Who Can You Trust?

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We had to answer an important question when taking control of our own finances. Who do you trust for financial information?

We’ve been thinking about that questions as we’ve been trying to increase our readership and spread our message to a wider audience.  We’ve recently been featured as the introduction to JL Collins’ Stock Series, in a guest post on the White Coat Investor, and I was interviewed on the DoughRoller podcast.

Despite these successes, we’ve hit some roadblocks with more mainstream sources and even some bloggers and podcasters.  The biggest pushback that we’ve received is that we choose to blog anonymously.

How Can I Trust You If I Don’t Even Know Your Name?

When we started to take control of our finances a few years ago, we had no idea where to turn.  We weren’t completely ignorant.  However, we had always had only a surface level knowledge of finance, investing and retirement planning.  It seemed everything we read and saw on the internet or from mainstream radio and television was saying the same thing.

Finally, we found the world of online blogs.  Among the ones that were most helpful to us were a community of financial independence/early retirement bloggers who blogged anonymously.  Some were more entertaining or inspirational.  Some were into hardcore technical issues.  Most were a blend.

Some had really clever names like Mr. Money Mustache (growing his stash of money) or the Mad FIentist (doing experiments on how to achieve FI as quickly as possible).

Others had names like the FrugalWoods that told a bit about their story (using frugal living to retire early to a homestead in the woods).  I guess that is the path we took:  early retirement is an overwhelming project (like eating an elephant), it must be tackled “one bite at a time”.

Other blogs just seemed weird.  We met a guy who goes by J$ ( Jimmy$?, Julio$?, Jerome$?) who thinks that Budgets are $exy (I don’t know what is sexy about them).  Our current favorite blog is GoCurryCracker, though I have no clue what a curry cracker is or where it is going.

Aside from the weird names and anonymity, all of these blogs had something in common.  They were actually saying and doing something different.  They were showing that if you followed a different path with your finances, you could give yourself the freedom to do something different with your entire life.

Turning Conventional Wisdom on Its Head

Conventional wisdom is always to save 10-20% of your income.  These bloggers were saving north of 50%.

Conventional wisdom is that investing is hard and scary.  You should hire a professional.  These bloggers were writing about educating themselves and taking control.

Conventional wisdom is that in life, only death and taxes are inevitable.  While none of these blogs has led me to the fountain of youth, I’ve certainly changed my view on taxes!

Conventional wisdom is to retire at 65.  Early retirement is 60 or 62.  The bloggers were redefining retirement and planning to leave the rat race in their 30’s or 40’s.

Conventional wisdom is that to become wealthy you must make a ton of money.  All of these people had stories similar to our own that we could relate to.

I admit that at first I didn’t trust much of what I read. I had serious doubts about taking investing and tax planning advice from some anonymous stranger on the internet, so we did our due diligence. The investment approaches advocated by these bloggers were consistent with the current academic research. We discussed some of the tax strategies we read about with a CPA friend.  She confirmed that everything was legit.

These blogs were so helpful, inspiring and valuable we could never pay these bloggers back.  We decided to start our own to pay it forward.

So Why Not Just Tell Us Who You Are?

That is a question readers of this blog may have.  I admit, I did too when discovering these other anonymous bloggers.  There are many reasons for us to keep our blog anonymous at this point.  Here are just a few:

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  • We both are still working because that is what we have found to be the most efficient path to financial independence.  At the same time, we’re writing about our plans to quit our jobs in about 2 years.  Since we haven’t finalized our exact plans, we don’t think it makes a lot of sense to announce our intentions publicly.
  • We want the freedom to write whatever we want.  The tone of our blog is overwhelmingly positive, and we want to help others to take control of their finances and their lives.  However there will always be those that take our writing as critical, offensive or condescending or become jealous of our situation.  Staying anonymous saves us another headache of dealing with those people once we shut off our computer.
  • Our writing is very personal.  Staying anonymous allows us to share many personal details of our story that we may not be comfortable sharing otherwise due to concerns for the safety and privacy of our family.

 

Should You Trust Us?

Quite frankly, we don’t think you should trust anyone blindly.  That includes us or any other bloggers.  It has nothing to do with whether or not we reveal our identities.

