, and I made a plan to get out of
debt, and I also started reading more and more about personal finance
during the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005. And then, in April 2005, to
just kind of get everything out of my head and down on paper, I wrote a
blog post at my personal blog, and I called that blog post Get Rich Slowly.
And it summarized all of the personal finance that I’d been reading about.
And I said, “You know, I’d always wanted to find quick ways to get out of
debt and to build wealth. And what the books were telling me was, ‘Well,
you can’t do it quickly, but you can do it slowly. You can’t get rich
quickly, but you can get rich slowly’.”
So that’s why called it that. And for whatever reason, this post went
viral, or as viral as things could go at the time because remember, this
was back in 2005, and it’s not like today where you can get millions of
visitors in a short order if you got something that’s hugely viral. And I
put that in the back of my mind, I was, like, “Oh, people want to read
about personal finance.” And about a year later, I was looking for ways to
make more money so I could get out of debt more quickly, and I thought,
“Well, why don’t I start a personal finance blog?”
And I always say that I thought I would be the first personal finance blog
on the web. And obviously, I wasn’t – you had yours already, I think, and
Harlan had, or Luke had his, and there were plenty others around. But I
started, and I just used it as a way to share the things
I was learning about personal finance and to share my personal victories
and my failures. And for whatever reason it became very successful, and
before long, it was making enough money that I could quit my day job, which
was selling boxes, and write full time. That’s where I am today, the full-
time writer.
Jim: There were two things that you touched on that I wanted to ask
you about. You said that you bought a house and that was, in essence, a
trigger for you to start thinking about the future and debt and all this
stuff more clearly. Most people, if they see $20,000 in debt, which would
be before you bought the house that would sometimes be the trigger. Why do
you think that the house was such a big deal for you?
J.D.: Well . . . I don’t know. Because the way I was handling the
debt is, I never missed a payment, and I always met my financial
obligations. But whenever I would earn a raise, or get a bonus, or somehow
come into additional money, I would just find ways to spend that on comic
books and computers and stuff. I guess what I’m saying is, I was always
living right at the edge, literally, paycheck to paycheck.
I didn’t have any savings, I always kept about a zero dollar balance in my
account. When I got paid, I would spend down to about $10, and then that’s
all it would have left until payday – sometimes I would get overdrawn. But
with the house, when we bought the house, all of a sudden, okay, when we
bought the house, I was still living right at the edge, right?
But all of a sudden there were all these other expenses on the horizon that
I knew we would have to make, like, remodeling the bathroom, and buying
furniture and things like that. And plus, things started going wrong, it
was a 100 year old house – the basement flooded, things like that. How am I
going to fix that? And so, it became clear to me, all of a sudden that,
“Oh, I need some sort of buffer, and because I’m carrying so much debt and
don’t have any kind of savings, I’m screwed. I’m not going to be walking
the edge much longer – I’m going to end up drowning.”
Jim: Yeah. And then when you chose personal finance, did you think
you were going to turn it into a business, or you just wanted to write
about it because you thought people were interested?
J.D.: Well, that’s a great question. So, I’ll tell [inaudible
00:08:39], have to keep it brief here – it was a little bit of both. So,
I’d been writing on the web for a long time when I started Get Rich Slowly,
but I had never really tried to make money with it. In fact, I’d been
adamantly opposed to monetizing websites. People might not be aware of
this, but back in the early 2000s, a lot of people, like me, considered it
very bad form to put advertising on a blog or to otherwise monetize a
website. It was selling out, it just seemed wrong, and so I was a vocal
opponent of it. And for me to change my mind seemed like hypocrisy.
But this story is, as I was trying to dig out of debt, this was soon after
I had published the first Get Rich Slowly post on my personal blog, I was
actually sitting in the bathtub reading a book, and the book was by Loral
Langemeier, and I think it’s called ‘The Millionaire Maker’, or something
like that. And in it she describes how she coaches her clients to become
millionaires. And in it, she talks about creating passive incomes, what it
amounts to, or finding sources, additional sources of income to your job.
And for whatever reason, something clicked, and I stood up, got out of the
bathtub, didn’t even towel off, I went and sat naked at the dining room
table and just started jotting down all of these notes because I realized,
“Oh my gosh. Maybe I can make money online through the web through the
stuff I’m writing.” And at first, I thought I would do it with my personal
site, and then I realized that’s not very practical, so what I really
decided to do was start a comic book blog.
And I launched a comic book blog and realized, “Oh, there’s already tons of
comic book blogs out there and I don’t have anything new and unique to say.
Even though I read a lot of comic books, I’m not, like, a comic book
scholar, I just do it for fun.” And so, as this, kind of an afterthought, I
decided, “Oh well, I’ll start this personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly,
and I’ll try to monetize it.”
But, at the same time, the money wasn’t my primary motivation. I did want
to make some money, but I thought it would be just enough to kind of
accelerate my debt repayments. I didn’t think, “Oh, this will become a
Jim: And then at what point did you think it would become a
business? When you kept going and going and going and it was growing and
J.D.: Well, so I started the blog on April 15th, 2006. At first, my
income was a few dollars a day, just like most people, it was a few cents a
day. I think my first day’s income was $0.57 or something like that. But by
the middle of 2007, my traffic had grown significantly, and, I’m trying to
remember what I had. I know that in early 2007 I had 12,000 subscribers,
and that grew, probably, to about 20,000 by mid 2007. And I don’t actually
remember what the traffic was, but I do know I had begun to make as much on
the blog as I had been making selling boxes for the family factory, and
that means that was about $4,000 a month. So within a year I was making
about $4,000 a month from the blog. And this just blew my mind.
And it give me the impetus, once I paid off my debt at the end of 2007,
December 7th or something like that was the day I paid off the last of my
debt, I began to explore the idea of quitting my job and working on the
blog full-time.
Jim: Your story about, I mean, this is such a meteoric success.
Maybe not, like, you know, start-up style where, you know, you build a
business that you sell billions, but making $4,000 a month from $0.57 a day
within the first year and then getting 20,000 people subscribed is a pretty
big accomplishment.
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: Why do you think you grew so quickly?
J.D.: You know, I did ask this a lot, and I don’t have any great
answers. I think there are a couple of things that go into it. First of
all, I told my story. At the time, most personal finance blogs, I think,
that the writers were anonymous. They didn’t want to be out there, they
