An analysis of 1000+ IWillTeachYouToBeRich survey responses– and some new decisions

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I have the data from my survey below! Reading these made me want to laugh, cry, and vomit. Also, if my mom didn’t read this site, I would tell you a couple other things it made me want to do. Anyway, this was the first time I’ve tried to understand more about you–and man, was I surprised. The analysis is long, but I really encourage you to take a few minutes to read it to see where I’m going with this site.

Methodology: I surveyed over 1,000 readers of http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com during the last 48 hours.

Age: About 1/3 of you are recent grads. Huge surprise: The second-largest demographic is 30-39 years old. I had no idea.

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Gender: About 77% of you are males, 23% female. This makes me sad for many reasons.

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How often you read this site: RSS readers overwhelmingly read iwillteachyoutoberich every day, while www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com visitors mostly read it a few times a week.

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How long you’ve been a reader: The majority of you are new readers within the last 6 months. This jives with my traffic data. I’ve seen most of my growth in the last 6-9 months.

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Newsletter subscriber? According to this data, over half of you are. Don’t believe it, though; it’s a self-selection factor (e.g., the people who replied to my request to fill out the survey are the same people who are likely to sign up for the newsletter. Sign up here–free–and get articles I never write for the blog.) I know for a fact that my newsletter has only a fraction of the total number of readers of this site.

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How you heard about iwillteachyoutoberich.com: Most people heard about this site from another blog. Second up was Google, and then a bunch of other sites followed (Digg, delicious, etc). One of these days, I need to optimize the crawlability of this site for search engines (if you can help, let me know).

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Location: My survey question was flawed, making it hard to properly analyze this, but most of you live in the US. There are a ton of international readers, though.

* * *

What do you like about IWillTeachYouToBeRich?
The answers to this question warmed my very heart. The vast majority of you like my writing and you talk about my posts using words like “straightforward,” “not condescending,” “funny,” “honest” and “I trust you.” Many of you mentioned appreciating that I kick people’s ass to get up and start doing something. A few of you didn’t like my jokes, but I just dismissed you as not funny. Most of you like when I mock stupid people. Delightful!!

Some responses to What do you like about IWillTeachYouToBeRich?

“Direct tone, not condescending but humorously blunt at times. The investment advice is great and really takes the mystery out of things.”

“You are reachable; I think you have emailed me back with support within 30 min of emailing you. This takes up your time and energy, and you get nothing…I know I am not alone when I say, if I ever have any way of helping YOU out, I would do it at the drop of a hat.”

“I enjoy Ramit’s writing style and straightforward/practical advice…I also greatly enjoy his rants, which are hilarious.”

“Pertinent honest information. Nothing I don’t need. No annoying ads running throughout the page. Ramit has taken the task of educating people like me for free, devotes much free time to it, is smart enough to know that it will benefit him in the long run and doesn’t have to make it an instant source of income.”

“Practical, down to earth. no lame “quick fixes.”

“You just helped me realize that I’m not the only person in the world with finance sensibility… but we are few in number. You also spoke with me on the telephone regarding entrepreneurship and some business ideas. That is absolutely steller. Who else would do that?”

“Your angle — targeting kids. God! I wish somebody had grabbed ME by the scruff of the neck when I was 23. And that you keep the steps of your plan simple simple simple. It’s a no-brainer to follow. And that you are literate. Woohoo! I haven’t found a mispelling or grammatical sollecism yet. Will you be MY son?”

For What do you like about IWillTeachYouToBeRich?, see all 746 responses (opens new window).

* * *

What 3 things could I do to make it better?
More posts. The #1 response to this question was “More posts.” That makes me happy and also sad. I really thought I was posting a lot! On one hand, it’s flattering to hear that you want to read more. But I also have to be realistic about how much I can post–especially long articles that take lots of time to write. It’s the same as working out: You can start off by running 20 miles a day and lifting 200lbs, but you’ll burn out in a week, and that’s worthless. I’d much rather exercise less but make it sustainable–just like with writing this blog. Though it may seem like I write off the top of my head, it takes a lot of planning and research.

