Can you Retire Early Without a Successful Blog?

Categories Financial Independence, BloggingUpdated on

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

Can you Retire Early Without a Successful Blog?

Today, I want to discuss one question that has been on the back of my mind for a while. Can we retire early without a successful blog? The personal finance community is full of bloggers who retired early or want to retire early. However, some of these retirees are getting a hefty income from their blogs. Their examples may not be straightforward to follow without such an income in retirement.

I believe that there are three problems together in this situation. First of all, as I said, can we retire without a blog income? We are going to try to answer this question.

Second, and probably more important, you should be wary of some blogger examples. Due to the high income they get, some bloggers do not use the 4% withdrawal rule that they advertise. That means that you cannot compare your situation and their situations since they are still investing after having retired.

Their net worth keeps increasing after retirement. It is not because the 4% rule is working. It is because these bloggers do not have to withdraw from their principal. And this is not a typical case for most people who try to follow the path to Financial Independence (FI).

Finally, I believe that you should sometimes be careful about affiliate links. They may be here mostly because the blogger wants the affiliate money and not because it is an excellent product in which the blogger believes. It is not directly related to early retirees. But this is entirely related to how bloggers are monetizing their blogs.

In this post, I want to discuss these three problems in detail. I think it is essential to know about that. I went a bit overboard with the length of this post. But I think it is an important subject that deserves more coverage.

How much do FIRE bloggers make?

Some bloggers may make more than you think
Some bloggers may make more money than you think

The first thing we need to discuss is to see how much money the prominent FIRE bloggers are making. Not all bloggers are very transparent about how much money they make from their blogs. However, you can find blogging income reports from several prominent bloggers. If you do not read these, you may be surprised at how much money some people make from their blogs. And FIRE bloggers are probably not even the bloggers that make the most with blogging. Let’s take a few examples.

For instance, one of my favorite bloggers, Joe Udo, from retireby40, got about 50’000 dollars from his blog in both 2017 and 2018. He has always been incredibly transparent about this. He gets income from some ads and affiliate links present in some pages. And contrary to some other bloggers, he does not have pages stuffed with only affiliate links. I like the balance of content and monetization on his website.

Some bloggers are making a lot less money but are still getting some nice income. For instance, Lily at thefrugalgene.com, another of my favorite bloggers, can make something between 1000 and 2000 USD on her blog each month. This income gets published in some of her monthly reports. It is a very nice income. But she is not retired yet.

Grant Sabatier from millenialmoney.com is in another category by himself. In 2017, he made more than 400’000 USD in a single year. It is from multiple income sources related to his website. It seems he stopped publishing these income reports. Indeed, I was not able to find any report for 2018.

But Mr. Money Mustache is not in rest. In 2016, he disclosed that his blog was making about 400’000 USD per year. Mr. Money Mustache is one of the initiators of the FIRE movement. At least, it was he who made the FIRE philosophy so popular these days.

The personal finance blogger that I know makes the most money is Michelle from makingsenseofcents. In 2018, she made one and a half million dollars from her blog! This kind of income is insane. In a single year, she makes enough for most people to retire. It is easy to see that there is a large discrepancy between such bloggers and their readers.

On the other hand, there are plenty of bloggers who make less than 1000 USD per year on their blogs. And there are even bloggers that do not try to monetize their blogs.

I made 85.50 CHF in 2018 on my blog. This income is already slightly more than the expenses for the blog. However, this is less than 10 cents per hour if we consider the amount of time put into the blog. Not the best side hustle. But money is not why I blog.

Unfortunately, many FIRE bloggers are not transparent at all with their blog income. It makes it difficult to relate to them. This lack of transparency also makes it difficult to know if their story is possible without their blog income.

How do FIRE bloggers make money?

