What I’ve Learned In 4 Years Of Blogging

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I don’t normally schedule my posts to publish on Friday, but today is a special day for The Retirement Manifesto.

Today is April 12th. 

As of this morning, I’ve been blogging for four years! 

On April 12, 2015 I wrote my very first post on this blog, stating at the time that I was writing this blog as “The story of my journey, told in The Present before it becomes The Past” (my favorite line from that first post, btw). I’ve written every week since, and you’ve been along for the ride as we’ve moved through the retirement planning stage and into our early retirement in June 2018. 

It’s been a heckuva ride. 

We’ve attracted a few readers along the way, and I offer a sincere “Thank You” to each and every one of you.  You’re the reason I continue to peck away at this keyboard, publishing 259 posts in the 209 weeks since that first post on April 12, 2015.  

I’ve Learned Some Things Along The Way.  

Today, I'm sharing what I've learned in 4 years of blogging.  It's been a heckuva ride preparing for, and entering, retirement. Here's what I've learned.... Click To Tweet

what i've learned from blogging

What I’ve Learned In 4 Years Of Blogging

For my Blogversary, I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned during in 4 years of blogging.  What I’ve learned is more important than “the numbers”, though I have decided to share a snapshot for those who care about such things.  The numbers aren’t important to me (though, admittedly, they’re fun to watch).  For those who care, here they are:

I continue to be surprised by how many folks are reading my words each week, and I thank you for your loyalty. I particularly appreciate the 4,209 of you who receive my words every week via email subscription.  You’re the most loyal of the loyal, and I thank you for letting me touch your inbox each week.

More important than the numbers, however, are the lessons I’ve learned through the past four years of blogging.

Here’s what I’ve learned:


1. Motivation Matters

For a blog to be successful, there must be a real passion behind your writing.  This blog has become a Purpose in my post-retired life, and it means a lot to me.  I’ve discovered that I love to write, and I love to help people.  These past four years of blogging have allowed me to do both, and it’s what motivates me to continue to write.

I suspect many folks start a blog for the wrong reasons  Many, for example, may think it’ll be a nice “side hustle” to pull in some extra cash.  After months of frustration that the revenue doesn’t meet expectation, they become de-motivated and their blog suffers.  I’ve seen many blogs fall by the wayside during my years of blogging.  For those who care, I cleared a grand total of $376, after expenses, in 2018.  I’m fine with that, my goal has been to generate enough income to offset the cost of running this thing.  If I make more, fine, but it’s not why I write. Don’t make “the money” your primary purpose for writing a blog. 

Find a deeper Purpose.

I did a lot of research before I retired, and a key finding was the importance of finding a true Purpose in retirement.  Find something you love, preferably something that can also make the world a better place.  Find a way to help others, and don’t focus on yourself.

In my case, my byline of “Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement” is my core motivation for writing.  Sharing the lessons we’re learning in a form that helps others learn from our experience is rewarding beyond description and a worthy pursuit for my retirement years.  I hope to continue many years of blogging.

Knowing that the words I write are making an impact on the lives of others is humbling, and I take seriously my role of helping each of you along your journey. 

It’s My Purpose.

It’s My Motivation.


2. Focus On Creating Great Content 

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my years of blogging is that the focus must be on creating great content.  I often interact with new bloggers, and my message is always the same:

Focus on creating great content. Then, Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Click To Tweet

It takes years to develop a large following, and you’ll have new readers stopping by all the time.  Your latest post should always be the best content you’re capable of creating.  I’m not always successful at achieving it, but creating great content is always my goal. Creating great content with the reader at top of mind is the formula for a successful blog.  If you do nothing else, focus on creating great content.

Week after week after week after week.

Do it right, and the growth will follow. 

Don’t focus on the numbers, don’t focus on money, don’t focus on yourself.

Focus on great content.

Period.


3. The Reader Must Be The Focus Of Your Writing

In my humble opinion, there are too many narcissists in the world, and I doubt I’m alone when I say that I really don’t care for them.  Most folks have enough challenges in their own lives to worry all that much about what you’re facing.  No one really wants to read about you, you, you.

