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

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!

Just find what works for you! Click To Tweet

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Friday, Mar 24, 2023