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BEHIND THE MASK: MY INTERVIEW WITH DEBT.COM

 

interview with debt.com

Hey everyone!  This past week, I did an interview with Brian Bienkowski, from Debt.com. They’ve featured some of my content in the past, and wanted to do a blog profile, keeping things light and fun. The primary focus of the interview was on the whole ‘anonymity’ thing.

It was a fun experience, something I’d like to do more of. In particular, I found it interesting to see how the original content was edited, then pared down to the final product.

It’s not a long article by any stretch, (don’t tell anyone, but I’m not really that interesting 😉 ). Still, I thought it would be cool to write a follow up post and include the additional content from the interview.  You know, the stuff that found it’s way onto the cutting room floor. : )

Below is the interview in it’s (almost) entirety. I left out a few sections to improve the flow.  I also cleaned up my sentence structure in a couple of places to make it more readable.   If you do happen to make it to the end, or you just want the abridged version, head on over to debt.com for the final product. Thanks for reading!  : )

Why do you remain anonymous?

I guess there are a couple of reasons.  As ironic as it may seem, I feel like I can be more honest with my writing. In other words,  anonymity provides a freedom of expression that I don’t know I would feel otherwise.  I think that I might be tempted to filter my content if I knew it would be read by all of my friends, colleagues and family.  It could also serve to stifle the creative process.

My wife and my mom and a couple of close friends read my stuff though, which is nice because I feel like they keep me accountable, there’s no anonymity with them. 🙂

The other reason is just a desire to separate my creative pursuits from my day to day life, the 9-5 etc.  I’m also a songwriter, and while I don’t carry anonymity with that, I still prefer to keep it separate from everything else.

(Asked to expand on my answer above, I provided the following detail)….

I’ll give you a couple of examples of where I may struggle to be completely honest in my writing, if I wasn’t doing so anonymously:

I write a lot about the negative impact of excessive consumerism, the silliness of people going into large amounts of debt to buy fancy houses and $50,000 pickup trucks.  But I have friends and family, and colleagues who do just that.  They don’t see things through the same lens that I do, they have different priorities, and I respect that.

If I knew they would be reading my content, and it may cause them to feel badly, as though I thought less of them for decisions they’ve made, then I would be very reluctant to write how I truly feel about that stuff.  My purpose is not for anyone to feel judged, but to help people make smarter decisions.  After all, I’ve made plenty of poor financial decisions myself over the years.  However, I realize that people close to me may not take it that way.

I also write about things like side hustles, breaking the 9-5, and my own goals for financial independence.  Frankly, I’d rather my employer not know about those plans at present 🙂

Why do you think people take money advice from an anonymous source?

I think that people can discern pretty quickly whether or not the content they’re reading has substance, has depth, no matter what the source.  You can’t fake it, people see through fluff, through crap.  I’ve encountered many known, or “named” blogs, that are completely insincere with their message, and questionable in their motivation.

What I will say is that, if you are choosing anonymity, you had better work that much harder at connecting and building relationships, as you are lacking that visual presence.

In my case, I happen to be this super relational person, who values people above just about everything.  I have these amazing readers, and I have to trust that they can sense my sincerity, my desire to help and connect in a meaningful way!

Have you had anyone question your validity because you don’t provide a name?

No, but I actually look forward to that moment!  I don’t think anyone should strive for 100% consensus. I value opposing views, other perspectives.  It’s helped me to grow as a person, to better understand other points of view.

You know, it’s funny, because when I started my blog, I figured that my anonymity was something unique, that it would be a way of differentiating myself from other bloggers.  Little did I know that it’s actually very common, and not unique at all.  It shows you how ignorant I was when I started out! 🙂

Some of the most genuine, wholehearted bloggers that I’ve encountered maintain their anonymity. Physician On Fire and Miss Mazuma would be a couple that come to mind, amongst others.

What is the craziest/dumbest thing that you’ve helped someone overcome financially? Example, bought a house they couldn’t afford or cars, diamond rings, etc.

I was a financial advisor for many years.  I’ve had the opportunity to help a lot of clients get through some pretty rough stuff.  Helping people recover financially after tragic events such as a divorce, or the death of a spouse are pretty high on the list.  Those are the times when you feel as though you’ve really made a difference, as the situation can seem hopeless for those involved. At those times they become very dependent upon you for advice.

What is the financially craziest/dumbest thing that you’ve done?

It was a number of years ago, and involved falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation.  I received a promotion/raise at work, and almost immediately went out and bought a $40,000 vehicle.  Fortunately, I sold it a few years later which mitigated the damage somewhat, but it really set us back for a while.  I had an incredible emotional attachment to that vehicle, and letting it go was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do, but did I ever grow from that experience. It taught me not to place so much value on material possessions.

What is the one thing that you don’t mind splurging on or can’t help splurging on?

My wife and I fulfill our cravings for sushi here and there.  I don’t really drink much alcohol, but enjoy a the occasional Stella or Alexander Keith’s.  I’m also a big fan of Michael Connelly novels, and I have this tradition of buying one at the airport whenever I’m flying somewhere.