I think about the reader with every post I write.  I think about what you’re struggling with, what questions you’re likely asking, what you worry about, what you want to know.  Sure, I tell our story, but my purpose in telling it is to give you an example that you can apply in your own life.

I write so that the reader can learn from what we're going through as we all figure out this retirement thing together. Click To Tweet

My wife and I are not alone as we walk this journey to, and through, retirement.  We’re all walking it together.  Finding a way to write about things we’re experiencing in a way that can help you on your journey (hopefully) makes this blog worth your time to read. 

It’s Not About Me.

It’s About You. 

BTW, I love interacting with the readers of this blog.  You may have noticed that I’m very active in the comments which flow after my posts are published.  I do that on purpose.  It’s my chance to talk directly with you, and I respond to almost every comment (though it’s getting more challenging as this blog continues to grow, no promises that I can keep up the pace).  Every day that a post comes out, I carve out several hours to interact with the reader comments.  It takes a lot of time, but it’s one of my greatest joys of blogging. 

There’s nothing more rewarding than getting notes from readers with some specific ways my blog is helping them on their journey.  I received a great email a few weeks ago, and was so excited that I couldn’t help but send the following tweet (if you’re not already, feel free to follow My Twitter Account):


4. This Community Is A Great Source Of Social Connection

As I did my research about how to have a successful transition to retirement, the issue of social connection was a common theme.  When we retire, we leave behind our work colleagues, and folks who don’t find a way of building new social connections often struggle in their transition.

In my years of blogging, I’ve made some great friends in the blogging and reader community.  I now have hundreds of friends who pound away at their keyboard every week, or read the words we’re publishing into the blogosphere.  We all have a lot in common (personal finance, early retirement, blogging), and that seems to lead to natural connection.  We’ve had blogging friends stay at our retirement cabin, and I’ve had countless phone calls with folks I’ve yet to meet.

I look forward to the FinCon conference in September, where I’ll get the chance to once again spend some time with my “virtual friends”, who are anything but virtual.  They’re real people, just like me, and I enjoy spending time with my blogging friends.

I’ve also been fortunate to have met numerous readers over the years, and count many of you as friends.  If you’re ever in Blue Ridge, let me know.  I’d love to meet you, and I may even buy you a coffee.  🙂

Find a way to build social connections, then nurture the friendships that develop as a result.

Your retirement (and your life) will be better as a result.


5. Expect The Unexpected

I had someone tell me early in my blogging career to expect the unexpected.  “You’ll be surprised how many opportunities arise that you never saw coming”, they said.  I never realized how accurate that statement was, but in my years of blogging, I’ve realized the wisdom of those words.

There have been many opportunities that have come up when I was least expecting them.  Some examples: An invitation to appear on a YouTube video, an interview with The Washington Post, the chance to appear on dozens of podcasts, and a TV interview that led to a chance meeting with Governor Huckabee, to name just a few.

Meeting Governor Huckabee? THAT was unexpected!

I love the unexpected surprises that have developed as a direct result of my years of blogging.

They keep life interesting.

Life’s more fun that way.


6. Have Some Fun Along The Way

Speaking of fun, sometimes you just have to smile.  I don’t take myself too seriously, and I tend to view the glass as “half full”.  Inevitably, in my years of blogging some things have come up which I could lose some sleep over.   Or…I could just have a little fun.

Take, for example, “The Haters”.

Every blogger who’s been around a while has them.  Personally, I find them to be amusing.  My skin’s pretty thick, and I don’t take much of what they say to heart.  I will stop and consider if their comment has merit, and reflect on any changes I may want to implement if I think the criticism is reasonable.

Most often, it’s not.  That’s when I try to have a little fun.  I try to come up with witty, yet respectful, responses.  I may share the hater’s comment on Twitter, along with my response and my favorite #LoveTheHaters hashtag.

And then I move on.  

Life’s too short to not have a little fun along the way.

Don’t let the idiots rain on your parade. 

Instead, pull on some rubber boots and go play in the puddles.


Conclusion

Four years of blogging.  Wow.  Back on April 12, 2015, I never imagined that this blog would become what it has.  I’ve enjoyed the ride and sharing the lessons we’ve learned as we prepared for, and entered into, our retirement.

I hope I’m not the only one who has learned a few things over the years, and that my words have had some impact in “Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement”.

