My Struggle with Anonymity

I struggle with anonymity, I’m even struggling with writing this post about struggling with anonymity. 

As a blogger who’s been talking about personal finance, relationships and everything in between, anonymity has been a soft & cozy blanket. It’s helped me find the courage to talk about a lot of ideas that are far from mainstream and that could cause some people in my other circles to distance themselves from me. 

Anonymity is a universal convention of the blogosphere, and the wicked expedience is that you can speak without consequences.
— Lee Siegel

The most prickly topic? Money.

I find it interesting that when it comes to money (earning/saving/spending), it’s OK to talk about what’s “normal”, such as having a mortgage, buying a new car, having student loans, and saving for retirement. Talking debt always seems to be OK. Debt makes you normal (as long as you have it “under control”, like all the other vices we’re supposed to have). It's an accepted reality of the human condition.

What’s not OK—even offensive—is to talk about being an aggressive saver, having achieved some level of financial freedom (well before 55+) and choosing time and personal sanity over earning “to our full potential”. Only those beyond the norm, those who are deemed the rich and powerful, can discuss money openly, probably because their net worth is publicly available. 

For everyone else, talking net worth or saying that you have “enough” can be considered offensive, unless the conversation is with your bank or your financial advisor

Here are some examples:

  • Show off a new sports car, but don’t talk about having that kind of money in the bank. 
  • Give people a tour of your home, but don’t mention that it’s bought and paid for. 
  • Do excelllent work at your job but don’t talk about having refused a promotion that offers a bigger salary and better perks.
  • Quit a great job if you want to but don’t walk away with no explanation of what you’ll do next, especially when you’re on the fast track. (It has to be burn out…or insanity because who would do that?!)
  • Go to school but if it’s not to help you earn more money, or to change careers in order to make more money, keep it to yourself. Who has the means or the time to learn something “out of interest”?
  • Use active or public transportation but do your best to keep it to yourself if you work in a high-profile job. You’re expected to live the part, and that involves having the right make and model to shuttle you around.

It seems those real conversations, the fulfillment of those real desires, are reserved for the eccentric outliers. The untouchables. The freaks. The weirdos. The people who, according to the majority, have their values all screwed up.

The reality is that we live in a f*cked up world.

[O]ur youth are told that buying expensive items is normal behavior for affluent people. They are led to believe that the wealthy have a high-consumption lifestyle. They learn that hyperspending is the main reward for becoming affluent in America. Why?
— Thomas J. Stanley, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy

Unfortunately, money is likely the greatest taboo and not talking about it is as effective as not talking about sex with tweens & teens. Keeping money discussions on the down low keeps most of us ignorant until it’s too late. Well, except for the lucky few who don’t have to learn about it the hard way, and those who have had the good sense to find others who hold the same unconventional views about money.

Unfortunately, the taboos around money and success keep positive examples of good money management hidden in plain sight, as the late Thomas J. Stanley exposed in his book The Millionaire Next Door

Worse still, not learning about money at the grass roots level keeps those who want to keep us ignorant in the driver’s seat, ensuring the vast majority stays on the earn/spend treadmill, shackled to a job they don’t like—a life they keep wanting to escape from.

How can I openly talk about true freedom and happiness in this environment?

Still, the sense of unease remains.

Despite the reasoning above, writing under the veil of anonymity makes me feel like a cheater, a scammer, a law breaker à la Dexter, one who’s not playing the game by the rules because I'm not openly living my truth. It's a declaration that I'm not ready to walk around as an oddity in a world full of crabs

It also makes me wonder whether or not I’ll be able to write the same way as I have for the last 2.5 years once the veil is lifted. Will I hold back more? Share less? Be less opinionated? Will I get hate mail? Will I get to work on fewer professional projects with people I respect and admire? Will it affect the F2P household negatively? Will it keep Mr. F2P from being able to pursue certain opportunities? 

That’s part of my warped thinking right now. The other side of me tells me that, though a lot of personal finance & lifestyle bloggers remain anonymous, many others manage to do so publicly and that life's just fine. They don’t seem worse for wear—at least as far as I can tell.

There might even be upside. Who knows? I could get to work on new and exciting things once the curtain drops. I might be able to speak more, write more, coach more; help more people live life on their terms when there’s a face and a name attached to the Free to Pursue brand.

And so I continue to struggle, despite the fact that merging my professional life and my blogger life seems inevitable. 

I'll come out of the Financial Independence closet at some point...but not right now.

***UPDATE***: As of December 2, 2016, I'm officially out of the FI closet. I became the Book Curator over at Rockstar Finance and it's been nothing but a blessing. Though revealing our identity to online audiences is not for everyone, I'm pleased with my decision. Onward and upward!

Image credit/copyright:  alexisdc/

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