Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner and the founder of the Plutus Award-winning Good Financial Cents. Jeff has inspired his readers and clients to make positive changes, but he’s also worked hard to encourage cooperation and mutual success among his colleagues in the financial media community.
I asked Jeff to spend some time with me discussing his work. It’s clear how his passion for his business extends to helping not just himself and his family, but the community at large.
Before you had published your first blog post, you had already been in the financial industry. That sets you apart from the many publishers that come from an amateur position. For instance, I started blogging because I needed to start a journey. You were all ready in a position to help people. What experience in the financial industry led you to start Good Financial Cents?
I initially got started in the business as a financial advisor with AG Edwards and Sons. They were a regional firm based out of St. Louis, and I was with them for five years until they were bought out by Wachovia. At that point in time, I decided to see what else was out there, so I started researching other firms. I looked at the big New York firms like Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, and then I also looked at smaller regional firms like Raymond James and Stifel Nicolas.
None of them really offered the independence that I was looking for, so I and three others joined the independent broker dealer, LPL Financial, which allowed us to operate as a DBA, Alliance Investment Planning Group. That was in December of 2007 — about five months before I even knew what a blog was and seven months before I launched Good Financial Cents. The blog had been going on for some time and compliance was becoming a burden, so in 2011, I decided to drop my Series 7 license and become a registered investment advisor forming my own firm, Alliance Wealth Management.
How did you expect a strong online presence like Good Financial Cents to help with your wealth planning and management business?
I initially founded Good Financial Cents because I thought it would be an amazing marketing tool to bring new clients to my practice. I’ve always been passionate about educating individuals on the basics of investing. Prior to my blog, I had started an investment class through or local community, initiated a stock market game at our local high school, and conducted several seminars across the region.
While all my efforts had some impact, I always felt that it could be on a much larger scale. When I discovered what a blog really was, that’s when the light bulb went off. Good Financial Cents was founded July of 2008 and I haven’t looked back ever since.
What was your inspiration?
Having been a financial advisor for over six years at the point I founded Good Financial Cents, I came across several individuals that desperately needed help in just getting started investing. Since both my parents didn’t really give me much training when it came to investing on my own, I basically had to do it myself, but since I was a finance major and a financial advisor, I definitely had a leg up on the average person.
What about all the other individuals that had no finance backgrounds? Those that had families, had kids, and had careers, but just didn’t have time to do the research like we did? Knowing that was definitely an inspiration for starting the blog and also continuing to publish new content ever since.
How did founding and publishing a blog initially complement your business?
Initially, it just got my face on the web. Prior to starting my blog, I wasn’t on social media at all, didn’t have a Facebook profile, wasn’t on Twitter, didn’t use LinkedIn. If you had Googled Jeff Rose, you wouldn’t have found me, but would have found either some actor in Georgia or a guy that makes golf shirts down in Florida. Having a published blog first got me on the web, but also, too, I was able to showcase my expertise. Instead of explaining a financial planning topic to either a client or a potential new client, I could always say hey, I actually wrote this article on it, you should check it out here.
Has your approach shifted as you’ve gained an audience and Good Financial Cents has a life of its own outside of solely bringing in new advisory clients?
As I mentioned above, getting new clients was the sole monetary motivation for Good Financial Cents. I was completely oblivious that you could actually make alternative income sources from blogging. Luckily, by getting connected with several other personal finance bloggers, most notably Ryan Guina from Cash Money Life and The Military Wallet, I was able to see that you can make a really good living by publishing great content. So now, my blog serves three purposes:
- Educating those that need it.
- Driving potential clients to my financial planning practice.
- Producing a very solid secondary income.
As a Certified Financial Planner, you have a credential most bloggers do not have. How does that shape your approach to publishing articles offering financial advice?
It definitely affects the type of content that I put on my site. I must admit when I first started blogging, I was open to publish almost anything on my site. If somebody wants to guest post, and even though it was sub-par material, I was cool with it, just so I could publish consistently.
