Are Personal Finance Bloggers Rivals or Friends?

Today’s Guest post comes from Vicki at Make Smarter Decisions. I was thrilled to read Vicki’s guest post as it relates to one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. Plus, she mentions the early days for both my blog and hers in a way that I hope is encouraging for many new readers and followers alike.

Here’s Vicki’s guest post on:

Are Personal Finance Bloggers Rivals or Friends?

I’d consider Matt (aka Distilled Dollar or DD) to be my first blogger friend. We met tweeting great quotes during the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting this spring. I was just getting ready to launch my blog and checked out the Distilled Dollar during one of the meeting breaks.

I loved DD’s focus on reading and how it has impacted his life. As an educator, I could see the “student” in DD and how he applied what he learned. I was also surprised to see that he was only 26. Then I realized that I am old enough to be his mother

And that’s what made me consider how much we might have in common. Even though we share some of the same interests, I wondered if we were simply rivals competing for the same readers or just internet friends. Or could we be both? And what does that really mean?

Turns out that we can be rivals and friends while learning from one another. And we are also part of a really big team of rivals focused on a clear goal – financial independence (FI).

You’ve probably caught the theme of the post. After reaching FI and quitting my full-time job in June, I packed up my office. But I saved one book from my doctoral coursework –  Doris Kearns Goodwin’s, Team of Rivals. The book focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s choice of key cabinet members during his presidency. It explains how he brought in a team of leaders that included people who ran against him and also had very different political agendas.

We used the Team of Rivals in Educational Leadership to better understand how to create diverse teams of school leaders to address new standards and changing student populations. It showed us the importance of listening to other points of view and keeping an open mind.

I actually thought of DD when I took the book off my shelf that day, wondering if he had read it. And he has – but that’s no surprise to me. But today I want to look at three specific shifts in thinking that are related to personal finance and are “take-aways” from the Team of Rivals.

Shift #1 – Competing to Collaborating

My son had his first high school football game this week against a rival who beat them in the sectional finals last fall. In rivalries like this, competition creates winners and losers. (And yes, they won 26-0!)

Lincoln brought in rivals not to compete with, but to collaborate with and learn from.  And I see many personal finance bloggers doing the same thing. We read, comment on and question one another in an effort to learn and grow. And hopefully our readers win in the end.

Every time someone makes an extra payment to reduce debt, learns about a new side gig to help grow their net worth, or adds comments to our posts – we all win.

Collaboration fosters win-win environments.

Shift #2 – My Perspective to Others’ Perspectives

Lincoln brought people onto his team who had opposing views. He chose the best people for the job, even though there would be conflict. This required Lincoln to listen carefully and consider other perspectives and not simply rely on his own ideas to make important decisions.

The idea of embracing conflicting views and reflecting on them is important to deepen our understanding. If we choose to surround ourselves with people whose beliefs and ideas totally align with ours, what are we missing out on? Are we reaching our full potential?

Maintaining our own perspectives and staying on “auto-pilot” is one way to reach our financial goals. A better way might be to find those who have chosen a different path and learn from them too.

It may even accelerate our paths to financial freedom!

Shift #3 – Academic Intelligence to Emotional Intelligence

Being able to do things like develop a budget, calculate your net worth, understand ROI or the power of compound interest is incredibly important in helping you reach financial independence. And these are all tied to our logical or academic intelligence.

But Kearns Goodwin describes Lincoln’s focus on consistently growing his emotional intelligence. He wanted to understand the motives of others and to experience the feelings of his rivals. Focusing on relationships was the incredibly important to Lincoln.

Relationships came first and success followed. And that makes a lot of sense.

So are personal finance bloggers rivals or friends? Or simply members of a really great team?

I’d like to think of us as a great team of rivals and friends!

We may have different experiences and viewpoints on all kinds of topics – but everyone I have met in the PF community seems to have embraced these three shifts in thinking.

To be successful in life and with our finances, we collaborate and seek win-win, we listen to and learn from one another, and we focus on relationships first! If you’re looking to be on a great team – keep reading and feel free to join in the conversation – or join the team and start a blog. It could be the smartest decision you’ve ever made!

54 comments… add one
  • Dividends Down Under Sep 7, 2016, 5:18 am

    Hey Vicki, nice post. We are all rivals yes, but unlike businesses where we’re competing for limited sales, we can all thrive together (and I’m sure if you did a study on it, a strong blogging community all helps each other).

    We’ve started trying to really promote other Aussie blogs, the more everyone is ‘out there’ the better.


  • Brian Stephens Sep 7, 2016, 5:34 am

    I never knew that about Lincoln and his cabinet. That seems like such a radical idea. Can you imagine a politician or business leader today who would embrace his or her rivals like that? Probably not.