I also discovered that you know exactly when I write a post that’s sub-par (e.g., the I Got a New Tie post). Anyway, I’ll try my best to post as often as possible, but please be patient and remember I have a lot of other stuff going on, too.

Look and organization of the blog. The #2 response was to improve the look and organization of this blog. About 5 million of you complained about the ridiculous scrolling on iwillteachyoutoberich.com. As a usability guy, this is important to me. It’s also something I’ve been meaning to do but, honestly, it worked and I’ve had more important things to do. Anyway, I’ll bump this up in my to-do list. Coming up: A better archive system (god, I know), easier readability, and better commenting. Once you get hundreds of posts up, it starts to get hard to manage.

Stay on topic or expand? A lot of you wanted me to write more about entrepreneurship. Others wanted me to stay on topic and write more about personal finance, including more advanced topics. So here’s the deal: I have tons and tons more to write on personal entrepreneurship. I also have more stuff to write about personal finance, especially now that lots of you have started getting your accounts in order. I’ll try to do a little of both, but it’s always tough to strike a balance between staying on personal finance and expanding onto other things I think are cool. I’ll use my judgment, but I’ve never been someone to stay on one thing forever.

More planning. One interesting thing I learned was that lots of you want consistency: What’s coming? Can you run a regular series on Fridays? How did you get a new speaking gig? I’ve decided to do something like this starting in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned. In general, I’ll try to be more transparent about what’s coming and what I’m working on.

More consistency. I’ll follow through with longer series I run, like the 2006 makeover series. I’ll also be more disciplined about sending out newsletters more often.

Recommendations for services and sites. This really surprised me: Lots of you want recommendations for services I’ve used, like bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, etc. I’ve been VERY hesitant to write about specific companies for fear that you’d think I was selling out to some company. But from this feedback, it seems like I’ve earned enough trust to talk about services I like and hate. Actually, I’ve had a ton of positive feedback from my post on ING and other high-interest savings accounts, so I’ll try to share my experiences with you about companies I like–and don’t like. You also mentioned wanting me to link to other blogs/sites I read. No problem. Finally, I was really happy to see a couple responses about writing about women and money. This has been on my mind for a long time, and it’s on my to-do list.

Things I won’t do. But…there are some things you wanted that I just won’t be doing. Some people want specific stock recommendations. Sorry, I don’t do that. Others want me to write about getting out of debt. Frankly, I think one of the unique parts of this site is that I don’t treat everyone as if they have tons of debt. I’m writing about looking forward, not looking back, so I won’t be spending lots of time on debt-reduction strategies. If you’re looking for that, there are lots of good blogs. I’d also recommend Suze Orman’s latest book.

Others want me to write about older issues, like for people who are 30+. Well…I’ll do a little of this, but frankly, I’m not 30, so I’d prefer to focus on younger people. Older people: Please realize that lots of this is applicable to you, even if specifically mention young people (and I mocked you in one of my recent posts for being arthritic). About a trillion of you wanted me to write more articles. I’ll try, but blogging is one part of my life, not all of it, and I’d rather post nothing than some stupid link to the new Fed rates or Emigrant Direct’s latest security feature. Finally, I’m not going to treat you like idiots. A number of people asked me to write shorter articles and to include fewer links so they wouldn’t get “distracted.” That is moronic.

Some responses to What 3 things could I do to make it better?:

“More Ramit: Instead of making small posts apologizing for an absence from that blog, take the time to give the world an update to what you’ve been doing. I realize lots of business dealings are sensetive information but lots of people, myself included, would love to hear Ramit’s latest and greatest conquests or involvements from time to time.”

“Lately, there have been a lot of articles that seemed off-topic to the original theme that I got to know.”

