As I explained in this serie's introduction, I've always been keen to know how other bloggers handle the privacy topic, which numbers they disclose, which not, and why.
I'm excited to welcome as a first guest my fellow J. Money from budgetsaresexy.com.
Let's see what he is willing to disclose on The Internet (come on, we talk finance here, how'd you think about that)!
1/ What are all the numbers you're disclosing on the Internet, and their values?
I'm the biggest fan boy for disclosing net worths (since it keeps people SO accountable, especially myself as I have to show the world it every month!), and right now that's exactly $513'016 - which covers all savings, investments, assets, etc.
Our kids also have their own net worths we divulge too: $5,596.91 for Baby Penny and $4,305.23 for Baby Nickel.
I also disclose our cars worth: $1,000 for Frankencaddy, and $4,203 for my wife's Toyota. [MP note: we had the interview some time ago and J. was still the owner of his beloved Caddy...]
As well as some of the apps I test out: $4,004.75 total saved using Digit and $402.15 total invested using Acorns so far.
I used to share all our debts like mortgages and credit card stuff too, however I'm proud to say we have absolutely $0.00 left after just selling our house - woo!
My goal is to give people an inside look at someone's real-life finances, so I'm a strong proponent of sharing both the bads and the goods with money. It's what got me hooked (and learning) about finances myself through personal finance blogs, so I'm happy to carry on the tradition!
2/ What are the numbers you're not disclosing on the web - and why (be it salary, money you make via your blog, groceries bill, etc.)?
I don't post how much I make off the blog or any of my projects - though it's all reflected in my net worth updates as far as how it affects my total income.
I feel like you usually choose one or the other to post online, but not both? Maybe because it's overkill or it's just weird saying "hey! here's how much $$ I made off you this month!" Haha... Though I'll admit it is pretty fascinating to read as a blogger in the space :)
And quick plug for my list over at Rockstar Finance where we showcase the net worths of over 200 bloggers who post 'em up. If you love seeing peoples' money, you'll definitely want to click on that link.
Other thing I don't disclose anymore (but I used to) - my budget. When I was first getting a handle on where all my money went and started my blog (Feb of 2008) I used to post it up monthly to help others get a good picture of how I did things...
But as the years went by and my spending got back in my control I stopped tracking every last penny and out the door went the sharing of my budget as well. It also became a lot of work tracking everything for yourself and THEN also for the blog readers too, which is probably another variable into why bloggers tend to only post one main transparent piece of the puzzle each month...
3/ What is your take on blogging privacy? You don't care to be identified? Was it always the same or did it change overtime? For instance when you were an average employee, did you disclose your salary on the blog without the fear that your colleagues would discover it?
As ironic as it is, I prioritize anonymity pretty high in order to be more transparent with my finances. And as my net worth, as well as my family, have grown over the years, it's helped to give me some much needed privacy as well. Especially from the psychos online that will literally threaten you and your family for no apparent reason whatsoever (I've gotten over 70 death threats from a single person before - not fun). You can only do so much to protect yourself of course, but having these obstacles in place certainly helps.
I first started with being anonymous in both name and face/pictures, but over time I've revealed myself more and more since I attend a lot of conferences and other fun meetups, but my name is still very much anonymized. Though I have joked that one day I might for real change my name to J. Money since he's much more popular than the "real" me! :) Plus, it's pretty fun having an alter ego and nowadays going under a pseudonym isn't as shunned as it used to be.
For anyone starting out and struggling with which way to go, just remember that you can always divulge more later, but you can't very easily do the opposite. Once you're out there you're out there.
4/ But don't you fear schizophrenia? Who are you with real people close/around to you? Do you reveal your real life name to people at conf? Or they call you J. ?
It was weird at first, but it's been so long now (8 years!) that I'm used to it :)
I literally have double of everything (email, phone #, etc.) so it's easy to at least not mess up technologically, but more people know me as this J. Money character than my real self for sure, haha...
But yes - I do have to be careful with what I say and to whom and to how I intro myself in person. I do my best to give my right nickname to the right person though (I have like 3 of them! haha..) so that way depending on how they address me I know exactly where I know them from and what I've told them or not... I only go as "Jay" around financial blogger people, whether online or on skype/phone/conferences etc. and rarely bring up my stuff outside of that unless I think it's worth divulging in the "real" world...
Most times people don't even care though or remember since who likes talking about finances for fun? ;)
5/ What about family and close friends? They now know about your blog or do you hide it?
I was super sneaky about it the first year or two, but they all know about it now for sure... Though they still ask me what "I do" approximately 13 times a year so I can probably just tell them my blog is the Mustachian Post and they wouldn't know the wiser ;)
6/ Last but not the least: it is easy to disclose a one big net worth number as it protects your identity. Do you confirm you wouldn't show exact numbers about let's say your car insurance or any other thing so that people working there can't even find your identity out?
Oh, when it comes to $$$ I disclose everything to the penny unless I'm being lazy or just rounding up for effect. I guess an employee could try to look me up that happens to be curious, but is there a way to do that based on an exact bill amount? Or amount in my savings/investments?
I've worked in a lot of customer service departments and have yet to see that search feature, haha... But sure - better odds of them figuring it out than someone off the streets I suppose. If they can figure it out they can win the prize of my real name :)
7/ BONUS: as a last crispy voyeur detail from Jay's life, can you tell us how much you're making per month on average as a full time blogger/online entrepreneur (for the ones who don't know, J. quit is 9 to 5 job some years ago and live from his passion since then)?
Oh man, that's a tricky one as it fluctuates so much...
When I'm on my game and paying attention to the business side of things which admittedly bores the PANTS off of me, I'll make $10,000-$15,000/mo, and the other times when I'm treating it more as a hobby than I should (just cuz it's way more fun!), I'll make $6,000-$8,000/mo.
So really depends on when you catch me :) I think the most I ever made one month was $30,000 and the least $3,000 so it can get pretty wild up in here...
8/ BONUS BIS: What is/are the activity/hustle that brings in the 80% of your monthly income? Don't tell me it is Adwords on RockStarFinance?!? ^^
Hah! Rockstar doesn't make much money actually - more of a passion project than anything :)
I'd say 80% of my income these days are affiliate-related from sharing products & services I love and use myself. Though unfortunately there's only so many of those, so it's kinda limited until I stumble across new ones... Sometimes I wish I was just in it for the money so I could pimp any ol' product that paid well! There's a sickening amount of money floating around online, it's pretty incredible.
9/ Final question as it might interest readers too: what is the 20% of exact products/services that bring in the 80% of cash?
[Jay didn't want to share this infos but agreed to explain why.]
Yeah, not sure exactly why it makes me feel weird? Nothing really too exciting or sneaky I'm hiding.... in fact, there isn't one main affiliate I have - rather just a handful of them that combined total a larger amount. So you're not losing anything from omitting this question :) Just more comfortable with personal $$$$ than business $$ details.
Thanks again to J. Money to share with us such interesting insights.
I find it so valuable to know how others perceive the privacy topic.
If you're interesting in showing your numbers to the world, just ping me and we'll organize an interview.