I wrote a post a few weeks ago summarizing my thoughts after my first year of blogging. As we close out the year, I've compiled a list of the top five articles to read from my blog based on reader views.
When Money with a Purpose started, the focus was to be on personal finance. Though that is still the focus, readers showed a lot of interest in topics I didn't plan. As a result, we now focus on three areas.
- Personal finance
- Overcoming adversity
My wife, Cathy, tried her hand at writing late in the year. As it turns out, she's pretty darn good! The proof? Two of her three posts made the top five most read articles last year.
Cathy's articles highlight some of our successes with tips on how to drastically cut expense. We raised a pretty good amount of cash by decluttering. Cathy has a very demanding full-time job with a company that helps keep us all safe. I'm grateful she took the time to write. Based on the results, our readers think so too.
Here is the list.
2018 Top Five Articles to Read
#1 Dealing with Addiction and Its Financial Consequences
In this article, we told our story of our eleven plus year struggle dealing with our son's addiction. I wrote it in June 2018. Rockstar Finance featured it in their 4th of July issue. I told the story on another blog, Out of Your Rut as well.
In late summer, I got a call from Kristen Bahler, a reporter from Money Magazine, asking if I'd be willing to talk to her about a potential article on the topic. I agreed and introduced her to an organization that offers support for parents of addicted loved ones, The PAL Group. The result?
The cover story of the December issue of Money, print and online, highlights three parents' (including Cathy and me) struggle with addicted sons or daughters. The response to that article has been overwhelming. The executive director of PAL, who along with his wife is on the magazine cover, has received hundreds of calls and emails requesting information and help to start a PAL support group.
A hopeful update
Jason, our son, has been in jail since late May 2018. He is the first person approved for a recently initiated Drug Court program in our county. He was released over the weekend, starts a new job after Christmas, has a place to live, and is about to enter a fourteen-month treatment program. The program is, by far, his best chance to deal with his addiction.
I asked him what is different now than in prior efforts to get sober. His answer? His faith; that because of his faith, he has confidence he's never had. Cathy and I were thrilled with that response. He's exhausted from his life as an addict and wants to start a new life. He knows the only way to do that successfully is with a long-term treatment plan.
We are as hopeful as at any time since the discovery of his addiction. We prayed for this to happen most days for the last eleven plus years. The day has now arrived. He knows he has a long road ahead. He seems ready for the journey.
If you're reading this and have an addicted loved one in your family, never give up hope.
Dealing with addiction; Now that's not a topic I thought would ever be on this blog. Why? The story is too personal. It's too painful. And it's too darn difficult to talk about. Yet here we are. What does this have to do with personal finance? Plenty!
#2 How to Drastically Cut Expenses
The number two article is one of Cathy's. In it, she details the list of items we cut out of our budget to save almost $1,600 a month.
It started with decluttering. True confession: Both my mom and dad were pack rats. Much of the stuff Cathy and I collected was mine. You'll read more about that in the number five article. Suffice it to say; I put this off for as long as I possibly could. How bad was my mom? When we went through her things after she passed several years ago, we discovered homework (her homework) from kindergarten. She was age 82 when she died.
That's the definition of a pack rat. Though not that bad, I inherited the trait. I had four bookshelves full of books. Some of those came from my mother's bookshelves. Many of them were my own. We got rid of ten boxes of books. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
We went through the budget looking for things we either weren't using or could get cheaper. The list was long. It's been several months since the cuts. Honestly, neither of us miss anything we cut.
In fact, it's quite the feeling of freedom.
My wife, Cathy, and I have been on a mission in the last year or so to drastically cut expenses from our budget. As you'll read in today's post, Cathy is the detail person who tracks the spending and savings. Regular readers of this blog know of our long battle dealing with our son's addiction.
#3 The Top Four Reasons to Delay Claiming Social Security
As a financial advisor, one of the top issues I help people sort out is how to claim their Social Security benefits. With over 2,700 rules (at last count), it is a complicated process.
Sadly, many people claim their benefit as soon as they are eligible. For some, that makes sense. For others, the decision is costly.
If you are married, filing early affects your survivor benefit. Waiting to claim not only increases your benefit but that of your surviving spouse as well. The reverse is true. Remember, when you claim early, your benefit reduction is either 25% or 30%, depending on your full retirement age. Claiming early reduces your spouse's survivor benefit.