didn’t want to be public because they were telling what was going on in
their financial lives, right? And I had always been public on the Internet
and had no problem with it, and so, I told my story, I told who I was, and
I shared, not just my successes, but my failures.
And so I think a lot of people could relate to me and where I was coming
from. Even if their experiences weren’t exactly the same, they could relate
to me because I seemed like a real person.
And plus, the whole storytelling thing, I think is very important. So much
personal finance advice, and so much writing on the web in general, is very
impersonal, I guess, and also very . . .
Jim: Antiseptic?
J.D.: Yeah, yeah. It’s just, it’s uninteresting to read because it’s
just, like you said, antiseptic – it’s boring. And it’s also very bossy, in
a way, as if people have all the answers, and I wasn’t like that. I was
very, clearly, exploring things and the testing things, and saying, “Hey,
what about this? I think this might work. Oh, no it doesn’t.” And I was
also very real.
And another thing I did, Jim, is I interacted with the readers from a very
early stage. I made it clear that I didn’t have all the answers, so when
readers would write in with something particularly, I don’t know, valuable
to me, I would publish it and I would credit the readers. And within short
order, I had created this Friday column that I called Ask The Readers,
where readers would write to me with questions and I don’t really know the
answers, I would share what I thought my answer was, and then I’d put it
out there for other readers.
And so, it became this community where readers could help each other with
their financial questions. And after a couple of years, Get Rich Slowly had
begun to have influence in people’s lives, and people would write in with
their success stories, or they would write in to tell me how things didn’t
work out. And so, on Sundays, I created this readers stories column where
we would share what readers were doing, and what worked, and what didn’t.
Jim: It’s interesting. One of the problems that a lot of people have
whenever they’re starting a blog is they feel like they need to be an
expert. It’s, like, “Why would someone listen or read to what I’m writing
if I’m not necessarily an expert?”
J.D.: Right.
Jim: And it sounds like for you, that was an asset. It was a, you
know, “Come with me on this journey as I try to get rich slowly. And we’ll
learn together, we might stumble or whatever, but this is a community that
where we all try to help each other and grow.”
J.D.: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And the real trouble came when I
realized that some people did perceive me as an expert because I didn’t
feel like I was an expert, I began to feel like an imposter. These people
are coming to me for advice? What the hell?
And this is a very real thing, it’s called the Imposter Syndrome; where you
actually do possess some knowledge, more knowledge than the people around
you, but you don’t feel like you do, you don’t feel you have any special
dispensation – and so you feel like an imposter. And it’s not just me who
struggles with it, there’s a lot of different people.
I talk a lot with my friend Tess Vigeland, who used to host the show
Marketplace Money, and she’s experienced the same thing. She spent several
years as the hostess of Marketplace Money, and people expect her to be some
financial whiz, and she tells me she’s just not, she’s just an average
person. And it’s an uncomfortable feeling for the both of us.
So, I think you’re right that, when you start a site, don’t pretend to be
an expert – just be yourself, admit that you don’t know certain things. But
when you do know things or when you think you do, say, “This is what I
believe.” I think it’s very important not to come off and say, “This is the
one right way.” The motto I had at Get Rich Slowly is, “Do what works for
you.” And by that I meant, there are multiple paths to success.
One of the things that really frustrates me most is when you have somebody
who thinks that they have the one right answer, and if you don’t follow
what they’re doing, they’re wrong. This is very apparent. When I announced
my divorce at Get Rich Slowly, I got a lot of crap, and maybe deservedly
so. But I was really frustrated by these 20, and 22, and 23 year olds
writing in and giving me marriage advice and relationship advice.
And these young people who have relationship blogs at the age of 22 and
they’ve got blogs about how to have a successful marriage – that’s great,
share your experience, but don’t pretend that you can provide prescriptive
advice when you’ve only been married for a year. Once you’ve been married
for 20 or 30 years, well maybe I’ll listen to you, but I’m going to sound
like an old curmudgeon now.
Jim: You do sound a little curmudgeony.
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: Man, that’s the thing when you’re young is that you don’t know
what you don’t know, plus you walk around with this swagger . . .
J.D.: Right.
Jim: . . . when you think you do. Whereas like, once you hit about
the 30s, you start to realize that, yeah, you might know a lot. But, you
know what? Slow down a little because in about ten years you’re going to
regret a lot of the things you proclaimed and what your . . .
J.D.: Yes, exactly right. And so, I think it’s perfectly fine to give
advice based on your experience and say, “This is what I think I know, this
is what I believe.” But admit the possibility that there are other ways to
do things and that you could be wrong.
Jim: And everyone’s situation is so different.
J.D.: Absolutely.
Jim: I mean, we’re both in blogging and personal finance blogging
for a long time, and I’m sure we’ve seen a lot of the same things, but, I
mean, situations differ. Like, advice isn’t one-size-fits-all.
J.D.: Yeah, and this isn’t just about marriage and money – this is
about anything. It’s about fitness, it’s about playing guitar – it’s about
Jim: Scotch.
J.D.: Well, no, with Scotch, it’s Ardbeg or bust.
Jim: We all have our preferences.
J.D.: Yeah, that’s right.
Jim: No, but I mean, one of the things that’s always, I guess, sort
of amazed me about Get Rich Slowly and you, is that your story connected
with people. Like, as much as we may say that personal finance is personal,
everyone’s story is different, yours seems to connect at a much deeper
level. Sometimes I think it’s because, like you said, you share
vulnerability, you share everything. This is J.D. Roth, warts and all, so
to speak. And, you know, when the good things happen you share it, when the
bad things happen, you share it, and it’s sort of, you know, we’re all in
this together. Was that intentional, or is that just the way you are?
J.D.: It’s just the way I am. It wasn’t calculated in any way, it’s
just how I am in real life, and it’s how I was on the blog.
Jim: It’s funny, I asked that question, I immediately already knew
the answer. But for the sake of appearances, I felt like I needed to ask.
J.D.: And in fact, Jim, the two things that have been toughest for me
professionally, with regards to the blog, are when I was not able to share
information. After Get Rich Slowly was sold, after I sold Get Rich Slowly,
I was contractually prohibited from discussing it for a long, long time.
And that killed me. Because it was a huge part of my life and because I
share who I am and what I’m doing, I just felt, I don’t know, disingenuous.
And the other one was when I did get a divorce, my ex-wife asked me not to
share it for about three months, and so, I couldn’t write about it. And, of
course, once I did write about it, it created a huge backlash, which is
fine, I get it.
Divorce is a very emotional subject in this culture. . . . And plus,
