Do I Suffer From Blog Voyeurism Syndrome?

The first two weeks of January were like Christmas all over again. Did you see how many financial year-end reports updates were published?? Did you read any? How many? I read a ton! And I was still all over the blogosphere in search of the next one (well not really I do have a full-time job, but it felt like I did). What do you think? Do I suffer from PF blog “voyeurism” syndrome? Do you?

PF blog “Voyeurism” Syndrome?

I know it is not the prettiest term but this is the reality of it; we live in a society of internet/social media voyeurism. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; we all want to know what everybody else is doing. In the PF blog world, we are mainly interested in knowing about everybody else’s financial situations and how they got where they are or how they plan to get there. Not in a creepy way (well not for most of us anyway), just in a very informative way. We are all looking to validate that what we are doing is right or that we are at least headed in the right direction. If we happen to find a group of like-minded people along the way: our tribe! Then that is even better!

Last week, I was watching my daughter going thru pictures on her phone. I glanced at one picture and didn’t recognize the girl on it, so I asked: Who is this? Daughter: I don’t know mom, someone I follow. Mom: Why do you follow her if you don’t know her? Daughter: Because Mom! (Apparently it’s an answer!). Mom: And why do you care about her pictures or what she does (again, if you don’t know her)? Child: Oh Mom, that’s just Instagram!!! Did that make sense to you?

I just don’t get it! Oh, but wait a minute; who am I to judge?? I read personal finance blogs of people I have never met, reading everything from their grocery list to their last major investment. I even feel connected to some of them (yes YOU!). They don’t live anywhere near where I live, in some most cases their lives are total opposite to mine but I am still interested to know how they manage their life and money. I want to find out how they got to where they are, whether it’s a better place than the one I am at or just a different one all together (maybe something I never thought about and may consider afterwards). And are they happy?

Most Of My Friends Just Don’t Get it!

I know more about personal finance bloggers’ financial habits than I do about my closest friends and family. Not that I wouldn’t like to know more about my friend’s net worth and spending habits but they would probably all think I am a little (or very!) weird if I was to start asking!

The other day I went out with one of my girlfriends and she was telling me about that guy she is dating. Apparently he is great but she had one problem with him…He is frugal! I almost choked! Hmm, what is the problem? I asked her if she meant cheap? People get confused sometimes so I just wanted to check. I mean who wants to date a cheap guy! She confirmed he was frugal and she didn’t really like that. She is still my friend:) But we may avoid money talks in the future! And I will keep reading my PF blogs.

So for me it’s not Instagram, it is PF blogs and related social media. I am addicted! How about you, are you a blog addict? . And the more I can read and find out about how other people earn, save, invest and spend their money while enjoying life, the better.

PF Blog Mandatory Disclosure?

My problem (one of many of course!) is that sometimes I can get a little greedy on what I would like to see. For example whenever I go to a new PF blog, I get disappointed if I can’t find some basic financial data quickly (or any data for that matter).

So going forward, wouldn’t it be great if all PF blogs would:

  • Have an additional page title “About My Finance” that would include a breakdown of the blogger’s net worth and include all sources of income. If it also includes full details on investments’ allocations and how they spend their money, that would be a bonus! I mean why stop at the net worth!
  • Standardize Net Worth calculations. One method only, not that wishy-washy stuff we get where nobody seems to use the same asset base. (Should your car be included?)

What are your thoughts? Should we lobby for a standard mandatory disclosure requirement for all PF bloggers? (Of course I am kidding!)

Why I Don’t Share Everything!

I should be a little ashamed of myself, because while I wish all PF bloggers would disclose their financial situation; I don’t even share my net worth. It’s not because I don’t want to , but I am so paranoid about the internet that I am not comfortable putting all my numbers out there. I mean I won’t even use Personal Capital because of it. Which is too bad because they have a very lucrative affiliate program (just check some blogger’s income report!). I am already sharing more than I was planning to and not ready for net worth numbers yet. Maybe eventually I will get there.

Personal Finance Blog “Voyeurism”?

We all suffer from PF Blog “Voyeurism” Syndrome and there is nothing wrong with it!