We have seen that FIRE bloggers can make a lot of money. We can see how, as well. There are many ways for bloggers to monetize their blogs. Most bloggers use the same main three techniques:

  • Ads. Ads are the most common form of blog monetization techniques. You simply put some ads on your websites, and the advertisement company gives you back money when one of your readers clicks on an ad. Most bloggers use either Google Adsense or Mediavine for it. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the technique that is paying the most. However, it is a great way to start monetizing a blog.
  • Affiliate Links. One company pays you if you refer a client to them. I am sure you have seen affiliate links to Personal Capital on most U.S. blogs. Affiliate links can generate a lot of revenue, especially since some companies are giving you back a percentage of what the user spends on their services. For instance, I am using affiliate links to Interactive Brokers and a few other services.
  • Sponsored Posts. A company will pay you to advertise their products or services on your blog. You will also find a lot of them in some blogs. They are generally advertised as being sponsored guest posts. They are often reviews of some services. But sometimes, they are more disguised as real content with links to a service inside.
  • Books. More and more of the successful FIRE bloggers are writing books. These books contain mostly what their blog contains but in a much more organized way. I am not sure of how much bloggers make with their books, but I do not think it is a substantial part of their earnings.
  • Courses. In the FIRE blogging world, there are very few online courses yet. And most of them are about blogging, not even personal finance. But in the general blogging community, many bloggers are earning a lot of money with these courses. I do not doubt that more and more courses will be available from FIRE blogs soon.

Of course, there are other means of monetizing a blog. But these are the main ways that I currently observe.

Be careful with affiliate links

Let’s tackle one of the three problems I want to address in this post. This problem is about affiliate links. Generally, prominent bloggers are making most of their income with affiliate links. This subject is the thing I would like to spend a bit more time on it. Again, an affiliate link is a particular link to a company. If you follow this link and purchase a product, the blogger (the referrer) will get some money.

If used correctly, affiliate links are excellent. They allow bloggers to recommend the products they really like and get some money back. And this makes good advertisements for these great products. It is a win-win situation for both the blogger and the company. But it may not be a win situation for the reader of the blog.

Indeed, there is something very pervert about affiliate links. The best affiliate programs are not the programs of the best products. Some companies are focusing on their affiliate programs more than they are focusing on the quality of their products. So, there is more incentive for a blogger to recommend the product with the best affiliate program rather than the best one!

Now, some bloggers are honest and will choose the best products rather than choose the best affiliate program. Hopefully, this is true for most bloggers. But I think more than half o the bloggers are choosing products based on the revenue they can make on them.

You need to be aware of this. It is not because somebody very influential is recommending a product that this product is any good. A blogger can recommend a product without even using it. He may not even really know about its quality. Some bloggers have never used the services they are recommending.

And when you see some pages stuffed with different services, you can often see that services with affiliate programs are often first in the first, such as this article. There is no way a single person will use all these services. And these articles are becoming legion. Some of the blogs I used to read and enjoy are quickly becoming affiliate links directories today.

Affiliate links controversy

Not all affiliate links are to be trusted
Not all affiliate links are to be trusted

We can take two concrete examples of bad affiliate links.

The first one is not so bad. It is about Personal Capital. If you read U.S. personal finance blogs, you have read recommendations about this service many times. Once somebody registers 100K USD of assets at Personal Capital, the referrer gets 100$. I do not have anything against Personal Capital. It is just not helpful for me since I am not in the U.S.

And it is not hurting readers in most cases. As long as they do not use the money management services of Personal Capital, it is free. However, I do not believe this service will change your life. Managing your assets can be done with a single spreadsheet, and you will still be fine. The reason it is recommended everywhere is mostly that their affiliate program is great!

We can take another example, this time a terrible one. Bluehost! It is a well-known hosting company. Bluehost is advertised on most of the blogs I am reading. At first, I thought it was incredibly popular, and it was the best service out there. But it is not the case. Bluehost has the best affiliate program.

But Bluehost is one of the worst hosting companies out there. Their services are horrible, their servers are slow, and their support is terrible. I should know, I started hosting my blog with them. Since everybody was advising it, I trusted them. I soon realized that Bluehost offers a terrible quality of service. Bloggers just want the higher affiliate income that this company is proposing. So I had to migrate to another hosting company.

