Enjoy Personal Finance content? Then you will love SovereignQuest!
{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Arbitrary

Month-end. Year-end for that matter. I tapped balances and prices into my financial scorekeeping spreadsheet. A ritual of sorts. Tradition even, given I had been doing the same thing for 34 years now.

A crash echoed from the family room. The lockdown kitten emerged from beneath the toppled Christmas tree, looking guilty. He spied a bauble rolling across the kitchen floor. Crouched. Sprinted after it in hot pursuit. The wooden floor providing an excellent pitch for a game of feline football.

Rather than right the battered plastic tree yet again, I chose the path of least resistance and packed it away for another year. After surviving two children and two cats, it looked decidedly worse for wear.

Still festive.

Still functional.

Soon bound for retirement. Destined to be replaced by a younger model. Not better, just better looking. A sobering fate that awaits us all at some stage.

Once the dismantled tree had been entrusted to the care of the crawlspace spiders, I returned to my laptop. The screen now bore a series of paw print shaped smudge marks. Bastard!

Cleaning the screen caused the laptop to awaken from its slumber. I was surprised to discover the December market rally had propelled my net worth past an arbitrary round-number milestone.

I felt a momentary sense of elation. Demonstrable forward progress. Something to tick off my goal list.

Then I chuckled in wry amusement. Celebrating round numbers is irrational.

The gap between 98 to 99 is the same size as that of 99 to 100. Yet the former passes by unnoticed, while the latter produces feelings of achievement. The more zeroes involved, the larger the warm fuzzy feeling. Silliness at scale!

Yet rational or not, I did feel good. I grinned. Fist pumped. Did a celebratory victory dance.

The lockdown kitten pounced, attacking my dancing feet like a drop bear grabbing an unwary tourist.

Sensing rather than seeing the streak of movement, I snatched the loaded water gun from the kitchen bench and squirted the kitten square in the face. Bull’s eye!

He hissed.

Gave me a baleful death stare.

Stalked off in a huff to plot his revenge.

Water guns had proved remarkably effective at dissuading the lazy cat from jumping on the dining table or kitchen benches. In this, as in so many things, girls seem to learn much faster than boys.

With a flourish that felt much cooler than it looked, like a Hollywood gunslinger I twirled the water gun around my trigger finger before placing it back on the countertop. Feeling pretty good about myself, I turned and somehow managed to break my little toe on the corner of the kitchen cupboard.

I swore loudly and with much enthusiasm.

My inner saboteur chortled something harsh, but fair, about karmic retribution.

The lockdown kitten smirked from where he was stealing the lazy cat’s food. Bastard!

Talking about money

Once I hobbled back to the computer, I reflected upon the attainment of that arbitrary round number.

It was something I was proud of. Years in the making.

The culmination of strategy. Planning. Taking action. Measuring. Monitoring. Analyzing. Adjusting.

Good fortune played more than a small part. Being in the right place at the right time is down to luck.

Recognising that it is the right place and the right time requires having done the work ahead of time. Equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to identify the opportunity.

Merely recognising an opportunity makes little difference, unless you have the confidence and means to act upon it.

I felt like celebrating. Shouting from the rooftops. Sharing my victory with… whom?

That thought abruptly stopped me in my tracks.

When it comes to financial milestones, who can we tell?

From an early age, we are socially conditioned that talking about the topic of money is verboten.

It will cause trouble.

Fuel jealousy.

Upset social standings.

Attract unwanted attention from handout seekers. Tax authorities. Thieves. Extortionists. Maybe even kidnappers.

This leads to a bizarre, tragically comedic, circumstance where wealth can only be perceived rather than known for certain.

The illusion of wealth is created based upon visual cues. Conspicuous consumption. Trophies.

Seldom are those perceptions at all accurate.

Those living like millionaires, displaying the trappings of wealth, rarely are. Big mortgages. Holiday homes. Leased expensive cars. Maxed out credit cards. Personal loans. Private school fees.

A disheartening number of those who do manage to become rich, then live rich, fail to remain that way.

Meanwhile, those clichéd “millionaires next door” hide in plain sight amongst us. Leading financially humble lives. Children in state schools. Driving old cars. Flying budget airlines. Residing in small, yet comfortable, houses located in unfashionable neighbourhoods.