“More frequent or consistent posts. You’re kind of inconsistent. I’d like to know I can count on you for a post every day, every other day, every third day, twice a week, whatever.”

“Run more scenarios…for example if you have 1000 dollars right now, “this is what I would do”….”

“Make the table of contents easier to navigate.”

“More series(es) (and stick to the series with a regular update. “Monday Money Management”, or similar, for a month would be nice. I think you tend to get distracted from longer series and would do well to keep a structure.)”

“Having more links to other good web sites. Introducing other good weblogs.”

“More articles on personal finance and investing. – Less articles on why its important to invest now. I think you’ve written too many already. – Not everyone who reads your blog is right out of college or ~23-24 years of age.”

For What 3 things could I do to make it better?, see all 631 responses (opens new window).

* * *

Tell me a story. How has the IWillTeachYouToBeRich blog changed your attitudes or behavior about being Rich? One specific example would be great.
Over a year ago, I wrote a post called “A big fear I have of this site,” in which I talked about how I was afraid lots of people would read the site but take no action. I’m so, so happy that this isn’t the case.

You’re doing all kinds of things after reading my blog: Being more frugal. Saving money. Opening the right accounts. Investing money. Learning about asset allocation. Debating your friends about what Rich means. Thinking about money choices. And being CONSCIOUS about what you do.

I love this, so rather than talk about it, I’ll just show you some quotes from real people–just like you and me–who’ve started on the way to being Rich.

“I like creating a budget and sticking to it. So when I budget $50/month for eating out, I almost always stick to it. After I read your post about paying a little extra every now and then because we can afford it, I did some reflecting. I’ve convinced myself (with help from your blog) that I should splurge every now and then. I also went on two vacations the past two weeks and loved every second of them. I hadn’t taken a vacation in almost 8 months and after coming home I realized that I need to treat myself to a vacation way more often. The day after coming home I was at work and went to your blog to see that you had posted about doing things now. I can’t agree more and am definitely going to do more things now since I have the time and can afford to do them.”

“You have caused me to stop waiting around, remove all barriers, and take financial control of my life. I have begun actively investing, set up a high-interest savings account, maxed out my 401k, begun setting up my own business, and focusing on the things I want to do in life. “

“I really liked your barriers post…I ended up going back to the gym to work out because of it.”

“Reorganized my banking accounts to the “inbox – outgoin fixed payments” account (includes money transfers to the other accounts), the ‘go ahead, spend everything in here daily living’ account, and the ‘short term’ savings account, and the ‘retirement’ account. My entire money flow situation has never been easier and requiring less of my time than it has been since doing this.”

“At the bank, I happened to remember the blog you had written about having your bank sevice charges waived – “sometimes all you gotta do is ask”. So, I told the bank lady “Hey, my dad’s been a customer here for so many years and blah blah blah, could you give me a discount on the exchange rate?”. She consulted with her boss and knocked off 10 paise from the Forex rate! I saved Rs 500 that day.”

“I’d always thought retirement accounts were for old folks, but since your post on them, I’ve gotten off my ass and opened a Roth IRA. I’m a graduate student looking at several more years of grad school and surviving on fellowhips, but you’ve got me thinking seriously about my financial future and I am now one of the most financially prepared physics grad students that I know.”

“Be interesting by being interested: I do this at parties more now. I used to talk too much about myself especially because I work at Google so everyone is curious about me. *Just do it now: I fixed my toilet flusher instead of just waiting and doing it later: later was worse than now. I also just do it with taking out garbage, etc. Small stuff, but it feels good not to procrastinate.”

“I stopped going to Starbucks!”

“Right after Christmas I had close to 3,000 in credit card debt, less than 1,000 in the bank with another 500 in savings and 200 in some Roth IRA I had started 2 years earlier. Six months later, I’ve paid off all my debt, have 2,000 in the bank, 1,000 in savings and 1,500 in a mutual fund Roth IRA.”

