FI

How I Got My Reluctant Husband on Board with FI

Photo by Ryan McGuire on Unsplash

It’s a recurring scenario in the FI community: one partner discovers FI and has an ‘awakening’. They get fully immersed, then decide it’s time to help their partner to also see the light. They eagerly approach their other half, bubbling over with FI info:

  • “We could retire in our 40s! We just have to save 60% of our income.”
  • “If we moved to a cheaper city, we could retire NOW!”
  • “If you rode a bike to work, do you know how much that could save us?!”

Caught off-guard and thrust into a world completely alien to them, the unwitting partner gets defensive. The FI enthusiast, hoping for excitement and passion, is instead faced with skepticism and reluctance. 

The FI dream seems to be dead in the water… or is it?

Our story 

The scenario I opened with was our FI story. I was overly enthusiastic, went in a little too heavy-handed, and spooked my husband. While M appreciated the concept of FI, he wasn’t sure if it could work for us. He had lots of hesitations and doubts. 

Looking back, M’s reaction makes sense. While we’d always been on the same page with finances, FI was utterly foreign to him. Both of us had been raised with the standard belief of ‘work hard, save hard, then retire in your 60s’. That was our programming. There was no one in our lives that lived much differently than that. 

M also had his own hopes for the future—an even bigger, nicer house; his dream car (a totally non-Mustachian Shelby Mustang); and lots of travel. To him, choosing FI meant possibly giving up these things, and that was a no-go.

I understood M’s hesitations, and knew I couldn’t drag him into FI. He needed to find his why for FI and see its value for himself. So I backed off and gave him time to let things sink in. 

Patience is a virtue… 

When I get obsessed with something, I want to get going on it and reach my goal ASAP. I struggled to exercise patience while M slowly got comfortable with FI. So I coped with it the best way I knew how: distracting myself by getting productive.

I dove in and did all the things to get our financial house in order. I learned to DIY invest, got myself on YNAB, and trimmed the fat from our expenses. I started putting real numbers into our FI plan. I tallied our assets, calculated our FI number, and figured out how we’d get there. I also continued taking in all the FI knowledge I could through podcasts, blogs, and books. 

Related: FI School—The Ultimate Guide to FI

I’m sure my brain neurons 10x’d in that time!

As I went along, I kept M updated on what I was doing. I showed him our numbers, and helped him visualize our progress using the Networthify calculator and FI Laboratory. When I learned interesting and inspiring things from my favourite FI podcasts and blogs, I’d mention them to M. 

Slowly, I noticed he was starting to see how FI could really fit into our lives.

The turning point

Near the end of 2017, we hired a financial advisor to do a financial plan for us. And I’m so thankful we did. I give our advisor Ed all the credit for finally getting M fully on board with FI. 

The day Ed presented our financial plan to us, M seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. It was like a weight lifted, and he finally felt free to dream about life post-FI.

Ed helped prove to both of us that our FI plan would work. We’d have enough and then some—somewhere between FIRE and Fat FIRE. M would get his Shelby Mustang. We’d get to travel more than we already do. And we’d have enough to be a bit more frivolous with our spending.

The transformation

Since that time, M’s undergone a transformation. He’s happier and more at peace with life. Lots of things, both subtle and surprising, have shifted in him:

  • He actually wondered aloud if we should get a camper van instead of his dream Mustang! 1
  • He’s even more conscious (than he already was) about saving money by buying less and DIYing more.
  • He weighs discretionary expenditures against reaching our number sooner—and usually chooses FI. 
  • He tells others about our FI journey.
  • He was already happy, but he’s even happier at work because there’s a ‘why’ to all this money he’s earning.
  • He has a greater appreciation for his job and company because of the huge role they’ve played in getting us to FI.
  • He spends less time thinking about what he’ll move away from in retirement. Instead, he talks about all the fun, enjoyable things he’ll move towards. (Like restoring old knives and axe heads and giving them away as gifts.)

M’s always self-identified as a glass half empty kinda guy. So watching him become a happier version of himself is unexpected and wonderful. He may never become a card-carrying member of the FI community like me, but he’s already come a lot further than I could’ve imagined.

