Personal finance is personal but we believe that as personal finance bloggers we really should be sharing our numbers with our audience and here's why. When people learn that we share all of our finances for the entire world to see, they are pretty shocked. That's not particularly surprising when you consider how taboo money talk is. Most of us easily chat about sex or marital problems with our friends but balk at the thought of talking about money. So we thought we should take a moment to discuss why, oh why, we decided to share every bit of our personal finances with the world.
We value transparency.
Here's the deal. Numbers are easy to flub and manipulate. For example, did you know that three years ago, Joseph and I paid off $500,000 in just 12 months? Makes for an awesome headline doesn't it? But $460,000 of that came by way of the sale of our two houses. Selling houses isn't easy but it is certainly a far cry from paying that sum out of our pockets from money that we had to go work for–which is what most people would have assumed we did. That context changes the whole picture.
I have seen several enticing headlines that turned out to be just that. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of the paid off amount came from the sale of a house. Then a large portion of the remained paid off sum came from proceeds from the sale. While it is still an admirable feat, it doesn't represent the long hard slog of debt repayment that most people have to go through.
With personal finance, like most things, the how is just as important as the what. By being transparent with our finances, we show people exactly what is possible and how and why it was possible. That kind of information is invaluable for helping others who are coming down the path after us. Sure, any given reader's situation may not mirror ours exactly, but the financial principles that can be gleaned from our experiences can translate a lot easier with concrete examples than just by stating the same rules but without context.
Reaping the benefits of having a supportive community.
Joseph and I are lucky enough to have friends who are relatively open about their finances. Though we aren't all in the same financial position, we each have nuggets of wisdom to share that are beneficial to the others.
We feel the same way about the online personal finance community. We love sharing our ideas and experiences and getting feedback. It's sort of like peer review in the scientific community. We want people to question our theories because that makes sure that we are making well informed and thought-out choices.
Showing that there are other, equally viable, methods to living your best financial life.
Joseph and I are not debt free and won't be completely debt free for quite some time. We believe that the current focus on debt payoff at all costs is misguided in light of the realities that many of us currently face.
Hardcore debt payoff isn't always the best financial decision. There are so many nuances in personal finance that there are very few hard and fast rules.
This is especially true in the ever-changing financial landscape. So many people are carrying heavy loads of student debt, faced with stagnant wages, and skyrocketing housing costs.
This new world of ours requires a new, multifaceted money mindset and not just the old school straight line one-foot-in-front-of-the-other path of our parents. The days of getting a job at one company and working there until you retire with a fat pension and social security are gone.
By sharing our numbers and the details of our lives, we show firsthand the outcomes of our financial strategies in real time. In other words, we lead by example.
Recording our journey so it can serve as a guidepost for others.
I have read so many wonderful, inspiring stories about people who have made huge strides towards reaching their personal and financial goals in a short period of time. Of course those are great to read after the fact and push us to keep going towards our own goals, but there is also something great about following someone along the journey.
Sure, Joseph and I could have waited until we had that pesky credit card debt paid off. Or until we had our other loans paid off (perhaps as soon as next year). But that didn't seem nearly as powerful as taking everyone along for the ride with us.
We wanted to show, first hand, what a life based on our money philosophy and principles looks like. That meant pushing past the instant gratification mindset that is way too prevalent in the personal finance sphere. Instead, we are opting for course of action that is more gradual, will take almost a decade to be fully realized, but results in a journey that is far more enjoyable.
Taking the shame and scarcity mindset out of personal finance.
I bet you are wondering what shame has to do with personal finance. Honestly, everything! Particularly when it comes to debt, there is just so much shame involved. To quote Brene Brown, a well known vulnerability researcher, “If you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgement.”
The current personal finance landscape is planted with all three! We don't talk about money, sometimes not even with our spouses. We stay silent instead of reaching out for help and advice. And worse of all, the judgment. Debt is bad and those that have it are bad. They are morons, to coin a favorite insult of a popular financial guru.
Well I don't believe that shame is required to motivate people to make positive change in their lives and personal finances are no exception. To continue Brene's quote from above, “If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can't survive. The two most important words when we are in struggle: “Me too.”
Life isn't a flat straight tidy path. It's filled with hills and boulders that we have to scramble around. You won't be perfect. You will get dirty and skin your knees. You will fail and fall. But guess what?
And I own it when I do, learn, and move ever forward. That is why we post our real numbers here on this blog. Even when we are not perfect, even when we are kind of embarrassed because we probably should have known better, we put it out there anyway. Because we also recognize that life is a marathon not a sprint and that no one is perfect all the time. Let's pick ourselves up and continue forward, learning from our mistakes but not being defined by them.