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Paul Petillo was an early internet financial writer/commentator/educator with a decidedly blue-collar background. Born and raised in Chester, he exited the east coast for the great Pacific Northwest. He is best known online for his work on BlueCollarDollar.com, where he was the founder and managing editor for eighteen years. He is currently retired, twice, once at age 53 and again at age 62.
Shortly after settling in the PNW, Petillo met and married a woman with three young children. Soon, a fourth arrived. Largely estranged from his east coast family, he built a life with his new family (three grandchildren have since been added). The need for a large home brought the first financial burden for the young family. The Federal Reserve Prime Lending Rate in 1984 was hovering around 14% - this is the rate charged the best borrowers, of which the young couple was not. He worked as a union meat manager for a large northwest grocery chain, while his wife, Bonnilyn, operated an in-home daycare.
The three thousand square foot Portland Square house with four bedrooms and one and one-half baths was selling at a bargain rate due to the inability of borrowers to stomach the high cost of money. They still live in the house, managing to get the current rate to just over 2%.
About midway through the first decade of homeownership, Petillo became concerned about his family’s ability to continue if he was to become injured. He had life insurance, first whole life and then term, but he needed disability coverage. He reached out to a local newspaper’s business editor, Julie Tripp. Julie told him that she had never written about blue-collar disability. Three months later, after researching his option, he contacted a local Provident agent and proposed a specific kind of coverage, which later became known as the Social Security Rider. The agent took the idea to the underwriter, a request to have a policy that would pay the full premium if Social Security Insurance would not pay for a disability. If SSI did award him coverage, the insurer would only be obligated for 20% of what was promised. They agreed. Six months later, Ms. Tripp, who wrote a “Manage Your Money” column, called back to ask how his search had concluded. Two weeks later, she wrote a back-page column about the subject. Three months later, Petillo formulated the idea of an online resource.
Petillo drafted the outline for BlueCollarDollar.com in the summer of 1998, the same year Google came online. With a dial-up connection in his basement, Petillo taught himself HTML and began building a multi-topic platform that answered all of the questions a blue-collar worker might have - without a product or a sales pitch attached. Until that time, if you wanted insurance, an insurance site educated you. If you wanted a mutual fund, a mutual fund family provided the information. In other words, there were sales pitches in every search.
He adopted a signature slogan: A Common Sense Approach to Money and Investing. He developed the architecture to address current issues and green issues (topics that would not age, such as buying insurance, a home, or a mutual fund). Every aspect of a financial life was addressed and categorized. He did this at 4 a.m. every day for seventeen years. When he was researching and writing, he was promoting and optimizing, and doing the heavy, behind-the-scenes work. The site grew, and although statistics were wonky in the early days, his writing showed up in search results.
An editor from McGraw-Hill reached out via email and asked if he would like to take his website to print. Until that time, all he had published was a book of money words (that was the title: Money Words) that he handed out for free to schools and immigrant education centers. The idea of taking his key ten topics to a publisher had not occurred to him. That was 2002. By 2004, Building Wealth in a Paycheck-to-Paycheck World was available, sent to the shelves in the midst of a heated presidential election cycle. Three more books followed, Retirement Planning for the Utterly Confused, 2008, Investing for the Utterly Confused, 2006, and Mutual Funds for the Utterly Confused, 2008. There were supposed to be more, covering topics such as insurance and mortgages, etcetera. However, 2008 saw the advent of one of the worst financial disasters in modern history. The publisher reevaluated their processes and decided to end the relationship. All four books continue to sell - modestly.
Petillo did manage other sites as well, including as managing editor for Answers.com, managing editor for Target2025.com, and founder of the Blue Money Report.
BlueCollarDollar.com was retired for several reasons: The size of the site, with over 2700 articles and thousands of links, could not be optimized for mobile devices, After closing the BCD in 2016, Petillo wrote for businesses who needed to have relevant content. His resume includes paddle boards, real estate, and broadband installation, among other things. He appeared on local television as a financial expert (KATU, KPTV) and hosted his own radio show, The Financial Impact Factor.
Petillo arrived in the PNW already a journeyman meat cutter. He was hired through the union to a local grocery and worked for them at the store level as a manager for 33 years. Petillo had made a conscious decision. Because of his keen financial acumen, he saw the long-term benefit of having a better-than-average wage, health insurance, and a pension that promised him full retirement with any combination of age and years of service, adding up to 85. He reached that mark at 53 and retired. He was able to transfer to the company’s main office, where he rose to a management position overseeing the operational budgets of 132 stores, which included everything from sanitation, sustainability, and all expenses incurred across four states. At 62, he retired from that position and opened a Zero Waste Consultants business which he operated successfully for two years.
He continues to write fiction under a pseudonym and is currently soliciting an agent for his work.
He and his wife of 36 years are happily retired, finished with travel, and perfectly comfortable with pandemic isolation.