[As part of our weekly column by Mr. 1500 of 1500Days.com – a fellow blogger who retired at 43!]
At a recent party, I had a very interesting conversation with an old and good friend (I’ll call him Jeff). It started when Jeff asked me how my work was going. Jeff had no idea that I had quit my job. He also didn’t know about my blog or stealth wealth, but I had a couple strong beers in me already and felt bold, so I let loose:
- Jeff: How’s life? How’s work?
- Me: Well actually, I don’t work anymore. At least not at a typical job.
- Jeff: What? Really!? May I ask what happened?
- Me: It’s a long story, but the short version is this: I had a really bad day at work back in 2012. After that, working until 65 or even 55 sounded like a miserable proposition. I figured out how much money I would need and then made a plan to reach it. At the same time, I started a blog to document the journey. I’ve since reached my goal, so I left my job. I enjoyed working on the blog so much that I continue to do that.
- Jeff: What’s the blog called?
- Me: 1500 Days.
Quick note: I’m much less secretive than I used to be. Major media coverage blew our cover a long time ago, so I don’t care much anymore. And even after telling people about the blog, not many bother to read it (EDITOR’S NOTE: My friends still ask me what my blog is called too – despite telling them every year for 9 years+! I find the only ones who actually care are those who are serious about their $$$…)
Back to our conversation:
- Jeff: Wow, that’s incredible!
- Me: Yeah, life is good! And one thing I want to stress is that financial freedom isn’t about not working; it’s about working at what you love. I make a little money from the blog, but my real paycheck is happiness.
- Jeff: Wow, you know I hide money from Julie? She likes to spend, but I’m a saver too. So, I take the money and invest it.
I had already known that Jeff was good with money because of previous conversations, but hearing that he hid money from his wife surprised me. I’ve heard of spouses hiding money, but it’s always to keep a bad spending habit secret. Before this conversation, I had never heard of a spouse hiding money to invest!
The story got stranger later that night, but I have to tell you about my friends first.
Jeff And Julie
My wife and I met Jeff and Julie about 10 years ago. They were newly married and in many ways, their lives mirrored ours. We were both young couples who had just had our first child. We hung out together until we both moved away. Now, we live near each other again.
I’ve always considered myself fortunate to know them. They are kind, giving, smart and hard working. They have adopted two children they met through the fostering program. I trust both of them like I trust few others.
So, it makes me sad that they’re not on the same page financially. I’ve seen lesser marriages disintegrate over similar issues.
Later That Night…
Julie was at the party too. A couple hours later, Jeff started up the conversation again, but this time Julie was by his side:
- Jeff: That’s so cool that you’ve got your finances together. Julie and I aren’t quite on the same page. I like to save and she…
- Julie: I LOVE to spend money!
- Jeff: See? That’s why I have to hide it from her.
- Julie: It’s just that spending money feels good!
Another quick note: This conversation was strange and made me slightly uncomfortable, but their tone wasn’t antagonistic. Both were smiling. In the past, I probably would have conjured up a lengthy lecture, thinking I could teach a lesson. Now I realize people don’t enjoy lectures, so I tried to gently add my two cents without being overbearing:
- Me: I think you both know where I fall in this argument. It’s OK to spend money, but you should take care of your future first. Spending will provide you with short-term happiness, but financial freedom is forever. And let me tell you; it feels pretty d@mn good!
I let it go and the conversation moved on to something else.
Where Do Jeff And Julie Go Now?
A couple days after the party, both Jeff and Julie liked my blog’s facebook page. Jeff shared one of my posts on social media a couple days after that, so I know they’re paying attention to my online ramblings.
And it’s occurred to me that they might read this. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I don’t want to hurt them in any way and I don’t think they’d be offended, but you never know. If they see this, I hope it sparks more communication between them. They’re already pretty good at that, but more never hurts.
Money is simple and complex all at the same time. At the most basic level, we work and get paid. We take that money and fund our basic needs like shelter, food, and clothing. After that, it gets more complicated. Certain folks like Jeff and me value the security that money provides, so we save it. Others get a similar sense of security, or maybe comfort, from spending.
Jeff and Julie have different ideas of how they want to spend their money. I think that they’ll be OK, but why be OK when you could be great?
How about You?
This conversation made me wonder how many couples are on the same financial page. Money is often cited as a contributing factor to marriage failure. Another friend went through a divorce recently and confided that differences in finances were a major factor in the split.
I’m thankful that my wife and I are compatible in money. If we break up, it will be for something ridiculous like the thermostat setting. Hey, don’t laugh, I’m serious!
Jeff and Julie: If you are listening, know that I’m here for you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I actually didn’t feel like this was the worst system in the world? It seems they both know each other pretty well, and although financially it would be better if *both* were on the investing side of things, it’s not like Jeff’s really “hiding it” is he? Julie knows he’s doing it, so it’s kinda working for them… I invest our money all the time without telling my wife the details, but she knows I’m doing it and never has to worry about it. I just lucked out that she happens to be a saver more so than a spender :)
In fact, maybe all Julie needs is a “Spend Whatever The Hell You Want” type budget where each month she gets $XXX to have fun with? So she gets to feel good throwing it around, but Jeff gets to keep doing the investing? As long as their ultimate goals are being met in the end, I don’t see a problem spending money freely if it’s within reason and truly makes you happy… I think that’s the main variable missing here w/ the story – are they both on the same track with what they want in the future? Not everyone wants to retire super early like us nerds ;)