    I feel that I get so much more from the blogging community than I give to others. I write more as a way to keep myself accountable. I learn something nearly every day from other PF bloggers. If this is the rival relationship, then I’ll take it.

    • I didn’t know that story until I took the course where we used the book. It makes so much sense though. It takes a skilled leader to be willing to make it about “us” rather than about “me”! And totally agree about the blogging community – my kind of rivals!

  • Tony Sep 7, 2016, 5:49 am

    Also check out Co-opetition (Brandenburg/Nalebuff) for how game theory applies to building a market and setting common standards.

  • The Green Swan Sep 7, 2016, 6:12 am

    Well said, Vicki! And I completely agree with Tristan’s comment above. It isn’t about dividing up and finding our slice of the pie, it is about growing the pie, increasing awareness, and everyone growing.

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Thanks GS – love the idea of growing the pie! Too many people think about slicing it!

    • Martin - Get FIRE'd asap Sep 7, 2016, 7:08 pm

      Totally agree. And I’ve met (in a virtual sense) a great bunch of people through blogging. Great post guys.

    • [email protected] Sep 7, 2016, 7:53 pm

      I love this, Green Swan! It isn’t a zero-sum game. Although I don’t feel any rivalry because finance is only one piece of my blog among many, the PF community has certainly been the most helpful and friendly of the online teams I’ve found. Thanks so much! There’s room for all of us and many more.

      • That’s interesting Julie – I was just tweeting with Stefan (MillennialBudget) about this too. He said what he’s read is that many bloggers are selfish – especially starting out and it takes time to adjust to the norms of the community and to see that giving works a lot better than just taking!

  • Apathy Ends Sep 7, 2016, 6:52 am

    Great post Vicki – Tristan nailed it up above, a lot more people need personal finance that don’t, extend the reach and we all win

  • Jon @ Be Net Worthy Sep 7, 2016, 8:38 am

    This was a nice post Vicki and I’ve been meaning to pick-up the book. I know that Obama made it famous a few years ago and used some of the principles as he setup his cabinet.

    I agree with the comments above. PF Blogging is NOT a zero-sum game. There are more than enough people floating around interested in PF advice that we can all help each other and meet our personal criteria for success. We can all grow the pie.

    • Another great point about it not being a zero-sum game! When I first started and worked some with Sam at Financial Samurai – I asked him about the space being “crowded”. He reminded me that there are billions of people on the Internet and there are plenty looking for help.

  • Matt @ Optimize Your Life Sep 7, 2016, 8:53 am

    This is great! Thanks, Vicki.

    “The idea of embracing conflicting views and reflecting on them is important to deepen our understanding.” This is huge. In the same way that you can’t build physical muscle without resistance, we can’t grow without facing and considering conflicting views. We are all constantly bettering ourselves and each other through interactions and ideas.

  • Ty @ Get Rich Quickish Sep 7, 2016, 9:27 am

    I look at all of you as a type of mentor. Even if I don’t always agree with what someone might be saying, that doesn’t mean I’m right and they’re wrong. I learn so much from the FIRE community of bloggers. You all give me new ideas to write about, tips to incorporate into my own finances, provide support in an instant….this is most definitely a collaboration of Internet friends in my book. Er…

    And thanks for the book recco. I’ll look for it today!

    • Thanks Ty! I read blogs for years… (many years) and being an active part of the community is amazing! And its really cool that like minded folks can work together this way! Many of my friends are not all that good with money!

  • amber tree Sep 7, 2016, 12:49 pm

    The idea that we are rivals and friends is a nice one. The good thing is: being rivals makes us better. That could lead to attracting more people that find value.
    As mentioned above, it is a good thing.

    I especially like the different views out there that challenge our own views and thinking. It makes us richer and better prepared to make a decision.

  • FinanciaLibre Sep 7, 2016, 4:10 pm

    Nice post! I like your points.

    I guess I’d second the above comment re “co-opetition” for a game-theoretic treatment of this kind of space. It’s also worth mentioning that the competitive fabric among things like blogs is pretty weak since “multi-homing costs” for readers are almost zero.

    All of which is to say I view the space as highly collaborative and non-rivalrous in nature. The rivalry is among ideas and perspectives, with the goal in mind seeming to be the benefit of the community of readers. So, the more writers, the more powerful the effect – and the better off we all are! Groovy stuff.

    • Thanks FL! The more of us the better – and I think folks new to this space might think that they don’t have much to offer. I’d love if some more “non-bloggers” reached out with questions and comments. They have amazing insights too – but maybe need a nudge, like I did!

