Are People Shooting Themselves in the Foot With Income Reports?


Money (Photo credit: aresauburn™)

I’ve always had fun looking at the income reports of others, as it’s so interesting to learn how people are doing, how successful they are, and where there is money to be made.

On the other hand, can income reports be a dangerous thing? Is it like walking down the streets in your underwear — showing too much?

Upside of income reports

  • People are voyeuristic. They love to come and see how you’re doing (yes, people love to know how much others make). If you’re doing well, more people will be interested in coming to check it out, and you might be able to gain a lot of traffic and followers from your success.
  • Publishing your income reports can be a way to keep yourself more accountable. If you had a plan to go out on your own, then people will have an objective way to see if you’re succeeding or failing, at least by the standard of income.

Downside of income reports

  • If you don’t make a lot of income, it might be embarrassing to publicize that fact for the whole world to see. However, if you make a lot of income, it might be even worse for you, because now you might be seen as bragging. Even with the best of intentions, people can get jealous and upset.
  • Large income reports can attract competition, which can eat into those earnings. It might not be such a good idea to advertise that you’re making an absolute killing, because you’re essentially giving away all of your market research for free and opening the door wide open.

My conclusion

I personally published how the first three months of freelancing went for me, and as you can see, I didn’t exactly make a lot of money. This did help to keep me accountable, and show everyone that it’s not a quick way to riches.

However, let’s say down the road things really take off; someone might come to a new income report and see the good, without realizing all the hard work that it took to get to that point.

As an example of a good income report, read the June 2012 Wealth Report by Zero Passive Income. They really go into detail, so everything is laid bare, both the good and the bad (I also love the charts). On the other hand, they’re not losing much by advertising their income, because they appear to derive the lion’s share of this income from their employment. I don’t see how they’d be opening themselves up to competition or other adverse effects, at least not directly. Maybe in situations like this, one can be open with their income.

Is it sometimes better to STFU? What do you guys think? :)

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  1. says

    I never minded sharing my income on my blog. It’s not like the amount I make has ever been impressive, so I don’t feel a need to keep it private. That said, since my monthly income reports also included spending, I quit doing them several months ago because I got tired of people griping at me. “You spent $4 on batteries? OMG BUT YOU HAVE DEBT TO PAY OFF!”

    I do love reading income reports from other freelancers, so I’m trying to decide on a way to share that information without boring my PF readers and/or getting attacked for buying a frozen pizza. :)

    • says

      Haha, yeah, I can see how that would be tiring. That’s the downside — you’ll be judged, sometimes over ridiculous things, and no matter where you stand, someone’s going to find something to say about it.

  2. Marc @ Train Horns Delivered says

    I personally don’t see the downside. If you reach a level were you are making so much that you aren’t comfortable sharing you can always stop.

    However, if you look at Pat Flynn, his earliest income reports were around 8,000 which is a dream income for many people and his best from of social proof.

    When people discovered he was making that kinda money the followed his writing shared his post and helped him grow his income to were it is today 40K per month.


    • says

      Hi Marc,

      I guess every case is different. I have seen cases where it can be damaging in some ways, but you’re quite right about how it can also build up a following. It can be quite inspiring, too. :)

      • Rus says

        Income reports let you participate in the law of attraction theory, and whilst they have all the downsides you mention, if the only people you interact with are clients you’re missing out on a lot of inspiration, motivation and learning.

        • says

          Hi Rus,

          I’m not sure what you mean by “if the only people you interact with are clients”?” as an income report, by its very nature, is open to the whole web.

          P.S. The drive to Mongolia sounds amazing. :)

    • says

      Hey Marc,

      Even Pat is “suffering” from his income report. Check out how many sites are now on the first page of google for his Security Guard Training site that DIDN’T exist prior to Pat’s niche duel series.

      I’ve personally stopped my income report as my business was threatened by jealous people. It sucks, but people are not all awesome like Kevin here :-)

      • says

        That is one of the things I would be afraid of, too! Human nature is what it is, and although there are benefits to sharing that kind of info, there can be drawbacks as well!

  3. says

    I love the goals — they’re my favorite part of my blog, and others. I don’t publish income or spending, just debt payments since that’s my focus right now. After debts are gone, I’ll be focusing on other goals, but I’m pretty open about my income. An ex-boyfriend found my blog so I have wondered if I should be less transparent in other areas, though, so I totally understand that there is a line out there somewhere! Also, Andrea should not have bought those batteries.

    • says

      I love reading the goals, too, but I’ve seen some people go too far. Some privacy is a very useful and powerful thing. :)

  4. says

    I like doing the monthly cash flow post. It keeps me accountable and let me know how I’m doing that month. They do tend to get a bit boring though. I really need to spice it up a bit.

