Early Retirement, Finance

Financial Independence? Early Retirement? Does Your Spouse Agree?

“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.” 
― Jane AustenSense and Sensibility

[ Day 70 of 2000 ]

Mine doesn’t! Not completely, any way.

If you and your spouse cannot agree on something, that is a great thing! It is your chance to iron out deficiencies in (maybe even your) understanding, and raise concerns.

Let’s go back in time. December 2015. My office had shutdown for the holidays, and BusyDad was at work. Browsing aimlessly, I stumbled upon the site that changed my life. Mr Money Mustache’s blog. Until then, I had this vague idea that we are saving more than half of what we get – so we should be able to live for at least as many years as we worked. Not good news – Especially considering that we had just saved for 2 years by then.

I really took advantage of the ten day break – I binge read most of that blog. I would talk to BusyDad every evening about it, and he would tell me the same thing. No one really knows anything when they are talking about the stock market. Just because it behaved in a certain way for so long doesn’t mean that it is going to continue. Blah blah blah…

I then went on to read and talk about jlcollinsnh, and same response. By then, I lost it. I forced him to start reading it. And he refused.

Discuss FIRE with your spouse (no nagging!)

After weeks of nagging, he did a google search on Mr Money Mustache. And happily reported to me that he wasn’t actually retired, just left his job. He was still making a ton of money through his blog. And poor guy, he can’t even use it (unless he lies outright) because he discloses his expenses on his blog.

I retorted that if that wasn’t retirement, I would take whatever it was – in place of the miserable life we were having. We had a carefully crafted routine. I would get up, get ready and leave before both of them woke up. GBoy and BusyDad would then wake up, get ready and go to school or office. I would pick GBoy from the extended care, and get home – both of us too tired to do anything but lie down and read a bit. I would hardly see BusyDad before I went to bed. The only time we all spent time as a family was on the weekends. If we found time after all the other commitments – birthday parties, soccer matches, and friends visiting us.

Or not!

We had a huge row. I announced that we were going to cut down on our expenses, and live under $30,000. And he said that the only reason he worked was because he wanted to spend as and when he pleased. I couldn’t stop him.

Our normal arguments are phenomenal – We both lose our tempers fairly quickly. It usually ends in one person storming out of the room. In a few minutes, I forget that we had an argument and start talking to him normally. And he reminds me that we were fighting. At that point, we have both calmed down a bit, and we resolve the issue or agree to not discuss it any more 🙂

Not this time.

We were talking again pretty soon, but I was convinced that I was right. And he was convinced that he was. And we both had to convince the other person.

Collect data

I did one thing – I signed up with mint, and started tracking our expenses. It was eye opening. BusyDad was spending as much as he wanted. And our expenses were still around 30K-35K dollars per year. This also happened to be the time we were paying PMI on our mortgage, and we were trying aggressively to pay it off.

Take a time out

Yes, you have read it all. You know a lot about it, and (s)he is not taking the effort to understand it. That’s okay. They don’t have to be onboard from day one. What you can do is try and understand why they are not comfortable with the whole idea.

Try again?

We discussed FIRE again. A couple of months after our first row. I listened to his concerns. He listened to mine. We both agreed that our quality of life wasn’t great. He wasn’t convinced that retiring was the solution, but we agreed to try to fix our lives. Consider any options we could think of.

BusyDad had genuine issues – Although he is not crazy about his job, he doesn’t hate it. He cannot imagine what to do with all the spare time if he retired. I told him that he didn’t have to retire if he didn’t want to. He wouldn’t let me stay at home because he has always had this paranoia about something happening to him and me not being able to take care of GBoy and myself. He agreed that being financially independent would fix that.

In essence, he could agree about financial independence, but not about retiring early. I was okay with that – I wouldn’t feel bad about him doing all the hard work while I enjoyed my life at home if he had the option of leaving it, but opted to stay.

If we hadn’t given ourselves time to get emotions out of the equation, that second discussion wouldn’t have gone so well. And by then, he had also had time to do some thinking. He was ready to consider it if it was so important to me. You may have to ignore the big elephant in the room for a while, until both of you are ready for that discussion.