  • Stefan @Mllnnlbudget Sep 7, 2016, 7:17 pm

    This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately Vicki and actually have a post planned around a concept similar to this. In the beginning I was under the impression that other bloggers were “stealing my viewers.” I guess this is just the competitive swimmer in me where everything is a competition. However, as I got more into blogging I started realizing that learning from each other and helping each other creates a win-win scenario. Being selfish will likely get you nowhere in blogging. It is all about building relationships and solving problems together. After all, that is what we hope to achieve with other readers.

    • I can definitely see why some people feel like it is a competition. I bet some of you have received those requests from bloggers to guest post on your site (not paid posts) – and they have never commented or appear to have read anything. Looking forward to reading that post Stefan!

  • Brandon Sep 7, 2016, 9:46 pm

    Nice read. I like to think of PF blogging like a club. While there are so many out there each it could easily be seen as competition, a blogger provides a personal touch to the story telling and lessons are learned. Personally I found a lot of PF bloggers on twitter and could see myself adding to that list some day.

    • That’s awesome Brandon! I like comparing us to a club too. You choose to join and you get back what you put in. I think readers (who may not choose to blog too) are part of the club as well. I know I work out at a YMCA but I don’t take classes – I just do my own thing. Readers may not comment or start a blog, but we still see their views. We’re all part of the same club – but we find best what works for us! Let us know if you start one up!

  • Miss Mazuma Sep 8, 2016, 6:59 am

    The idea of abundance seems to be a difficult one for people to wrap their minds around…especially when it comes to finance! I have found that competition usually exists when you begin blogging because you are trying to find your angle that makes your perspective different from those you’re “competing” with. But as you settle in to your newbie role you start to see those “competitors” encouraging you. If you write well or have an interesting viewpoint, your word will eventually get out there.

    I just began blogging in the PF arena. My previous blog was a DIY home improvement/Lifetsyle blog…that blog grew much more quickly than this one but it was also 6 years ago. A lot has changed in blogging since then!! It’s always hard being the new kid on the block but I so appreciate those who have encouraged me thus far!!

    Great conversation. 🙂

  • James Sep 8, 2016, 7:34 am

    Truthfully, I’ve never thought of other bloggers as rivals. I assume the primary objective for most bloggers is to share their perspectives on personal finance with readers and perhaps learn themselves in the process. Considering we can all share our views – which benefits readers who want to take the time to read numerous blogs and get different perspectives or perhaps reinforce an idea – it isn’t really a zero-sum game.

  • ZJ Thorne Sep 8, 2016, 9:25 am

    Excellent post. I definitely learn a lot from other FIRE bloggers. So many folks I consider friends even though we have not met outside of the Internet. People check on each other and encourage one another.

    There is one person in particular whom I learn the most from, but I fundamentally disagree with their entire philosophy of life. It challenges me, but I also value the knowledge they bring.

  • Pamela Sep 8, 2016, 3:07 pm

    Great perspective. It is always great to read posts where we take a known fact and look at it from a different perspective.

  • Financial Slacker Sep 8, 2016, 5:41 pm

    Great post, Vicki.

    Unlike a football game where there is a winning team and a losing team, bloggers are complementary. The more popular a specific blog, the more attention gets paid to the entire space, the more everyone benefits..

    And while you can certainly choose to compare stats from one blog to another, for the most part, those stats are not what’s important. A blog with 1000 passionate readers that connects with its audience and provides value is just as successful as one with millions of readers.

    It’s all about what is important to you.

  • Finance Solver Sep 8, 2016, 9:27 pm

    This is why I love blogging in personal finance. Everyone is so friendly. A lot friendly. We’re not competition, we’re friends trying to reach the same goal so why not try to help each other out?

    I’ve learned so many things from reading personal stories from bloggers than I ever will reading a book on personal finance. That being said, I do see that books can be a great way to learn, but I would place listening to personal experiences above reading books! (unless the book contains a lot of personal experiences)

  • Marc Sep 9, 2016, 7:30 am

    I love blogging because that’s how I’ve really grown. I learn a lot from reading other blogs and from comments from my readers which challenge me and my thinking. At first I got jealous when my blogging friends were picked up by big places like Forbes and what not but I soon realized that they’ve been working extremely hard for a lot longer than me so they truly deserve it. Plus, as they get exposure it helps everyone. I’ve grown from a lone wolf type of stance to more of a teammate stance thinking about what I can do to help. Great post!

    • [email protected] Smarter Decisions Sep 21, 2016, 5:38 am

      I love that comment Marc – lone wolf to teammate! I don’t think it’s uncommon to feel that way. There is an excitement about attracting readers to your site, but when you think about how big the world is – there are plenty of readers for everyone! And how awesome that we are attracting people to read more about PF!