    • says

      Hi Joe,

      I’m undecided, myself. I see both good and bad to publishing one’s income, and it really depends on how anonymous or not you are, how you’re earning that income, and how much/little it is. Most of the commentators seem to be for the income reports, so I’m hoping we’ll get a dissenting viewpoint soon. 😉

  5. says

    I personally don’t see the downside either. Blog income and/or investment income is inspiring to me. I guess some people don’t feel the same.

    The reason I post my information, is to keep me goal-oriented and accountable. For most things in life, I see nothing wrong with transparency. In fact, our society would be much better off if everyone was more transparent and up-front with such items.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a world without assumptions and stigmas? I’m dreaming of course :)

    Good post, nothing new on this site 😉

    • says

      Hi Mark,

      I’m not sure. When I was exploring whether it was a good idea to tell other people how much you make at work, I learned that there are both upsides and downsides to doing so. What I find surprising is that although most people are in support of income reports here, people seemed a lot more disapproving about sharing one’s employment income. Why? Isn’t that just an income report in another domain?

      I also find it interesting that in other cultures, the taboos aren’t the same. In China & Taiwan for example, they have little qualms about asking you how much you make per month, even if you’ve just met. 😉

  6. Jeremy @ Zero Passive Income says

    Hey Tony,
    First off, thanks so much for mentioning us in this post. It’s very flattering and encouraging to know that people are actually reading our stuff.
    For us, the feedback that we’ve received about posting our income and net worth has been positive. Until recently, we were focused on paying down all of our non-mortage debt and found that our story was inspiring for several of our readers who were going through the same kind of journey.
    Moreover, because we feel like the we’re getting audited by the whole world, it makes us feel a strong sense of accountablity and helps ensure that we stay on track with our goals.
    We’ll continue to post our reports as long as we feel it’s a benefit for others and for ourselves. =]

  7. says

    I am with you on this Kevin. I am not sure if it servers purpose to show income unless you are in making money with blog kind of niche. Pat Flynn has been incredibly successful, but his niche allows him to do so. For PF bloggers, I don’t know the same strategy can work.

    • says

      Hi Shilpan,

      I agree, I think that sometimes it can make sense but not always. I think people here are a bit too free to espouse the merits of the income report, when they most likely would not be so free with their employment income.

      If you’re talking about dividend income on a dividend investing site, or your debt on a debt site, I think those are areas where the income report can work.

      If you’re talking about more general income or especially business income, then I think it starts to have more of a downside. If you found a hot niche for a website where it’s easy for someone else to come in and spin a site, too, then you probably want to keep that info to yourself. You can talk about it in more general terms if you want to.

  8. says

    Hmm I’m torn on this one. On one side, it’s cool to be transparent. On the other side, I don’t want someone knocking down my door asking me for money.

    • says

      Hi Martin,

      That’s something I didn’t think about in my initial analysis, but a very important point nonetheless. Since in Canada, a business address, etc… is all a matter of public record, I’m not as anonymous as I used to be. 😉

  9. says

    I don’t see much downside either, except for the jealousy factor. I encountered that earlier this year where someone tried to use my income report to say I was doing a bunch of crap I wasn’t (so much for being transparent). Anyway, that problem is handled and be damned with the haters!

  10. Squeezer @Personal Finance Success says

    I like reading about the income reports of others. I almost never say anything (other than a good job!). I love seeing how much a person is making off of their dividend investments.

    • says

      I generally like reading the reports, too. I think sometimes they can go too far; other times it’s really great to read on a person’s progress towards their goals.

  11. says

    Personal finance is like golf— you are really only competing against yourself and your bad impulses. So to me it does little good to look at the income report of others.

    • says

      This is a very good point in one way. I do like reading the progress of other’s goals from time to time, but the most important element of personal finance is that it’s, well, personal, and it’s our own success and protecting ourselves from our own bad habits that we need to be most concerned about!

  12. says

    I share mine on my site, mainly because I want people to know the possibilities for online income, but also how hard it is to grow them. I’m only three months in, so who knows where I’ll be in the future, but having them online is both a historical record and a way to keep my motivated and accountable. Great site!

    • says

      I just checked one report out and they are pretty detailed! I think this could be a good way to hold some accountability, but I’m still undecided. I think here are some general rules I can come up with for now:

      * Employment income? The closer to the median, the less risk there is in sharing.
      * Business income? Depends on the business, but might be better to keep it private.

      * Debt of any kind: Usually no problems with sharing, but if you also have low income, be prepared for people to judge and criticize you. You need to show that you’re on a path to reducing this debt.

      What I’ve decided to do for my next income report is to continue to report relative to my monthly “nut”, which is all of my basic spending for a month. I might also compare it to my previous job income so people can see where I relatively stand. Context without giving away too much?


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