To Reveal or Not to Reveal My Numbers…

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To Reveal or Not to Reveal My Numbers...We’re coming up on a year of my site’s first post in a couple of months and with that, I’ve been able to really get to know you guys as well as some of the other financial independence sites out there.  As I’ve been investing a lot more of my time reading the other blogs, I’ve noticed that it really makes for an interesting read to see where people are at on their journey.  One of the dilemmas that I’m facing is whether or not I should reveal my numbers to continue building my site.

When I’m referring to my numbers, I’m talking specifically about our net worth.  I’m thinking it would be nice to be able to show where we’re at right now as well as what our goals are.  I’m also talking about more of a breakdown as to how much we have in our accounts – maybe not all the boring stuff of our finances (we don’t keep any credit card debt, for example), but more relevant accounts such as:

  • 401(k) plans
  • Roth IRAs
  • Remaining mortgages for our residence and rental properties along with the estimated values
  • Bank accounts summary
  • 529 plan

When I initially started this site, I had all intentions of being transparent about where I was financially.  Then I got rolling and mentioned it to my brother who felt this was a bad idea for obvious privacy reasons.  I took a step back from revealing them at that time because once I open up the books so to speak, there’s no way of really closing them… once it’s on the Internet, you might as well call it permanent.

I decided I would get the hang of what I’m doing first and then could always reveal the numbers at a later time.  Well, time has passed, and I’m considering it again and I need your advice.  Here are some of my thoughts…

The Pros of a Reveal

First of all, by opening up about my numbers, it would hold me a little more accountable for my end goals.  If I have the numbers out there on this site, then I would probably be even more motivated to ensure that the numbers keep growing… you know, to impress you guys!  😉  Right now, I keep everything in Quicken, but having to update the numbers on this site every so often might also help me to stay focused even more.

And let’s face it – that would make for a more interesting read for you guys.  As I see the numbers on some of the other sites out there, it helps me to gauge how I’m doing all around.  I can see if I’m further ahead in some areas or if I need to catch up in other areas.  It’s not a be-all end-all seeing other numbers because everyone has different goals, lifestyles, and expenses, but it does help to know if you’re even in the same ballpark.  I would actually like to contribute to the FIRE (Financial Independence and Early Retirement) community by sharing my information and help others to be able to gauge where they’re at as well.  A reveal of my numbers would be one way to do this.

Also important is feedback from others.  Most of the FIRE community is very supportive of each other.  If I would reveal my numbers, I would probably get some feedback.  I’m sure some would be good and some bad, but hopefully the bad would be more constructive than the plain old “you’re not going to make it, Jim – you suck!”

The Cons of a Reveal

And then there’s the other side of the coin… the cons that come with a reveal.

First off, know that I’m not the kind of guy that shies away when talking about money and numbers.  I’m not a bragger and actually more the opposite – I love to know areas where I can be focusing on a little more.  However, my only concern is that once I do retire, I’ll probably open up to you guys as to my actual identity.  My concern is that it would allow others in my current company to have a better idea of how much money I was making.

I’m not bringing in an exorbitant amount of money at my job (it’s good, but it’s actually probably lower than it should be!), but it’s still higher than the people I manage.  Although this is generally the norm and won’t really affect me in particular, it might be a big deal to my employer.  I hate working in general, but my employer has always been good to me and I would hate to do anything that would cause problems for him or the VP.

Another downside is that I would need to update my numbers, probably monthly, on the site.  Between the full-time job, helping to raise my daughter (another full-time job! 🙂 ), trying to hustle and chase after new real estate deals, putting out new posts on this site, and squeezing in some old Cheers reruns, time is something I don’t have a ton of right now.  Sure, it’s not that big of a deal to do, but it’s still another thing on the plate that needs to be considered.

I’m not the first financial independence blogger to have to make this decision and I’m sure everyone’s reasons for publishing or not publishing their numbers are different.  But I thought I would throw this out there and get some thoughts from you guys!  What would you do if you were in my shoes based on what I’ve shared here?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

30 thoughts on “To Reveal or Not to Reveal My Numbers…”

  1. Hey Jim,

    The question is one that a lot of people have. I had it as well when I started to blog. For me, 2 things are important: stay anonymous and do not reveal my real numbers. Topic one is the goal, topic 2 is the back up plan if for some reason topic 1 fails (note that compliance at work knows that I blog,thus topic 2 comes in handy here as well).
    I Am with you about sharing progress. I solved by designing a system that allows me to show progress towards a goal, express it in percentages and publish that. I also update once in a while my asset allocation, avian, in percentage terms.
    This way, people see the progress, not the real numbers. In my opinion, the real number means not a lot. it is the trend that is important.

    1. Hi AT – that’s a good way around the problem (I went and checked out your portfolio on your site). I think if I pull the trigger though, I’d prefer to show the actual numbers because it would be easier for readers to critique. However, if I don’t go the route of revealing the actual numbers, then your method might be a good option to consider as a solid middle ground.