Now, I want to make sure that only quality content goes on the site. Since I am a certified financial planner, that’s a designation that I’m very proud of, and I definitely don’t want to have any content that isn’t helpful in any way associated with my certification and my blog.
What contributed to the initial growth of Good Financial Cents?
Well, you mentioned the certification, and being a CFP definitely helped get my foot in the door. When I first started my blog, there were only a handful of CFPs that were blogging on a consistent basis. I could only find three. That’s when I knew I had found a niche, so when I first started contacting personal finance bloggers about guest posting, many of them were impressed to have a CFP contact them and offer them content for their site.
While that definitely helped me get my foot in the door, what really helped is when I started to give back.
One of the first posts I published was a massive list of 107 Things That Make Good Financial Cents. To prepare that post, I reached out to as many personal finance bloggers that I could find, to get quotes from them, and also offer links back to their sites.
Since blogging was so relatively new to me, this was a huge undertaking that I did all myself. If I were to do this again, I would definitely outsource 95% of it. By offering to give back to the personal finance blogging community in the form of giving them exposure and also a link to their site, it definitely paved the way of building solid relationships down the road.
Over the last few years, through Good Financial Cents you have presented “movements,” huge undertakings that are collaborative between scores of bloggers and some corporate partners. How do you work with those companies to organize these “movements?”
My first movement, the Roth IRA movement, was purely a grass roots movement, and I actually did not have any companies participate. It all went down really quick, and I had reached out to some of the bigger online brokerages to see if they would be willing to participate, but funny enough, none of them actually even responded to me. The only one that did respond was Vanguard, but unfortunately, compliance and my short time frame prevented them from being able to take part.
Even though they couldn’t take part, the contact at Vanguard did put me in touch with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal that helped give the movement some great publicity. With the second and third movements, the life insurance movement and the debt movement, I was able to approach different companies, show how awesome the personal finance blogging community was, and show how they would rally around a movement that was focused on the end users, our readers.
How did you achieve buy-in and partnership across the blogging community for the movements?
I think that first and foremost, I didn’t make the movement about myself. It wasn’t about Jeff Rose. It wasn’t about Good Financial Cents. It was about helping our readers, whether it was to encourage someone to open up a Roth IRA or the first time, or to buy life insurance, or to get out of debt. Each movement was motivated by helping our readers accomplish and achieve tangible goals. It actually didn’t take much convincing to get many of the finance bloggers to jump on board, which is why I love this community that much more.
All this talk about movement is getting me itched up to do another one. Ha-ha, stay tuned.
Is there anything you would do differently to grow Good Financial Cents if you were to start today?
If there was anything I would do different, it would definitely be more focus on building a community. I see so many other successful bloggers that have created these amazing communities around their mission and it’s just fun to watch. Sites like Bigger Pockets and Mr. Money Mustache come to mind, and I just love how engaged their communities are.
How do you integrate your businesses with time with your family?
I used to be horrible at separating work and family time. It was easy to unplug from my financial planning practice, but my blog — totally different story! For almost four years straight I worked on my blog at least a little (checking stats, answering emails, tweaking my theme, updating a blog post) every single day. After joining the Strategic Coaching program, I was introduced to the concept of a “Free Day,” a 24 hour period where you do nothing work related. Recognizing that I needed to also unplug from my blog was huge for me and very liberating.
What’s next for Jeff Rose?
Well, as I mentioned above, I’m definitely hinting on doing another movement. I have a few ideas, so we’ll see.
An other thing is exploring other ways to monetize Good Financial Cents. While the site does produce a very handsome income, I know that I’m leaving a lot of money on the table. I’m currently working with a few strategic partners to see if we can increase the site’s revenue by 10 times over the next few years.
In comparison to other bloggers in my niche, I feel that I’ve done well with my blog but definitely feel it could be monetized more. I want to work on converting my current top money pages as well as building out pages that I haven’t focused on yet. Fingers crossed; let’s see if it can happen.