This Valentine’s Day I want to touch on a touchy topic with couples: how to convince your significant other to work together as a team towards Early Retirement.
So this post has a guest section written by my wife on her experience getting convinced about early retirement.
Typically one person is super-excited after having read about Early Retirement online. But then they find that their partner is not as excited… at least not that excited to single-mindedly focus on this goal to the exclusion of other goals in their life. Well.. you can’t forcibly convince someone to do something unless you want avoidable fights with your partner on this topic 🙂 You can, however, influence them positively. Influencing others requires that YOU be the change you want to see in others. So you need to lead by example.
MY WIFE’S STORY ON HOW SHE CAME ON BOARD:
While my husband was saving 50% of his monthly salary to pay installments for his first house, I was busy spending most of my money on food, clothes, shoes and a high-flying lifestyle that I had discovered with my high-paying job. Saving money was not on the top of my mind. I was in a middle-management job at a start-up and everyone around me was exhausting their monthly credit card limits. Thankfully I never incurred debt and even paid for my car upfront with some help from my dad. But I did not save or invest seriously before the age of 30. That is when I got married, pooled our resources and made some lifestyle changes which reflected both our views on money.
The Aha! moment
In the beginning, I used to find talking about my spending habits with my husband very difficult. I appreciated finer things in life and unfortunately, they are not cheap. But after dozens of conversations with my husband, I began to see that I associated Money with Quality of Life in the Present rather than as an Enabler to fulfill certain Life Goals in the Future. This meant that I was working a stressful, 12 hours a day job not having autonomy over my time in the present but also not securing my future. Being a single person I immersed myself long hours at work but I couldn’t imagine sustaining this once I had a family of my own with my husband.
I was valuing money over my time. And after our discussions my husband made me realize that I can control my time and then my life if I control “MY MONEY”. In the end, I could not deny that the true role of money in my life was to serve me so I could live a happy, fulfilling life. I had to master my savings, my spending, and the investments so that I get the freedom I crave for.
In summary, I’m glad about this lifestyle that gives us more time to spend with each other and doing things that are important to us.
MY SIDE OF THE STORY:
My wife & I had different opinions about money when we got married. I wanted to retire early so I could move on to doing more meaningful work while also enjoying more leisure time. My wife saw money as a way to ensure a good quality of life where emotional needs were also fulfilled in addition to physical needs.
Even before we got married, I used to talk about finances with my wife for the post-married life. We even drew up a spreadsheet with our “ideal” lifestyle (ex: house with a swimming pool, international travel, etc). Since I was narrowly focused on saving as much as I could for early retirement, I used to overrule her idea of “quality of life” and focus only on the “bare basics” needed for sustenance like rent, food, insurance, etc and strictly try to meet every month’s budget. At the same time, I used to work long hours trying to maximize my earnings.
Naturally, this approach caused friction & disagreements in the early days as we struggled to reconcile our two different approaches. For example, I remember once getting upset at the high prices in a gourmet store selling Thai food ingredients because my wife was planning to cook Thai that weekend. Ironically I did not realize that she was planning to cook at home towards my own goal of eating out less at restaurants.
To put it simply, I was being stingy instead of being frugal.
Slowly over the next 3 years, we achieved a compromise between our approaches that were possible only because we loved & respected each other. I realized that aspiring for a good quality of life like my wife wanted to have hidden benefits that cannot be quantified in money alone. For example:
- Hiring a cook freed up time for me to exercise in the mornings. Earlier we cooked all meals ourselves.
- When we moved from a 2BHK to a 3BHK rental I found the extra space more conducive to my work productivity since I work from home.
My wife also figured out that enjoying a higher quality of life did not always have to cost a lot. For example:
- Instead of a house with a swimming pool, she got us a swimming pool membership at a 5-star hotel nearby costing only Rs.6000 per year.
- Instead of an international vacation, she plans luxurious vacations at domestic destinations. We drive there by car saving on flight tickets which we splurge on the stay instead.
Right now we are at a happy balance where we try to achieve both our goals by saving as much as we can and living a life of quality while still staying within budget. I have added some suggestions below based on my learning from this process of give-and-take.
SUGGESTIONS BASED ON LESSONS LEARNED:
Lead by example.
- Cut out the waste in your own life first: cigarettes, eating out, impulse purchases, etc. Let them see you invest the savings. Follow this blog regularly for tips.
- You don’t need your partner on board to get started. You go ahead first and let them follow at their own pace by watching you.
Find out what makes them tick.
- Use that as a way to influence them. My wife was motivated by the freedom to pursue her interests as much as I was. She was not in any hurry to retire early but saw the benefits of savings which enabled her to quit her job for a few years to explore her interests. Having tasted freedom for a couple of years she indulged me in my early retirement plans so we could be free permanently.
- In the case of MoneyMustache, both him and his wife imagined being able to spend more time with their baby in the early years when the baby was growing fast.
- This process of discovering what drives your partner is beneficial to your relationship as well because you will help your partner also achieve their dream.
Be willing to change yourself
- As you can see above both my wife & I made changes to our attitudes to accommodate the dreams of the other person.
- Your progress will be slow in the beginning but it will gain speed soon with two people working towards the same goal now.
- If you are not willing to change yourself then you won’t have much success trying to convince your partner about early retirement.
- Don’t expect them to make drastic changes just because you had an overnight epiphany. The same goes for you. Don’t make drastic changes that you’ve not at-least given a week to think over to ensure that you can sustain it long-term.
- Remember that it took us 3 years to get to our current happy equilibrium
Focus on Habits rather than results
- These days I don’t micromanage & fret over my monthly expenses like I used to do in the early days.
- We’ve incorporated many good habits like cooking at home, using the outdoors & internet for entertainment, saving up to buy only high-quality products, etc that our monthly expenses stay within the budgeted range more or less.
- So focus on the more difficult long-term behavior change rather than the easy short-term results or exact budget numbers. It will take time but is more sustainable because neither of you will feel deprived of the good things in life.
Increase your income.
- Target that promotion or change jobs. Sock away the extra income in SIP.
- Show your portfolio to your partner every quarter to show the money growing.
- Just make sure not to increase your expenses with the extra income. Easier said than done! but hey it is a valid suggestion 🙂
Send them positive stories of others who have retired early.. make sure that the role-model appeals to your partner’s aspirations & goals in life. Some role-models below:
- American Male writer (married with kid): Mr.MoneyMustache
- American Female writer (married with baby): FrugalWoods
- Indian Male writer (married): How to Retire Early in India – SavingHabit.com
- Indian Male retired early around age 50: Rajshekhar Roy
- Indian Male NRI (married with kid): I created 1.5 crores in last 7 yrs
- American Female Lawyer (single): An Interview with the Lawyer who Retired at 33
Previously published on Savinghabit.com.
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