You do not have to take my word for it. Out of almost 800 Bluehost reviews, they got a score of 2.38. It is a borderline scam. You can compare that to Siteground, which I am using now, that gets a 4.6 grade out of 1000 Siteground reviews. If you search, you will find that many people are discussing this situation. However, there are still many more blogs recommending Bluehost rather than Siteground (or any other). This fact is profitable for blogs! This situation is bad for readers!

These kinds of affiliate links are why almost every blog has a post on how to start a blog. Indeed, this is the best way to monetize a blog! I am sure you have seen these blog posts blossom all over your favorite blogs. Even bloggers who make almost no income or have nearly no traffic have these posts now.

I have recently read a great tweet about the two steps of Personal Finance Bloggers:

  1. Actively promote build.
  2. Call it passive income.

It is funny, but it is the truth. Most blogs, even the tiny ones, have a post about how to start a profitable blog. It is a pretty sad state of the blogging world.

Bloggers do not use the 4% rule

Alright, now we need to get back on track to early retirement. It is probably the most crucial point I want to talk about. Successful bloggers can live almost only, or even entirely, on their blog income. Some of them are still saving a lot of money even though they are retired. That means that they do not withdraw anything from their principal, and they do not follow the 4% withdrawal rule. I have mostly talked about blog income here. But the same applies to real estate income. A lot of bloggers are also getting a substantial income from rental properties.

And there is another transparency issue with some bloggers. Many of them still have a spouse working. And many of them could not have retired without this income. So, we could easily argue that they are not retired, only staying at home.

It is a fundamental fact! Even though they advocate this 4% rule for Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE), they are not using it themselves. It means that they did not put their theories to the test. It does not mean the theory does not work! It means that their examples are not good examples of the theory put to the test.

When you look at a net worth graph by some famous bloggers, you may have seen that it always goes up. That is not only because the market goes up. But that is also because they are not withdrawing from, and they are still able to invest more! In a retirement without income, you would see withdrawals and not more investments. So these graphs are not representative of how someone would retire early without a high income.

Readers need to remember that successful bloggers are setting a different example of retirement. They are examples of retirement with some income. It is much easier to achieve. A person that wants to retire without an income is unlikely to invest more money into the market in retirement!

Some bloggers retired before getting income

Now, it is also important to note that some bloggers retired before getting a significant income from their blogs. They mostly got famous by retiring early, and their blog got a lot more traction after early retirement. We will discuss this paradox later on. It means that their early examples are still setting an example of the 4% rule. However, you need to distinguish the time at which they started getting a substantial income.

For instance, Mr. Money Mustache retired in 2005. It is long before his blog started making any considerable amount of money. Joe Udo made about 10’000 USD from the blog on the year he retired. It helped him, of course, but it did not cover its entire expenses.

Before they retired, most of the bloggers were not counting on the blog income for retirement.

Are they retired?

Are bloggers really retired?
Are bloggers retired?

Another question that is interesting to ask is whether early retiree bloggers are retired. Some of them spend a very considerable amount of time working on their blogs.

They may not be employees anymore, but I believe that they are not retired either. Some of them may even not be able to stay retired if they stopped working on their blogs. Is not that the definition of work?

Joe Udo is still spending between 20 and 30 hours a week on his blog these days. And he said that at the beginning he was spending even more time on it. It may well be a hobby. But for me, it still feels like work. From what I could gather, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is working about 10 hours per week. But she has a virtual assistant helping her.

Most high-income bloggers seem to be spending between 10 and 40 hours per week on their blogs. And I am pretty sure some of them spend even more time on it. This amount of time is not negligible at all! I get that for some of them. It is their hobby. As for me, I am having a blast blogging, and I do not even make an income from it. But remember that successful bloggers have to spend a lot of time on it if they want the income to continue. And some of them may depend more on this income than we know.

Non-bloggers early retirees

If you look on the internet, it seems that there all early retirees are also bloggers. The fact that we could believe that only successful bloggers are retired is highly biased. The problem is that we only know about bloggers because they are highly visible on the internet. If one of your neighbors was early retired but never told you, you would not know. If he had a blog, you would probably know about its early retirement.

