Personal Finance Interview with Lazy Man for Mint.com
Chances are when you ask a financial blogger for money management advice, the first thing they'll tell you is to create a budget and stick to it.
But not Lazy Man, the anonymous blogger behind Lazy Man & Money.
"I'm not one who preaches budgeting," he says. "In my opinion it is a little like counting calories, a tedious task that is difficult to sustain over the long term."
Instead of keeping detailed ledgers of your income and spending, Lazy Man suggests living frugally and growing your income so that over time you'll have a sizable cushion that will guard you from occasional splurges.
Read on to learn more about his blog and find out why he thinks being lazy isn't always a bad thing.
How did you come to create Lazy Man?
In late 2005 or early 2006 I was at the dentist and I found an article in a magazine (I think Business Week) that caught my attention. It detailed how some financial bloggers are posting intimate details of their finances including their income and net worth. It seemed to me to be a fantastic way to have a discussion about a topic that is considered too taboo for most: money.
How has the blog evolved over the years?
In 2006 most of my writing evolved around peer-to-peer lending. I thought it was a great investment vehicle and its newness was exciting. Turns out that it wasn't ready for prime time back then ... and the sub-prime market crash didn't help.
Around mid-2007 I focused more on writing about general personal finance best practices.
In mid-2008 I learned about a company, MonaVie, that was charging $40 a bottle for juice; and found that many people were buying it. When I wrote about it, I got thousands and thousands of comments, which showed me that the multi-level marketing (MLM) company was a pyramid scheme. Many readers trusted my detailed analysis of the company so much that they asked me about other MLM companies. Since then, I've analyzed about a dozen of companies in great detail, exposing how they scam people in numerous ways. This has thrust me into a role of consumer advocacy that I didn't originally intend for my blog.
When I'm not exposing MLMs, I write about my own financial life. For example, earlier this year I explained in detail why I was investing in a real estate property. I detailed how the renter will pay off the 15-year mortgage (taxes, interest and condo fee). At that point, with the mortgage paid off, I'll be earning around $10,000 a year. Since rents should keep up with inflation, it should be equivalent to $10,000 in today's dollars.
Why do people flock to a self-described Lazy Man for financial advice? What have you done to grow your audience?
I think there are some people who realize that they are lazy and can instantly identify with someone who can call themselves lazy. I find that people have a lot going on with their work, their families, their hobbies, and just trying to keep up in this fast-paced world. With all that going on, who wants to spend hours and hours optimizing finances?
I also think that there is wrongly a bad connotation to laziness. I've always said that, "if necessity is the mother of invention, laziness has to be the father." Recently, I've come across an old anonymous quote, "Efficiency is intelligent laziness."
Why do you prefer to remain anonymous?
I've stopped giving full details of my finances and my friends and family know about my blog, so my original reasons for being anonymous are no longer valid. I've gotten more than a few threats of violence (including a death threat) from distributors of the MLM companies that I've mentioned above. I expect that within a year's time, I'll be anonymous no more.
We're raised to believe it's the hard workers who have the most financial success in life; so how do you defy this stereotype?
I was raised to work smarter. Education was always the priority in my family. I've learned that you can work hard, but it can all go to waste in a series of, let's just say less-than-intelligent decisions. I've learned that if you are making smart financial decisions, you can save yourself a lot of work. That's not to say that hard work doesn't have its role in financial success; it's obviously best to combine smart decision making with hard work.
What is your proudest accomplishment in regards to your blog?
This is the toughest question to answer. I can't really say that I have a single one that stands out. I celebrate every comment, email and link I get. It does feel good to have had nearly 3.5 million readers.
Why do you think it's so hard for individuals to create a budget and stick to it?
I think people have a number of things going on in their lives... and sometimes those things don't move in the direction they want it to. Maybe they get some bad news at work. Maybe they put on a couple of pounds. Maybe there's an accident and they get caught in a couple of hours of traffic. In times of bad news, it can be very tempting to spend a little extra money... like a financial version of a comfort food.
I also think that we tend to be optimistic and plan for a best-case scenario. That scenario rarely comes to fruition, and at times there are bad financial surprises lurking around the corner. With many people living paycheck to paycheck, these surprises can kill many budgets.
What do you think are some of the most underrated/under-the-radar methods for making money? Saving money?
For saving money, I try to spend a proportional amount of time debating the purchase to the purchase price itself. I won't debate buying a stick of gum for a second. However, buying a car is something that I plan over a number years.
My biggest idea for making money is investing in real estate in areas that are still depressed, especially with today's low interest rates. As I said before, this is a long-term money-making plan.
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