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How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI

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Before James convinced me to get on board with FI, I was fairly content in my ways of shopping, spending money, having a nice car, and living in an expensive home. As content as I was though, I was just going through the motions of life. You know the feeling, right? Dragging yourself to work every day to a job you don’t enjoy, just to be able to earn enough money for the lifestyle you didn’t realize you were living. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I needed my spouse to get me on board with FI.

The Reluctant Spouse’s Perspective

As you may have read in previous posts, I was not a fan of FIRE when James 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. Like anything else that he enjoys or becomes passionate about, he jumps in feet first, sometimes too quickly. 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, it was implied that we shouldn’t go shopping anymore. We couldn’t go out to eat as much as we were. Additionally, we needed to limit all matters of consumption (AC, heat, food, clothes, shoes, etc).

This was me:

Get your spouse on board with FIRE

How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI

Change is hard. When you’re not expecting it, change can be taken negatively, especially when you only talk about cutting things out. 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 James 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. Let’s dive in y’all.

#1 Talk it out

Communication is probably the most important thing 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, James 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 get your spouse on board with FI.

Tracking progress is also an easy way to illustrate the benefits of your choices and how it’s helping you reach your financial goals. We use Personal Capital and highly recommend it.

#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. The biggest pro was the freedom to do what I wanted every day, instead of slowly dying behind a desk every day.

During many of our discussions, we weighed out the pros and cons. It also helps because it puts things into perspective. Also, if you give it a try, and you don’t like it, you can always go back to the old way of living. People will still gladly sell you stuff.

#4 Don’t self-sabotage

When I wasn’t as sold on the idea of ‘depriving myself’ for the sake of our future, James 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 our money was going to be blown either way. Our money should be spent on something ‘cool’ and ‘fun’, right? I do admit that I agreed and contributed my input in that purchase, even if it wasn’t the wisest decision.

For James, it was 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. However, he disagrees and seems to think the car came before finding FIRE. We are just going to agree to disagree here.

#5 Patience, patience, patience

Like most things with FI, 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. Heck, they might surprise you and even make some gradual changes themselves.

#6 Broach the idea in an intriguing way

This one might sound a little sketchy. However, sometimes, 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 been open to it. On the other hand, because I was told I’d never have to work again if I didn’t want to, I was pulled in.

Also, it’s important to know what makes your spouse tick. Would numbers on a spreadsheet explain it best? How about a list of things they like to do while explaining all the free time you’d have? Do they hate their job? Maybe more time traveling is something they’re interested in enough to give it a serious try? Finding what interests them most might just be the key to getting your spouse on board with FI.

#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.

James had to pitch me the numbers and I had the opportunity to make the connection myself to understand that we really didn’t need THAT much to retire. Especially if you learn how to manage your wants vs needs and realize spending money doesn’t really make you happy.

It’s a lot simpler than working 30+ years, and to me, 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

Planning is incredibly important when it comes to financial independence. Although, James didn’t have an exact plan in place when he tried to get me on board with FI. That didn’t matter because he had a general idea of what our journey would look like.

Once James told me his plans for our future, I understood and had a sense of security. It was also an open dialogue where he would ask questions and I would interject when he was getting too crazy.

Our plans have shifted and changed over the years, but our end goal has remained the same, retire early. As always though, we discuss and plan our future together, with only each other’s best interests in mind.

#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. It became much easier to envision once I could put faces, people, and families to the stories about early retirement.

Seeing real people doing this was the ultimate motivator. Also, finding someone that you can relate to is key to feeling a little more engaged in your own journey. A blogger that James loves may not resonate with me because of the story, the writing style, or something else. Alternatively, a blogger that I may love might not 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.

Going Forward

Ever since James got me on board with the FI, I have fully embraced the frugal lifestyle. We are going completely against the norm of what society says we should do, which can be really hard at times.

Trying to fit 30 years of work into an extremely abbreviated timeline can be difficult at times. Although, 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.

Now that you know how to get your spouse on board with FI, I hope you can convince your reluctant spouse, like I was. I can’t envision a scenario where we would be on this journey without my husband. Especially when we can retire and do whatever we want to.

9 Comments

  • 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.

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