Why Do So Many PF Bloggers Start Off As Financial Idiots?

A while back I wrote a series called Focus On that gave brief reviews of personal finance and frugal websites and blogs. While researching the sites I included in the series, and many others that I didn’t include, I would always look at the profile page to learn more about the site and writer. Most personal finance and frugal living blogs are written by individuals, and as the series progressed and I read more and more bios one rather curious similarity became apparent: around half of these people were deeply in debt.

The usual story given was a lack of financial control early in life, sometimes coupled with huge student loan debt. Then, heroically, came the turning point. A light bulb suddenly went on and the decision was made to climb out of the debt hole they had dug for themselves. That was followed, of course, by blogging about their efforts.

The first few versions of these stories were inspiring, but after a while the frequency and similarities of their tales of woe and redemption struck me as mildly disturbing. Why do so many good personal finance bloggers start off as financial dumb asses?

I think there are a couple of reasons. One is a lack of financial education. Another is there is always a segment of the young, emerging generation that wants everything now, damn the monthly payments, whether they have received an education on how to handle their money properly or not.

I am glad so many of these bloggers had the awakening they did and are now warning and instructing others on how to avoid the bad decisions they made. Maybe the next step could see them banding together and pressing for some kind of financial education at the beginning, at home and in school, before the screw ups happen.

Related Reading:

A Changing Relationship with Money 

Does a Financial Education Matter? 


  1. Those of us who grew up without a financial education learned the hard way. It would be negligent parenting to shield our kids from such hard earned lessons. Even if they think we're a bunch of fuddy duddy alarmists, at least they'll have a structure to work from when they're on their own. Instead of having to figure it all out from scratch.

  2. This is like arguing that you can't believe how many renowned concert violinists were born without the ability to play the violin, and were even heard making awful squeaking noises at recitals in their youth. Financial wherewithal is a skill like any other. We're not born with it. Frequently, we make mistakes - often horrible mistakes - before we learn how to handle finances and handle them well. Better education would be helpful, but even if you take lessons from the masters, there will be errors as you learn. Finally, I don't think it's fair to assume that all youthful errors are about the inability to delay gratification. Some of it is just bad luck, like the bad luck of being saddled with thousands of dollars of medical bills, not because someone skipped insurance payments to buy the latest doodad, but because the insurance companies won't insure you.

    So many people think that having a good financial situation is just a matter of hard work, money smarts, and frugality. This denies the very real fact that luck has a lot to do with one's lot in life. Read Aristotle for more on that idea.

  3. I'm not a PF blogger as such but am a Frugal blogger and am in debt... the two are somewhat related... My debt came from lending cash and not getting it paid back boo hoo.... I actually really enjoy the freedom of frugality though.


  4. I have only begun blogging few days ago. I am also in debt ~ have a mortgage. Money seems to be a taboo topic in our society. It is the sharing of ideas through blogs that I enjoy.

  5. Olivia: Agreed.

    Anonymous: Thanks for the comments. Someone attempting to learn to play the violin is doing that with intent from the very start, and of course mistakes are made. Someone racking up credit card debt or buying the “latest doodads” is not attempting to learn financial skills in the process. Aristotle would probably have smacked you for such a bad analogy.

    He also would have been aghast at your sloppy generalization of my point about “youthful errors.” I did not say all, I said a segment.

    As for bad luck, you are right on that one, it can mess a person up. But if you read the bloggers autobiographies I was referring to luck was rarely a contributing factor to their problems. It was when their “hard work, money smarts, and frugality” kicked in that they began to solve their financial problems, not by sitting around waiting for their luck to change.

    Forest: Sorry to hear that, I hope somehow you can get your money back.

    Jersey Mom: Agreed, and best of luck with your blog. Looks like you are off to a good start.

  6. "Aristotle would probably have smacked you for such a bad analogy." How nice.

    It was my mistake, for assuming that you had a different life goal besides learning financial skills.

    I was reading your blog because I am interested in being frugal, not to get rich, but to be more fully human. Thus, being more fully human is a goal just like being a musician, and there are certain skills you have to master along the way, like playing notes with certain techniques or learning how to manage money.

    If, however, you think of the person's goal as 'learning financial skills', then the analogy does not work. It never occurred to me to think of it that way, because my goal in life isn't to just think about money, but to be a better person. (Just like the musician doesn't really care about playing the C note just so, but rather about learning to play the note in order to play an entire song.)

    After you get through nitpicking apart this reply and writing something else snarky about it, you can read carefully this line: "I was reading your blog..."

    In the past, sir. In the past.

  7. Anonymous – You are having a hard time staying on course with this. You are going off on tangents that have nothing to do with what I wrote about. It’s a short essay mostly about why some personal finance bloggers start off badly, not about how to “be more fully human.”

    My goal in life is not “to just think about money” either, but you might take a peak at the header of this blog for an idea of what I usually write about here. Sorry to see you go, I hope you find what you are looking for.

    PS You would have gotten a nice pat on the head from Aristotle for admitting your analogy did not work.

  8. I think many PF bloggers (me included) had what you could arguably call a "spiritual awakening" or a "moment of clarity" when it comes to debt.

    Like many PF bloggers, I was highly leveraged with a new house, new car, and student loans on the books. In a typical month, only 1 to 3 days of my monthly salary was actually mine. The rest went to repaying my creditors and maintenance of my stuff.

    Not a good situation to be in, so when I mapped this out on a calendar (days worked per item), that was when the light bulb appeared over my head Looney Tunes style.

    Of course, had I started a PF blog when this happened back in 2000, I'd probably have a few more subscribers!

  9. I'm glad you had your Looney Tunes light bulb moment. I like your blog, very nice job. Keep up the good work!

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