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It's a slog to find a good personal finance or investing blog.

So let's put our heads together to build a list of the best. Globe journalists (myself included) and outside bloggers have teamed up to create lists of top money blogs. Now, we want you to vote on which of our picks you like best. In a week, we'll publish your choices for the best of the blogs.

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Blogs are basically websites where people regularly write on a topic that interests them. Wouldn't you know it, but there are hundreds and quite possibly thousands of people interested enough in money to write blogs on the subject.

"I used to keep a list of Canadian financial blogs," said Ram Balakrishnan, who has written the Canadian Capitalist blog since 2004. "But I just gave up because there are tonnes coming online."

Blogs have been around for more than 10 years and the novelty factor has definitely worn off. And yet, blogs covering financial topics seem to be coming into their own right now.

For one thing, they're becoming more influential. The other day, the head of one of the country's largest mutual fund operations said to me that he regularly reads financial blogs looking for mentions of his products. When one particular blogger complained about an experience with his funds, this executive had his people call her to put things right.

You'll also find bloggers being integrated into mainstream media. Preet Banerjee of the Where Does All My Money Go blog now writes in our Globe Life section (he also contributed a list of favourite blogs for you to vote on). Mr. Balakrishnan's blog is affiliated with the network of MoneySense websites run by Rogers Digital Media.

Despite this mainstreaming, the appeal of blogs remains their independence. For the most part, blogs are written by everyday people, not financial industry people with something to sell.

Mr. Balakrishnan, a software developer in Ottawa with a wife and three children, spends one to two hours a day on average writing his blog. "I do it for fun, basically," he said. "Also, it does help a little bit with my own personal investing."

One of the original personal finance bloggers in this country, Mr. Balakrishnan says today he has about 3,000 daily readers. Canadian Capitalist is on my list of favourite blogs, and it was also chosen by Kerry Taylor, author of the popular Squawkfox blog, who was invited to be on our best of the blogs panel.

Canadian Capitalist is an example of a generalist personal finance blog covering everything from taxes to investments and insurance, while Squawkfox specializes in frugal living. More and more, the personal finance blogosphere is splitting itself evenly between general and niche topics.

One of the blogs on my favourites list is Canadian Couch Potato, which is all about index investing using exchange-traded funds and index mutual funds. While some blogs fill space with personal musings and platitudes about saving more and spending less, this blog gives you hard analysis. A perfect example is the series of recent posts on tracking error in exchange-traded funds (a must-read for ETF investors).

Another specialized blog on my list is Canadian Mortgage Trends, which is essential reading if you need to know what's happening in the mortgage world.









Bear in mind with personal finance and investing blogs that you're generally reading the work of amateurs. Some are diligent researchers and gifted explainers, while others are just scratching their itch to write and have nothing new to add.

To be fair, maintaining an active blog is a lot of work. At times, even the best are challenged to come up with fresh things to say. That's part of the reason why Mr. Balakrishnan has lately cut back his output a little bit.

"Sometimes," says Canada's pioneering personal finance blogger, "I have writer's block."



Click here for an overview of 2011's Best of the Blogs nominees

Vote: What's the best Canadian personal finance blog?

Vote: What's the best Canadian investing blog?

________________

Here are a few resources for finding blogs of interest:



Google Blogs

Gives you a typically thorough Google search of the blogosphere; try a phrase like "dividend stocks" and you'll have many blogs to check out.



Money Index



Lists recent posts on many of the top Canadian personal finance and investing blogs; this website is so useful I put it on my top blogs list.



The Reader





My own daily blast of worthwhile blog posts and other online reading material.



Follow on Twitter: @rcarrick

 

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