Do you discuss the highlights on your journey to Financial Independence or FIRE? I’ve been blogging about money for over fourteen years, but I am still hesitant to write and talk about the big, bold moments of my financial quest. Looking back I think I’ve been too modest about my financial success.
Leaving Out the Details
A few weeks ago my family and I were dipping our toes into the ocean when a little girl wandered over to get a closer look at us. A young mom rushed over and profusely apologized for her daughter’s intrusion. We began to chat and within a minute or so her husband walked over to talk too.
It turns out this couple was staying in a house on the beach. Not a short distance from the ocean or a little ways off the beaten path, but right there front and center in a large house just beyond the sand. The husband joked that his parents must have cashed out an IRA to pay for their vacation. Then he asked where we were staying.
I pointed to the left and provided the details. “Oh, it’s a little yellow house about ten minutes up the road from here,” I said. I didn’t mention that we owned the house or when we bought it. I simply said, “If you drive down the road and look for the shortest yellow house you’ll find us.”
Modest About My Financial Success
When we went home that night I talked to my husband about that conversation. Standing there on the beach I ignored the chance to talk about money or wealth. Sure I didn’t need to point out the fact that we owned the house or that we purchased it in our mid-twenties, but why did I choose to describe it as “little?”
And that got me thinking. In real life I rarely talk about how successful my husband and I have been; not with my friends or my family or anyone. To others we appear quite average. We are the quintessential millionaires next door and I work especially hard not to flaunt our prosperity.
We live in a world where a lot of people want to be the center of attention. So people stand up and shout look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve accomplished. Look at how important I am.
I have never wanted to do this. In fact, it’s the primary reason I still write anonymously. It feels strange to me to stand on the rooftop and shout out my financial numbers.
Sure I include some of this information in the posts I write, but it’s not the most prominent point of my stories. I see so many news articles and blog posts centered on the numbers:
- Twenty-five-year-old saving $100,000.
- Thirty-year-old with a net worth of $1 million.
- Forty-year-old multi-millionaire considering fatFIRE.
Downplaying Financial Success
I’ve accomplished all of those things in those time frames, but I’ve never put up the neon signs to advertise them. And it’s strange, but I’m not sure how I feel about it. In this click-bait world we are lured in by catchy titles and stories of success. Look at me, look at me, see my wealth!
When I read financial stories I constantly see big, brazen numbers flashing before my eyes. In fact, I see these details so often now that it’s hard not to notice them. Writing my post about quitting my six-figure job was difficult for me. While it’s all very truthful and honest I had to fight the feeling that I was boasting about my situation.
So I’m feeling quite conflicted. While I want to share my story I often feel myself holding back. People may read this blog and follow in my footsteps, but few of them will reach the same financial heights. I am sensitive to that fact. Yet, I am also torn about not including the crowning moments that led to our wealth.
Craving That Sense of Belonging
Why have I chosen to write modestly when I could have spent the last fourteen years loudly tooting my own horn?
Perhaps it’s because I want to be part of a tribe. Most people don’t buy property just after graduation. Many never earn six figures and few will reach $1 million by the age of 30. I’m certainly not going to find common ground with these stats.
Sure I may find a group of personal finance nerds who devour these figures, but sometimes sharing these numbers is hard for me. When I was growing up we didn’t craft online profiles and display the highlights of our lives. While the Internet has drastically changed the world around me I still find it difficult to emphasize the pinnacles of my life.
In fact, my life has been as much about struggles, (health issues, infertility and lay-offs), as it has been about my financial success. Maybe the obstacles keep me grounded. They help me to realize that the quest for greater wealth hasn’t been easy and the highlight reel is just a tiny glimpse into my past.
Minimizing My Achievements
But now I wonder… Am I too modest about my financial success? Am I minimizing my achievements and missing the mark by not sharing the highlight reel of my financial life?
I am proud of all that my husband and I have accomplished. I know who I am and who I want to become, so why does it feel so hard to tell my story?