There are many people in the media and financial industries that will prey on your trust and take advantage of it at the first opportunity.  There are also many that simply are incompetent.  We’ve shown what happened to us when placing our trust in one.

Our advice on who to trust is quite basic.

  • Consider any ulterior motives or conflicts of interest.
  • Be weary of anything that sounds too good to be true (it probably is).
  • Be weary of one size fits all advice.  Personal finance is personal.

Once you’ve made it through these steps, double check everything with other independent sources.  Do your own due diligence.

Remember, if you don’t want to be average, you must take actions different than the average person.  All of these bloggers are and so are we.

There are many factors that will determine whether someone is trust worthy, honest or giving good advice.  When determining these things, whether someone is willing to share their personal identity is pretty far down our list.

What are your criteria for deciding where to get your financial advice?  Who do you trust?  Does our blogging anonymously present any issues with trust or credibility in your opinion?  Please share your thoughts below.

Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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11 comments on Who Can You Trust?

  1. I see no issue with not revealing your identity. If you were selling something then it would be necessary. Giving is often done anonymously…and I agree personal finance is very personal.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, I just found your blog and it has opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking about money, I love that you share so many other blogs. I’ve been having a great time reading and am about to make some changes.

    All the best-
    Gwen

    1. Gwen,

      Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad to hear that you’re getting value from the blog!

      I feel that the best way for me to thank those bloggers that have helped me so much is to help them to spread their message and build their audiences even larger. Our story and plans are merely applying the lessons we’ve learned from others and fitting them to our own unique situation.

      Cheers!
      EE

    1. Thanks for your feedback K.

      We’re seeing what I’m doing becoming more mainstream first due to MMM getting so big that he couldn’t be ignored and more recently some mainstream publicity for J$ and GCC. However, there is still resistance not only in the mainstream media but amongst other bloggers who take a different path, as I’ve found out firsthand.

      I hope this post will help both my potential readers and those who have the power to spread the message of us and others like us to see the value that we’re bringing and the reasons we may want to choose this path of remaining anonymous.

      EE

  2. I blog anonymously as well. It isn’t that I’m hiding. It’s that when I was going to call the blog “Financial Escape Velocity”, a good friend said “YES! You must do the financial velociraptor” (alcohol might have been involved.) That was a better name so I ran with it.

    Savings rate before fire? About 65%. FIRE date? 5OCT2012. Age at FIRE? 40 even.

    Should people trust me? People should trust themselves. My source data usually comes from Yahoo! Finance and all my numbers are reproducible. What I hope is the cleverest of raptor readers, take what I have to say and make it fit their needs. Dividend growth investing, insurance company investing, and writing options for income are three very strong strategies and I recommend and use them all. YMMV.

    1. FV,

      I wondered what that name was all about.

      Great advice to trust yourself and fit things to your own needs.

      Glad to have you as a reader and regular commenter as someone who has already achieved our goals of FIRE at 40. I’ll be curious to hear your feedback as we lay out the details of our plans.

      EE

  3. I don’t think I will ever fully reveal my identity (First and Last name).

    I also have not disclosed my profession entirely on my blog. I may do that at some time because I think that most people don’t associate bicycle commuting with a highly skilled, high-paying profession. It might prevent people from saying, “My profession is too fancy and well-paying and therefore I must drive a BMW to work.” Stupid but prevalent argument. Bikes are equally effective and much more enjoyable!

    1. The whole idea of deciding what to share is still a very odd concept to us. We have never had any social media presence until starting the blog.

      We did just start a twitter account for the blog last week and have realized we don’t really even know what to do with it. Anyone who would like to give us some pointers on how to use it to promote the blog, feel free:)

  4. Great point. A face to the name really does help build trust. But to us, it’s not just about who’s giving the advice; it’s about who’s getting it. That’s why Cinch offers personalized recommendations for everything from banking, to car insurance. How’s that for trustworthy?

    1. I normally try to be tight on the spam in the comments, but will allow this b/c I’ve seen some interesting reviews of these guys and I’ll say their service looks pretty interesting. Has anyone else heard of or tried this service? I’d be curious to hear feedback.
      EE

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