Today marks 10 years of The College Investor! It’s incredible to think about how far this little blog has come. First, whether you’re new here or a long time reader - thank you. You’ve enable this website to grow, provide for others, hopefully give some great financial guidance, and more.
Given how blessed I am to have been online for this long, I wanted to take today and look back on the last 10 years, share some lessons learned, talk about my favorite moments, and maybe shed a little light on the future.
This article is going to be pretty much all personal and business focused with some philosophy along the way - a bit different than the daily dose of money topics we usually cover. Just forewarning you now.
A Look Back Over The Last 10 Years
It’s crazy to believe it’s been 10 years. The site went live on September 11, 2009, and it really wasn’t pretty. See for yourself here:
But I started! And it really wasn’t even the same form it is today. Way back then, I was talking about what stocks to buy, and random musings of a recent college graduate.
Today, we’ve morphed into a large scale media site focused on our core belief: Help people get out of student loan debt and achieve wealth by earning more money.
Of course, we talk about a lot more, from general personal finance, to providing unbiased reviews of most financial products and services. We do comparisons, and try to make it as easy as possible for you to make informed financial decisions.
And it’s been a fun ride. I pulled some Analytics stats from as way back as I could, and noticed an amazing number: this website has been read over 53,000,000 times since 2009. It’s actually probably higher, because I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning and didn’t even start using analytics until Thursday, October 6, 2011 (two years after I started). On that day, 306 people read our site. Thank you from reading back then, and thank you to the readers today.
Key Lessons Learned Along The Way
After 10 years online, I’ve learned a lot about personal finance, marketing, online business, relationships (both business and personal), seasons of life, side hustling, and more. While a book could probably be written about each, here are my top three lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. Always Take Care Of Yourself, Your Family, and Your Values
This is key. You have to take care of yourself and your family, and you need to understand and protect your values. I’ve made mistakes here, learned lessons, and have really made it a point to make sure I’m truly following this everyday.
I’m by no means perfect, but like a sailboat, I use this as my heading and course correct with each wave.
As you set out on whatever you want to do, nothing matters if you’re dead, your family hates you, or you’ve compromised your values. All the money in the world can’t go to the grave with you. Your job only cares about what you can deliver today. Once you’re gone, you’re easily replaceable.
If you hate what you do, change it. If you hate your job, change it. If you’re not earning enough, learn how to boost your income. If you’re not saving enough, look at ways to improve that.
Life is long. Everyday provides you with a new opportunity to take care of yourself and your family. There will always be adversity and challenges. And each season of life will provide new wins and struggles.
But keep focused on what’s best for you and your family, aligned with your values, and you will navigate life pretty well.
2. Just Start - It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect
Failure is scary. But not starting is the biggest failure of all. The great thing about online business is that it’s extremely cheap (if not free), it’s easy to try things, you can learn how to do anything with a simple Google search, it’s possible to iterate, and even if you fail, you’ve typically only lost time.
If you’re on the fence about starting a business, changing careers, or whatever, just do it. You don’t have to have this perfect final product. We all learn as we go. Just start something, try something, see what works and what doesn’t, and then iterate to do it again.
3.Network And Connect With Others Who Get You
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “you are who you surround yourself with” or “you’re the sum of your five closest friends.” As a teenager or young adult, these phrases didn’t really make sense to me. But as I’ve grown older, these phrases are so true - in business, career, family, and money.
The bottom line is - the people you spend your time with are either pushing you forward and helping you grow, or they’re holding you back.
This is a tough realization, but it’s also tougher to change. It can be hard to spend less time with friends, and it can be even harder to find new friends that “get you.”
But that’s what I love about events like FinCon - it’s a giant conference full of people who you don’t have to explain what blogging is, and understand that you can make money online. It’s refreshing.
And over the years - first by connecting and networking online, then by networking and connecting in person, I’ve been able to surround myself with people who’ve helped me grow. And as a result, I’ve seen success in many aspects of my life. And a lot of it is because I was able to connect with others, find mentors, and surround myself with others who get me.
Whether you need to level up your business game (maybe by finding a mastermind), or by adding some new friends to the mix, really seek and find those that get you today and understand where you want to go in the future. Don’t let the past hold you back.
My Favorite Moments Of The Last 10 Years Of The College Investor
There have been a ton of amazing moments I’ve experienced running this business. Thinking back here are a few of my favorites:
I Made My First Dollar Online - January 2011
In January 2011, I made $25.71 from my website! I was so excited. The breakdown was as follows:
- AdSense: $4.80
- InfoLinks: $2.11
- Amazon: $4.70
- Affiliates: $14.10
Given I had been blogging with no income for almost a year and a half, this was a huge win. Even though it wasn’t much, it was a game changer for my mindset going forward.
FinCon St. Louis - October 17, 2013
FinCon was a game changer for me. Being able to network with others in real life was a huge boost to myself and my business (see lesson 3 above). Beyond being the first time connecting with a lot of people I knew online, it was also a time for me to focus and learn about my business.
Plus, there were so many memories:
- Jim from the White Coat Investor was the first “money blogger” I ever met and I was recently on his podcast. We were both checking in at the same time, realized we had "investor" in our names, and chatted for a few minutes in the lobby!
- The first meetup I ever attended was Pat Flynn’s, who I never actually spoke to at the event because I was so busy meeting others (like Joseph Michael).
- The College Investor won the Plutus Award for Best Investing-Focused Blog, the first major recognition the site had ever received.
My Last Day At My Day Job - September 1, 2017
Over two years ago, I was able to do something I never imagined - which was leave my day job to run this venture full time.
Until that point, The College Investor was just a side hustle that I really enjoyed doing. In fact, if you find podcast interviews from before this point in time, I actually say that I never thought I’d leave my day job.
Why? Because I loved it. I used to love what I did, I was compensated well, and I found the work to be relatively easy.
However, life is about seasons. And with younger children, a viable business, and time constraints, it just didn’t make sense to continue to try and balance it - one of these would have to drop. And I made it a choice to drop my day job to focus on my family and The College Investor.
And it’s been a blessing!
Highest Traffic Day To-Date - February 21, 2019
This day saw 239,863 visitors to our site in one day. That’s still such a crazy number to look at. I still can’t believe it and I’m blessed by the growth of the site and trust that you (our readers) put into the site everyday.
Our goal is to continually create the best content that serves you. And given so many of you have been reading and following along, I hope that we are serving you well.
What The Future May Hold
While there is nothing new and magical coming (that I know about), we’re going to continue to tinker to try and deliver the most value we can to you.
While our main content is always going to be focused around helping people escape student loans to build wealth - you’re going to continue to see all areas of personal finance, investing, student loans, and side hustles covered here. You’re also going to continue to get the best reviews and comparisons of financial products and services.
If you haven’t already noticed, you can get the best content from The College Investor on other mediums as well.
We have a podcast: The College Investor Audio Show. It’s available on all your favorite podcast platforms.
We have a YouTube Channel: The College Investor. You can find some great explainer videos and product reviews.
Plus, I’ve been helping create the best tool for your student loans: LoanBuddy. Get started for free and see what the best options for your student loans are.
I'd Love To Hear From You
One of the things that really keep me motivated is to create content that you want to read and listen to, but also engage with. To date, there are currently 19,800 comments on the site, and I love it that you take the time to respond and share your thoughts.
As we continue to craft content for you, what do you want to see more of? How can we help you? Where do you need support? Share it below and let us know!
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.