Revealing your financial independence plans too soon is a mistake.
When I started Financial Samurai in July 2009, I only told my Japanese colleague who sat next to me, nobody else. I didn't want any colleagues who had influence over my career to know about my personal website. Financial Samurai was my sanctuary to write about what was on my mind during turbulent times.
When I negotiated a severance in February 2012, I almost blew myself up because I couldn't contain my excitement. I told a couple colleagues what I had done and they immediately spread the word across the entire floor. What was meant to be a smooth and amiable three-month transition after 11 years at the firm turned out to be an awkward one.
Our HR head called me into her office and told me not to talk about my severance with anyone. I didn't share details, only that I had negotiated one and that I was leaving. She said that a couple other employees had come up to her asking if they could negotiate a severance as well. If I continued to talk, my severance would be withdrawn.
Our office Managing Director, a guy who could never look me in the eye for longer than one second, also began to give me the cold shoulder. He was understandably annoyed that he might lose a couple of his troops due to what I had done. I'm sure he also didn't appreciate me looking so happy-go-lucky at work each day given the office atmosphere was usually quite intense.
In the end, I got 100% of my severance money. But I left unceremoniously with no retirement party. It was bittersweet.
Don't Reveal Your Financial Independence Plans Too Soon
I never ended up telling any colleagues about what I was going to do after leaving work. I'm sure most just assumed I'd go to a competitor, which is common in the equities business.
Despite my enthusiasm for growing Financial Samurai, I didn't send a blast departure e-mail telling everyone to come check out my site either. After all, my severance had a 5-year payout until 2017. I wasn't going to jeopardize hundreds of thousands of dollars for several new clicks.
It was only after I got 100% of my severance package in 2017 that I felt 100% financially free. Nobody held a claim against any of my money anymore.
I was free to torch my firm and write a tell-all book about life on Wall Street like Greg Smith, the GS Elevator guy, and a host of other people before me. But I had no interest in doing that because I like to look forward, not backward.
I tell you all of this because I'm noticing an alarming trend of FIRE enthusiasts who not only don't keep their post-financial independence plans secret while still working, they go ahead and blast exactly what they are up to, how much they are making, and their plans to retire early for everyone to see!
I'm not sure if this is a generational thing because I'm now an old fart, but there seems to be this intense desire for younger folks to constantly self-promote online. It's as if they took the Stealth Wealth mantra and Hulk-slashed it to bits.
Why It's Not A Good Idea To Share Everything
Revealing your financial independence plans too soon is a mistake. To understand why it's not a good idea to tell everybody about your fabulous lifestyle and how much you're making through side hustling while still working a day job, put yourself in your manager's shoes.
Let's say you make $100,000 a year from your day job, but your boss learns that you also make $50,000 a year side hustling. You also reveal your intentions to retire early because you don’t exactly love your job.
When it comes time for your boss to give you a year-end bonus, ranging from $0 – $30,000, what do you think she will choose?
Given you're making $150,000 a year, or $20,000 more than than you would have made at the firm if you got the highest bonus figure, of course your boss is going to pay you at the low end of the range or no bonus at all!
Now think about how your severance negotiation will go when it's time to leave your job. You're going to get doo doo brown because you've severely handicapped your ability to negotiate. Instead, of having an empathetic employer who wants to help you on your way, you'll likely get kicked out of the office for asking. Nobody wants to help someone who is constantly showing off.
Let me share with you a personal example.
When I was working, there was a first-year analyst who rolled into the office each morning in a new $50,000 SUV. He was 22-years-old. As a fellow Berkeley alum, I was to be his mentor. The first thing I told him was to ditch his car, but he refused.
Our boss came up to me in private one day and asked, “Who does this rich kid think he is?” Our boss concluded that since this guy could afford a $50,000 vehicle, our boss reallocated $10,000 of his bonus money to another analyst who performed the same, but took the bus to work instead.
When my 22-year-old mentee got his bonus figure, $25,000, he was pissed. Most 22-year-olds I know would be ecstatic. He went on strike for three days by not coming into work. We let him go the next year due to his poor attitude. Six years later, he apologized for being such a knucklehead.
You might think that employees should be paid strictly by performance, but you would be absolutely naive to think that everything is so cut and dry. Image can really impact how far you can get in your career. I always encourage folks try and spend an equal amount of time selling themselves internally as they do externally.
