we've learned

Spreading the Word About FIRE… to Strangers

Heads up, you guys: It’s a three-post week! Come on by on Friday for a post featuring the highly scientific term “maximum bigness.”

If you follow us on Twitter, you might have seen yesterday’s tweets.



Yes, it’s true. Whenever I fly with someone who opens the door even a little bit to talk finances, BAM! I’m all over it. I’m recommending books left and right. I’m sharing our early retirement plan in detail, our timeline, our two-tier plan… basically everything but the numbers. (And I’ve probably even shared the numbers with a stranger on a plane once or twice.) It’s so easy to talk finances with these single-serving friends.

But here’s something weird: we don’t do the same thing with people we know in real life. So we’re curious:

Does anyone else proselytize about FIRE with strangers, but not with people you actually know?

Sure, we’ve lent out our copy of How to Retire Early to a few friends, and we gave Your Money or Your Life and The Millionaire Next Door to our relative we made the personal loan to. Our parents know the general outlines of our early retirement plans, and some friends know that we’re planning to retire in a couple years. But beyond that, we don’t talk much about finances around friends and family.

There’s that whole cultural taboo thing, of course, and we wouldn’t try to pretend that’s not a big part of it — for a load of complicated reasons, we seem to have decided as a society that it’s not within our comfort zone to talk about money. (And we’d agree on the money front, actually, but not on finances. How we handle money is different than talking about how much of it we have. While money is a quantity discussion, finance is a conversation about quality.)

Related Post: Planning for Early Retirement Means Living a Double Life

Then there are all the possible ways that a money conversation could go off the rails, especially if our friends felt like whatever we were saying was actually some judgment about their choices. For all of these types of super personal choices (how to manage finances, whether to have kids, whom to vote for, etc.), we try to keep our noses out of other people’s business as a general practice. Too many landmines. But that makes it hard to spread the good word about financial independence.

The Power of Anonymity

Obviously we’re completely comfortable talking finances in an anonymous space. Ahem, that’s what this blog is. And we’re hardly the first to go this route. It’s so accepted to have an anonymous finance blog that (I think) many of us really think of bloggers as though their blog handles are their real names. What’s interesting to us is how many bloggers stay anonymous even if they’re not trying to retire early and they don’t share their numbers (we for sure plan to unmask ourselves after we don’t need this to stay a secret from our employers anymore!). This definitely suggests that there’s something in anonymity that helps all of us get past the taboo or whatever else is going on to talk about money more freely. And that’s ignoring all the great bloggers who share it all — names, faces and net worth. To those folks, we admire your cajones.

With people on a plane, we know we’re never going to see them again. They may see our faces, but they couldn’t track us down afterward if they wanted to. Probably we never even exchange names. The relationship is by definition time-limited. In the case of my seatmate yesterday who got the book recommendation and my spiel about how possible early retirement really is, she was actually someone I know a little bit, who I call my flying buddy and happen to see on flights every month or so. But she doesn’t know my full name, my employer or even really what I do beyond consulting. It’s still, for all intents and purposes, an anonymous relationship.

Interesting side note: I’ve never recommended this blog to any of the people I’ve flown with whom I’ve sold on learning more about FIRE. Maybe it feels a little too I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. They’ve seen my face at that point, and might know where I live. Better not to bring those worlds together, is what my subconscious mind must be thinking.

Maybe It’s a Dress Rehearsal?

There are some things we are crazy excited to do in retirement that we can’t do now, namely talk about our plan with a lot more people. At least once a week, I find myself composing my farewell letter to my colleagues. In the imaginary version, I express my gratitude for having worked with so many smart, dedicated people for so long, while also expressing that there’s more to life than work. In this letter, I link to the blog, where I’ve penned an artful Dear Colleague letter, summing up our story for them in a tidy 900 words (oh, who are we kidding — 3000 words, maybe). Then I sign off by inviting them to reach out to us if they want to talk more. The message: We’re not burning this bridge behind us. Come join the fun!

So clearly we want to talk finance with more people we know. We want people to ask us about how we got where we are and where we’ll be in two years, and we want to share what we’ve learned. The big barrier is obviously our desire not to get found out by our employers before we’re ready to pull the plug, and on our own timeline. And with friends, it’s hesitation about making them feel judged when we really just want everyone to be able to see what’s possible, because what’s possible is crazy awesome and more achievable than they realize.

But maybe these chats on planes, these single-serving FIRE cheerleading sessions, are a dress rehearsal for talking more openly and honestly with a wider circle of people after we’re ready to go public with our early retirement plans. Maybe with a little more practice, we’ll feel more comfortable going there when friends open the door. Like comedians polish their standup routines to get the jokes just right before they tape their Netflix specials, maybe these plane chats are a chance to refine the script and get good at sharing things as non-judgmentally as possible.

