Retire early and happily.
Robert Berger is the founder of Allcards.
Berger has written a book titled “Retire before Mom and Dad” and runs a financial blog that helped him gain traction to become a valued financial guide and advice giver via Youtube.
Learn more about the book “Retire before Mom and Dad” by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. Stick around to the end of the show; we'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
And with us right now, we got Rob Berger. Rob is a good friend of mine. Rob, you're a deputy editor at Forbes, you are the founder of Allcards. You are the author of a book Retire Before Mom and Dad. And you also have an interesting background in that you started one of the kind of seminal personal finance websites called Dough Roller ended up selling it. And I would imagine you sold it for a fair amount of dough. We'll talk about that a little bit. And then we'll also maybe just talk a little bit about, I know, opportunity that exists right now to kind of help and provide some leadership during this time. But Rob, thank you so much for joining us, Josh. Thanks for having me. All right. So how did you get into kind of the personal finance space?
Well, so I was practicing law. I went to law school and was a lawyer in Washington, DC, and I got kind of bored, and my wife said, you need to get a hobby. And so that kind of led me to starting a personal finance blog as just a little thing I would do on the side. And I got addicted to it. Frankly, I was up at 5am every day, seven days a week for years, working on this thing, writing about personal finance, investing, managing your money, and that's how it got started. You know, as an attorney, obviously, you were a partner. I mean, You're busy guy.
I would imagine, you know, even though like it's fun to have hobbies, uh, you know, it must have been challenging at times, thinking. I mean, I enjoy doing this but am I? At what point did you think I could actually make money at this? I started in the middle of oh seven
and I would say by the end of 2008 I knew that I could possibly make life changing amounts of money from I mean, you can make you can make a little bit right off the bat, you know, a few few pennies here a few dollars there. Yeah, yeah, I was after about a year and a half, I realized that I'm on to something that could be big. I wasn't making tons of money then. But I was I had enough traction where I said, Okay, this is serious.
Yeah. What in what form does that does that money happen for a website like dough roller? Like so what what did what did you see? Oh, my gosh, no, I can actually make money money.
Well, I can give you a specific example. This was actually early 2008. I started Partnering with MSN and they were syndicating some of my content, I kind of just fell into that opportunity. And one day I landed on the article landed on the homepage of MSN and it sent my blog a ton of traffic. And I made like, 1500 dollars in one day in Google AdSense money, which is my guides,
right? Those are the days,
right. And I thought, wow, this blogging thing can pay off, of course, you know, that was just one day and then it went back down to the normal $2 and 40 cents a day. But that told me Okay, there's some real money to be made online.
Yeah. Nice. Nice. So then, what do you do to continue to grow dough roller? And can you kind of just explain, you know, for people, I just, what kind of content were you producing? What features were you offering your audience? How did that work? And then how did you get picked up by MSN?
Well, that was kind of a lucky thing, I guess. But the content was personal finance and investing. So I was writing content on help. people manage their money whether it's how to invest in your 401k how to improve your credit score, how to get out of debt, whatever, MSN they reached out to me actually and to be honest, I don't know how they found me they just found dough roller and thought, Well, here's a quirky little website and reached out to me and it was really just chance. But you know, one thing is the harder you work the luckier you get. And so you know, it happens if you keep at it. But yeah, it was just kind of luck that I connected with MSN but since then I've connected with Forbes I've Yeah, I've had, you know, Yahoo Finance. So other relationships over time develop it just, you just got to keep putting in the work. Mm hmm. And tell me about the content you're producing on dough roller. So it was again all personal finance content. It was mainly long form articles on how to do certain things, how to improve your credit score, how to invest is a big topic for me as it is today. And eventually I you know, I started a podcast in 2013. And I didn't do much with the video. It's funny. I'm now doing now. I'm really focused on a YouTube channel that I've started on investing. But when I owned dough roll, or I sold it in 2018, when I owned it, I didn't really do much with the video, but podcasts and long form educational content.
Yeah. In terms of is I would imagine, is it because you enjoy doing that more? Is that kind of where you see readers and consumers kind of looking or gravitating toward there? Maybe there's a bigger opportunity for that. You mean in terms of video today? Yeah, right. Right, that the right format for content.
So I, to me, the the
the question I would get often is I hear what you're saying in an article or in a podcast, but I need to see it. If you're going to go to morningstar.com for example, and evaluate a mutual fund. I want to actually see you I want to look over your shoulder, Rob, and see you do it. Well, you know, that gets us to video. So I started doing a lot of screencasts where people can look over my shoulder and see me working with a spreadsheet or with some online tool, you know, or whatever the case may be. And that seems to resonate with folks that they find that helpful.
