Monday, January 10, 2022

Way Too Transparent: All the Money We've Made (2022 update)

Another year in the books, another year of the pandemic to endure. 

Welcome to 2022, what promises to be the longest seventy three months in memory. Supply chains are stretched, we've collectively stopped trying to avoid giving each other COVID, inflation is rampant, and Tom Brady will win another Super Bowl in a few weeks.

One bright spot is wage growth, which is greater than any point since the great recession.

Source: Atlanta Fed. Click for bigness.

As usual, we don't fit the trend as our household income fell in 2021 when I retired early. As Baby JC arrived, Mrs. Done by Forty called an audible as she found she actually likes her career, especially as it gives her a chance to work in her field and from home for the time being. And she got a raise, too, which is nice.

With all these changes in our income, it's probably time to update our three-year-old post on income transparency. 

So dig in, voyeurs. Here's all the income we've ever made in the Done by Forty household.

Click for bigness.

Here's a bit of context:

  • These figures come from Social Security records, updated to include our contributions to our HSAs. (Money you contribute to an HSA is not taxable for Social Security.) And these numbers don't include any 401k matches, stock plan benefits, or rental income.
  • After two years in undergrad I dropped out in 2000 to move to California, working at the Red Cross during the day and Hollywood Video at night for a year, until I got a job at the state university in 2001. The job didn't pay much but did have amazing benefits, like completely free tuition. The school accommodated working students, so I was able to take 12 class credits in the evenings to finish my bachelors degree (thanks to once-a-week, three hour classes).
  • I stayed in this job through 2009, earning my teaching credential along the way. I figured staying at the same job was a good thing, not realizing the significant opportunity costs of staying with the same organization, especially when my starting pay was so low and raises at a government job were hard to come by. 
  • After dating for a couple years from 2007-09, yet-to-be-Mrs. Done by Forty and I moved to Arizona so she could pursue her PhD. After teaching in Arizona for a hot second, I moved to the private sector and immediately saw a jump in pay. 
  • After a promotion, our combined salaries got over $100k, well above the median household income in 2012. This just happens to be when we stopped listening to Dave Ramsey's advice, and started getting curious about financial independence.
  • Mrs. Done by Forty and I both briefly had full time paid jobs from 2019-2021 as we approached our FIRE number. After I retired and we approached the time that Mrs. Done by Forty would as well, she realized she wanted to keep working (at least while she can work from home) which is both good for her career and our finances.

Even as I'm writing this, I start to wonder why I'd want to share these figures with the handful of folks who read the blog.

I think it's a bit of a gap in the personal finance community, to be honest, though an understandable one. It's uncouth to share your salary, right? It's gauche. Your salary is the one thing you're never supposed to say out loud.

And yet sharing net worth in personal finance blogs is acceptable and fairly common. It's funny how sharing the amount of our wealth is no big deal, but sharing the income that got you that wealth is almost entirely off limits.

Besides, I've always thought sharing my income with team members at work was one of the good things I did in my career. It helped a team member who trained me realize that she was being paid less than the person she was mentoring and showing the ropes. It led to her getting a much deserved raise. 

While I'm not lucky enough to work with you kind readers, I think there's still some benefit to transparency. We're all trying to do the best we can with our money. I assume nearly everyone wants to retire someday. If our household is retiring later or earlier than someone else, is that due to making different decisions or just earning more?

I figure if I'm going to blog anonymously about retiring at forty, then maybe I ought to be open about how that happened. Income's a big part of the story of how we reached financial independence: not much reason to leave that part out.

As always, thanks for reading.

*Photo is from waffries at Flickr Creative Commons.


  1. Hi! I'm new to your blog but very interested in this idea of retiring early. I appreciate your transparency and sharing income. I personally think the idea that we shouldn't share our income just helps perpetuate unjust wealth inequality.

    1. Hi there Caitlyn and best of luck on your efforts to retire early!

      I agree that a big part of keeping incomes secret is to avoid having conversations on how unequal incomes are, within companies, within fields, etc., especially conversations on what ought to be done to address them.

      Honestly that's why I find the sharing of net worth so curious in the PF sphere. Wealth is maybe more okay to share than income for whatever reason.

  2. SavvyFinancialLatinaJanuary 10, 2022 at 10:48 AM

    We started seeing improvement in net worth when our combined salaries started to hit above the $100K mark.

    Don't get me wrong. Even before we were being frugal and investing. But we still had to pay for living expenses.

    Once our incomes increased, it was much easier to invest more money. It's, also, helped we have been together sharing base expenses (housing and utilities).

    1. Hi there, SFL. That 100k mark was the big turning point for us, too: we didn't consider financial independence as a goal until that happened. Probably not a coincidence.

      As you said, once the income is big enough, all the steps that lead to FI get much easier. And yep, big advantages in sharing housing costs, for sure. Thanks for reading & commenting!

  3. So many people push financial success stories without the context of what income got them there, on principle I always think it makes sense to share where our income is and how that's related to our financial journeys!

    1. Hey there, Revanche. Yeah, the lack of context is a pretty common fixture in financial success stories. I totally get why income is omitted but I figure if you're going to share net worth, maybe this is also something to include?