I love Money… the magazine and the concept. Today, I want to focus on the magazine. I’ve been reading Money (along with Kiplingers) since I was in high school. That’s around 25 years now.
When each issue hits my mailbox, I’m so excited to see what’s inside. It’s little bit of Christmas that comes every month. Except this last month’s issue was… different.
The cover almost made me throw-up in my mouth. Money has already sold me so the cover isn’t important to me.
Then I started to read it. It didn’t get better. If possible, it got worse.
I gave it to my wife and asked, “Do you see anything wrong with this?” I feel like this is a good litmus test. She’s not a personal finance junkie like myself. So if she says, no, that’s great. I might be crazy, but maybe it would be differently crazy.
My wife pointed to an article that I hadn’t noticed.
This issue of Money magazine was such a dumpster fire that we couldn’t even agree on which trash is getting burned the most.
I am going to point out why the magazine was so bad. This might make me Grumpy McGrumpface I deliver this criticism with love. Tough love, but love nonetheless. Perhaps my stinging criticism will get their attention.
I’m going to offer some solutions to their issue (pun completely intended). I sympathize with Money. The issue before this one announced an editorial change. I imagine it is difficult to sell magazines in a world where newspapers are a dying breed.
(Note to Money: If any of the “fixes” below make sense, then reach out to me. I’m happy to write for you. This article isn’t a soliticiation. Some companies would pay tens of thousands of dollars for this kind of feedback. I offer it freely.)
What Wrong with Money Magazine?
It starts with the cover. The sub-heading on the magazine is “Tony Robbins Wants to Make You Rich.” It reminded me of when Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki published a book in 2006 titled “Why We Want You to Be Rich.”
“The Donald needs no introduction. Kiyosaki’s success with Rich Dad Poor Dad has spawned a franchise of books, games and speaking engagements… Impressive resumes. Alas, unimpressive book. Why We Want You to Be Rich is a thinly veiled infomercial for more financial-advice products from Kiyosaki, Trump and their minions. They sell positive thinking and can-do haziness — specific details cost extra.”
I’m not being political, I’m quoting a review from 2006. If Pee-Wee Herman runs for office, it’s fair for me to quote Pee-Wee Herman reviews (and Chair), right? This isn’t partisan.
Sorry, I got sidetracked.
My point was: If you want to make me rich, then simply give me your money. I’m here and I have a a contact form. If there’s a way I can make it easier for you, let’s talk. Don’t try to sell me a book.
It’s strange to hear that Tony Robbins wants to me rich. For decades he’s been known as an inspirational speaker. He didn’t seem to be interested in helping people with money until a couple of years ago.
In fact, Tony Robbins talked about his connections with “financial people” in this video in 2010. This “economic warning” gives a recommendation of taking money out of the stock market.
With the benefit of 7 years of hindsight, it doesn’t seem that it was good advice.
So it is very strange to have Money trumpeting Tony Robbins on the cover. He seems to admit that he doesn’t know jack-poop about finance in the video. I can find 2000 people at FinCon, who care about personal finance deeply. They live and breathe it. Why aren’t they on the cover of the magazine? (To avoid an aesthetics argument, there are attractive people at FinCon… myself not being one of them).
But even if you throw away Robbins’ failure at personal finance, there’s the time he was directly responsible for dozens of injuries according to the Washington Post. That article is from June of last year… it’s not old news.
Money magazine couldn’t wait 5 or 6 years to promote someone with almost no personal finance knowledge (that he seems to admit to)… and what he seemed to say was proven wrong.
I don’t have the space to express the number of people who might be more appropriate for the cover. Instead, I’ll jump to animals. Yep my dog is a personal finance guru. And yes my dog is much, much more handsome than Tony Robbins. He has the paper to prove it.
Phew… that is a lot of writing that seems to attack Tony Robbins. I love second chances. Let’s give him one. That’s fair, right?
