The Intimate Details of My Financial Life

…will probably never be revealed,

but the fact that you clicked on this post probably means you’re interested. Such is human nature and curiosity, particularly when it comes to a social taboo like money.

As a “public figure” in the world of money, I’m often asked and expected to talk about concrete details of my financial life.

Other personal finance bloggers will tell you that they are on the fence about it–a few of them are completely transparent about their income and expenses, some do so only under the protection of an anonymous nickname, and the rest would never share such details with their audience or are very selective about it when they do.

There are a few specific reasons why I’m hesitant to be detailed:

  1. People get funny about money, and I have a lot of friends colleagues who read this blog. Relationships get very awkward when someone knows all about your finances.
  2. Specific information is rarely required to understand general financial concepts. In fact, made-up examples or other people’s case studies can easily be used where hard numbers help to explain the idea.
  3. Detailed information on a blog serves primarily as proof that “you’re for real.” That’s why I used personal data in my baby expense reports from 2011. While building an audience without this social proof takes longer, it’s not impossible.
  4. For some bloggers, the purpose of sharing personal data is for public accountability, and thereby personal motivation. Instead, I do this in a more general sense with things like my yearly goals.

Specific personal data is the cornerstone on which some blogs are built, and for those in a position to share that kind of information, it benefits the rest of us with insights and the motivation to do better. I just don’t happen to be one of those blogs.

With that in mind, there are plenty of things I am willing to share:

  1. The percentage of my total income that my Web work generates. One of my 2011 goals was to reach 15% by the end of the year–right now, I’m hovering around 10-12%.
  2. The detailed expenses for our first child. This helped new Moms and Dads understand what they were facing and how to prepare.
  3. Our financial methodology or “systems.” Posts in the past have ranged from our monthly spouse meetings to using a wish list.
  4. Expensive lessons, like the time we almost bought a house but realized it needed a lot of work (today, that house is worth about $100,000 less than it was at the time–proof that it’s impossible to time a market bottom), or stuff we didn’t really need to buy for our new baby.
  5. Life experiments, like the time I ate vegetarian for 4 months and learned that it can actually save money!

Hopefully, these kinds of posts give you insight to the inner workings of our finances, and enough of it to make positive changes in your own lives.

So I’m curious–who do you share your financial information with? Friends? Family? Complete strangers? Why or why not? (Share your thoughts in the comments).

8 thoughts on “The Intimate Details of My Financial Life

  1. I’m in the same boat as you, Wojo. (but without a baby) — Anyway, because my family, co-workers, and the entire world (practically) knows my real identity, I would hate to share all of the real details about our budget and put a strain on some relationships. What if I’m making a different salary than my co-workers with the same title? What if my crazy ex-girlfriend sees that we have $30,000 in the bank and decides to sue me for all I’ve got? The biggest pet peeve of mine is when people tell me that I “can afford it.” Then I get really ghetto and make some comment about how they don’t know me.

    I’ve found that using percentages to illustrate our monthly budget is not completely transparent but is still somewhat useful.

    Great thoughts, thanks!

  2. My blog doesn’t require personal financial information – and I’m pretty private about that sort of stuff. The question I have dealt with recently is when and how to disclose financial details to kids as they grow up. (You’re not nearly to that stage yet, but believe me, time flies and soon your beautiful baby will go to school and before long will be asking you about how much things cost and maybe how much you make.) It’s too long a topic for this comment, but worth considering before the questions come up. My husband and I have been having conversations with out recent college grad kids since they began asking and those conversations get ever more detailed as the kids show their maturity in handling information discretely.

    1. Great point, Laura! I have some nieces and I can watch the interaction with their Mom on some of these issues, and I’m definitely starting to think about how I’ll deal with it.

  3. I don’t share a lot of specific information, but sometimes will share some general information to help illustrate a point. I think like you say that people tend to get a bit strange about money – when they know details it ends up leading to more problems than it solves by sharing. For whatever reason friends/family/acquaintances – when they know how much you make will feel like they can then take advantage of that knowledge for their own purposes – which i try to avoid. Money and knowledge there-of can change relationships.

    So to some degree if someone really wanted to go through all my 4 years of posts, they could probably piece together some semblance of a financial picture – but nothing super specific – and that’s how I’ll try to keep it. General and non-specific.

  4. I only share specific financial information with my wife. I will share general information with people outside family, but only general information.

  5. You’re right– that title did get me to click on this post (and probably a lot of other readers too!) Why? Like you said, people are funny about money. Everyone wants to know how much everyone else is making. In fact, I recently read an article about a “Facebook” sort of site for earnings. 😮 At Mango Money I only rarely include myself in any posts, and that is only to recount experiences, usually not to do with money, and never to do with my personal finances. It’s great when you can share something with readers and hear back from them, but beating people over the head with your financial woes or successes, is never a good idea. But I do thank you for the amount of info you do share! It’s a great balance!

  6. I share mine with a mix of people — people I know in real life who ask about it, plus some things on my blogs. Sometimes I share out of excitement (like when we send in extra money to our mortgage), sometimes it’s to explain why/what I’m doing, and other times it’s if people ask.

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