2023 in review: Best posts of the year

I look back at the highlights of the year including the top-ranked posts of 2023 as well as the ones I’m most proud of.

Happy almost end of the year! Every year since this blog’s founding in 2012, I’ve devoted some time to looking back at the year. I think it’s a good idea to take stock, before the new year compels you forward and you no longer have time to think about anything.

Professionally, it was my first full year of being an Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®), and I can say that a lot of people said they found me through Find An AFC.

I launched my first-ever group coaching class, which I dubbed M-Path. It was the distillation of all the work that I have been doing with my clients for the past decade, but turned into a more structured program, and allowing people to build community with others at the same time.

I ran M-Path twice this year, and I found it highly rewarding, and you can read the testimonials on my page to see what attendees thought of it. (You can get on the waiting list if you want to be notified when registration opens.)

I also continued to run my continuing education class for therapists a few times, but M-Path took priority, so I didn’t run it as often as I might, say, next year. (If you’re a therapist, you can earn CE hours and get some practical money skills. Learn more here.)

Aside from that, I continued my streak of publishing a blog post every week, without fail, as I have done since 2012. That means that there have been 52 blog posts since I looked back last year.

So let’s look back at some of the highlights of all this content. I pulled up Google Analytics to see what posts were read the most, and then I also compiled the posts I was most proud of.

This is the best of 2023, Empathic Finance-style.

Top posts from readers

5. Is there an alternative? Stocks, inflation, and where to put your money now

With inflation and rising interest rates putting a damper on stock market returns, it was common this year to claim that there are better places to put your money than the stock market. But is there really? Also, does anyone get the joke about the graphic I used for this post?? (Hint: Think of the 1990’s.)

[T]he reason why many people lost their shirts in the Great Recession in 2007-2008 was that they had sold when the market was declining, and so missed all of the gains.

4. What is the I.B.E. Method for building wealth?

If you want to build wealth, this is my method of achieving it. I was very pleased that this post got so much traction, because it means that people are listening, and hopefully taking action.

What you’ve done is that you’ve gone from be reactive (looking at or wondering what you spent) to being proactive (determining what you want to spend, and what on).

3. Why we think that no one wants to work anymore

Seriously, can this lie just die? The claim that staffing shortages these days are due to “no one wanting to work” is verifiably false and easily debunked. It’s just another way that companies are shifting blame for their lower-quality service onto workers. I’m glad to see that others are similarly interested in this specious argument.

I’ve heard people say that this situation was because of the stimulus checks. I’m not joking. Some are still saying that people are not working because they received a few thousand dollars two years ago. For reference, the average median rent in the country is over $2,000. Give me a break.

2. How to build wealth while being a renter

It’s time to retire the myth that you have to own a home to build wealth. Yes, you can build wealth when owning a home, but it may have nothing to do with the home. And even if you never own property, you can still become wealthy. This post goes into how. Clearly I’ve got a lot of city dwellers reading these posts!

In most cases, as a renter, you don’t need to fix the roof, shingle the sides, repair the sink, replace the toilet, change the boiler, or any of the other myriad maintenance issues that a homeowner needs to handle on their own. So while your rent payment may technically be the same as an equivalent mortgage payment, in actuality, you’re paying far less.

1. Going Plaid: Would you give up your bank login credentials?

Oh, Plaid. Nothing has been so divisive in my community this year. I had someone lob a 300 word essay in my comments about how Plaid is harmless and adds no more risk than your bank does. But we still are stuck that a company is asking you—over the internet—to give you the usernames and passwords to your bank accounts. Come on.

In general, any service that requires you to give out your password to another site in order to use, should pretty much go die a painful death.

My top posts

1. Roth, IRA, 401(k), oh my! How to figure out where to put your investment money

There are a lot of places where you can put your money when investing. How do you know what to put where? For the first time, I broke it down on what I think is the best order of investment operations, and why.

[T]he only free money I know of that isn’t a scam is “taking the match” on your retirement account at work.

2. Simple millionaire steps: Max out your Roth IRA

Continuing on the investing topic, I’m always looking simple ways that people can succeed with money. And there are very few tasks simpler than maxing out your Roth IRA account. It may not be easy, but if you can do it throughout your life, that alone will likely make you a millionaire.

Do it and forget it. In a few years you are going to surprise yourself with how much money you have.

3. How not sharing all finances can reduce conflict in your relationships

It sometimes seems truth to the point of being unquestioned: that people in serious relationship should combine their finances equally and totally. But there are a lot of good reasons why you may not want to do this, even in a healthy and successful relationship.

[B]efore you go down the road of blindly believing that because “two become one” that you need to sign away your personal checking account, ask yourself: do you really need to see all those purchases your partner makes, as long as you have agreements and trust? Will all that extra knowledge benefit you in any way?

4. The high cost of cheap flights

People hate paying a lot of money for flights. So many people fly Spirit, which claims to be the cheapest airline. But while people think they are getting a deal, the picture is actually much murkier. I was proud of my takedown here, and hope I can encourage people to look a little deeper into these things and not just accept what companies are telling you.

The more that we “vote with our dollars” and show airlines that we value more than just the bottom line, the more we can entice airlines to change their tactics. And even if we don’t make that kind of change, we’ll still have a more pleasant flying experience.

5. It’s not what you think: Store closings and retail crime

Speaking of not just accepting what companies are telling you, the whole issue of stores suffering from rampant “retail crime” made the rounds in the news this year, but few people stopped to look at the data and the numbers. And the data didn’t lie; instead, it was companies doing the lying. And as an update, just recently a recent news report confirmed my suspicion that the stores Target closed were in fact not primarily because of crime.

Companies are effectively shifting blame to their local population, when what they should be blaming is their own business models.

Looking ahead

I’ve got a good feeling about the year to come, both with the known and the unknown. But regardless, I’ll be here to help you make sense of your financial life.

Thank you for being on this journey with me. Onward!

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