Do you think this Money Magazine feature of Tony Robbins is about saving money, investing appropriately, or something that is actionable by readers. As my 4 year old would say: Nahhhh!
Instead the Tony Robbins feature seems to openly disclose that he’s promoting for a 401k company. The point he’s trying to make was essentially “401k fees are bad.”
It’s a valid point, but I covered the problem of excessive 401k fees a decade ago. And I wasn’t paid to promote a company. I was simply explaining something I read.
Oh and I didn’t include a picture of myself on my private jet like Robbins did.
I’m ready for my close-up
Mr. DeMille Mr. Money Magazine.
Not everything wrong with this issue of Money is about Mr. Robbins… though I wonder if he’d like it to be. I threw him under the bus (and drove over him a few times), but this isn’t about one feature. I didn’t jump to that article.
Let’s take Tony out of the picture and pretend that “scandal” didn’t happen.
One person does not a dumpster fire make.
The Rest of Money Magazine
On page 12 there was a 2-page spread (“First”) on a $250 million dollar home. It appears to be a rewrite of this January article. CNN used to be CNN Money, I think.
I hope there isn’t a picture of a candy wall… Nope, there is. It looks like your standard candy store, but it’s important journalism to note that this is in my “typical” $250 million house. Why is a personal finance magazine wasting precious publishing space with this?
Can the average person relate to a $250 million home?
The next page has an article of “She Became a Billionaire at Age 82.” It is about an entrepreneur in Japan who started her company in 1973. It appears there were unique gender challenges in Japan at the time. Kudos for her overcoming huge odds.
Can you relate to an 82 year-old Japanese billionaire? Can you use that to improve your financial situation.
The next article is about “Streaming on a Shoestring Budget.” Good idea, but it isn’t about streaming services… where the real cost is. Instead it is about streaming devices. Fine… but if you have a “shoestring budget”, why pitch the Amazon Fire TV at $90 instead of the Fire Stick at around $40?
Page 18 has the article that caught my wife’s attention, “Which Would You Rather: a Million Dollars or True Love?” It starts out with “Love or Money? It looks like money has the edge.” It turns out that the poll is about a million dollars annually. The title is clearly misleading, right? Using the 4% rule a million dollars is worth around $40,000 annually, right? If you stack the deck with dozens of millions of dollars, is it really surprising that money wins?
I’m not even at page 20 and there are 3 articles that have a focus around people having tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.
Oh and there’s that Tony Robbins stuff.
Let’s Fix this!
This article is getting long, so I want to make this quick. Fortunately this isn’t complicated. Here are a few recommendations:
- Don’t get carried away in thinking that the title of the magazine (“Money”) means you should write about everything that fits. This isn’t the Robb Report.
- Think about your readership and ask, “Can my readers relate to this article?”
- Then ask, “Does this article give actionable information?” How can a reasonable of percentage of people use the article (How does a house with a candy wall help my personal finance situation?)
- Please say no to informercial stuff. You have Tony Robbins promoting a 401k company. He’s talking with Bogle, who happens to be featured in his new book. If you want me to listen to your message get the special interests out of the room. Why not have Elizabeth Warren talk with Bogle about 401k fees? I am confident she’d jump on the opportunity. Maybe you could disclose the financial relationship you had in promoting it?
- In for a penny, in for a pound… I’m going to go all Brick Heck on you. I’m the last person to talk about fonts, but they were all over the place. It’s like San Serif and Serif are fighting it out. I’m not sure who the winner was, but it certainly wasn’t the reader. And I didn’t mention the capitalization in the “Which Would You Rather: a Million Dollars or True Love?”, but I think a 9 year old knows that you need to capitalize that “a”. Oops, I did mention it. I’m obviously not the grammar or proofreading police, but I think there’s a difference between paying subscribers and my blog.
I suppose I’m now Grumpy McGrumpface. In nearly 300 issues, I haven’t seen something so bad in so many ways.