A FIRE blanket spouse?

By Slow Dad - January 09, 2017

Relationships are wonderful things. However a spendy spouse is not a good bedfellow for your precious FIRE nest egg. Things are about to get bumpy!
Relationships can be wonderful things. The opportunity to share somebody else’s life. To help them achieve their desires and dreams. The reassurance of having a cheerleader. A wingman who always has your back. The pleasure of companionship. The joy of having someone to share life’s triumphs and challenges with. The gift of brutal honesty. Maybe even sex!

Relationships are complicated

Few relationships resemble the plot to a Disney movie. Disney left out the part about the morning after. The awakening to morning breath, the argument about leaving the toilet seat up, and the grumpy caveman you are before caffeine kicks in.

Anybody who has been in a relationship for more than about 10 minutes will agree that relationships are complicated.

In a relationship two different sets of hopes, dreams, values, beliefs, and preferences collide. This can, and often does, lead to there being some simmering tensions just below the surface.

In a relationship two different sets of hopes, dreams, values, beliefs, and preferences collide.
Add some scarcity of time and financial pressure to the mix, and often things become combustible!

Nothing extinguishes dreams of FIRE faster than a spouse pissing all over them.
Nothing extinguishes dreams of FIRE faster than a spouse pissing all over them.
The pursuit of financial independence is a lifestyle choice. It’s devotees often embrace it with an almost religious fervour, muttering strange cult-like rituals about frugality and safe withdrawal rates.

There is the vague promise of something better: escaping the rat race; gaining control of your time; potentially retiring early and never needing to work for a living again.

Sounds great! Where do I sign up?

Hold on, not so fast. Like most things in life, things are not as simple as they first appear.

Things are about to get bumpy

For many deciding to pursue financial independence will represent a massive change in their values and priorities.

Consumer debt replaces your mother-in-law as the embodiment of evil.

Keeping up with the Joneses becomes unimportant. Fuck the Joneses!

Every single spending decision starts being viewed through an opportunity cost filter: how much compounded investment return will I forgo by spending this money today?

In short you may appear to become a cheap penny pinching bastard. Santa Claus becomes Ebenezer Scrooge.

If you’re in a relationship this change in approach is no small thing.

What if your significant other enjoys living in an oversized McMansion, driving around in a shiny new financed German luxury car, drinking £30 bottles of Perrier Jouet champagne, and shopping till they drop?

Anti-FIRE: the champagne lifestyle
Champagne lifestyle
What if they loved those business class flights to 5* hotels located in expensively exotic locales?

What if they believe the more you spend on your children’s expensive private school education, the better prepared for life they will be?

If this is the case then things are about to become complicated in your relationship.

Let's get ready to rumble

A spendy spouse can pour cold water on your FIRE dreams.

A spendy spouse can pour cold water on your FIRE dreams.
A spouse who enjoys their job now, and doesn’t want to retire early, may suck the joy out of your newfound dreams. That extended trip through Southeast Asia, or taking a year out to explore the countryside in a campervan? Forget it, or go on your own.

This isn’t their failing, you are the one who has moved the goal posts. Own that.

In many cases this clash of outlooks will not be an insurmountable problem. However it does require honest communication to discuss your newly held priorities and values.

It won’t be a comfortable conversation. I’m not going to lie to you, not all relationships can survive the transition.

Therefore it is important you possess a good understanding about what it is that you want, and why you want it. What is important to you, and what can you compromise on?

Don’t just mindlessly parrot some inane generalities you picked up from a FIRE podcast or a self-appointed “expert” on reddit.

Take the time to actually think through what is important to you, what it will cost to fund, and what changes you will realistically need to make to get the numbers to work.

Be careful what you wish for

To some people the idea of retired serenity alone while their spouse remains working would be idyllic. To others the idea of a lonely existence rattling around an empty house with only unemployment television for company would be frankly terrifying.

Be sure think through what makes you happy, and how you will occupy those hours previously consumed by your job and commute.

Think about who you are, once you will no longer be “Clive the Plumber” or “Joti the Lawyer”. Many people derive their identity in large part around their chosen profession. If you no longer have one, then who are you?

Determine whether you are running towards something you genuinely desire. Or are you just running away from something you don’t like? They are very different things.

FIRE is a realistic and desirable thing for many, but not everyone. Determine if it is a realistic option for yourself before you damage your relationship over a pipe dream. Be careful what you wish for!

So what?

One thing is for sure, a spendy spouse and the precious FIRE nest egg needed to fund your lengthy retirement are not going to be compatible bedfellows. They will go through your savings faster than my mother's home cooked chilli con carne used to go through us as kids.

Get in front of this potential problem early, as the longer you leave it the harder it will be.

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