The Frugalist’s Omerta: Who Should You Tell That You’re On A Path to Financial Independence

As I set of on a path towards Early Retirement, I am caught between wanting my friends and family to understand my sudden obsession with frugality, and maintaining my financial privacy.

The Code Of Silence

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Omerta comes to mind. It is – at least according to all those Mafia books I read as a kid – the code of silence; the honor among thieves. No thieves here, but as a traveler on the path to Financial Independence and (hopefully) Early Retirement, I’ve wondered how much, and to whom I can confess my secret life as a double agent. By day the Grasshoppers work their 9 to 5, and by night we scheme on ways to increase our savings and check out of the rat race. There’s actually limited cloak and dagger to the Grasshopper’s life (to my eternal dismay), but it is sometimes a lonely journey. Who, other than Mr. Grasshopper will listen to my plans without feeling envy, or – more likely – without mocking us for our less-than-common optimism about Early Retirement. There is also the unexpected side-effect of frugality – an almost evangelical desire to spread the good word about Financial Independence, Early Retirement, and ways to achieve both through purposeful spending.

I just had an epiphany! That explains a lot of my desire to write this Blog. Call “Grasshopper Retires Early” my Well. As in the famous well in the story about the person who could not keep the secret and whispered it into a well? I’m pretty sure something uncool happened to the secret keeper – and maybe the well – but we don’t have to follow the analogy to its bitter end. Suffice to say that I’ve developed a work around. I don’t think I want to share my Journey to Financial Independence with the World – for personal and professional reasons – but I get the same release from sharing it on this Blog. Hence the anonymity, and the complete honesty.

All this navel gazing – which I usually avoid – got me wondering about the roots of my desire and my leeriness about sharing my financial experiences and goals.

The Fear: Why Am I So Queasy About Sharing?

Strangely enough, finance is one of those taboo subjects (like religion or politics) that one avoids talking about in polite society. Shortly after you start going to school, your parents tell you – with good reason – not to talk to your friends about money. Perhaps the other kids cannot afford as much as you can, or maybe it’s the other way around. In either case, you are better off making friends for friends sake and not because of your family’s relative financial/social cache. These lessons are reinforced when you enter the workplace, and quickly learn that it’s not polite not talk to co-workers about your salary/bonuses.

While both these life lessons have their place, they seem to have created a general ethos of secrecy. Friends and family don’t share their financial hopes and fears with each other. Personally, I am trying to break out of this mold. Sure, it may make me seem a little gauche to talk about “filthy lucre” but I’ll make my peace with that. I’d rather tell my friends/family about my dreams of Financial Independence, and preach the gospel of saving in your 20s, than silence myself. It was just such a willingness on Mr. Money Mustache’s part to share his wisdom with us that propelled my family towards this Goal. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/Perhaps I can pass the favor forward.

The Desire: Why Do I So Want to Tell Folks About Financial Independence, and My Path To Early Retirement?

It’s definitely not all altruistic. I am happy to share my experiences for the good of the Order, but I get as much as I give. Every reader, every comment, every like on Facebook, and “heart” on Twitter helps me stay on the straight and narrow.

Dear Reader, you are the hand on my Tibetan Prayer Wheel. As you keep reading and I keep writing, the frugal wheel in my soul keeps getting oiled.

Tibetan Buddhists spin prayer wheels as a form of prayer, to accumulate merit and wisdom.
Tibetan Buddhists spin prayer wheels as a form of prayer, to accumulate merit and wisdom. Photo credit http://classroom.synonym.com

Like a person on a diet or someone on a new exercise regimen, I benefit from being held accountable. Although I have precious few readers (Hi Mom! Hello Mr. G!!), I’m less likely to sneak a chocolate bon-bon (or, in my case, an unnecessary online purchase) if I feel like I may later have to confess it to you good people of the Internet.

So, who in the Real World should I tell about Financial Independence & Early Retirement?

In the Real World, the answer for us is VERY few people. I have told a few members of my family, and Mr. G may have told his closest friend. But, we have also learned that it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. While we may not want to tom-tom our ultimate goal to the Real World, we can’t help but talk to folks about the means to the end.

You don’t have to share that you plan to retire at 39, or that you have $$$ in your 401(k) to let our a little social steam about a topic that fills your head. We regularly praise good deals like Aldi (remember this post? http://www.grasshopperretiresearly.com/2016/10/09/grocery-savings-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-discount/,) or Amazon Prime Reading (http://www.grasshopperretiresearly.com/2016/10/08/no-shame-in-freebies-and-other-reasons-to-keep-living-like-a-college-kid/) to our friends. We have even inspired a few grocery-converts. Mr. Grasshopper happily prattles on about Boggleheads, Vanguard, and just about every other quantifiable aspect of personal finance. I’m sure this has helped someone.

I guess the answer is that you don’t have to be a hermit on your path to Financial Independence. While you might want to choose how much and whom you share your ultimate goals with, you can nonetheless share your Journey.

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