Nice. Okay, so now, you know, with dough roller, the your audience is growing sounds like you're getting more and more opportunities to syndicate your content. Do you think that they it was because of the quality of your content or the quantity that you started creating these relationships
that you've just asked the $64,000 question. I think it's well, I think both matter. But but but quality has got to be first among equals, right. And the reason I don't quantity matters, you can't have a good website about investing with three articles. It's just not going to be enough. But you also don't need 3 million, but if you don't have quality you might have just stop what you're doing. So quality absolutely has to be there. And I think in the early days, that was the most important thing. But over time, you You know, you need to cover the topic thoroughly. And that requires quantity.
So, by the way, the same thing with YouTube, I'm really just getting started with my channel. And I like to think I'm doing quality videos, but I've only got about a half a dozen. So I shouldn't expect to be a YouTube star. Well, maybe ever, but certainly not with six videos, right? It's just not enough quantity. People need more information. It's true, whether it's a podcast, you know, or written content.
How often are you producing content for YouTube now? So I'm at least what's the goal anyway?
Yeah, so the goal is actually three videos a week.
Yes, I've heard that. And I've heard this several times now, where if you can produce three or more videos a week, and you can do that for about four months straight. Then there's some sort of a magical club that YouTube it's not a you know, it's not massive initially, but you start to get recommended more and you start showing up higher and higher end searches. YouTube likes content producers that are consistent.
And it makes perfect sense. They don't want to be recommending someone only to see them stop producing videos and have no content. But I'm happy to come back on the show four months from now let you know if that's right.
Alright, so when did the book start and was the book just to kind of a natural outgrowth of the blog content?
Yeah, I wanted to do a book forever. And I really found the time after I sold a roller to finish it. And it started out you know, it's called retire before mom and dad the simple numbers behind a lifetime of financial freedom. It was originally money math, the simple numbers behind a lifetime of financial freedom and people said they don't like math. And then I said, Okay, fine. We won't call it math. And then but then I changed the title because I really wanted to hook in the younger folks who are just out of high school just out of college. I mean, the book really applies to anyone at any age, but I wanted to get folks I what I said was I want to put Dave Ramsey out of business. That's my goal. So people think about his typical person as someone in their 30s or 40s is completely screwed up their finances right. So my goal is to eliminate those kind of people. Right? If we get them when they're 20 before they can make all those mistakes, then Dave can just retire and enjoy life. Yeah, yeah. I don't think he's I don't think his business is at risk, though, because of my book. I'm being totally honest here.
Like, likely not, he's still he's still it still seems to be cranking along. So then, how do you rise to the position where you become the depth of a deputy, you got deputized? Somehow? Who deputized you well, and what did that mean?
So I started contributing for Forbes like five years ago and had a very good relationship with Forbes when I sold dough roller. I mentioned it to the folks at Forbes just saying, hey, I've sold dough roller, so I'm probably gonna have even more time to do some writing for you. And like, they called me the next day and said, Well, wait a minute. We actually want to hire you as an employee, not just as a contributor, and I manage I've actually just We've hired my replacement effectively, but I managed sort of personal finance and investing content on forbes.com. You know, for a couple of years, I'm still there, and I'll still have a role, but I told them I wanted to transition to someone else so that I can focus on those three YouTube videos a week. I need to produce and some other things, but it's been great people there are wonderful to work with. I've enjoyed it immensely.
Yeah, excellent. So dough rollers doing really well.
Not anymore. But yeah,
it's do I remember I don't know. But, but I'm saying that, you know, under your stewardship, it's, it's going back a little bit. How did the How did the exit acquisition happen? I mean, I think that that's the the dream of some bloggers like someone, someone that deep pockets is going to come along and saying, how much
there there are a lot of buyers for personal finance blogs, you just have to have enough revenue. If you you know, they're probably wanting to Certainly mid six figures in revenue and preferably seven, just because it's hard for them to take on a smaller site, a bigger company. So if you can get, you know, that kind of revenue, you know, there's plenty of opportunities to sell. But in my case, I wasn't looking to sell it. I had a bunch of companies reach out to me, and that happened off and on for years. But when I actually ended up selling it, I had two or three all at the same time, all within, you know, a couple of weeks, reach out, and I
think they just find you because they see your ranking well, in search engines, your what ranking well, for whatever the topic is in Google, and they kind of can guesstimate what kind of revenue that's generating, or they could generate with that traffic, and they reach out to you. It would take, it's, it's smart for them, because it would take a lot of effort to try to come down, you know, to gain that. I mean, you think about, you know, the time that it takes to develop all that content, and then, you know, to get it to rank like it like it does. It could be Much more economical for them to just make a purchase,
when you think about a company that say is valued at 15 times their earnings, right? And they can acquire a blog at four or 567 times earnings or even 10 times earnings, right? Well, they've just added to their bottom line and increase the value of the company, just from the acquisition, even if they don't increase revenue to the blog. So it makes a lot of sense for some of the larger companies.