It is much easier to find early retirees with a blog than early retirees without one. It does not prove that there are none. It just shows that people with a blog are more visible than people without one! Duh!

Very recently, ESI started a new series on esimoney with interviews of early retirees! I think this is a great thing. And I hope he does not interview only bloggers like most series are doing these days. The first retiree interview got released last month. I hope this series goes on for a long while.

If you are aware of other interviews or stories about early retirees without blog income, I would love to hear about it!

The Paradox of Success

Now, there is a nice paradox here. Over time, the FIRE philosophy that bloggers are selling changes from the FIRE they are living due to their blog income increasing.

When FIRE bloggers start their blogs before retirement, they do not yet get income from their blogs. They are advocating for Financial Independence without work. That means that they have to accumulate a net worth of about 25 times their yearly expenses. At least that is what they aim to if they follow the 4% withdrawal rule.

When they are starting their journey, they are trying to show a journey that people can achieve as well. They say that everybody can do it as they are doing it and they should follow that they do. That is what I am trying to achieve, and that is what I am trying to blog about as well.

However, once they start getting income from their blog, this will accelerate the way to Financial Independence. This income is not a big deal since increasing your income is an excellent way to reach FI faster. However, once they are financially independent and retire, some of their expenses, or all of them, are sustained by the blog income.

And this is a problem because they are writing (and selling somehow) the way of Financially Independence without having to work ever again. However, they are living their Financial Independence will still getting an income. There is a considerable gap between the FIRE they are selling on their blog and the FIRE they are living.

It makes a huge difference since they do not need to withdraw from their capital. It means successful bloggers can handle much higher corrections in the stock market than people who are retired.

Can you retire without a blog income?

Do you have to blog to retire early?
Do you have to blog to retire early?

Let’s get back to the question in the title of this article. I think it is still entirely possible to retire without a blog income. The theory behind Financial Independence, namely the 4% rule, is sound. You can also use a different withdrawal rate to be safer or more aggressive. There are many parameters you can take into account to validate your retirement plan.

However, no doubt that having an income after retirement will help you a lot. First, it will protect you from sequences of returns risk. Since you will not need to withdraw too much from your portfolio, you will not have to withdraw at the worst possible time. Moreover, it will also help you retire earlier if you wish to. It is just a different kind of retirement, one where you are still making money instead of one where you never have to work again.

If you do not have an income in retirement, like most people, you need to be prepared for the hard times. For instance, if you can have a plan to cut your retirement spending by about 25% during a recession, that could help a lot. Having a large cash cushion could also help by not having to sell your investments at all when the stock market is down. All these things are necessary if you want to ensure your retirement. However, if you have a substantial blog income, you do not need it. So once again, be careful of examples set by very successful bloggers. You need to make your path to Financial Independence!

What can readers do?

What is essential for the readers is to take everything from bloggers with a pinch of salt.

Even though I do not doubt that most personal finance bloggers are honest, it would be naive to believe that everything published on blogs is entirely true. Even though they may not mean it, they may forget to include something meaningful that would change the way their situation is perceived. It is better to bring some skepticism when reading things on the internet. Do not forget that people are not accountable for anything they say.

Another thing that readers need to be careful about is affiliate links. Many bloggers will only recommend services they are using and that they trust. However, some bloggers will sometimes write blog posts only for the sake of affiliate links. These kinds of posts have no value for the readers and are harmful. Therefore, you need to be extra careful about trusting affiliate links. You never really know if it was because they like the service or because they make a hefty commission by referring people.

Finally, and more on topic, readers should be aware that prominent bloggers may have large or massive revenue after their early retirement. It means that even if you follow their example to the letter, you will not have such a good result after retirement than they have. Unless, of course, you start a blog as well and get a high income from it. It does not mean you cannot follow their lessons. You just need to be aware of the fact that their kind of FIRE is retirement with work rather than a retirement where you never have to work again.

What can bloggers do?