Knowing about bloggers’ financial situation can be very helpful to use as a guideline. Many bloggers are trying to assist readers in various finance area but if no financial data is provided how would we know if their method works or not. Getting actual numbers gives us concrete example. For example if a blogger tells you how to start saving 50% of your income, why would you do it if you don’t even know what their income or expenses are? He/she could be earning double what you make or not have the same need as you do, how would that work?.

Seeing other bloggers data is what got me motivated to start saving a LOT more, I realized I could do so much better. It helps validate what the blogger is doing, right or wrong. Obviously we are all different and at different stages in life; there are a lot more factors to consider than just numbers. But seeing how others are doing is helpful to keep us motivated to do better and adjust as needed.  You take some and you leave some, it’s all about balance.

You also learn a lot from reading about other bloggers’s experiences. At first, I thought FIRE was what I wanted but after reading many other blogs I realized I was not that interested in the RE (Retire Early) part. I actually enjoy working! I am happy being FIRO (Financially Independent, Retirement Optional) right now, and still pursuing Financial Freedom (FFRO? Financially Free, Retirement Optional)  so I can be in a position to truly do whatever my little heart desires!

Still sometimes I do feel I know more about other bloggers’s financial situation than I should, but I guess this is just the way our society works. If they keep publishing , I will keep reading.

I also remind myself how easy it is for bloggers to only share what they want to, we may not always get the full picture so I try to always take everything with a grain of salt.

So how about you, do you also suffer from PF blog “voyeurism” syndrome?

34 thoughts on “Do I Suffer From Blog Voyeurism Syndrome?

  1. So here’s my tuppence worth, it isn’t voyeurism as bloggers happily share their details and financials online, it is being part of a unique community that is very fiscally minded. Personally I love reading when people are doing well and offering congrats, and offering the odd suggestion if that’s what they are looking for. And it’s comforting to know I’m not the only mad on this journey.

    And I’m personally not a fan of the you must reveal your income/privilege backlash; if people want to share these they can, if not you can usually make a good stab at guessing. Even I know doctors earn mega money in the US, and HCOL locations tend to pay high salaries even for non profit jobs.

    Now you are getting in accounting land with the standardised net worth calculations, for this to be meaningful we’d need to agree on valuation methods for all the assets everyone could possibly hold, and it just seems unnecessarily complex.

    1. I agree with the net worth calculations, it would be unnecessarily complex and nobody really cares! As far as disclosing numbers, I think it depends on what you are promoting on your blog.

        1. Hi Ms Zi You, I don’t know if “matters” is the right word in this case. It would be my preference sometimes to see numbers if someone is going to sell me on Early Retirement promoting a 70-80% savings rate for example. Not everybody is as financially literate as we are (using that term loosely for myself) and may just assume that it is something they should be able to reach easily. Having at least part of the financial picture would help, either expenses or income. This is obviously just my opinion. As far as Net Worth, I think it is pure BVS!

  2. Sure as heck it is *voyeurism*! That’s why we disclose all numbers. One of the reasons we started the blog was there was some frustration about not knowing the whole financial picture of a blogger/family when they are espousing financial independence. Most people are curious about that. We sure are. One drawback about the open disclosure is that we cannot be fully transparent about who we are. I’ll take that trade-off.

  3. Oh I’m with you on this – I can’t help but read ALL the net worth updates. Your comment about knowing other PF bloggers’ financial situations better than even your close friends is so true, and such a funny situation to find ourselves in.

    1. Me too. It is fascinating stuff. And so true about the fact we know more about our blogging friends than some our real life friends and family! I’m on the fence about doing a year end report, only because it seems like it wouldn’t be all that interesting. That, or I’m too lazy to track our expenses! :-/

      1. I don’t think I would post my monthly numbers if I wasn’t doing it already for my own benefit:) And no worries, I am sure it would be interesting enough…

  4. Hi Caroline, I have read this post a couple times now and I’m trying to come up with an opinion.

    And, I think my opinion is a little different than yours. When I go to sites, I cringe if it’s a net worth or income update. I don’t really care. It doesn’t relate to me. Everyone reports it differently and who knows if it is truthful. I don’t report my income or net worth and I hope readers at my blog wouldn’t care about it if I did.

    What I hope for (in the bloggers other posts) is intelligent, insightful, entertaining and useful information that I can apply to my life, savings and investments. I think I can judge their credibility without knowing how much they are worth.

    Someone with nothing financially and just starting out may have something useful to say and conversely someone with lots of money may have a different agenda detrimental to my objectives. I like to judge that for myself.

