There’s something weird about what I’ve done here at Consumerism Commentary. Although I no longer share all the details on a regular basis, when I started this website in 2003, its purpose was to track my financial progress, to discover and share thoughts about building financial freedom, and to grow my own knowledge about money and life. I didn’t expect people to stick around to read day after day, unlike most blogs that are started today, where the goal is often to gain a large audience and eventually make money.
It’s weird because people just don’t share this kind of information in “real life.”
I wrote anonymously because it freed me to write candidly about my financial problems without fear of consequences outside of the site, such as a potential employer researching my name and finding too many personal details. This openness and honesty, particularly within the monthly financial reports gave readers an inside look into the finances of someone who was just beginning on the path towards financial freedom — although many years later than what would have been ideal. I was trying to catch up from far behind the pack, twenty-seven years old and very little to my name in the way of assets.
We expect companies we invest in to be forthright with their financial condition on a regular basis, but we aren’t really interested in sharing our own personal finances, so when someone opens the curtain, it’s fascinating. I credit the site’s early popularity with this concept: people like financial voyeurism.
There are people who don’t like this. As my net worth began growing at a quicker pace, my financial would breed resentment in some readers. One reader once asked me to take the net worth totals out of the financial report article titles each month so he could easily skip those articles in his newsreader, avoiding the possibility of feeling bad about his own financial situation. The financial updates were not a way for me to brag about my success, and until relatively recently, I wouldn’t have had anything to brag about even if I wanted. As my financial situation changed compared to the world around me, it’s easy to see how a community once interested in following the story would be turned off.
Comparing yourself with other people can be dangerous if you’re not psychologically able to handle the comparison or if your worldview involves an external locus of control. There will always be someone more successful. If you think the net worth shared here publicly is disheartening, check out Forbes’ 40 Under 40. I don’t have any power to make someone feel a certain way. The feeling is formed in how a person reacts.
While I didn’t track my financial progress with a purpose of showing off, I didn’t set out to inspire readers, either. The progress I’ve shared might reflect the idea that “if I can do it, anyone can,” but my goal isn’t motivating others. If others find motivation within my story, that’s great, but it’s not what I set out to do. I have a strong disdain for people who fashion themselves as motivational gurus in order to make their livings, at least those whose communities of fans take on a cult-like form. Motivation is a powerful tool, but in the wrong hands, motivation turns into cult-like adoration and critical thinking skills disappear.
I’ve stopped reporting my finances on a monthly basis for a number of reasons. The primary reason is that the situation that necessitated the self-reflection, adjustment, conditioning, and progress no longer exists. That isn’t to say I’m done improving my financial situation, but my needs today for self-improvement are very different than they were ten years ago.
What I may like to do — and I didn’t even realize this I was halfway through writing this article — is work with a reader of Consumerism Commentary who is willing, anonymously of course, to share his or her financial progress on a monthly basis, much in the same way I had done with my own finances for such a long time. I have a few candidates in mind, but if you’re interested in being a part of this, contact me soon or leave a comment here describing your situation.
I have complete confidence and I can guarantee that sharing your finances on a monthly basis will improve your life, forcing you to reflect and offering a little bit of pressure not to let down an audience expecting you to make progress each month.