So who can we talk to about money matters?

Friends

I mentally ran through a list of my real-life friends.

Money matters only ever came up in conversation tangentially. Renovating or moving house. Car purchases. Overseas holiday plans. The cost of children.

Occasionally there might be a boast of a windfall. Inheritance. Performance bonus. Sale of a business.

More often, worries. About death. Divorce. Relevance. Solvency. Unemployment.

Fears for how their children might ever achieve a similar standard of living to what they currently enjoy.

But rarely are exact numbers mentioned. Or even hinted at.

Doing so would be gauche.

Uncouth.

The behaviours of a boastful braggart or sympathy seeking martyr.

Falling firmly into the “too much information” category, alongside discussing haemorrhoids, recounting Tinder hook-ups, or providing a blow by blow description of nappy-geddon.

Family

Next, I momentarily considered telling my parent or sibling.

My inner saboteur shrieked a terrified “hell no!” at the very prospect. Major pucker factor.

Hard financial numbers had come up in discussions exactly once in my family that I could recall.

My brother had applied to the bank of Mum and Dad for some help with a house deposit. They grudgingly agreed, but as ever there were strings attached.

To receive the money, they required him to enter into a legally binding loan agreement with them. That agreement contained a poison pill. Were he and his wife ever to separate, the loan must immediately be repaid in full before any property settlement took place.

My parents wanted their hard-earned money to remain in the family. They were willing to loan him the money, but wanted to ensure any future ex-daughters-in-law would never get their hands on it.

The blast radius was huge. Nearly blowing up not just my brother’s marriage but also my own. For the first time in recorded history, the daughters-in-law had something they agreed upon: both interpreted the loan agreement as an active bet that their marriages would fail.

My parents poured fuel on the fire by arguing it incentivised the exact opposite. Which raised an uncomfortable question about why golden handcuffs might be required to achieve that outcome.

The fallout from that particular debacle is still felt to this day. Families are complicated!

Finally, I thought about closer to home. My lady wife or my children.

The mere thought of doing so made me shift uncomfortably on my seat.

My younger son? The mental image of him telling his friends in the school yard that his old man had more in the bank than some of their parents would earn over their entire lifetimes was cringe-worthy.

My elder son? He would understand the achievement, but what does he then do with the information? An idle boast made in passing by me could inadvertently sabotage his world view. Whether we realise it or not, as parents we contribute mightily to what our children consider to be normal. Of where they set the bar for “enough”. Hopefully, he will one day be successful in his own right. How that success gets defined is for him to determine for himself, not via a pissing contest with the ghost of me.

Our childhood experiences help to shape who we are as adults. Our beliefs. Desires. Risk tolerances.

My lady wife serves as a real-life example of this. Throughout her childhood, her father had been a tyrant. Wielding and withholding money as a means of exercising control. Demanding obedience. Expecting respect.

For my lady wife, money became equated with having choices. Being in control. Providing a safety blanket.

Aged several years older than I am, when we first moved in together she earned considerably more than I did. Fearing the silly boy who appeared to fancy her might see her as a meal ticket, she insisted on maintaining separate finances then.

That insistence remains to this day.

For convenience, we opened a joint bank account for shared household expenses, to which we contributed an equal amount each week. The account covered rent, bills, and groceries.

Everything else operated on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis.

At first glance, the arrangement appeared to make sense.

If she wanted to buy an expensive toy or a pair of designer shoes, she just did. No discussion. No debate. No judgement. As long as she paid her share of the bills money, it was nobody’s business but her own how much she earned or what she did with it.

However, this arrangement also resulted in duplication. Inefficiency. Friction.

Applying for mortgages to buy investment properties became a matrimonial minefield.

Lenders demand evidence of household earnings and expenditure, not just those of the individual purchasing the property. This made the experience akin to undressing in public. Some people are content to strut their stuff. Others find the experience of having their privates on display mortifying.

Payslips.

Credit card bills.

Bank statements.

A financial striptease. Ending not in a big reveal, but with feelings of inadequacy. Jealousy. Simmering resentment. Sometimes tears.