There are a few things that bloggers can do to improve this state of things. Of course, they should not stop monetizing their blogs! Some bloggers are doing an excellent job with monetizing their blogs, and I highly regard their efforts and their success. Everybody would like his hobby to be turned in a side hustle. We just need more transparency from many bloggers on some things.

First, every blogger should disclose if they monetize their blogs or not. It is something that is already working quite well, I think. Most bloggers using affiliate links are honest about them and have a disclaimer regarding them. Readers should know if a link is an affiliate or not. Of course, you can look at the target of the link and recognize affiliate links by their parameters. But not all readers are tech-savvy, and some may simply be too gullible.

Also, I believe that all personal finance bloggers and especially Financial Independence (FI) bloggers should disclose how much they make from their blogs. There is no need for full details. It would already be great is every blogger revealed the range of income like more than 50K, more than 100K, or one million per year. Doing so is a form of honesty, and that will help the readers understand the context much better. Without that, the reader has no way of knowing that the blogger may be retired only because of the blog. Some bloggers are already doing that, and it is excellent!

Moreover, when an early retiree blogger publishes his net worth evolution, he should fully disclose if he gets an income. This disclaimer should be present on each page where this is important. Such as disclaimer would help the reader knowing that the blogger would not have that much money left if he did not get a nice income from its blog. Such bloggers should not have a single disclaimer but should insist on it when they present their finances after retirement. Being transparent is merely being honest.

Finally, a blogger should never recommend a service only because of their affiliate program. I understand the need for money. I may be naive, but I believe that honesty will take a long way in convincing your readership. It is a long-term work. But bad affiliate links can hurt the people who are trusting the bloggers.

And they can hurt the community as a whole. If a blogger advertises a product because of the affiliate program, it does not serve any purpose for the reader. It has no value. The value of a blog should be in its content and its recommendations. Recommending something purely for money issues is harmful. I even believe that affiliate links should only be used for services that the blogger uses! No blogger uses ten different services that do the same thing, so there is no point in recommending all of them!

Conclusion

This article turned out to be much longer than I expected. The main issue is that when FIRE bloggers are starting, they are preaching an early retirement where you will never have to work again.

However, as their blog becomes more successful, they are living an early retirement where they still get a substantial income from their blog. This income means that there is a significant difference between the FIRE they are preaching and the FIRE they are living. The reader is not always aware of that and should be extra careful when looking at their early retirement numbers.

Do not take me wrong. I do not advise against monetizing blogs! For instance, I have some affiliate links on my blog. It does not generate any revenue, but I hope that in due time, it will. However, not all affiliate links are useful. There are plenty of affiliate links that can be hurtful to readers if they are only recommended for their affiliate programs and not for their real usefulness. I would never recommend a service I do not trust or like just for the sake of adding one more affiliate links to my website.

After I started writing this post, I found out that I am not the only one thinking like this. Tanja Hester from Our Next Life wrote a very nice post about the fact that blogs do not tell the full story. I recommend this post. It is a nice read! She even published a full manifesto for FIRE bloggers. I wish that all bloggers would follow this manifesto.

If you are interested in reading more about that, there is a very interesting Reddit that is all about that: Is anyone here actually FIRE using only stock market investments, and not “faux-FIRE”? It is really interesting to read through.

What do you think about this? Were you aware of these problems? What do you think bloggers should do about that situation? I would like to hear all your comments about that subject. If you think I am doing a bad job at being transparent on my blog, I would like to know as well!

On another note, I also checked if it is possible or not to retire early in Switzerland.

Mr. The Poor Swiss

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

28 thoughts on “Can you Retire Early Without a Successful Blog?”

  1. Great post. This is one of the more thorough articles I’ve seen on how FIRE bloggers make money and why. I think transparency is important. I fully intend to monetize my blog, and hope it provides some income when I quit my day job, but the main purpose of my blog is a way to document my path toward FI through means other than blog income (in my case mostly real estate).