For a final example, put yourself in your client's shoes.
Let's say you're an orthopedic surgeon. A client comes to you with a bum knee and badly needs help. But after Googling you, he finds out you spend most of your time trying to be an online celebrity. He reads that you dislike your profession and want out.
Your client might be interested in your other life, but he's primary concerned about getting his knee fixed. He may question whether you're really focused on your job and not want to come back. If enough clients think this way, your practice will unravel.
Moderation is key when it comes to self-promoting a different lifestyle than the one you're currently living.
The Only Time You Want To Reveal Your Financial Independence Plans
The only time when you want to share your financial independence plans while still working is if you're absolutely certain you'll be OK getting fired the next day.
You need to be making enough money from your investments or side hustles to not be a financial wreck if you lose your job.
If your alternative income streams cannot cover your living expenses, you are absolutely playing with dynamite by talking about all the other ways you're making money outside of work.
By not keeping quiet, you are double-dipping at your employer's expense. You can claim that you're doing all your side hustling after work hours, but employers know where your heart is. Employers want dedicated employees who are all-in on their business, not yours.
Your employer is smart. Hopefully you are too.
In the meantime, do your best to optimize your finances before taking your leap of faith. I've reviewed some top financial products to help you on your way.
Are You Smart Enough To Act Dumb Enough To Get Ahead?
Quitting Your Job Is Selfish: Negotiating A Severance Is The Ethical Way To Go
Readers, do you think employees are playing a dangerous game when they announce online about their extra income sources and plans to retire early? If so, why do people do this instead of keep their cards close to their chest? Sign up for my free newsletter here.
40 thoughts on “Warning! Beware Of Revealing Your Financial Independence Plans Too Soon”
Apparently, you can get fired from Facebook (and other places) as well, just for having a social media account.
Source: TechLead: I got fired from Facebook (for having a YouTube Channel) (https://youtu.be/2pIJoPkh9IU).
Thanks for the post, Sam!
I made few a few more changes about my public profile after reading this, in addition to what I’ve already done to “clean up” my public properties.
As you may remember, I’ll be checking the financial independence box in January when my Navy pension kicks in. But, as I learn more about myself, at 39 years old, I realize that I do want to go back to work again. If not now, eventually. So, I have a vested interest in keeping my FI to myself. No need to have someone short change me because “I can afford it.” I want every last dollar for every bit of value I bring to a new organization.
Having the pension before 45 years old is a dream come true. It must feel awesome to be able to do whatever you want and have that pension for life!
Word gets out…Many years ago I had the audacity to decline overtime & started buying & rehabbing properties. The interest rates were Carter era 18-19% & several of my engineering colleagues would drop by to see me shedding blood, sweat, tears & beers over run down nightmare properties that I literally rented out by the room. They all swore I’d lose money on them, but for the price of a few beers they would hang out & help.
The word got back to one of my managers, so he sat me down & confessed that he had tried the ‘rental thing’ himself & lost money so he advised me to stop the insanity. Around the office I got the ‘affectionate’ monicker of slumlord & as they all had new vehicles every few years they made fun of my beat-up vehicle full of tools & supplies. Yet many would ask me to rent to their kids & those going through a separation or divorce would ask to rent from me. (Most of their wives were great ‘housekeepers’, when they threw them out they kept the house).
My properties finally produced a passive income stream that eclipsed my W-2. I had literally worked a total of 10 years at a JOB so I walked away from the constant travel, early morning 1 hour commute & office BS.
I heard that the concerned manager worked until he was 68 & then took on a part-time JOB to supplement his pension & divorce payout, as did many of my smug colleagues. Meanwhile we just kept accumulating properties, a LOT of properties.
We were at a BBQ last weekend & after a few beverages several couples (with great JOBS) were lamenting the fact that they were NOT able to retire at 65. Sad!!!
Your journey and website have always been an inspiration to me and this post is no exception! I agree with you 100%. Thanks for further reinforcing the importance of my keeping my online persona anonymous and my at-work persona meek and mild.