My earning capacity had swiftly caught and then surpassed that of my lady wife. The gender pay gap. Different fields of specialisation. Owning a business rather than working in someone else’s business.

She is smarter and harder working than I have ever been. Yet those brief glimpses afforded by mortgage applications revealed my efforts were more richly rewarded financially. It wasn’t fair!

Each time, we would talk about money. Discuss how we might better combine our efforts. Share.

Each time, those discussions would stall. My lady wife takes great comfort from having her own money. In knowing that hitting eject has always been a viable financial option. That she could provide for herself should our relationship run out of steam.

Each time, the only material change to our financial arrangement would end up being a rebalancing our respective joint account contributions, to reflect our respective financial realities. Wary the financial balance of power in our relationship might shift. Determined to never again be financially dependent on someone other than herself.

Early on, this used to frustrate the hell out of me. We were financially hamstringing ourselves. Making things harder than they needed to be. Eventually, I learned to accept it was simply part of who she was.

Something to be respected. Worked around. Occasionally thwarted by.

There were no right ways and wrong ways, just different ways.

The cost of matrimonial disharmony incurred soon came to outweigh any potential financial gain from obtaining cheaper mortgage deals. Existing lines of credit were retained. Existing debt recycled. A more expensive option, but a conflict-free one.

There is little point in suiting up for for a battle when any victory would be of the Pyrrhic variety!

Arbitrary

In the end, I opted not to mention my arbitrary financial milestone to anyone in real-life.

Instead, I joined my kids on the couch for a game of Super Smash Bros, while icing my busted toe with a bag of frozen peas.

The lockdown kitten leapt onto my lap and settled down for a nap.

Shallow and vain creature that he is, he had already forgotten about his fleeting stolen food victory and recent water gun defeat. Now he was content to be friends, for at least as long as I was willing to stroke his fur.

I gave another wry chuckle. We were a fine pair! It doesn’t get much more shallow, vain, and fleeting than celebrating arbitrary round numbers contained in a spreadsheet.

The lockdown kitten purred in agreement.


Featured by
--- Tell your friends ---

Next Post

Previous Post

37 Comments

  1. Q-FI 19 January 2021

    First off, I love the lockdown kitten. Every mention of its adventures makes me smile.

    I relate to a lot in this post. I also hit a financial milestone last year, and only shared it with my wife. For all the points you mention, there was no one else I could talk about it with… friends and family included.

    We’re pretty much a stealth wealth couple. I rent a small house. Probably my car is the nicest extraneous thing I own (just a sedan, not even luxury). However, with all of these stimulus checks in the US being sent out, it has put us in an interesting position. Friends, family and coworkers are always talking about the free money, what are you doing with it, how much did you get? We are fortunate that I make a good income and don’t qualify for any of the stimulus. When they ask, I politely say that we didn’t get any. There is only one reason, why you don’t get the stimulus – you don’t qualify because you make too much money. But they always ask “why?” as a follow up, never once thinking that that would be us, because we don’t display any outward projecting wealth.
    So, when I tell them we don’t qualify, there is always a long pause as they finally understand we make too much money to receive any stimulus. Then they give you that weird look of how the hell can that be the case? It can be pretty entertaining seeing the look on people’s faces. But that’s how it goes. People judge you based on their perception of you, not the reality. We don’t look like a wealthy couple, so they assume we aren’t.

    Great piece of writing and everything is so true how we irrationally interpret things.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 19 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Q-FI. Congratulations on reaching your milestone, awesome work!

      The lockdown kitten has his moments. A (mostly) welcome addition to the family at a time when we’re all stuck at home together and the kids aren’t able to play with their friends.

      I can relate to that incredulous “does not compute” expression you well describe on the face of your social circle. I get the same response from clients when I turn down their generous offers of permanent employment after successfully solving whatever their tricky puzzle happened to be. They usually can’t comprehend how someone decades shy of traditional retirement age could be in a position where they can afford to pick and choose when and how they work.

      Trust fund baby?

      Lottery winner?

      Must be something of that ilk!

      For the same reason, I quickly learned not to describe myself as being early or semi-retired. Much to my lady wife’s chagrin, I just tell people who ask that I’m unemployed. Instead of receiving puzzled or disbelieving expressions, now I just get a sympathetic smile or well-meaning platitude that a job is bound to come along soon.

