Are million dollar early retirees ruining personal finance?
I stumbled across a blog recently (and I'm hating myself for not remembering what one!) and read an explanation of why the personal finance community just doesn't feel right. It's not them. It doesn't represent them. They don't feel as if they belong.
The reason? In large part, the relatively high net worths of those who have achieved financial independence.
We track these numbers over on the Rockstar Net Worth Tracker.
The argument was clear and direct: The top [nearly] 80 bloggers on the tracker possess over a million dollars. More than 20 are over two million and a select few have surpassed $5 million in net worth.
Phew, that's a lot of money!
And good for them. But for those of us who'll never see that kind of money in our lifetime, how are we supposed to feel welcome in a community where so many are practically rolling in the dough while others are struggling just to make ends meet? Do rich personal finance bloggers represent us?
Perhaps a better question: Can they represent us?
A personal finance blogosphere primer
I sympathize with the sentiment. It can be tough to feel connected with those who have (and earn) a great deal more money than us. I remember a comment last year expressing disappointment that my wife and I made such high combined salaries. They thought that they were reading words written by someone with an income more similar to theirs. Umm...sorry?
Here's the thing: The Net Worth Tracker is just for fun. We don't verify those numbers at all. Bloggers all have different ways to track their net worth. Some include the value of their homes, others don't. A few might even include the collective Blue Book value of their cars. Others may not. And, yes, there may be some who artificially inflate their numbers so they appear to be more rich than they actually are.
In other words, don't take these net worth numbers seriously. Certainly don't take a net worth number as some validation of money expertise. That's not what this is all about. If numbers make you uncomfortable, it is okay to ignore them. We maintain the Tracker for fun. There's no standard.
Second, don't blindly accept the term "retired" to mean an end to productive life or income. Retired bloggers still very often make money. Sometimes, a lot of money. Their blogs might generate income. They may have rental properties that bring in thousands a month. Side hustles. Pensions.
Don't get bogged down in the details of each and every blogger. Trust me, you'll go insane. Bloggers can (and will) say whatever they want on their blogs to present an image they want others to have of them (ie: "expert", "author", "coach", etc). These endeavors often bring in money. Are they truly retired? How much of it is actually true?
How can we possibly relate to "retired" bloggers with cash flow? Ahhhhh!!!
I believe we can learn from those around us even if their lives aren't carbon copies of the ones that we lead. In fact, I've always sought out those with higher incomes and larger net worth numbers. I want to learn from those who've already achieved what I hope to achieve.
The truth is the personal finance blogging community cannot represent all of us. It's just not possible. Each and every one of us comes at this topic from our own very unique perspectives. While some have struggled every moment of their lives, others were born into richer families with a much easier path through life. Some of us have computer science backgrounds and bring in huge incomes while others work retail and service jobs.
Here's the thing, though:
Different perspectives from bloggers make this a much more well-rounded community. There will be something for everyone regardless of your personal situation. From those who are climbing out of hundreds of thousands of debt to those who wipe their ass in hundreds, it's this variety that makes the personal finance community what it is.
It's okay if you can't relate to every blogger. It's cool. Nothing wrong with that. I can't relate to those who bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars through their blogs, but I sure as hell can learn from their successes. I don't care what their net worth or income is. All I care about is soaking up as much of their experience as I can. I look at these moments as if they're a course in school - only this time, a useful one. One that I can directly take knowledge out of and apply to my normal life.
That won't mean you'll learn from every blogger, though. That's okay too.
The personal finance community has been one of the most welcoming groups of people that I've seen. Ever. When you post about one of your successes, people actually cheer. Most of us give a shit about the people in this community. We blog, but we also work together toward our collective goals and ambitions. Meetups happen all over the country. We even have a conference once a year called FinCon where bloggers get together and learn from one another (and mingle with sponsoring vendors, of course!).
Here, check out this Tweet that I sent out one evening:
We are officially $13,000 away from being millionaires. And I'm like, "Cool, I guess!"
— ThinkSaveRetire.com (@ThinkSaveRetire) January 16, 2018
In less than 24 hours, I had more than 130 "likes". These came from folks richer than me as well as those who are climbing up the ladder. This encouragement doesn't happen everywhere, but it does in personal finance.
Or, how about this one from Cait Flanders who recently published a book.
— Cait Flanders (@caitflanders) January 16, 2018
Over 80 "likes" in just three hours. Guys, this community is ultra supportive!
The truth, according to ME!
- Accept that everyone is different, and that is okay (read: Good).
- Some will always be better, smarter, faster and stronger than us. It's okay.
- Take every blog that you read with a grain of salt.
- Don't try to compare yourself to everyone else. You'll die unhappy.
- Care not about unverifiable numbers and more about experience.
- Find knowledge. Take knowledge. Learn from knowledge.