The Top Financial Samurai Articles Of 2013

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I’m always curious to figure out which are the most read and most commented on articles of the year. The determinants are based on search engines, social media, and what you the community decides to share. With over three million page views for the year, the results are a partial reflection of society.

One of my biggest goals as a writer is to entertain and educate at the same time – no easy task when it comes to a subject as dry as personal finance! Each article takes anywhere from one hour to 10 hours to create. So if you like an article please help share them over social media or e-mail them to your friends.

I’ve gone a little overboard with the number of articles highlighted because each one is like my baby. There are a lot of subtleties scattered throughout my articles that are easy to miss. They are like out of place stones in a garden acting as markers for remembrance when I’m old.

Out of the roughly 180 articles published in 2013, I’ve curated 35 of the most viewed and discussed. Please enjoy!

TOP VIEWED ARTICLES WRITTEN IN 2013

1) Explaining Why The Median 401(k) Balance Is So Low - People really want to figure out what’s wrong with America’s favorite retirement savings plan. It would make sense if you don’t want to work forever you should be saving a ton more money, but that’s not happening. The article shares case studies from various economic groups on what derails people off of my recommended 401(k) amount by age chart.

2) How Much Should My Net Worth Or Savings Be By Income -  There’s a handy dandy chart based on an income multiplier to determine your net worth or savings. The chart should serve as a good guide no matter how much you make, what your work experience, or your age.

3) The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Married Couple - The article provides three main guidelines to determine the average net worth for financially conscious married couples. There’s an interesting discussing on spousal relationships for each of the three scenarios that got readers going. Everybody thinks they’re above average, but we know that’s statistically impossible.

4) Recommended Net Worth Allocation By Age Or Work Experience - It’s not enough to just save money. You’ve got to also invest your money to hopefully provide a positive real return. This article breaks down my thoughts on stocks, bonds, real estate, risk free assets, and your X Factor. See also: The Proper Asset Allocation Of Stocks And Bonds By Age.

5) The First Million Might Be The Easiest: How To Be A Millionaire By Age 30 - This article talks about champagne dreams and caviar wishes for those who want to strike it big in their 20s. I make an argument that it might be easier to get rich when you’re younger because you have more energy, more enthusiasm, less cynicism and are less scared of taking risks.

6) Which Is A Better Investment: Real Estate Or Stocks? - A candid comparison between the two most commonly invested asset classes. My personal preference is for real estate because it’s less emotional. I like the tangibility of real estate, the tax benefits, and the ability to make improvements.

7) How To Better Management Your 401(k) For Retirement Success - Despite the 401(k) being a woefully light retirement instrument, it’s still one of the largest retirement assets for the middle class. I show readers how to create different retirement scenarios in order to plan better.

8) How To Pay Little Or No Taxes For The Rest Of Your Life - After paying six figures in taxes every year for a decade, I decided to go John Galt and protest government waste. If you’re sick of paying taxes and getting very little in return, then this should be one of your favorite articles.

9) Benefits Of Converting A 401(k) Into A Rollover IRA - After leaving my job in 2012, I converted my 401(k) into an IRA. It was one of the best moves because a rollover IRA provides more flexibility and tons more investing choices. The risk is that you become hooked on trading.

10) What Does Early Retirement Feel Like? The Positives And Negatives - Here’s a candid assessment of early retirement life the first year in. Not everything is great. I may do a follow up article every year or two to see if my feelings change over time.

11) How To Build Passive Income For Financial Independence - An update 1.5 years after writing, Achieving Financial Independence One Income Slice At A Time. The new article starts to incorporate the X Factor into the passive income equation. I really try to get into the nitty gritty of passive income with a discussion on mindset, action items, and charts. The next update will probably be in a year and show how I’ve reallocated my CD assets.

12) How Do People Live On Less Than Six Figures In Expensive Cities Like NYC? - To live comfortably (not luxuriously) in places like Manhattan, San Francisco, Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Tokyo, you’ve got to make at least $100,000 a year. I spent a week with my buddy who makes a little over $100,000, and after maxing out his 401(k) which equals ~17% of his salary, he’s left with little to no disposable income every month. I’m still waiting for people who live on less to highlight their budget in a guest post if anybody is interested.