What I’ve learned

While our financial advisor Ed finally got M fully on board with FI, you don’t need an advisor for this! I could’ve done a lot more myself… here’s what I learned from my experience:

1. Talk about it

One of the most important things Ed did was get us to talk about what we wanted out of financial independence. He asked us to visualize what our lives would look like after: what we’d do, who we’d spend time with, what would be meaningful. 

What I did wrong: Thinking back, I did a lot of telling M what I thought our life should look like post-FI. I didn’t spend enough time asking him what he wanted. That was so wrong of me!

If I were to do it over: I’d talk about FI with M more often, but not with the goal of ‘converting’ him. Rather, I’d work on helping him to dream and explore, and find his own why for FI. This is what finally gave him the motivation and interest to get on the FI path with me.

2. Be inclusive

M’s frugal like me, and I definitely wouldn’t classify him as spendy. But he’s more willing than I to trade frugality for a little more time or fun. Eating out more, travelling more, and being a little looser with the purse strings are all very important to him. He also didn’t want to give up his dream of owning a Shelby Mustang. So Ed included all that in our plan and made it work. 

What I did wrong: I tried to ignore the things M wanted. I’d hoped that those wants would melt away as we went along in our FI journey. Some of them did (like wanting a bigger house), but the truly important ones (rightfully so) didn’t.

If I were to do it over: I’d temper my drive to achieve FI, and balance it by including M’s needs and wants. My vision for FI worked for me, but didn’t include enough for M, so he had no motivation to get there. Once his needs and wants were taken into account, he didn’t have to resist FI anymore.

3. Have trust

I realize now that I didn’t have trust in M when I discussed FI with him. I didn’t trust that he’d ‘get’ the FI mindset, or be willing to make the necessary trade-offs to reach FI. 

What I did wrong: Instead of talking to M about our FI plan, I made the plan on my own. I figured I knew best, and once he saw the light, he’d come around to my way of thinking.

If I were to do it over: I would’ve trusted in M, and given him equal say in our FI plan right from the start. (Even if it meant including things I didn’t necessarily agree with.) When I finally trusted M and included him in the planning, it freed him to make his own decisions about how to reach FI. And he’s made all the ‘right’ decisions since!

TL;DR

The best way to get your partner on board with FI is to help them find their why. You can do this by:

  • Talking to each other about your dreams and aspirations. 
  • Including your partner and their needs and wants in the FI plan. 
  • Trusting that they’ll make the right decisions to move both of you towards FI.

Other resources

Reluctant spouses are common in the FI community! Naturally, other bloggers and podcasters have put out content to help with this tricky issue. Here are some of my favourite podcasts and articles on the topic:

Afford Anything

The Fioneers

Freedom FIter

  • When your spouse isn’t on board 
    Chrissy’s note: This is a completely different, but very positive approach to dealing with a spouse who isn’t (and may never be) on board with FI. 

Mad Fientist

Mr. Money Mustache

What about you?

Do you have your own story to share? Why was your partner reluctant to share your FI vision? Can you identify what helped get them involved? 

I’d love to hear your stories and help others with their FI-nervous partners!

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

You can also support this blog by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links. Note that not every link is an affiliate link—some are just favourite products and services that I want to share. 🙂

As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    T on FIRE
    February 18, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Chrissy! Your description of yourself discovering FI is pretty much identical to me discovering FI in October. And M sounds EXACTLY like I. Haha! Right now, I’m in the “patience is a virtue” stage. Let me just say, it’s difficult. That said, I’m still going to continue to learn and share ideas casually, to try to spark the flame in I. I also really like your idea of involving your financial adviser. I have one, but up until now, most investment-savvy people have encouraged me to dump him and go on my own. I’m definitely not ready for that. I like the idea of telling him goals and having him work for me vs. just ditching him cold turkey. I’m meeting with him this week so hopefully, he is supportive. 🙂

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 18, 2019 at 9:25 pm

      It is SO HARD to have to wait for our partners to get on board! I’m sure “I” will eventually come around in time. October wasn’t very long ago! 🙂

      My opinion about using an advisor: as long as you’re not paying an arm and a leg in commissions, the investments are sound, and your advisor is working hard for you—why rock the boat if you’re not ready to DIY? Check out the latest What’s UP Next podcast: http://diversefi.com/2019/02/18/whats-up-next-podcast-episode-18/ (It’s a great round table discussion about the benefits of hiring an advisor).

