Recently, I have come across quite a few personal finance accounts on Instagram. These accounts publicly share their net worth, income, spending habits, and investment portfolios, all on the internet.
As someone who admittedly doesn’t track their finances, I found this fascinating. I’ve always felt financial journaling was daunting, but the way they did it seemed empowering and digestible. So I contacted them to find out more about their background. They are:
These accounts have different approaches to sharing them. For example, My Ringgit Book, which has 7,000 accounts, uses lots of illustrations in its post.
The person behind, Yahya, is a project engineer in the oil and gas industry. He thinks people are interested in following his journey for three reasons. First, its content is simple and accessible to young people who lack financial literacy.
The second reason is because of the relatability of his struggles. The last reason is because of its graphic design, which is admittedly what caught my attention as well.
Colette, a 25-year-old decision scientist, usually posts informative posts with most of her explanations in the caption.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sulekha posts updates on her journey while directing viewers to her YouTube channel where she talks in depth about her financial stories.
FIRE Dude, an oil and gas engineer like Yahya, creates simple Excel spreadsheet messages at the end of each month.
Despite their different formats, however, they actually share similarities in their motivations and intentions.
Inspired to inspire
The idea of starting to share their finances didn’t come out of nowhere. All four designers were inspired by others who came before them.
“These two characters exposed me to a whole different world, which is the FIRE movement,” FIRE Dude explained. “The idea of being financially free and living my days doing a less stressful job appealed to me.”
Did you know: FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Early Retirement. As the phrase suggests, it is a financial movement that encourages people to gain financial freedom at a younger age to retire earlier.
Of the four, the most recent account is Budget With Sue. Dr. Sulekha opened his account in March 2022 after years of watching budget content on YouTube.
Consider liability and more
For Colette, accountability is one of the main reasons she documents her finances online. More importantly, however, she wants to raise awareness about personal finance.
“Personal finance is not part of our curriculum and its importance is underestimated,” Colette explained. “Friends who know I’m passionate about personal finance often ask me to walk them through the options available for finance.”
Yahya also sees his account as a way to stay disciplined. Plus, it gives him a healthy pressure that pushes him to be more serious about his dreams.
Besides awareness and accountability, another reason to keep a diary of their finances is to keep a public record of their background. As Dr. Sulekha says, her account has become a time capsule that shows her growth as a personal finance enthusiast and as a person in general.
FIRE Dude agrees with that sentiment. He said posting his journey online gave him a sense of responsibility that kept him on track to meet his financial goals and reflect his journey.
“Monthly steps seem small to me in the short term. But as if watching the journey from the top of a mountain, it always strikes me how much I have accomplished,” he shared.
Public sharing, with certain privacy measures
Colette is actually a pseudonym, as the decision maker wants to make sure her privacy is protected. Although she shares some personal details such as her work, she does not reveal critical information such as where she works or what she looks like.
In contrast, Dr. Sulekha shows her face on her account and on YouTube. But she makes sure to erase the details of her salary and bill. The net worth she reveals is also more generic and she does not share her assets and liabilities in detail.
“Whenever I choose to share new information online, I would ask friends and family to see if anyone had any concerns about it, and then make an informed decision from there,” he said. -she shares.
The oldest account, FIRE Dude, doesn’t really care. He thinks his finances are just numbers because he only shows the current value of his investments and loans.
Additionally, FIRE Dude is a strong supporter of pay transparency, even before the rise of popular Instagram accounts and pay transparency advocates, Pay gap in Malaysia.
He even added that his friends’ openness about their remuneration allowed him to negotiate a 45% higher base salary for his new contract in Qatar.
“I strongly believe that having a secretive attitude towards your salary only benefits the employer, so I could certainly support a movement to break that social taboo,” he said.
Comparison within the community
Given the public nature of these accounts, it can lead to feelings of envy or dissatisfaction when someone sees someone else making more money than them.
“I think it’s part of the life we have now, with the influence of social media on us,” Dr Sulekha admitted. “I am certainly not immune to comparison within the community, especially with other Malaysians from similar backgrounds to me.”
However, she tries to focus on the good. This includes being excited about the accomplishments of others and one’s own personal progress.
Colette also said that it is in our human nature to compare. However, she said it’s important to note that everyone’s journey is different.
“It’s important to remember that it’s called ‘personal finance’ for a reason,” she said. “Everyone has a different background, income, monthly commitments, mindset and habits.”
Likewise, she said that no two people have the same tolerance for risk. Some may be stock investors, some real estate investors, others just keep their money in the bank.
“As I find my way in this community, I learn that none of us are perfect,” she said. “I’m more focused on my own journey, but I’m happy to celebrate other people’s winnings!”
Yahya shared an analogy he turns to when comparing himself to others.
Imagine that you are in your Perodua Kelisa, rolling down a 50 kilometer per hour track. And you’re at a red light. You look beside you and see a burning Ferrari. And the moment the light turns green, this Ferrari is racing straight ahead and it looks like they’re light years away. Until a few minutes later you are at the next red light, guess what? You look next to you and the same sexy Ferrari is next to you again.
Yahya from my Ringgit book
What he means is that no matter how fast you think you are going, at the end of the day, you will arrive at your destination.
“Whenever you find yourself comparing your progress to others, always put your head down and focus on your own business,” he advises.
“When you’re too busy checking shoulders to see what other people are doing, you won’t be able to concentrate and devote your energy to the road ahead.”
On the other hand, FIRE Dude doesn’t see the comparison as all that bad.
“Let’s be real here, there will always be that feeling of envy. But the trick is not to let it overwhelm me. In fact, when harnessed effectively, envy can be a powerful motivator,” he pointed out.
As an example, he said his peer, Rock Bottom, unknowingly motivated him to emigrate overseas.
Of course, that’s not to say he never struggled with unhealthy comparisons. Instead, he came to understand that each person’s situation is unique with their own privileges and obstacles.
It is the right time
If you’re considering setting up a financial account yourself, here’s what these creators have to say.
“Do it!” Colette encouraged. “The personal finance community is important. Start following a few and you’ll start getting a lot more suggested profiles. It’s a space to share your victories so others can celebrate with you or a place to ask for advice.
Colette has also received positive messages from people who say she influenced them to start their own page, which she sees as a big win.
“My advice is to use whatever you have right now to acquire as much skill and knowledge as possible,” Yahya added. “Always be humble to learn from people, no matter their age or background.”
Dr. Sulekha’s advice is: “Go for it. If you wait for the ‘right time’ to start, you’ll always have a reason why it’s not the ‘right time’. Start slow, start small and you will definitely grow, whether it’s your savings or your own account.
- Read other articles we’ve written about personal finance here.
Featured Image Credit: Colette’s Finance Journey / My Ringgit Book