For How has the IWillTeachYouToBeRich blog changed your attitudes or behavior about being Rich?, see all 557 responses (opens new window).

* * *

My general comments
You are contradictory. Look at these two quotes:

“Go back and delete all the “What’s Never Easier Than Now” posts. They read like something on a Hallmark card. Most importantly, they’re out of kilter with the sardonic tone often presented in the blog and represent a violation of consistency.”

vs.
“I really REALLY liked this past weeks series (and similar ones in the past) “It never gets easier than now.”

I found this pattern in tons of responses, and I only expect this polarization to increase as I write more. Somehow, this blog has gotten big enough that when I write something, I get lots and lots of feedback, both positive and negative. In fact, just 10 minutes ago, someone commented on one of my recent posts that it “disappointed” him and that I was losing focus of the blog. And yet, an hour ago, someone sent me the nicest email agreeing with an entire post I’d written. Here’s the deal: If I try to be everything to everybody, this blog will start sucking. I’m going to keep my voice and try to post what I find interesting. I’ll keep doing surveys to get a broader sense of what you want. But remember: I read every comment and respond to every email. If you have a question, just let me know.

You are smart. Dear god, I have some of the smartest readers online. I know this from reading some of the idiotic knuckleheads on other finance sites, forums, and blogs. In fact, go check out the comments on any typical post of mine–that’s often where the most interesting points are, and you’ll be shocked by how much intelligent debate is going on. On a few occasions when I’ve been linked to by other huge sites, you’ll quickly notice the quality of comments going down. It’s like monkeys invaded iwillteachyoutoberich, and I’m afraid to mock them because they are so rabidly crazy. Anyway, I’m just glad my usual readers are so smart. The downside is that I’ve had my ass called out more than once when I made a mistake. Why can’t you all just be smart, supportive, and deferential?

You want more from other readers. Quite a few of you have asked me to find ways to introduce you all together. I’ll be trying to think of different ways to do this.

You want more information than this site can provide. I’ve never fooled myself into thinking iwillteachyoutoberich.com is the one source of information for young people and personal finance. That’s why it confused me when some readers got so mad when I didn’t post for a week or so. If I really want to learn about something, I don’t only use one source. And if I’m not getting what I need, I take the initiative to find the information myself. I’ll do better at this by posting links to other things I read. But please, as much as it hurts me to say it, you should be reading more than just this site. To learn about personal finance when I was getting started, I read books, magazines, web sites, and watched TV shows. As always, diversification is good. And if you do it for a while, you’ll learn to spot the BS.

If you really want something fixed, please help! Lots of you are designers, coders, accessibility experts, etc. If you spot something that should be fixed, please let me know if you can help. I’ve had a few people volunteer to help and I’ve been thrilled in every single case. In fact, I’ve been so happy that I’ve sent some of them consulting gigs afterwards. But more than that, it takes the burden off me and lets me focus on writing.

Most of you don’t know about my personal-finance talks. I saw very few comments on my talks. I give 1-hour personal-finance talks to audiences at corporations, universities, and schools anywhere around the country. If you’d like to have me come speak to your group, please visit http://seminars.iwillteachyoutoberich.com. Take the first step and send me an email. If you like my writing, I guarantee you’ll like my talk. Seriously, I guarantee it.

You’re doing it. This site has somehow become more than just my fun web site for writing things. I still remember when I started this blog: It was after spending about 1.5 years trying to convince people to take my “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” curriculum, to which everyone said “That sounds great!!!” and then would never, ever show up. When I started the blog, I was lucky if I got a few comments. Now, we have people starting retirement accounts, telling friends about how to manage their money, making mistakes (in the good way), and challenging me to learn things I didn’t know. As I’ve always said, you don’t have to be the smartest person to be Rich. You just have to get started today. And people have, more than I could have predicted.

