Before I start to make my fellow FI/RE bloggers blood boil, this is a genuine question and by no means implying that any of you are show-offs!
It’s been something playing on my mind for a while though.
I’m not talking here about being arrogant which Mr Tako talks about, but something much more subtle; humblebragging:
“bragging masked by a complaint or humility” (Sezer & Norton, 2017)
With money still such a hush-hush topic, usually confined to private conversations between the client and the bank manager / financial advisor / accountant, it’s no wonder many of us FI bloggers need to find a platform to talk about something we are so interested in.
Heck, sometimes money is seldom spoken about properly between spouses so what are the chances of having honest, thought-provoking conversations about it with friends and colleagues?!
However, I do sometimes feel a sense of guilt writing about how much money I earn, savings rates, FI ratios, my investment performance, how little time I have left until I can retire and the list goes on.
Money is all relative, so I understand that not everyone is as fortunate as I am and I am not as fortunate as everyone else.
But isn’t all this blogging a little self-promoting, gloating, bragging, look at how well I am doing sort of thing?
Blogging as a way to boost low self-esteem
There is no doubt there are people out there who use their blogs as a way to boost their confidence and self-esteem.
Similar to how some social media users who put up photos or status posts about something to make themselves feel a little better. Or, they do so to attract attention with incomplete status updates hoping someone will ask them if everything is okay.
It annoys me and I unfollow those people.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, each to their own and we all have our own personal life experiences who have made us who we are today.
I just choose not to be notified everytime such individuals write something. That’s not to say I can’t be friend’s with them or that they are bad people.
It’s such a difficult balance to write something I’m passionate about without it sounding pretentious, judgemental or braggy.
I’ve not mastered this art of writing yet, so I hope the few readers I have can spare me some slack and forgive me if I have (or will) ever come across this way. It is not my intention and feel free to call me out on it; it is the only way I will learn.
Finding the balance
The majority of blogs I have come across seem to have struck the right balance with the intention of teaching others.
The insight they provide into their own financial situation helps to make them appear more legitimate and allow something more tangible for the reader to grasp the concepts discussed.
I think it boils down to intention.
If the first goal is to build a FI/RE blog that will generate an income or as an avenue to brag about how good they are at this FI ‘game’, then it will be completely obvious to the readers.
With click bait type titles, content that is heavy on the word count (or not) but actually teaches very little, advertisements plastered literally everywhere and guest posts galore which impart zero new information.
These techniques may be very successful at quickly getting yourself known, but I question if it’s for the right reason.
The number of times I have clicked on a post link only to come to the end of the post thinking to myself:
“hmmm, and what was the point of that? I’ve just wasted my time”.
A desire to have a lifetime worth of passive income through a blog is great. Who wouldn’t want that?
There is nothing wrong with creating a blog for income or to share your successes, but there is no point putting content out there which only serves the author.
What I am saying is this:
Focus on the content of blog first and be transparent about your intentions.
This will make the blog come across as more genuine. Nothing is worse than for readers to leave feeling as though they have just had the best part of 15 minutes stolen from them after reading a post. A post where the author has not said anything helpful or regurgitated content already out there (sometimes not even referencing the source!).
Our life is already full of advertisements as it is. We are pursuing FI because we see the value of our time over our possessions. We actively try to minimise how advertisements affect our purchasing decisions.
Isn’t a blog that has excessive amounts advertisements, yet do not actually teach anything a complete sell out?
Who am I to tell you how to blog
Take all I say with a pinch of salt.
I’m new to this, so what do I know?
Having reflected on how I would write this post, I’ve decided to take out all advisement banners from the site (I only had one). Perhaps one day I will re-instate them, who knows.
I find the site to be cleaner looking without them and helps me focus on the content rather than the ad revenue (which believe me, is hardly anything).
Would I hold the same view if my blog explodes and I could be missing out on thousands of monthly ad revenue? Yes, I would. I go back to my point, good content and transparent intentions before anything else.
If you’re a blogger, I hope you do not take what I say to heart. It is just my observation and I am not calling out any blog in particular as that would be unkind.
You might very well have a different view.
To all you personal finance blog readers out there. As you continue on your journey towards this FI thing we talk about, value your time when you read blogs just as much as other aspects of your life. Spot the ones that are not really out there to help you early on and focus your attention on more genuine ones.
Hit that unfollows button (mine included) if what I or they write no longer adds any value to you. Your attention is also valuable and need not be diverted or distracted on content which no longer serves a purpose for you. Concentrate on what will help you achieve FI and disregard the rest.
