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Jonathan Clements  |  January 2, 2021

I TURN AGE 58 today—and, a few days ago, HumbleDollar turned four. The good news: Only one of us is slowing down.

In 2020, HumbleDollar garnered 3.6 million pageviews, up from 2.6 million in 2019, 1.7 million in 2018 and 900,000 in 2017, which was our first year. Here’s a closer look at those numbers and what’s been happening here at HumbleDollar:

  • Earlier this week, I posted a list of the 20 most widely read articles from the past four years. If we ignore the traffic that goes to the three main navigation pages—the homepage, the main money guide page and the first articles page—those 20 articles have accounted for 9% of the site’s pageviews.

Some perspective on that number: Since HumbleDollar’s launch, the site has published around 1,300 articles, while our money guide runs to more than 500 web pages. Why have those 20 articles, which account for just 1% of the site’s pages, been so popular? In some cases, they enjoyed huge traffic because another, far larger website linked to the piece. I am, of course, grateful—but it does mean that a small but significant part of HumbleDollar’s success has hinged on the kindness of strangers with big online followings.

  • Every day, we publish at least one new article, so we’re putting out 30 or so pieces in a typical month. Yet, in the site’s stats, I regularly see the 80-20 rule brought to life. Just as 1% of the site’s pages has accounted for 9% of pageviews over the past four years, the same phenomenon occurs every month, with a few articles collecting a disproportionate share of the site’s traffic. If I were really smart, I would focus on publishing articles likely to get similar amounts of attention. But I am, alas, far from clairvoyant—and half the time I’m surprised by what proves popular.
  • During the stock market turmoil of early 2020, HumbleDollar often published two pieces a day, as we strove to help folks stay the course. You would think such market turmoil would be good for readership, right? Quite the opposite. It seems that, when the financial markets take our investments for a wild ride, we’d rather not look at our portfolios—and we’d rather not read about money.
  • Last year, more than 30 writers contributed articles to HumbleDollar. During the site’s four-year history, four writers have been notably prolific, with Adam Grossman at 172 articles, Dick Quinn at 94, Dennis Friedman at 72 and Kristine Hayes at 56. The site offers to pay contributors $50 per article, but many writers decline payment. In short, nobody’s getting rich working for HumbleDollar. Instead, the site’s writers are doing it because they have financial stories and insights they want to share, and which they hope will help others with their own financial journey.
  • Readers who post comments on HumbleDollar tend to be thoughtful and civil—a sharp contrast to the contentious cesspool found on so many sites, financial and otherwise. Yes, very occasionally, things spin out of control and I have to step in, but it’s only happened a few times over the past year.

Still, HumbleDollar’s comment section has two ongoing problems. First, many folks can’t figure out how to post comments. A refresher: You can either use your username and password from Facebook, Google (Gmail) or Twitter, or you can set up an account with Disqus, which provides the software we use for the comments section. To log in using any of those four methods, just click on the appropriate icon at the top of the comments section.

Second, I’ve noticed—as have some readers—that the comments directed at the site’s female writers tend to be more critical. I’m not sure what to do about this, but it concerns me, in part because I don’t want potential writers to be deterred.

  • While much of the site’s daily traffic goes toward new articles, the site’s backbone remains our comprehensive and continuously updated money guide. In addition to keeping the information fresh, we made some tweaks over the past year.

For instance, we introduced a new chapter devoted to basic financial questions, while also merging the saving and spending chapters. In the math chapter, we added a section explaining the difference between time-weighted and dollar-weighted returns. To the chapter devoted to big ideas, we added sections on present value and negative bonds. We also added two new sections to the great debates chapter, one on whether buying a home is a good idea and the other on the question of whether to invest or pay down debt.

  • More than 12,000 readers receive our free weekly newsletter, which goes out every Saturday morning. That number isn’t especially impressive, but your loyalty is: 65% or 66% of you open our newsletter every week, versus a 22% average for business and finance emails. Early last year, we also introduced a daily email that alerts readers to our latest articles.
  • In 2020, HumbleDollar received more than 600 donations. Those donations, coupled with a modest amount of advertising, are the site’s only two sources of revenue. The ads are served up by Google, with no input from me. Indeed, I don’t know in advance what ads will get displayed, which is a good thing, because it means there’s no way those ads could influence the stories we run.

