6 Unbelievable Reasons Why Listicles Won’t Make You Financially Independent

If you are on the road to financial independence then you need to read fewer listicles. They are not going to help you get there. Why? Let’s dive in.

1. Emotion Grabbing

Listicle headlines are attention grabbing and prey on your emotion. They pique the reader’s interest with questions and emotionally charged words. A case in point is my use of “unbelievable” in the title. Even using a “6” in the title and not a multiple of 5 was designed to evoke an emotion of curiosity. What’s special about 6?

But becoming financially independent requires some cold hard logic. It is a case of money-in and money-out. Feel free to use emotion to figure out your “why”, but leave it at the door when you calculate the how.

2. Simple

Listicles are simple. They are designed to be easy to read with short sentences. Like this. And this. There have been plenty of analyses done on Buzzfeed articles and the average Buzzfeed article has a reading age of 4th grade.

Financial independence is not necessarily complicated, but it is not 4th grade simple. You need to juggle investment strategies, spendown strategies, budgeting, frugal living and potential side hustles. Taken on their own each one is understandable, but coordinating into a lifeplan takes some time to understand the moving parts.

3. Quick to Digest

Listicles are the ultimate word snack. From the title you can immediately tell what you will be getting, and the list nature makes it easy to quickly scan and digest.

However financial independence requires playing the long game. Time and compound interest is your friend. There are no quick wins here, you simply make sure you are living below your means, save the remainder of you paycheck and let years of compound investment returns do their trick. But who wants to hear that in a listicle?

4. Listicles are Authoritative

Having figures and being direct immediately lends you an air of authority. Which of these is more authoritative?

  • 6 unbelievable reasons listicles will not make you financially independent
  • Why listicles won’t make you financially independent

Unlike listicles, there is no one authoritative method to financial independence. One person’s method is not necessarily suitable for you. Consider the following hot topics: should you pay your mortgage down early, should you keep a large emergency fund, should you believe the 4% rule? These are all contentious topics with no correct and authoritative answer.

5. Listicles Have no Narrative

One of the reasons listicles are popular with writers is because they don’t have to bother creating a narrative or a story-arc for the article. A listicle is just one step up from a rough plan, with bullets completed into final sentences.

However real life is rich with narrative with parallel and interlinked stories. Your path to financial independence will have twists and turns and take unexpected routes. One thing you can guarantee is that there will be no linear numeric progression.

6. Limited Choice

Listicles give comfort since they are presenting a defined list of objects. The unboundedness of what we don’t know can be confusing and upsetting, but listicles box in the universe to known quantities.

Unfortunately you never get to the end of financial independence. There will be no one point where you have it cracked and can leave it on auto-pilot. There will always be more to learn, opinions to adapt and new strategies to adopt.

So what do you think? Was I unfair to listicles? Do they have their place? I would love to hear your thoughts.

14 thoughts on “6 Unbelievable Reasons Why Listicles Won’t Make You Financially Independent”

  1. Flipping love the tongue in cheek!

    “Unlike listicles, there is no one authoritative method to financial independence. One person’s method is not necessarily suitable for you.”


    1. So true, and I don’t want readers to think I only approve of long-form journalism. They are fun, and can be informative. Thanks for dropping by Katy

  2. Haha, this is great!

    I agree the listicles won’t give you the whole picture, but they can be helpful for the “snack” version of topics (wet your appetite, make you do more research/think about things, etc). So definitely not the path to FI 😉

  3. thefinancialjourneyman

    You just ruined my next post “6 reasons why listicles will make you financially independent”. Just joking. I try to use them sparingly. Sometimes that structure works for a topic, but other times I like a longer narrative.

    1. Hey – you should totally do it. We can then get @retiremanifesto to do a chain gang that will be a listicle of listicles.
      Thanks for dropping by – appreciate it.

  4. You scored points in my book just for correctly using “pique” (it seems like everyone says “peak”…).

    I agree with your assessment. I do like how quick and easy they are to read though. It’s an easy way to get your point across, but it definitely shouldn’t be the only format you deliver content.

  5. Thanks Dylan, I’m adding up those points and will exchange them for a hotel night at the Trail to FI lodge!

  6. “Financial independence is not necessarily complicated, but it is not 4th grade simple.”

    So true! Listicles are great for beginners trying to figure out the basics. They can even offer practical information and reminders for those who are further along in their journey to financial freedom. But in general, it takes more than a series of three-sentence paragraphs to impart valuable, actionable information!

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