Confessions of a Professional Blogger Reviewed (Book Giveaway!)

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If I've said it once I've said it at least a half-dozen times, I don't like to do book reviews. I have about 1.2 gigabytes of reading a day from the internet, so the last thing that I look to do is read a book. I'm also not the fastest of readers. It adds up to spending a lot of hours of preparation before I can even sit down and write the book review.

However, when I saw that Miranda Marquit was running an Indiegogo campaign to support her upcoming book, I was intrigued. If you don't know Marquit, you probably don't read too many personal finance blogs. She's written for so many of them, that she's become almost synonymous with personal finance blogging.

Before I get to her book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger, I have my own confession to make. We have traveled in different personal finance circles for years and only briefly crossed paths in one small email chain back in 2008. The Indiegogo campaign gave me an opportunity to support her work, which was my way of saying, "Thank You. I See You."

That introduction opened the door to meeting her at Fincon, an annual personal finance blogging convention. And that led to us coming to agreement where she'll be contributing a couple of articles a month here.

It's Networking 101, but more importantly it is an example of how seeming small gestures can lead to big things.

With that little bonus out of the way, it's time to get to the book review itself. I initially thought the book was going to be how to run your own blog (getting a domain name, installing a content management system such as WordPress, designing a theme, getting plugins, etc.). I was wrong. Then I thought it might dish on some dark practices of bloggers such as ridiculous SEO articles like this one. This was a little closer but I was wrong here too.

It is a book mostly about being a freelance writing for blogs. If you are looking for a guide for how to make money writing articles for people with successful blogs, it is a must-read. Confessions of a Professional Blogger walks you through the whole process of getting recognized, building up a resume, deciding on which jobs to take, and more. What I liked best about the book was the pragmatic approach. Sometimes you have to pay the bills and sometimes that means taking jobs a little out of your comfort zone. As you get experience and recognition, you'll be in a better position to turn down less desirable gigs.

The book extends beyond blogging and even freelance writing by giving advice on the business itself. For example, there's an excellent section comparing the differences between owning a blog and writing for a blog. It's been a long time since I've written about all the things I do running a blog, but there is a huge difference between that and writing for a blog that someone else owns. Each has their own pros and cons, which are well-covered in the book.

That said, there's a lot more to writing than just pumping out a few articles. Marquit coves that in detail as well.

Finally, I really liked various part that dealt with... ummm... I'll just call it "life." Some examples:

  • There is going to be a time when writing or blogging doesn't come easy. When you reach that point, should you quit, outsource some help, or find another solution.
  • What do you do when you realize that there are 10,000 articles about how to save money on gas? (Hint: you need to add your own spin.)
  • How do you manage cash flow of getting paid by different publishers on different schedules? What kind of business trade-offs do you make to ease the bumps of collecting money?
  • How to be more productive, from planning your posts in advance to something that you wouldn't expect (in this kind of book)... eating and sleeping well to keep you in top form.

It might sound like the book is 1,000 pages, but it is quite a quick read. It's a great accomplishment to be able to fit all that information in a small space. As a professional blogger, I'd like to say that I knew everything in there, but I still learned quite a bit. Specifically for my situation, I learned about what I can do to create a good work environment for my writers if I really go full multi-author blog someday.

If you ever thought about making money online and didn't know how to get started, this book will build a foundation and get you headed in the right direction.

Update: I've been able to work out deal with Marquit to give away a book to one reader of Lazy Man and Money. To enter, leave a comment here. The better the comment the more likely I am to give you a few extra entries. (I like to reward those who create or add to the conversation vs. the "give me book" grunts in the comments.) The last date to enter is Feb 16th, 11:59PM. Contest is open to those in continental US (as I'm not sure that Marquit is willing to ship the book to Fiji).

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Last updated on February 10, 2014.