      — Jim

  2. You are welcome. Good that you have some alternative options. I look forward to see the route you will take.

    I just reread your about section: looks like we have a lot in common. I figure we have the same age, work similar jobs in middle management and our first kid is also born in 2010. I have the same thought as you: by the time in retire (2029 according to the plan) she will be in university. By that time a lot of quality time is already gone. That is why I try to live now as well, even if it pushes out our FIRE date with some years.

    1. That’s funny you say that about the commonalities – I just said the same thing about you to my wife yesterday! 🙂 I definitely hear you when it comes to quality time. I’ve been lucky that my job is basically a 9 to 5 position and it’s extremely rare that I need to work outside of that.

      The hard part for me is trying to hustle in other areas (finding rental property, this blog, etc.) while still finding that quality time for my daughter. I think I do a pretty good job balancing the two, but on the rare times when I’m not spending time with her I feel guilty anyway (even though I probably shouldn’t!).

      — Jim

  3. RTR,

    I just started our blog in February and I have no problems at all sharing all of our numbers, it helps keep me really accountable. All of my friends, family, and community know that I started the blog, so I like doing it in case it will help some of them. My wife on the other hand wanted me to hold back a while on the net-worth tracker I maintain behind the scenes, and if you look at our monthly budgets, I do them as a percentage of take home pay…she didn’t want everyone knowing exactly what we make. We’ll see how it progresses over the years. Good luck with your decision

    1. Thanks, Chad – sounds like we’re in a similar boat… I would be just fine with putting the numbers out there, but I think the push-back might make it harder. The way you’re doing it might be a good option as well for me if I don’t just throw ’em all out there.

      — Jim

  4. Hey Jim,
    For now I have been using percentages as well (but if you dig enough you can find my numbers). The only thing I would worry about is relatives or friends (maybe?) coming asking for money if your net worth is high. Have a good one.

    1. I’ve thought about the the relatives/friends thing but it doesn’t really phase me too much… I don’t have a problem saying no and if it would affect a relationship then there are deeper problems anyway. 🙂

      — Jim

  5. I won’t offer any advice on what you should do, but I can say that not sharing our numbers isn’t seeming to hurt us one bit in terms of readership or traffic or anything else. But we do love updating our charts that are based on percentages of our goals — that’s a great way to give a sense without having to give numbers. Though we also plan to reveal our identities when we quit working, and don’t want our names and faces attached to our numbers — that feels super icky to us from a privacy perspective! Plus, we want our blog to be about principles, and since we earn incomes that are above average, there’s some part of us that worries that we’ll actually *lose* readers if we reveal because they’ll think, “Oh, of course YOU can retire early, since you make a lot.” So we keep it dollar agnostic instead, and we’re happy with that. 🙂

    1. Thanks, ONL – you bring up some good points and it seems to be the consensus on the feedback I’ve gotten so far. Maybe I should just go with it, but I hate that we, as a society, don’t discuss money the way we should. Call it transparency or whatever, but I think it would be a good gauge for others out there. I still haven’t decided either way, but I definitely appreciate everything I’m hearing from everyone. To be honest, I’m actually surprised that the direction seems to be leaning more toward keeping it low key, but I like it since it give me more to think about.

      — Jim

  6. I purposefully haven’t shared our numbers because my wife doesn’t want too. Part of it is because if I was totally transparent I would include her student loan and car debt, which is something she doesn’t want me to reveal. I reveal my debt numbers, but not hers. I think it is fine not revealing what you have/don’t have. I am not really anonymous, but I can understand holding fire on it.

    I admit that when I see the numbers of other PF bloggers I do sometimes become a bit envious b/c it seems they are doing “better” than I am….whatever that means. That is the unfortunate aspect of self-comparison.

    1. I’m sure if there were more people revealing their numbers, there would not only be some people you see that are doing better than you, but also quite a number that you are doing better than. In a weird way, I like to hear that you look at this as an “unfortunate aspect of self-comparison” because I personally like to see the ones that are doing better than me as the ones to aspire to. So it’s good to get a different perspective.

      — Jim

  7. Hi Jim,

    I recently started my own blog and decided to take the plunge and reveal my numbers from the outset. Having said that , I’ve chosen to remain anonymous on my blog and I don’t know if/when I’ll reveal my actual identity. I do find that I engage much more with sites where you can see the actual figures and understand exactly what’s going on/happening each month. I also find it inspirational to see how much others are managing to save from their income and it encourages me to save more.

    I can completely understand if you don’t feel comfortable revealing the numbers and I don’t think it’s essential, but I do think there would be a percentage of potential future followers who would be enticed by this!

    Best of luck with whatever you decide.