    So, I usually skip over the financial reports and if I leave a comment I just say good job.


    1. Hi Tom, looking forward to your next “Good job” comment!
      I think it depends on the blog. There are some blogs I expect numbers because of what they promote and others where I have no expectations at all. I do like for all of them to be entertaining and useful:)

  5. I use to be very voyeuristic about PF bloggers but much, MUCH less now. It dissipated after 4 months haha, now I’m bored. I think net worth is pretty standardized. Biggest difference is some people include cars in their net worth and some don’t. I like to write my expense reports but I think we should stop net worth reports – it seems way too personal…I don’t know, I’m not so keen on sharing those numbers now that we have over 1 million. Its’ boring now.

  6. I don’t think I have caught the bug yet…and probably never will. I’m not just really into the published net worth thing (full disclosure – maybe its because I don’t really have any juicy numbers to show, I don’t know). That said, I have no issues with those that do – whatever work for you is my take on it.

    1. I think many bloggers, like myself, share some of their numbers because it also helps them be more accountable (for expenses). But I agree, whatever works for you:)

  7. “Daughter: Because Mom! (Apparently it’s an answer!).”

    HAHAH this made me laugh.

    Okay, you interact with other PF blogs and your daughter follows people on Instagram who don’t interact with her. It’s a one way instead of a two way street.

    I am a net worth voyeur and like looking at the posts (and of course share mine haha). I think once I hit my goal I will stop sharing it, just like Million Dollar Journey did. I agree it would be nice if it were more standardized, some people even include their engagement rings in their net worth updates too haha.

    Don’t worry about Personal Capital- we don’t even have it in Canada anyway! haha. But you could still do a blog post about Personal Capital and have an affiliate link even without being able to use it haha.

    Love this post!

    1. Good point about the one way vs. two ways!
      I probably will stop tracking everything once I hit my goal too, I think with my severance package I will get there:)
      I didn’t even know we couldn’t use Personal Capital in Canada…what kind of PF blogger am I???

  8. I loved this! I keep debating on sharing my financial stats (net worth, savings rate, income, expenses, investments, passive income) but I have yet to do so because I have so many friends and family who follow my blog. 😱

    Perhaps I’ll work up the courage this year!

    Great post, thank you for sharing!

    1. I don’t know if I would share my numbers if my friends/family read my blog. Isn’t it weir? Willing to share with the world but worried about the people I care the most about!!! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Similar to Tom, I’ll look for the highlights in monthly reports, but I’ll mostly breeze through the post. I think many bloggers do them to keep themselves accountable which is understandable. But to read them is sort of like reading someone’s diary.

  10. Hi Caroline
    I read a lot of blogs but I do not have BVS. I have no issues with those that do publish net worth statements, it is a great way to keep track of your expenses, but knowing others net worth makes no difference to me.

  11. Nice read!

    I love learning about how others invest but am generally not that interested in their overall financial position. I am happy for anyone who is focused on getting their money in order but I think it is actually a negative to check in on other peoples positions. I have found I am happiest when I benchmark my success to my own personal level of happiness and not others net worth updates.

    1. I guess it can be a downer sometimes if you compare yourself to others, mostly with net worth numbers. I find the expense reports usually help me see what may be reasonable and what may not. Whenever I read Justin’s report at Root of Good, I am very impressed with his expenses for a family of 5 but I can’t see myself ever bringing my groceries down to that level, but I like knowing it can be done!

  12. I am more interested on the bloggers journeys and their stories on how they are able to have a great financial mindset. Whether they are in debt or have a huge net worth, I just want to see anyone have their financial priorities in order and accomplish their goals of wiping out their debt or achieve that million dollar net worth.

    1. 100% with you on the journey and the story. Whether they publish numbers or not, somewhere I would think it is still “voyeurism” on our part. But like Ms Zi You pointed out, if PF bloggers put it out there for us to read then it is not voyeurism anymore:)

  13. Hi Caroline,

    My take is that the networth is secondary and not necessary. Different people have different starting point. The ending point is also different.

    The most important thing is to be able to be FI (i.e passive income covers all my expense as per perspective). Your expectation is different from mine. It could be higher or lower. It does not matter. The most important thing is to be happy in the approach.

    My two cents worth of views.


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