Thanks for being along for the ride. 

65 comments

  1. Congrats on 4 years!
    Thank you for all the wisdom you’ve shared over that time.
    Awesome substantive content, always positive, well-written and highly applicable and practical.
    Best,
    Joe Casey

    1. Hi, I am D, with Inspired Underdog, I think it´s great what you are doing and the support that you are receiving. I am just starting my journey and look forward to the day that I can say the same.

  2. Helping people is key. I often respond to emails and DMs on Instagram to people who ask me what an index fund is, what SWR means, how does social security work, etc. Sharing knowledge to help people and make a difference feels great. As for haters, of course you have to have some fun with it. Let me gets my rubber boots…

  3. Thank you. I’ve followed you as a lurker. You have helped me decipher a great deal of the planning needed for a good retirement. Please know that you make a difference especially to those who don’t comment often as well.

    1. Lurker here, too. But, I have to say this blog has helped me tremendously with my retirement planning. It’s the only one for which I created a “special folder.” That’s big for me! Congratulations on your anniversary, Fritz, and please know you are helping many, many people, not just your regular readers/commenters, but for those of us to have yet to “come into the sun.”

      1. Wow, I have a special folder!!?? Blushing….

        Thanks for your kind words. It’s encouragement like this that keeps me going with this blog! Happy to know I’m helping you on your journey! Thanks for stepping out into the sun!

  4. Congrats on 4 years! Numbers 2 & 3 are key for me. Too many bloggers, not enough substance these days, so quality & relatability are huge. Typos can be forgiven once or twice, but if you can’t take 5 minutes to proofread, I don’t have 5 minutes or more to waste on what you’re trying to say (or sell). Thanks for meaningful content.

    1. 5 Minutes to proofread? I typically spend more time editing than writing, and I STILL find typos after I hit “publish”. ARGH!! It KILLS me when people don’t spend the time required for a comprehensive edit before they publish their work (it’s part of focusing on great content, in my mind). Thanks for the forgiveness!

  5. You are amazing Fritz and I am so impressed by your knowledge, wit, understanding and compassion. This relates not only to your field of expertise in early retirement, but also in your broad range of interests and your incredible overall love of life. (Because I am your older sister, I have the right to brag about you, embarrass you, and keep you on your toes! – Oh and love you like only a sister can!) Love you immensely.
    Huge hugs.

  6. Good job. I have learned a lot and you verified what my thoughts were many times (which is helpful to me because it verifies that I am not the only crazy one). Good luck on the next 4 years!

  7. Congratulations of 4 years!!! I remember well when you first talked about starting the blog. You are a talented writer and express complicated processes in such an easy to understand way. So amazed by your dedication and perseverance in this endeavor! Thank you for the way you keep the focus on others and being so transparent in realities of your and Jackie’s journey. Love you both to pieces!

    1. Mucho Congrats…..
      Following your Bucket Strategy as I begin to crossover to the other side.
      I was in Blue Ridge on a cold weekend two weeks ago and was thinking I just might run into you. 😉
      I loved hearing your purist approach to blogging. Keep on inspiring your adoring fans.

      1. And you didn’t call? I’m crushed. 🙁

        If you’re ever here on a Saturday, stop by The Barking Lot (downtown, can’t miss it, it’s where all of the rescue dogs are) between 11-4 and you’ll find me and my glowing bride! Except this summer, of course, since we’ll be spending it in The Pacific Northwest. Sorry I missed you, lmk next time and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee!

  8. Really nice job Fritz!! And the fun part is, there is so much more unexpected yet to come!

  9. Congratulations on 4 years. That’s a big accomplishment. It really is tough to keep blogging week after week. You have to love the subject to keep going. Great job.

    1. Financial Samurai on my site!! Wow, that’s unexpected. Smiling here.

      LOVE your stuff. Curious about your upcoming big announcement…(see, I DO read your stuff!) I sincerely appreciate how the veterans help the middle tier bloggers, and the middle tier pass along the love to the newbies. I’ll always appreciate the support you’ve shown me over the years, including the honor of writing a guest post for your site. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Hi,

    I just passed my five year anniversary in early retirement and love your emails and your posts. I’m pretty savvy financially speaking, but planning and strategizing the spending side of retirement is a huge change from the wealth building during my working years. Your blogs help with ideas and concepts that have supplemented my financial knowledge in and strategies in retirement. Thank you, and keep on writing!