13) CD Investment Alternatives: Why I No Longer Invest In CDs - My 10+ year run in methodically allocating ~30% of my savings into long term CDs is coming to an end because rates are pathetically low. The 10-year bond yield is at roughly 3% while a 10-year CD is only at around 2.5%. This makes absolutely no sense, and I don’t recommend CDs anymore. I’d much rather keep my money in a 1% online money market account that is fully liquid and invest in a muni fund or P2P.

14) Horrible Jobs That Can Eventually Make You Rich - Bad jobs builds character. The worse the jobs, the more you’ll appreciate your future work. The more you appreciate your work, the better you’ll do, the happier you’ll be, and the more money you’ll make until you eventually burn out and contemplate the meaning of life.

15) Subsidy Amounts By Income Limits For The Affordable Care Act - There are four charts to highlight subsidy amounts for Obamacare for singles, couples, a family of three, and a family of four. The charts clearly show how much the government will help you out on a sample Silver Plan. Obamacare is still going through massive growing pains, but it’s a gift for entrepreneurs, people who work at jobs they hate just for their health care, and early retirees.

** The most viewed articles of the year tend to be the ones that get published earliest in the year because they have more time to be viewed.

THE MOST COMMENTED ON ARTICLES FOR 2013

These are the fun, personal, highly opinionated, and sometimes antagonizing articles I’ve written. The articles in this section exclude the most read articles above which all have plenty of comments as well. If I don’t have a good mixture of eclectic articles to go along with the more educational type articles, I’d probably burn out much quicker and turn this site into a soulless product review only site that will make me rich. It takes a lot of work to keep on going when you’re not getting paid directly for your writing.

1) Feeling Down And Out In This Perfect World (189 comments) – I invited everyone to my pity party, and it looks like a ton of people came! I like to capture the sad moments because I’m seldom unhappy for some reason. My mind is wired to be an optimist, probably because I saw a lot of suffering growing up overseas. Looking back on times of sadness makes me appreciate the present more. I had just returned from a fantastic four week trip to NYC and Europe and fell into a funk, much like a hangover after an all night rager.

2) The Rise Of Stealth Wealth: Ways To Stay Invisible From Society (119) – It’s all about keeping things low key in 2014 after such a huge increase in stocks and real estate in 2013. The gap between the haves and the have nots is getting out of hand. There are protests every week in San Francisco against techies for driving up rental prices and evictions due to their high salaries. I’d like Stealth Wealth to be our theme for the new year.

3) Proof Your Weight Is Mostly Genetic And Not Your Fault (111) – Who knew people were so sensitive about their weight given all we’ve been doing is getting larger while economy class keeps getting smaller. The people who were most offended by this article spend the most time working out. How dare I take away their efforts in getting fit? I firmly believe that all of us have a genetically determined weight band that we will naturally fluctuate in between. How else do you explain a 400+ lb inmate or an obese baby? Why do most diets and exercise routines fail to keep the weight off? Once we accept mother nature, we become more compassionate towards those who are not in shape according to society. More importantly, we begin to love ourselves just the way we are!

4) Why Do People Like To Reveal Their Income? (100) – I am an old soul with old school values working in a new age industry. It’s odd to see people who make much more than the median or average income for their area or age group constantly flaunt how much money they make. Bragging is such a turn off. Why would you want kidnappers and murders at your doorstep? Why would you want to attract more competition? When did we become so insecure and insensitive to the suffering around us? Those who are really wealthy have no need to frequently announce their wealth to the world.

5) The Net Worth Rule For Car Buying (100) – There was so much raucous over my 1/10th Rule For Car Buying (115 comments) from people who can’t afford to buy cars that I figure I might as well introduce a new rule for people who can afford cars! Some of the comments are so filled with hate they are amazing! I love cars just as much as the next fella, but it’s a financial epidemic how much people are blowing their money on depreciating assets. Imagine investing the $35,000 you paid for a car into the stock market a year ago. You’d now have around $40,000 – $48,000!

