Dear Financial Bloggers and Readers: Have You Found The Bathroom Yet?

Some things just never get old around the office. If you’ve never had the privilege of being a new-hire sponsor, I promise you…its coming.

Most of us know the routine. We’ve been on both ends of it. A new person was just brought aboard your team. Despite your best efforts to dodge your boss, he corners you in the employee kitchen on Friday…

“Hey Eric, you remember Cynthia? You interviewed her last month.” says Boss, developing a rapport.

“Oh yah. Nice girl…” I reluctantly respond.

“Oh, great! Well, her first day is Monday. I was hoping you could show her around. Get her set up. You know?”

…And so it begins.

Day One

My whole weekend is now preoccupied with the task that lay ahead. When Monday morning arrives, I slump into the office at 9 am to find a bright-eyed Cynthia sitting in the lobby. Coffee in hand, she looks like she’s been awake since 3 am and has already been to the gym twice.

“Cynthia. Nice to see you again! Welcome aboard.” I say.

“Eric! I remember you. How was your morning?”

Little does Cynthia know, I woke up about 40 minutes ago, and this is the last place I want to be.

“Oh, ya know. Mondays. You get in okay? Let’s head upstairs.”

Of course, other than me, nobody is aware of Cynthia’s arrival that day. She’s a total unknown. No badge. No desk. No laptop. Julie from admin is on maternity leave, and nobody else seems to know the process for assigning workspaces.

“Well, maybe just set your stuff down here.” I point to the chair-with-no-wheels next to my desk. It’s currently full of old papers that will never be read. I push them aside. “Let’s show you around.”

We start taking the walk of shame. What follows is 13 minutes of hell, full of obligatory hand-shaking and awful, pithy conversation. “Carl, have you met Cynthia?” (Knowing full well Cynthia has never stepped foot in the building in her life.) “She’s new to the team. First day today.”

And then, the jokes. “Uh oh, Eric is showing you around?! Look out for this guy, he’s a real troublemaker.” (ha ha ha)

We work our way from office to office, “That’s Jim’s office. He’s our VP. It sounds like he’s on a phone call.”

We encounter a group of three teammates discussing who-knows in a common area. “Hey guys. This is Cynthia, first day today.”

A collective, “Oh, hey there! Hiya. Nice to meet you.” The bravest of the three speaks up, “So, what project will you be working on?”

“Oh, not sure yet. Just meeting everyone for now.”

“Oh, okay. Well, Eric here will take care of you. He’s real good.” They say this not as a vote of confidence in me—I have no special caretaking skills that any of these three do not have. No, they say this to reiterate their deflection of any responsibility in the handholding of the new girl.

Finally, the walk is over, and we head back to my workspace. My own inbox is filling up, and I can’t help but feel conflicted between doing work and taking care of the new girl.

“So, IT is at some in-house training until after lunch, so for now I’ll see if I can get you some things to look over.” Suddenly, I wish I was better prepared. My computer isn’t even booted up yet.

“Do you know what project I’ll be working on?” Cynthia asks. Of course, I do not, I don’t make those kind of decisions.

“Not really, we’ll have to ask Paul when he gets in.” Where the hell is Paul? Part of me feels bad. I know how Cynthia feels. She wants to take over the world right now, and she’s about to find out that things just don’t move that fast around here. If she wanted to make a difference, the Doctors Without Borders headquarters is just down the street. “Take a look at this…” I print off a terribly outdated powerpoint with a loosely-defined org structure and mission statement. It’s the same one that was given to me some three years ago. “Don’t worry about the names, they’re all gone. Just get a feel for the types of clients we support.”

An hour passes, and we finally get Cynthia to her rightful seat. The tether is removed, and I once again feel like a free man. But, only for a fleeting moment.

The first day, I make—minimum—three “check-ins.” The first is about 30 minutes after we part ways. “You get a look at that org structure? Have you found the bathroom yet?”

Again, at about noon. “You taking lunch? There are some great places nearby. Sicilianos has a great calzone.”

“I brought my own, thanks.”

Of course you did.

“Oh, alright. Well, I’m gonna grab something.” I might just go sit on a park bench for an hour. Anything to get away from here. “Let me know if you need anything. Did you get a chance to talk to Paul?”

“Oh, yes. He said to stop by around 4.”

“Oh, Great, let me know how that goes.”

Great! That buys me at least two hours. I can get some real work done. Knowing that Cynthia actually has a task on her plate, even something as simple as a 7-minute meeting that is tentatively over four hours away, is tremendously important. If my boss comes around… “Oh yah, I showed her around. She’s got a meeting with Paul at 4.” Suddenly, I sound like I’ve got it all together.

