Get Rich Slowly Interview

J.D. Roth, founder of Get Rich Slowly
J.D. Roth, founder of the personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly.

If you're looking for financial advice to get rich…slowly, J.D Roth is your guide. His blog, Get Rich Slowly, doesn't offer miracle cures for the economy, quick money schemes, or pyramid plans.

What Roth provides is a blueprint for better money management, based on his personal spending and savings mistakes. Roth outlines an everyman's approach to correcting financial oversights with patience and practical financial advice.

LoveToKnow Save asked Roth about using mind control as much as money control, simple but effective strategies for this economy, and his current obsession.

Financial Advice: Get Rich Slowly Interview

It's brave to admit that you were once $35,000 in debt. What prompted you to want to share your story?

I didn't share it all at once, in part because I didn't know it all at once.

When we bought our new house in 2004, I felt overwhelmed by my debt. I sat down and drew up a spending plan to help me conquer my debt. As I worked through this, I wrote about it for the readers of my personal site. These stories garnered a very favorable response, so I split off a new site, Get Rich Slowly.

As I shared my struggles and successes paying off debt, I also began to uncover more of my story. It seems to be true for many people, including me, that when we're in debt, we don't actually know how much we have, or how we got there. We understand in broad terms, but we don't know the details. Part of my journey has been uncovering old records, and charting the course of my financial history. It's interesting.

So, I've been chronicling my financial history primarily as a means to learn more about my habits so I can change them. But, I've also been doing it as a way to help others learn from my mistakes.

You stress on your blog that money is more about the mind than the math. Please explain.

I am convinced that personal finance isn't a struggle with numbers, but a struggle with psychology. We all understand the math. We all know that if you spend more than you earn, you're going to go into debt.

Still, many of us continue to buy things we know we cannot afford. We do this for psychological reasons -- to feel happy, to gain approval, to satisfy a longing -- and not because we can't do addition and subtraction.

The challenge with personal finance is to discover what it is that motivates you to spend and to save, and then to create systems that encourage you to make smart choices. The answer is different for each of us.

Your philosophy also touches on a key characteristic most of us would rather ignore: procrastination. Why do you think we make money management harder?

I think that often people are afraid of making a mistake, so they don't even try. This may seem crazy, but it's true.

For example, I waited a long time to open an online savings account. I wanted the best one. But how do you decide what the best savings account is? The highest interest rate? The best customer service? The slickest interface? And how do you find time to evaluate all of these things?

You can't. Instead I've learned that it's okay to pick a good choice and be satisfied with that.

The same is true with investing. I could spend hours or days or weeks finding the best stocks to invest in, but I don't have the time. If I tried to do that, I would never make an investment. Instead, I made what I know to be a good choice, such as investing in indexed mutual funds, and left it at that.

One way to overcome procrastination is simply to realize that, in most cases, any move in a positive direction is better than no move at all. Also, most decisions are not irreversible. If you open a savings account and decide you don't like it, you can always move to a new one.

Recognized by the Experts

Money magazine rated your site, Get Rich Slowly, one of the most inspiring money blogs. That's lofty praise! How did it strengthen your resolve to continue doing what you do?

It was edifying to receive this recognition. More than anything, this label helped crystallize my blog's purpose. I knew on some level that what I was doing was helping to keep people motivated, but I had never thought of it in precisely the way Money magazine phrased it.

Once I read that, I was able to use that "most inspiring" label as a sort of mission statement. Whenever I lose my way -- and writers do lose their way -- I remind myself of this, and it helps me focus my energies.

Finding New Financial Advice in Books

You recommend a lot of financial advice books. How do you sort through the same messages to find something new?

This isn't too difficult. It's true that many personal finance books repeat the same messages, but every author has a unique voice. While the content may seem repetitive at times, the delivery and philosophies are usually different. Because of this, there's a chance to latch on to the "why" behind an authors recommendations instead of focusing on the "what" or the "how".

To me, the "why" is more interesting. There are hundreds of websites on which to find the mechanical steps needed to get out of debt and build wealth. But, as I said, it's not these steps that are important -- it's the psychology and motivation to pursue the steps that matter. That's what's new in each book.

Financial Advice for an Uneasy Economy

What financial advice, ideas, and practices are you holding on to during these tough economic times?

During tough economic times, it's even more important to adhere to sound personal finance advice and smart choices.

  • Curb your spending.
  • Avoid debt, and pay it off, if you have it.
  • Make yourself valuable at your job.
  • Learn to make and do things yourself.
  • Practice frugality. The best thing you can do is create a wide gap between what you earn and what you spend.
  • Save.

I've been doing all these things. It helps that I had already been training myself in this direction, but the shaky economy just makes me more motivated to stick to my plan.

Knowing When to Say Yes to More

Please explain more about "The Power of Yes".

Ah, this is the silent core to my success. It used to be that I was afraid to try new things, so I never did.

Then one day, I read a book called Impro, which is a sort of manual for people wanting to perform improvisational theater. I didn't want to perform improvisational theater, but I discovered some of the principles the author taught could be used in real life.

For example, one of the fundamental concepts of improvisation is to accept another actor's offer. When you're on stage, you go along with whatever another actor does, even if it sounds goofy or if it makes you uncomfortable. If you don't go along -- if you block the other actor -- the scene falls apart.

Life is always making us offers. A friend might ask if you want to go hiking. Somebody might invite you to church. You may have a chance to take on a project at work. These are the sorts of things that, in the past, I would say "no" to because I was afraid or uncomfortable. After reading Impro I decided I would say "yes" to these things, and it changed my life.

Now when strangers write to me because of my blog and they ask to have coffee, I say "yes". Now when a reporter calls to do an interview -- even if it's on live radio or television, both of which scare me, I say "yes". Now when I'm asked to do presentations to audiences, I say "yes". I try to say "yes" to anything that doesn't violate my personal beliefs. Instead of looking for reasons I can't do something, I look for reasons I can.

This one simple change has enriched my life in ways I could not even dream of before.

More about J.D. Roth and Get Rich Slowly

Aside from sound financial management, what else occupies your time?

I'm obsessed with comic books. Spending on comic books is part of why I ended up in debt in the first place. I still enjoy them, but I've learned to spend less on them. I also enjoy time with my wife, puttering in the garden or watching old movies.

And meanwhile, I'm trying to use the same principles that have helped me get rich slowly to also get fit slowly.

  • Visit Roth's site to participate in the Get Rich Slowly Forums. You'll find thousands of others working, saving, and paying off debt. Share ideas and tips on financial management with them.
  • Review Roth's recommendations for personal finance books.
  • Read this article for tips on getting out of debt.
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