people had grown attached to Kris. Kris is a great person and people felt
like they really knew her and they were part of our lives, and so, it was
almost like this television show. It’s like Downton Abbey when Matthew
dies, you know, people are really attached to Matthew. And, oh my gosh,
he’s dead all of a sudden? What the hell happened?
Jim: Now I’m going to have to put a spoiler alert for people who
didn’t watch the last season. No, was the last, yeah, it was, yeah. Thanks
a lot for more work. No, I’m just kidding. No, I agree. I mean, I was
surprised, obviously. I mean, when you’re on the West Coast we don’t hang
out all the time.
J.D.: Right.
Jim: But when I heard about it I felt a little sad because I’d met
Kris before and she was nice and all that. My question was going to be, has
it ever hurt you, from a business perspective, to be that open? And, in
this particular case, it didn’t sound like it hurt your business. You may
have had to take a few, you know, complaints and upset people.
J.D.: If anything, it has only helped my business because, because
I’m so open and because I tell my stories, I get opportunities to share
them in other outlet. For example, one of the things that used to cost so
much frustration among my readers is, Kris and I kept completely separate
finances. We just did – it’s how we had always done it. And I wrote about
this and people would get so frustrated. And yet, because we wrote about
that, or I wrote about that, I’m trying to remember, I think it was Women’s
Day, one of the women’s magazines contacted us and I was able to share my
story with them.
Because I was so open, I also got an opportunity to write for Entrepreneur
Magazine. They gave me an entire column about money and where I could tell
stories, I don’t know, impart wisdom.
Jim: That’s funny because the first time I got into the New York
Times was because I shared my net worth on the blog. I look back on it and
it looks like such a mundane stuff. It’s, like, how much I spent this month
on clothes. You know, because I used to keep a very tight budget, and now I
don’t, but back then, you know, sharing all that – that level of detail was
not unheard of for personal finance bloggers, but it was unheard of in the
general public.
J.D.: Right.
Jim: And so, you know, it’s helped me, and I just wanted to find out
since you’re far more open, if there are any, very clear business related
downsides with that?
J.D.: No. To me there are no business related downsides at all. I’d
say that the only two downsides, oh, wait there’s one business related
downside. Tiny, tiny one, we’ll get to her in a sec because it’s related.
The only downsides of any note are, number one, when I meet people, they
know far more about me than I know about them. And so, it makes it so if I
want to tell a story . . .
Jim: You’ve got to get a new story.
J.D.: . . . they might have already heard it, and so, that can be a
little frustrating for me. But it’s also kind of fun because people tell me
again and again, “Oh, my gosh, J.D., you’re just like you are on the blog.”
And that’s pleasing to hear. The other downside is that, you know, you do
open yourself up to trolls and to people who want to harass you. And I’ve
only really had one prolonged experience with this, and it’s an anonymous
troll, and they leave shi**y comments on my sites, and I never publish
My policy, in general, is that I will publish anything as long as you’re
not attacking other people. You can attack me and it’s fine, but this
person, nope. And they change their name every time, their IP address every
time, but it’s always very clearly the same person. And, fortunately, they
seem to have given up, although, maybe they’ll find this podcast and decide
to take it upon themselves to go write about my bad teeth again.
Jim: Great. Now I have to watch out for trolls, I’ve got to put a
spoiler alert.
J.D.: So, I said there was a mild business impact. I made somebody
angry once. I published an article at Get Rich Slowly, it was a reader’s
story about a woman who got a divorce. And before she got a divorce, she
ran the numbers to make sure that she wasn’t going to be putting herself
into a bad financial situation, which I think is smart. It’s smart to do
that. And, boy, that was my first clue that people get really emotional you
start talking about divorce.
And this one guy got so angry, and it was just after I had published my
book, and so he went to Amazon and he left a one star review. He hadn’t
read the book, but he went there and talked about how I was such a hack.
And so, that’s a problem.
Jim: Yeah, well, during the scope of things that could possibly happen on
a downside with business, I guess a one star review from someone who wasn’t
a verified buyer is not the worst thing.
J.D.: Exactly.
Jim: But it’s still tough though. I mean, it’s like a black mark,
not really a black mark, but, you know, it’s a mark against you even though
it’s not your fault, there’s nothing you can do about it. The guy didn’t
even buy the book.
J.D.: Right. Oh, the Amazon thing, it kills me to go there. My book,
which is, Your Money: The Missing Manual, it’s gotten four and a half stars
on Amazon despite this one star review and despite the fact that the top
rated review, the most helpful review, is a two star review with all these
helpful votes. And you just know because it shows up first, there are tons
of people who aren’t buying the book. And some of the points he makes in
this two star review are valid, and in fact, they are concerns that I
shared with the publisher before publication. Some are just, like, “Really
dude?” Ah, but what can you do?
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: I did the best I could with the book, and everyone else seems to
like it.
Jim: Yeah, you’ve got to focus on the people that love it, not
necessarily the people that hate it. One of the things you mentioned
earlier was this feeling of being an imposter. Have you, or did you, get
over that feeling? And how did you do it?
J.D.: For the most part, I’ve gotten over the feeling. Part of the
problem was, I tried to project what other people expected of me.
Jim: By guessing or by what they said?
J.D.: Yeah, and I felt like I couldn’t live up to that. And what I
realized is, “No, I actually do know quite a bit about money. I don’t
necessarily know the ins and outs of retirement accounts or anything like
that, but as far as the psychology of money and just basic day-to-day
handling of money, I know quite a bit. And more than most people.” And so
once I realized that,
I’m like, “Okay, I can give advice based on what I know.” And I learned to
answer questions with, “I don’t know.”
A great example is if a reporter comes to me and wants me to comment on a
story, if it’s about a subject that I’m not qualified to talk about, I tell
that, I just say it. It’s not a bad thing to admit you don’t know
something, you just don’t know something – you know lots of other things.
So, to get over this feeling of being an imposter, there were a couple of
steps there. First was realizing, “Oh, I do know more than lot of people
around me.” And second is, “It’s not bad to say that I don’t know
Jim: It’s hard to admit that you don’t know something. Especially
if, you know, for you, maybe you’ve talked to a lot of reporters, but for
your average blogger, their opportunities are limited, so there may be a
feeling that they should fake it or pretend or do something like that.
J.D.: Oh, faking is, like, the worst thing you can do because it
becomes very clear that you’re out of your element, and you feel bad, the
reporter feels cheated. If you feel like you’re not qualified for
something, the best thing you could do is provide as much help as
Route the reporter to somebody that you feel will actually be better able