Discuss what changes you BOTH can make

Use all the data you have collected. Find out what you are currently spending, and decide whether you want to cut down on any expenses. May be identify some that you think you can do without. Just make sure that your spouse is not the only one making sacrifices. If there are items you can act upon without changing his(her) life, make those changes.

Just remember that what is important to your spouse is probably not as important to you, and vice versa. Do not expect your spouse to cut everything out. Not gonna happen!

Periodically look at your progress

There is probably nothing more motivating than actually seeing your investments go up in value. Keep tracking your progress. And make sure your spouse is a involved.

We track ours in a spreadsheet. Every few weeks, I get BusyDad to take a look at it. He is not always very interested. But the progress makes him smile every single time.

What if you both still cannot agree?

Agree to disagree.

  • You can keep separate finances and retire when what you have can sustain your part of the expenses.
  • You can let your spouse do whatever (s)he wants, and make wise choices as you can. This will work only if (s)he doesn’t make too expensive decisions.

As to BusyDad and me, we follow the second bullet point. I didn’t want to keep separate finances – BusyDad doesn’t really care about money. I don’t trust him to make decisions regarding money 🙂 He will probably take the easiest choices – like just keeping all his money in his checking account. If I was anyway going to manage everything, I would rather not have it separate.

There are times when his choices annoys me. He doesn’t look for discounted prices – he just buys everything at full price. Or he takes GBoy to the Lego store and tells him that he can buy anything there. But then, these aren’t very frequent. He doesn’t like going to stores. I just ignore these incidents. That is what works for us. We are still on track!

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About BusyMom

Mom, Software Engineer, Dreamer - Can't wait to be less busy! . Please leave me any feedback you can think of. I am still learning and anything you can tell me about making this blog better is very much appreciated. .
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22 thoughts on “Financial Independence? Early Retirement? Does Your Spouse Agree?

  1. I lost track – did you go a full nine rounds in this boxing match?! Lol oh my. Agree – it’s so hard to get on the same page at times with a spouse. But I would say keep leading by being the good example! I also like to refer to it as compromises and not sacrifices – keep it as a team effort where no one is losing!

  2. This is super funny. Glad you guys agreed about it in the end! Way to persevere. I’m sure BusyDad is so happy you didn’t give up the fight! I once asked my dad when he was going to retire, and he responded with “And do what when I retire? Just wait to die?”. Very Asian lol.

    Did you know you can buy legos by the pound? On ebay/Craigslist etc. Maybe you can buy a lot of pounds for GBoy and make him sort all the pieces? You can download the building instructions for sets online for FREE, so it’s like hacking legos. Lol, I should write a blog post about this. I got annoyed with the price of legos a few years back and realized there is an entire underworld trying to arb lego prices. Especially the minifigs. It’s hilarious.

    Also, I was slightly annoyed Lego is a private company as I wanted to buy their stock. What other toy has withstood decades of love from kids?

    1. After a hard day at office, he is ready to retire when I do. On other days, he is busy dreaming of buying some fancy car after I retire. I have told him that he could buy it provided he has made 25 times the expected expenses plus the cost of the car.

      Asian mentality even when it comes to Legos. We bought it all new. But haven’t bought a set in years now. I offer to double the money and put it in his college fund, and GBoy has been picking that option.

  3. This was hilarious and so relatable. I am not married, but have been in a relationship for over 7yrs! (marriage in on the cards though) As a “foot-in-the-door” cum “getting-ready-for-marriage” technique I started having conversation on financial independence and lifestyle changes (not early retirement though coz with the lack of social security and other factors such as inflation etc, Early Retirement in India looks like a big risk). He was sort of lukewarm first – but with his recent health struggle he seemed to sober up and agree to larger issues of cutting down lifestyle inflation and being aggressive in investments and having a fat financial backup. And with my new found rigour in fixing our financial lives – he seems to be warming up to the idea! Fingers crossed.

  4. Shooting for FI is the way to go when you’re young. Early retirement takes a long time and it’s not good to obsess about it too much.