Around 4:30, I swing by for the third time, “How’d it go with Paul?”

We talk about her conversation with Paul, and discover that Cynthia’s new task lead found her a couple hours earlier. They’re meeting tomorrow.

It Gets Better

As the days go by, responsibility starts to gradually shift away from me. She gets her badge, she gets her laptop. For the next two or three days, it’s just maybe one or two brief check-ins to see how things are going.

“You got your badge? Oh, great. Let me ask IT about getting you a laptop. That one you got is one of the old loaners.”

“Have you looked through the time reporting system?”

“Have you been introduced with any of your clients yet?”

Like a baby deer, Cynthia starts finding her own legs. She gets a project, and develops a routine.

The once-a-day check-ins drop to once a week, and later, even less frequently. The anguish of those first couple days fades into memory. Before I know it, Cynthia and I are BS’ing in the kitchen when Jeff comes by, “Hey guys. Have you met Adam? Today’s his first day.”

“Uh oh,” I say. “Look out for Jeff. He’s a real troublemaker.”

And it all comes full circle.

And To The Point

When I first started reading financial blogs, and blogging for myself, reading the “Monthly Financial Reports” of other bloggers was awesome.

If your day is like mine, you start out with checking J. Money’s page, and then you head over to JC’s RSS feed. Around the beginning of every month, tons (but not all, granted) of financial bloggers lay it all out there of what happened the month prior. Net worth change, dividends received, every expense under the sun, blog income and whatever else.

At first, it was helpful to read these. I got an idea of how the path to financial independence worked. At first, it was helpful to write these, as well. Like my first day on the job, I needed to “check-in” very frequently to make sure I was understanding what I, and everyone else, was doing.

As I grew, I started to not need these check-ins, and eventually, I stopped looking almost altogether. “I get it, tons of dividends, limited expenses…” The detail became far less important than the trend. It also became far less meaningful to write these monthly reports on Retire29. I still did it, because I thought I should, but over the months and now, over a year, it has turned into somewhat of a burden. I still want to ensure accountability and transparency in my path to FI, but a monthly update no longer seems necessary (to me or to anyone else). I plan to retire sometime in spring/summer of 2020. Do you really need, or even want, 50 to 60 checkpoints between now and then? Frankly, not enough happens in a given 30 days.

I’d much rather talk about lessons, ideas, principles, and tools, rather than put out monthly personal financial stats.

All that said, December’s report (due sometime next week), will be my last monthly financial report. From this point on, I’m changing to quarterly. Once I reach retirement, I’ll probably change to annually. Not only for me (less burden), but for you, too (better content from me will come in its place).

A Plea To Others

I now ask of other bloggers who do these monthly updates to reconsider the amount of value you and your readers are getting from them. I’m not saying “Stop,” but maybe adjust the frequency. To each his or her own, but I greatly value analysis, ideas, principles, and lessons far more than overly-frequent check-ins. I respect all of your ideas, and I mean this in the best way. I expect that I’m not alone in this assessment. I believe it will make a quarterly, or annual, update all-the-more significant and noteworthy. Plus, no matter how much you say, “With Personal Capital, these updates only take me like 6 minutes to write,” I contend that it still is a burden both to the content firehose and is taking away from where your greatest value is—teaching.

Setting an example is great, and so many of us are. But, understand the value of datapoints. Monthly, I fear, may be just too much.

Here’s to a GREAT year for all of us. Both bloggers and readers!

Eric

17 Comments

  1. Just starting my blog last month I had spent a lot of time prior to that thinking of the exact content that I would be putting out. A monthly recap is most certainly one of the things I know I am going to do. That being said as I have been working on it my thought has been “is this really important” and have been considering trying out Cait Flanders over at Blonde on a Budgets way of doing things this year (she is going to do a 90 day update). I really don’t know what I’m going to do I will try the monthly one out for a bit but if it becomes to complicated than I will just add an additional post and do every 3 months.
    Tyler recently posted…Favorite Articles From The Week of December 28thMy Profile

  2. Hey R29, first of all, awesome read. I could see myself in your shoes, showing the new employee around. Been there, done that, had the same feelings about the general awkwardness of people you introduce to the new guy. Nobody cares, everyone pretends to.

    I also agree with the monthly reports, I’m not sure why people do those so often. They’re boring numbers, I can’t see who enjoys reading other people’s monthly budget, more than a few times to “get the idea” of how it’s done.
    Stockbeard recently posted…Can you retire on 1.5 million?My Profile

    • Dude, you’re funny. “Nobody cares, everyone pretends to.”