      Thanks for the comment! I love connecting with others in similar situations. 🙂

      • T on FIRE
        February 19, 2019 at 2:16 am

        Thank you!

  • Reply
    ellie
    February 18, 2019 at 11:15 am

    I feel lucky that me and my husband discovered FI together. We were listening to a random podcast I put on (it was a general podcast, but the topic was about money and happiness and it discussed FIRE). By the end of the long car ride (about 2 hours travelling), we realized we had made many financial mistakes and were set on reaching FIRE together!! Conversations since have only reinforced this. We got YNAB and budget together and use it as a tool to discuss priorities and values. The rule in the house is if we have $50+ or more to budget, we have to include the other, as its so much fun to budget now we are quick to allocate money on our own ha! 🙂

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 18, 2019 at 10:09 pm

      Hi Ellie—thanks for stopping by to comment! You’re so lucky to have found FI with your husband—it sounds like you’re an amazing team.

      PS I LOVE YNAB—I can already tell we’ll be good friends. 😀

  • Reply
    Kris
    February 22, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    My wife is more than happy to support and join me on the FI journey when we get there. She is a natural saver and got me into that mindset too so it feels that she fits into the mentality of achieving FI.
    Right now we are focused on buying a home in this high priced area in SF. Once we take care of that then we will have a clearer picture on our timetable for FI.
    It’s so good that your husband in on board with you on the FI journey. Having a unified goal makes it more motivation to achieve it.

  • Reply
    Chrissy
    February 22, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    You’re so right that being aligned makes for stronger motivation to reach goals together. Lucky for you that your wife’s been on board all along!

    I feel for you guys trying to buy in costly San Fran. Vancouver’s not much better! 😭

  • Reply
    GYM
    February 23, 2019 at 12:58 am

    Great tips on how to talk to your significant other about FI! My husband is great and him and I are on the same page about FI and minimalistic lifestyle- he actually seems to ‘need less’ than me! (like travel etc.).

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 24, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      I read your post where you told the story of meeting your husband and how he was even more conscientious with his spending than you! It’s a beautiful thing when a couple is on the same page with stuff that’s so important.

  • Reply
    Reverse The Crush
    February 23, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Very cool article about talking to your s/o about FI, Chrissy! It’s awesome to hear that M is actually happier now since discovering FI. What stood out to me is that M’s money now has a purpose. These are some great tips! I am not currently married but I do have a partner with similar goals and her own small business. We both share a similar perspective on life and understand what each other wants to accomplish. Keep up the great work!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 24, 2019 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks Graham. You’re totally right that finding a purpose for our money makes ALL the difference—even for me. I used to LOVE cruising the aisles of Winners to see what deals I could snag. I never spent a lot, but I did buy things I didn’t truly need. Since finding FI, I no longer find pleasure in that kind of shopping.

      I’d love to hear more about your partner and how the two of you make financial choices together. Maybe a topic idea for your blog? 🙂

  • Reply
    Jessica (aka Mrs. Fioneer)
    February 24, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Hi Chrissy,

    What a great post! I loved how you looked back and picked out the learnings of what you would have done differently. It seems like a very helpful approach. Also, thanks for including our post in the resources. There’s so much great content out there that something will click with everyone.

    Best,
    Jessica (aka Mrs. Fioneer)

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 24, 2019 at 3:14 pm

      Hi Jessica—thanks for coming by to comment! I thought your article was excellent and will definitely be of help to others. 🙂

  • Reply
    Joe
    March 8, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Nice job convincing your partner to join the FI movement. My wife has always been pretty frugal so it wasn’t difficult to convince her. My timing could have been better, though. I started my blog, Retire by 40, when she was 7 months pregnant. She didn’t like it, but eventually came onboard later.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 10, 2019 at 2:11 pm

      Hi Joe, LOL I can’t say I’d have reacted much differently from your wife at 7 months pregnant. It sounds like you’ve been living a wonderful life, with you being FI. So nice that at least one of you is able to be at home full-time with your son. Thanks for the comment!

  • Reply
    Sergey
    May 21, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Great article. Thank you for sharing this. Talking and listening to your spouse is always the key

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      May 21, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      Thanks Sergey. Yes, good communication between partners is so important—especially with big life decisions!

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