Do Personal Finance Magazines Appeal to the Average Reader?

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Photo courtesy of:  http://flickr.com/people/thelastminute

J.D at Get Rich Slowly shared an interesting “Ask the Reader” post from a librarian who asked which personal finance magazine their library should stock.  Apparently, the library is in a low-income, blue-collar area, and many patrons struggle with very basic personal finance concepts (lack of financial smarts is certainly not limited to low-income ares).  The reader’s question got me to thinking about personal finance education in general, and wondering where the top publications aimed at educating their readership are missing the mark.

Less High-Brow, More Real-World

As someone who is interested in personal finances, I subscribe to a number of personal finance magazines.  My favorites are often the ones with articles like, “What to do with $1,000″ or “The Top Ten Ways to Get Out of Debt.”  I get a lot more out of these articles than I do, “The Top Executive Gifts Under $500″ or “How to Select the Perfect Bottle of Wine.”  I imagine those representative articles appeal to different types of readers, with different levels of financial resources.

Personal Finance Blogs

So it seems a complaint of most personal finance magazines is that their information is over the head of the average reader.  Detailed technical analysis of the Top 70 stocks is not relevant to an index fund investor.  Luxury vacation spot reviews doesn’t much appeal to those feeding a family of four on $40,000 a year.  So where does the average person turn to get information on “real world” finances? 

There are a good number of personal finance blogs cropping up around the web, and many of them are filling the void left by personal finance publications.  Some blogs offer much of the same advice as the overly technical finance publications, but others approach finances from the perspective of the everyday individual trying to muddle through college savings, retirement and life in general.  That is essentially the approach I’ve taken here at Frugal Dad.  I often tell people I write about “family finances” because I want the emphasis to be on how to survive real world financial situations.  Sure, I occasionally toss in a more technical article on spousal IRAs, or setting up subaccounts at ING, but for the most part I try to share my common sense approach to money.

Public Education Also Misses the Mark

I’ve mentioned before that I believe our public education system has done a rather poor job of educating our youth on the subject of basic personal finance.  Essential skills such as balancing a checkbook, computing interest, and completing a simple 1040 tax form should be requisite lessons for high school graduates.  Advanced topics could include a brief history of our banking system, an explanation on how our financial markets and more on taxation.  Unfortunately, most kids hit college without a financial clue, unless they were fortunate to have financially savvy parents who took the time to explain basic personal finance concepts.

So, how do you get your personal finance information?  Do you read any personal finance magazines–which one is your favorite?  Do you have a favorite personal finance blog?  Tell us about it in the comments.

Comments

  1. You hit the personal finance for high school students nail right on the head. Teaching every day real world skills, the sort that are necessary regardless of where you end up in life, are probably the things most lacking from public middle and high school education.

    Thanks for saying it. Here’s to hoping more people listen.

  2. Well to answer the simplest PF magazine, I personally think it is MOney Magazine. I get a few, have gotten others in the past and I think they are a good entry level PF mag.
    But, I think you bring up a good point, reading PF blogs is probably the best way to get info. That is how I started and I know many who have done the same.

  3. I used to subscribe to Money magazine, but stopped after realizing that most of the articles are rehashed old topics published over and over. Also it has morphed into a lifestyles of the rich and famous copy. I can’t relate to people that are in debt making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Or, how one buys an 800 thousand dollar house pours hundreds of thousands more into it to have a house well into the millions. Oh I almost forgot, how can the average reader relate to the young 30s yuppie couple that have almost a million net worth and their worries. And I don’t need to read again for another year that my town, Ft. Collins is a great place to live/retire. Wages are S…..y here so I commute 100 miles a day.

  4. I fully agree that High School is completely lacking in teaching kids about the basics about personal finance and budgeting

    I have several web blogs and sites that I visit regularly. Here of course, Kiplinger.com, wesabe.com, get rich slowly, the simple dollar, and I listen to Dave Ramsey when I can.

    Also when time permits, I watch Fox Business Network.

  5. @almost there: I never subscribed to Money magazine, but I kept getting it in the mail. They usually end up in the recycle bin.