To the best of my knowledge, no other financial website has our business model (if you can call it that). Unlike so many sites, we don’t accept sponsored articles or sponsored links. The latter involves linking to another site in return for payment. We also don’t have any affiliate marketing relationships, where we get a kickback if you click through to another site and open, say, a brokerage or credit card account. As smart consumers of financial information, I encourage you to ask how the sites you visit make money—because it could have a big influence on what you’re reading and what’s getting recommended.

I’ve come to think of HumbleDollar as a community—of writers who want to help others by sharing their stories, of readers who are drawn to the site by a common financial philosophy, and of donors who want to promote prudent money management. I may have launched this site, but it would be nothing without all of you. My profound thanks.

Jonathan Clements is the founder and editor of HumbleDollar. Follow him on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook. Jonathan’s most recent articles include What Money Can BuyTime Limited and Long Time Coming.

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Helpful Neighbor
Helpful Neighbor
5 months ago

Jonathan- Happy Birthday! Thanks for all you do.

John C
John C
5 months ago

Happy Birthday and New Year Jonathan! You and your contributors have helped many of us think and look at our financial lives in different ways. Many thanks!

Leonard
Leonard
5 months ago

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JONATHAN! And a great big THANK YOU to you and all of the other contributors!

Esther Rose
Esther Rose
5 months ago
Reply to  Leonard

+1

Couldn’t have said it better!

Nick Politakis
Nick Politakis
5 months ago

Happy birthday. Thanks for the HD website

Jeff Long
Jeff Long
5 months ago

Happy Birthday to you and a belated Happy Birthday to HumbleDollar!! Perhaps HD’s popularity is because it is straight forward and makes sense. I fear there is not much common sense in our world anymore.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
5 months ago

Happy Birthday, Jonathan. It’s a honor to be a very small part of such a great endeavor.

Jonathan Clements
Jonathan Clements
5 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Rick: Your articles have been a great addition to the site. Thanks so much!

Richard Quinn
Richard Quinn
5 months ago

I wish I could remember when I was 58. Being able to write for HumbleDollar has made my retirement more enjoyable.

Jonathan Clements
Jonathan Clements
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard Quinn

And I — and HD’s readers — appreciate all your excellent articles!

IAD
IAD
5 months ago

Absolutely!!!

gofi
gofi
5 months ago

The profound thanks is back to you Sir. Your writing is nostalgic, succinct and I feel there is an old-school honesty I can trust. I take inspiration (and hope and validation) from your experience. I try to align ourselves inline with your experiences to stay the course. We’re all in on S&P 500 index funds. We’ve never sold, invest every paycheck irrespective of the market. We live simple lives. Thanks, and a very happy birthday.

DrLefty
DrLefty
5 months ago

Great roundup article. Happy Birthday to you and Humble Dollar.

james mcglynn
james mcglynn
5 months ago

Happy Birthday Jonathan! Its been an honor to write for the site.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
5 months ago

Happy Birthday! I’m honored to have been a part of HD since the beginning. I remember how nervous I was sending you my first writing inquiry. I had just finished reading your book, Money Guide 2016, and I’d learned so much from it. You were (and continue to be) my personal finance hero!

Mickey
Mickey
5 months ago

My thanks to you and the other writers for all you do. I’m a (semi-retired) fee-only financial planner focused on retirement planning and I always mention you site to clients as a source for practical, common-sense financial guidance.

Ms. Liz Money Matters
Ms. Liz Money Matters
5 months ago

Happy Birthday and Cheers to a fantastic 2021!

I’m a CPA and a former early retirement blogger. I used to read a wide range of financial articles but I’m enjoying my retirement too much and am now pretty particular about which sites I visit. I ALWAYS make time to read your weekly article because I ALWAYS learn something or come away with a different way to look at something I thought I knew.

Thank you to you and all of your contributors. You are changing lives!