  11. I’m so glad I found your blog. Content has been relevant and timely. I retired the same year you did, Fritz. Also, I can attest to your personal hands-on approach because you responded to an email question I sent you. Many thanks for your good work. Keep on blogging, baby! 🙂

  12. Fritz,
    Congratulations on four successful years!
    I have been following you for almost a year now…………what a difference you have made for me.
    Originally, I had planned to retire June 2018, but something made me feel that it was not time. Found your blog in May 2018 and began reading your thoughts on plans, setting priorities and financial goals for retirement. It all came into place as I began using your worksheets in the online resources section.
    I feel so much more confident now; I am officially retiring on June 1, 2019. I am looking forward to this next adventure after 38 years in the corporate environment.
    Thank you for this retirement resource, I bet there are hundreds of “silent” readers of this blog that feel the same way.
    All the best,
    Dick

    1. You mean someone actually uses those spreadsheets??

      Congrats on your pending retirement. I’m glad my words (and spreadsheets!) are helping you on your journey. And thanks for breaking your silence, I hope you’re right about those hundreds of others…

  13. Congrats on all that you have achieved. Your posts have been a wealth of information and “hope” for us aiming at retiring soon. I have a co-worker that just recently retired and they bought a cabin up in the North Georgia mountains as well. He grew his hair long plus a beard and loves hitting the trails. I have shared your blog with other co-workers that are soon to be retiring as well. Keep up the great work or rather… great retirement.

  14. Great to see Huckabee in your photo. I told my parents that he’d be our state governor when he and I were both 16. He was my Boy’s State Governor and I was impressed with the way he motivated a crowd of teenage kids. I also predicted he might be president back then, and he arguably was at least in the running a couple of times. Best thing was he outran one of my running buddies in a marathon, which was really embarrassing to my buddy who was a much faster and younger runner who just happened to blow up that day. I’ve never let my friend forget that he got passed by the Gov! Keep on putting out the good stuff, Fritz!

  15. Thanks Fritz. I appreciate the virtual swift kicks in the rear that keep me trudging towards the goal…

  16. Congrats! I’m a true old-timer blogging-wise (though much smaller than you — just haven’t had the time/inclination to grow it, I guess) as I head toward my 11th anniversary this summer. It’s amazing the reader relationships you develop (and yes the relationships with other bloggers too). I always think it’s amazing that people come to read what we have to say. Amazing and humbling, and it sounds like you agree — which is the mark of a good blogger in my estimation.

  17. Congratulations on your four-year blogging anniversary. As a newbie to the world of blogging myself, this article was both informative and inspirational to me. If you are ever in Central Florida, look me up. I’ll buy you a coffee.

  18. Congratulations on your 4 years!

    I’m a relatively new reader, but love your style and point of view. I’m about the same age as you but still have 8-10 years before I’ll be able to retire with a financial plan I feel offers us enough cushion for the long haul. (While I was on the 401k saving train in my first year of full time work, in hindsight was a bit too passive in my savings routines for a lot of those years. #regrets)

    Even though I’ve blogged in other spaces for quite a few years, it somehow never occurred to me to start reading financial blogs. Odd. Now I’m catching up with a lot of the ideas out there and I find your perspective most closely aligns with ours.

    I’ve been devouring books and adapting what we in my house call my BAS (Big A** Spreadsheet) for years. Think I might have to start writing some of my own thoughts down, if just to help myself clarify our direction.

    Looking forward to your next 4 years of posts!

    1. Better late than never, JJT. Keep the faith, you’re well ahead of most of your peers. Glad to know my writing connects with you, and congrats on “catching up”, I’m honored to be among the words that you choose to read.