There’s only one way to find out: more finance talks with seat mates! You’re on notice, Amazon — I fly a LOT. Get those books ready to ship!

Please chime in! Do you have an easier time talking about finances with people you know, or with total strangers?

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95 replies »

  1. Our friends ask us financial questions a lot, and if they’re asking, we are thrilled to talk about it. However, there are big financial goals we’ve only shared with a couple close friends, and haven’t shared on our blog since it’s not anonymous. I would be way more willing to talk about those with a stranger. I definitely think people get the wrong idea about FI and it raises a lot of questions.

    • Oh, now you have me so curious about what your big financial goals are! But I can sit tight and wait for news. :-) And yeah, interesting that you’re in the same camp as us in terms of talking to strangers about money!

  2. I guess that we are still on the complete opposite side of the spectrum from most in the early retirement community. For the exception of our bosses and co-workers, we are pretty much an open book with anyone. We don’t care who knows about our plans, even our specific numbers. I’m a freaking chatterbox, just like you, and if they specifically ask about something like numbers (as many people tend to do, just in different “I don’t REALLY expect you to actually tell me” sort of way), I’ll generally spill the beans anyway.

    Regarding strangers vs. friends, I guess I feel a little weirder talking to strangers, mostly because I don’t really know how they are going to react. With friends, I have a pretty good idea of how much to divulge because I know their personalities and general perspective on life. But with strangers, it’s a complete crap-shoot. But my general policy is if they ask, I’ll tell – and even if they don’t ask but kinda open the door a little, I’ll take the opportunity to chat.

    I start small to gauge their interest. If they willingly continue the conversation, then I will respond in kind. If they shut up after 30 seconds or so, I’ll voluntarily end it as well.

    But yeah, I’m pretty much an open book. :)

    • You were who I was thinking of when I wrote that we admire blog friends who are transparent about all of it. I don’t think we’ll ever get there completely, in terms of sharing numbers, but we can’t WAIT to have our names and faces and way more info here on the blog. So we’ll be mostly open books. :-)

  3. I do not blog anonymously, but I also don’t share my personal posts on Facebook which is the one platform where I have dozens (ostensibly thousands, but whatever) of real life friends.

    I talk about money a lot with real life friends who open the door, but Rob is even more chatty about it… I’m not totally sure why that is, but he is very vocal about recommending against consumer debt, and being very careful with home and student loan debt for grad school.

    • I just said much the same thing to Amanda, who is in a similar boat — not anonymous, but doesn’t post on FB to semi-friends. I get it! And interesting to know that you guys evangelize a little bit with real life friends — we need to do just a smidge more of that, but not so much that we drive folks away. :-)

  4. I made the shift from anonymous FIRE evangelical to “the guy who did it” over the last year. I gradually started talking to friends – and sharing advice with friends – as we counted down our last 12 months. Now that I have given formal notice, I am willing to advise about anyone who finds it interesting. I do not share specific numbers, but find I can coach people pretty well on most of the key considerations nonetheless. Two weeks ago I sat down with a husband and wife are trying to figure things out for themselves. It was very fun for me to talk about and I think very instructional for them.

    • I bet you’re only going to get more and more people wanting to ask you for advice, which is what we expect when we give notice, too. Can’t wait for that — it will be fun!

  5. I’ve never once put anything about my blog or my debt repayment journey on Facebook. I’ll tell strangers and my closest friends. The in-betweeners are the hardest for some reason. Some of the strangers have become friends (thank you, personal finance blogosphere.) I think my close friends are proud, but they get tired of the money talk. They’re always the first to remind me that there’s more to life:)

    • That’s so interesting that you keep the blog separate from your “real life” since you have your name and photo on it! But I understand, too. I think a debt journey is in many ways more raw and personal than a savings journey, so I get not wanting to put it all on display for semi-friends. And same for us big time in terms of strangers become friends — that’s the best part of all of this!

  6. We have a lot of personal friends that know we have paid off debt. So we do have conversation or get asked advice from time to time.

    I do think it is a bit easier to have the conversation with a stranger because you are not tip-toeing around anything. You’re not really concerned about hurt feeling or being judgmental because you just don’t have the history with that person.

    When talking to someone I know I always lead with our experiences and what worked for us, and not trying and preach. At the end of the month I’ll be sharing our debt story and giving people tips in my first public speaking engagement. Let’s see how a room full of strangers goes.

    • That’s great you’ve shared your debt journey with some of your friends! Because you deserve to have them celebrate with you! And to have you as a role-model in case they have debt they need to tackle! And good to know you have an easier time talking about this stuff with strangers, too! But that’s a good move not preaching to friends. :-) Good luck on your public speaking engagement — let us know how it goes!

