To be honest, this isn’t really “year 1” of anything.
I started on my debt-free journey almost 2.5 years ago, and I wrote my first blog post 10 months ago (It’s crazy to me that this is already article 50!). However, January 1st is when you start a new tax year in Canada, so it seemed fitting to write an update post now if I want to compare my yearly income and net worth changes.
This post has been heavily on my mind this week. In some ways I was so excited to write it because I’m proud of the progress I’ve made! I earned more this year than any other year prior, and I’ve managed to apply a lot of my earnings to improving my net worth (ie paying down debt or investing it) rather than just spending it.
There was some nagging voice in my head questioning whether it was a good idea however. Should I share my net worth online?
Does anyone else remember wearing tear-a-way joggers in their youth? You know: the pants with the snap buttons the whole way down your leg?
Writing my article feels like those pants: Insanely comfortable around the right people, but at risk of overexposing yourself in the wrong hands. [Oh yes, I was pants-ed a time or two]
I tend to be an open book. Ask me a question, and you’ll get my honest answer. Filtering my thoughts has never been my strong suit.
So I couldn’t figure out my hesitation with sharing all my details. I mean, I talked about my massive debt in my first post!! Why does sharing my income, net worth, and progress feel any different? I LOVE reading other bloggers financial updates. I find real numbers helpful for motivating me and understanding “what’s possible”. Again, why my hesitation and feeling like I was about to make a mistake?
Like any self respecting human, I took to Google to find the answer.
Turns out, it can be hard to find blog where the writers show their identity AND net worth. There’s a few of course. But most blogs that show their real numbers (I’m talking income and net worth; it’s easy to find blogs that discuss their spending) are written anonymously. My brain wondered what they know that I don’t, so I went on a deep dive. Turns out everyone has their own reasons, but three resonated with me.
1- Considering my future family:
Right now I live alone. The things I choose to share on this blog don’t need to be discussed with anyone else, because they 100% reflect my solo choices. I’m adventuring through life solo.
However, I have plans to move in with my boyfriend in spring once my lease is up. At that point our finances become entwined (which was our decision of how to handle money). To continue writing explicit yearly financial updates after this one, I’d need to share our combined salaries and net worth to make the picture accurate. If he’s not comfortable with his exact numbers being shared, I need to respect that.
I also plan on having kids one day. While I tend to be heavily impressed by Madonna-esque women that are completely themselves (entire world opinion be damned) that’s not me. I personally would care if my kid is uncomfortable or embarrassed to see me letting it all hang out for everyone to see (obviously in this case I mean my numbers, but you heard my track pant analogy….).
When you picture the possibility of a stranger at the grocery store, someone on the bus, or someone at work knowing exactly how much money you have and earn, it does start to feel like an overshare.
There’s one often ignored fact I see in most financial writing: that income matters when you’re trying to improve your finances. To be honest, I understand why writers try to put their head in the sand about it. Even if you’re earning good money it takes solid effort to apply those earnings to improving your net worth. We’re bombarded with ads, social media, and in person examples of why we should spend our money rather than save it. Bloggers want to feel proud of the progress they’re making, not chalk it all up to good fortune on how big their paychecks are.
But I won’t sugar coat it: the higher your income the easier it is to save money. That’s not to say it’s impossible! There are low income earners out there crushing their savings goals, and there’s folks earning a million+ a year going farther and farther in debt. Your income doesn’t guarantee your net worth; your habits do. However, your gap (the difference between your spending and income) determines how much money is available for progress. At some point it’s really difficult to drop your expenses any further without giving up the basics of life; your spending can’t be zero. Higher earners have an advantage in their gap because it’s easier to put a larger space between spending and income, so they can save or pay off debt faster (again, can does not equal do).
My aim for this blog has always been to get people to reassess their spending and realize they have the full ability to change their lives.
I’m worried sharing my numbers would hinder that purpose.
It’s easy to make excuses for why something can’t work for you when you earn less than the writer. It’s much more difficult to think clearly and determine how you can apply the lesson/concept to your own situation once jealousy creeps in.
If I make more than you, I’m concerned you’ll dismiss my suggestions since they come from a place of privilege. If I earn drastically less than you, I’m concerned you’ll dismiss my suggestions as deprivation you don’t need to accept in your life.
I can’t even judge people for that. It’s almost human nature to think of excuses for why someone else is doing something you “can’t” (I use that term sarcastically).
It’s easier to make excuses than to make change.
I’m not above it either! Very recently I went on a dog walk with a best friend who was telling me of her plans to move to a new country for 6 months during her maternity leave. It sounded incredible, and instantly I felt a pang of jealousy. My boyfriend and I discussed it that evening. The conversation started off with comments about how lucky they are, and how they have that amazing opportunity because they wayyyyy out earn us.
But about 5 minutes in, we realized we were making excuses. If that was something we really wanted to do, we could. It might not look exactly the way it looks for them, but it’s possible. Our actual reasons for not following suit? 1) Taking a newborn to a new country away from all family and friends sounds terrifying to us and 2) We have different things we prioritize spending our money on. Their plan and bravery impress the heck out of me, but it doesn’t need to be my plan.
I fully believe the principles I discuss on this blog (deciding what’s most important to you, finding cheaper ways to happiness, challenging societal norms) apply to ALL income levels. It’s important to me that my readers feel like they belong here regardless of what they earn.
Your situation won’t change unless your thoughts do.
It’s funny (? dumb) that this one didn’t actually occur to me until I read someone else mention it as their #1 reason. There’s something unsettling about this new age we live in and how easy it is to find an address if you have a name.
While my net worth is currently in the negatives, I hope to change that within the next calendar year.
While we won’t be storing our money under the mattress (Hello, robber bait!) I can’t help but agree that having strangers know your specific financial details could put a target on your back.
Why take on unnecessary risk when I don’t view it as having dramatic benefit?
So, should I share my net worth online?
I apologize to my fellow financial voyeurs, but my answer is no.
While I completely understand the desire to see other people’s specifics, I won’t be showing my own at this time.
What I will share is this:
I made an income in the 5 figures (nope, no $100,000+ club here). With that, I still managed to put 17% of my take home pay on debt and 14% into savings/investments while living alone with a dog.
It is absolutely possible to change your financial future, even if you’re doing it alone and don’t earn an insane salary. I’m proof! I put 31% of my take home pay towards improving my net worth and STILL had an incredible year.
2020 is going to be an amazing year; I can feel it. Just think: in one year you could be sitting back reveling in your own progress. You owe yourself that, and I promise you it’s possible.
Happy New Year!