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Personal Finance By The Book – Best of the Best Blogger Series

by on January 19, 2012

Personal Finance By The Book - Best of The Best Blogger SeriesNext up, we’re featuring Joe Plemon from Personal Finance By The Book in our 37th edition of the Best of the Best Blogger series.

Joe got started a few years ago when he had a epiphany about his personal finances.  After reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”, he came to the realization that he was doing everything wrong and needed to change it as soon as possible.

He immediately jumped into action by mapping out a budget, aggressively paying down debt and trading down his more expensive car for a more affordable one.  Joe eventually ended up paying off his house in its entirety as a result of his financial transformation.

Joe then started running financial education classes at his local church.  The response that he got showed him that he could help really people with their finances – maybe even a lot of people.  So, he took the next logical step in his journey and decided to get certified as a financial counselor.

Not long thereafter, in the fall of 2006, Joe launched Plemon Financial Coaching so he could continue to help people with their financial futures.  As a result of his counseling and financial coaching experience, Joe began writing for the Southern Illinoisan newspaper as their Money Columnist in October of 2007 as well as his hometown weekly rag.

We sat down with Joe recently to talk about Dave Ramsey, financial baby steps, and belly laughs.

What was the inspiration behind the Personal Finance By The Book (PFBTB)?

Let me state unequivocally that I never had any aspirations to be a blogger.  As a baby boomer, the technology doesn’t come easy for me and as a retiree, I wasn’t motivated to put the required effort into writing a blog.

However, Jeff Rose, who writes Good Financial Cents, persisted in challenging me to give blogging a try.  Jeff, a fellow southern Illinois resident, was certain that the content in my weekly Dollars and Sense newspaper column would be a great fit for a blog.  Eventually, I acquiesced and we started.  I say “we” because Jeff held my hand for months while I learned my way around the world of blogging.  Two and a half years later, my site is still going.   So…what (or who) was the inspiration behind Personal Finance by the Book?  Jeff Rose.

As a father of four, you’ve talked about how you thought you were “doing all right” financially but came to the realization that you weren’t doing all right.  What specific event (or events) made you come to that realization?

Several years ago, while experimenting with my new Sirius Radio, I stumbled across the Dave Ramsey show.  Although I had never heard of him, I was immediately drawn to his no-nonsense message to get out of debt and stay out of debt.
That day marked a change in how I thought of money.  Before, I was willing to “drift” financially, with no plan and no focus,  but I went home that night, left the TV off,  and started talking with my wife about our financial future.  We have never been the same.

You’ve also mentioned Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” as a big influence in your financial life.   Is there anything about Ramsey’s philosophy that you disagree with?  What’s tenet of his philosophy has been most impactful in your life?

There is very little that I disagree with Dave Ramsey about.  He catches some criticism because his “one size fits all” message seems too rigid, but such clarity is necessary when speaking to millions, as Dave does.

That being said, I have heard him bend some of his own rules when speaking one on one in a radio broadcast.

His “Baby Steps” have been the most impactful in my life.  Nearly every financial writer will have good tips about how to take control of your money, but Dave ‘s Baby Steps chart out a clear step by step process which prioritizes what to do in what order.  People (myself included) win with money when we can put all of our energy and focus on one thing at a time.  The Baby Steps provide that focus.

Who are some of your favorite personal finance bloggers?

I almost hate to start because I will certainly leave someone out.  But here goes:

I love Good Financial Cents, Bible Money Matters and Christian PF because these guys are the real deal.  Jeff, Peter and Bob have not only stood up to the test of time, but they keep getting better.  All three thoroughly research their topics and always give solid advice.

I read Everyday Tips and Thoughts because Kris is a great writer who easily engages her readers in, well, everyday things.

Two great blogs with a decided edge are Len Penzo and Punch Debt in the Face.  Len and Ninja both use cutting humor to challenge readers to personal responsibility. I mean it.   When I break into a belly laugh while in a room alone, I know I am reading something funny.  The stick figures Ninja comes up with are enough by themselves to crack me up.

For solid Christian counsel, Money Help For Christians is where I go. Craig Ford, a missionary, knows his stuff.

Two younger writers whom I love to check in with are Tim at Faith and Finance and Alex with EntrepreLife.  Reading what the twenty –somethings are saying is good therapy for a sixty something guy.

What are you most grateful for about your blogging experience with Personal Finance By The Book?

I am most grateful for the fellow bloggers I have met.  A missionary in Papua New Guinea, an engineer in Los Angeles, a full time blogger in St Louis, etc, etc.   The most surprising aspect, for me, is how helpful they are.  In a dog eat dog world, my faith in my fellow man is greatly enriched by these acquaintances.

Given your experience and overall philosophy, how do you feel today about credit cards?  Are they useful or, as Dave Ramsey insists, should they be avoided at all costs?

You couldn’t resist the credit card question, could you?  Here goes:  Although I do not own any credit cards, I have mellowed over the years.  Reality is that many, many people handle credit cards responsibly, so I have no issue with those who do.  But after being credit card free for years, I don’t miss them one iota.

Thank you Big Joe for taking the time with us. Your journey has been both admirable and fruitful for yourself and those you’ve touched. Keep up the great work!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe Plemon January 19, 2012 at 7:57 am

Thanks for the interview! I am honored to be considered a "Best of the Best"!


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