And then, like in terms of the exit, then, you know, why these guys?
Well, I had a couple different offers, and it was a combination of the best offer and who I thought would continue to maintain the site in a way that, you know, I could be proud of,
and Did you Did they say, I mean, you know, I guess one thing that would be of concern would be do you come along with like, if dough roller is attached to your brand, like your personal name and brand, you know, how does that get handled is that just like a, hey, over two, three years, we're going to kind of phase you out a little bit more. More. Is that how that worked? Or were you always just kind of hidden behind the scenes?
Well, when it's time I sold it most of the content has been was being written and published under other people's names. I mean, oh, wow, leave content on there. But I had a team of people helping me. Yeah. And I was happy that virtually everyone went to the new company. So everyone that wanted to did, and I was, I was happy about that. So, you know, there was a transition period, I still record the dough roller money podcast, so I'm still associated with it in that regard, even though I don't own the podcast anymore. And there was a transition where I continue to run the site, but it was very short few months as I recall it, but it varies. Some people want folks to stay on for a year or two to run it. It just depends on what each party wants to do and what gets negotiated. Yeah,
yeah. Okay, so then you're kind of on a non compete and and I don't mean to spill the beans on anything. You're like, Josh, come on, you got good. Okay. But now you've launched all cards, right? Can you can you share a little bit about that.
Yeah, so all cards calm is a site I've actually owned for a long time, but it sat there dormant. And I tell you what it is. So there's a lot of credit card sites out there a lot of banking sites, on the in the credit card space, a lot of travel stuff and all that kind of thing. What I wanted to do is show people how you can take something as simple as cash back rewards, and actually turn it into a pile of cash if rather than spending it to take an eight hour first class plane ride, which no one's doing now anyway, you actually save the money and invest it. And so I actually do that my wife and I take all of our credit card rewards and invested in a low fee, Vanguard mutual fund, and we've got a five figure portfolio, which is relatively small if you think about in terms of retirement after just a year and a half. And I'm confident it'll go to six figures just from credit card rewards. And I know it sounds silly, like wait a minute, one 2%. How can that be six figures but compounding is a beautiful thing, Josh, and it's so so I kind of use all cards as a way to sort of teach that And, you know, talk about the landscape of banking and credit cards. And then that's, you know, kind of a geeky little thing of mine that I enjoy doing.
So working with credit cards can be, it can be pretty lucrative, right? If you've got some decent traffic, it can be I mean, right now all cards is not.
But yeah, credit cards is, for better or worse. I think there's a downside to this as well. But I think credit cards is extremely lucrative, unfortunately, any debt product can be extremely lucrative,
right? I say, unfortunately, because I think, you know, credit cards can be a good thing, but they can also be a bad thing. And can get people in a lot of financial trouble. Yeah, they're, it's a very lucrative vertical.
Sure, sure. And so, into speaking of that, let's kind of just shift just a little bit to talk about, you know, as of when we're recording this right now, you're getting into the second half of April. And so you know, everyone's kind of been on various levels of lockdown. For most of us, like 30 days or so, and, you know, what is your best guess? I mean, no one has a crystal ball. What's your best guess, on the economy? Like, do you think that there are going to be long term painful consequences? Or are you a little bit more optimistic that we should rebound? And if so, what do you base that on?
