20 topics for your financial blog

If you feel frustrated by coming up with topics for your financial blog, the journalist’s five Ws and one H can help. Below I share a list of 20 topics inspired by the five Ws and one H.

As you brainstorm topics, think about how you can solve problems for members of your target audience. This will make your posts relevant to them. For help with this, read “WHAT PROBLEM does this blog post solve for them?

5 W's and 1 H infographic

WHY

  • Why I blog—remember to focus on your readers as you write about yourself. I aimed for that in “Why I write for you.”
  • Why I manage money the way I do
  • Why I became a financial planner or an investment manager
  • Why I changed my mind about a topic important to how I help clients
  • Why investors should pay less attention to financial news

WHO

  • Who can you trust with your money?
  • Who should inherit your wealth?

WHAT

  •  What do you want?—ask your readers what they’d like to learn about on your blog
  • What is most important for the success of your investments or financial plan?
  • What is the biggest risk to your financial success?

WHEN

  • When should you retire or start collecting Social Security?
  • When are ready to buy a house?

WHERE

  • Where in the world should you invest?
  • Where should you custody your assets?

HOW

  • How to go broke—sometimes writing about what not to do can be powerful
  • How to pick a financial advisor or investment manager
  • How to pick a mutual fund or ETF
  • How to create a portfolio for the long run
  • How to deal with the stock market’s ups and downs
  • How to protect yourself against inflation

For more ideas about generating blog post topics…

…check out “Photo + Mind Map = Blog Inspiration.”

 

 

Note: I corrected some typos on Dec. 21, 2014, made edits on May 28 and October 24, 2021.

9 ways blogging is like sourdough baking

Like many other Americans, I started baking sourdough bread during the pandemic. I love the process and the taste. As I’ve baked, I’ve also realized that cooking with a sourdough starter has similarities to blogging.

infographic: 9 ways blogging is like sourdough baking

1. It’s scary to start

I wouldn’t have started baking sourdough if I’d had to create a sourdough starter on my own or shell out money to buy a starter. That’s because I figured there was little likelihood that my bread would turn out well. However, I received my sourdough starter—a fermented mix of flour and water—at no cost through my local Buy Nothing group, so I didn’t have anything to lose by trying it.

Similarly, starting to blog involved uncertainty about whether I’d succeed. When I started blogging, I had no idea that I’d eventually write and share well over 1,000 blog posts.

2. Little investment is required to start

Aside from my free sourdough starter, I had everything else I needed to start baking sourdough bread in my kitchen. I had all of the ingredients—flour, water, and salt. I also had two small Dutch ovens.

You can start blogging on a free platform like WordPress.org. As long as you also have a computer, you can start blogging for free.

3. Great instructions help

The woman who gave me my sourdough starter included two pages of feeding instructions with the starter. I read them religiously when I started. I trusted Google to find me a good bread recipe. I feel grateful that it took me to The Clever Carrot’s “Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide.” The step-by-step instructions turned out to be foolproof.

I wrote Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients to provide step-by-step instructions for generating blog post ideas, organizing your ideas before you write, writing your first draft, and doing big-picture edits and line edits.  My readers’ reviews say that I’ve achieved this goal.

4. Starting simply helps

Sourdough baking can get complicated. People buy special baskets called bannetons for shaping the sourdough, they use different techniques for giving structure to the dough, they coat the sourdough surface in rice flour so elaborate patterns that they cut in the bread’s surface will stand out, they create parchment paper slings to drop their dough into preheated Dutch ovens that’ll burn you if accidentally brush against them, and they aim to create an “ear” that makes a slice of the bread look like a side view of a bunny rabbit with a long floppy ear. I haven’t done any of that fancy stuff yet. I might never have started sourdough if I’d thought all of that fuss was necessary.

sourdough bread

Blogging can get complicated, too. You can go for elaborate graphics as illustrations, delve deeply into the best SEO keywords and how to implement them, and much more. Those techniques can pay off eventually, but they’re not necessary to get started.

5. Good tools help

Measuring your sourdough using a scale instead of measuring cups helps because the 500 grams of flour add up to a different number of cups depending on various factors. I quickly upgraded to a digital kitchen scale from my manual scale. I also benefited from buying an instant-read food thermometer to check the inner temperature of my loaves so I can confirm they’re not under- or over-baked.

For blogging—or any kind of writing—I find mind mapping incredibly helpful at the idea generation, organization, and analysis stages of writing and editing. I’m also a fan of automated tools, such as PerfectIt  (subscription required) and Grammarly (free version available). Folks who care a lot about search engine optimization may benefit from tools like Yoast or Wordstream’s free keyword tool.