6) The Best Way To Save A Ton Of Money (100) – I was considering buying a new car, laptop, watch, and shades, but decided not to spend a dime thanks to intense shaming by the community. For anybody who wants to save a lot of money, announce your desires to the public and watch them flog you into frugality.

7) A Correlation Between The Number Of Credit Cards One Has And Net Worth (94) – Three credit cards, no more if you want the best bang for your credit card buck. Folks who have a ridiculous amount of credit cards are playing little league and will never build a large amount of wealth. There’s also a one question survey filled out by over 600 individuals you should answer that tests my thesis.

8) My Fear Of Becoming A Father (90) – A short article that talks more specifically about my fear of becoming a father to a daughter. The dynamics seem very awkward, especially when the daughter becomes a teenager. I love all the feedback from the parents.

9) The Average Canadian Household Net Worth Is Huge! (85) – Who knew Canadians are so wealthy? Another great datapoint that shows there’s way more money out there than we realize. We also recently discovered the average inheritance left by Australians is $501,000! Everybody thinks the US is the wealthiest country in the world until they see how much the Singaporeans, Canadians, French, and Scandinavians are making and leaving. Socialism is a plausible means to a brighter future!

10) Why It’s Better To Invest In Growth Stocks Over Dividend Stocks (80) – Dividend stocks are absolutely fine. I’ve got a good chunk of dividend stocks in my main retirement portfolio, but that’s because I’m retired and want more income and less volatility. If you are relatively young (sub 35) or don’t see yourself retiring for another 25+ years, I’m a much bigger fan of growth stocks with reasons laid out in the article. Just don’t confuse brains with a bull market!

11) How To Get A Rich Man To Marry You (80) – Women privately ask me this over e-mail or when we’re out for drinks all the time once they find out I write about personal finance. I literally see twinkles in their eyes as they start day dreaming of the day while sipping on their Cosmopolitans. The article provides very candid insights on how rich men think in order for women looking for rich men to better relate. I’m confident this article will succeed in creating harmonious relationships for people with means or your money back!

12) Build Your Financial Nut – 401(k) Contributions Matter Less Over Time (80) – Everybody needs to get on a savings warpath so that their financial nut will one day return more than their annual income. It is the absolute greatest financial feeling in the world when you get to think to yourself, Why work when my money is making more for me than I could make myself? A simple chart highlights a cross over point.

13) How Much Should I Have Saved In My IRA At Various Ages (78) – A guideline article which seems to have caught a good amount of discussion. I use basic math to build my two charts, so I’m not sure why there’s so much debate. But when you’re lagging behind, you’ll find ways to come up with excuses.

14) Why Are Asians Ignored By The Media, Research Institutions, And Politicians? (76) If Asians are out-punching their weight in terms of representation in elite universities, leadership roles, and wealth, shouldn’t the media, research institutions, and politicians spend more time learning from Asian cultures in order to help everyone? Why does the media continue to focus on the negatives in society? Why don’t think tanks come out with a white paper on the five things Asian parents do that differentiate themselves from other minority groups? There are some really good charts in this article.

15) How To Stop Haters From Hating You (75) – I’ve searched for haters ever since elementary school to provide more motivation. It’s really easy to hang loose if both your parents are from the islands. Haters help make me feel more alive and I really enjoy it. If nobody is hating on you that means nobody cares. But if you’re tired of the haters then this article will help. I’ve provided one very simple, but effective strategy to get haters off your back.

16) The Main Reason To Do And Not To Do Your Own Taxes (75) – I introduce the acronym FOCK to the world. If you like to FOCK, you should love to do your own taxes.

17) Don’t Stop Fortune Hunting – Money Making Opportunities Are Everywhere! (75) – A article with a National Geographic front cover worthy picture! A story of how I made a lucky return on one stock in six months and then promptly stopped looking for the next five years because I got scared. If you are still young, keep on looking for that next home run. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.

18) How To Improve Your Credit Score to 800 Or Higher (75) – 2013 was the year I finally broke a 800 credit score after 17 years worth of credit building. I’ll show you specifics on how you too can join the 800 club full of beautiful people and unicorns. They even have LED TVs and free Cuban cigars in the bathroom stalls.

