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Why Do I Share My Finances Every Month?

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I’ve been asked this question several times over the past few years, by strangers and friends, most who don’t approve of my openness for one reason or another. Each month, I write with excruciating detail about my expenses and income, assets and liabilities, and my net worth. For example, here is my latest net worth report and my latest income and expense report.

So do I think strangers are actually interested enough to peek into my wallet? Do I think my friends want to know the intimate secrets hidden inside my piggy bank? Am I some kind of jerk, or what? Well, some people think so, judging from the nasty emails and comments I get once in a while. I won’t share any of those. I will however share first the “anti-reasons” for posting my financial data online for “everyone” to see.

I’m not writing to “brag.” I would have not much to brag about. Many people my age (31 as of almost a month ago) have done much better with their finances than I have. I’m not maxing out my income at my day job, I don’t have great career prospects, and I don’t love what I do for a living. While random side income is picking up, there is no reason for me to believe it will continue. I don’t have enough saved for retirement and I don’t yet own a house. If I were posting my numbers only to show off, that would be a pathetic attempt.

I’m not writing to “teach.” Although I am college-trained to be a teacher, and I am certified to teach kindergarten through 12th grade in the state of New Jersey, this blog is not an instrument for learning. I am not a professional personal finance advisor or guru. I would be very wary of any blogger who claims to teach me something unless I know that blogger’s credentials. Even those credentials can have little meaning, depending on the individual.

I started this blog to learn more about personal finance. It motivates me to read articles, books, and comments left by visitors more experienced than I am. If there’s something to learn from my monthly financial reports, then that’s fine, but that is not my intent.

Well, I have another word about teaching. Any one person has something to offer any other person in the way of education, but that usually doesn’t happen when one is claiming to be “teaching” the other.

I’m not writing to “get rich.” When I started this blog, very few bloggers were making money through this activity. It was a hobby for most people, with no thought of “monetization.” Then Google AdSense, which was released in April 2003 (based on technology my mom — and I to a very small extent — helped develop), made it very simple for bloggers to earn a few cents. And that’s all that most were earning — those who dared to put advertisements on their blogs.

Any income from this blog is a treat, cosmic gratitude. If it were to disappear I’d be disappointed, but I’d get over it. I like writing on this blog and would continue to do so. And I have no delusions that it will ever be a full-time job, but who wouldn’t love to get paid for doing what they enjoy doing and would be doing otherwise?

Those are my “anti-reasons” for posting my monthly figures on the internet. I do have some “pro-reasons,” which I guess are generally just called, “reasons.”

I was in bad shape. It wasn’t completely horrible, but a few years before I started Consumerism Commentary, I was losing the game. My net worth — if I had stopped to think about it — was getting lower and lower each month. This was happening not because of an extravagant lifestyle. For a while I was crashing at a friend’s house for $500/mo, and my paycheck provided me enough money for rent, commuting to work, and some food. That couldn’t go on forever. Eventually, I got myself in gear. Then I started this blog to keep me accountable, to keep me moving, and to increase gears and gain momentum.

I love building communities. I don’t mean architecture or landscaping, I am referring to online communities. I’ve been building them for at least fifteen years. In high school, I ran an online bulletin board system (BBS). Friends and strangers dialed in to chat with others, send email, post messages much like the MoneyBlogNetwork Forums (though not about money), download 8-bit GIFs, ASCII and ANSI art, and the latest DOS warez at 1200 baud, play games like Trade Wars, and surprisingly, meet members of the opposite sex. (Active membership was co-ed about 50/50, hence we had the “Co-ed Naked BBSing” shirts printed, and the girls were much better looking than the guys.)

I couldn’t resist the urge to rewrite the BBS software and build a network of a few other BBSs, operated by friends and protégés, who ran my modified version of the software.

My freshman year of high school, I was the “internet liaison” (that is, the only local member with regular, “free” internet access — and at that time the only worthwhile use of the internet was Usenet and email) for the biggest Doctor Who fan club in the United States at the time, the Prydonians of Prynceton. Yes, I was a geek, but with a pretty good social life and always a girlfriend (or two).

When I ventured off to college in 1994, I let my BBS die and started building websites on the budding World Wide Web, which eventually led to blogging five years later. All of this has been in my blood. When I had a problem to solve — my finances — I turned to what I knew: internet publishing and community building.

Posting my progress each month is a natural progression. It is the perfect way to keep myself accountable. Sure, I could keep my finances private in my own copy of Microsoft Money or Quicken. But by doing so I would have no accountability, at least, not while I am living alone and have only my life with which to concern myself. I quickly discovered I wasn’t the only crazy one out there. MM from pfblog.com was posting his finances around the same time I started. He’s about the same age as me, but he’s much more successful in his career. That could have intimidated me, but I didn’t stop.

