Family On Fire, Do You Have Spousal Buy In?

Spousal Buy In

Spousal Buy In

The story is almost universal.  A guy (or gal) suffers through a horrendous day of work and scours the internet searching for an escape hatch.  The magical mix of search words early and retirement likely leads to Mr. Money Mustache, or Get Rich Slowly, or some other fantastic resource.  Hours later, after being fully submerged in the financial independence blogosphere, he resurfaces with haired mussed and rabid eyes.  There is no climbing out of the rabbit hole.  It will take maybe days or weeks to formulate a plan of how to extirpate himself from the humdrum world of W2 reliance.  But the real challenge, which could take years, is achieving spousal buy in.

Spousal buy in is key.  Adults reach decisions for varied reasons on differing time-lines.  The unique set of hand wringing circumstances that brought one individual to a breaking point, may not be palatable or relatable to one’s spouse.  Also, there is a learning curve before spousal buy in can take place.

There many hurdles concerning ones spouse that stand before an aspiring Firewalker .

The Internet Lies

My wife’s first response to my early retirement inquires was one of disbelief.  She stared at me with glassy eyes.

You really trust these cooks on the internet?  They are lying to you and making it sound better than it really is.  What the hell is a money mustache anyway?  

And this spousal buy in question is quite valid.  Certainly, many have watched their significant others get hoodwinked at some point or another.  Who in their right mind would believe that retiring could be so easy and attainable?

The answer, of course, is simple.  In this case, full spousal buy in will require two things.  One, the unbelieving life partner will need to sit down and study the math.  They will have to ponder the 4% rule and play around with some retirement calculators.

Second, it never hurts to meet someone outside the family with similar aspirations.  You may have to go to a ChooseFI meet up or join a  Facebook group.  When the doubting spouse hears others using the same language and calculations, the doubts  will fade away.

I’ll Never Be Able To Buy Anything Again

Why would one ever attain spousal buy in if it required living like a monk?  Will she still be able to buy that expensive iPhone she wants?  Will he still be able to afford those hip suede shoes?  How about vacations?  Will we live on ramen (the horrible prepackaged kind-not the real stuff)?

When you are unexpectedly hit over the head with the idea of early retirement, it is not uncommon to think that you will have to forego the good things in life.  Why should you sacrifice?

The answers here are both logical and philosophical.

From a logical stand point, your monthly budget will show you exactly how much is available to spend.  If the number is not high enough, prolong the path to FI and save more.  You can negotiate with your spouse what reasonable budgets look like before agreeing to a time line.

Philosophically, what brings happiness?  There are plenty of studies and blogs,  which I will not go into here, that suggest that above a certain point (75K/year?) increasing spending does little to improve ones emotional well-being.

My Parents and Financial Planner Say I Need $10 Million!

Our heads are filled with mindless numbers from many sources.  Often, well-meaning friends and family, or investment advisors who are benefitting from our ignorance, suggest highly unattainable sums of money.  These figures are based on emotions and not fact.  Failing to understand and counteract such reasoning will be a great hindrance to spousal buy in.

The short answer is that  math is on your side. Numbers are unemotional.  Figures rarely lies.  Math will not benefit from your ignorance.

The numbers are the numbers.  Take the time to make sure your spouse understands them.


In conclusion, spousal buy in is one of the greatest hurdles to enjoying the financial independence/retire early lifestyle.  All the money in the world won’t buy happiness if things are not copacetic at home.

Your spouse may not want to retire early.  They may not feel ready.  But if you are going to realize this dream, you better make sure they buy in!


Doc G

A doctor who discovered the FI community but still struggling with RE.

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4 Responses

  1. Steveark says:

    Great post! I only retired slightly early but it was ten years earlier than I had always predicted to my spouse and it was a fairly sudden decision. She was already retired and it took awhile for it to sink in that we had much more money than we’d ever spend especially since my side gigs keep us at a zero withdrawal rate. I think she thought I’d get bored or lose my significance since I was a public figure of sorts in our little state but my side gigs were designed to keep my brand alive so she’s fine seeing how that worked out. Frankly you just have to do it to find out if you are even ready and it takes flexibility from both partners.

    • Doc G says:

      I think you are right, a lot of flexibility, especially in the beginning is key. Also doing a lot of planning before the retirement date.

  2. Ty says:

    Thanks for all your relevant posts, many of them hit home with me. I early retired 10 years ago, and actually got married and started a family after retirement. My wife enjoyed the fun and travels for the first few years, but has now decided this is no longer the life she wants. She is working odd jobs now, even as a server at a fast food take-out place. Lol, whatever makes her happy. Our kid’s classmate’s parents saw her working there, and she said they had a very confused look on their face…

    It’s not about the money, my net worth is at $15+ million now, and we live well. I just bought her a $12,000 Cartier watch that she thought she wanted ~4 months ago. We also traveled to China, Japan, Singapore, and France last year for the first half of the year. She just wants to work, even at a minimum wage job with no benefits that requires standing all day. She is only 31. Maybe she has impostor syndrome.

    As for me, I am pretty flexible, which is important when early retired. I did a LOT of traveling even before retiring, and then lived overseas for years after retiring, so I don’t mind not traveling. I’ll take this time to work on some side business just for fun and learning. And spend time with the kid when she’s not at school.

    Having been early retired for 10+ years, I do have some insight into this FIRE thing. In my case, planning would have been worthless… my life has completely changed: single then, married now; no kids then, have a family now; retired with 120x expenses, watched it go down to 60x expenses during the financial crisis (stock market crash, real estate crash, expenses went up due to starting a family), back up to 150x even with the family and lots of vacation travel; self-insured then, then forced onto ACA, and now possibly having ACA revoked, with premiums increasing 30-40% every year; several unexpected random medical emergencies; no rental properties then, enough rental properties now to cover expenses; etc etc etc. There’s so much that will happen in early retirement that you could not possibly plan for. It hasn’t happened to me, but I’m watching my sister go through it now with her in-laws, where elders are incurring a lot of costly care e.g. remodeling the home for disabilities, home care, etc. These are all reasons why I am glad I had the cushion I did (and still have).

    • Doc G says:

      Hey Ty! Thanks for commenting. Your story sounds super fascinating and I’d love to feature it on this blog. I tried to email you but it bounced back. Contact me if interested.

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