to help them, and then say, “Hey, if you’re ever doing similar stories in
the future, I’d be glad to help especially if it’s about X, Y, or Z.” Where
X, Y and Z are the things you’re familiar with.
Jim: That’s fantastic advice. I mean, I agree, you should not try to
deceive because people could tell if you’re not knowledgeable about a
particular subject.
The other thing with Get Rich Slowly, like I said before, there are a lot
of things that amaze me about it. But, you know, you talk about
storytelling and writing, and I know that at the core, you are a writer.
How did that happen? How did you become a writer, or, you know, discover
that you always were a writer?
J.D.: Well, that’s another great question. I think it came because I
got a lot of positive feedback when I was very young. In third grade I
remember, you know, you draw pictures on the paper, the pulpy paper, the
big lines, and you’d write little stories. And I wrote a couple of just,
you know, two sentence stories that my teachers and my parents loved, and
so, that was, like, positive reinforcement. And plus I read a ton of books.
Oh, my gosh, I read a ton when I was a kid. I was always just a shy, nerdy
boy and just kept myself, reading and writing. And in fourth grade, we had
this great exercise that my teacher would do once a week – we had story
writing time for an hour, and you’d pull out of a hat, you would pull a
I’m trying to remember if we each got to do it differently or not. Doesn’t
matter. You pull out a plot, you pull out a setting, and you’d pull out a
main character out of the hat, and you combine all these together and then
you’d write a story, and it was a two-page story. And I loved that. And my
teacher loved my stories, again, and so did my parents. And so, from there
I moved on, in eighth grade I discovered I loved to write poetry, and then
in ninth grade, I learned that I loved to write essays. And so, it was a
gradual thing, so that eventually in college, I helped edit the literary
magazine and I got an English minor with a writing emphasis. And I thought
I wanted to be a science fiction writer or to write poetry – it’s just
always been part of you I am.
Jim: And it’s something that, knowing you, that you’re constantly
working on. And what are the things that you do to make yourself a better
J.D.: Well, first of all, practice.
Jim: You write a ton.
J.D.: Yeah. I’m looking around my room right now because I’m reading
a book. It is right here. I write a ton, I read a ton, and I read a ton
about writing. And I also, I like to, when I have the time, take classes
at the community college or community centers, I take classes in writing.
Because even though I can call myself a professional writer now, there’s
always more to learn. And the book I’m reading now I think is brilliant.
I’m terrible at time management as Jim will tell you. I suck at replying to
emails, and anyone who’s ever tried to get me to reply to a long email
conversation just shakes their head in frustration. And that’s because I’m
poor at time management.
So, someone recommended a book recently called “A Writer’s Time”, a guy
named Kenneth Atchity, A-T-C- H-I-T-Y. I’d begun to read it in my very
limited spare time, and I love it. It’s about time management, it’s about
becoming a better writer. And the very first sentence is, “Writers write.”
and I think it’s valuable. A lot of people call themselves writers, but
they don’t write anything. It’s more like an aspiration rather than an
And, for me, if I can’t write during the day, I feel frustrated. It’s the
same as if I’m unable to get exercise. I want to write. I don’t necessarily
want to write about personal finance, but I want to write something
Jim: Gotcha. Gotcha. I was talking with Paula Pant at a [inaudible
00:33:15] and one of the things she’s always told me is that it takes her,
she’s also a writer. And one of the things she’s does is, she’s been trying
to inject more humor and entertainment. So she’s been taking, like, comedy,
I don’t know, classes, but reading books about it.
And I also thought that was fascinating. And you are saying that you took
community college classes and still take them. When you pick a class to
take is it, like, creative writing? Is it, like, I don’t even know.
J.D.: Yes. Well, most community colleges, or most large, most places
that have a lot of writing courses will have a nonfiction writing class,
and that is your best bet. I think anybody who wants to blog should take a
class about nonfiction writing, especially if you can find one about
creative nonfiction. And creative nonfiction is very much, it’s a very
specific genre, and it’s what we do with blogs, is we do creative
But for me, I tend to take fiction writing classes because, ultimately,
what I really want to do is to write fiction, now. And, in fact, my goal
for this year was to write a novel, but here we are, I don’t know when this
will air. But, I’m at the end of February and I still have not begun work
on my novel because I’m dubiously writing about personal finance.
Let me point out something real quick that Paula Pant, her blog is, and it’s brilliant, she’s a great writer. If you want
to improve your writing, you should read other writers who produce quality
material, and Paula produces quality material.
Jim: That’s right. I totally agree. It’s interesting, so I went to a
Happy Hour the other day, and I sat down, and I sat next to a guy who just
written a novel, and he published it. And he had joined a group of writers
that would keep each other accountable and basically, I guess it’s just
like a Mastermind, so to speak, but it was interesting to hear him talk
about it. And one of his goals was always to write a novel and he’s a
writer. I looked up the book – it’s selling on Amazon. It’s actually pretty
impressive to have a book. Yeah, it’s just interesting to know that having
that support structure, for him, was extremely helpful in keeping him,
essentially accountable.
J.D.: Yeah, and it’s like anything. I’ve been members of writing
groups in the past. You have to have the right group of people, for you, to
make it work. Some writing groups that I’ve been in have worked less well
than others.
Jim: Yeah, I mean, it’s like Mastermind groups. Sometimes . . .
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: . . . you know, things work out, sometimes they don’t, and you
just have to keep trying it. Because, ultimately, on balance they work,
it’s just you have to figure out the ones that work well for you.
J.D.: I’m going to add something real quick, Jim, about writing, and
improving the quality of writing. I think Paula would agree that quality
writing is more about editing than it is about writing. And what I mean by
that is, when you write, you do a little bit of research, generally, and
then you write a draft.
A lot of people stop with just the draft and they publish it. And I’ll
admit that sometimes I do that too, especially if it’s just a personal
story. But, by far, the best way to improve your writing is to just
continually revise.
Go through the piece you’ve just written, and if it took you a half an hour
to write, take two hours to revise it. Do little experiments, like, cut in
half. “Can I cut in half?” ask yourself. And does it make it better? Does
it make it worse? And why or why not?
Another thing I recommend, and almost nobody that I recommend this to
follows through with it, is, especially for your very important personal
pieces, read them out loud. Read your articles out loud to yourself because
you’ll discover crutches that you use, words that you use all the time, and
you’ll also pick up on things that aren’t clear.
When you just read something to yourself quickly and silently, you’re able
to make these logical leaps, or to ignore logical leaps. Whereas, if you
