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I don’t know about you, but I didn’t always look to finance blogs for drama. Usually, they are for those with advanced knowledge and discuss things like LIBOR that still make no sense to me.
But once I started reading The Moneyist from MarketWatch/Dow Jones, there was no going back.
I discovered a crop of personal finance advice columns being published by established media companies. They are written like your old school Dear Abby/Dear Ann Landers but with deep personal finance expertise. The content is as entertaining as your favorite soap opera/drama series while teaching readers the best approaches to financial predicaments.
So let’s start with my OG, the Moneyist. Published by Dow Jones’ MarketWatch, this prolific column has a large archive of questions and answers.
Written by Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch’s personal-finance editor, you will be delighted to find column headlines like: “I told my unemployed tenant about jobs. He said they don’t pay enough and sits at home smoking weed. Now he wants a discount. What do I do?” and “I filed a joint tax return with my estranged wife because she is a gambler and her finances are a mess. But I got NO stimulus check — what can I do?”
Plus Fottrell’s solid advice that follows.
For the landlord, the stoner tenant needs to appreciate what he has or hit the bricks. “If the champagne is not chilled to the right temperature at this job or rental, suggest he go next door,” Quentin says.
For the husband with the estranged gambler wife, Fottrell gives advice about being too nice, not fully understanding the CARES Act, and addiction. “There is a valuable lesson for you here, my friend, and it’s worth a hell of a lot more than $1,200.”
You couldn’t get better advice from your sassy CPA/attorney brother.
You can follow Fottrell on Twitter @quantanamo.
My Two Cents
A “nicer” version of the Moneyist can be found at the New Yorker’s The Cut with the My Two Cents column. Charlotte Cowles, The Cut’s financial advice columnist, is much gentler with her readers’ questions about personal finance.
With columns titled “My Boyfriend’s Roommate Is Asking Me for Rent Money” and “I’m Sick of Living with My Boyfriend’s Parents, But Should I Suck It Up to Save Money?“ Charlotte’s readers’ questions clearly skew more female — which is an interesting contrast to the Moneyist, which readers’ questions skew male. Even her imagery has a 50s housewife style versus the “girl boss” female imagery we are more used to seeing today.
In Asking Me for Rent Money, Charlotte tells her reader to acknowledge that the roommate’s request is reasonable, but she should say “no” because her finances can’t absorb the extra monthly contribution. She suggests that her reader and the reader’s boyfriend work out a plan and present it to the roommate. It is all very polite.
If you need personal finance advice with a spoon full of sugar, this is the column for you. Sick of Living with My Boyfriend’s Parents reads like a great pep talk from your mom. It starts out with the classic line: ‘It sounds like you already know what you want to do.” Cowles gives sensible advice and brings in other experts whose delivery is just as delicate.
Personally, I enjoy the distinct differences between the Moneyist and My Two Cents. Depending on my mood, I either need someone to snap me out of it or hold my hand. Both columns also have some very interesting comments sections, almost as if the readers try to lessen the blow of the Moneyist and try to toughen up the My Two Cents readers.
You can follow Cowles on Twitter @CharlotteCowles.
The Penny Hoarder’s Dear Penny column is probably Goldilocks’s “just right” if you are looking for less of a specific demographic. Written by Robin Hartill, aka “Penny,” a certified financial planner and senior editor for The Penny Hoarder, the advice is textbook with lots of references readers can use to continue their education.
For the first-time investor writing to her in “Dear Penny: I’m in College With $10K Saved. Should I Invest It All in Gold?” Hartill is direct. She advises, “When I think of ‘good, safe options’ for investing, I’m afraid ‘pour life’s savings into gold’ doesn’t make my list.”
She doesn’t follow up with a windfall idea in which to invest, but rather tried-and-true strategies regarding diversifying, using exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and starting both emergency AND retirement savings.
I was very impressed with Hartill’s advice in “Dear Penny: I Got Laid off at 62. Should I Retire and Take Social Security?” She, as “Penny,” is very empathetic to the 62-year-old’s plight and gives her several options to avoid taking Social Security, including navigating the CARES Act for early withdrawal of retirement accounts, even though it is not penalized as she is over 59 ½. Pointing out the difference between using retirement accounts, like a ROTH IRA, and claiming Social Security will make a significant difference in the almost-retiree’s assets.
You can follow Hartill on Twitter @robin_hartill.
After reading these columns, I ALMOST sound like a person that can explain LIBOR.
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Sandra Azzollini is Vice President, Audience at PR Newswire, where she has managed the experiential needs of users for nearly 20 years. In her role, Sandy oversees several of the company’s online properties, including PRNewswire.com and PR Newswire for Journalists. The websites have been honored with several industry awards, including two CODiEs; Bulldog Awards, Best Website; and Web Marketing Association’s Best Public Relations Website Award.