  19. Aloha Fritz! You share my father’s nickname.

    I am a retired Navy sailor who learned personal finance on his own, culminating with being selected as my ship’s Command Financial Specialist. I especially enjoyed performing free income tax filing for the young sailors, always after hours. This volunteer effort led me on to my reason for this post. Volunteering to build tiny homes for Vets here in KC MO and building safe, affordable homes for families that deserve them with Habitat for Humanity….well, our hearts feel so much “fuller” as we drive away from a build. Meeting these families is worth every ounce of sweat we give! Travel with a Purpose is a bumper sticker we proudly display on the trailer’s bumper. Highly advise any and all volunteering to fill your retirement days!
    Upon my retirement from the Navy, several sailors came up to say “Chief, because of you, I started investing last year and have amassed over $8K in my retirement account. Money I would not have without a push (and shove) from you.” Motivating others to invest in their future selves is SO rewarding Fritz.
    P.S. Enjoy your RV adventure! Carol and I have traveled all over with our 5th wheel. Especially endorse a visit by you both to Banff national park near Calgary. Google it…you will want to visit!! 🙂
    Bon voyage my good man, SKC (Ret) USN Steve

    1. Not too many of us “Fritz’s” out there, cool that your Dad and I share a name! Thanks for your service, and for your charity work with with Habitat For Humanity. I’ve done several builds with them over the years, and can relate to that “full” feeling as you drive away from a build! As for Banff, we did spend 2 weeks there (and in Jasper) while I was still working, absolutely loved it. We decided to take a more direct route home, felt we’ll likely be in the mood to get home on a bit faster route after being gone for 3 months. It’s definitely a target for future travels, amazing place for sure! Thanks for stopping by.

  20. Congratulations Fritz. Although I’m a few years, we’ll maybe several, oh heck almost twenty years ahead of you in this retirement adventure, I throughly enjoy reading about yours and Jackie’s adventures and can see some similarities. Mary and I need to make it to Blue Ridge.

  21. Hi Fritz, congrats on four years! There are many financial blogs, but few contain content and relevance that keep me coming back for more. The Retirement Manifesto’s content and excellent writing certainly do. Thanks for all you share – very applicable as I plan retirement in just over two years.

  22. This was a great read! As someone just hitting my 5 months of blogging I appreciate the reflection, and the numbers. Fascinating to see how you’ve grown.

    It’s awesome that you still reply to every comment – though I see how that is getting challenging.

    Congratulations on 4 years – I look forward to reading more in the coming years!

  23. HUGE congrats Fritz. I had to work the day you posted this so was not first in line like usual 🙂

    Great lessons, well said. Just keep posting, we all love your perspective and I’m particularly jealous of the RV trip. I must do that one day!

  24. Congratulations on four years. I agree the community element and the opportunity to give something back is a great reason to do what you do.

  25. Hey Fritz,
    Congrats on the 4 years…since I am still slogging forward in my first 6 months of blogging, I am truly in awe of the accomplishment. You are one of my blogging heroes and I look forward to every post. You are a model for me of how it should be done.
    I always wondered about how much you actually monetized your blog – and it was so enlightening to find that it is about the writing and really not about the money. And that relating a story is important, but it must be about value to the reader and helpful in some way. Quality content, each post. Sometimes it is practical; sometimes it is simply about making connections.
    I’ve always considered myself to be a competent, careful writer. Like you, it drives me crazy to find errors AFTER I’ve hit that publish button.
    Congrats again and hope you are enjoying that trip!

    1. Oh, Nancy, you could do SOOO much better picking your heroes! 🙂 I’ve enjoyed your blog, you are an excellent writer and I’m sure you’ll continue to grow should you choose to continue in this crazy hobby..!

  26. Thank you for your great blog! I turn 50 this year and your journey and words of wisdom are inspirational as I develop and enact my plan for financial independence.

  27. Congrats on 4 years of writing and making a difference to your readers. I like reading about your adventures and your meticulous planning of most of them. Next time you get to Nashville or close let me know and I will buy you a coffee or beer depending on time of day !

  28. Fritz: Your daily retirement newsletter is one of the few places I go nearly every day. And your infographics are fantastic: what you need to know, all in one handy “poster.” What you and others have shared, I likewise share with co-workers, themselves on the path to retirement but even more woefully ignorant than I!

    Thank you sir.

  29. Fritz:
    Thank you for providing such a wonderful service! Your work is thorough, interesting, professional and on target every time. I look forward to it each week. Please keep up the tremendous work!

    Cheers!
    Col. 3:23-24

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