  7. Obviously, I blog anonymously. It’s partly because of some of the money conversations we’ve had with friends and in-laws…but mostly because we’re both teachers and if there’s one thing middle schoolers are good at, it’s finding out EVERYTHING about their teachers that’s available on Google. If someone gives me an opening, I love to talk budgets, savings, investing, and more. But I always wait for an opening. I blogged about it a while back – my mom retired earlier (and then went back to work) and still gives me grief whenever I talk about it ;)

    • I can’t imagine having middle schoolers Googling me at all times — eek! But it’s great you’ll take that opening and talk finance with people. We need to break down that taboo! And your mom has got to realize at some point that your experience could very well be different from hers! :-)

  8. That’s actually funny – I had never hear of “Your Money or Your Life” until yesterday and I requested a hold on it that day at the library.

    I’m the same way… I love to talk about FI! But there’s always that point where I’m thinking, maybe they don’t care and don’t want to hear about it. Or maybe I’ll come off like I’m bragging that I have a plan to quit my job early.

    So I’m careful and try to strike a balance on whether or not I talk about it. However, if someone starts asking questions – game on! I’ll open the flood gates to share what I know and how exciting it is.

    For me, the conversations tend to happen more with people I know but aren’t really in my inner circle. With the exception of my brother, most of my family and friends don’t seem to know or care about FIRE so I just leave it at that.

    — Jim

    • Run, don’t walk, to the library/bookstore/etc. to get that book! It is the single best resource out there. Our absolute favorite. Glad to know that you’re happy to share, too! I do agree it’s important to tread carefully, but if someone expresses interest, we’ll go for it.

  9. Strangers. 100% The real world knows very little about my money. I posted something on FB when I paid off my loans, and I included my student loan payoff on my Christmas card. I view both of those as olive branches to any friend or acquaintance that wants to talk about money. No one has taken me up on that.
    Hubs is more vocal with friends about money choices. He chimes in with tips on how to save on weddings, at Target, or in a 401k. With all our nuggets of saving goodness, I haven’t had a single instance of positive feedback. I’m pretty sure we are getting the reputation of the rich couple that has enough money to not have to worry about anything. Little do they know you can live below your means and save the difference.

    • So interesting how perceptions get formed — I wonder if your friends do see you that way, as the rich couple. Our moving from the city to the mountains was hugely eye-opening on how relative all that was. In the city, we felt pretty poor, just because most of our friends were buying million dollar-plus homes, and we bought a more modest (but still expensive) condo. Nevermind that they will have to work forever to pay their houses off! But in the mountains, I know for sure we are seen as the rich ones. (And, honestly, we are. We make way more than we need and have plenty of money saved. Just because we don’t look like the cartoon man on the Monopoly box, I don’t think we gain anything by pretending we’re not rich. There — I said it.) But YES, to your point, just because you earn a lot doesn’t mean you have to spend it all!

  10. I’m probably way more loose lipped about the FIRE community, and even somewhat with our plans than Mrs. SSC. There is only 1 person at my new job that knows our plan is the get out of Dodge in a few more years and their response was a shoulder shrug and a, “Yeah I’ve got some friends that did that. They enjoy it.” lol
    I’m more than happy to share blog posts, blog links, articles and even talk finances, investment strategies, etc.. with anyone that will listen. If you hadn’t picked up, I’m a bit of a talker, and I like helping people which is a deadly combo when someone asks about anything related to finance. :)
    My last boss started telling people I must be a financial advisor on the side because I’d forwarded him an article from Afford Anything and somehow he thought I wrote it. huge eyeroll… That led to 3 other people asking about it which led to lots of other emails with links to blogs. It was fun, because they were all looking for something different, and I was able to help them find it. :)
    I’ll talk everything but specifics with people – only the 1 person knows I want to be gone by 2018 – at the latest, the rest assume it’s in 5-10 years when I’m closer to 50 like “normal people”. No one knows our numbers, but they do know we live off of one income, save the rest and minimize our lifestyle inflation, and tailor our investments to match our plans.
    And God help anyone next to me on a flight that asks about finance, because like you, I’d have a hard time shutting up about it until we landed and were deplaning. :)

    • You? A talker?! Oh, I just can’t believe that at all. Haha — takes one to know one, right? :-)

      I do think colleagues think of me as a person who knows about financies — I’m always encouraging junior staff to sign up for the 401(k), for example, or encouraging people to save their raises. But very few know much or anything about our plans! And I hope to keep it that way.

      Your comment about not shutting up until you’re deplaning cracked me up — I had this vision of you chasing someone down the jetbridge shouting, “But we haven’t covered Roth conversion ladders yet!” LOL

  11. I’m pretty open to talking about it with whoever asks. Friends or strangers. Everyone knows about my blog (including my current job, which is actually kind of how I got the job), so I have to be careful with my words, but I’m still OK talking about financial stuff with anyone.