  2. Dr FIRE 19 January 2021

    Great post as always.

    I recently passed a (much smaller) arbitrary milestone myself. I only told my wife. Telling anyone else is probably only going come across as bragging. How strange is it that I am more likely to write a post on my blog celebrating the milestone, rather than tell any friends or family!

    Incidental to your story, but I have to ask – who do you main on Smash Bros?

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 19 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Dr FIRE.

      Congratulations on reaching your milestone. The sense of achievement is real, and well deserved, regardless of the size. Celebrate the wins, both big and small!

      Super Smash Bros, the only character I have managed to beat my kids with was this round pink ball with a hammer. I think his name was Kirby (sp?). Mostly we run with the random world and character chooser to avoid squabbling and ensure everyone stands a chance of getting the occasional win. I’m pretty sure my kids have figured out how to cheat though, as they can create black holes or have my guy abducted by aliens, but it is entirely possible that I’m just not very good at the game!

  3. FullTimeFinance 19 January 2021

    First congrats. For myself for better or worse the responses from relatives are much different. Why? Largely my parents and my wife have all ceeded managing of their finances to me. The answer I get for financial milestones from these family members is apathy. Seems to stem from their expectation that I have it handled. Outside family though I’d be confronted with similar fears to your own. I wouldn’t tell my kids unless I want everyone including the trash man to know…

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 19 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks FullTimeFinance, very kind of you.

      Wow, you must be awesome at money management to elicit such faith that your family can take it for granted that their financial milestones will be hit. I hope they appreciate how much effort you put in to make it look so easy!

  4. GentlemansFamilyFinances 19 January 2021

    as you may remember, I smashed into the arbitrary figures club (although with one less zero than you?) so your post gives a good impression of feelings that I’ve had.

    I shared our good news with my wife who didn’t care and had thought that we’d already reached it (“no, no, no, that’s if I opted for the CETV of the old company pension, here let me show you the spreadsheet, hey, where are you walking off to???”)
    and one of my brothers but that’s it.

    Who should you tell about your net worth? It’s hard to know if you should or should not.
    However, from an outside perspective, the millionaire next door type are better role models than just about anybody else you an think of.
    Maybe being self-satisfied is the best thing that you can do.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 19 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks GFF, and congratulations on achieving your recent milestone.

      To be honest, the more I thought about it, the harder it became to see an upside in telling anyone. Sure, it may flatter the ego briefly, but at a high potential cost of being outed as one of Q-FI’s “stealth wealth” practitioners.

      My charts don’t contain units on the y-axis because they exist simply to record the story of my personal finance journey. I believe the feeling of wealth is generated by the size of the gap between income and expenditure, in other words free cash flows. The numbers themselves fall into the “interesting but irrelevant” category, as nobody else leads my chosen lifestyle.

      • GentlemansFamilyFinances 19 January 2021

        of course, your perspective (and mine to some extent) means that you are not living hand to mouth, worrying about the mortgage and bills.
        I’ve a sibling who separated from his partner over Xmas after 15 years together – no extravagant lifestyle but the partner liked pets and horses means that he’s looking at the local housing market and will struggle to find a decent 2 bed for sale and his (high for the area) salary won’t get him a big enough mortgage.
        that’s lifestyle – s*it you have to wade through.
        Do I feel wealthy? Yes/No
        But with all the talk about holiday hunger and £20 a week extra for universal credit and all that – I’m glad that I can sleep at night without any money worries that aren’t self-inflicted.

        • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 January 2021 — Post author

          Ouch, sorry to hear about your brother.

          The experiences of my friends/colleagues who have gone through similar upheaval suggest it would be wise to hold fire on rushing into a house purchase so soon after your brother’s world has been turned upside down.

          To a person, everyone I know who had rushed into buying straight after divorce or the death of a spouse has regretted it. None would have purchased what/where they purchased given their time over. Probably be the biggest buyer’s remorse class I’ve observed outside the purchasers of brand new cars.

          Great to hear you and your family are on a good financial wicket, something to be grateful for.

