I’ve been a Bogleheads.org forum member for over two years – that is until this past Monday. I got a notice saying I’ve been banned for life. Labeled as an outcast. Oooh, threatening stuff, but annoying nonetheless as I’ve been a member for quite a while. While they stated they’ve contacted me before for many previous violations, the only one I’m aware of was a signature issue which had this site URL. I willfully complied to that change.
For those who don’t know what a Boglehead is – it is someone that follows Jack Bogle’s investment philosophy. Jack was the founder of Vanguard and certainly has revolutionized investing in many ways. That so much I agree with. His low cost investments and using indexing to follow the market makes sense. However, investing is much more than just those two factors, and the Bogleheads forum pretty much pigeonholes themselves into one viewpoint for investing. As if that’s the only way towards the goal of financial freedom. Save your money and invest passively is their mantra. I don’t disagree completely with their viewpoint; that’s not to say it’s perfect, nor the only way. I personally believe active investing – owning a business is one of the other legs of a good investment strategy. Real estate is the third leg in an investment stool.
However, most of my beef comes from the moderators. The Bogleheads forum is far from perfect. Some issues I’ve seen:
- Lack of trust from any investment professional – As if all investment professionals are in the same boat, especially fee only advisors. Almost all professional advisors are chased off the forum. The ones they allow to stay must bow to the Boglehead philosophy. They have issues with even then the ones that stay.
- Do it yourself for everything – Many in the forum do their own taxes, which to me speaks volumes. Not only does this give me an idea of their net worth, but it also states most are wage earners and have simple taxes. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but that advice doesn’t make sense for most business owners or individuals who invest outside of the stock market.
- Politics cannot be discussed – While I agree politics should not be discussed outside of economics and tax policies, avoiding this topic outright is a big mistake. Regardless of your viewpoint, we currently have some very big issues that face our country and it’s directly related to our politics. Logically, as government plays more of a role in the GDP of our country, how can we not then talk about politics? If you think politics does not affect investing, then I have a bridge to sell you.
- Anti-commercialism rant – Only Vanguard is the savior to investors. Most of the other financial services firms are money sucking scum. Caveat emptor should apply to all investing. No one cares more about your money than you do. The goal is you should educate yourself about investing, and make sure you understand what is in it for the financial company. After all they are providing a service and shouldn’t be expected to work for free. Just understand what you are paying for and how much you are paying for that service. Without question, there are financial firms that offer the same service at a cheaper price. Though from their viewpoint, this then excludes investing with companies like Lending Club, because it’s outside of their framework.
- Opposing viewpoints are shunned upon – Perhaps this is the most damning issue. This isn’t the first time someone has been banned. In Rob Bennett’s case he was banned for no known listed forum policy. Except his viewpoint was different from other Bogleheads and a “threat”.
Of course I’m overgeneralizing about the forum. There’s a considerable amount of members, and not all think the same way. It’s mostly of a few long term senior members who 100% embrace the Boglehead gospel and teaching it to beginner investor disciples. Anything outside of the Boglehead gospel is considered sacrilegious.
While I don’t agree completely with the Boglehead philosophy – I added value by posting comments on their forum. Anytime I saw something that I could state a different viewpoint or reviewed a product that individuals asked about, I made a comment. My legit product reviews seemed to be a sore point with them.
Here’s the suspension E-mail I got:
Your bogleheads.org account has been permanently banned from this forum due to multiple violations of forum policy (http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=405) regarding commercial solicitation.
The latest violations were for multiple commercial promotions in “Anyone using Quicken 2013?”
“Also for those who are interested, I have a contest and giving away copies of the product.” and “I like personally TradeKing the best for your purpose” (TradeKing is one of your sponsors.)
Replacement of your commercial website in your user profile (Mar 24, 2012), after removal by the moderators, also violates forum policy. Inserting your website name in your signature is an attempt to bypass the moderator’s decisions.
As a result, the Advisory Board has decided to permanently ban your account from this forum. All links to your website have been removed.