read it aloud, it becomes clear that, “Oh, this isn’t what I meant to say,
or the reader won’t be able to follow.” So, by reading things aloud you get
a better feel for the rhythm of the peace and you’re able to make it
Jim: That’s something that I’ve told my wife to do, is read. And I
do it sometimes too. But the one thing that it catches for me, is when I
use sentences that are way too long. It’s, like, they keep going and it’s,
like, “Oh, well, I should probably stop it here because I need to breathe.”
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: And sometimes I skip words.
J.D.: Short sentences are good, by the way, because they’re easier to
follow and they prevent people from going through these grammatical
gyrations that create bad grammar.
Jim: Yeah. And copywriting always recommends that you use shorter
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: Just because it’s easier to follow when you don’t have to track
such a long sentence.
J.D.: And use every day words instead of $5 words.
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: I read some blogs and I’m, like, “Dude, just . . .” Yeah. Just
use simple words.
Jim: Like we were talking about right before we started recording,
as we talked about mics and podcasts and stuff like that, those words are
like fancy equipment.
J.D.: Yeah
Jim: You don’t need fancy equipment, you can get by with a simple
mic – it’s the content that really matters. And if you spend the time to
edit it down and get it clear and concise, you’re way better off than
trying to be fancy.
J.D.: Yeah, I think the fancy words should be pulled out once in a
while for effect. They’ll have more effect, it’s just like swearing. If you
swear all the time, the power of those words loses their meaning, but if
you pull it out once in a while… I know my father, he didn’t swear very
often at all, but when he did, oh my gosh, we paid attention. So, yeah, use
your fancy words once in a while, and use everyday words most of the time.
Jim: Wanted to go back to one of the things that you mentioned
before. You did all these different things to sort of foster up this
community, this,
“Hi, I’m J.D. Roth, we’re going to go on a journey. Let’s go together.” One
of things I remember is that you had a forum. Right? And then you had one
of your, like, big-time readers moderate it. How did you think to start a
forum and create that structure? And how much did it help to build that
J.D.: I actually think the forum hurt the community. It became two
different communities, is what it did. So, first of all, I tried to start a
forum early on in the life of Get Rich Slowly, and the forum fizzled an
untimely death, it just doesn’t work. And then about a year later, I
brought the forum back. And I realize quickly that I was not able to manage
both the forum and the blog at the same time, so I sought help. One of the
people who became a moderator, or an admin, was my brother. And then I
ended up with, I think it was actually two or three readers who acted as
admins, and they were the ones who paid attention to the forum.
And, to be honest, I really regret it, because it drew off some Get Rich
Slowly’s most active readers, the people who really contributed to
community. They began contributing only to the forum, or primarily, to the
forum, and not so much to the blog itself. And I think that hurt the
community in the long run.
Jim: Gotcha. Did you shut the forums down, over eventually?
J.D.: I didn’t, and to my knowledge, they’re still going because the
company that bought Get Rich Slowly has not changed information, so I’m
still in there as an admin. And so I get people writing in with complaints
to the admin that they can’t login or whatever and I’m, like, “I can’t help
Jim: Okay. Because I remember back in the day when we talked about you
said the comments has started to drop because people would then interact on
the forums rather than leave comments.
J.D.: You know, I’m curious, as we talk here, I’m actually going to
see if I can remember even where the forums live. The forum? Yeah right
Jim: Yeah, I remember, they were fairly active. I wasn’t really
paying that close attention to notice a comment drop. But, obviously, you
remember the names of the people who leave comments, and when you start not
seeing them, it can get a little disconcerting. At least in the beginning.
J.D.: Yeah, it looks like some of the same people who used to be
active on the forums are still active on the forums. That’s crazy. Wow.
Some of the moderators are still . . .
Jim: Little back to the, not back to the future, blast from the
J.D.: Yeah. I’m really impressed, actually. Look at this everybody,
the forums are still active. And I’m looking at some of these people, they
are people that used to be active on the Get Rich Slowly as commenter’s,
and they no longer are, so, they live in the forums. That’s interesting.
And the forums are active.
Jim: So listeners should take your complaint about forums with a
little grain of salt considering having almost no management, it still
continues to live and there is a community there.
J.D.: Exactly right. Oh, and the Fiscal Fitness Journals are still
going. Okay, this is kind of fun for me.
Jim: What are the fiscal fitness journals?
J.D.: I don’t even remember what my premise was, but I decided that I
wanted people to have journals in the forums where they chronicle their
personal-finance journey, and I called them Fiscal Fitness Journals.
Jim: The literation is King.
J.D.: Yeah, and people are using them. I’ll be darned. That’s
fantastic. The forums aren’t, like, tremendously active, but there are
active users.
Jim: That’s awesome. So, in thinking back to Get Rich Slowly, was
there a turning point? That it went from, I guess, from hobby, to real
business full-time? Like, I guess it was when you quit your job or had . .
J.D.: Yeah.
Jim: . . . it was already enough?
J.D.: I began to really, really take it seriously in the beginning of
2007, which was only about nine months into the thing. Once I had over
10,000 subscribers, I began to really take it seriously.
And going back to earlier, you asked what some of the keys to success were.
One of them was the quality of writing – I intentionally tried to keep the
quality high. I’m not saying I’m a better writer than everybody else, but I
feel like I am a good writer. Also, because I had been on the Internet for
a long time, I had existing relationships in communities, and I didn’t seek
out to spam those communities or to intentionally leverage those
Instead what happened is, people in those communities became aware that I
had this other project that I was working on and they began to share it
within the communities, and it just grew. And because of that, I ended up
with some influential readers.
Some of the editors at Lifehacker, for example, were early readers of Get
Rich Slowly, and so they would link to my articles frequently. And it’s not
because I was pushing them in any way, it’s just they happened to read them
and they would promote them. And that made a huge difference, just being
active in other areas of the Internet.
Okay, here I’m going to give a piece of advice for listeners that I feel
like people ignore too often. I think it’s very common among bloggers to
interact with only bloggers in your own niche. So if you’re a personal
finance blogger, you interact with other personal finance bloggers, if
you’re a fitness blogger, only with fitness bloggers. And this is great and
you should do that because you build camaraderie and you get to know each
However, that’s not really the way you’re going to build your audience.
Because people who are reading another fitness site, they’ve got their
favorite fitness site, why do they want to go to yours? They might add it,