Thanks for your feedback. I’m seriously humbled that I’ve been able to make a small change in anyone’s life. If there’s one thing you can do for me, it’s this: Tell a friend about iwillteachyoutoberich.com. That’s it!

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19 Comments

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  1. In regards to meeting other readers/not being able to post frequently enough, what about having an “open audition” for contributors to the site?

  2. I’ve just remembered a feature I’d like to see on the site that you’d been mentioning. What personal finance books do you recommend???

  3. Interesting results. One improvement I neglected to mention in my survey was to improve the contrast of the comment form fields. The type is entirely too light. In fact, there are a few too many subtle variations of light gray going on. Some more contrast and color all around would be nice. If you ever need any help coding wise, I’m happy to lend a hand.

  4. Something struck me with your post on “Stay on topic or expand?”

    I would assume that through this blog, your speaking engagements, and your other ventures you do a fair bit of networking. Perhaps you know other individuals who could write quality posts.

    They could be along the lines of current topics and, as appropriate, branching into related and more advanced topics. Just off the top of my head the responses you posted to “It Never Gets Easier…” were great.

    This could of course be combined with changes to the “look and organization” of your site. Hopefully other authors wouldn’t replace your writings… because that is why we all come here on a regular basis… instead it would provide even more great content.

  5. Please PLEASE take the advice that several people gave you and make your RSS feed full-text. I end up skipping over most of your posts simply because I have to follow a link to read them.

    I’m subscribed to tons of RSS feeds, and I’m much more likely to read posts from those that don’t require me to leave my RSS reader to do so.

  6. Ramit,

    One comment in your post about the survey caught my eye. You said your readers should all be reading other stuff besides this blog to learn about personal finance, entrepreneurship, etc. I agree, but it made me wonder — what does Ramit read? I noticed another commenter already asked what books you recommend. This might make a good future post. Besides books, what personal finance-related newspapers, magazines, newsletters, etc., do you subscribe to and what websites and blogs do you visit everyday?

  7. Hmm, so the atom feed already IS full-text… it’s just my RSS reader that’s broken.

  8. When I said your beginner tips should be more obvious. I meant they should be clearly seen on the home page to get new users started.

    They are fantastic and I still review them often.

  9. I, too, am curious about which books Ramit has found useful and inspiring. Whether it’s GTD or personal finance, share your picks.

  10. Yeah, good idea. What books have you read, Ramit? I know you like Suze Orman, but what else?

  11. It is a good idea. I’ll put up a list of books and some short reviews.

  12. Ramit,

    One of these days those over 30 cracks are going to come back to bite you on the butt. You ain’t getting any younger, boy.

    ‘Course being over 30 and female, discount my wisea** comment appropriately.

  13. Read “Buffet: The making of an american capitalist”. It’s awesome.

    Having a list of books, magazines, newspapers, other online sites would be awesome also.

  14. Since you’re looking for feedback on the site the color that the type is in when you leave a comment is WAY too light, I chave to lean in really close to read it. Advice from a designer: just change it to black.

  15. It IS sad that there are so many women, not only on your site here, but interested in eprsonal finance at all. My partner in crime and I are tackling that- making finance more fun for the ladies!

  16. I agree with Laura’s comment above; please please PLEASE increase the contrast of the font! I am squinting now to even write this in this comment form because the contrast is too low and the grey is too close to white. My eyes are actually hurting. :(

  17. Ok, ok. I’m not trying to hurt anyone’s eyes intentionally. I’ll add the font change to my to-do list, and thanks for the feedback.

  18. Interesting stuff, but I didn’t realize “College student” was an actual age.

    What about the “Recent Graduates” who may be in their 30s?

    Anyway, I am always a little annoyed with surveys that force respondents into a specific paradigm… these assumptions may either skew results or isolate a particular group to not respond or respond improperly.

  19. I couldn’t agree with Nick more. I’m in the “Recent Graduate” age range, but I didn’t attend college, nor do I intend on starting any-time soon.