It’s a common question in the personal finance community … “How can I get my partner on board with Financial Independence?”
Tough to answer, because everyone’s relationship is a little different. But, the more we all share our stories and ideas, the more we can help others develop stronger financial plans with their partners!
So today I’m going to share some of my personal stories, and I want to hear yours, too!
Getting my wife on board with FI
First, it’s a bit unfair to say “I brought her” on board with FIRE. Because the truth is, my wife and I built our financial plan together. Even though I was responsible for 95% of the technical details and spreadsheet stuff, it’s our plan, our journey, and our life.
I didn’t realize this until years into our relationship … The biggest mental step I took in getting my wife on board was to de-board my own boat first. Like getting off my single kayak before jumping into a double kayak.
The beginning: Our first finance conversation …
About nine years ago, my wife (then girlfriend) had just graduated from college. She ran home one day and announced, “I got a job! Woo hoo!”
Since I was an idiot back then with tunnel vision (still am today sometimes), I ruined the mood immediately by hounding her with a series of money questions … “How much are they paying you? What benefits do they offer? 401(k)? Think we can afford a house soon?” To me, this was important stuff! We lived in Hawaii after all, and things ain’t so cheap out there.
My poor girlfriend started hyperventilating. We were on completely different pages financially. This was her first full-time job out of college and she hadn’t thought about all the “grown-up stuff” that I had been dealing with for years.
After a nice long fight and avoiding the topic for a few weeks, we finally sat down and talked about where we went wrong …
I learned these lessons pretty quickly:
- If she’s excited about something, I should get excited about it, too. Extinguishing her enthusiasm only teaches her to extinguish my enthusiasm in return. She will never be excited about money if I don’t show excitement about the things that are important to her.
- I learned that our financial journey would be a loooooong road. No sense in rushing things or pushing her into conversations she wasn’t ready for. We had the rest of our lives together to figure it all out. Awww, how sweet ;)
- I started to recognize that she could teach me things, too. She’s incredibly savvy, and I needed to be more like her in more ways.
Stronger as a team
As we kept dating, I started to realize that my girlfriend kicked ass in areas that I was never good at. She was very thrifty, always good at negotiating, and passionate about sustainability. She taught me how to reduce-reuse-recycle and helped curb some of my dumb spending habits.
The more I appreciated and learned about her cool strengths, the more she took an interest in mine. We found that teamwork makes us so much stronger than working as individuals.
I would ask her, “Hey, can you help me find a good deal on a surfboard?” She would save me hundreds of dollars in bargaining.
In return, she would ask me things like, “Hey can you help me with my tax return?” Or, “What is a Roth IRA? Should I set one up?”
Admitting our weaknesses to each other bonded us tighter. I learned that coming from different financial backgrounds wasn’t a bad thing. It was a good thing! Because we each had our own financial strengths.
Celebrating the 1st of every month! (Passive paychecks)
My career was in sales, so I used to get paid monthly commission checks. Some small, some big. My wife and I would always go out and celebrate when a big paycheck came in. This is common — many people celebrate work paydays.
But for me, it always felt bittersweet. On the one hand, I always want to celebrate when money comes into my life! But on the other hand, the blood/sweat/tears behind each paycheck was slowly killing me. Whenever we celebrated a payday, I couldn’t help but feel sad about the hundreds or thousands of non-refundable hours of my life I traded to earn that money.
So about five years ago, we made a change.
I bought a small rental property in Texas in 2015. When the first rent check came in, we yielded a few hundred dollars in profit. Not a huge amount, but the fact that we didn’t have to work for it was awesome. The next month brought another rent check. And the next month, and the next, etc. Soon enough, my wife and I started to celebrate the 1st of every month.
Monthly celebrations brought several benefits
- My wife got more excited about passive income instead of earned income. She saw firsthand the power of income-producing assets. She wanted more of them!
- It got us talking about money more regularly. Every month, we check in with each other, make sure we’re still happy with our plans, and modify anything if needed.
- Celebration became a regular part of our life. Whether we have a good month or bad month, money is always a positive topic and celebrated in our household. :)
A big “ah-ha” moment for my wife
One day my wife and I were talking about her work. She was a part-time substitute teacher back then, considering moving to a full-time position.
I didn’t want to push her to work more if she didn’t want to, but at the same time, I was very excited about the extra potential income. Any extra income from her would go straight into our investments and make a huge difference for us later in life.
Since my wife isn’t really money-motivated, I needed a way to encourage her to work without saying it’s for “money.” So I eventually blurted out a statement that was a defining moment in our relationship. I said, “For every week that you work now, you are shaving 2 weeks off of us having to work later in life.”
Something just clicked when I said that. Just the thought of her being able to buy us time together later in life was a big motivator for her. She doesn’t care about the money — her motivation has always been about TIME.
Still figuring it all out!
It’s been a fun journey, but it’s far from over. My wife and I don’t have kids yet, don’t know when we will officially be “FI,” or even which city we want to live in when we’re older. Our money discussions and decisions will continue until we die.
But the hard part is mostly over, and I’m lucky to have such a patient and dedicated partner in life.
For those out there struggling to talk with their partner about finances, keep searching for ways to break through and get on the same page. The more we all share our stories, the more we can help each other get to better places in our relationships.
Soooo … How did you get your partner on board with FIRE? Any defining moments, or was it easy from the get-go?
*Top pic by Cody Black