    • I am not gonna lie — I’m super envious that you are “out” at your job, and that your job is related to your blog. I would LOVE for *this* to be able to be my real work, or at least related to it, and to be able to stop doing the whole double life thing> :-)

  12. I too daydream about farewell letters – although, there is a lot more time for me to get that drafted. My blog is my platform for now. I’ve tried to start finance talks with friends or family, but they don’t really seem to care too much (my sister knows about my blog and has never read any posts). When the day finally comes, I will post a link to my blog on my personal Facebook. I will tell all of my friends what I have been up to for seven years. Then, maybe they will want to talk . . . after we get back from the big roadtrip with our family. I will unmask myself on the blog too – I’m already so excited :)

    • It’s never too early to start drafting imaginary farewell letters. :-) I’ve been doing that in my head for YEARS now! And I can’t wait for you to unmask yourself to your friends and on the blog. I bet more of your friends than you think will want to talk about it.

  13. My immediate family and close friends know about my blog. I’m a fairly private person so I haven’t shared anything on my blog that I wouldn’t tell one of them in a normal conversation. That being said, I don’t talk about my FIRE journey with friends and family due to previous reactions I’ve received. Friends look at me like I have two heads when I talk about how it’s possible to retire early — and not one has asked how to go about doing so. Most often the reaction is, “I wish we could do that but we have kids.” It’s not worth trying to convince them it’s possible when they already feel defeated. I’m super excited about the possibility of ER so it’s hard to hold back on trying to convert other people. I want everyone to know that they can do it too.

    • It’s so interesting that you’ve received negative reactions when you’ve talked about retiring early! We’ve received nothing but positive/envious reactions, pretty much universally. But then, we’re in our mid/late 30s — how old are you? I wonder if part of it could be age-related. I DO think I would have gotten the reaction you’ve gotten if I’d started talking about FIRE in my mid-20s, or when I was single — not that that’s okay, but it’s awfully hard for people to shake the societal expectations of what we’re supposed to do at what age. But I’m glad that you’re still talking about it and sharing your excitement — maybe one day some of it will sink in for your friends. :-)

      • I’m 39 so most of my friends are between 35-45. I think it’s such a foreign concept that they just don’t see how it’s possible. I’m single, while most of my friends are married (with kids) so I doubt that they believe I’ll actually have the means to retire early. On the outside, my lifestyle seems very similar to theirs but, in reality, I spend very little money.

        I’m glad that your friends are more receptive. Hopefully they’ll follow your lead and strive for FIRE as well :)

        It’s a relief to have the personal finance community so that I don’t have to look to friends/family for support during this journey. Lots of great advice and very reassuring seeing others achieve the same goal.

      • Gotcha, so it’s not a 20s issue. :-) But wow, what a bummer that you aren’t getting more support from your IRL friends for your FIRE plan! Thank goodness for this blog community, though. We’re all rooting for you! :-)

  14. We’ve shared our blog with our closest friends and family, so those who share an interest in PF participate in their own ways. However, I am a little concerned about the long-term impact of our honesty on these relationships. How will the people in our lives treat us when we quit our jobs and hit the road? But talking with strangers about money? I’d do it all day. :) Much easier.

    • Yeah, we wonder about how our friendships will be impacted, too. Fortunately, we now live in a place permeated by the ski bum/dirtbag culture, so people are more likely to understand if we tell them that we saved the bare minimum to be able to live a very basic lifestyle without working (that will be a slight exaggeration, but oh well). Where we lived before, no one would have believed that, and would have assumed we came into major money if we retired early there. But interesting to know that you will talk money more easily with strangers, like we do!

  15. I’m pretty much equally open with friends and strangers – which borders somewhere along the “early retirement is totally possible and we plan to do it” – but no details – and letting them assume “retire early” means like, 55. My sister always says “yeah, yeah, I know… retiring early.” My dad: “You’re going to need more money than that!” My mom (no sense of money at all): “Just have Mr. T get a job that has one of those flexible unlimited PTO things. Then he wouldn’t want to leave his job.” Ha ha ha ha.

    • Haha — I have one of those moms too. :-) She plans to work til 70, and somehow thinks she will be able to live off her, like, $60K in home equity after that. (Okay, I shouldn’t make light of it, because that’s all sad. But I have secretly made a financial plan for her that involves moving into an apartment near us, which she could afford on just the SS she’s eligible for. And we could help her out some. I feel very encouraged that she’d go along with this plan!) But back to the topic… I think your approach makes total sense, especially because you have a few years yet to go. People don’t need to know everything. :-)

      • Oh totally. When we’re closer, we will probably be willing to be more open. Now, it’s so far off, there’s always the fear of failure. :)

      • I completely get that. We only started talking about timeline last year, in large part to keep ourselves accountable — but mostly because we were close!

