Being financially independent and retiring early requires an immense amount of dedication and discipline. Does your partner FIRE?
Why It Matters
If you and your partner have similar financial goals, you can achieve these goals faster if both sides of the table are optimized. I’ll toss around an overused and cliched bschool term here: there are synergies.
Conversely, if you are all about that FIRE life but your partner is always a paycheck away from oblivion, you will likely not have that boost to your FIRE lifestyle. In fact, in severe cases of financial negligence, an irresponsible partner can hold you back and interfere with your early retirement dreams.
What to Do
If you and your significant other are already in-sync regarding your finances, this post is not directed at you. You have it good. Your primary concern should be maintaining this alignment of interests.
Mrs. Moose does a great job of helping me keep our living expenses low. We often talk about our mutual financial goals and dreams together over dinner. This motivates us to keep going hard at our FIRE targets.
What if you have a significant other who hasn’t shaken-off the beast of consumerism? The best you can do is play defense.
Make sure your savings and investment accounts are separate. If you have a joint checking account that he/she uses, it’s vital that you automate your savings so that they come out of your paycheck and deposit directly to a savings account that only YOU have access to. This also applies to your 401(k) and other investment accounts.
Now that you’ve gently cordoned-off your accounts, the only other primary concern is what to do if your partner finds themselves in dire financial straights and comes to you for help.
That decision is highly personal and none of my business, frankly. You figure that one out.
I do advise that if you ever lend money though (to friends or family as well), you consider it a gift. If you’re not comfortable giving that person the money, you shouldn’t loan it to them. If they do pay you back later, that’s a plus.
Sonny: What’s the matter?
C: This guy “Louie Dumps” owes me 20 dollars. It’s been two weeks now, and every time he sees me he keeps dodging me. He’s becoming a real pain in the ass. I mean, should I crack him one or what?
Sonny: What’s the matter with you? What have I been telling you? Sometimes hurting somebody ain’t the answer. Is he a good friend of yours?
C: No, I don’t even like him.
Sonny: Well there’s your answer right there. Look at it this way… It costs you 20 dollars to get rid of him. He’s never gonna bother you again. He’s never gonna ask you for money again. He’s out of your life for 20 dollars. You got off cheap. Forget it.
— “A Bronx Tale”
What Not to Do
Finances are one of the leading stressors in a relationship. If you’ve caught the FIRE bug, but your partner hasn’t, the worst thing you can do is try to change them.
This lifestyle of ours isn’t effortless. It isn’t normal. Above all, FIRE is voluntary! FIRE is a path but not THE path for everyone. It’s easy to get self-important as a new acolyte of the FIRE movement (much like CrossFit and veganism).
The world doesn’t need yet another person thumping the tub for their pet cause and aggressively trying to persuade others to see the light.
Trying to impose FIRE on a spouse is like trying to start a campground fire with a wet moldy log. You’re just wasting your time and causing frustration.
If you’re in a great relationship, FIRE shouldn’t be the hill you choose to die on. A supportive, loving, and functional relationship is a rare treasure.
Passive, Like Your Income
Less is more here. Lead by example. Keep doing your thing and living your life on your way to early retirement. There’s a good chance your partner will notice and come to you for guidance later when they see how little money-related stress you have in your life. If not, you’ve protected your ass(ets) and can still reach your goals.
If it’s impossible to shield your finances from your partner’s fiscal carelessness or they’re doing crazy things like taking out credit cards in your name, you have waaaay bigger issues than FIRE and should perhaps rethink the relationship.
Did you and your partner start out with different financial goals? Are they now aligned?