More Shocking Truths About Frugalwoods!!!

The Truth about Frugalwoods is one of my all-time highest read blog posts. As this is a topic you all like to read about, I’ve been doing some more digging. I have even shocked myself with what I’ve pulled up about them this time – hold onto your hats people!!! I share this because I want to warn others to be very careful where and from whom you take advice, not just on the internet but in real-life too. Some close family members were recently duped out of their entire retirement and inheritance from someone purporting to give ‘financial advice’. Not only should you check out what you are being told, but also their background. Do they have qualifications to advise you? Insurance? Does it all add up?

I had heard some rumblings on the internet that the Frugalwoods are not being truthful about their income. All you ever read on their blog is that they had good jobs when they were working, in the not-for-profit sector and they make out that they are now ‘retired’ in the country. Well, everyone knows about working for a charity in Britain – most people would be lucky to be paid the National Minimum Wage. But even higher up the career ladder, you will not be getting rich. I guess we could probably lump together the Public Sector as not-for-profit, as the NHS for example, certainly does not pay most of its staff well either. A nurse starts out on around £21,000 a year here in the UK.

So it was a little bit shocking to dig around for Mr Frugalwoods tax returns online, (thanks to this MrMoneyMustache forum thread) and find out that he earnt a mere £209,735 in the financial year ending 2016, as the Executive Director of a company. Not retired at all! According to what I’ve read online, that would make him amongst the top 5% of US earners. But here in the UK that kind of income is only paid to the top 1%. Let’s put it this way – the Prime Minister of Great Britain only earns £150,402! Gosh, it must be nice for all those people who think they’re donating to a not-for-profit company in the USA – to find out how much they are paying their staff. Claiming only to exist to do good and then having people taking home salaries like that!!!! Mind you, there was recently a shocking episode of Dispatches on Channel 4 which uncovered similar ridiculous amounts that Housing Association bosses are making, whilst plenty of people are going homeless. We do live in a very unjust world.

Frugality, when one half of the couple is bringing home that kind of money is a very different thing from the likes of say….Jack Monroe (a single mother trying to exist on benefits with her child and struggling to feed herself). That’s 7x the average £30,000 income for men in the UK. And then Mrs Frugalwoods earns money on top from writing for various sources. I stopped following their blog a while ago, as it just didn’t seem to ring true to me and this confirms my gut feeling once again. Let me know in the comments whether or not you’re going to continue reading their blog.

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The Truth About Mr Money Mustache and Other US Financial Independence Blogs

Continuing in my series examining the real truth of US financial independence blogs, today we’re going to scrutinise ‘Mr Money Mustache’. This one is a real eye-opener and I encourage you to stick with the numbers and ask yourself whether you’d really trust this guy’s advice.

The short version is this guy must be at least a millionaire, if not a multi-millionaire. Hardly surprising then that he retired by 30, chooses not to work and can play around all day doing whatever the hell he wants. What shocked me more is he spends in 1 year the average starting salary of a nurse or teacher, here in the UK and states this is less than 10% of his annual income. Therefore, he’s easily bringing home in excess of £200,000, presumably in interest from a considerably larger sum he has invested – like millions of pounds!!! Hence my question, would you really take financial advice from this guy? Anyone can be frugal, I don’t knock that as a lifestyle choice. But it’s easy to be frugal when you have so much money in the bank that you don’t need to bother insuring your house because you have enough money to cover it, probably 10x over and some!

I don’t know anyone earning £100,000, I don’t actually know anyone making more than about £35,000 per year. I’d rather take financial independence advice from someone who’s living in the real world, who’s working a real job and making their way. I hope that’s what I’m doing here. So let’s look at his expenses in more detail and in English:

  • Property taxes – £1,456.35
  • Groceries – £4,595.76
  • Wine/ Beer – £246.75
  • Eating Out – £388.87
  • Medical – £8354.23
  • Car and other transport – £376.66
  • Home Renovations – £1303.72
  • Gym – £115.30
  • Clothing – £478.02
  • Sports Equipment – £75.33
  • Random shopping (presumably household items) – £768.70
  • Books, Games & DVDs – £294.41
  • Other – £324.49
  • Travel – £1794.91
  • Donations – £1,537.87
  • TOTAL £22,111.37
  • Spending £1842.61 per month!

