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Gettin’ Rich Slowly: The J.D. Roth Interview

General, Money, Wealth | September 3rd, 2008 4 Comments

Get Rich Slowly

Personally, I’ve always wanted to get rich quick. I’ve also wanted a Supreme Being to part the clouds and tell me exactly what to do in certain situations. Neither has happened. I could keep hoping.

Or I could take a few pointers from one on the web’s best money men, J.D. Roth. His Get Rich Slowly blog was recently named “the most inspiring money blog,” by Money Magazine. And us.

Before we got started with our inspired interview, we had to get a very important detail out of the way: “J.D.” stands for John David. Here we go…

JD Roth

What advice are you always giving people?
This is a great question. There are certain pieces of advice I give people over and over.

  1. Set goals. I struggled with personal finance until I learned to set goals for myself. Without financial goals, money just burns a hole in your pocket. Set goals so that every dollar has a place to go.
  2. Start now. There will never be a better time to start pursuing your goals than now. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes.
  3. Nobody cares more about your money than you do. There are plenty of people out there looking to give you advice. Some of them are honest, and some of them mean well. But there are plenty who have their own interests at heart. Because of this, you need to take responsibility for your financial situation. You need to decide what is best for your situation and act accordingly.
  4. Do what works for you. There’s all sorts of financial advice out there, much of it conflicting. I don’t think it really matters which advice you listen to. As long as you’re moving in the right direct—paying down debt, saving for retirement, etc.—then *how* you’re moving is less important than the fact that you actually have momentum.

So, Master of Cash and Slayer of Debt, how do you define wealth?

Wealth isn’t just about money. Wealth is being satisfied with who you are and what you have. It’s getting beyond the need to compare yourself to others, and looking inside at your own strengths. Wealth is about making the best life from the hand you’ve been dealt. Some people *do* have advantages. When I compare myself to my friends, sometimes I get jealous. But if instead I look at the things I have and the life I’ve built, I feel rich.

What inspires you?

I get my inspiration from hearing other people’s stories. I believe everyone has a story, and that everyone’s story is important. Even when people have had difficult lives and have failed to achieve their dreams, there’s a lot of inspiration to be had in their struggle. But obviously I like to hear stories about people who succeed, too. I don’t mean the Donald Trumps of the world, but people like my neighbor across the street who managed to save a million dollars and now spends his time traveling the world. Or my friend whose family came to the U.S. with nothing, and now he’s managed to build a successful small business. Or my wife’s co-worker who is scrimping and saving so she can buy a house. These little everyday victories inspire me.

What is your wish for other people when it comes to money?

I wish that people—especially in the U.S.—weren’t so driven by materialism. We live in a consumer culture. Advertisers and marketers work nonstop, bombarding us with messages that we have to have the latest Gizmo or Thneed. Even when we think we’re immune to advertising, we’re not. And so each of us—every one—continues to want more than we already have. And that’s a shame. I wish we could be content building relationships instead of buying stuff.

By virtue of being you, what are you teaching?

I like to think that I’m teaching a couple of things:

  1. The average person *can* overcome their mistakes. I dug myself $35,000 in debt mostly through sheer consumerism. But I also overcame that debt through determination and hard work. I’m not foolish enough to believe *anyone* can do the same thing, but I do believe that *most* people can. I want people to look at my example and say, “Ha! If J.D. can do it, I can too.”
  2. It’s possible to do what you love for a living. I spent years working jobs I didn’t like. The whole time, I wrote. I didn’t make much money at it, not for a long time. Eventually, however, my practice and perseverance paid off. Now I’m able to write full time. Again, not everyone can make this work, but I’m willing to be there are a lot of people out there who could make a living by doing what they love.

What books and movies have inspired you?

I struggled with debt for years. In the autumn of 2004, a couple of friends loaned me books. The first was The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. The second was Your Money or Your Life by Dominguez and Robin. These books changed my relationship with money. They prompted me to get out of debt. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today: debt-free and working as a full-time writer.Total Money Makeover

Day-to-day, most of my inspiration actually comes from music. There are two genres I listen to a lot. First, I listen to high-tempo dance music (XM 81 is my favorite station) to keep me motivated to exercise and to generate ideas. When I need to relax, or when I need to just write in “the groove”, I listen to chillout music or to cheesy New Age stuff (like XM channel 77).

AmelieAlso, I’m a sucker for the film Amélie.

[J.D., honey, we ||!prliignore66||knew||!prliignore67|| we liked you!]

What do you collect?

I collect too many things. I’ve always been a collector. Though I’ve actively tried to squash my collecting bug over the past few years, I still buy way too many comic books.

What is a lesson that keeps repeating in your life?

I keep coming back to three related lessons that I seem to learn over and over again. First, hard work pays off. Whenever I get lazy and try to let things slide, results suffer. Shocking, I know. But if I put effort into my work—whether it’s the blog or chores around the house or anything else—then the results surpass my expectations. If I just take the time to do the work, I can enjoy the fruits of my labor.

The second lesson is that it never hurts to ask. So many people—myself included—spend too much time wishing and not enough time acting. It used to be that I was afraid to ask big name authors for interviews, for example. “They don’t have time,” I’d think. “I don’t want to bother them.” So, of course, I never got to talk with them. Then I decided one day that I was just going to start asking people. Who cares if they’d say “no”. And many of them *did* decline to talk to me. But you know what? A lot of these people actually agreed to speak with me, and some have even become mentors. Now if there’s somebody I want to interview, I contact them. The worst they can do is say “no”.

Finally, I’ve come to appreciate the power of “yes”. I used to decline all sorts of opportunities because I was too nervous or frightened or scared. I’d decline hiking trips with friends or interviews with local radio stations or chances to try new food. About eighteen months ago, I put a stop to that. Now when somebody asks me to try something, I agree, as long as it’s not going to harm me or others, and as long as it doesn’t go against my morals. Try broccoli? Okay. (But only once—*yuck*.) Speak with you on your radio show? Okay. Go to a soccer game? You bet. By overcoming those little fears that keep us “safe”, we can make a much more vibrant experience.


For further reflections on money check these out:
C&D blog: What’s Your Purpose for Money
Daily Q&A: Best Money Advice

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