but it’s much less likely. Instead, I think it’s important to branch out
into other verticals, as we call them.
So if you’re writing about personal finance, well then, connect with
somebody who’s a fitness blogger. Write an article about how to save money
on physical fitness, how to do, like, bodyweight exercises at home instead
of paying to join the gym. Contribute it to a fitness blog – this is the
way to expand your audience.
And then, in fact, that’s what I did is, I intentionally sat down, when I
became more calculating with Get Rich Slowly, I intentionally sat down, I
thought, “Okay, what niches can I write for?” And I tried to submit
articles to the biggest blogs in those niches. Some of them would take the
articles, and some of them wouldn’t, but I think that’s the way to get a
bigger audience.
Jim: Yeah, and one of the things about personal finance is, it is,
I’m going to get the reference wrong, but it’s, like, O blood type. Never
mind, forget it. This analogy is going to go off the rails.
J.D.: What, it’s too complicated?
Jim: No, I mean, like, any other subject can guest post credibly . .
J.D.: Oh, right, right.
Jim: . . . in personal-finance. And personal-finance can credibly
guest post in almost anything goes. I remember back in the day I had a
friend who had a fitness it, and he was, like, “Oh, I want to write a guest
post on Bargaineering.” I was, like, “Yeah, that’s perfect. Can you come up
with a way to get fit on bodyweight exercises or jugs of water or
something, like, extremely frugally? You know, the anti-$30, $60, $100 gym
membership type thing?” He’s, like, “Oh, yeah. That’s easy.”
So he had his fitness guy write this incredibly detailed, really, really
good article about fitness, about what you can do. And it worked well, and
it gained him a bigger audience, access to a bigger audience, and everybody
came out ahead.
J.D.: Yeah. And, you know, I once wrote an article, I think it was
for, it might have actually been for my other site, Get Fit Slowly, that I
had at the other time, about frugal ways to exercise and stuff. And about
how my ex-wife and I had stopped our gym memberships and were doing more
exercise at home and stuff. And that led to, again, an article, I think it
was a newspaper this time, I don’t know. All I know is they sent out a
photographer who took a photograph that was really fun, of us doing yoga.
Jim: That’s great. Wow. So is there anything, as you think back to
Get Rich Slowly, that you wish you had done differently?
J.D.: I wish I had taken it more seriously as a business from the
start. I really didn’t know what I was doing, I was just kind of making it
up as I went along. And actually, maybe that’s why I succeeded.
Jim: I mean, you were only making it up as you went along, so to
speak, for, like, seven months, right? Because you said at the beginning of
2007, you started taking it more seriously?
J.D.: Yeah, I began to take it more seriously, but I still, I was
chicken. I was afraid to go out and find advertisers; I didn’t do anything
besides try to maximize my Google ad placement and stuff like that.
There were other people, including Jim, who were taking it much more
seriously. And Jim knows very well that he provided a key piece of advice
when we first met in San Francisco. There was a gathering of personal
finance bloggers, and Jim asked me a very specific question about, “Why are
you monetizing this particular page?” And I was, like, “Well, I don’t
Jim: That was the biggest mistake of my business career.
J.D.: I didn’t take anything from you.
Jim: Oh, no, no, I know, but I should have bought Get Rich Slowly.
J.D.: Oh, yes, yes. Exactly. You could have got it cheap.]
Jim: I told that story to Neil Patel. At some event I’m talking to
him, he’s, like, “Oh, do you know Get Rich Slowly?” I’m, like, “Yeah,
yeah.” He’s, like, “You should have bought it.” And I’m, like, “Yes, I
know.” “Thank you for reminding me.” But I wasn’t that obvious of a
business person back then.
J.D.: Right. I mean, we’re all learning as we go along. So, Jim gave
me this, he asked me this question and it made me go, “Huh.” And I
remember, I went back to the hotel and I looked at the stats on the page,
and I’m, like, “Oh, wow. This page receives a lot of traffic.” And the page
was very heavily monetizable or very easily monetizable, and so I did, that
boosted my income, well, from four figures to five figures, let’s put it
that way. Per month.
Jim: Oh, I wish you didn’t tell me that.
J.D.: It made a huge difference. And, yeah, all of a sudden someone
would’ve had to pay much more to buy it. And that’s the thing, you know,
people were offering to buy Get Rich Slowly early on and I just thought it
was a joke. Who would buy a blog? At some point, for very specific reasons,
I decided, “Okay, I’ll listen to the offers.”
And the first offer was ludicrous, somebody offered me $5,000 for it, and
at the time I was coming close to making $5,000 a day, so I why would I
take that. And then the very next offer was, let’s just say, significantly
more, and . . .
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: . . . I had to sit down and think about things.
Jim: For what it’s worth, I value our friendship at around five
figures a month. So I feel like, in the end, it all worked out. It’s been
great chatting with you, JD, thanks a lot for the time.
J.D.: Yeah, it’s been a great conversation.
Jim: Yeah, I wanted to ask before we went, what’s your favorite book right
J.D.: Well, that’s an interesting question, there, that right now . .
Jim: Or ever.
J.D.: Okay. To me, the most influential book, the book that’s had the
greatest impact on my life, is a book called “How I Found Freedom in an
Unfree World”, and it’s written by a fellow named Harry Browne.
Most people know Harry Browne because he was a libertarian candidate for
president of the United States in 1996 and 2000, and he was a very strong
libertarian. And to me, that’s neither here nor there. Even though “How it
Found Freedom in An Unfree World” does eventually devolve into libertarian
politics, I think that it’s an important book because what it’s really
about is personal freedom. How to achieve personal freedom.
And to me the ideas he presented in the book were so revolutionary when I
read it, and this book was written in, like, 1971. When I read the book in
2008, 2009, whenever it was, it was just mind blowing to me. Here’s a guy
saying it’s okay to do what I want when I want as long as I’m not hurting
other people. And that had kind of been my philosophy, but I never followed
through on it.
And this guy was saying, Harry Browne is saying, that, “If you want to be
happy, it’s the only way to live.” So, for me, “How I Found Freedom in an
Unfree World” is just kind of this radical game changer, so I push it on
people all the time.
Jim: It’s interesting you say that because as you’re talking about
your college experience and trying to sort of keep up with your friends and
keep up with appearances, and it sort of led you down a not great path of
$20,000, $30,000 of debt. This book, years later after your college
experience, seems to almost tap into that and say, “Listen, you don’t have
to do that.”
J.D.: Right. So, a large part of my personality, all my life, has
been based on trying to please other people. And this book basically says,
“Don’t try to please other people, try to please yourself. And in doing so,
you will find sets of people, whereby, pleasing yourself, you’re also
pleasing them, and so everything will fit up.
You might have to leave off some of your existing relationships because
doing things your way might not sit well with some your existing friends.
But that’s okay because you will make other friends. You have to be a jerk
to your existing friends; it’s just a matter of finding friends that are