  5. Gnòtul 20 January 2021

    Another Brilliant post: thanks for the smiles put on my face as well as the thought provocation.. I would probably also keep a low profile, telling no one except my wife. Except she wouldn’t care 🙂

  6. Fire And Wide 20 January 2021

    Hey Indeedably.

    For my part, I think it’s less about sharing the actual number but being able to share the smile of having reached a goal you set yourself. Regardless of the size. I agree with Dr FIRE though, it’s funny how often it’s easier to share on our blogs than in real life. Anyway – congrats from another random stranger!!

    Have to admit, I’d find it hard not to share with my partner. Our FIRE goal was like building our house, something we dreamed up together and then achieved together. Now that we have FIRE’d, we’re having to figure out our next dream to work on! Sharing finances from the start may not have been the smartest thing but I’ve always figured I care more about risking my heart than than my money. And it’s defn helped to be able to optimise across both of us as incomes changed.

    The stealth wealth thinking is an interesting one. As you know, I retired a couple years ago now and it defn raised a few eyebrows as to “how can she do that”. We don’t look obviously rich. I think that’s true of most people who actually enjoy their wealth, as opposed to those who still feel the need to flaunt it to impress others. Quiet confidence is perhaps the best asset of all for a happy early retirement!

    Cheers for the thoughtful post as ever.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Fire And Wide. There are some benefits to hiding behind anonymity!

      Our arrangement is far from ideal, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone!

      When you think about it, there isn’t much that doesn’t link back to money in some way. Dysfunctional foundations produce unwieldy and unstable outcomes. A person much wiser than I am once said “the most important financial decision you can make is whom (if anyone) you couple off with“. They weren’t wrong.

      • Fire And Wide 20 January 2021

        Ha – nope, they were spot on. Fortunately it’s 21 years for us this year so guess it’s working out ok 🙂

  7. David Andrews 20 January 2021

    The financial separation in your household sounds similar to mine, we’ve been together 10 years plus but aren’t married. Finances are largely separate with a joint account for bills. Capital purchases generally end up in a heated discussion as she tends to put greater emphasis on economy ( as cheap as possible ) whereas I suggest seeking quality at a reasonable price. Replacing the oven and also shed and fence panels will require more negotiation than Brexit.

    Like many millionaires next door I don’t really discuss my net worth in detail with anyone as it would cause “complications”. Colleagues would wonder why I still remain employed ( I’m also wondering this whilst I struggle to home school and appear to be productive).

    Some may also think that 7 figures in a pension makes a person rich but sadly that’s far from the truth.

    Of course, with the current dynamic world situation who knows if any of us will remain at our milestone achievements for very long.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks David. I share your pain!

      We built up the joint account balance to serve as a float for purchasing those predictably unexpected things like appliance replacements or family holidays (those my lady wife attends anyway!).

      From a mental accounting perspective, it is the act of contributing to the joint account that appears to render the money “spent” rather than actually using it. Consequently, the float mitigated the cheapness issue, as we don’t need to “find” the money to make such purchases. It reframed the debate as a question of taste rather than money, which for the most part I don’t care about so am usually content to go along with whatever she happens to desire.

      Sounds like you are heading towards a comfortable financial position, even if much of it is locked away behind age restrictions for now. Asset prices will always fluctuate over time, but unless we actually need to convert them to cash in a given moment, those fluctuations are mostly just noise.

  8. weenie 20 January 2021

    Congrats on hitting your milestone. Like @Dr FIRE, when I hit a financial milestone myself in 2020, it was ‘celebrated’ on my blog but not in real life. As you say – who to tell? And what does it actually mean, except that I’m a step closer to a goal which I can’t tell anyone about in any case, haha!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 20 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks weenie.

      This is starting to sound like a new fly-on-the-wall Netflix series: “the secret lives of anonymous FIRE bloggers“. Each week the series follows a different voice from the internet as they plot and scheme their way out of the world of paid employment. A bit like “Drive to Survive“, only without all the safety gear!

  9. FIRE v London 21 January 2021

    Fantastic post, thank you.

    Congrats on the arbitrary milestone. Now convert into a different currency and pick the next milestone…

    Very interesting story about the Bank of Mum and Dad. A warning for the rest of us.