Millionaire by Thirty Book Giveaway

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I recently announced my Lazy Man's Book Giveaway. The second book up for grabs is Millionaire by Thirty by Doulgas R. Andrew. This book is going to offer something that I haven't seen other books: a way to invest in a tax-free environment. This isn't a Roth IRA where you pay taxes before investing or a 401k where you pay taxes when you withdraw money. It's billed as a way to pay no taxes... presumably legally. Interested? So am I!

Review: Millionaire by Thirty

It's probably wrong to call this a review. It's more of an outline. So here goes:

Preface - The book starts out with some big promises. It shows how the author educated his sons who started out with $30,000 incomes to be millionaires by thirty. Not only that, but it promises not to be focused on frugality like avoiding lattes for 40 years - a clear shot at personal finance guru David Bach.

Chapter 1 - This chapter focuses mostly on promising to tell us information later in the book. In the meantime, Andrew tries to identify with those who feel "confused", "isolated", and "powerless" about their money, especially since "most people in their 30s have a net worth of $15,000." In ends, with the all too common issuing of a "challenge."

Chapter 2 - This is where the book gets good. The chapter focuses on identifying dangers, opportunities, strengths. There are several of each listed, but I'll just give an example of each. A danger is trying to live like your parents. The parents might not be financial sound and they probably make more than the young adult out of college. An opportunity is having time on your side. A strength is the Internet, the ability to research almost anything quickly and communicate with others anywhere instantly. While these examples don't sound exciting there are a couple that give a hint on how the million dollars is going to be achieved without frugality on a limited starting salary.

Chapter 3 - This isn't just chapter 3, it is Andrew's homage to the number 3. He cites just about everything except Schoolhouse Rock's Three is a Magic Number. There are a lot of topics rolled into this chapter, but the main premise is that there are strivers, arriver, and thrivers. The strivers are really living paycheck to paycheck, the arrivers are doing the right things and the thrivers are doing quite well. An illustration in this chapter gives more hints or things to come. The striver has no ownership. The arriver owns their home. the thriver owns multiple homes. Yes, the secret sauce of this book is going to be leverage with real estate.

Chapter 4 - This chapter brings us back to the basics of personal finance. It covers paying yourself first, and budgeting with the envelope system (as well as a more advanced system). Then it gets to a murky area of suggesting that it might not be best pay off a student loan at 7% and that it would be wiser to put the money in a conservative investment earning 8% (which he'll give more information on later). He suggests that because student loan interest is deductible to an extent, you are better keeping that. Finally, Andrew suggestions only putting the amount that is matched by an employeer in a 401K account. He's going to show us how to do better later in the book.

Chapter 5 - This chapter covers the basic concept of compound interest and the complex topic of taxes. Jumping between the two is a little like learning multiplication tables and Calculus at the same time. As part of the tax writing, Andrew discourages investing in 401Ks and Roth IRAs because you still have pay the tax at some point. He suggests ignoring traditional CPAs and investment advisors and keeping an open mind. I'll be honest, it's awfully difficult to do this. You'd think that CPAs would know a tax-free investment environment. That kind of thing has a tendency to spread like wildfire.

Chapter 6 - Andrews starts off this chapter by giving what I'll simply say is bad advice: Renting is like throwing money away. It really depends on where you live and what the rental market is. Where I lived in Silicon Valley home prices were routinely over a million dollars leading to a mortgage that would have upwards of $6000/mo. Renting the same place was less than $3000 a month. At some point if you can rent at a much lower rate that a mortgage would be, it's better to rent and pocket the money to invest elsewhere. The Silicon Valley market is an anomoly, but it's important to realize that blanket statements like this can be dangerous.

The chapter goes on to say that if you were making $800 rent payments, you could probably afford $1000 mortgage payments because of the tax deductions. That logic simply dies when you realize that, as a homeowner, you have to have money to cover repairs on the home. To his credit, the author mentions the need to pay extra for insurance and property taxes.

The author then suggests that you don't wait until you have a 20% down-payment before buying a home. Again this is dangerous advice. Andrew also suggests that "if you need to relocate in a year... you can... sell it and buy a different home. Sure, if we gloss over the costs of selling the home (typically 6%).

