How Can I Get My Partner On Board with Financial Independence? [FIRE FAQ #1]

What to do if your partner is not interested in saving and investing for Financial Independence and Early Retirement (or Semi-Retirement).

One of the most common types of questions I receive every week is about spouses who are not on board with FIRE, investing and personal finance in general: “Why is my husband not interested in investing?; “How can I get my boyfriend to read my favourite FIRE blogs?”; “How do I convince my wife that we need a financial plan if we want to retire early?”; “My partner doesn’t believe in budgeting, what can I do?”.

I get it. Once you discover Financial Independence and realise how powerful this concept is, getting your partner on board becomes a priority. Let’s explore the different kinds of partners who are not interested in Financial Independence and what you can do to get yours on board!

Note: The blog has grown a lot over the last little while and my inbox is overflowing with reader questions. I try to respond to everyone, but it is becoming a lot less manageable. Plus, a lot of the questions I get are very similar in nature, so it probably makes sense to answer some of them here on the blog. So today I’m starting a new column – the Money Flamingo FIRE FAQ! If you have a question feel free to send me a message via the contact form!

How Can I Get My Spouse Interested In Our Finances?

Here are just two of the many emails I’ve received from readers on this topic:

Hi Mrs. Flamingo,

I have a query for you: I can’t get my wife on board with the FIRE concept or any financials for that matter. She is happy for me to do it all (and she gives me 50% of her wages every month for our investments). Any ideas on how I can get her engaged?

FIREing on my own will be no fun!

Steve

Hello Mrs F.!

I found FIRE about 2 years ago at age 34. I would like to go down the semi-retirement path as I like the diversity my job offers. I’m on track to get to the semi-retirement stage by age 45!

My only problem: My fiance is not interested in money, investing and financial freedom at all. He would rather spend his/our money on nice holidays, a new car (he has a long commute) and toys (jetski, electronics……). He is of the opinion that he works hard so he should be entitled to spend the money as he pleases.

What can I do? He doesn’t want to retire or even semi-retire early, although I think that might change once we have a family – I am pregnant with our first.

Love your work, keep it up!

Claire

A Little Confession

Believe it or not, I am in a very similar situation to Steve. Mr. Flamingo could not care less about the ins and outs of our finances and my very detailed spreadsheets. In fact, he reads the updates I publish here on the blog to get a regular overview of our financial situation.

That doesn’t mean he is not on board with our overall plan or FIRE in general. We are on the same page when it comes to our goals and life plan. We have a very similar vision for our future, it’s just that I happen to be the one who enjoys planning, tracking and optimising the financial side of that plan.

I think in most relationships there is one person who enjoys budgeting, investing and spreadsheets more than the other person. That’s completely fine if you ask me.

When you think about it this is no different from many other areas of life. For instance, I enjoy going for bike rides. But I am not interested in bike maintenance at all. Mr. Flamingo loves fixing and looking after our bikes, so he is the one who spends time making sure they are ready to go at all times. We have the same goal (being able to go on bike rides), but only one of us is interested in the ins and outs of achieving that goal.

The Crucial Difference

There are generally two types of spouses who are often described as “not on board” with Financial Independence:

  • Type A: A partner who is on the same page and shares the same goals and values but just doesn’t care about the details (investing, tracking progress, etc.). They are probably happy enough to “participate” as long as they don’t have to deal with the ins and outs.
  • Type B: A partner who is not interested in (or even against) reaching FIRE. This type of person might have a YOLO attitude and enjoy spending a lot of money on material items, travel, dining out, etc. Saving and investing is the last thing they care about.

There is obviously a crucial difference between these two types.

It sounds like Steve’s wife is a Type A partner. She is on board with FIRE and investing. Otherwise, she would not give him half her wages every month! She probably just doesn’t care too much about the nitty-gritty details.

Type A partners really benefit from having spouses who love personal finance and will look after the family finances. It’s a pretty comfortable situation for them when you think about it.