Chris Myers
Chris Myers
5 months ago

Congrats and thank you for all that you do. I am retiring from the financial planning business after 35 years. I followed and promoted your advice when you wrote for the WSJ, and found you again a few years ago. I’m often asked “what resources do you recommend?” or “where can we learn more?”. I used to keep several books on my shelf as a lending library, but after I found you again, and Humble Dollar, I now have the “go to” recommendation. I’ve always valued and promoted financial literacy. I’ve always wanted my clients to be their own best advocate. Your modest little newsletter has provided the resources to do so. And if I’m no longer there to provide guidance, I’m comforted to know that you and your contributors are. Thank you.

Joe Kesler
Joe Kesler
5 months ago

Happy Birthday Jonathan! And thanks for creating this great community. So much nonsense goes on under the guise of offering objective financial advice, but this site is where I send people because of the wisdom you and the other writers offer. I hope you keep it up for many more years! Congrats on achieving some very impressive numbers in just 4 years!

Jonathan Clements
Jonathan Clements
5 months ago
Reply to  Joe Kesler

Thanks, Joe — and thanks for joining the site’s community of contributors.

David Powell
David Powell
5 months ago

Happy birthday, Jonathan! Thank you for starting this humble and inspiring experiment.

Jonathan Clements
Jonathan Clements
5 months ago
Reply to  David Powell

Thanks, David. I look forward to your next article. How’s that for a not-so-subtle nudge?

Guest
Guest
5 months ago

Many thanks Jonathan and happy birthday. I found HD about a year ago and every morning when I open my tabs such as the NYT and WSJ I make sure to include HD.
I now read it religiously and look forward to another 4 years.

Roy Ackner
Roy Ackner
5 months ago

Happy Birthday, Jonathan! Thank you for all the education and great articles you have written and shared over the years!

Neil Macneale III
Neil Macneale III
5 months ago

Happy Birthday and Happy New Year! Jason Zwieg once wrote that producing a personal finance column was the art of saying the same thing over and over again without your editor catching on. Humble Dollar may have the same problem but you and your contributors make the articles varied and interesting and I sincerely hope you can continue for a long time.

Dimitri
Dimitri
5 months ago

Jonathan,

Thank you! I am one of those loyal and committed weekly newsletter readers. I guess that would make me a groupie, I call myself a wise Clementine :).

From Our Report Card you relayed how easy it is to sign up and post a comment. I am NOT on social media and I do not talk just to be heard. Registered…. here we go. This is my first chat comment, ever! I am grateful to be part of your community.

Forty years ago, as an immigrant from a former communist country, the idea of commercialization of peoples life, consumption and thinking was new to me. This capitalistic concept is still not comforting for me. In fact, it gives me the chills. I am grateful for reassurance that there is no direct sale of my private information or commercialization or coercion of my time.

From “Our Report Card”, I also learned that the Money guide, that I bought and read front to back in 2015, is always being updated. It would be helpful to know the schedule of when the new information has been added or the schedule of made updates to the original book. As tax policy changes, so does financial strategy. This would most efficiently prevent me from not missing anything new of value without needing to redundantly reread the body of the book.

Lastly, the data analytics of HD community is interesting, but not so much for me. However, I do pledge to send HD a token donation for every novel idea that I read (may want to update your business model with that concept). My definition of a novel idea, is a life or a financial lesson that I am willing to use my very limited political capital to try to beat into my teenagers heads during our dinner conversation.

Your loyal and committed Clementine.

Jonathan Clements
Jonathan Clements
5 months ago
Reply to  Dimitri

Thanks for the comment. I update various stats on the site throughout the year. Many of those updates occur right at year-end. I update the tax figures in late October, when the next year’s thresholds are announced. And whenever there’s new legislation, I try to update the relevant sections of the money guide right away.

SCao
SCao
5 months ago

Will a change log / simple table for the content updates of sections be potentially helpful?

Ben Benavidez
Ben Benavidez
5 months ago

Happy birthday Jonathan from one 58 year old to another. My first financial book was “25 Myths” way back in 1999. I still have the book and still follow the advice. Thank you for your sound advice through the years, for creating this website, and wish you many more birthdays.

SCao
SCao
5 months ago

Happy birthday. 58 is the new 35! Thank you for building this site, and many writers for sharing financial insights. To a greater & healier 2021!

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