    My wife was 6 months pregnant when I came home from work and told her I’m going to start a blog call Retire by 40. It took me a long time to convince her, but eventually she came on board. Now, she’s working on early retirement too. Hopefully, she can pull the plug by 2020. We’ve reached FI a long time ago so it’s her choice at this point.
    Keep at it.

    1. I now remember reading about it on your blog.
      It is hard to keep going when I think of early retirement. I am ready to retire now. You are right. We should concentrate on the FI.

  5. I’m busy reading through your blog and just wanted to say how much I like your writing style. It’s great to hear a honest take on the ‘discussion’ between you and your husband.

  6. My gf and I used to have “passionate discussions” all the time over finances, especially on helping her to up to speed about investments and buying used vs new. She’s wasn’t as used to buying used things from local postings. thrift shops or Craiglist as I was used to. Although, I do have limits myself (never buying used underwear).

    Other times, it was something super insignificant. I remember once about her getting mad over what gas we bought, because she felt that the “name brand” gas was superior and worth the extra 23 cents a gallon.

    The key really is to try to understand the other person’s perspective and go from there. It’s hard to start a dialogue sometimes. What seems insignificant to me might have been an immovable value to her. I have soften up on certain things that are not as important so I can win the bigger battles (like getting her to put her money into Vanguard instead). There’s no way I am sleeping in the living room again over $0.23. I’ve learned to pick the battles wisely.

    1. You got it – pick the battles wisely. I sometimes still struggle with it.

      BusyDad eats breakfast at work every single day. Refuses to carry something from home, and won’t eat before he leaves. Around $4 per day. That adds up. I am now learning to keep quiet!

      1. Oh man. I just wrote something really similar about my spouse and his enjoyment of going out for lunch. This is not the hill I want to die on! As long as we are doing the big things right, I have to let some of the small things go. But it can be challenging for sure.

        1. I publish my expenses here every month. February one is going to be bad. I sent BusyDad and GBoy grocery shopping last weekend, and out goes the budget. Will not do it again if I can help it. Lesson learnt.

  7. My wife still doesn’t believe it though we have more than 30X saved. It has been many conversations so far, no arguments. We both work very full time.

    1. That is funny. May be you can try cutting your hours if you want to? May be that will convince her?
      If you are not keen on retiring, it doesn’t really matter that you are FI, right? More money can’t hurt you.

  8. It is so very important to be in the same page as your spouse. Even when your opinions diverge, having a mutual understanding and set of ground rules will be a key to your financial success. I really enjoyed this post and reading about how you reconciled this disagreement.

  9. This is an interesting one.

    I don’t think spouses need to necessarily agree on early retirement for themselves, BUT they should at least support the other doing what they prefer. If one wants to retire early and it’s not financially detrimental to do so, that’s great. But quitting without the money to support the expenses – however that’s defined – seems like it’d be an area that could bubble up into other fights.

    I’m so glad Kristin and I are on the same page with it all. I think her FIRE number is bigger than mine by quite a bit, though. We honestly haven’t talked specifics on it in a while but once we get closer, we will. Actually you know what, screw that. We’ll have that convo this weekend!

    1. There is another reason BusyDad hates retirement. When his mom retired, it was like she lost all purpose in life. She steps out of the house about once a year. He is scared of that too…

      Plus we cannot really agree on how much money we need. His argument is that what if the stock market does something that it hasn’t done so far, and we find ourselves short of money later. After our skills see redundant, and it is not easy to make money.

      He has five more years to get used to the idea. Once we are FI, my guess is that we will both leave our jobs. I know that I will.

  10. It took my wife a while to get onboard with the FI journey. After years of hard work and paying down debt, we may be in a situation where she may not have to work after our second child is born. FI isn’t about retirement for us, it’s about more freedom and a better lifestyle.

    1. Congratulations! If I had two kids, I may have stayed at home irrespective of whether we reached FI or not. I don’t know if my salary minus the day care charges for tell kids is worth the hassle. I am glad you can do it financially.

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