  • Brian @ Debt Discipline Sep 9, 2016, 8:05 am

    Great post Vicki. I’ll have to add the “Team of Rivals.” to my reading list. We certainly belong to a great community. I enjoy reading so many of the stories and learning from others. It has helped my family so much. We take bits and piece of information and make it our own.

    The good news here is that there are no heart breaking losses like in football. 🙂

  • Dave @ Sep 9, 2016, 9:18 am

    Matt is DEFINITELY a friend, alot of bloggers appear to have this stick lodge deep in betwixt their hind parts. But Matt is very responsive down to earth guy. If we had more Matt’s the internet would be a friendlier place.

  • Ray Ray Sep 9, 2016, 3:11 pm

    Hey Vicki, Great Post!

    Our financial community is great! We all support each other and help each other grow. I’d agree with Green Swan’s comments that we all need to grow the pie. We can all succeed together.
    Great post 🙂

  • Physician on FIRE Sep 9, 2016, 10:03 pm

    You know what floats my boat?

    A rising tide.

    I think it’s true that we’re competing for people’s screen time. Just not with each other. We’re competing with CNN, USAToday, ESPN, and the other big boys. The more we shout out, refer, link, and generally keep people engaged in the blogosphere, the better.

    Strong collaboration, Vicki & DD.


    p.s. Props to Apathy Ends for linking out to this article in his Happy Hour reads.

    • [email protected] Smarter Decisions Sep 21, 2016, 5:42 am

      Thanks PoF – that’s a great point too! Media consumers have plenty of places to go. If we can keep them anywhere in our PF world, we are making a difference! And AE is awesome about promoting others!

  • Graham @ Reverse the Crush Sep 10, 2016, 3:37 pm

    Excellent read Vicki!
    I really think bloggers are the most supportive, collaborative group on the planet. But we are rivals. It’s cool that bloggers support each other and have differing opinions at the same time. It really is a great endeavour to get into blogging, because like you said, you learn so much. You are constantly reading and opening your mind to new concepts. I totally agree on bloggers being rivals and friends. Great perspective.

  • Mustard Seed Money Sep 11, 2016, 12:47 pm

    There are so many people that are lost when it comes to finances I look at others in the finance space as friendly rivalries here to make us better.

    Reading through your post and others constantly has me striving to produce better content and become a better finance writer.

    Thanks for your post I look forward to reading more.

  • Eden @ Mint Notion Sep 12, 2016, 10:34 pm

    I think each PF blogger has their own story and unique voice. Chances are people are not going to read every single PF out there and will gravitate towards a few ones that they enjoy. It comes down to being remarkable to your target market 🙂

  • Dr Sock Sep 20, 2016, 11:35 pm

    Vicki, another thought-provoking post! Certainly the three themes that you have discussed — collaboration, inclusion of multiple perspectives, and relationship-building — are now seen as cornerstones of effective educational leadership, and of organizational leadership more broadly. It is interesting to consider how these ideas apply to personal finance bloggers, a quite different context.

    That said, I want to offer a contrary point about the notion of collaboration as a way to help us all win. We are not all going to win. We are not all going to achieve FIRE (financial independence – early retirement), or even just FI. Right now, it is a quite limited and elite minority in North America who can hold FIRE as an achievable goal, and a somewhat larger minority who potentially can achieve FI: people like myself who are successfully employed, and who have earned a good income for many years. In contrast, many people struggle to launch their career as entry level jobs are scarce, or are un- or underemployed, or work more than one part-time minimum wage job, or need to work their whole lives, or live in poverty. Our good intentions as bloggers might help inform other like-minded readers, but I worry that we might be losing sight of the bigger picture and problem.

    Note that I am not arguing against improving financial literacy, as I do agree that most people can benefit from greater knowledge in this area. Rather I am making the point that mutual support and sharing amongst a select blogging community won’t help to improve the economic circumstances of the vast majority of people, whether they are readers or not.

    I offer these comments respectfully, as food for thought.


    • [email protected] Smarter Decisions Sep 21, 2016, 6:04 am

      That’s a great comment Jude and I totally agree. I think many PF bloggers share stories that could help people with their circumstances, but I guess it’s getting folks into the financial literacy “game” rather than always focusing on the “win”. I think your thought is something for the whole community to consider. Brian at Dept Discipline comes to mind – and his community focus on sharing his debt story with folks at the library in the evenings. He has gone “outside” of the PF community to do service for others. I definitely need to think more on this too. Thanks for digging a bit deeper here and lending a different lens to this topic!

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