Personal Finance Blogging: There’s no one-size-fits-all

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It’s no surprise that personal finance bloggers are, as a group, single-minded in their obsession with efficiency, productivity and sticking to the bottom line. We’ve mastered the Zero Inbox, are well-versed with GTD (Getting Things Done method), we pay ourselves first and we’re the kings and queens of making our money work for us. From the outside it can seem that we’re doing everything right, and that we’ve got it all figured out.

But that’s not always the case.

I used to think there were only two major divides in personal finance blogging — the debtors and the debt-free. But once I myself joined the latter category, I realized it was much more complicated than that.

There are the minimalists and frugalistas, and then there are the side hustlers. There are the ‘retire by 40‘ advocates and the >experientialists who vacation every year. There are people with kids, mortgages and two cars and there are singles supporting dependent family members such as siblings or parents. But the one thing I’ve learned after being a part of the personal finance blogging community for the last three (four?) years, is that there is no ideal, there is no standard, there is no one-size-fits-all blogger to follow or take lessons from.

The reason I’m saying this is to counter some of the attitudes I’ve witnessed lately. People who feel hopeless or disenfranchised because they don’t think they have the ideal circumstances to take charge of their finances and their life. Because somebody younger has saved more, because somebody older has more job security, because somebody else has a pension, etc, etc. I think this is part and parcel with the endless comparisons we make when we encounter other people. Keep in mind that for every blogger you think has it all sorted out, there could be a flip side.

The personal finance blogger who is aggressively and impressively paying down his debt, but who doesn’t have an emergency fund or any savings to fall back on if his situation changes.

The blogger who owns two income properties to help pay off her mortgage and to earn side-income, who doesn’t have any investments or retirement savings and is relying purely on resale value or rent from the homes to support her.

The blogger who landed a great job after their post-grad, who has hefty savings and a robust investment account, but who is ignoring the six figure student loan debt until ‘later’

Fpr every blogger you see that is seemingly perfect, there’s always something we don’t know, or other challenges that push or pull them from their goals on a daily basis. None of the examples above were specific people, but they could be, they might be. While those people look moderately successful at least, you still don’t know the intimate details of how they got there. There are people with stable careers where they will see limited but gradual, consistent wage increases, while there are those who may earn more but in much riskier industries with less security. There are those who benefited from inheritance or a windfall, while others worked their way up all on their own.

My point is that nobody is perfect. We all have things we’re either not talking about, or things we don’t even notice in ourselves. Treat personal finance bloggers like your Facebook friends. Sure, we’re suppling the nitty-gritty of our financial lives to the world, but we’re probably not telling you everything. For every confession of over-spending or poor money management, there might be something else we’d never put on a blog publicly. I’m not saying that we’re deceptive, just that we all have things we may never feel comfortable revealing about our situations.

So what’s the takeaway here? Don’t fall into the rut of comparing yourself to others. Instead? Take inspiration from others, discover new things from them, but don’t think fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses. You know your own financial situation better than anybody else. Just don’t let the success of others make you think that you can’t achieve success of your own.

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