As if to seal the deal, Andrew offers the story of his son who had bought a place for $170K that appreciated to $240K after 3 years and how that lead to a gain of $70,000 on paper. That's great until a housing crash comes, which it did, and takes it away.

Chapter 7 - This chapter covers what happens when your house appreciates significantly like Andrew's son. The problem is that the $70K in equity is trapped in the house. Andrew suggests a cash-out refinance to get that equity out of the house and put it to work. I suppose that's not terrible advice if three conditions are met: 1) you have significant equity 2) interest rates are going down or at least stable and 3) you have a nice investment to put that money into. Of these three most people are likely to only meet condition and that's arguable. The home I bought 8 years ago has zero equity. Due to the housing crash it lose 30% of its value... a far cry from the 6% appreciation that Andrew's plan assumes. I was able to refinance it last year getting a low rate on a 15-year mortgage that I will likely never see again. That safe investment? I don't see it other than rinsing and repeating and buying another real estate property.

Chapter 8 - This is the chapter where we learn the magic tax-free investment that Andrew has hinted at previously. He's looking for four things in an investment: liquidity, safety, rate of return, and tax-favored harvest. He goes through over a dozen investments from business ventures (not liquid) to stocks and commodities (too risky) to treasure bills (too small of a rate of return) and eliminates them. Finally we learn the sole survivor...

Chapter 9 - ... and it's maximum-funded, tax-advantaged insurance contracts (or MFTA insurance). I'd give you more, but there isn't a lot to write. It's 5 years ago, so I don't know if the 6-9% returns the book mentions are still accurate. Additionally, you can't just go online at StateFarm and sign up for this investment vehicle. It seems that you have to have the right financial company that knows about it (like the one the author owns) to be able to set it up. There's no talk about fees for setting up such a system. Personally, I think this investment could be eliminated because it is not very transparent, is difficult to understand, requires professional guidance that will certainly come with fees, and probably a few more things that I am missing.

Chapter 10 - Chapter 10 closes out the book and is more of a recap of how to live a good life in general. There are things like being healthy and teaching someone else to play a musical instrument. It is out of place given the rest of the book. The topic could cover several volumes and to put it all in a few pages. It feels like the author didn't really know how conclude the book.

Having finished the book, one of the more interesting questions I have now are where are the sons financially now 5 years later. I looked up Emron Andrew (an easier search than his brother due to the unique name) and found that he works for his father at his financial management company. It a lot of ways this seems like a circular reference in Excel. It would appear that they could make money by working with the father, who makes money by having successful sons. That's probably a little too skeptical of me, but I hope I'm not the only one seeing the symbiotic relationship in the family when it comes to finances.

I can't give this book a real recommendation, but maybe you'll get more out of it than I did. I often forget that I've been blogging about personal finance now for 7 years and reading about it for a couple dozen years overall. I shouldn't necessarily judge what you'll find helpful by my experience.

The hardcover version of this book that I'm giving away originally sold for $22.99 in 2008, but if luck is on your side, you could get it free.

How to win Millionaire by Thirty

The verbose explanation is at the book giveaway announcement. Here's the short version. Leave a comment. Better comments increase your odds of winning. Use a real email address so I can get your mailing address if you win. I won't spam you. I'll try to be quick with the shipping, but there are no guarantees.

Get your entries in before Sunday July 21st at 11:59PM ET.

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Last updated on July 12, 2013.

A Million is Not Enough Book Giveaway

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Earlier today I announced Lazy Man's Book Giveaway. The first book up is A Million Is Not Enough by Michael K Farr.

Review: A Million is Not Enough

The title almost gives away the whole book. If you are looking to retire a million is not enough. There's a popular retirement guideline that you can safely withdraw 4% per year to live on in retirement without running out of money (there's some people who say 3.5% is a better number now). That means that a million dollars will give you around $35,000-$40,000 of spending money per year. Despite that popular guideline, A Million is Not Enough suggests that it will generate $50,000 for 25-30 years. Is $50,000 going to fund your ideal retirement? Not likely.