19) My Poorest Friend Is One Of The Richest People I Know (65) – A short article about my friend Jabir who is 35 years old, hasn’t worked for two years, and sufficiently provides for his wife and daughter. They live in a rent controlled apartment with his mother. He gets to do what he loves every day for free, which is play tennis. Whenever he hits a winning shot on the court he says, “For Obama!” Besides reselling iPhones when they first come out for a profit, I’ve recently learned he drives an Uber car at night. Thank goodness for technology disruption!

20) Is Not Wanting To Be Rich Selfish? (62) – Maybe society has it all wrong. Maybe the rich are generous, thoughtful, and kind. If you are rich you can donate a lot more money to charitable causes. You’ll certainly pay a hell of a lot more taxes which gets redistributed to help others. If you are rich you can provide more opportunities for your kids. It’s no problem taking a family trip to India for a month to witness immense poverty and provide your children with more perspective. If you don’t have to worry as much about money, you have more time to help others.

WRAPPING IT UP

For 2014 I’m going to attempt to write shorter articles that are more punchy, more educational and simpler since that’s what seems to do best on the internet. I tend to write too much because I know I’ll forget some details in the future if I don’t write them all down. Financial Samurai is partially my journal after all.

I’ve also noticed it’s much easier to convince people to be frugal than convince people to take action to make more money even though you can only save so much. The largest personal finance blogs in the world are all about frugality. Making money takes patience, discipline, studying, and risk which are all not fun things to do. We want simple to follow instructions and magic elixirs so that’s what I will attempt to give.

If you have a favorite article please let me know. What would you like to see more of in the new year? Next up will be my personal year in review.

Banner by photographer and designer Jai Catalano.

Regards,

Sam

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. krantcents says

    Your article about horrible jobs building character is one of my favorites! It validates something I learned a long time ago. The best lessons are learned from stepping outside your comfort zone which includes horrible jobs. I certainly had my share during my youth working for my parents and summer jobs. Lessons I only appreciate as I get older.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Thanks Larry. Interesting to see that is the one you pointed out. Life in the US seems so relatively easy that we just get lulled into complacency. I totally empathize with folks who would rather work less in order to qualify for assistance from the gov’t like my friend Jabir. It’s totally rational!

  2. sunil says

    Sam – appreciate the roundup. thoroughly enjoyed a lot of these. while i appreciate what you are attempting to do, i feel this puts you in the “me too” category. the reason why i read your blog is because of your unique perspective on what you are personally doing in your life – mainly toward the growth aspect.

    saving (alone) will not get one wealthy over time. it’s the other stuff. if you deviate from that, i feel you will loose most high quality readers. of course you will gain many more low quality that will more than make up the difference. just my two cents my friend.

    for 2014, i’d like t read more about:

    equity/industry/sector picks (appreciation intent)

    the same (but with dividend intent) – perhaps more on your own dividend portfolio

    rental real estate. making more with existing units. exploring more/growth of portfolio

    CDs, treasuries, other safe havens and alternatives to each in low rate environments

    investing emerging markets and how to minimize risk as much as possible

    forex – lucrative options (i.e. the iraqi dinnar if it were to be revalued at pre war levels)

    more about your own online businesses, their growth, income sources etc. i understand FS is built around financial topics, but a big part of expediting wealth creation or passive income is through side hustles which i feel many readers would be interested in

    all the best – will be in touch

    • Financial Samurai says

      Hi Sunil,

      It’s really about trying to balance the savings/frugality type posts the majority crave for and wealth building posts. I’m very interested in the business aspect of blogging and I don’t think I’ll lose the “high quality readers” if the site becomes more corporate because I’ll still be posting my own thoughts. As you know, it’s the search readers that pays the bills and not the established community.

      I can talk more about the online business in 2014, but I’m not sure how many people will be interested since the majority of my readers won’t create business online. I’ve given several passionate commenters a chance to write a full post, but very few follow up. Again, I think most want an Easy Button, so i’m going to think of how to create one!

      Good luck for 2004!

