Over at Always the Planner, asgreen recently wrote about someone who accidentally outed her in her blog, and later provided a followup about going public. Ginger also wrote about keeping some things private at Girls Just Wanna Have Funds.
One thing I’ve noticed about personal finance bloggers is that there is a wide variety in our comfort levels about how much to share. Some people are happy to publish their names and their income, debts, and net worth in great detail. Some will post names but not numbers, and many post numbers but choose to remain anonymous.
I choose to remain semi-anonymous, and I rarely post specific numbers. I discuss my net worth in terms of the percentage change. I never give actual numbers about salary or how much I spend on rent or food or clothes or anything else.
Clearly, I am a federal employee working in Washington, D.C., and I’m a lawyer, but I think I have just described half of this city. Possibly more. This is both to keep my privacy and keep my co-workers from finding this blog but also because while I am generally happy to have a job, and like my job well enough (perhaps I just like paychecks), I have also discussed my desire to find a new job. I’m not sure that’s something I want the higher ups in my agency to know (my boss knows). Plus I don’t want disgruntled citizens coming to my job to complain about something the government did. I have no control over anything. Trust me. That’s probably a good thing, because it means I can’t make a tragic mistake. I’ve been inside federal prison. While it was much nicer than I expected, it’s not really where I want to spend the next 10-20 years.
Various people in the PF Blogosphere know my real name, and I do have one friend who reads this because I’m comfortable with her knowing what I’m saying. (And I have this feeling that if J. Money thinks about it, he can very easily figure out where I work, as I think we may work in the same neighborhood). But I have other friends who know nothing about my blog and I prefer to keep it that way. I’m not sure that I would want my friends or co-workers monitoring my spending like that. “Oh, you went out for lunch again? Are you going to write about that on your blog? Do you have room in your budget for that?” I do talk personal finance a lot with people who want to discuss those subjects, but it seems like money is a taboo subject. It helps that I work in the government, where we all work on a standard payscale, so it’s pretty common to know exactly what someone makes. But it’s mutual. They know what I make, I know what they make. And sure, there are the occasional whispers about “So and so makes how much? That’s ridiculous.” But it’s public knowledge so it happens. If it were one-sided, I would be very uncomfortable.
For now, I’m comfortable with my level of privacy. I’m aware that at any point, someone I know could stumble across this blog and start reading, and that’s why I choose to not talk specific numbers. I’m impressed with bloggers who are comfortable with that level of transparency, and I often wonder if blog readers learn more when they see actual numbers. Overall, what’s ultimately important is if those numbers go up or down, I suppose. If your net worth was $500,000, but last month, you overspent a bit less you’re perhaps not doing as well as the person with a net worth of $10,000 who managed to pay off a substantial chunk of debt last month. Yes, the person with the higher net worth may have more, but the person with the lower net worth might be making better decisions and may very well be better off in the long term.
What’s your comfort level? How much detail are you willing to share?