more compatible.” And that can seem radical and it can seem like its bad
advice, somebody trying to recommend you be a dick or something, but that’s
not what he’s saying at all.
The funny thing is, despite having read this, and despite subscribing to it
wholeheartedly, I still have some of my old habits ingrained so deeply that
it’s very difficult for me sometimes to not care what other people think.
My girlfriend right now, we were just talking about this the other night,
she’s, like, “Yeah, J.D., it seems like sometimes all you want to do is
please people, and it’s not necessarily the best thing.” It was, like,
“Huh, she’s right.”
Jim: It’s tough to change your behavior after so many years right?
And some of those things, when you’re learning them in your formative years
as a kid, as a baby, as a whatever, I mean, to try to change it later on is
extremely difficult, but it’s admirable. And if it’s for the better, it’s
better that you change later or adjust later, than not at all. Right?
J.D.: Yeah, oh, absolutely. It’s the same thing with personal
finance. I mean, people make mistakes and they might wake up and they’re 40
years old and realize, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to retire soon. What am I
going to do?” It’s better to get started at 40 than to wait until you’re
Jim: Yep. Yeah, it’s very, very true. Is there a website that you’re
particularly fond of?
J.D.: You mean other than
Jim: Come on. A real one.
J.D.: Yeah, you know, I’ve been reading. Hold on, let me find it
here. I do a lot of thinking about personal development and how to be a
better person, and so I’m really drawn to websites that are about that. And
one that I’ve been reading more and more lately is called,
and it’s R-A-P-T- I-T-U-D-E. It’s kind of the combination of rapt, rapt
attention, and attitude.
And it’s written by a guy named David and it’s all about getting better at
being human, he says. And I find that a lot of the things he writes about
are the same things I’ve been thinking about and he’s come to the same
conclusions that I’ve come to. And so . . . I don’t know.
Jim: It’s resonating with you right now.
J.D.: What’s that?
Jim: It’s resonating.
J.D.: Resonating.
Jim: Yeah.
J.D.: Yeah, exactly right. And I just found out recently that David
and I will, David Cain is his name, he and I will actually be presenting
together this summer and this little retreat that I do in Ecuador. So I’ll
get a chance to meet him and talk to him in person – that’ll be very fun.
Jim: That’s cool, that’s cool. How about, last question, well,
second to last question. Any new hobbies or favorite hobbies right now?
J.D.: Yeah, so, I took up, on January 1st, I decided that I wanted to
learn guitar. And so, I’ve been spending my Thursdays doing hour-long
guitar lessons, and I try to practice for half an hour every day, because
I’m in the middle of a big project right now, that hasn’t been exactly
what’s happening. But that’s okay because once the project is done I know
that I will have the dedication to do half an hour a day.
So, I want to learn to play guitar, so that when I’m sitting around with my
friends, I can play and they can sing because I can’t sing for crap. And
meanwhile, I’m still trying to improve my Spanish, that was my big thing a
couple years ago, is I spent a year learning Spanish and got to a nice
intermediate level, and so I want to maintain that. And I have a workbook
that I try to spend about 20 minutes in every day just practicing my verb
conjugations and so on.
Jim: Have you ever played any other instruments, or was guitar your
J.D.: Yeah, in fifth and sixth grade I was first first-chair of
violin. Very small school, but.
Jim: Still, first-chair.
J.D.: I know. I could play Rhinestone Cowboy and the theme to Star
Jim: Does that translate well to the guitar?
J.D.: What’s that?
Jim: Does that translate well to the guitar? No, it’s a different
number of strings, right?
J.D.: Well, the ideas do. I was going to say that in college I was in
choir for a couple of years, not in college, in high school. I don’t know
what I said. In college I took a semester of piano, so I have some music
background. So while those skills are not directly applicable to the
guitar, the basic concepts in the music theory does apply.
So, I can read notes, for example, which, apparently, not a guitar players
can because they use this tablature format, and I’m learning the tablature
format, which is pretty easy. For me, the most difficult thing with a
guitar is learning to play chords. I can play the sheet music, albeit
slowly, but the chords are much more difficult.
Jim: Yeah, I think I need to pick up a new hobby.
J.D.: Do you play an instrument?
Jim: I played the piano for, jeez, like, ten years when I was a kid.
And we just bought a house last summer and it came with a grand piano, or a
baby, I don’t know, it’s a big piano.
J.D.: So [inaudible 00:58:04] been sitting down and playing with it?
Jim: Yeah, here’s the funny thing, when I was a kid I would always
play classical stuff. Be, like, [inaudible 00:58:21] and all the composers.
And I never played pop music until, maybe, like, the very last year, I
started playing a little pop music, and now that’s all I want to play
because it’s songs I recognize, and, like, there are very few classical
songs that I like.
And that are at the intersection that where I like it enough where I want
to practice and play it. Whereas, there are plenty of current, just pop
music, there are current, I don’t even know what the categorization is,
but, like, people making classical type music today that’s a beautiful. And
so I’ve been trying to play some of that stuff.
J.D.: See I hadn’t even thought to look at that. It was interesting,
in my guitar lessons, we started with chords because that’s what most
people want to start with, but it became quickly apparent that I was much
more interested in picking out tunes on the sheet music.
Jim: I only had one last question.
J.D.: Okay, go ahead.
Jim: If people want to find you right now, where should they go?
Where will they find you?
J.D.: The best place to find me is at I keep a blog there
that I call More Than Money, and during the year of 2014 I’m doing a series
of articles on personal freedom. So I’m trying to, every Monday, post
another article that furthers the ideas that I’ve been developing about
finding happiness, overcoming fear, and pursuing freedom. And I’m going to
talk very much about the book I had mentioned earlier, “How I Found Freedom
in an Unfree World.” And I also share funny videos from time to time, and
today I posted an article about personal finance, believe it or not.
The big project I’ve been working on lately, is this guide, almost a
course, to how to become the chief financial officer of your own life. And
we’re nearing the final stages of that and it should be out in a few weeks,
and I’ll certainly publicize there.
Jim: Yeah, we’ll definitely throw links to, basically, every book of the
half-dozen books, and all these links in the show notes so people won’t
have to search for it too hard. J.D., I appreciate the time.
J.D.: Thanks so much Jim.
Jim: This has been a great chat, it’s been a lot of fun. And, take
J.D.: Take care.
Jim: Thanks for listening to the first episode. [Inaudible 01:00:32]
in large part because J.D. and his incredible story. But, I hope to do
many, many more with folks with equally incredible stories. If you enjoyed
this podcast it would really help me out if you’re able to leave us a
rating on iTunes and tell all of your friends. I mean, every last one of
them. It would really help me out, so, thank you, thank you.
If you want to reach me, suggest a guest, or just say hi, you can email me
at, or find me on twitter as wangarific. Thanks a lot,
I’ll see you next time.

