In 2008, Kitces.com was first launched as a platform to showcase my new paid newsletter service, The Kitces Report, and to advertise my services as a speaker for financial advisor conferences, with a “grand vision” that my newsletter would help to draw interest for more speaking engagements, and that speaking in front of more advisor audiences would help me grow the number of paid subscribers to the newsletter. And on the side… I launched a blog, to share a few of my thoughts on financial planning strategies and industry trends that didn’t quite merit a full issue of the newsletter.
A decade later, the growth of the Nerd’s Eye View blog has surpassed even my wildest dreams, moving from a side project to the center of my business, built on a foundational belief that if we can stay focused on advancing knowledge in financial planning and helping real financial advisors to be more successful in their businesses and with their clients, that growth and other opportunities would come. And indeed they have, as the latest Erdos & Morgan study on financial advisor usage of digital media found that the Nerd’s Eye View ranks #1 for influence, objectivity, credibility, and simply being actually useful to financial advisors.
Given this growth, we’re excited to announce the addition to two new positions with the Kitces.com team. The first is a new Associate Editor role, to help us manage the ever-growing volume of content, readers, and behind-the-scenes logistics that are necessary to execute our growing media platform. The second is a new Senior Researcher, to replace Dr. Derek Tharp as he takes on a new financial planning teaching position at the University of Southern Maine’s business school. The Senior Researcher will help us to build a growing base of original research we aim to conduct directly through the Kitces.com platform, to help gain a better understanding of what real financial advisors actually do – from how they deliver plans, to how they price their services, how they use technology, and how they market and grow their advice-centric firms.
In the end, the goal of this growth and expanding the Kitces.com team is not to alter the service that we provide to the financial advisory community; instead, it’s simply to help us get even better at what we already do. Because in the end, a successful growing business needs more good people to be more successful and have a bigger impact to the community it serves. Which is true for both running a financial advisory firm itself, and also a platform that serves them. We’re nowhere close to being done yet, and I can’t wait to see what we can build to help the advisor community in the next 10 years from here!
Looking Back over the Past 10 Years Of Kitces.com
This year, the Kitces.com platform, and our newsletter The Kitces Report, are celebrating their 10-year anniversary.
Launched in the spring of 2008, The Kitces Report was created as a way for me to share my own journey of learning about and analyzing financial planning strategies for clients. In the preceding years of the mid-2000s, I had begun to take some of the research I was doing for our clients at Pinnacle Advisory Group in my role as their Director of Financial Planning, and submitting it to the Journal of Financial Planning and various trade magazines like Financial Planning for publication. However, at the time, the trade publications were still printed magazines first and foremost – while the online version came second – and as a result, my articles often had to be cut significantly to fit within the available physical inches of column space between the printed ads.
To resolve my frustration – as no writer likes to see half their content end out on the cutting room floor! – I decided to publish a digital-only content-only newsletter, to provide a place for me to share my own research and analysis in a format unconstrained by physical magazine printing limitations or the demands of advertisers. Because you can always just add another page to a PDF (or keep scrolling down a webpage!)!
Inspired by those like Bob Veres, who had turned “written educational newsletter content for advisors” into a bona fide business with his own Inside Information newsletter, I had a vision that I, too, could get paid to share my expertise and insights through a newsletter sent to the advisor community. Aided in no small part at launch by Bob Veres himself, who both generously provided me his web developer at no cost to help me launch the first version of the Kitces.com website (it was “cutting edge” at the time!), and helped to promote The Kitces Report newsletter to his own readers.
In the early days, The Kitces Report (e-)newsletter was the primary way we distributed content to readers. It was a $149/year subscription for 12 issues emailed out on a monthly basis, and each one provided a deep dive on some financial planning topic, from the decision of whether “To Roth or Not To Roth”, to our original research on the connection between safe withdrawal rates and Shiller CAPE, and a particularly popular issue on understanding the credit crisis (published in October of 2008 as it was all unfolding).
In this context, the Nerd’s Eye View blog was launched in parallel to The Kitces Report, simply as a place where I could publish some “brief” thoughts on industry news and topics that I thought were important, and wanted to comment on, but weren’t substantive enough to merit a full-length newsletter issue.