The truth is I feel incredibly torn about all of this. On one hand I want to speak out loudly so that others may follow in our footsteps. On the other hand I recognize that most people will never be as prosperous.
Learning to Boast
I recently listened to a podcast with Mr. Money Mustache. During that interview he admitted being much more boastful and brazen online than he would ever be in real life. This may be true, but look at how his words have impacted the minds of his readers. That overly confident attitude resulted in a cult-like following and the knowledge transfer of an entire financial independence movement.
While it’s not in my nature to brag in this way I wonder if I shouldn’t change my outlook on modesty. I want other women to know they can take control of their finances and better their lives. Perhaps we need more women sharing their stories in this same way.
Writing About Financial Success
To do that I may need to brag a bit. Maybe I need to stand tall and proud and tell my story so that others know it’s possible. Sure not everyone will reach great financial heights but earning more and saving every bit helps.
A friend told me I would be much more likely to boast if I were a man. I don’t know if that’s true, but it did make me sad. I would hate to think I’m subconsciously perpetuating the belief that women should downplay their success.
Especially when I wish for this blog to inspire women to feel strong and powerful as they take command of their finances. Perhaps it’s time to change my stance on sharing my success.
16 thoughts on “Am I Too Modest About My Financial Success”
You have seriously inspired me over the last decade ❤️
It’s certainly a balance between sharing enough you yo Ben inspiring without discouraging people with it.
Aww shucks ❤️ what a nice thing to say. I’ve been thinking about his for a day now and I think it boils down to this. I don’t want to say “this is what I have.” That sounds easy. What’s more important is this is what I’ve achieved. Of course, you can’t rehash that in every blog post 😉 While also fully recognizing that everyone has different opportunities in life and different starting grounds.
Wonderful and honest post.
We feel inspired most by people we can relate to, we need a variety of bloggers to represent us all and inspire as many people as possible. Keep you style and message.
Maybe you can turn up your tone just a little bit to encourage a few more of the people who relate more to you than to MMM.
Hi Sonia. Thanks for your comment. You bring up an interesting point. In the beginning, when I was just starting out, my story was very relatable. I earned $32,000 after graduation. I was searching for ways to make ends meet while I gained experience from my first full time job, but as the years pass it feels like my story is less relatable, because we have now reached our financial goals. We now have over $1 million in the bank, we have reached FI, etc. I feel like my life is a powerful story of what can happen, but if you pick up the story from the end (my current age and net worth) it feels less relatable without continually rehashing the story of how I got to here. I suppose it feels more important for me to encourage then to tout my success, but maybe I have to do one to achieve the other? I don’t know it’s all a very difficult balancing act.
The trouble is that without numbers, we earned this and saved this, it’s difficult for readers to adjust the results accordingly. If a man says “I press 200 pounds “ I immediately ask how much he weighs.
I was a doctor married to a doctor and we made ridiculous money at 30. An expensive divorce, remarriage, support of parents and in-laws, lots of children to educate, it all took a toll. So I have 3 million which is shockingly low considering what I have earned. Some would consider me “rich”, but I’m a failure for my own peers and I know it! I won’t be able to retire early, because my expenses are still 20k per month, 1/4 of it various insurances.
I do my own lawn, snow removal, repairs, housekeeping etc and have no idea how people live on 60k per year. I look at their budgets and they seem to be missing things you should have, like high end car insurance with umbrella etc. I only wish the explanation was that I lived in a HCOL area!
I really appreciate this comment. I completely agree that all numbers are required to see a complete picture and I love your analogy. $3 million would seem like a fortune to most, but if your life situations had been different you might be worth twice that much. I do think you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. We don’t all ride the same roller coaster in life, some of us have ups and downs that others will never experience. Perhaps your doctor friends did not experience the same bumps in the road. Unfortunately, that is life and the real power is getting through those events and continuing to push through them. Thank you so much for your comment.
