The story is almost universal. A guy (or gal) suffers through a horrendous day of work and scours the internet searching for an escape hatch. The magical mix of search words “early” and “retirement” likely leads to Mr. Money Mustache, or Get Rich Slowly, or some other fantastic resource. Hours later, after being fully submerged in the financial independence blogosphere, he resurfaces with haired mussed and rabid eyes. There is no climbing out of the rabbit hole. It will take maybe days or weeks to formulate a plan of how to extirpate himself from the humdrum world of W2 reliance. But the real challenge, which could take years, is achieving spousal buy-in.
Spousal buy-in is key. Adults reach decisions for varied reasons on differing timelines. The unique set of hand-wringing circumstances that brought one individual to a breaking point, may not be palatable or relatable to one’s spouse. Also, there is a learning curve before spousal buy-in can take place.
There many hurdles concerning one’s spouse that stand before an aspiring Firewalker.
The internet lies
My wife’s first response to my early retirement inquires was one of disbelief. She stared at me with glassy eyes.
You really trust these cooks on the internet? They are lying to you and making it sound better than it really is. What the hell is a money mustache anyway?
And this spousal buy-in question is quite valid. Certainly, many have watched their significant others get hoodwinked at some point or another. Who in their right mind would believe that retiring could be so easy and attainable?
The answer, of course, is simple. In this case, full spousal buy-in will require two things. One, the unbelieving life partner will need to sit down and study the math. They will have to ponder the 4% rule and play around with some retirement calculators.
Second, it never hurts to meet someone outside the family with similar aspirations. You may have to go to a ChooseFI meet up or join a Facebook group. When the doubting spouse hears others using the same language and calculations, the doubts will fade away.
I’ll never be able to buy anything again
Why would one ever attain spousal buy in if it required living like a monk? Will she still be able to buy that expensive iPhone she wants? Will he still be able to afford those hip suede shoes? How about vacations? Will we live on ramen (the horrible prepackaged kind-not the real stuff)?
When you are unexpectedly hit over the head with the idea of early retirement, it is not uncommon to think that you will have to forego the good things in life. Why should you sacrifice?
The answers here are both logical and philosophical.
From a logical standpoint, your monthly budget will show you exactly how much is available to spend. If the number is not high enough, prolong the path to FI and save more. You can negotiate with your spouse what reasonable budgets look like before agreeing to a timeline.
Philosophically, what brings happiness? There are plenty of studies and blogs, which I will not go into here, that suggest that above a certain point (75K/year?) increasing spending does little to improve one’s emotional well-being.
My parents and financial planner say I need $10 million
Our heads are filled with mindless numbers from many sources. Often, well-meaning friends and family, or investment advisors who are benefitting from our ignorance, suggest highly unattainable sums of money. These figures are based on emotions and not fact. Failing to understand and counteract such reasoning will be a great hindrance to spousal buy-in.
The short answer is that math is on your side. Numbers are unemotional. Figures rarely lies. Math will not benefit from your ignorance.
The numbers are the numbers. Take the time to make sure your spouse understands them.
In conclusion, spousal buy-in is one of the greatest hurdles to enjoying the financial independence/retire early lifestyle. All the money in the world won’t buy happiness if things are not copacetic at home.
Your spouse may not want to retire early. They may not feel ready. But if you are going to realize this dream, you better make sure they buy in.
“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.
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