Special Thanks

I want to extend a special thank you to Josh Dorkin of Bigger Pockets and Joe Saul-Sehy of Stacking Benjamins for their podcasting insights.

Both are awesome, both have their own podcasts, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking them out:

  • BiggerPockets Podcast – If you’re at all involved with real estate investing, or simply want to be, this is a knowledgeable and entertaining podcast and they aim to give actionable insights with each episode.
  • Stacking Benjamins – Hands down one of the most entertaining podcasts I listen to and I love the casual nature of it. Learn personal finance and be entertained… plus Joe is engaging.

Check them out!

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In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog ( that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

18 responses to “MBP #1: JD Roth on Getting Rich Slowly, How a writer built a blog that transformed his life”

  1. Jason says:

    I am glad I stumbled onto this. I just happened to check my twitter at the right time. I haven’t had a chance to listen but I have been a read of GRS for years, it inspired me to do my own site and to start it up again recently. I have subscribed to the show, and look forward to the rest.

  2. Viv says:


    Could you please offer the pod transcript…? Not everybody has bandwidth guzzling internet connection yet.

  3. Thanks Jim! I love listening to your first podcast! It is great to hear how one blog grew and the honesty and struggles as a blog.

  4. Ryan says:

    Excellent podcast. I’ve heard much of J.D.’s story before, but it’s always inspirational to listen to it again. I look forward to hearing more from you, Jim.

  5. Ryan says:

    J.D. Thanks for the recommendation for Raptitude – I enjoy the writing. Also, as far as guitars go, think about your goals for playing and focus all your learning toward achieving those goals. For example, if you want to play with friends and for general entertainment in a group setting, then learn chords. That will be the quickest way to get songs under your belt. With a few chords, you can accompany yourself to hundreds of songs.

    Pick up a copy of The First 20 Hours, by Josh Kaufman. He discusses how to learn new skills quickly. Not to the expert level, but just enough to become better than average – all within 20 hours of applied learning. This can easily apply to guitar (he shows how he did it with the ukelele). I recommend starting with G, C, D, and e minor for the most appeal. Once you have those chords under your belt, a variety of songs will come fairly easily. Then you can start learning other chords so you can play more songs in other keys.

    Make sure you focus your lessons on reaching your goals. Don’t let your teacher make you learn something you aren’t interested in or that won’t help you reach your goals. You don’t need to read music, have perfect technique, or know how to play scales to adequately play guitar in a group setting.

  6. Jim,

    Really enjoyed this. Thanks so much for putting it together. JD made his dreams come true through hard work, so good for him!

    Best wishes.

    • Jim says:

      Thank you Jason – was there anything from the podcast that resonated with you? Any tips that you might implement?

      • Jim,

        I think what I most appreciated about the podcast is just how JD was honest from front to back. That’s exactly what I do as well, so I can respect his journey and what he’s done.

        I doubt I’ll ever get to $4,000/mo in earnings or sell the blog for seven figures, but that’s okay because that’s not my aim.

        Best regards!

        • Jim says:

          Hi Jason – JD is very open and honest, which is one reason why so many people connect with him – he’s authentic. I actually found that every one of my guests (I’ve recorded a lot of these podcasts now) has been open and forthcoming, but JD is certainly a rare breed in terms of complete openness.

          Don’t sell yourself short! You can get to $4,000/mo in earnings, you’re in a lucrative niche (investing) and once you find your area and dominate it, $4,000 will seem small. 🙂

  7. Forest Parks says:

    I never heard JD talk before and was never an avid GRS reader but must say I really really enjoyed the interview and realised I should be following JD more closely. He is an inspiration and seemingly straight up guy. Awesome podcast Jim, will be looking forward to the next one!

    • Jim says:

      JD is definitely straight up, he’s easy going, very approachable, and I challenge you to find someone who is as down to earth as him.

  8. Sue Smith says:

    I really enjoyed your first podcast. The sound was nice and even–I listen with headphones so this is important. I’m looking forward to more from you. Thanks Sue

    • Jim says:

      Thank you Sue! Your feedback helps a lot, we’ve been working a lot with the sound to try to make it high quality, I’m glad it comes through!

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