I understand not wanting to say “this is what I have” but I think there’s great power in sharing “this is what I have done.” I think that value is partly why my readers voted years ago to keep numbers out of my net worth posts. It doesn’t matter how much I have, it matters what I’ve been doing in each month!
Yes! The accomplishment is in the act that led to the money. Not in the money itself. Someone recently asked when did you reach six figures? I didn’t know. I had to look it up. Then they asked when did you reach $1 million? Again I didn’t know a specific date. The steps that led to my wealth are so much more important than the wealth itself. Like I said, “the quest for greater wealth hasn’t been easy and the highlight reel is just a tiny glimpse into my past.” Thank you for leaving this comment and reopening my eyes to this!
Wow – you are inspirational and definitely need to boast more about your frankly amazing financial success.
Yet I so do understand the reluctance – like it or not, women are judged differently from men when championing their own achievements.
Thank you for the kind words. It’s been a tough balancing act, but I definitely hear more women in the personal finance space getting louder. More women are raising their voices and hopefully the trend will continue so that we can cheer each other on without discouraging others.
Chiming in to say that yes, you are an inspiration! I hope you can find a happy medium that still feels true to who you are, but while being able to share your story more widely, because we need to hear more voices.
Thank you for such a kind comment. I am still trying to figure out just how loudly I should speak. How can I share my story without coming off as arrogant? I think it is a constant work in progress.
Ah! Do I relate with this post or what?! I mean look at the blog name I chose .
You are indeed inspirational. I love the honesty that allows us to see that all of it, the financial success and the efforts, circumstances and sometimes luck that all each played a part in reaching it are not clear and easy things to replicate or even communicate. I feel it’s a better representation of “real life” to include these dilemmas we can all face. Even for people who don’t blog, it’s hard to know where that line stands between comfort, sharing information that can be helpful & over sharing to the point of boasting. Especially in this social media world of today!
As I may have mentioned at Fincon, I’ve been struggling with this blogger/anonymous identity when it comes to wanting to interact in real life and in my community to perhaps help others with financial literacy . Right now I share a lot of numbers on my blog.. is this helpful? Is this safe for our family if people know this in person? Does the blog name having “millionaires” in it instantly turn off people who don’t feel comfortable with their finances or does it provide an incomplete picture of the nuance that comes with building wealth in various circumstances? Anyways, all this to say your post really does it home for me!
With a name like ‘modest millionaires’ I’m sure you can relate to this post. Ha. Ha. I think it’s hard to talk about money and wealth building in a way that doesn’t come off as bragging.i mean even if I’m not bragging others who have amassed less may see it as though I am. I want to keep the conversations flowing and it’s often difficult to figure out how to do that in a helpful way. It sounds like you struggle with the same issue. There is a long road to travel between $1 and $1 million. It’s tough to describe that and share it particularly when you don’t know someone else’s circumstance. For example, sharing that with a well paid software engineer is much different for me than sharing it with someone who is not. I grew up in a modest home financially speaking. I try to put myself in the shoes of where I’ve been to figure out how to share in a way that helps, but it’s not easy. And as I grow farther from my past to present day it gets harder to tell the early life lessons that got me from there to here. Thanks for the comment.
I only recently started following you hence a very late post to your “Am I too modest” post. I love all your posts as they are so relatable. In regards to your “Am I Oversharing” that struck a chord with me as I come from a family where you shouldn’t share anything with outsiders. I’m about 10years later than you but since the beginning of Dec last year quit my job as I think we have enough money to be FI and spend more time with my son while my husband who’s still working pays the monthly bills. Even though I’m FI according to the various blogs I follow I’m always seeking knowledge of how others who are retired invest to get passive income. Maybe it’s me but when I ask male friends they just shrug because they’re offended at the question or modest .. Maybe I need to ply when with booze before I ask! And I’ve yet to find female friends who are FI. So thank you for your sharing.
Vicky, thank you for leaving your comment. I agree that the FI community is still predominantly male, but I would love to chat more if you ever need a female perspective! Congratulations on achieving FI!