The challenge, however, was that while I had a growing base of paid newsletter subscribers who were receiving The Kitces Report, virtually no one was reading the blog (which I knew, because I installed Google Analytics and could see the data!). At the time, it just wasn’t how most people consumed content (as few people had smartphones because the iPhone had just been released a few months earlier, and the iPad and world of tablets was still a few more years away). And I didn’t know how to find and attract people to keep coming back to be regular readers. As a result, the Nerd’s Eye View blog was actually abandoned in 2009, as I focused on just publishing (and getting paid for) The Kitces Report newsletter and speaking at advisory industry events.
Ultimately (and fortunately!) I decided to relaunch the Nerd’s Eye View in the fall of 2010, inspired by advisor tech guru (and study-group-mate) Bill Winterberg, who persuaded me to check out this new thing called “Twitter”, a social media platform I’d never heard of, where people were apparently sharing interesting information. Within a few weeks of joining, and following people that I thought were sharing interesting content, and realizing that I was suddenly using Twitter to find most of my news and information, I had the proverbial “light bulb moment” – as someone who was skilled at creating content, social media platforms like Twitter were the way for me to actually share that content and distribute it out to a broader base of regular readers.
The rest, as they say, is history. In the years since – and notwithstanding a number of mistakes I’ve had to learn the hard way – the blog has experienced exponential growth, compounding at 50%-100% growth rates year after year… and in the process, transforming my own role and career trajectory.
After all, when I first started down this path, I was really the Director of Financial Planning for Pinnacle Advisory Group, beyond which I – “on the side” – did a little bit of writing and speaking back to the industry. In 2008, I made the decision to shift my center of gravity outside of the advisory firm, and effectively become an e-newsletter publisher and speaker (who retained a limited role with my advisory firm on the side). Then in 2010, I was a newsletter publisher and speaker who was involved with an advisory firm and had a blog on the side.
But the rapid growth of the blog changed the trajectory rather quickly. By 2013, my center of gravity shifted again, from being a newsletter publisher and speaker who blogged on the side, to becoming “a blogger” who also published a paid newsletter, did some speaking, and was affiliated with an advisory firm. In fact, we began to dial down the frequency of premium paid content (i.e., The Kitces Report) and increase the volume of free content through the blog, shifting from what historically had been a subscription for “just” The Kitces Report into a Members Section that provided a wider range of CFP (and now other) CE credits as well.
Giving away more content for free just helped the blog to grow more from there, and along with it came the opportunity to begin to provide other “related business” services to a small subset of our readers as well. Thus in the past 5+ years, we’ve also launched New Planner Recruiting, Pinnacle Advisor Solutions, XY Planning Network, FA Bean Counters, and most recently AdvicePay. As a result, while 99%+ of our readers will simply consume the content for free and (hopefully!) benefit from the content alone, the fact that a fraction of 1% may decide to do business with one of our related businesses is more than enough to support the continued growth of the platform overall.
Yet it’s the fact that we can grow successfully by simply focusing virtually all of our efforts on great content that is meaningful to advisors is what has allowed us to keep that focus in the first place. As a result, in the recent Erdos & Morgan “FAMOUS” study of media usage by financial advisors, the Nerd’s Eye View ranked #1 across all digital media brands for financial advisors in terms of both influence, objectivity, credibility, and simply being useful to the work of financial advisors!
New Career Opportunities With The Growing Kitces.com Team
This evolution of the Kitces.com platform and the Nerd’s Eye View blog is significant, because what started out as just my “blog” – a place that, on the side, I would share some personal thoughts and commentary about planning strategies and the advisory industry overall – has really become a broader media platform with significant reach across the entire advisor community. And as a result, not only are we making substantial reinvestments in the back-end technology used to run the Kitces.com platform this year, but I’ve decided that it’s time for me to substantially reinvest into and grow the team to further support this evolution.
The shift actually began nearly 18 months ago, when we promoted long-time team member Rachel Zeller to Operations Manager, and hired Kansas State Ph.D. candidate Derek Tharp to join the team as a Research Associate (and “Dr. Derek” was subsequently promoted to a full Researcher late last year after successfully defending his dissertation and completing his Ph.D.)!
Now, however, I’m excited to announce several more changes!
