By Kathy M. Kristof
Los Angeles Times
After spending the bulk of my career writing solely for newspapers, I stepped into the blogosphere a year ago and discovered a whole new world of financial advice.
The World Wide Web is host to hundreds of financial bloggers, who provide everything from solid counsel to something of a support group for the budget-challenged.
The advice you get in the blogosphere is different from what you see in the newspaper for a variety of reasons. It's sometimes profane and often directed toward a single topic -- including such things as student debt or frugal living. And the bulk of bloggers base their advice on personal experience, rather than straight reporting.
You've got to be careful too, because some bloggers make money by promoting products.
That said, much of it is wonderful, helpful, encouraging and uniquely well-suited to the just-graduated set, who are still trying to get a toehold on their financial lives.
If you haven't stepped into the Web's wonderful world of money blogs, here's a guide to some of the best -- and often largely unknown -- sites.
Jesse Michelson is a 22-year-old computer programmer from Utah who writes a blog called the Personal Finance Firewall ( www.pffirewall.com). Recently out of college and helping support his wife through graduate school, Michelson recently wrote one of the clearest explanations you could find anywhere about how to use the government's income-based repayment plan to pay your student loans.
Trent Hamm, at www.thesimpledollar.com, grew up certain that the only thing to do with money was to spend it on something that gave you immediate gratification -- such as a video game or a giant television.
This led to his economic ruin and subsequent revival as a born-again budgeter. His financial Armageddon became a cautionary tale for his blog, showing where he went wrong and what he'd do differently.
Brad Chaffee, www.enemyofdebt.com, aims to promote financial responsibility and, not surprisingly, the importance of paying off debt.
Among his more engaging posts is "How I Lost $60 in Three Seconds," which explains why you ought to have an emergency fund -- even when you're broke.
The consistently delightful blog at www.budgetsaresexy.com is written by twentysomething J. Money (his pen name), who recently wrote a funny post about the intricacies of real estate pricing.
The short version: He hopes some "spendthrift" will pay an exorbitant price for his neighbor's home, which could save home values in the whole neighborhood.
I've become a Facebook fan of the Frugal Dad (http://frugaldad.com) for words of wisdom, such as "If you need the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit to afford a home, you can't afford a home."
The $8,000 will be gone in a flash, he says. But the mortgage will last 30 years. Even better is his recent post explaining the mental process you ought to go through before buying more stuff.
Stephanie at Poorer Than You (http://poorerthanyou.com) is a 22-year-old blogger who got her start when she had to drop out of film school because she was running out of money. She has since blogged on such topics as using restaurant coupon books and her own quest to start a retirement plan.
The Financial Samurai (www.financialsamurai.com) tackles a wide variety of topics, including why you should do your own tax return and why you might need an umbrella insurance policy when you have teenagers. The Samurai, whose identity is secret, appears to have a firm command of finance, giving his blog a sense of authority that others lack.
Equally sage is the ubiquitous J.D. Roth of www.getrichslowly.org, whose popular financial advice now can also be purchased in book form: "Your Money: The Missing Manual."
Dr. Dean Burke at www.themillionairenurse.com writes a blog aimed at helping medical professionals get their financial lives together.
But much of his advice, which spans fixing your credit score to rolling over a 401(k) plan, transcends a single industry.
Susan Kessler at http://thefrugaldiva.com provides wide-ranging advice. Recent posts focused on buying groceries on the cheap and visiting national parks for free.
Lisa Koivu at Fantabulously Frugal (http://fantabulouslyfrugal.com) can tell you where to get cool stuff for free, find designer clothing for less and how to get coupons for almost anything you buy.
Have a tough financial question and don't know where to turn? Head to www.asklizweston.com, where the Los Angeles Times money-answer woman helps readers figure it all out. Recent posts explain how a forgiven debt could raise your tax bill and how one credit reporting company continues to thumb its nose at federal disclosure rules.
There are more, of course. Many more -- and probably many more to come. But if you're looking for a bit of financial help or hand-holding, these are a few good places to start.