      Yah, the numbers are fun for the first few times. It’s nice to get a feel for everyone’s strategy. But, monthly…too much.

      Eric

  3. I was cracking up reading about the new hires. I was a mentor at my last company and I think the most important wisdom I imparted was, “If you take the last cup of coffee, you make more. Otherwise You best look over your shoulder for Terry Tate because Terry will find you!”

    We fully intended to post a monthly thing on our blog but it just never happened and as I’m going through my last year, I’m thinking of doing a high-level quarterly review which is what I do in real life already. I might sync it up with $AAPL earnings so I can accurately report since that’s my biggest individual holding. (It’s at 9.70 Fwd P/E…wtf?) That being said, I do enjoy the breakdown of blog income because I like to see how others are doing and what the sources are.
    Mr. Benny @Stuff That Pig recently posted…Tuesday Morning Bluster: Fore! Bad Decisions!My Profile

  4. Why not just do an annual update now?? If you employ good principles and methods for your savings and retirement plan and automate the savings… You know exactly how much you are saving towards your goals and objectives and that doesn’t change.

    As long as the checking account still have a 3-6 month buffer of money for expenses then you are good to go in my book.

    Keep an eye on the markets and if there are BIG changes then maybe consider some rebalancing if it seems appropriate, but if it can wait till an annual finance status then I’d say let it ride..

    I track my cash assets, depreciating Assets (home and vehicles), outstanding debts, Annual Passive income, and overall Net worth at year end.

    Based on the % I know I will save for the next year with Maxing out my available accounts and arbitrarily setting a contribution amount to my taxable accounts, I project my year end goals for Assets, outstanding debts, and dividend income for the year.

    I rinse and repeat and see were I stand at the end of the following year based on what I hoped to achieve. (I use the previous years results to drive my decisions for the next year)

    I reached my 2015 goals on paying down debt but not on assets or net worth. Due to my struggles in gaining traction to the upside my focus this year is on paying down debt much further.

    Keep Life Simple!

    Cheers!!!

  5. Eric, you make a great point. It’s awesome diving into people’s personal finances and net worth, but the frequency of seeing these reports probably doesn’t add the value intended. I like how you’re refocusing on “lessons, ideas, principles, and tools” which will add great value for your readers.
    Dane Hinson recently posted…The Cost Raising of KidsMy Profile

  6. Yeah, the monthly updates aren’t adding a lot of value in my mind. I thought about putting real numbers out there for a while but have sincecrealised that most people wont actually care.

    To be honest, I dont usually even read monthly updates, so why would anyone read mine?

    Sometimes I find it hard enough to be interested in the finances of my clients, and some of them are making way more than all of us!

    I say bring on the quarterly updates instead – good call!

    • I think it’s really helpful to get a general idea of where somebody is in their financial life. It hads a bit of credibility to their words So, I’d encourage you to maybe do a passive income report, expense report, rent report, or net worth update once a year or so. That will at least allow readers to know you practice what you preach.

      Eric

  7. Yeah! I like your point of view. It’s boring to read someone’s statement every other month. This trend has made me unsubscribe from various great blogs. It doesn’t make sense to flatter your achievement/failures every other month. Kept it to yourself and produce it the right time. Sorry if I’ve offended anyone. Thanks
    Erastus @ VirtualHelpmate recently posted…Pillars of Success and Happiness In and Outside the Freelancing EnvironmentMy Profile

    • Erastus (Great name, btw),
      No offense here!

      I’m very selective with blogs I subscribe to. Ones with lots of dividend updates and 401k reports don’t tend to help me very much. Like I say, information is pretty useless without inspiration. However, blogs that can inspire me to do better are always on my radar.

      Eric

  8. The same thought occurred to me recently.
    The reason I plan to keep these reports is me: it forces me to keep the monthly check. It creates the automatisms that will institutionalise the good habit.

    • Ambertree,
      That’s partly why I kept doing them as well. Not so much for others as for myself—keep me accountable. However, once you start down a solid path, and things become habit and routine, reporting on that becomes much less necessary.

      Eric

  9. Interesting take Eric! The only regular update series I do is my annual passive income update. I was thinking of increasing it to twice a year, since there are so many moving parts, but not sure yet.

    Not much changes month to month, but it is a way for those who have trouble writing different types of unique content about a product. It’s the classic way to make more money online.

    S
    Financial Samurai recently posted…Start A Business To Save On Taxes And Help Take Care Of Your FamilyMy Profile

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