Whether you’re deciding what to eat for dinner or choosing where you’ll spend your retirement years, you know how important it is to be on the same page with your spouse or partner. Creating a shared financial goal is one of the most important things you can do as a couple — after all, money will affect every aspect of your lives! And if Financial Independence is your goal, it’s likely to require some major life adjustments. You both need to be in it to win it, with a complete understanding of what that will mean.
So, what do you do if you’re all-in, but your partner isn’t? How do you get them on board with your FI goals? Don’t worry – we have some great ideas to help you spark this important conversation.
How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI: Find Help On Facebook
If you’re not already a member of the ChooseFI Facebook group, take a moment to join. You’ll find a fantastic community of like-minded folks on various stages of the FI journey, and they’re all willing to share advice and resources. We searched for this very topic and found some great suggestions:
- Create a vision board with dreams of what your FI future could look like.
- Share particular blogs, podcasts or other resources that were influential for you.
- Break it down for them by showing them the math of what your FI life could look like.
- Ask thought-provoking questions to get your spouse in the FI frame of mind:
- “What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to work?”
- “Where would you live if we could go anywhere?”
- “What’s your dream job? What if you could pursue it?”
- “Would you enjoy it if you had more time to spend on your passion project or favorite hobby?”
- “What is your biggest fear about changing the way we do things?”
How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI: Talk About Motivations and Shared Life Goals
Have you ever noticed that you feel more motivated to complete a task when there’s a reward involved or a specific goal in mind? This is called gamification, and it’s a very real phenomenon you can use to your advantage. If you keep your long-term goals top-of-mind and celebrate small wins along the way, you’ll be more likely to succeed in changing your spending and saving habits, even if it’s difficult. Set your major goals and milestones based on what’s important to you and your partner.
Talk about what motivates you. What drives you and your partner? Is it more time together? The peace of mind that comes from being debt-free? Paying off a mortgage? Amassing a substantial savings account so you know your family will always be taken care of? All of these things can be significant motivators when it comes to spending and saving.
Your motivations don’t have to be the same. No matter how in-tune you are in other ways, you may be worlds apart when it comes to your financial motivators. And that’s OK. Motivations can be aligned without being identical. For instance, maybe you want to pay off your mortgage and your partner wants to retire early because they hate their job. It’s a whole lot easier to retire if you don’t have a mortgage, right? So those motivations are aligned without being the same.
Those big-picture goals might be daunting and may make you or your partner feel discouraged. You don’t want your partner to have to wait months or years for the desired outcome when they’re just starting to get on board with financial life changes. Since you’ve already talked about your larger motivations and shared goals, set smaller, bite-sized goals. Choose ones that are easier to accomplish and will take less time. The big goals will always be there in the background, but they might be too much for your partner to wrap their head around.
How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI: Remember To Listen
Listen to what your partner thinks are small manageable goals that can be met quickly without drastic changes. Remember that you are already solidly on board with FI, so this is about how to get your partner comfortable with the idea. It’s about helping you ease your way into fiscal responsibility together. Let your partner make the decisions about what spending habits to change first. This will give them some ownership and control as you start to navigate towards bigger financial changes. They’ll feel like a part of the process.
Checking short-term goals off your list might motivate your partner to keep working toward the bigger goals.
How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI: Meet Them Where They Are, And Go Slow If Necessary
Recognize that your desire and enthusiasm for embracing this different lifestyle might be startling to your spouse, especially if it’s coming out of the blue. You’ll need to let go of your assumptions about where your significant other should be. Accept them where they are on this journey – even if they’re not on the path at all yet. While you might feel ready to radically change your life to meet your new goals, realize that they might not be. Go slow instead.
Brad and Jonathan recently interviewed author Gretchen Rubin for the ChooseFI podcast, and she brings some interesting insight to this conversation. Her book, “The Four Tendencies,” discusses the four different propensities people have when it comes to meeting expectations.
When it comes to improving a financial habit, she says it’s best to start slowly. Ask your partner if you can look at your finances together just to see where your money goes and what your savings rate looks like.
That’s it – nothing changes right away and nothing major happens. You’re in an information-gathering phase, and you’re letting your partner slowly wade into your shared financial waters.
How To Get Your Spouse on Board with FI: Know Your Partner’s Tendency
Speaking of the four tendencies, these can be very helpful as we analyze our own spending and saving habits. We recommend you know both your tendency and your partner’s — all you need to do is take a very short quiz to determine whether you’re an obliger, a questioner, an upholder, or a rebel.
- Obliger: meets external expectations, but struggles to meet internal expectations
- Questioner: meets internal expectations, but struggles to meet external expectations
- Upholder: meets both internal and external expectations
- Rebel: struggles to meet both internal and external expectations
Ideally, your significant other should also take the quiz. However, if you’re still in the “go slow” phase and they’re not open to a quiz, take a look at the four tendencies anyway. Try to see it through their eyes. Read about what each tendency means and see where you think your partner might fit. If you’ve been with that person for a long time, you might be able to determine which tendency they are for yourself.
Understanding both your and your spouse’s tendency can give you a good start on understanding how to approach them about finances. Use that information as you continue to introduce FI to them by talking about money in ways that make sense to them.
How To Get Your Spouse On Board With FI: Find Areas Where You Can Compromise
Successful relationships are all about compromise. It may be that your spouse will never buy into your vision of FI, and that’s OK. After all, the spectrum of FI lifestyles is deep and wide. Think carefully about your own core reason for pursuing FI. Perhaps there’s another way to realize your goal. Are there changes you can both agree to?
For instance, maybe there’s room in your budget to cut back on spending, allowing you to cut back your work hours accordingly to gain some freedom in your schedule. Consider that option as a compromise to reaching full retirement through extreme frugality. Just as you want your spouse to be open to your ideas about FI, you must be open about how you’ll get there.
No matter where you land on the FI question, simply having the conversation is a great start. You need to understand each other’s spending and saving philosophies and money habits. This will help you avoid major arguments later on, and help you have a more harmonious relationship overall. A recent study found that 48 percent of Americans who are married or living with a partner argue with the person over money and that most of their fights are about spending habits.
Practical Tips For Continuing On The FI Path Together
So you’re having productive conversations about FI and you’ve built an understanding about where you want to be and how you’ll get there. That’s great, but the work doesn’t end here! Make sure you keep doing things that continually support and encourage your (formerly) reluctant spouse. Remember the gamification approach.
- Lead by example. Model the behavior you want your spouse to use. Don’t spend frivolously. Learn to fix things around the house so you’re not paying for a repair person or just buying something new. Teach yourself how to invest properly.
- Discuss finances regularly so you both know how you’re doing. (Tie this back into their tendency. For example, if they’re a rebel, show them how their influence and decisions have affected your savings.)
- Celebrate reaching your goals, no matter how small. Small progress is a huge motivator for making big progress!
- Be positive! Praise your partner for the things they’re doing to help you meet your shared financial goals.
- As your significant other becomes more comfortable with FI, talk about how quickly you can meet some of the bigger goals by changing around some things in your life.
Be patient. Time is often the best hope for getting a spouse on board with FI. Acknowledge that this is a big adjustment and make sure you’re proceeding forward at your spouse’s pace, which may be very different than your desired one. Read about how one passionate FIer slowly got his wife excited about joining the movement.