If you are lucky enough to have a Type A partner you might wonder how you can get them to share your passion for personal finance. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any helpful tips. I have tried to get Mr. Flamingo interested in the personal finance books I read and the blogs I follow. He is just not that interested and would much prefer to read his science magazines. I think it really just comes down to what someone is naturally interested in. If Mr. Flamingo sent me links to blog posts about bicycles I would not read them either, so I can’t blame him.

Unfortunately, it sounds like Claire’s fiance is a classic Type B partner. The main issue I see with couples where one person is frugal and focused on investing while the other partner wants to spend every dollar to live like there is no tomorrow isn’t necessarily financial. It’s that they probably don’t have a shared vision of their future.

If your partner is a big spender your FIRE plans might be in trouble
A Type B partner in their natural habitat

The Most Important Thing Is a Shared Life Plan

I often stress how important it is to have a life plan, not just a financial plan. To design a plan that will get you to where you want to be you have to spend some time analysing what you really value in life. And if you have a partner or a family you obviously need a shared life plan.

If this plan involves things like early retirement, semi-retirement or simply more family time, then the logical next step is to create a financial plan that will help you achieve these lifestyle goals.

Your partner may not be interested in researching the best ETFs, but they might want to move to part-time work as soon as possible. Often, talking about what you want your life to look like is so much more powerful than trying to convince a spouse to pursue FIRE by sending them spreadsheets or blog posts.

And if you and your partner have a shared life plan it is ok if only one partner is interested in dealing with the financial details.

Shared life goals are very important for couples
Having a shared vision of the future is much more important than both partners being interested in money and investing.

What if You and Your Partner Have Different Goals?

If you and your partner have completely different visions for your shared future it is probably difficult to find a middle ground that works for both of you. Personally, I could not imagine being with someone who has totally different values and goals.

Say, for instance, Mr. Flamingo wanted to work 80 hours a week so he can drive a Porsche and live in a mansion even if that meant not seeing his kids grow up. That would just not work for our family.

I don’t think someone who prioritises saving and investing to design a more balanced lifestyle and achieve Financial Independence would be very happy with a big spender who prioritises material goods and luxuries (and vice versa!).

Sure, there might be some situations where a couple generally shares similar values but their goals are different. For instance, one person might want to live a more balanced life and semi-retire in their 30s while the other person loves their career and doesn’t want to slow down.

So what can you do if you have a Type B partner you want to stay with long-term?

Convince Them By Living Your Best Life

Well, of course, you could first try to convince them how awesome your desired lifestyle is. However, I doubt that would work in most cases. If I were in a situation like this I would probably try to lead by example and prove how powerful financial independence is by living my best life and pursuing my own goals.

Give Them Options

Consider if your plan is too extreme. Maybe you don’t have to save 70% of your income to retire as soon as possible. Could you still be happy if you met your partner halfway and lived a little more now (and retired a few years later than planned)? You could also explore alternatives to the standard path to FI. Maybe Semi-Retirement would be an option you could both live with (and enjoy!)?

The Last Resort: Separate Finances

If that doesn’t work it might be a good option to have separate finances so each partner can pursue their own financial goals. This might work better in some areas than others. As a couple, you will have to make long-term decisions together – like where you want to live (rural or city; cheap apartment or an expensive house?) and how you want to raise your children (private school? expensive overseas trips or camping close to home?). All of these decisions involve money, so a spender and a saver will probably have different views on many of these areas. That’s why I think of this option as the last resort. It’s definitely not an ideal approach.

Conclusion

Getting your partner on board with Financial Independence is a hot topic in the FIRE Community. I have to say I am really lucky because my partner and I have a shared life plan and are on the same page when it comes to our financial goals. I know this is not the case for many people in the community. Being in a relationship with a big spender when all you want is to leave the rat race as soon as possible is tough.

I do think that if two partners have such different attitudes towards money that probably means that they are also not very compatible in other areas. If your partner is not interested in finance and investing, figure out if they are a Type A or a Type B partner and go from there.

It is a good idea to start any conversation about FIRE and investing by sharing what you want your future to look like and what kind of lifestyle you want to live long-term. Figure out if you want the same things out of life and if so, make a plan together.