  16. I’d definitely say I’m more open with friends. I usually don’t share too much with strangers. I’m not shy per say, but I find it hard connecting with a stranger I’ll never see again. But when friends show a little glimpse of interest… BOOM I’ll show them the light :)

    • You don’t share with strangers — except with all of us! ;-) Haha. And yeah, if you’re not a “chat with strangers” type, then it would make sense that you wouldn’t talk finance with them either.

  17. My friends come to me for all their finance questions. I’ve helped develop amortization spreadsheets for my two pharmacist friends showing them how to pay down their student loans the fastest and how much interest they will save using my aggressive pay down method. They consider these spreadsheets gospel and follow them to the “T”. One of them just purchased a home which I helped her find. She will have significantly lower house payments than her rent payment was and with the amortization schedule I gave her, the house will be paid off in just over 3 years. So, I would say that I am pretty open with my friends and family about finances and recommendations for FI.

    • Everyone needs a friend like you, Beth! How great that you’ve been able to help your friends so much! Three year payoff… that’s So Awesome.

  18. I think I am comfortable talking finances with anyone these days (strangers, family, friends). But when I was struggling I preferred not to tell anyone. And I don’t think that’s uncommon. It’s a mental block that many people need to break free from, because man is it a lot less stressful and all-consuming when you have support. Cute post!

    • That is interesting! I’m trying to think back to before we got our act together, and I’m sure it would have been tougher for us to talk money with people then, too. But it’s great you now feel totally free to talk about it!

  19. There are a number of topics about which I get chatty. The outdoors, beer, bonsai, and personal finance. Once I get started, my wife has to give me the wrap it up look. I do tend to find it more difficult with people that we know. I guess I always feel a bit guilty like I’m showing off or flaunting my progress. Like you said though, it should be a conversation about finances and not about amounts of money.

    • Haha — I know that “wrap it up” look, from Mr. ONL! :-) And interesting to know that you’re in our camp of finding it easier with strangers.

  20. I don’t really talk to anyone about finances. I think maybe that’s why I enjoy reading the blogs so much…because there is someone who will listen. I don’t typically initiate with plane neighbors, I guess I’m too introverted.

    In the past, I’ve talked a bit with my parents, but they have significantly higher incomes and spending than I do, and on the investing side they don’t want to be bothered to learn how to DIY and it’s lead to some unpleasantness, so we don’t talk about it. My extended family members…all high income, high debt with kids. Money is definitely taboo and that’s unfortunate because maybe people wouldn’t feel compelled to aimlessly spend so much if it was less of a taboo.

    • I think your situation sounds pretty normal. Most people just don’t talk about money! But as you said, it’s unfortunate, because people could make their money work for them a lot better if more of us could talk about it!

  21. I blog anonymously, and there are only a few friends that know about my blog… I am not really on the early retirement track yet, but am working on getting there, so I can’t really offer advice to anyone yet… I did go out with some girlfriends the other night and we chatted about mortgages, mortgage rates, incomes and such… We hadn’t done that before, so it was sort of refreshing and fun. We are all in very different places, so it’s interesting to see where people stand and what their plans are… If I were to be on a plane with a stranger that wanted to talk finances, that would be awesome, but they’d most likely need to be the one to initiate it.

    • What awesome progress that you were able to talk about some big and important finance topics with your girlfriends! High five for that. :-) And I think you’re the first to say that you’d talk openly with a stranger, but you wouldn’t bring it up yourself. I love hearing different points of view on this!

  22. I still baby step into the discussions and let the other person lead (because let’s be real if I had no filter I’d ask them to show me their accounts and we could start from there.) That said, it’s a lot easier to gauge how interested people are to talk about money now that they know that I am ALL IN to talk about money – it’s actually nuts how open people have gotten with me about everything from salaries to debt repayment to retirement fears.

    Also omg retirement fears – I honestly think you will be amazed at how many colleagues who seem to have everything totally together will come to you with the statement “I think I’m going to have to work until I die.” I don’t even write about retirement, much less early retirement, but I have had two coworkers in the past week see my thoughts about investing and come up to me to ask about their investments because they think they will never be able to retire. It’s *shocking.* These are established professionals well into their careers too, not fellow millennials.

    All that to say is it’s a good thing you’re practicing – I think you’ll find people will be a LOT more excited to initiate the conversations than you think they will be!

    • Well now that you’re a big star in the press, you know you’re going to get more questions! :-) And people thinking they can never retire — I think that’s the norm, not the exception. So sad! So, so sad. I think the bulk of my convos on planes are trying to convince people in their 50s that there’s still time for them to save enough to retire. And it’s always some response of, “Oh, but my wife is used to such and such a lifestyle, or my kid needs this or that.” Okay, fine, then work forever. Don’t change your ways. But not without me trying hard to convince them that things aren’t hopeless. :-)

  23. There seems indeed to be a taboo on “how much money” we have. Personally, I have less a problem to discuss “finances” in general. Just today, when walking back from lunch at work, I explained to 2 colleagues our approach to finances and the fun money we each have. With them it is easy, as I know they are open to discuss.
    With closer friends, it also remains a difficult to discuss topic. Weird …

    • Is the taboo as strong in Europe as in the U.S.? I always wonder about that. My German relatives are so frank about everything — it seems like they’d be willing to talk finances, too. But I’m not sure. But I like how you can separate finance from money. And yeah, it’s always different with close friends!

      • In Belgium, the taboo is strong on money. I have only one friend that I know the salary from. I dates from a weird discussion. After that, it was never discussed again.
        I am equally guilty in ot sharing mine with friends and co workers. I do not want to be disappointed in a the comparison.

        German relatives: that explains the Love Parade!

  24. Interesting conversation. I actually don’t talk to anyone about either the finances or the money. (I like how you differentiate them.). I’ll talk anyone’s ear off about all the other aspects of early retirement (or regular retirement), but not the money stuff. How weird is that? I wonder if it’s because with numbers (money) there is a measure of success. You either have enough to pay your bills today and tomorrow (and for years to come) or you don’t. With all the other things (work or not, leisure, where to live, etc.) it’s totally personal preference.

    • Wow, Pat, that is interesting! But I completely get not wanting to trigger the comparison game. It’s why we don’t share our numbers. But we obviously do talk about our finances in principle! But stick to your approach if that feels right to you!

  25. For me, It’s more about not wanting to come across in anything other than a helpful manner. I am quite aware that my family and friends don’t manage money the same way I do, so I don’t want them to feel like I’m shoving it down their throats. There are certain laws or scenarios that I better understand that they’ll ask me about, but outside of that, I try not to talk to my family or friends or even regular acquaintances about it.

    • That makes total sense. I wish society didn’t always expect women to be deferential and accommodating all the time, but I’ll save that feminist rant for another day. :-) Truth is that it’s easy to be misunderstood or to come across as too forceful, and so I see why you hold back.

  26. Oh my god, I talk about money and my personal money situation ALL THE TIME. Strangers, friends, whoever. I just finished a talk with my roommates mom! I think the more open we are, the better everyone is. That’s not to say I don’t respect your anonymity, but I think we need to get over this idea that talking money is a no-no.

    • I LOVE that you talk money with everyone! It helps break down barriers, and chips away at that taboo, little by little. So keep it up — you have such a great story to share! And I know you know this, but our anonymity isn’t about talking about money, it’s about keeping our jobs until we don’t need them anymore. :-)

  27. Yes I think it is taboo here in Australia to talk about money which is a shame because there is so much potential to educate about personal finance and I think everyone thinks that everyone is doing better than they are but I wonder how much of it is funded on credit.
    Many of my friends and family ask me for advice on personal finance so that gave me the confidence to start my blog. I’m an advocate of keeping it real, eg what you do on a day to day basis to achieve a strong financial situation. For you guys, it might be keeping your thermostat low, for me it might not be buying take away coffee. Whatever it is, just to show the reality, even if you are anonymous.
    I’m waiting for the day when the ‘stranger’ on the plane comments on your blog and says they were inspired by you and read YMOYL and then googled ‘financial independence’ and your blog came up :)

    • I agree with you that there’s a tendency to think that others are doing better, even if they are really funding their lifestyle on credit. I can’t help but think that we’d all be better off if we were all more open about it, and thus less comparative. It’s wonderful that your friends go to you for financial advice — and that you started your blog! And wow, if that Google scenario ever came up, that’d be pretty amazing!

  28. As a new blogger I have struggled with this. I see how others post screen shots from Personal Capital and discuss all of their investments. For now I just done think I can do that. I am trying to keep everything anonymous, however I will be driving traffic to my site from time to time from Facebook. I just don’t think it would be good to divulge all our information. With that said, I do love reading about everyone else’s investments and monthly budget updates.

    • You can do what we do and not share numbers, and just occasionally share charts that represent percentages. We’re also not comfortable sharing numbers, so find creative ways around that. :-)

  29. Ready for kind of an intense comment? :)

    I have a pretty complicated reaction to this topic. I grew up in a fundamentalist, evangelical religious environment where I was being constantly encouraged to “witness” to people (strangers, friends, whoever) and try to convert them to Christianity. I rejected this belief system as a youngish adult, but as a result of having spent so much time in that mindset, I think I will always have a strong reluctance to try to suggest to anyone else that I know something they don’t — about anything.

    I definitely understand that you’re not talking about pushing your beliefs on people; it sounds like your seat mate was super interested in the topic and was glad to hear about it, and I think that’s great. But because I have these memories of being told I needed to save people from hell, I have an aversion to anything that feels even the teeny-tiniest bit close to that. It’s a hard balance to strike for me. On the one hand, I do think I have some important knowledge/advice about money that might be useful, like “don’t take out tons of student loans for living expenses”. But it’s hard for me to get excited about actually conveying this information to people in real life. Even in the semi-anonymous blogging world, I tend to stick more to storytelling and go pretty light on the advice-type stuff.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Sarah. And gosh I used such religious language throughout this post when I really didn’t need to. Good reminder to be more sensitive! I think, in light of your upbringing, that your views on this stuff — or anything that involves trying to convince someone of what they should think or believe — make TOTAL sense. And even though I didn’t have that similar upbringing (but do have some super-evangelical relatives, so can relate the tiniest bit), I also have a strong negative reaction to people spouting beliefs or telling others what to think or acting like they themselves know everything. (It’s why I don’t read certain blogs in our space, honestly, because I can’t deal with people acting like they have all the answers — most of us don’t do that, but there are a few…) But I think this is definitely a case of the devil’s in the details (or maybe not the devil? what’s a non-religion-evoking way to get at the same meaning??) ;-) and how and what you say to someone matter a great deal, not just whether or not you choose to go there if they open the door on finances. I’m sure I’ve crossed the line before without intending to, but I try to focus on offering resources when talking about this stuff, rather than telling people what I think they should do. I don’t know if that feels better to you, but it definitely feels better to me. But either way, I completely respect your view on this — and on all things! — and love your storytelling. :-)

      • You know, it occurred to me after I posted the comment that there’s one super important difference between proselytizing about religious beliefs and “proselytizing” about personal finance topics: the pf stuff is almost always based on math, and thus is incontrovertible. So maybe it’s inherently a less presumptuous thing to tell people about: you just say, oh hey, didja realize that [math math math math]…cool, huh? and then they can do whatever they want with that information. Whereas there is (in my opinion) never such clear evidence for religious belief systems.

        Anyway, I didn’t think you were being insensitive at all — this sort of thing is just a topic that I think about a lot and personally have complicated associations with. But when it comes down to it, I think that sharing basic information/resources about personal finance with people who are interested in hearing about it is a very positive thing. :)

      • I do think our comments fall more in that “cool, huh?” camp. :-) Much more than that and it feels too forceful to us, even with strangers we’ll never see again.

  30. This is a great topic, and one on which I have lots of thoughts but no conclusions. I agree with many of the comments made about not wanting to be too forceful or proselytizing, but I also want to teach what I know! I like to be the expert, and I think learning about finance is so important.

    However, through a few conversations with friends I have learned that my own perspective is rarely helpful, because privilege. Of course we can retire early and save tons of money–we have two high incomes, we came from upper middle class families (never mind that my parents were once on food stamps). Could we have done it on less? Yup. Actually, we’d probably get there faster because we would have avoided a massively stupid lifestyle inflation (or two). But that info will never register. Anyone who is aware of our professional success will no be able to listen openly, and I can’t really blame them, it’s a natural reaction.

    • Same here in terms of our friends and not wanting to tout our privilege. Because for sure our timeline is impacted by how much we earn, and it could be tough for friends to get past that, nevermind that the same things are just as relevant for far lower incomes. But yeah, privilege. It’s a big deal. And I’m sure that’s what makes it so much easier to talk to strangers!

  31. I’ve never really thought about it until you asked but probably strangers, though I don’t have nearly as many conversations about personal finance than I do about entrepreneurship.

  32. We’re definitely interested in talking about this with anyone that is willing to listen. However, as you point out when discussing with people you know there is always that potential for people to take things the wrong way and feel that they’re being judged or to start uncomfortable comparisons.

    Our approach is that if people seem interested in what we’re doing we’ll share some basics of our plan. If we’re comfortable we tell them about our blog or if we’re not we’ll give them a book or refer them to a blog like JL Collin’s “Stock Series” that has helped us get started and either way ask them to tell us what they think after they’ve read a bit. So far we’ve got one person hooked and a few seem mildly interested, but sadly when people realize they have to put in even a little bit of effort most lose interest pretty quickly anyway in our experience.

    • We do something similar to what you do, and point people to resources rather than try to lay out a full plan for them. We might recommend some blogs or books, or share our plan, but we’ve never said “You should do X, Y and Z and on this timeline,” or anything like that. But yeah, most people haven’t asked those levels of questions, so it’s usually ended with “Check out this book or blog.”

  33. I’ve kept our plans very close from work colleagues but I am happy to tell friends and family about our plans. It helps that I don’t have any ‘social media’ friends that I work with so I can tweet without thinking about who might see it. I thought I would give them a few months notice at work to give them chance to get used to the idea.

    • That’s nice that you don’t have social media overlap between work and real friends — that’s a big part of why we haven’t told more friends, because we’re afraid of things coming out on Facebook that work people would see! :-)

  34. I know what you mean. I want to spread the word about FIRE but am hesitant to share with friends and family. I did tell my boss a few weeks ago because he is retiring and we are trying to figure out what is next for the business but with the understanding that he can’t share the info with others. It’s funny that once we reach FIRE we will also have the freedom to share our story more openly.

    • I love that you were able to share it with your boss, since he is retiring. I often find myself wanting to share little hints of our plans with people at work, but have to be super careful and share nothing! We do share our plans with family, though. I hope you can do the same before you actually pull the trigger!

  35. I rarely talk about it FI to anyone outside of the blog world and a very few select people in real life. Whenever I happen to get on the topic of finances with someone in real life it’s typically in a more general sense and I don’t share numbers or my own blog to them. If they happen to find it that’s fine but I don’t advertise it just because you never know who they might know or if their intentions could be bad.

    • Isn’t funny how those of us who are SO open about this stuff online have so much trouble talking about it all with people we know? Your concern is one of several reasons why we don’t share our numbers online (also, we don’t want to inspire the comparison game, since this stuff is so person). Thanks for chiming in, JC!

  36. This sounds like me but my location is on hikes. I often take a younger mid 20’s crowd out on big hikes or climbs and after awhile you know that we feel each other out and start chatting about more personal life details. What I usually do is see if they bring up how their life is on track and then use that as an opportunity to pounce and say , if I knew then what I know now and so on. Basically if I can plant any seed on trying a simpler way of life and think about personal finance I do it.

    • I love that you do that, Chris! Especially because people are so much more “open” after they’ve spent some time away from civilization, and getting the perspective of how big the real world is, outside of their little problems. (Same goes for us!) So what a perfect time to help them think about their finances and life choices differently!

  37. Well FI can make friends and family a little uncomfortable they seem to think that your personal choice reflect on them twofold. One by why can’t you be normal and have an iPhone 6 … two by why are you not up to your eyeballs in debt trying to gain social acceptance (I regularly flick social acceptance the middle finger) why are you not complaining about how debt you are in whilst sitting in a bar drinking $16 cocktails purchased on your credit card…. Strangers are easier to explain choice to

    • Haha — or they assume you bought your iPhone 6 when really it’s paid for by work. :-) Maybe that’s just true for me. But yeah, so much easier with strangers! Stripping away the feelings and context make it so much easier to talk about this taboo subject at least!

  38. Agree, Agree, Agree!

    I had an interview with a lady who handles our 401k at my new job, and I completely geeked out about finances and retiring early asking 20 questions. She was a little surprised as most people who talk to her only ask one or two questions.

    I don’t think know if we can retire as early as you guys, but I definitely want to retire before 65 like everyone else. I told the lady 50 or 55 and she looked at me like I was crazy! She said, maybe you should enjoy your money instead of saving all of it!

    I’ve learned in the past year of me blogging to not bring up finances unless someone asks. I might mention that I blog in passing, but unless they want to know more I usually just leave it at that. Sadly, most people don’t want to hear my stories about saving money, investing, or retiring early. They just want to live their lives buying the latest iPhones and Range Rovers.

    It’s definitely humbling – when I started blogging I thought all my friends and family would read and they’d be totally into it. I pretty much know off of the top of my head which one of my friends and family are regular readers. Something that you put a lot of heart and effort into and people close to you can’t spend 5-10 minutes reading it? It boggles my mind. I realized that I didn’t start a blog for them, but for myself, and that’s what keeps me going. Also I feel like my “blog friends” know me a lot better than my “real friends” a lot of times!

    • LOL — I’m just picturing this overwhelmed HR lady as you’re firing away with your 401(k) questions. Ha! :-) And yeah, we actually never bring up the blog, even if we do chat with strangers… funny. And we haven’t even told any family members about it for some of the reasons you mention — finances are so delicate, and it’s easy for people to feel judged, and we don’t want anyone to feel like we’re condemning their life choices. We’re just making different ones for ourselves! And I for sure know what you mean about blog friends! Sometimes things happen in real life and I’m way more excited to share them with bloggy peeps than we IRL friends! :-)

  39. A few immediate family members and one friend know about our blog. My brother and brother-in-law have bought in and are getting on the FI path themselves.

    I don’t talk about finances much with others, although I want to. Friends and family see us as being financially stable are always asking for investment advice. I doubt they have any idea how much we really have or what our true plans are.

    • How awesome that you’ve convinced your brother and BIL to get on the FIRE path! That’s incredible. And even though you don’t talk to strangers about FI, it’s a pretty great sign that people who know you come to you for advice! You’re clearly leading by example, even if they don’t know the half of it.