  3. Untemplater says

    Wow it’s hard to believe there are only a few days left of 2013. Congrats on a successful year and for producing so much informative, inspiring, and entertaining content for us all to read. You continue to amaze me with your creativity and financial knowledge.

    These were my favorite top 5 articles from your list
    Recommended net worth allocation by age or work experience
    How to pay little or no taxes for the rest of your life
    What does early retirement feel like?
    A correlation between the number of credit cards one has and net worth
    My fear of becoming a father

    Looking forward to your personal year in review post! I gotta go take a look at my goals now. I know there were a few I totally failed on, but fortunately some others came out better than I expected!

  4. Done by Forty says

    Thanks for this greatest hits list, Sam. I’ll be working my way through them this week. Thanks, also, for the Yakezie challenge as I think my blog wouldn’t have made it through the tough initial period where I wasn’t sure if anyone was reading, if not for the specific goals of writing regularly and improving the Alexa score, as that connected me with a supportive network of bloggers.

    Looking forward to more of your posts (and frugal-focused, too) in 2014. Cheers!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Really glad to hear the Yakezie Challenge has helped keep you going! Sticking with things for a long enough period to see things click is really more than half the battle. The next class will be tapped in early February!

  5. Brian @ Luke1428 says

    I love the stuff you are producing Sam! I’m interested that you are going to be writing shorter articles for 2014. Is that due to demands on your time? I’ve heard you mention before that search engines seem to favor longer, in-depth posts. Has that changed or are you just understanding more that readers prefer shorter posts? Best of luck to you in the new year!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Thanks Brian. I’ve been telling myself for the past 18 months to write shorter, punchier articles, and I’ve failed. My articles have just gotten longer and longer. This post is an example where I highlighted 35 articles instead of 20, or 10. It’s also 3,000 words long!

      But I keep thinking about the movie, Memento, where Guy Pierce needs to write things down or else he will forget. So I write as thoroughly as possible so that I will never forget.

      Meaty articles stick, but due to ADD, I think the short stuff gets shared the most. I’ve worked 500 word articles in to my longer posts and they’ve proven just that. Got to keep on mixing it up I feel.

  6. Ron says

    Sam,

    Keep up the good work. I find most of your articles interesting, even if not directly relevant to my situation. It’s your personal narrative with actual information that keeps it entertaining.

    For 2014, please consider exploring these topics…

    1. 529′s
    2. Differences to financial strategy / decisions when your spouse is 14 yrs younger
    3. Life insurance
    4. Health insurance approaches for those retiring early
    5. Private school vs public

    Thanks

  7. Tiffany says

    I’m with Sunil, one of the primary reasons I read regularly is because you standout from the rest for wealth building. Yours is the only PF blog that I recommend to others because of this. In 2014, I would like to read more about 529′s and saving for college, questions from your readers with answers/suggestions from you, investing 101 series, planning to care for your parents and investing in real estate.

  8. Wookie says

    Sam, a little ‘look and feel’ feedback:

    I find your site elegant and easy to navigate on Windows / Firefox. I did much of my surfing of your site this past weekend sitting at my desktop computer.

    Having said that, most of my ‘leisure reading’ of the web is done on an iPad, and an old original one at that. Your site doesn’t look very good on an iPad. The helpful “right hand lists” of categories and hot topics are nowhere to be found (or at least I couldn’t find them). There’s a handful of persistent ‘footer buttons’ that are annoying and take up screen space.

    I’m a WordPress novice myself, but I wonder if either your theme or some of your plug-ins are iPad hostile. Might be me, maybe if I could go to iOs7, all would be right with the world. If you’re not already doing so, take a moment to look at your detailed web statistics for “which browsers” etc. folks are using, and every once in a while check how your site looks from their frame of reference.

    Still poking around and learning, great site.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Hi Wookie,

      The site’s theme is “responsive” now and I’ve tested it on all the latest tablets and it looks pretty good to me. No more having to pinch and squeeze to read content.

      The Categories are unfortunately now at the very bottom of the scroll. Hopefully the 25 existing articles on the home page can wet people’s appetites enough with each containing links to other relevant articles.

      Thx

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