I write posts like this – backwoodsfinance.com/job-i-hate-pursuit-of-financial-independence/ – and live in a very small town. I’m pretty sure my boss and co-workers think I’m still paying off student loans, and I don’t want them thinking otherwise. If anyone knew that my greatest career aspiration is to get out of my career, I think I would be out of a job a lot sooner than I’d like!
The old adage is don’t put your eggs in one basket. We usually apply that to investment and money, but it also applies to anything that exposes you to too much risk. Putting too much “friendship” into your “work” basket is the stuff of HR nightmares. I know its sometimes difficult to do, especially as many of us work half our lives at our work locations, but it’s usually best to keep work associates at an appropriate distance. Keeping up those boundaries helps mitigate any risk to whatever side hustles you might have. It also stops bridges from being burned should a friendship get dissolved.
Sam, what if I am already financially independent, thanks to inheritance and personal investments into real estate and equities while still in college & university (currently MSc holder and about to finish my MBA) and I want to start my first full-time normal wage job?
Should I not tell anyone under no circumstances about my financial situation in my future workplace, even if it could be advantageous as I have become more experienced in the field of civil engineering and capital markets when compared to my peers?
I have managed my own business projects that involved making plans, getting building permits, doing part-time business as managing contractor, developing, remodeling, selling and managing commercial, industrial and residential real estate, while trading derivatives and investing into equities since I was 18 years old, all of my investments thrive and require very small amount of time for upkeep (if needed, I use external management for RE and use trading and investment strategies that involve very small trading frequencies (derivative hedging trading strategies with average trade duration of several weeks) if any (equities — currently actively rebalancing portfolio towards more defensive asset classes and raising cash position, few trades a month in other circumstances)). I am at the point where income from my job would not exceed my long term average rental, interest and dividend combined income under most circumstances, even if I was to get into senior position. I do not want to start corporation and have declined offers of partnership as it would become very disadvantageous when it comes to taxes and administration in my case under current legislation (I live in Europe) and do not want to exceed certain rate of debt on my equity, I want to set up a trust fund in the future, the main reasons I want to get a normal job is to pay off mortgages quickly, achieve lower cost of debt on future ones to be able to develop real estate and to invest more rapidly and perhaps to get more into my field of study on institutional basis as compared to my retail investor experience.
Are you proposing that I should tell my future employer that I have done nothing apart from my education and conceal my experience?
It doesn’t have to be an either-or. Does it matter to your potential future boss that the money you invested well was your own, or the exact amounts? Describing your work managing a business doesn’t have to include details of your net worth.
That is a very good point, in such case I expect inevitable question regarding the name of company I was working for, I can only answer that it was a sole private equity business without stating the name, that could do the trick.
“Hulk smash” Sam. “Hulk smash.”
Maybe you were going for a pun, being this is a samurai site, but don’t mess with canon, bro!
I found that contributing a significantly higher percentage of pay into company 401k than my coworkers was also enough for the boss to cheap out on raises and bonuses in some years seemingly thinking I didn’t need it as much as coworkers did. Anyone else see the same? Maybe just small companies like mine where the same owner(s) determine bonuses, raises, manages the 401k plan and oversees payroll?
No. First of all, your boss should not have access to your 401(k) activities. (I’m speaking as a senior leader in HR on Wall St).
Secondly, I would think if anything, being thrifty and a good saver indicates intelligence and self-control. Who would want to punish that?
Good to know this may not be an issue with bigger companies that have HR policies to prohibit such information sharing. Here in middle America there are lots of small companies like mine where the same person (sometimes an owner) both determines raises and oversees the payroll reporting that lists 401k contributions per pay period for every employee-especially for accounting personnel like I am due to the records available to accounting supervisors. I made some large swings in contributions for life situation reasons and was shocked to see the pattern emerge over eight years. But I think it goes with this post’s point. If large savings are rewarded then announced wealth via FIRE plans wouldn’t be an issue. It would be a bonus because these employees are intelligent, have self control and give companies lots of time for succession planning. But in reality it often doesn’t work that way because companies direct bonuses or larger raises or promotions to those they think need it to ensure they don’t leave for slightly more money.
A timely reminder on oversharing, just last week I ran the numbers and there’s a reasonable chance we could get there in 5-7 years, when I saw that I wanted to tell people right away.
I’ve talked to be people about FIRE, but always from the “oh have you heard about this crazy thing, must be nice…” without giving away I’m hoping to be there in a relatively short period.