Are you and your partner on the same page financially? What strategies have you used to get them on board with FIRE and investing?

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16 thoughts on “How Can I Get My Partner On Board with Financial Independence? [FIRE FAQ #1]”

  1. I too am very fortunate to have a partner who supports my plans. Joined finances are so much better for hitting goals and getting ahead. I feel for people who just cannot get their husband or wife on board, it would be so difficult to deal with on a daily basis. I got lucky in that respect. My number one tip for all the young people considering FIRE is to pick a partner with similar goals and values so you don’t have to waste your time trying to convince them later on.

    Reply
    • I agree, having joined finances with your partner helps you get ahead faster. And yes, picking a partner who is on the same page from the start is ideal, life doesn’t work like that sometimes though…

      Reply
  2. Bahahaha I almost spilled my coffee when I saw the picture of the type B spouse “in their natural habitat”. Hilarious!!

    Reply
  3. Such an important topic! My partner is kind of a mix of A&B. Left to his own devices, he’d probably blow all the money! But he’s pretty content to let me handle it – particularly after a few years he can see without a doubt how much progress we’ve made. Now he “gets” the bigger plan more, and that saving and investing will help fund our joint life goals

    Reply
    • Good point, Aussie Doc. Once we started, being able to see the growth has made it more real to Mr. ETT. It’s no longer a concept that someone on the Internet came up with – it’s actually happening for us!

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      • I agree. When I first heard about FIRE I loved the idea but it didn’t seem like a realistic thing that I could actually achieve. Now it’s our reality and it still feels a bit unreal sometimes.

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  4. Nice post Flamingo.
    I have a definite Type A partner. And for years, I’ve grappled with the fact that she doesn’t care to talk about money and investing. However, we share the same future financial goals, and she is frugal (smart) with her money, so there’s no conflict there.
    Personally I loved your analogy of the bike riding and maintenance. It’s a good point. For years I’ve seen this as a conflict, but now I can try to let it go.
    Thanks for this ?

    Reply
    • Glad you liked the post! ๐Ÿ™‚ I completely understand how frustrating it is when your other half is just not interested, but when I just gave up and started making decisions for both of us (while keeping him in the loop of course), things got easier.

      Reply
  5. Mr. ETT was Type B, and in his heart, he still is. It’s difficult to remember how I got him on board. I think I spoke a lot about all the people who had done it or were doing it, over quite a long period of time, maybe 12 months or so? It helped that he was feeling unsatisfied in his job and didn’t know what else he wanted to do. I had to be careful not to overdo it, not to talk about it every day!

    I also had to realise that part of FIRE is planning spending. That was his biggest fear, that I would budget everything away. And he was right to think that. Part of my learning was (and still is) that he has different values and I need to respect that and find a place for them in our FIRE plan. It’s still not easy. I think we spend too much, he thinks he has to wait too long for things. But it’s a balance so we both get what we want in the end. He’s now on board with FIRE and is even known to some of his mates as someone who is good with money.

    So start by talking about something they want, and how you might get there. Make changes in small, slow steps. Also, as Mrs. Flamingo says, model the behaviour with no expectations at the beginning that they will follow. Show what you manage to achieve and how it didn’t really make that much of an impact on your lifestyle.

    Reply
    • A value-based approach is so important. We had similar issues in the very early days (when I just tried to make our budget as tight as possible). Having a “no questions asked” discretionary spending amount each has really helped with that. We spend a lot more now than in the early days, but I find we are now much more aligned and naturally spend money on things we really enjoy and value. Balance is key and at the end of the days keeping both partners happy is more important than another $100 saved per month.

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      • Yes! After nearly 2 decades of frustration, adding a no-questions-asked spending fund for each of us made A HUGE difference. Of course, we argued about how much went into it ๐Ÿ˜‰ but all the resentment over our different money approaches went away.

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        • Yes, we’ve had the “how much discretionary money” discussion too, but we are pretty happy now and can always readjust at some point. I secretly still roll my eyes at the stuff Mr. Flamingo spends his money on. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Reply

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