6. There’s a role for discard

The process of nurturing a sourdough starter means that most bakers generate more starter than they can maintain or bake, so it becomes “discard.” That’s why there’s a whole category of recipes for this flour-water mix, including this great collection of sourdough discard recipes from King Arthur Flour. I’ve regularly been making a double batch of the sourdough pizza crust recipe since I discovered it early this spring. My second favorite recipe is for sourdough popovers.

Discards from your blog posts can also turn into something useful, as I discussed in “Save your trash to feed your blog.”

7. There are many variations on the basic recipe

I’ve experimented with many variations on the basic sourdough recipe. I’ve used different kinds of flour, seeds, dried fruit, herbs, spices, and even vegetables and cheese.

Similarly, there are many different formats for blog posts and different ways to approach a topic.

8. Even failures can be tasty

I have yet to bake an outright failure. However, my friend June tells me that it’s easy to turn a failed bread into croutons or bread crumbs. Bread pudding is another option.

Similarly, an idea that doesn’t turn into a full-blown blog post may still help you somewhere. For example, it might turn into an example that you include in a client email or an item in a FAQ on your website.

9. There’s always more to learn

With less than a year of sourdough baking behind me, I still have a lot to learn. I’ve started keeping a sourdough journal where I record the variations that I try and the problems that I encounter. I hope these notes will help me to improve.

I’m still learning about the craft of writing and blogging. Part of the reason I blog is to help me think through the lessons I’ve learned.

 

Disclosure: If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I provide links to books only when I believe they have value for my readers.

Blog like a mangrove

A mangrove thrives because its roots filter out salt from the water it takes in. I learned this at the San Miguelito archeological site that’s part of the Mayan museum in Cancun, Mexico. I suggest that you act as the “mangrove roots” of your blog.

Filter out the “salt”

Think about the misinformation and distractions that confront your clients and your blog readers every day. Your blog can filter out the destructive “salt” of bad information.

When you present only information that’s accurate and relevant, you’re helping your audience to thrive. Blogging like a mangrove’s roots filter salt is a worthy goal.

I recommend the Mayan museum

If you’re ever in Cancun, I highly recommend its Mayan museum at a cost of only about $5 per person.

Here are two photos I took there.

 

Top posts from 2020’s first quarter

Check out my top posts from the first quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on communication (#1, #5), writing (#2, #4) and grammar (#3).

#1 and #5, a guest post by Andy McMorrow, both discuss  how advisors can communicate effectively during a time of crisis like the current pandemic.

My posts that attracted the most views during 2020’s first quarter

  1. Financial communications during the coronavirus crisis
  2. How to achieve continuity in your writing
  3. MISTAKE MONDAY for January 27: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. Tips for managing author approvals—Managing author approvals can challenge the patience of financial writers and marketers. The process can be equally distressing for authors, if it’s not done well.
  5. Everything old is new again in advisor communications

Top posts from 2019’s fourth quarter

Check out my top posts from the fourth quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on writing (#1, #3, #4), blogging (#2), and grammar (#5).

I got a thrill out of Bryan Garner, the inspiration for the #1 post, retweeting it. He’s an expert on writing and proper usage of the English language.Bryan Garner tweet No brevity without substance

My #2 and #3 posts were included in Michael Kitces’ weekly round-ups of must-read articles for financial advisors, as I noted on my “In the News” page.

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s fourth quarter

  1. No brevity without substance, please
  2. Insecure about blogging? Write a letter
  3. Picture one person your work will help
  4. Avoid embarrassment by hiring knowledgeable writers
  5. MISTAKE MONDAY for October 28: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?

 

 

Insecure about blogging? Write a letter

Some people feel they shouldn’t blog. They hesitate because they don’t have novel topics, or they feel their writing isn’t good enough.

Letter exercise

If you’re hesitating, you might benefit from an exercise called “Exploring Self-Compassion Through Letter Writing” in Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion; The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

As part of the exercise, Neff suggests you write a letter from the perspective of “an imaginary friend who is unconditionally loving, accepting, kind, and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your strengths and all your weaknesses, including the aspect of yourself you have just been thinking about.”

The next step is to “Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend—focusing on the perceived inadequacy you tend to judge yourself for.”

Your friend’s response to your letter

What would this friend say about your:

  • Writing skills
  • Blog topics
  • Other weaknesses and strengths

Here are some of the points this friend might make:

  • Writing is a skill that can be improved through study or working with an editor. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • It’s okay to discuss topics that others have already discussed. This is because they are perennial concerns of your prospects. You can use your insights and personality, as discussed in “How to add personality and warmth to your writing,” to make an impression on your readers.
  • Blogging can be a great way for advisers to clarify their thoughts on important topics, regardless of whether it brings new clients. It also improves your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) on topics you care about.
  • There may be fixes for other weaknesses that you perceive.