Not many others were out there at this stage, but as the activity of blogging as a whole exploded, so did the number of blogs in every possible niche. On July 15, 2005, Ryan Williams emailed me (and I’m assuming a few other bloggers) to let me know that he had formed NetworthIQ, a place for people to share their own financial data, based on the idea of publicly blogging monthly reports. There are members in every possible situation, some with climbing net worth, others slowly getting out of debt. Again, if there are thousands of public profiles, I can’t be the only crazy one.

What’s in it for the reader? I don’t know. Honestly, I can’t tell you what I think readers should take away from my monthly reports. Probably not much, and that’s OK. I read others’ updates because it gives me ideas for investing, saving, goal-making, and more. I don’t read to be envious about their position or to heckle their progress.

So if you get something out of my monthly updates, that’s excellent. I get a lot out of posting it, and as we all (should) know altruism doesn’t exist.

Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published April 10, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar klerg

Flexo:

RE: point #1, while your’re definetly not bragging (that’s never been your style), DEFINETLY don’t sell yourself short on your finances, because you have a lot to brag about right there.

For every person your age that you know is doing financially better, I can guarantee that there at least two peole that are doing worse. You pay off your credit cards in full every month, your debt is consistently reduced, and you’ve amassed $100K in hard savings when you combine your retirement and bank accounts.

You done AWESOME in that area right there!!!! KEEP IT UP!!!

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avatar Syed

Hi Flexo,

I think its a great and courageous decision to share your networth online.

In my instance I can say that reading about personal finance blogs has helped me take a hard look at my own finances and in the process of doing so I have discovered many bad financial habits that I had unwittingly got accustomed to.

I fully support you in your endeavour and wish you all success in reaching your financial goals.

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avatar mapgirl

Very interesting. Thanks for the history. I suppose my reasons are very similar. I’m not writing to brag too since I have very little to brag about.

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avatar Lazy Man and Money

Four years of studying computational linguistics compels me to say, “WordNet rocks!”

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avatar dong

Your history sounds almost exactly like own history down to being the internet liason for my high school (I was more of alternate, but why get hung on details). Though the BBSs i hung out atdefinitely didn’t have a 50/50 gender ratio, so i certainly did not meet any girls that way. Oh well.

Personally I’m a little more hesistant about revealing the details of my finances just because it does feel like bragging even when I know it isn’t. But even in the couple months I’ve started blogging, I’ve really come to enjoy the online community that is out there. I have developed my own opinion on who I like and don’t like just by reading the what people write.

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avatar Doobie

Ahhhh, Heartbeat of Pompeii, how I miss it so. Thanks for the memories, “Fenric”.

And, holy crap, is that Robin up there??

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avatar MT

I wouldn’t worry about the detractors.

I think the interesting question is why does it remain so taboo to talk about finances?

Personal finance blogs provide us with some financial voyeurism. It’s the same reason people watch reality TV, read US weekly. Only bloggers are more likely to be your neighbor. just my 2 cents.

For me blogging forces me to actually think and organize my finances in a way that I would not have done if it was just me and my wife With my debt load there won’t be anything to brag about for years.

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avatar Yan

I think you made your point clearly but to wrap it up you should really fix that last link where it says “altruism doesn’t exist”. ;-)

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avatar James Dwyer

Do you produce your net worth report manually using Excel, or do you automatically generate it from Quicken? I use Quicken and would love to be able to have a spreadsheet like that to track my progress, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time at it. Thanks!

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avatar Fellowes

Flexo,

First off, as a 32 year-old, I will tell you that you are far better off than most people I know in our collective peer group. Most people are know are buried in debt like I am and have very little savings, if any. So, you should give youself a little credit on that front.

I’m very glad that you detail your finances and put systematic thinking and detail behind the blog. You inspired me not only to take a hard look at my situaton, i.e. I stopped ignoring just how bad things were, but I was also inspired to document my own financial journey.

Don’t change anything!

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avatar Debt Hater

I started blogging and continue to blog to learn things I didn’t know before about finances (and I knew NOTHING when I started). I also do it for support, sometimes reading a comment like “Good job!” or “You can do it!” is all the motivation I need.

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avatar basem

First off, as a 32 year-old, I will tell you that you are far better off than most people I know in our collective peer group. Most people are know are buried in debt like I am and have very little savings, if any. So, you should give youself a little credit on that front.

I’m very glad that you detail your finances and put systematic thinking and detail behind the blog. You inspired me not only to take a hard look at my situaton, i.e. I stopped ignoring just how bad things were, but I was also inspired to document my own financial journey.

Don’t change anything!

Reply to this comment

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