I agree 100%. Currently I work a “full-time”, a “part-time” and a “as time allows” job. Only the “as time allows” knows about the other jobs as it is my reason for not being available more than I already am with them.
The “full-time” job believes I’m fully dedicated to the job, I get in before everyone else and make sure my accomplishments are known. The money from that job goes straight to 401k/HSA/IRA/529 accounts. I negotiated a raise at the beginning of this year, if they had known my other income I believe I wouldn’t have gotten the money I wanted.
The “part-time” job is what my living expenses are based upon, this one is early mornings/late evenings most of the time so doesn’t conflict with other stuff.
I’m going on almost 2 years in this pattern, I wouldn’t have been able to continue if I talked to them about this.
Even once a severance package has been paid in full, the confidentiality agreement may still hold. There have been cases where past employees are required by the courts to repay their severance package because they spoke openly about their package.
True, but unless you are going to torpedo your previous firm and/or reveal firm secrets, I highly doubt they’ll come after you for telling a friend or a loved one.
But yes, in general, mum is the word.
This is so true. One of my former bosses was let go with a healthy 6-figure severance package. It included confidentiality, non-disparagement and non-solicitation clauses. The non-solicitation clause was only 12 months post-termination. However, the confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses had no such time limit. The non-disparagement clause tripped him up. A couple years after he left he started a business in the same industry. He made some comments criticizing his former employer that were printed in a major newspaper. Our upper management made the decision to make an example of him and initiated an arbitration claim against him under the severance agreement. He lost and had to pay back about 2/3 of his severance. The company knew they would spend more on legal fees than they recovered in severance, but deemed it worthwhile investment to send a message to other employees to keep their mouths shut following severance payouts.
Ouch. How much do you think he had to pay back?
Yes, it’s one thing to talk smack about your old employer to your friends. It’s another thing to talk smack and have it in print. Once it’s in print, the evidence is clear and the maliciousness is clear as well. The guy was a dummy.
If I recall correctly, it was about $350-400k. I agree he was a dummy. The guy was always kind of a bull in a china shop, so it was somewhat consistent with his personality. It definitely cemented in my mind that I should read my severance agreement very carefully and make sure I complied.
I think Sam’s posted on this in the past, but I think it’s really about wanting to be rewarded emotionally by others for all the years of sacrifice. People (I include myself in this) want to have someone say, you’ve saved $X, wow good job.
But in actual life, that isn’t whats going to happen. If you tell co-workers or your boss you’ve saved a huge sum and are or will soon be FI, it will NOT be met with congratulations and positive emotions. It will be met with negative emotions.
So give yourself a pat on the back and fight the urge.
Or, tell your loved ones who really believe in you and want the best for you. Getting that recognition from the people who matter most should be what matters the most.
This is very good advice – less is more. The hardest part is explaining to people that ask what do you do now? I’ve tried explaining that am still working managing investments. Some people get it and may ask more questions, but most people just nod and go “ok”, like if you just said you “work with computers” which could mean anything.
My family knows that we’re not working day-to-day, but we still try and discuss how we’re doing new businesses and continued investments, even when on some days all we do is hang out. Managing ones investments is no different to managing a portfolio of properties, just you do it on a computer rather than on site, and the hours could realistically be very low.
I only told one person before I retired from my job. She was discrete so it wasn’t a big deal.
I told everyone else that I’m taking a break to be a stay at home dad.
Several people found my blog later, but it doesn’t make any difference by then.
You really shouldn’t tell people at work you’re quitting or retiring. That’s just gloating, unless they’re really close friends.
This is true especially if you have a federal government position working on sensitive projects. You want to simplify your life as much as possible and not blast any of your personal business. Clearance investigations take time because they comb through all of your life depending on the extent of the investigation.
Very valid points indeed. I know it is sometimes hard to keep things bottled in especially if you are excited about a particular philosophy.
The point about how bonuses are not guaranteed and can be given out at the company’s discretion is key. There are a lot of factors that go in when they decide which employee gets what.
It’s definitely a bad idea to announce your retirement plans to the entire office—especially if that’s still a few years away.
I think that most income-earning personal finance bloggers keep their blogs hidden from their employers. So their boss still believes their heart is in the right place.
