|By Susan Anderson
When Janet Bodnar, ’71, took over as top editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in January 2009, the steeply plummeting U.S. economy and dire news about an unraveling media industry met her head on.
But Bodnar didn’t flinch.
This three-decade veteran of personal finance reporting gathered her team and got down to business — just as she’s always done since joining the Kiplinger organization in the late 1970s.
“We have the most experienced staff of any personal finance publication in the country, bar none,” she says.
“All of our senior editors have at least 20 years or more experience writing about financial markets. And we also have young blood, people in their 20s and early 30s who give us a whole new perspective on what young people need to know. We have the best insurance coverage, the best tax coverage, the best retirement coverage, the best health coverage — you name it.”
It is this experience that Kiplinger’s readers count on, says Bodnar.
Covering the economic crisis has been “challenging, interesting and exciting,” she says, and likens the experience to juggling many balls in the air.
“Kiplinger’s is a monthly publication that’s been around since 1947 giving people practical financial advice. But suddenly we’re acting almost like we’re a daily newspaper. We are literally remaking the magazine every month, going over all the stories — looking at what’s current, what’s not, and what we have to add.”
And readers are responding. In a recent survey, hundreds of readers shared what they want to find in the pages of Kiplinger’s and on its Web site. Answers to questions such as: What do I do with my stock portfolio? My 401(k)? I’ve lost 40 percent in my retirement plan; do I stick it out? Is this a good time to buy stocks? How do I get my budget under control? I’m buried in credit-card debt; what’s the best way to dig my way out?
“We have to run fast to stay ahead and give our readers the kind of information they want and need,” says Bodnar.
State of the industry
But the way that information is disseminated is changing, and has been for a while now.
The pinch of the economic crisis has been felt not only in the pockets of consumers worldwide, but also in every pocket of the publishing industry.
The reduction in advertising revenue, the axing of budgets and jobs, and the arrival of the Internet and its avenues are all forcing the media to remake itself. “The buzz word now is integration between the print and online staffs,” Bodnar explains.
As a family-owned company, Kiplinger is small in an age of huge media conglomerates. It maintains a lean staff that supplies both print and Web content. As a result, it’s able to stay nimble and flexible in meeting the needs of its customers.
As Bodnar proudly points out, “Content is huge on the Web and at Kiplinger’s we are the Web.”
On a weekly basis in their D.C. offices, staff members gather to generate ideas for both the Web and the magazine. Although content can often be similar, presentation can be very different.
On the Web, for example, “we package stories together so that there’s a lead story plus other elements that fit in with it. We might ask our writers to pull out the most important elements of a story and then turn them into an online quiz, which our viewers love.”
Start small and think big.
Save early, save regularly, save aggressively.
The secret to getting your finances under control isn’t necessarily to make more money, but to trick yourself into spending less and saving more.
The best way to save money is to have someone else take it right off the top of your paycheck — through either a retirement plan at work or some other automatic savings program — before it burns a hole in your pocket.
Merging assets and combining money-management styles that often conflict are among the greatest challenges married couples face, yet they’re often ignored.
Regardless of how old your kids are, your ultimate aim is to turn out independent adults who know how to manage money and have a healthy regard for what it can, and can’t, buy.
Even in this age of consuming passion, you can still teach your kids to be savvy shoppers, super savers and cautious users of credit. Parents have power.
Estate planning is a fancy term that means distributing your property and planning for your children and other heirs after your death. Don’t make the mistake of thinking about it as something only “rich people” have to worry about.
*Text excerpted with permission from “Kiplinger’s Money Smart Women” and “Kiplinger’s Raising Money Smart Kids” by Janet Bodnar.