I find it really peculiar that this guy does not have to pay for water, gas, electricity, sewerage or any kind of insurance. Of course he doesn’t have a mortgage or rent, like normal people do because he’s a millionaire. He doesn’t seem to pay for telephone, internet, doesn’t have life insurance, or a pension. He doesn’t even seem to get his hair cut. Maybe millionaires do not have to pay for these other things either?

I really hope this helps you not to compare yourself to people like this, it’s not reality for 99.9% of the population of the world. His monthly expenses may not be wild, in-fact they’re only £500 more than we pay to keep our household running and we are pretty darn frugal. The difference is whereas he’s only spending 10% of his income, most of the rest of us are probably spending 90% of our income trying to pay for the basics of life. I’d consider anyone able to save 25-50% of their monthly pay, to be doing pretty well.

So, over to you- does this change your perception f some of these US bloggers claiming financial independence in their 30s?

Self-Branding – The Ultimate Narcissism!

Has anyone else noticed this pervasive trend for self-branding? It makes me sick! People think that they can package up who they are and often try to make this meaningless mash of skills into their career, with the end of marketing themselves as brand. Now, I have no problem with this if you actually have a legitimate career – we all know that, for example; painters and decorators, builders, plumbers and so on often like to use their name as their brand. To me, this makes perfect sense. I do it myself because I am a sole trader and have a state registered profession that is my career. People in these kinds of jobs will also have many years of training behind them, at recognised institutions like colleges and universities.

What irks me is people who have a blog and think that blogging is a legitimate self-promotion path which qualifies them to market themselves as a writer, editor, copy-writer, personal and/or life coach, some kind of entrepreneur and God knows what else! The reality is that they have qualifications for none of these things and often, no paid experience to back it up. Erich Fromm suggested that narcissists objectify partial aspects of their personality they identify themselves with, such as intelligence, reputation and wealth etc (Erich Fromm Online 2017).

It just makes me want to vomit. You are not a brand, you are a person – yes, you are unique – yes and you certainly may have some skills. But please don’t use your blog and your social media accounts to promote yourself as something you are not. Actually, the people most likely to be using social media etc are those with narcissistic tendencies. Their pages are all about strategic self-promotion and and self-presentation. Social media presents a large opportunity to show off and users identify themselves with their displayable qualifications.

This kind of self-promotion is at best mis-leading and I bet these people don’t realise that, at worst – it could lead to legal action against them if something goes wrong. Do you know that you need to hold public liability insurance if you are going to act as a life coach? You need professional indemnity cover and you need legal cover, to protect you from libel and slander? Usually a condition of all these types of insurance is that you are working within the scope of your skills, in your field of practice. It would not hold up in a court of law to say that felt you had skills in life coaching because you’d written about how you changed your own life, on your blog.

Ultimately, I want to get across the message to be careful – both if you are looking for something on the web and if you are thinking of promoting yourself as providing some kind of service. If you are contemplating life-coaching, for example; make certain that whoever you are considering has some professional training and qualifications. For goodness sake, don’t just find someone and go with them because they make themselves sound good on their blog. Just because they managed to change their own life and influence some people digitally, it does not mean that they have a single ounce of skill that would allow them to coach someone else to do this! They probably count the number of comments on their blog as valid indicators of change/success.

Check out their qualifications, make sure they’ve not been purchased from some phoney online University or cheap correspondence course. Make sure they actually have some qualifications! The same applies if you are thinking of hiring someone to write some content for you, or an on-line article perhaps. For goodness sake, find someone with real experience at an actual newspaper or similar. Make sure they have a degree in journalism or the English language. If you want someone to speak at an event, make sure they have plenty of relevant experience doing so before. A lot of people ‘could’ get up in-front of an audience, but it doesn’t mean that they would be engaging, funny or worthwhile listening to.

References

Erich Fromm Online (2019). Narcissim. Available at: https://fromm-online.org/en/narzissmus/ [Accessed 2017].