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks :)
      I also think that transparency is really important. This is especially true in our niche. You cannot teach people by example if the examples are not complete.
      I believe the main purpose in such blogs should be to bring value to the readers, not stuff as many affiliate links as possible. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with wanting to monetize something that took a huge amount of work!

      Good luck with your blog!

  2. Very good perspective. I have kept my blog non-monetized and intend to keep it that way, it’s just for fun. But I do earn six figures consulting about one day a week. I don’t need the money but I enjoy the technical challenge of the work and the social contact. But like bloggers who earn from their blog I don’t pull 4% to live on. I pull zero because my part time consulting pays the bills. I realize most people can’t charge the crazy high rates I do so I’m not living the same path as my readers. So in my case I don’t advise them on how to achieve FI, I give advice about careers, side gigs, retirement and other things I have had success with.

    1. Hi Steveark,

      Thanks!

      It seems you are doing an excellent job! I like your philosophy. This is very honest! Congratulations!
      Keep it up!

      For now, I am doing it just for fun, even though I have a few affiliate links, I have not pushed that side of the blog. I just want to grow my readership. But who knows what the future has in it for me :)

      Good luck with your consulting job and your blog!

  3. I think you have a typo in this sentence: ” I believe that these kinds of posts have no value for the readers and are actually harmless. ” Do you mean ‘harmful’?

    I haven’t (as yet) monetised my blog and I’m in two minds as to whether I will. I probably don’t have enough traffic to render it worthwhile anyway!

    1. Hi Frogdancer (or Jones?),

      You are absolutely right! I fixed the typo! Thanks a lot for pointing that out :)

      I have seen some blogs make some money with little traffic. However, I really feel it was detrimental to the quality. But I’m no expert!
      I also have little traffic and I am focusing on making it grow more than anything now.

      Good luck growing your traffic :)

  4. Great article and one that should be read by more bloggers. Currently I don’t make much from the blog, last year I think I made just over break-even. This year will probably also be break-even. I do intend to monetise the blog, but I’m not sure I can drag in multiples of 10K a year. Sure it would be nice, but it requires a lot of hard work and I feel my hard work pays more in my day job (or maybe freelancing) than writing.

    1. Hi B,

      Thanks for your kind words!

      I also think that that for now, investing in my day job will pay much more than investing in my blog. Even though, I spend a significant amount of time on my blog :P
      I think I broke even last year but not even sure. So far, this year, I didn’t yet break even.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  5. Great article. Thanks for all the research and summary of details.

    I think it is pretty easy to quickly see what a blogger’s motivations for blogging are. Some blogs look like NASCAR with all the ads. MMM and ONL are great examples of blogs that are clearly there to evangelize the FIRE movement, which the writers clearly embrace on a personal level. These blogs are uncluttered by the revenue generators.

    Honestly, I think it is rare for any blog to generate significant income. Those bloggers who are in it for the money are not likely to make meaningful and lasting impression with people (especially personal finance enthusiasts) and will, therefore, not maintain the traffic that can produce good income. I guess that’s another paradox of money and blogging. Those blogger who try the hardest to make money have the least likelihood of succeeding. Those bloggers who are mostly interested in good content are more likely to make money,

    1. Hi PMM,

      Thanks for your kind words :)

      As you said, it is generally fairly easy. But we are bloggers, we know how this works. I wonder if everyone is aware of all that.
      There are many great blogs in the FIRE community that do not have any problem. But I am starting to see more and more FIRE blogs that are not there for the movement but for the money.

      I agree with you, it’s rare, and very difficult, for a blog to generate a really significant income.
      You make a very good point! I didn’t think of it like that but it makes sense. People who are focused on making great content for the readers are more likely to generate an income on the long-term than people who are in it for the money and are at risk of losing their audience!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I loved this article. If I get a sense that a blogger is not including their blog income in their income reports, I have a hard time trusting that blogger.
    I do have ads on my site, and some posts have more affiliate links than others, but I won’t recommend anything that I wouldn’t purchase or that I haven’t purchased.
    I actually look forward to the day when I can be 100% transparent on my income. But I haven’t shared specifics because I don’t want to cause drama with my employer (you are paying Chris how much?) When I do start bringing in income from the blog, I will be 100% transparent about that income.
    For me I want people to trust me because I’m being transparent in all other aspects of my writing. My main goal is to share my struggles, successes and setbacks. I don’t want to write what I think people want to hear. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks :) I am glad you liked it!