    1. Aha, someone that’s gone the other route and reveals their numbers! Love it!

      It’s not a decision I’m taking lightly, so I’m still contemplating both sides. If I decide not to do it, I’ll probably be adding them in a roundabout way like some of the other suggestions in the comments

      — Jim

  8. I’m with Organized Redhead in the “reveal numbers” camp.

    It’s a bit quicker to produce the actual numbers than to shroud them by converting to percentages. And I also get an occasional insight which comes from the absolute amount.

    For instance, this past month, I closed the books on 2015 and noticed that my tracking was off. Why was I always having to increase several categories by tens of dollars every month or so? Turns out it’s a quirk of when credit-card statements hit. If the statements close in the second half of the month, I get the statements mid-month and have to enter transactions which posted two months earlier. I need to get my butt in gear and have all the statements close around the fourth of the month, so I can enter everything for the month and reconcile it before I try to close that month.

  9. Hi – I don’t reveal my numbers but use rough percentages. Partly because of privacy reasons. And I want to engage readers on the strategy and decision making behind the numbers, not the numbers themselves. If someone comes looking to my site to ‘gawk’ they will be be disappointed and leave, and that is fine by me, it is about the process.
    I think most of us are very accountable to ourselves anyway.
    But that’s just me.

    1. I do agree that the numbers could also be distracting to some people over the actual strategy. I also don’t want to come off as bragging (or woe is me) on the different aspects of our plan, so if I went that route, I would need to find the best way to present it.

      — Jim

  10. I’m not personally a finance blogger – I’m right at the start of my debt-free journey. I will say however that I enjoy reading people’s budgets, investment stats and posts about spending because if anything, seeing their progress is motivation for people like me who are starting out from the bottom! Ultimately, its your decision and whats right for your blog and that’s gotta be tough.

    1. Thanks, Jenna! I feel the same way as you as far at the motivation factor. I haven’t made a decision as of yet, but I appreciate all the feedback.

      Good luck on your debt-free journey!!

      — Jim

  11. As my site is still relatively new, I wouldn’t sit here and tell you what to do. Instead, I can tell you what I think I will do.

    I do understand that there seems to be a voyeuristic fascination with knowing how much other people earn. But in my day jobs as a senior finance person, I often had access to everyone’s compensation information in the companies I worked for. After a while you tend to filter that information out as it’s not really relevant to you. Everyone comes in with their own set of unique circumstances and making the most of your own situation is what matters. Comparing yourself to others will just lead you down the wrong path.

    From my perspective, having the specific dollar amounts for everything is not necessary. I think the percentages are just as helpful. Specifically, the things that interest me the most are asset allocation
    and rates of return on the different assets/investments.

    You might be willing to share actual numbers on a specific investment, but you should keep the totals to yourself.

    Even if you are anonymous, that may not be the case forever.

    1. Thanks, FS – it’s interesting to see how divided people are on this. I think your last statement is the key… if I knew that I would be anonymous forever, then this might be a simpler decision to make.

      — Jim

  12. I love reading about motivation and choices more than the numbers. That is just me. Most of the people that know me in real life don’t know my income or savings/investments

    1. I do agree that reading motivational content can be inspiring more than numbers. I’m a numbers guy though and sometimes seeing other people’s numbers helps to really drive me as well so I was hoping that might do the same for others.

      I’m in a similar boat where friends and family don’t know my numbers – they really don’t even talk about money. But I wish they would because I think that being open about this helps people learn from each other as well as to motivate.

      — Jim

  13. With lots of posts from bloggers you can have a ballpark of networths.
    This is the first post that i read from you but i got to here from financialsamurai which i belive he is in the 3.8 to 4.3 millions, even though he practices stealth. From couple posts per week you can get close to exact numbers.

  14. I’m on the “no reveal” side myself, although there are probably strong hints on my blog about what our target might be.
    I’ve heard horror stories about people losing friends because they revealed their net worth, so I inteend to keep that under wraps if possible

  15. RtR, I am late to the party but just found this post and all the comments. I am just getting the blog started and had this same question. I have some numbers in my most recent post but edited it down after the first draft. I wrote it then regretted giving out too much. Having said that, I enjoy the mystery of some and enjoy the open sharing of others. All food for thought. However, I, like you, feel like this should be well thought out and the spouse needs to be on board before I share net worth. It seams it is much easier to share when you are starting out and much more difficult when you are getting close to your target…

    I really like the “Time Left to Retirement” ticker you have!

    1. Hi AW – welcome to the “party”! I’ve since decided that for the time being, not to put everything on the table. However, I created a new page with my game plan that helps show some numbers and a ballpark breakdown of what my income might look like. Hopefully, that helps to keep the intrigue a little higher on my site than not having anything.

      I’m looking forward to the day that the Time Left ticker shows 1 week left! 🙂

      Good luck on your journey to financial freedom!!

      — Jim

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