Expert Interview Series: Philip Taylor of FinCon on Keeping Saving and Investing Simple

Philip Taylor is a CPA-turned-blogger who founded FinCon, the annual conference for influencers in personal finance and investing. We recently spoke with Philip to hear his thoughts on simple investing strategies and positive money messages.

What is FinCon, and how does it try to help its members and followers?

FinCon is a peer conference for the online community of influencers in personal finance and investing. At the annual event each fall, attendees connect with others; learn to create, promote, and profit from compelling digital content; and discover new trends in personal finance and investing.

Originally called the Financial Blogger Conference, the event was shortened to simply “FinCon” to reflect the broadening scope of the attendees.

Since FinCon’s mission is to provide people with a “positive money message,” could you tell us what that entails?

A positive money message is one aimed at helping people move towards an understanding of how their finances work, how they can improve their net worth, and how they can ultimately achieve financial freedom and independence. Positive money messages increase awareness, transparency, and self-reliance. Negative money messages are just the opposite.

When FinCon community members meet you, what do they most often tell you is the biggest benefit they’ve received from the organization?

Hands down, the community members enjoy getting to know other members and collaborating with them to create win-wins. The shared mission of helping people improve their financial life creates a low-competition environment where members feel free to share best practices and help support each other.

What do you feel is the most common money-related mistake that Americans make today?

Americans aren’t paying themselves first like they should be. They are waiting until the end of the month to decide if they can save for their future. Most months, there is nothing left to save. When you pay yourself first by automating savings deposits as soon as you’re paid, you ensure that you set some money aside for the future. Over time, this practice will change your life.

What are some of the current financial or investing trends that are most relevant to average “non-Wall Street” Americans?

One trend that I like is the movement towards investing for the future using a low-cost, diversified, tax-advantaged passive approach (e.g. index funds in a 401(k) or IRA). History tells us that if you’re saving money for retirement, your best option is to focus on keeping your expenses and taxes low while simply seeking market returns.

Another trend I like seeing is the desire to reach financial independence at an early age. Savers are using aggressive savings rates (i.e. as high as 80% of their income) along with the 4% safe withdrawal rate to get to their “number” quicker and take ultimate control over their life.

What advice might you have for someone who is thinking about creating a blog or website to make money for the first time?

First, if you’re creating a blog purely to make money, then I’d advise you to do something else. It took me over a year of blogging consistently to make any money. Secondly and more importantly, I’d say a blog really isn’t a business, although it can be a great complement to one. Instead, you should actually create a business: make something to sell, or sell something someone else made. Then use a blog to attract people to your offer(s).

What kinds of tax or compliance issues tend to worry members of the FinCon community?

Two groups come to mind here.

First, many in the FinCon community profit from credit card marketing (typically in the form of an affiliate commission payment when a consumer signs up for a new card). In recent years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has used expensive fines to punish the credit card issuers who are marketing their cards incorrectly (even if they’re simply negligent). Because of these fines, issuers are understandably less likely to work with smaller affiliates who aren’t as likely to have their own compliance teams or who aren’t producing enough volume to justify the headache of monitoring them. Our attendees looking to use this revenue stream find it extremely difficult to grow.

Another group that deals with compliance issues are the attendees who are financial advisors. Because they help people invest their money, they are held to a higher standard by the SEC and FINRA, both of whom have regulations around how they can communicate to consumers through their digital marketing and social media activities.

For people who are trying to save or invest money for their kids’ future or their own retirement, what are some important things to keep in mind?

Keep in mind that investing doesn’t have to be complicated. The financial services industry has traditionally overcomplicated the subject. It’s really simple, though: spend less than you earn, and save the difference. Automate your savings effort where possible, as you’ll be more likely to stick to it.

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