This book is aimed at the Baby Boomer generation. In fact, the author subdivides the Boomers into three groups, the last of which extends ten years past the typical Boomers (those born in 1971). The book starts off by trying to get you to map out your retirement and giving you a guide to doing it. Makes sense, you need to know where you are going before you begin your journey. Next up, the book takes you through calculating your net worth. After that, it takes you through calculating your monthly spending.

The next section of the book is about saving money and how it compounds towards retirement. It gives a number of tips on how to be frugal. One that I liked is "mow your own lawn." Even if you make $100,000 it's worth it rather than paying someone else $40/hr to do it. Most people would say that the person earning $100,000 is making $50 an hour, but after taxes it's less. More importantly, that person is still likely to make a $100,000 whether (s)he mows the lawn or not. The person typically isn't replacing a work hour when (s)he mows the lawn, but instead replacing an hour of watching television. Need more reason to mow your lawn, it's good exercise. A Million is Not Enough gives you about 40 pages of these tips. The idea is that if you implement the tips, you'll find a few hundred extra dollars a month to invest to get you above that million dollar mark for retirement.

The next section of the book is about investing and understanding your risk tolerance. It then transitions to portfolio analysis for each of the three Boomer types. This includes specific companies and funds to invest in, which seem dated 5 years later (anyone investing in Dell as they try to take it private?) Quite honestly, Farr should have stuck with index funds with low expense ratios that stand the test of time.

In the next section, the author takes you through a few real-world examples of different types of Boomers. One of the examples is a man named Henry Rollins who is unfortunately not the Henry Rollins of "Liar" fame.

As we get near the end of the book, Farr gives some advice on the psychology of investing. It focuses on recognizing bubbles. The book ends with a chapter on how to pass money on and creating a legacy.

All in all, my "skim it" review tells me it's a solid book to build a good foundation for Boomers. If you take the general ideas of tracking net worth, budgeting, frugality, and investment, you really can't go too far wrong. Then again, it's not like Farr breaks any new ground in those areas. Slow and steady wins the race and A Million is Not Enough embodies that mantra.

The hardcover version of this book that I'm giving away originally sold for $24.99 in 2008, but if luck is on your side, you could get it free.

How to win A Million is Not Enough

The verbose explanation is at the book giveaway announcement. Here's the short version. Leave a comment. Better comments increase your odds of winning. Use a real email address so I can get your mailing address if you win. I won't spam you. I'll try to be quick with the shipping, but there are no guarantees.

Get your entries in before Sunday July 14th at 11:59PM ET.

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Last updated on July 9, 2013.

Introducing Lazy Man’s Mega Book Giveaway

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I've been blogging for over 7 years now. During that time, a number of publicists have asked me if I'd be interested in their clients' books. Unfortunately, the time it takes me to read a book and write the review doesn't typically work for me. I had good intentions of reading and reviewing the books when I was on vacation, but I simply don't take enough vacations... or I have too many books. I can't tell you how many books I have.

It's time for me to part with these books. (My wife is doing a little jig as I type this. Little does she know it will take a long time before they are gone.) Each week (give or take), I will give a short, very "Lazy" review from a very quick skimming of a book. I'll probably write it with some good-natured snark, because, well, it's fun. (And I could be slightly jealous of the authors for getting their act together and writing a book.)

So how do you get your paws on these books? You leave a comment on my short review. The better your comment, the more entries I'll give you. What qualifies as a "better" comment? I'm looking for something that gets my attention. Funny is good, but informative is even better. Also, please use a valid email address, because if you do not, I can't contact to you if you win. I hate spam as much as you do and I'll never share it with anyone else. I'll try to be quick with announcing the winners (which will likely happen via Twitter and/or the next giveaway announcement.

Does that sound fair? If so, let's get to cleaning out my basement winning some books! We'll start with the first book later today.

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Posted on July 8, 2013.

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