Sure, sometimes your imaginary friend will sometimes tell you to give up on blogging. For example, if you’re an incredibly busy advisor with a steady flow of new clients, and you’re a terrible writer, then that might be a valid reason not to blog.

However, in many cases, your friend will say “Please blog.” Listen to your friend.

 

Disclosure: If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Ask questions

This line in O magazine struck me as relevant to financial bloggers:

The wisest people have more questions than answers.

That’s according to wisdom researcher Monika Ardelt in “What Wise People Do Differently.”

Ask questions, even if you lack answers

Reading that line inspires me to suggest that bloggers ask more questions when they write. You don’t need to have all the answers.

If you’re a blogger who’s good at sparking online discussion, you might start an interesting discussion by asking, for example, whether it’s worth spending to attend an Ivy League college.

You could go beyond a one-line question to suggest some factors to consider. In the Ivy League example, those factors might include the income and savings of the college student’s family, the availability of financial aid, the strengths and weaknesses of the specific school the student is considering, and the student’s personality.

Questions to ask

Another article in the same issue of O, “Inquire within” (Jan. 2018, not available online), suggested some questions that I think might work for financial bloggers. For example,

  • Is there a day in your life you really regret? Is there a day you would like to revisit?
  • What is one lesson you would teach your children? How did you learn it?
  • Who is an important teacher in your life?
  • Is the life you’re living today aligned with the most important things you’ve learned?

These questions could easily be tilted toward financial topics.

You can’t answer these questions for your blog’s audience. In fact, it’s presumptuous of you to say that you can.

However, you can answer these questions for yourself in a blog post. That may help your readers find their answers. Their answers could help them to lead better lives.

Top posts from 2019’s third quarter

Check out my top posts from the third quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on newsletters (#1), communication (#2 ,#6), grammar (#3, #5), proofreading (#4), writing (#7, #9), and blogging (#8 & #10).

I’m only listing one Mistake Monday post, although more were among the most viewed, because one Mistake Monday post is much like the others. Check out my Mistake Monday posts if you’d like to improve your proofreading skills!

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s third quarter

  1. Are quarterly newsletters still useful?
  2. Prepare clients for market volatility
  3. MISTAKE MONDAY for July 8: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  4. My three main software tools for proofreading
  5. Contractions: Use or avoid in formal writing?
  6. Bad images hurt credibility
  7. More substitutions for economical writers
  8. Why should institutional investment managers blog?
  9. Buckle down to writing with a virtual stranger!
  10. Lemonade from lemons for your writing

 

 

Lemonade from lemons for your writing

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That’s a well-known expression attributed to writer Elbert Hubbard, as well as to writer Dale Carnegie and businessman Julius Rosenwald. As you know, it means that you should make the most of adversity. You can even turn it into an opportunity. You can apply this message to your blogging.

When you experience misfortune or troubles in a field relevant to your blog, write about it! I’ve done this many times, as in “Watch out for WordPress 5, especially if you compose in Word!

For example, did you make a mistake in paying off your student loans, preparing to buy a house, or judging your tolerance for investment risk? Those are topics that your prospects can relate to.

As I said in “Shakespeare lesson for bloggers,” sharing a story of your personal struggle can make your content more powerful.

Top posts from 2019’s second quarter

Check out my top posts from the second quarter!

They’re a mix of practical tips on compliance (#1, #6), writing (#2, #3, #5, #7, #8), proofreading (#4), grammar (#9), and newsletter (#10).

I’m only listing one Mistake Monday post, although more were among the most viewed, because one Mistake Monday post is much like the others. Check out my Mistake Monday posts if you’d like to improve your proofreading skills!

My posts that attracted the most views during 2019’s second quarter

  1. 6 tips to keep your compliance officers happy—This post drew on contributions from many of my colleagues in the fields of writing and marketing.
  2. Stay the same or evolve?
  3. Change your writing for the better
  4. MISTAKE MONDAY for May 6: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?
  5. Professional writers vs. amateur writers
  6. Marketer’s perspective on investment marketing compliance—This guest post was written in reaction to my compliance post in the #1 spot.
  7. Top posts from 2019’s first quarter
  8. Must you be inspired to write?—All of the respondents to the poll in this article said that they don’t need to be inspired to write. I suspect that most of them are professional writers or have writing as an important component of their jobs. Here are a couple of comments: “If I waited for inspiration, I might never meet a deadline!” and “I’m a content creator who has to write daily, whether I’m inspired or not.”
  9. Limit your use of the progressive tense
  10. Pick your e-newsletter sender name carefully