    For me too, lockdown has been made immeasurably less bad by pets. They are such a blessing, the little horrors.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 21 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks FvL, that is very kind of you.

      Once I adopted my seasonal working pattern, my focus shifted from net worth to passive cash flows. Hence this one sneaking up on me. It was in local currency, so I’m getting better at aligning my mental accounting with my surroundings!

      My father was big on self-reliance when I was a kid. Real men didn’t cry or run to the teacher, they sorted things out for themselves. In his eyes, being asked for help would have been galling as it meant one of his kids had failed in that regard. Given the help wasn’t being sought in an emergency, he would have suspected that while the request might have been made by my brother, it hadn’t originated with him. The poison pill was partly in response to that suspicion.

  10. Bruce Lythe 21 January 2021

    I am suffering wealth shock. I took a geared punt on IG in Crypto in September and it has paid off enough to take me well over my magic round number. If I told my wife she would kill me for putting our wealth at risk!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 21 January 2021 — Post author

      Congratulations Bruce. Gearing into crypto is not for the faint of heart, you must enjoy living life on the edge.

      You could always invent a lottery win, account for the one-off windfall gain in a plausible way that is less likely to see you sleeping in the garden shed for the remainder of your marriage!

  11. Carolyn 21 January 2021

    Congratulations on hitting your milestone. As others have commented, I don’t see the need to share that with anyone unless you really want to.

    The way a ‘household’ runs their finances always interests me. When I met my other half I was struggling with debt accumulated on Top Shop and other credit cards which my 18 year old self had seen as ‘free money’ 🙄. He paid off all that debt for me. We have always had a joint account plus our own separate accounts. For many years he earned more than me and he paid more into the joint account than me. Gradually things levelled off and then my earnings hit a sharp,upward trajectory which his never could have based on his field of work. So then I paid more. Over and above that, what we did with our own money was our own business. Twenty years ago we started small scale farming so his income dropped quite a lot as a result of that.

    Things changed quite dramatically when we moved to France 13 years ago as he couldn’t continue paid work and the farm we had bought was a full time job (it washes its face but that’s it), so since the move I have been the sole breadwinner. All bills are still funded from a joint account, but it’s me who finances that. He gets a monthly ‘allowance’ for want of a better word plus, now, a tiny French pension. I admire him a lot because I think a lot of men would struggle in our situation and I know that I couldn’t ever be reliant on someone else for my financial wellbeing, even someone I’ve been in a relationship with for 35 years! It’s becoming more common for women to be the higher earner or even sole breadwinner but still definitely outside the norm.

    Re your wife’s view on money, a few years ago I met with some potential new clients, in their late 50s. We were talking about what money meant to them when he turned to her and said “You’d better tell her.” It transpired that throughout their nearly 40 year marriage she had always had what she called her ‘escape fund’. Her mother had been bullied and abused by her father, but had no choice but to stay with him as she had no money of her own. She wanted to know she always had her own money so she could leave the marriage if she had to. Her husband not only accepted that but strongly supported her. He had always been the breadwinner, she the home maker.

    People’s emotions around money are fascinating. At the end of the day, you do you.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 21 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Carolyn, sounds like you’ve found a keeper there!

      If you ran a marathon you would probably tell people. Became a grandparent, ditto. Same for buying a house, migrating countries, getting knighted, having a book published, or winning third prize in the local vegetable growing contest.

      But not a net wealth achievement.

      It is a curious diversion from our societal norms, where achievements are (mostly) shared and celebrated with friends and family. In fact, we’d be more likely to hear about the underwhelming sexual performances or annoying personal habits of their spouse than about their bank balance!

      Everyone is different, it is what puts the “personal” in personal finance.

  12. Bob 22 January 2021

    I appreciate the dilemma of who to share financial good luck with. Every Christmas some British friends in America send out a family newsletter filled with the previous years good fortune. The three European river cruises, the Caribbean Islands they took all the family to. The annual missives are known as “boast by post” at our end.

    Nice people otherwise.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 22 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Bob.

      A distant family member used to send out a similar Christmas letter each year, full of humble brags and gossip about nearly everyone they knew. It came to a screeching halt when they outed the newly single status of one of their (formerly) close friends, who hadn’t yet shared the news with their own family. From what I heard it ended in tears, threats of legal action, etc.

