Do Everything Else

How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI: The Reluctant Spouse's Perspective

If you are anything like I was before we found FI, I was fairly content in my ways of shopping, spending money, and having a nice car and expensive home. As content as I was though, I was just going through the motions of life. Dragging myself to work every day to a job I didn’t enjoy, just to be able to earn enough money for this lifestyle I didn’t realize we were living.
As you may have read in previous posts, I was not a fan of FIRE when Mr. RRR first introduced me to it. I have to say it was probably because he initially went about it all the wrong ways. He was so excited about it, and like anything else that he enjoys or becomes passionate about, I tried to listen and find some way to agree it…OK maybe not in this instance. I thought he was bat-shit crazy after he started to cut out everything cold turkey and that freaked me out. In not so many words, I was told I shouldn’t go shopping anymore, we couldn’t go out to eat as much as we were, and we needed to limit all matters of consumption (AC, heat, food, clothes, shoes, etc).
Change is hard, and when you’re not expecting it, it can be taken negatively. It’s scary changing your entire life and lifestyle. Now, almost 3 years later, I couldn’t imagine what our life would have been like had Mr. RRR not discovered this journey and successfully pulled me to the dark side. So I thought it might be helpful to share some tips from my perspective for getting your reluctant spouse or significant other on board with financial independence.
1. Talk it out
Communication is one of the most important things in a relationship. You may have to approach the subject carefully, but it’s extremely important to talk it out. If you can’t have conversations and discuss your feelings and viewpoints on important matters, then it’s going to drive a wedge in your relationship, and that’s regardless of FIRE or not.
2. Run the numbers
Even though I’m the engineer, Mr. RRR is the one who runs the numbers on everything. I think it’s because he’s done most of the research on everything and knows what to do and what to look out for. He has a spreadsheet going of all our rental properties and how much income we make from them. Your spouse could have a number-oriented way of thinking, and if you run the numbers and figure out how much you need to retire, it could be the way that you convince your spouse. Tracking progress is also an easy way to illustrate the benefits of being a little more frugal.
3. Weigh the Pros and Cons
Admittedly, I really got on board when I was told I would never have to work a job I didn’t like ever again. To have the freedom to do what I wanted every day instead of slowly dying behind a desk every day was the biggest pro. During many of our discussions, the pros and cons were weighed out. It also helps because it puts things into perspective.
4. Don’t self-sabotage
When I wasn’t as sold on the idea of ‘depriving myself’ for the sake of our future, Mr. RRR thought it was be a good idea to get a really expensive go-kart. His thinking was if he couldn’t get me on board, then we were going to blow money either way and it might as well be on something ‘cool’ and ‘fun’. Granted, I did agree and had input in that purchase, but it was not a wise decision to go the complete opposite of what he was trying to accomplish. But, here we are, so maybe he was right to show me the extreme opposite side as a catalyst for change.
5. Patience, patience, patience
It could take time to get your SO on board. If they’re anything like me, they needed time to process this significant life change. I still have to take time to think about potential rental properties and other life plans. Patience is also key on the journey to FI as well, as it is all about delayed gratification. Lead by example, and eventually you may whittle your spouse down until they can see the benefits and make some gradual changes themselves.
6. Broach the idea in an intriguing way
This one sounds a little sketchy, but in some cases, you have to find a way to make this idea intriguing, almost like you’re giving your best sales pitch. A lot of times our life isn’t pretty and we don’t go out like we used to. We spend weekends painting, landscaping, or buying used appliances. Had you told me how we would be spending our weekends, I might not have listened. But, because I was told I’d never have to work for the man again, I was pulled in. Also, it’s important to know what makes your spouse tick. Would numbers on a spreadsheet explain it best, a list of things they like to do while explaining all the free time you’d have, do they hate their job, or is perpetual travel something they’re interested in enough to give it a serious try?
7. Play to your strengths
My background is engineering so I definitely understand the numbers, however I am not good at talking, arguing my point, or convincing someone to do something. Once I was shown the numbers that we really didn’t need THAT much to retire and it was a lot simpler than working 30+ years, it made so much more sense. Whether you are good at running numbers, making good points, or planning for the future, use that to your advantage.
8. Plan
Like most everything important or a big life event, planning is involved. While Mr. RRR didn’t have an exact plan in place when he tried to get me on board, he had a general idea of what our journey would look like. For me to understand and have a sense of security, I needed to be told what kind of plan he had for our future. Our plans have shifted and changed over the years, but our end goal remains the same, retire early.
9. Use Examples
I would say that I was on board, but not completely sold on the whole thing until after we went to a CampFI. Once I could put faces, people, and families to the stories about early retirement, and seeing real people doing this, it made it much easier to envision it as a serious possiblity. Also, finding someone that you can relate to is key to feeling a little more engaged in your own journey. A blogger that Mr. RRR loves may not resonate with me, whether it’s the story, the writing style, or something else, and a blogger that I may love won’t be someone else’s favorite. We all have different stories, preferences, and goals, but finding the one most in line with your own will help you feel like you aren’t alone on this path.
Ever since Mr. RRR got me on the FI board, I have fully embraced the frugal (cheap?) lifestyle. We are going completely against the norm and what society says we should do, and that can be really hard at times. We are trying to fit 30 years of work into an abbreviated amount of time and that’s really hard at times, but without my husband, partner in crime, and motivator, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I’m so thankful he didn’t give up when I gave him a little pushback on changing our future. I hope this helps someone in convincing their spouse, because I can’t envision a scenario where we would be on this journey without my husband.