Be deliberate about the information you consume.
A Message to Our Children…
The point of this blog is first and foremost for our children. If it helps others, then that is a bonus!
If any of our children are reading this years down the line, I hope you grow up kind, generous and with a big heart just like your mum. I am constantly learning from her how I can be a better person and to help others due to the fortunate situation we are in.
I hope you are grateful for what we have. Understand that our life as a family who will have reached FI when you read this is not by accident but by design.
It is only possible because we as a family have worked hard together, planned ahead, made some sacrifices now so that we can have a better future together and made the best of any opportunity that we’ve have been lucky enough to be afforded.
Know that there is no point in comparing yourselves to others, resist the herd mentality and to focus on your own journey in life. The naysayers tend to want to hold you back because they haven’t got the motivation to break free from their own chains of unfulfilling work.
Accept that life will be hard but you are more fortunate than most.
Understand that just because your mum and I would be FI, it does not necessarily guarantee that you will be if you lose focus and do not take on board what I hope to teach you.
It is your responsibility just as much as it is ours and your grandparents before us to protect our family’s wealth. Remember to pay it forward by ensuring that future generations ahead know the true value of money and time so that they too can live a more purposeful and meaningful life.
Finally, please do not humble brag. Those who want to reach FI will automatically seek you out and ask the right questions. Whereas for others, well…
“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” – Benjamin Franklin (A founding father of the United States, 1706 – 1790)
I’ve not ended with a quote for a while, so how about another one which I find helpful on your own journey towards FI:
“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” – John Stuart Mill (British Philospher, 1806 – 1873)
More from the Blog
Live It, Don’t Preach It: Getting Your Partner to Embrace FI
Living Optimistically Through FI
Humans of FI
6 thoughts on “FI/RE Blogs: Are We Just a Group of Humble Braggers?”
Yes, I’ve found myself recently becoming a bit more cynical when reading blogs that are plastered with ads everywhere.
“Cynical”. Good word choice – I’m surprised it has taken me this long to write this given my line of work where I constantly see the worst in people and always question peoples’ motives (it’s not a good thing in everyday life and I am trying to re-train my mind).
From what I can see, the vast majority of FI bloggers are high earners (by which I mean higher tax rate payers in the UK) and as I’m not in this bracket, I don’t think I’m bragging (humble or not!) when I post up my average numbers! That said, posting my numbers on the blog does give me enjoyment but also hopefully conveys my sense of achievement for how far I’ve come from my credit card debt days and that saving a bit each month can lead to a more financially secure life.
As someone who does have Google ads and uses affiliate links, I’m not against monetisation of blogs but I think balance (and content) is important. I’ve stopped reading blogs where it’s clear that it’s just to make money for the owner and the same posts are regurgitated at regular intervals or as you say, random guest posts saying nothing new or informative.
My affiliate links are only for companies or services I use (two currently) and I clearly state in my monthly updates how much I earn (not a huge amount) from my affiliate links as this money all goes in the pot too.
Anyway, what a great message to your children – I’m sure your kids will be well grounded as they grow up, you and your missus will be teaching them all the basic financial skills.
Agree with you. I am totally for monetisation and it’s a great way to make some extra income. My main gripe is when the reader is mugged off having to scroll through all the advertisement only to get very little back in return. And thank you, I do hope our kids grow up understanding that there is more to life than work and building their financial knowledge will help in this.
Food for thought Cashflow Cop. I share many of your sentiments. I think the quality of UK blogs is generally very good. There is a good variety. And there seems to be far fewer than those type of blogs you refer to in your post compared to the US.
There seems so many of them. The ones that wind me up are the blogs solely about making money from blogging. Can’t help shake the feeling it’s all a pyramid scheme. The worst blogs though are ones which deliberately produce clickbait or controversial content. Designed purely to drive hits and sometimes actively dangerous to FIRE.
On a more positive note, I don’t see the ‘numbers’ posts as humblebragging. I think a lot of bloggers like to do it because it helps them on their journey. Besides, I’m sure many enjoy it in and of itself. Those posts are also popular with many readers, who want to follow how others are doing on their journey. Numbers posts ain’t for me, but I reckon I might be in the minority.
Hi there YFG. I think you’re right there with the quality of UK blogs being generally good. Perhaps because there isn’t as much yet, so less chance of coming across ones which illustrates the points I’ve raised above. Maybe this will change as there is more interest in FI over here to the level that it is in the US. I’m glad you don’t see those who share their numbers as humblebragging because I share my numbers for the reasons you outline.