Freefincal was born this week three years ago! A post to say 'thank you' to all readers and supporters who keep it alive and reflections on the journey so far.
A blog cannot survive without readers, without interaction, feedback, appreciation, motivation and criticism. I am more than confident that freefincal readers are some of the most intelligent people to have ever opened a personal finance blog. Not flattery, but fact. The content here is a bit more 'advanced' than what is found in a typical personal finance blog. I have the motivation to produce it and push the envelope only because of you.
I have no lofty notions associated with freefincal. I do not see it as an instrument "spreading financial literacy". It is an instrument to keep me away from depression via you the reader. Yes, I get depressed often. More like once a week. On every one of those days, every one of them, I would receive a comment, an email, a message or phone call from a reader that I have a made a difference to their lives. That keeps me going. That is the only reason the blog is alive today.
The journey so far
Now I would like to reflect on the past, the present and the future. Kindly excuse the self-indulgence.
Freefincal was born out of the Excel sheets I made for myself. Soon after I got my first tenured salary, my (late) father was diagnosed with cancer. So I became the 'man of the house' who found himself in steep debt because of medical expenses. The resolve to get out of debt and manage my money better took me to Subramoney and Jagoinvestor.
Soon followed a retirement calculator in which I wanted to incorporate features not available in most online calculators.
I approached Manshu Verma who blogs at onemint.com for a 'guest post'. My first retirement calculator was published there on June 2011.
The response to the post electrified me! Readers reacted exactly the way I wanted them to! They appreciated the features, the open-source nature of the sheet and the fact that such content is not prevalent.
What Freefincal stands for today was born out of those responses. Thanks to those who used the sheet at Onemint.
Most bloggers start a blog and worry about what their niche should be. I found my niche before I had any intention of starting a blog.
A blog in personal finance that is. I had earlier started a comic blog called 'grouchy comics'. Just as it was getting popular, I grew bored and aborted.
I soon realized that there was an area in personal finance which was unexplored: hands-on financial planning and analysis.
However, I was too lazy to start a blog on my own. As a subscriber to networkfp.com I saw an offer that acclipse.com was offering a free website for financial planners.
I applied for one and "MP financials" was born. It is still live. It was started as a repository for financial calculators. I soon realized that the search engine optimization of such services was pathetic.
I soon realized that the search engine optimization of such services was pathetic. A blog is online for one reason: visibility. If there is a problem there, it will not survive.
Thankfully I knew from day one that content generation is only 50% of blogging. The rest is promotion.
So I soon moved to freefincal.wordpress.com.
In a bid to gain widespread exposure, I promoted like mad among the financial planning community.
I sent several emails to 100s of bloggers, IFAs and financial planners and personal messages via Facebook.
Subra was one of them! Not only did he review many of the sheets, he offered and continues to offer ideas for several calculators. That sort of perspective thrusted upon you can lead to only one thing: learning and more learning.
I am indebted to Subra's generosity. He has repeatedly promoted me via his blog and facebook. Many, if not most freefincal regulars came via subramoney.com
That is when the investor community really took notice of the blog, used the calculators, shared it among their contacts and pushed me to create better content.
I became obsessed with optimizing the blog for improving speed and learnt about SEO basics. I do not however analyze google keywords to find out the words people use for searching. I cannot bring myself to write crappy posts like, "Top 5, best mutual funds of 2015"; "Best claims settlement ratio ...", just because top and best is what people use for searching the most.
All the more reason why you are responsible for freefincal's 'success'. The blog today receives about 4000-5000 page views each day. Not spectacular, but more than decent.
Here are the main sources of traffic:
Via Google: ~52%
Email subscriptions: 25%
Facebook: ~ 12% (a good chunk of this from FB group Asan Ideas for Wealth)
If I want spectacular, I must write posts like, "features of Sukanya yojana", "Banks offering Pradhan Mantri yojana's", "Sukanya Yojana: 9.1% to 9.2% difference in corpus calculator". Yuck!
Dismissive posts about such yojanas and 50,000 tax saving in NPS does not get you 'spectacular' visibility!
Who cares?! I am more than happy with 'decent'. That is my niche and many of you get that.
Here are some of my future objectives ( in no particular order):
1) Focus on stock analysis tools and techniques (started last December. So far so good)
2) Promote freefincal amongst the financial services community as the crazy blog which provides excel sheets but derides financial planners, IFAs, distributors etc. with some stupid talk about conflict of interest.
3) provide better investor workshops. Understanding investor psychology is not one of my strong points. Lots to learn here.
4) Engage in advanced, but accessible research on markets, mutual funds, bonds etc.
5) Encourage and promote DIY investing, direct mutual fund investing and fee-only financial planners.
6) Try to go beyond excel. Hopefully online analysis tools.
7) Produce some 'how to' videos (don't like the medium but readers do)
8) Make more calculators
I require your support to pull his off. Thank you.