  • Seonwoo Lee

    “Even though I’m the engineer, Mr. RRR is the one who runs the numbers on everything”
    I mean, are you sure you’re an engineer? 😉
    Don’t self sabotage‽‽‽ My latest post is exactly on how I use self sabotage to my advantage!
    Haha for all the flak I just gave you, your post is on point. With my ex girlfriend I probably started talking about FI way too early, and absolutely came on way too strong. I made no real effort to meet her halfway.
    But such is life. You live, make mistakes, learn, grow, and do better.

    • Emily Lowery

      Haha I am always hard on myself and I guess I do self sabotage myself all the time. I’ll be sure to go read your article though because I’m sure I’ll find it useful.
      Maybe she took away some positives about FI or some tips. But sometimes, if someone is not open to an idea, they just shut it completely out and never open up to it.
      I definitely agree with you though that such is life.

  • Mark

    Incredibly useful and inspiring post. I am in the process of trying to get my spouse on board with the “FIRE” way of thinking…but it’s been a struggle. And I’m still not quite sure if she’ll ever be fully convinced. It can be quite stressful, because the decisions we make over the next 5-10 years will make a drastic difference in how we are able to live. I fear that we will go down the typical path or minimal saving, over spending on trivial things, and needing to work behind a desk until Social Security kicks in and then hope we have enough to last. The thing is, we make very good money, and we have some amazing opportunities ahead of us, including having our housing paid for at least the next year (my employer is paying rent). We also get stipends for food on top of our salary. It is a golden opportunity to fast track our way to FI, and when I run the numbers, we can get there in as little as 6 years if we were to really commit ourselves.

    I wasn’t always smart with my money, made some bad decisions, took out too many school loans, etc., but over the past 5-7 years, I’ve really tried to improve my investment strategy and I’ve developed a passion for the FIRE lifestyle. I was also passionate about real estate and I bought a duplex two years ago. We lived in that house for a year, had our mortgage virtually paid for by the other unit, and now we rent both units for a modest bit of monthly cash flow. It wasn’t a great rental windfall, but it was a pretty solid first foray into real estate investing.

    All this to say, we’ve got a lot going for us and I can really see the finish line, but our current lifestyle wouldn’t get us there. I’ve tried multiple approaches to try to show the benefits of saving, but so far we are not on the same page. Your story gives me hope that we can reach an agreement or that she will come around. But it’s not easy.

    • James

      You’ll get there, Mark! It’s important to find out the reason for the spending. We are confident that if you walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, your wife will get on board sooner rather than later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *