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?