P.S. I was even going to link this post, Sam, to a post I wrote on my blog about the same subject…
Then thought better of it.
I was a little too honest in the comments section. Ah well…next time!
The hard part about running a business under your real name…means that in order to promote it, you have to use your real name on both your blog and Facebook. And since I mentioned my family (albeit carefully, I thought, including not using their real names), they decided that I would blab about anything and everything.
Which I didn’t. But I kept having to remind them of that, even though they were ‘sure’ I would.
That’s one of the struggles of working in the public world. (I teach and write about quilting, crafting and frugal topics — as well as stranger subjects, like ghosts, odd places and people, etc. Cultural oddities.)
You must appear to be open and friendly and approachable — even when you really aren’t. (I am actually a very private person.) It makes things worse when you have major life changes, and your readers want to know all about it. What — you’re selling your house, and moving into a fifth-wheel? (We are.) How come? How much did it cost? You’re doing it because you’re broke, right? (We aren’t.) Wait a minute — the first contract fell through. How come? (Not uncommon, in our neck of the woods.)
So I walk this incredible tightrope, between transparency and tact. And I follow certain rules, some learned the hard way through this house-selling process:
*Unfriend your direct relatives from your FB account. (I’m guessing they read the blog, but who knows.) Don’t mention any of their life events, or use photos, without their permission. Or until they mention these events on FB themselves, and it publicly becomes fair game.
*Don’t mention an event until it actually happens. Our house went up on the market two weeks later than we’d planned. The house closing STILL has not happened. (Though we hope it will, soon.)
*No finance numbers. No matter what. My readers will never know what the house sold for, or how much of that is spoken for once closing is done. They will never hear what our net worth is, or how much we get from pensions or SSI. (Our net worth would surprise you, considering how little we’ve earned over the decades.)
*I will not use family names. Friend names are a close second, with rare exceptions.
*Promotional news: great. Personal news: maybe. Even then, I reveal how much I paid for grocery deals — not how much Husband, the Brick, earned, or what I made on a teaching gig.
So it’s not just in the business world. If you’re blogging or have a business, you just have to be careful. I’ve thought about a pen name…but why do that, when I’ve worked so hard over the decades to promote the biz? Even Stephen King found that publishing under his pen name didn’t get him too far. (FS, if you wrote a book, you’d have to regularly use your full name, sooner or later. I enjoy your blog very much, by the way.)
Great article! When I made the decision to retire early, I also decided to stay at my job an extra six months to let stock options vest. Of course I didn’t tell anyone outside my family about the decision. Letting anyone at work know about my intentions would definitely have made those six months very awkward at best, and potentially jeopardized my stock options. But it’s the age of social media and “share everything” on-line, sometimes with unexpected and unwanted consequences.
We are unconsciously competitive toward each other more than we can register with our consciousness. When the underlying tsunami competition gets out of hand it transformed itself into jealously and envious – it is the basis for being the top of the food chain of the Machiavellian monkeys.
Even the best of us harbored these traits, we just do a better job of manage them with the help of education, science and/or God.
It is a given that you need to put a lid on the excitement when you are close to the FI miler maker at work. Beside the downside on the severance package, NO ONE at work will understand your excitement because 100 percent of them do not thought it is possible – it is especially worst when crossing the FI mile marker in your 30’s or 40’s.
In my own personal journey, I would advice NOT even share this with personal friends and family. Again, NO ONE will have the capability to share this experience with you. On the average, the relationship gets worse because they cannot imagine FI is possible for them, thus, they can not relate to you.
The predictable downside with FI in almost all situations is that – you will outgrow 90% of the population including – colleagues, friends and family.
Best thing is to keep your mouth shut at work and then continue to invest the money towards investments (or something else). Increase your bottom line more than anything. When you think you are ready, bite your tongue for another 6 months BEFORE you start placing your resignation. Those 6 months increase your chances of having some extra dough stashed away.
100% agree. I run my blog, FB, and Twitter accounts under a ‘stage name’ as I don’t want people knowing who I am. Many close friends and a few family members know but it’s important for me to keep stealth for many reasons.