      Now they just phone it in with duty job cards and no letter, “To [recipient]. Seasons greetings. From [sender]“.

      Actually, now that I think about it, they are some of the last people I know who still send physical Christmas cards as opposed to a quick email/text/WhatsApp message.

      Time to short Hallmark greeting cards?

  13. Steveark 23 January 2021

    Look, when you marry you become one, something new. That new thing, that new family has primacy over either of your former families. If you can’t manage that why even bother getting married? There is no yours or hers, just ours. And anything that forces a choice between the two of you and either family, automatically goes to the two of you. Your former family has no rights, no say. They are the past you two are the future. It’s pretty basic.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 23 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Steveark. There are some good guiding principles in there.

      Different cultures have different views on such things. Different individuals even more so. We all have scars and ghosts from our past, some of us manage to get past them, others not. It isn’t always as basic as you say, people find infinite ways to make things complicated.

      I wonder how many lonely old folks sitting all alone in aged care homes, hoping that their children might visit them, might share your view?

      Or kids being raised in struggle-town by a single mother, after their father traded them in for a newer model and started a new family? The second family does often seem to win out in those occasions.

      When your own kids get married, will you give the traditional father-of-the-bride/groom speech that essentially goes “Now s/he is your problem, good luck!“. Then later, if they sought your help, would you tell them to refer back to the text of your speech?

      By your reasoning here, none of those groups have any right or claim on the time and attention on their previous family.

      My goal here isn’t to be mean, rather to highlight just a few everyday occurrences where the basic concept of family you describe falls short. That doesn’t mean my experiences are right (far from it!) and yours are wrong; just that everyone has different experiences, priorities, and pressures.

      I’ll leave you with a thought. If marriage really was so basic, why does the government need to offer subsidies and tax incentives to induce/reward people for taking the plunge?

  14. The Accumulator 23 January 2021

    Well done Indeedably! And fascinating post to boot. For me, the only people this info can be shared with are your most trusted inner circle and maybe a club or community where this kind of talk is accepted and encouraged (hello the FIRE community!).

    Otherwise, you’re like a bull charging through a china shop of norms and conventions. Smashing up the tea cups of decency and the dinner plates of hierarchy.

    I suppose this is why luxury goods are so popular. They’re the socially acceptable method of ‘flaunting it’.

    I’m guessing as a ‘millionaire next door’ type you take more pleasure from flying under the radar and confounding people’s expectations.

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 23 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks TA.

      The secret society of FI bloggers has been generously vocal in their cheerleading. As far as imaginary friends on the internet go, they are a wonderful and supportive bunch of people.

      Thanks for the chuckle over your luxury goods comment. My lady wife would undoubtedly think something was up if I swapped my old Caribee backpack for a Louis Vuitton suitcase, or traded my younger son’s Crayolas in for a set of Mont Blanc colouring pens!

      I must confess I’ve never cared all that much about other people’s expectations. I doubt anyone pays any particular attention to how I live or what I wear or what I happen to be worth.

  15. gettingminted.com 25 January 2021

    Sharing that round number information with your spouse or partner is the thing to do, if you both share such financial information, and that is what we have done. You may not want to share the numbers every time they move back below that round number!

  16. Nick @ TotalBalance.blog 26 January 2021

    Interesting perspective, as always. And congratulations on achieving an arbitrary NW! (Come on, at least tell us how many 0’s was in it?!) 😛

    I think “sharing the numbers” might be a cultural thing – or maybe a personality thing 🙂

    I understand your concerns in regards to sharing the actual numbers with friends and even family, but it seems odd to me that one would accept keeping a big part of you/your life a secret.
    I follow the world of soccer pretty close, and would never hide that part of my personality to anyone. Clearly because it’s more broadly accepted (and yet extremely pointless!), so do you think you’d be more “open” to sharing what you do at night in your spreadsheet with others, if THEY themselves did the same thing?