When you add inflation to these numbers, the dollars grow or get reduced more significantly. Though low in recent years, SSA uses a 2.8% inflation number for their calculations.
You forfeit delayed retirement credits when claiming early. That means you lose an increase of 8% per year from your full retirement age until reaching age 70. That's a loss in extra benefits of either 312% or 24% depending on your full retirement age. When you do the math and calculate this over a long life expectancy, the dollars left on the table add up to a significant number. Adding inflation to the mix, it's even more significant.
According to the Center for Retirement Research, 42% of men and 48% of women claim their Social Security retirement at age 62, the soonest they can claim. But is that a wise thing to do? Here are the top 4 reasons to delay claiming Social Security Benefits.
#4 How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction – A True Story
My interview with Drew, from the blog FI Introvert, is at the number four spot for the year. This article made it to Rockstar as a feature article as well. When we think about addiction these days, we think of the opioid crisis. That's appropriate. It has reached epidemic proportions.
Drew's story, however, brings to light a quieter, less visible addiction. The North American Federation for Gambling Addiction Help did a study showing that 2.6% of the Americans have “an addiction problem because of gambling.” That represents over ten million people.
Drew's gambling problems started in college with a trip to Atlantic City. When he got back from that trip, Drew says he “woke up the next day and downloaded online blackjack on my computer. I bought blackjack system books and tried to learn strategies to beat the game.” This happened at a time when the online poker playing craze was just getting started. Having won $1,200 online, he was hooked.
Drew, a self-proclaimed introvert, found the perfect venue to accommodate his personality and his need for the thrills gambling provided when he saw he could do it online. I asked if he thought he was addicted to gambling. Drew said he was 100% addicted; that he worked harder at learning poker than any other skill he pursued.
In the interview, you will hear how he overcame his addiction and offers encouragement for anyone who finds themselves in the midst of it.
What you're about to read is a true story of how to overcome a gambling addiction. Drew runs the blog FI Introvert. As the name suggests, he is a self-described introvert. The goal of his blog is “to help 1,000 introverts step onto the path of financial independence.”
#5 Five Tips to Get Top Dollar When Decluttering
Last, but certainly not least, is Cathy's article chronicling our decluttering exercise.
As you'll read in the article, Cathy is the detail person in the house. I'm the big picture. She fills in the details. As you can imagine, there is conflict in those two personalities. Cathy has never found a detail she didn't like? I rarely find the details interesting. Granted, in my advice business and the blog, I know the details are important and, for the most part, deal with them effectively.
Decluttering requires a lot of tedious, detail-oriented work (at least that's my view of it). As I describe it, I was the labor in the project, she was the brains and the one who executed the strategy.
If you've ever wondered about how to sell things online, you will want to read this article. Cathy talks about how she sold stuff on Craigslist and the Facebook Marketplace. She offers detailed tips on how she did it, including pictures and strategies for each. That includes tips for moving the items listed for a while to back to the top of the list.
She sold books, bikes, dishes, teacup sets, chairs, bookshelves, clothes rack, a knee scooter she had from foot surgery, and many other items. You'll see a complete list and the total amount she received in the article.
I have to confess. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. I work at home, so I was the one who delivered the goods. It was a lot of fun meeting the people who bought the items. Our house is much more open now without the bookshelves. I know that round two is coming after the first of the year. After seeing the benefits and going through the process, I'm ready for it this time.
Today's post offers five tips to get top dollar when decluttering. The author of this post is my wife, Cathy. So far this year, she's made over $3,000 by decluttering (getting rid of) stuff in the house we no longer use. She's the brains and the organizer for these types of projects.
It was a lot of fun going through the analytics to see what readers liked during the year. It helped shape the direction of the blog. I desire to provide the kind of content relevant to those reading the blog.
Going into the following year, I will continue writing in these three areas. I'm also planning to focus more on issues important to those preparing for retirement. There are so many decision to make during that time. There are not enough blogs offering content pertinent to that demographic. The choices they make are far different from the Millennials, Xennials, and Gen Xers who dominate the blogosphere.
I'm grateful for your support during the year. Please let me know in the comments below what topics are most important to you. I do this for you, the reader. It's important to get the feedback and understand what you want.
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