Yeah. So I think there will be long term effects from this not unlike the Great Depression, where it affected a generations view about money. I think, frankly, in a positive way. One, one could argue. Obviously, the circumstances here are different, but we're not going to go back to normal if normal. We think about that in terms of before COVID-19 until social interaction goes back to normal. And social interaction is not going to go back to normal. I don't believe this year. Now. That doesn't mean it's going to stay the way it is right now. We don't know what kind of medicine is going to be developed. We don't know how this you know, the COVID-19, what course it's going to run, you know, is it going to is going to flare up again in the fall and winter? Are we going to develop immunity? If we haven't, you know, we don't know that. So those are all unknowns. But even if, you know, we're allowed out of our homes in a month or two, how many of us are going to crowd into a movie theater side by side strangers The day after? Some people will some people would probably do that today if it could. But I think a lot of us are not going to want to be cramped inside an airplane for a while. You know, if you think about 911, it took about what I think two years for the airline industry to get back to where it was before 911. A, we've got a long haul in front of us now to get back to normal and that's going to affect the economy. It's going to affect the profitability of companies. When we think about our investments. I By the way, I haven't changed my investment strategy one bit, haven't sold a single share of anything. This is a great time to invest anytime you go into a bear market. Yeah, this is where you make your money. You Don't make your money in a bull market. You make your money by what you do in a bear market. And the best thing to do is just, you know, stand there and do nothing and keep doing what you're doing. Right. But yeah, I think I don't know how severe severe everything's gonna get, but I think we're in for this is a marathon, not a sprint? Yeah.
If you are as a business owner, like, what would you recommend to other business owners? And because you were, I mean, you know, you remember 2008 and I was I was a business owner that I mean, savings Angel. That's how we grew to a six figures a month is because of the recession of 2008 because we offered a solution that helped people who wanted to save money at the grocery store needed to, you know, using coupons, that sort of thing. And then, you know, I was also self employed during 911. And its major disruption when the Things happen. And when there's disruption, I think there is incredible opportunity. But you can't you can't be Machiavellian about it, you have to my own opinion, is that, how can I show up? How can I serve? Can I do this in a way that consumers are looking for right now? So for example, you know, more consumers than ever, the PR industry was just ravaged. Like, if I'm like, in our like the, you know, PR professionals group, the Facebook group, I feel so I mean, it's a bloodbath. But these guys were relying on these, you know, these big budget clients and the big budget, the big got, the budgets are gone. And so now these agencies are laying off all their people. And so well, what do those companies want? What can they afford? What can they buy? How can we solve those problems in a way that meets consumers where they are? I mean, that's kind of my thinking on that. What advice would you give? What other advice would you give to business owners? Yeah, my
first thing is you've got to absolutely do your best to control and your cash flow. Because it's kind of like you know, putting on your, your, your air mask oxygen mask before you help someone else. So you can't help your consumer if you end up going under. And so you know, I would get the I would get the expense side of your your income statement as low as you possibly can, while still maintaining your business. That's one of the nice things about the business I'm in is that there's almost no expense, it's my time, that's my biggest expense is my time. But in any event, you got to you got to manage cash flow, or you're not going to survive. My sister is a commercial and residential painter, she owns a company. And that's, you know, kind of the mode she's in. She's doing it quite well. But it's not easy. And so that's the first thing you got to take care of your business so that it'll it'll survive if you can survive these difficult times. I think most businesses come out much stronger. Because first of all, a lot of businesses unfortunately won't survive now. And that's just it's true in every business. Yeah. In every industry, and so if you can survive this and continue to do the things, whatever your business is, in my case, it's producing good content, right? That's my business. So if I can continue to do that even recognizing I won't make much money in 2020, that's okay. I mean, all the credit card issuers, almost all of them are not advertising anymore. They're gone. Right? Many of the banks are gone. But if I can keep producing great content, and building the site and interacting, like you said, giving consumers the information they need to get through these difficult times. I'll come out of this all the more all the stronger as a business. Not easy to do. But I think that's that's how I look at it. In fact, oh, wait, no, nine was a great time for me even though again, it didn't make a lot of money. It set me up for when the economy improved, and advertisers came back. Yeah.
Well, Rob, thank you so much for joining us. And, you know, someone obviously, we kind of talked about all cards. You know, your book, retired before mom and dad. Anything else that your your new YouTube channel Like, where would someone go? If they're like, I like this guy? It's it sounds pretty smart and And where would be a good place for them to kind of log in to your podcast as well? Where would where would you recommend people come check you out?
Well, I would say YouTube if you go to YouTube and just search Rob Berger, B E R G E R, or you'll find me. And I think that's where I'm going to be focusing most of my attention in terms of, you know, videos and trying to help people. I've done a lot actually on COVID-19. And you know, the stimulus payments, the mortgage relief, the student relief, but heavy focus on investing and sort of money management. But anyway, I would say YouTube, I'm on Twitter, too. You can find me there.
Awesome. Awesome. All right. Rob Berger, thank you so much. Again, author of Retire Before Mom and Dad, the owner of Allcards and now prolifically, soon to be prolifically found on YouTube. Thank you so much, Rob. Thanks, Josh. Appreciate it.
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