      I understand your point. Recently, one of the bloggers I was following got more and blog income each month. And now, he simply dropped his blog income from his monthly report. This is just sad… He just is hiding the fact that he gets an awful amount of money from the affiliate links.

      I have a few affiliate links as well. I try to be as transparent as possible, but I have to stay somehow anonymous because of my current company.

      Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your blog!

  7. Tough post to write Mr. Swiss but thanks for saying this. I’m sure it won’t win you many friends.

    A word on Ms. Hester – she has advocated transparency on numbers but then declined to disclose the advance she got from her book. Make of that what you will. (https://share.qz.com/news/1237925/body/)

    That’s not to pick on her specifically. But I’ve yet to find any FIRE blogger, myself included, who is truly transparent in the real sense of the word.

    1. Hi,

      Yes, it is indeed really difficult to be fully transparent. By being anonymous, I know I am not being totally transparent.
      Thanks for sharing the story, it is really interesting and full of cool facts!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Excellent write-up!
    I think you can (roughly) divide the FIRE bloggers into two categories: The ones who blog for money, and the ones who don’t.

    A lot of bloggers start out with the intention of blogging, merely as a form of a (public) diary, to keep track of their progress and to share it with the world (for inspiration, I guess).

    The ones who are successful (in terms of traffic), will eventually see their blog, as a potential source of income (which I suppose is fair, if you spend 10+ hours on it per week, it’s not unfair to want to get some $ for your time), and as a result choose to monetize it. I have to admit that I find the highly monetized blogs (including MMM) a bit appalling, really. If you blaster my face with ads and affiliate links, I will find another place to roam :P
    But I think it’s mainly because it somehow loses its authenticity, and the content seems (to me) generic and un-inspiring. Granted, I haven’t read a lot of MMM or the others that you mention, but I’m honestly not attracted to that segment of FIRE bloggers at all. Maybe that’s just me.

    I don’t wan’t to read and learn about, how the queen (or the king) became a king. I wan’t to read about, how the peasant became a prince, if that makes any sense :P

    1. Hi Nick,

      Thanks!

      Yes, I think you are right with the two categories. But I think the money category can be cut in two. There are bloggers who blog solely for money and there are bloggers who blog for money and their readers. The first category is very rarely enjoyable while the second one still has value.

      I think it’s entirely fair as well! It’s a circle. When you start, you try to help people and your traffic grow slowly. When it gets off, some bloggers realize that they could make money out of it. And they pivot to make an income from blogging. Some do it well, some don’t.

      As you said, the worst is that all monetized contents feel exactly the same! X Best Services to save money, Z Best Apps to invest, Y Best Loans Consolidating services, … A long list of services that the blogger did not even test and affiliate links on the top items of the list.

      It does make a lot of sense! I hope you find my peasant story interesting ;)

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  9. Great post!
    I need to thank you because you saved me a post. I wanted to write a similar post, pointing out exactly at bluehost, which I’m using thanks to “it’s recommended everywhere” and now I regret my decision. And I never mentioned in my blog, even though they keep sending me email to join their affiliate program.
    I actually also think personal capital is borderline scam, I remember a couple of bloggers posting about why they don’t recommend PC anymore.

    btw, if you look at reddit (r/financialindependence) today’s hot is a post titled “Is anyone here actually FIRE using only stock market investments (and not “faux-FIRE”)? Without managing rentals, doing part-time work, or blogging?” with 200+ comments that could add a lot of value to this thread :)

    1. Hi Mr. RIP,

      You’re welcome! You would have had to write 8000 words on the subject knowing you!

      I was also had by bluehost. Sorry to hear that. At least, you did not recommend it as I did.