— Forum Administration
Here are the vague terms I violated:
No Solicitation or Link Farming
Please do not solicit business or website traffic on this forum. A discreet link to your personal website or blog in your profile is allowed. The moderators and administrators reserve the right to determine unilaterally what constitutes solicitation, to remove such material, and to ban a repeat offender if necessary.
Their terms are very subjective. How convenient. The issue is what exactly am I soliciting? Investor Junkie is NOT a broker/dealer or a financial advisor. While Investor Junkie is a commercial site – we have an independent viewpoint towards investing.
In addition, my Quicken review link was relevant and directly related to the topic. A forum member asked a question about the latest version of Quicken, and I had just reviewed it. Mind you, I’m a 20 year user of their product. So I have some experience with the product and its history. Believe it or not Boglehead forum moderators, I use the product daily.
A response from the moderators also stated I was doing it for SEO reasons. Without going into the technical details, that is pretty easy to fix on their end. It’s possible to make outbound URL links worthless to the search engines. So for them to claim this reason is a copout. In addition, there are cases in which companies fake reviews and make comments on blogs and forums as it appears it some legitimate user. So any outbound link can be considered suspect. While I did get some traffic from a URL post, it was very fleeting and just a small amount of my total traffic. So I certainly wasn’t doing it for the traffic either.
I am sensitive to the fact that forums, and blogs for that matter, don’t want to see just a link to another site. I also added other comments/insight to my posts that in fact wasn’t mentioned in my review.
So what is considered acceptable by them? Damned if I know. Copy my entire 1,400+ word review on their site? That logically doesn’t make sense. What about when I create my video review of Quicken?
The purpose of Investor Junkie is to give in-depth reviews of products – positive and negative aspects. I’m not some shill of their product. The product giveaway for Quicken is coming out of my own company’s pocket, and as a way to give back to my readers. I know many like free giveaways; Quicken is a desired application and this is why I mentioned it. Intuit is NOT sponsoring it.
Furthermore, while TradeKing is an affiliate, they are NOT a sponsor. There is a big difference. I won’t go into the details, but an affiliate only gets paid if someone signs up. A sponsor pays you for either writing something good about them, or for an ad placement. We don’t do sponsored posts written by the company or by us. In addition, my TradeKing mention had no link to my site. Again, it was directly related to someone asking a question.
TradeKing has not paid Investor Junkie to say what is said on our site. We are free to state anything we want. If an affiliate has that mandate, they will not be an affiliate of ours. Second, I personally have an account with real money at TradeKing, and most of the other products we review here. So the review is an actual review of someone who uses their service. This is much more in depth of a review than many magazines and almost all blogs.
Lastly, let me try to understand what they are saying with their final issue. So my forum signature can’t have my web site URL – fine I changed this when they asked me to. But now they are stating I can’t even have my web site name in the signature???
Is a link to my site a little self serving? Sure, Investor Junkie is a commercial site. Many hours of work go into a review, especially for the videos we are starting to produce. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work. In the same notion Bogleheads claim it takes a lot of money and time to manage their forum. So instead in their case they ask for donations and for visitors to click on affiliate links. So it’s ok for them to generate income for their effort, while any value we add by commenting or a legit review I mention isn’t? How self serving of them.
The goal of this site is to be transparent and objective, while still generating income for the site. The income for this site then helps aid in hiring writers, doing video presentations, buying the equipment to do these presentations, and eventually create a podcast. There can be a happy medium when a commercial entity generates income, without selling yourself to the devil. After all, the all mighty Vanguard has been able to do this.
Yet based upon my experience of the Bogleheads forum, they like to play favorites. There are many other personal finance blogs in which they allow links to their site without issue. So it seems to be there is some bias in their decision. Perhaps it’s because I am not a true Boglehead fan and the others are. Whatever the reason, I have requested they remove all my content, not just my links if they have an issue with me being a “spammer”.
Based upon being banned, their restrictive policies, and their lack of viewpoints against anything other than “The Boglehead way” has inspired me to create a forum of my own.
Believe it or not, like the Boglehead site, my ultimate goal is to help educate people to become better investors. Boglehead investing isn’t necessarily bad, but isn’t the only way to invest, and it has its own flaws and limitations.