    I had an interesting real life conversation with a father of one of my daugthers school mates the other day (they had a playdate – outside of course). He asked me what I did with my “spare time”. And while the question was sincere and straightforward, for a moment I really didn’t know what to answer. So I just said something along the lines of “I spend a lot of time looking for good investments”.
    He was intrigued and we had a lengthy conversation about investments, mortgages (he just got divorced), life and everything in between. I like to talk about “money”, but I’ve always enjoyed that (since I was a kid). It’s very important to me to be open and honest about our financials towards my 6-year old, as I want her to understand the amount of work it takes to build up a nest egg, and the options that you get by doing so.

    Anyway, we’re all different, but I felt sad on your behalf that you weren’t able to CELEBRATE 🙂 It just somehow feels wrong not to be celebrating a major “life achievement”. I know you don’t see it as such (maybe because you’ve been doing it for such a long time), but in these times it seems especially important that we celebrate something actually worth celebrating 🙂

    Anyway, congrats again (did you at least crack open a beer?!) 😛

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 26 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Nick for the well wishes, and for leaving such a thoughtful comment. There were plenty of zeroes in the milestone number, some of them were even to the left of the decimal point! 😉

      You may have a point about cultural aspects playing a large part, both in openness with numbers and in the sports we follow!

      Where I grew up, soccer was what little kids played until they were old enough to play “real” football like rugby, rugby league, or Aussie rules depending on which part of the country you lived in. As an adult I have learned to respect that professional soccer players are talented and earn megabucks compared to any of the other football codes, but somehow that lack of a gladitorial aspect still reminds me of the game that the little kids play.

      Talking about numbers had similar social conditioning. Folks might boast about holidays or new cars, complain about drowning under credit card debts and mortgage payments, but never mention salary levels or net worths. Discussing such things was considered in poor taste. Severely frowned upon, like peeing in a swimming pool or wearing blackface to a costume party.

      In real life I will happily talk about money and investments with anyone who is interested, and often do so with colleagues at client sites once they realise that, as a lapsed accountant and non-practicing financial planner, I may have something worth listening to. I don’t talk about my own numbers in these conversations however, old habits die hard!

      Fear not, the kids and I found some leftover birthday cake in the fridge that we divided up into three enormous slices that we ate with big grins on our faces. The kids might have thought we were celebrating their father finally winning a round of Super Smash Bros (almost as momentous a feat), but celebrate we did!

  17. FI-FireFighter 26 January 2021

    Another great post and somewhat timely for myself. I have reached the position where I am able to leave full time employment and 2 weeks ago showed my hand as it were and gave my notice. I finish in April 🙂
    The trouble here is I cant really do this without family and friends noticing, so what to say?
    I have done some preparatory work and dropped hints over the last few years, so its not going to be a complete surprise.
    So far I have just said (to a couple of friends and some family) – its time for something new, better quality of life, do something where I don’t have to manage people!! Which are all true.
    Almost all our family and friends are in a different financial position, some struggling more than others. I only know one who is saving a comparable amount to me. Conversations about money are usually about debt.
    In April, we will pass a milestone figure. I will only tell my wife, from where we started we are both surprised to be here.

    I liked your thoughts about telling your boys or not, I agree.
    My son is 20 and I know he sometimes compares himself to me critically, we are similar but also very different. For example I joined the Army at 16, when he was 16 this played on his mind as he couldn’t see himself doing that and he beat himself up about it, completely unnecessarily. He is wiser now, but its still there.
    Thankfully, he is fitter and stronger than me now ( which I love – don’t tell him though, it would spoil it), so he has to wait for me on runs and bike rides 🙂

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 26 January 2021 — Post author

      Congratulations FI-FireFighter, that is an amazing achievement. Well done!

      You’ve got some decisions to make about how you frame your newfound employment status, and how you wish people to perceive you. Something to talk about with your wife, get your stories straight. Get that wrong and you potentially position yourself as the subject of envy, handout seeking, or so on. Your mileage may vary.

      That moment when your son reached the point where he is faster and stronger must have been bittersweet. I’m still just ahead of my elder boy, but have to work for it now. I remember those days not so long ago of letting him win or keeping it competitive. Won’t be long now before I’m having to cheat just to avoid being destroyed!

What say you?

© 2021 { in·deed·a·bly }

Privacy policy

Subscribe