I named three, how’s that for a splurge!?!  🙂

There you have it, the ‘bonus’ material from my Debt.com feature this week!

Cheers,

-MMM

 

 

Comments 8

  1. Hey MMM!! Thanks so much for the shout out!! I love this behind the mask look. You touch on some great points that factored into my decision to remain anonymous, mainly talking about work and creative control. When no ones knows it is you the freedom can be liberating which helps the words flow directly from your mind/heart to your fingers.

    “You can’t fake it, people see through fluff, through crap. I’ve encountered many known, or “named” blogs, that are completely insincere with their message, and questionable in their motivation.”

    Being sincere is something I struggled with in the beginning. I realized there were so many other voices competing to get the same info out there. I also realized I don’t need to scream the loudest to get my point across. This has relaxed my writing and slowed me down to only write when I feel it does justice to the topic….not to fill space because it’s a Wednesday. That being said, I LOVE that other bloggers have original content 3-5 times a week (gives me things to read!) but it was super stressful for me. We all need to find that balance that makes sense for us and our readers. Once a week seems to work for me. My last blog (also anonymous but more a DIY lifestyle blog) I posted 5 times a week for almost 2 years!! Just reading that last sentence exhausts me. 😉 Haha – anywho, congrats on your Debt.com feature and more good things to come!!

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      Author

      Thanks Miss. M! I love your perspective, it definitely enhances the conversation, and the points I made in the post. As a newer blogger, I can certainly relate to finding the right balance and where I fit amongst the crowd. I’m certainly not prolific enough to be writing 5 times/week, and I’m fine with that! 🙂

  2. Good stuff. That is interesting to see how the original content looked vs. the final product. Was it a written interview or did you use your fancy audio equipment to record, then transcribe the call?

    My anonymity is now 100% gone. My last name slipped when I was on Stacking Benjamins, also some affiliate links reveal our full names. One reason I liked anonymity in the beginning was to shield myself from criticism – now that I’ve been criticized (multiple times) I realized that I just don’t care.

    Good stuff MMM!

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      Author

      Thanks Ty! It was a written interview. We tried to connect by phone but I had a pretty terrible cold and then schedules seemed to conflict. This format worked well, however. As for the fancy audio equipment, I’ve been thinking that I’ll need to dream up a podcast at some point, since I’m set up so well for it, but that won’t be for a while 🙂

  3. So Miss M and I landed on the cutting room floor, but there are dozens of us writing in relative anonymity many of the reasons you outline. Thank your mentioning us, though!

    Here are the reasons I gave for my choice not to attach my name and face to the blog at this point (from my first blogiversary post):

    First, I’m still working, and I haven’t made up my mind as to exactly when I’ll be moving on. I would prefer to keep the early retirement idea under wraps at least until I’ve come to a decision and have shared that decision with my colleagues. I wouldn’t want to be perceived by anyone as having one foot out the door, and I intend to remain fully engaged until I finish out my time with my current employer.

    Second, it’s kinda cool to play a real life Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne. It’s almost exactly the same except I’m not super rich, powerful, or all that handsome. Actually, you’ve never seen me, so scratch that last part. I am all that handsome. And I save lives! So… it’s a pretty tight analogy. It is fun to hold this little secret, even if there’s a decent chance no one I work with has read my writing yet.

    Finally, I prefer to keep some separation between my online persona as the Physician on FIRE and the everyday me. They are essentially one and the same, and I don’t type anything I don’t believe or share stories that aren’t entirely true, but I like to think of PoF as a character I play on the internet. It’s a character based on me and it is me, but I’m not sure how I feel about blurring the lines between the two. The distinction is pretty black and white right now, and I like it that way. I’m not ready to introduce shades of grey.

    Cheers from an internet stranger!
    -PoF

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      Author

      Hey PoF, thanks for sharing! You articulate this so well. We share a lot in common in regards to our reasons for anonymity. I also like the separation, the alter ego, even if it’s purely for my own entertainment lol. I certainly don’t save lives on a daily basis, that’s one big difference! I manage to bail people out here or there, I guess..solve some problems. 🙂

  4. Great interview MMM! I can relate. I blog anonymously because I definitely do not want my employer or colleagues to see my blog. (I have made some, er, choice comments about the field of PR, in which I work.) I have not shared my blog with most of my friends and family, though little by little I’m sharing with a few. It’s hard to envision a day where I will not need my paycheck, but if I ever arrived at that place I would be fine sharing my identity. So many bloggers that I read blog anonymously and I don’t mind that at all. If anything, I feel like it enables them to be totally candid. That’s why we read blogs, right?

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      Author

      I so agree with these points, Linda. I wrote a post last week, mostly out of frustration with a negative cultural shift I’m seeing in my workplace. I want to able to voice those concerns without fear of backlash, in hopes that someone may be able to relate, or find encouragement. : )

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