      I would not go as far as to call it scam. Their free monitoring platform is nice. But their investment management services are pretty bad. And of course, they use the first as a funnel to the second one and a lot of people do not realize that. But it is not nearly as useful as some people make it look like.

      Thanks a lot for the redding post. It’s really interesting! I am going to link it in my post!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  10. Thanks for your comprehensive article!
    I think you point out a very important controversy in the FIRE community. I side with you (and probably many others) who blog because they enjoy it/they want to pass on knowledge/etc. Earning a six figure amount it at least for me not the intention of writing my blog http://www.myfinancialfreedom.blog
    Rather, income from ads, affiliate links and sponsored posts is a welcome side effect to cover my costs.
    Don’t get me wrong: I respect and admire those who have built a fantastic community over the years which allows them to monetize their blogs. This ultimately means that their content is as valuable and as appreciated by their readers that it makes them tons of money.
    If this should happen to you and me one day, we will definitely be happy too ;-)
    All the best with your blog!
    Lukas from MFF

    1. Hi Lukas,

      You’re welcome!

      Yes, we probably wouldn’t be sad if we were generating six-figure income with our blogs ;)
      However, something that is important is how we do it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. You can certainly retire without a successful blog. There are a lot of FIRE calculators that aim at answering how long it takes (e.g. mine https://www.thewealthyfinn.com/p/when-can-you-retire-calculator-for.html ) and it does take a long time.

    It’s just that even a small blog income help a lot. With the 4% rule a 100€/month blog income offsets 30 000 € of principal. 100€ per month is definitely a lot already, but likely quicker to reach than 30 000 €.

    1. Hi Eelis,

      Yes, I also think it’s possible. There are just much fewer examples of successful retirees without a blog than with a blog.

      That’s a good example! A small regular income can go a long way in reducing the target net worth.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  12. Good post. I like the 4% SWR rule, but I’m not a true believer especially because I retired from my engineering career at 38. That’s too young. I prefer to be more conservative and put off withdrawal as long as I can. If I wasn’t blogging, I’d be doing something else to make a little income. That has always been my path and I try to make it clear on Retire by 40.
    Also, I think not working completely in your 30s or 40s is a bad idea. You’ll get bored. Why not work a bit? Anyway, everyone has to find their own path.

    At least, I don’t advertise for Blue Host. They offered 3x (?) the referral fee of Siteground, but I still prefer to work with Siteground.

    1. Thanks Joe :)

      I completely understand. Putting off withdrawal will extremely increase the likelihood of the principal sustaining the withdrawal later on.
      I think you are doing a very good job making it clear on your blog!

      As you said, everyone has to find their own path! There is no single path to financial independence! And financial independence may not even be what everyone needs!

      Not working is probably not something that everything wants indeed! I would keep blogging if I was retired and I would actually keep programming as well. But all on my terms!

      I am glad you prefer advertising for the company you use rather than the company offering more affiliate!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Fantastic article and very interesting read. Personally I’m not against anyone earning money from their blog. It would be naive to think the big FIRE bloggers are simply living off their pre-high profile savings and investments. Good luck to them as long as any conflicts of interest are disclosed. We all benefit from the messages being shared so I’m happy for them

    1. Hi Mr. Simple Life,

      Thanks for your kind words!

      I completely agree with you! As long as there is no conflict of interest, all the better for them.
      It would be naive indeed. But we have to remember that many people are naive, especially regarding money.

      Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your blog!

  14. great post!
    I found this because I had been thinking about the same things and did a search on FIRE w/o a blog.
    I have been following various FIRE bloggers on my path for several years. I have no interest or desire to start a blog or rental properties. I’d like to simply save 25 x my expenses and live on the 4% but have been wondering if that is really possible since most that are writing about it also have income from the blog or rental properties.
    I do believe that it is possible and I’m almost there myself.
    Thank again

    1. Hi George,

      I also think this is possible. But indeed, it’s much easier with a strong income with a blog (or any other business for that matter).
      I just wish some bloggers would disclose that a bit more openly.

      Good luck achieving Financial Independence!

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