I am very shocked at so many FI and FIRE bloggers, many who are far from FI (and still working full time careers) yet reveal their full names complete with their photos. If I found one of my employees doing this, I would dismiss them. You cannot serve two masters. As you note, you can work on side hustles outside of 9-5 BUT no matter how hard you try, the side hustles will bleed over into 9-5. I’ve personally left work in middle of the day to close on properties then came back to the office! You cannot avoid it.
FI/FIRE bloggers should heed your advice. Until you are completely independent, you should not share your full name and/or show photos of yourself on your site IF you are still dependent on a paycheck from someone. I understand many’s need for “fame” but you are truly playing with real fire by doing so.
“If I found one of my employees doing this, I would dismiss them. You cannot serve two masters.”
Sure you can. If it’s blogging or online business, it’s easy. Work stays at work, the online stuff is at home. I’ve been doing it for almost five years with no problem. Actually, my blogging activities has actually helped me at my day job. Just because you ditch work in the middle of the day to engage in personal activity doesn’t mean that other people pursuing side hustles or FIRE are.
As for dismissing them, I’d be careful with that. I know that employment is at an at-will basis, but I imagine that firing someone due to the way they manage their personal finances and their planned date of retirement could get you or your company into a legal battle–or at least a PR one–that you probably wouldn’t want to be in. If only, in a best case scenario for you, because of the time and money spent that could have been used to further your business. But if a FIRE blogger was fired because of this, I wouldn’t blame him/her if he/she blasted their former employer on their blog and social media while pursuing a wrongful termination suit.
I, of course, blog anonymously. But I’m not specifically a FIRE blogger, I don’t share anything other than my progress in paying off my mortgage, and I am anonymous because I blog about my now-former industry.
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
When I joined the military, officers had a four year initial commitment and then could depart on relatively short noticed thereafter.
But if you ever mentioned you intended to get out after four years . . . bad idea.
A lot of the officers that hadn’t gotten out at four years, or didn’t also intend to get out at four years, saw that as flat out disloyal, never mind that only about 5% of new officers ever made it to senior officer rank (not flag rank, that’s more a matter of winning the lottery).
From then on, that officer that announced they were getting out at 4 years could bank on getting every additional duty no one else wanted, getting the worst shifts, the worst everything. Why would their commanding officers want to waste the choicer things for someone who was just going to leave.
I’m told it’s changed a lot since then, but the same logic applies almost everywhere. Don’t volunteer information like that before it’s time to slap papers on the table.
As a business owner I 100% agree with this!! To all the employees out there, we hear what you say, we know what you post. Please, please for your own sake be more discreet.
You may be right, Sam— the overweening desire to “overshare” may indeed be a generational thing, wrought by social media. It amazes me to contemplate the huge number of folks who weren’t even alive (or at least were still in diapers or elementary school) before the internet even existed, let alone smartphones and Facebook.
Despite the downside of being, as you say, “an old fart”, I’m grateful to have grown up before the non-stop information barrage of the modern era. I think the less of it that one is exposed to, the better.
I was very secretive about my severance negotiation process. The only people who knew at my firm were directly involved in approving/reviewing the terms. Even after I left I didn’t tell any of my former coworkers what I arranged. I also was very secretive about my side hustles while I was working. I never talked about them to anyone. It just wasn’t worth the risk and I highly valued my privacy.
I do find it surprising that there are more and more people, especially those focused on FIRE as you mentioned, who are very public and open about their side hustles and plans for leaving while they are still actively employed. Doesn’t seem logical to me. Even if they got approval from their employer for their outside activities, I can see resentment growing snd festering with the employer and any colleagues in the know.
Yeah, employers are pretty savvy when it comes to finding information on their employees. When I had employees I would occasionally see what they were up to online. I even found our sales guy was starting up a side business selling beef! Hmmm…
So, as you say, it’s prudent to keep a tight lip while you’re still working. If you’re really eager to share what you’re doing outside of work, then blog anonymously or under a pen name.
Totally agree Sam and Michael. A much more weird trend lately is folks discussing politics at work. I just walk away from such discussion so as to not be involved.
I know one woman who bragged about making money online and eventually leaving her job before going on maternity leave.
When she got back, she was let go two weeks later. At least she got two weeks of severance pay.
The truth is that her pain was unstable and losing her job caused a lot of stress in her household. She regretted being so open about her side income.