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Started As An Accident, The Penny Hoarder Has Become One Of The Trailblazers In Personal Finance

If you’ve googled a personal finance question in the last nine years, you’ve probably come across The Penny Hoarder.

Founded in 2010 by Kyle Taylor as an outlet to talk about money, the site has grown into one of the most successful online personal finance resources, with 12-17 million unique readers per month according to the site.

But according to Taylor, the creation of The Penny Hoarder was entirely an accident. Speaking with Even Financial Founder & CEO Phill Rosen during a fireside chat at FinCon2019, a conference for personal finance content creators, Taylor said that what he had really wanted to do was to work in politics hoping to become the next Josh Lyman (the erratic but lovable deputy chief of staff in the hit show “The West Wing”).

Instead, he was a 25-year-old with $50,000 in credit card and student loan debt working on a new campaign with no money saved. Facing three weeks until his first paycheck, he had his “rock bottom moment.”

“I was really really embarrassed by it,” he said. ‘It was so embarrassing that I would turn my phone over so my team and friends wouldn’t see my collectors calling.”

Ashamed at the state of his finances but unable to confide in even his closest friends, Taylor opened a free Blogspot site, figuring it would provide a platform for him to have an honest conversation about money.

“Money is one of those weird things. I was taught ‘We don’t talk about politics, we don’t talk about religion, and we don’t talk about how much money we make,’ so we don’t talk about it with each other.”

It took a few years, but the site eventually gained a following and Taylor eventually grew comfortable enough to out his site to friends and family.

“I think one of the things that worked about The Penny Hoarder, and one of the things we’re still trying to do today, is to create a space where people can have a conversation. The content in the early days was just my story, but it was very raw. It took a little while, but I started to hear from people in the same situation. I really think that is the heart of it—sharing a real experience we all have, but with a stranger because we can’t talk about it with friends and family.”

Today, The Penny Hoarder has become not just an example of how to build a following, but how to monetize. Taylor has championed affiliate and performance marketing as a way to build a business out of personal finance advice. He says he has found success by building content for specialized audiences, handpicking clients he believes in, and being transparent to readers.

Rather than rely on banner ads and programmatic advertising for products that are not relevant, The Penny Hoarder has become a pioneer of native advertising—custom content created in conjunction with APIs provided by partners like Even Financial to better match readers and brands that are relevant to each other.

“We have to offer our readers, our customers, a better experience, and I think the best is affiliate marketing. You can do it in a very evil way, so it has to be done with ethics and I encourage people to be careful about who they’re writing about. But it has to be with a partner you trust and partner who can provide a backend experience because ultimately the reader is going to give you blame or credit for that.”

The increased personalization of ads has been a focal point of Taylor’s and helped them form better strategic relationships, he said. As to whether readers have pushed back against potential conflicts of interest, Taylor said they’ve found that isn’t the case as long as there are disclosures.

“We’ve actually done testing around it that the more disclosing we do, the better it is for us. People want that kind of authenticity.”

With over 100 employees and growing, Taylor seems to have tapped into something organic that has filled a very real demand online.

“He has a really amazing story,” said Even Financial CEO Phill Rosen. “The Penny Hoarder is I think a pretty special site that’s really done a great job of building a community that trusts Kyle and his content, and follows him like nothing else we at Even have ever seen.”

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