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Privacy, Security, and Your Net Worth

Is it safe to tell others how much money you have?
Is it safe to publish your net worth online?
Can you tell your kids how much money you have?
Should you have secret money stashed away from your partner?

There is a cultural taboo in the US when it comes to talking about money. Pretty much anything regarding finances. People are hesitant to share how much they paid for their car, their house, or how much they have in student loan debt.

I do consulting calls with readers from this blog and even you guys are quite shy about telling me the details of your finances. I get it – it’s like walking around nekked on the street – you feel exposed.

Talking about your net worth, of course, would be a huge deal. As for why, I’m not sure, I used to be the same way. But I have grown rather comfortable talking about every aspect of my finances with others. I can tell that some get a little uncomfortable with that – not because I’m sharing but probably because they feel the pressure that they need to share as well.

Mind you, I’m not trying to make them uncomfortable but I am just not afraid or shy about my finances. If it comes up in a conversation and I feel like talking about it then I’ll mention it.

But what could a person do with that information? If someone knows my financial details, could they exploit it? The main question I would want answered is, could someone else take my money away from me just because I publicized my net worth or the superficial details of my financial accounts?


Worst Case Scenario

Is my neighbor or my coworker gonna tie me up in my house, keep me hostage and take me to the bank to empty out my bank accounts?

Is someone going to try to assume my identity after stealing all my information and cash out my accounts? Is someone out there ugly enough to assume this mug?

What if I tell someone that I have a net worth of like $800k and they tell some other shady fuck who then tries to hack into my accounts and steal my dough?

These truly are worst case scenarios and I’m sure they can happen but it’s incredibly unlikely. And likely, you’ll have a sense that something is going on and that someone is trying to scam you. Your spidey senses will get triggered and you’ll know whom not to talk to, much less share your net worth with.


Sharing Your Finances Details

Most medical professionals hang out with responsible individuals. We don’t hang out with reckless individuals because that will reflect on us.

Now, if I’m having a conversation with a barista for the first time then I won’t be telling them how much money I have and which accounts I hold it in – that doesn’t make sense.

But having a blanket policy that “I won’t share my financial details with others” is excessively restrictive. I want others to do well financially, especially colleagues, especially those in medicine. A resident might benefit from knowing all my financial fuck ups and all my financial successes.


Protecting Your Financial Security

Checking/Savings Account

If a hacker breaks into my bank’s servers and transfers my money into their account, will I lose any money? No. The bank carries the burden of protecting their website and servers.

Unless they can prove that I gave my password and username to someone else, they will be financially responsible for any money I lose.

Brokerage Account

I have investments in the top 3 brokerage accounts, Vanguard, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab. What would happen if a hacker got into my Vanguard account and funneled all the money to their own account?

Vanguard isn’t just responsible for making trades based on my behalf. They also carry the burden of protecting my information and the accounts which are held under my name.

That’s a whole ton of responsibility but that’s why I don’t use a brokerage like I choose a large enough brokerage which is under the tight scrutiny of the SEC.

Username and Passwords

It’s good to turn out 2-factor authentication whenever possible. Ideally you would want to use multi-factor authentication but that’s not yet available with most financial institutions.

The idea here is that someone will get access to your account and make changes or withdraw money. Is it likely? No.

Most banks set limits for certain transactions and will often require further methods of identification before they will allow hundreds of thousands to be transferred to some random account.

Inbound Security

The next level of security is phishing and inbound calls asking you for information.

I delete all emails and don’t respond to any phone calls on my phone. In fact, my phone doesn’t receive phone calls. If I want to talk to someone then I call them – it’s my own security method and has worked well for me so far.

As for emails, whatever the situation is, I will contact my bank myself and ask about the matter and won’t reply to an email otherwise or follow a link to my bank’s website.


Secrecy and Your Money

I know some parents are very secretive when it comes to their net worth. I’m not sure what the reason for it is. I learned a lot by being involved in my parents’ financial dealings.

I guess if you are afraid of your kids pulling a Menendez on you, you might have bigger problems. Please see Dr. Phil.

As for your partner, that’s a tough issue, no doubt. But I believe that it’s wise to have some money stashed aside for you as an individual irrespective of whom you’re betrothed to.

I would be 100% comfortable with my partner hiding some cash from me just in case I decided to fuck her over. It doesn’t scare me, it doesn’t intimidate me, and it wouldn’t make me feel as though she wasn’t committed to the relationship.


Legal Risk

If you are worried about being identified as a high net worth individual and don’t want some sue-happy lawyer coming after your wealth then consider an umbrella policy.

In many states, the money in your home and retirement accounts is protected but often only up to a certain amount. It’s worth researching once your net worth starts climbing.


Advantages of Sharing

In my case, because I have shared the details with others, others have shared their details with me. I’ve learned a lot from this reciprocity because some facts weren’t even in my dictionary.

By talking to some of you guys, for example, I’ve learned all sorts of ways how medicine can be practiced. It’s been fascinating. And many of you have shared the details of your finances with me.

When it comes to finances, the devil is in the details. And though it can be a dry conversation, learning a few tips and tricks can set you miles ahead.

Your financial decisions, whether blunderbuss or genius, can help someone else out. I think it’s a shame for one medical professional to have totally figured out the game but keep all the details to themselves. Sharing is caring, people.


In Summary

I haven’t identified any risk to my life or safety by disclosing my net worth to others. I don’t see a risk of blogging about it, talking about it in a conversation, or publicizing the information otherwise.

The money you have has several layers of protection depending on whether it’s in a brokerage account, a bank account, or invested otherwise. It’s really hard for someone else to gain access to much of it.


One reply on “Privacy, Security, and Your Net Worth”

Interesting topic for sure. I have struggled with just coming out in the open and reveal my net worth but I have left clues around in podcasts and some other places about it. But on my blog haven’t yet made the leap to just disclose it.

I don’t mind sharing it with colleagues who are interested and my radiology colleague and I have similar investing philosophies so we often share our current status.

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