First and foremost is the addition of Jeff Levine to the Kitces.com team as our new Director of Advisor Education. Some readers may be familiar with Jeff from his prior role as the Chief Retirement Strategist and Director of Retirement Education with Ed Slott and Company, as well as the creator of the Horsesmouth “Savvy IRA Planning” training program. Last year, Jeff decided to go out on his own and ramp up his advisory firm, Blueprint Wealth Alliance, while continuing to do some advisor education as well. Going forward, he’ll be doing that advisor education work with and through the Kitces.com platform, both publishing as an author on the Nerd’s Eye View blog, contributing webinars to our Members Section, and as a Kitces educational speaker at conferences, while continuing with his advisory firm as well (to keep that crucial perspective of what it's like to still be sitting across from clients!)! As an added bonus, Jeff has a penchant for vests akin to my own preference for blue shirts, so you can now stay tuned for either a “blue-shirted Kitces” or a “fully vested Jeff” at a conference near you!
Beyond Jeff joining the team, we’re also hiring for two additional positions! The first is a new Associate Editor to join the Kitces.com team as a new full-time role. The Associate Editor’s primary purpose will be to help us ensure that our daily Kitces.com content goes out as scheduled, provide a thorough copyediting review to make sure it’s always accurate, and to help run the increasingly complex behind-the-scenes stuff that has to get done to keep a successful media platform publishing and distributing content smoothly! For those who are interested, you can see the full job description details of the new Associate Editor position (and submit a resume for consideration!) here.
The second opportunity with the Kitces.com team is hiring a new full-time Senior Researcher, as Dr. Derek has decided to return to his academic roots and accepted a new position at the University of Southern Maine’s Business School as it turns its existing financial planning minor program into a financial planning major! Going forward, Dr. Derek will continue to publish monthly on the Nerd’s Eye View, and speak at advisor conferences on behalf of Kitces.com. But in the coming years, the Kitces.com platform will be conducting an increasing amount of original research with and on the financial advisor community, in an effort to better understand and document what real financial advisors (who are actually primarily in the business of financial advice) actually do – from how they deliver plans, to how they price their services, how they use technology, and how they market and grow their advice-centric firms. Accordingly, the new Senior Researcher role will have an opportunity to lead our new Kitces Research initiative; again, the full job description details for those who are interested (or want to submit a resume for consideration!) are available on our Career Opportunities page.
The Future Of The Kitces.com Platform
Ultimately, the reality is that what started out as a “blog” – in the classic sense, a diary-style weblog for sharing my own personal thoughts and comments (about the advisory industry and financial planning strategies) – has evolved into a business of its own, and one that I’m excited to continue to grow from here… which means expanding the team because, just like every other business I’ve ever been involved with, you can’t grow to achieve a bigger mission without eventually expanding the business beyond “just” the founder/owner!
That being said, it’s crucial to point out that the aspirations for continued growth from here are not meant to shift us, at all, from the core mission that remains at center of the Nerd’s Eye View blog – advancing knowledge in financial planning – and the broader Kitces.com platform, which is to help real financial advisors be more successful in their businesses and with their clients.
As a result, there are still no plans at all to add a paywall to our content, or advertising to the site, or anything else that would risk undermining or distracting from our core mission. In fact, over the years, we’ve increasingly shifted our content outside of our paid Members Section, and focused the Members Section into a smaller number of deep-dive research articles, along with alternative formats for our content (e.g., webinars for those who prefer to consume the content that way!), and the core CFP, IWI, and CPA continuing education credits that advisors need.
Similarly, there are still no plans to change the cadence of publishing one article per day – as we’re cognizant that one long article a day is already a lot to read on a regular basis!
Instead, we’re simply going to grow a larger team to take what we already do well, and try to do it even better for you, and try to continue to reach and impact an ever-growing portion of the financial advisor community. In addition, the growing team will allow me to evolve my own role from being “the writer” of the blog, to being a “lead writer” of the blog, and the “Editor-In-Chief” of a growing team of people who contribute to the Nerd’s Eye View. Because again, a successful growing business needs more good people to be more successful and have a bigger impact to the community it serves.
The bottom line: it’s been an amazing 10 years, and the Kitces.com platform has already grown far beyond what I ever thought it could be when I decided to hang my (virtual) shingle as a writer and speaker a decade ago. But we’re nowhere close to being done yet, and I can’t wait to see what we can build to help the advisor community in the next 10 years from here!
I hope you’ll continue to come along with us on the journey!
So what do you think? Where can we continue to improve in order to become more useful to the financial advisor community? What would you like to see us do even better going forward? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!