    TV is the oft-vilified purveyor of mindless drivel. The written word isn’t beyond reproach. Just like @almost there said, Money has turned into a watered down version of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

    I’m with Frugal Dad. I want to know what the guy making $40,000 a year is doing to feed a family of 4, building an emergency fund, getting out of debt, and applying sound financial principles for the everyman.

  6. If I have a question about finances I hit the net or call my money man(investments) or my CPA. Sometimes, even tho I’m in my 50′s, I ask Mom or Dad :) Never hurts to get their experience on things.

    Personal finance is taught in a lot of high schools (at least here in Oregon) – the problem being that it is an “elective”…. meaning lots of kids will NOT chose to take it. There used to be a “Budgeting for the Home” section in the Home Ec classes in middle schools… but now that Home Ec is no longer offered, budgeting is not either.

    I do subscribe to about 6 personal finance or frugal blogs – but most tend to be for the younger investors; however, I enjoy them anyway!

  7. I personally enjoy Money Magazine. Hubby got it as a gift last Christmas, and it is so accessible and helpful. I have no training in any financial subject, but great common sense instilled by my parents and a general love of knowledge. So I can read it and am able to discuss things with hubby who has a degree in economics and finance…

  8. Hello all:

    If you have a rudimentary understanding of money and finances, the best magazine to keep you updated and educated, and for keeping your financial train on the track, is without a doubt Kiplinger’s. I have read all the rest. I think Money has some good issues. But if you subscribe to Kiplinger’s and read it for a year, you will see that it will pay for itself, and let you really understand the world of personal finances.

    ddritter

  9. I get Money at home. It’s not bad, though I think reading all the PF blogs I do, I’m outstripping its usefulness to me. However, I have noticed that leaving it around the house, my wife picks it up and reads it, which is great! She commented the other day about how her parents should have 11 times their income saved at this point, and that she read it in the Money article.

    I am heavily into our finances, her- not so much. So even if its utility to me is declining a bit, it may be worth keeping around the house for her to read so that we can both have a decent understanding of our finances.

    Today, on the way to the bus stop, I bought Inc. for the first time, and was pretty impressed with the few articles I read on the way to the office.

  10. I read Bloomberg Markets because it shows me where the biggest sharks are hanging out and what they’re doing (i.e. trying to do to me). It also shows me who the most daring risk takers are. If you consider yourself a tiny David character fighting the Goliath otherwise known as the financial community, Bloomberg Markets is pretty much the enemy’s playbook.

    Every time a Bloomberg reporter gushes over a company or individual, I know this is a person or individual I should deliberately avoid when I invest or do business. Realistically I can’t capitalize on a Bloomberg article by buying stock in the shark companies, because by the time the article hits the news-stands, people who know about the shark(s) based on personal experience have already bid the shark companies’ share value up to or above its practical market value. Every time I buy when an “expert” tells me to buy, I end up holding the bag when the stock price stops rising or starts falling when the shark’s behavior catches up to him or her.

    What goes around comes around, as my eminently wise 7th grade teacher used to say. It’s as true in the markets as it is on the playground. The only question is who’s going to be left paying for other people’s greed, arrogance, or incompetence. My job is to see to it that it’s not me, or anyone I care about.

    Admittedly there’s a bunch of nonsense advertising targeted at people with more money than sense. I take note of *those* companies and avoid their products, services, and stock. Also, on the rare occasion when a company uses Bloomberg to advertise, that’s because the kind of financial predator who generally reads Bloomberg is considered a major market share, SO… that’s a company whose product I avoid buying, because when the sharks get their comeuppance (and they invariably do), companies that rely on the sharks probably will be in trouble themselves and certainly won’t have enough left over to honor their commitment to puny little me. The fact that puny little me (unlike the sharks) pays bills on time and reliably doesn’t seem to compute, any more than the fact that there are a lot more people like puny little me out there than there are sharks, so that if they marketed to people like me they might actually have a chance of staying in business in the long term.

    Result of this strategy: despite the chaos in the markets, I’ve never been down more than about 7% to 8% since the start of the year using a weighted average formula. After the tax benefits associated with my investments, I’m still ahead, and some of my investments are doing just fine while producing a steady income. So I’m laughing (and dollar-cost-averaging) all the way to the credit union. Not the bank… the banks have been too irresponsible with the money of their customers and shareholders.

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