How My Partner Convinced Me to Retire Early
APL is the author of the personal finance blog A Purple Life. She started the blog in 2015 and simultaneously hatched a plan to retire in 10 years at 35.
However, with the help of decreased spending, increased wages, and geoarbitrage she is now on track to reach her goal in half the time and retire in 2020 at age 30.
Today she shares the story of how her partner initially introduced her to the concept of FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) and set her on this early retirement path.
I have a confession to make: I didn’t come to all these wonderful conclusions about how to retire at 30 all by myself. In fact, there were years where I completely resisted the idea. My partner actually convinced me to try FIRE and I’m here to share all the gory details.
My partner is an avid redditor and in 2012 he stumbled upon /r/personalfinance where they mentioned the concept of ‘FIRE’. This subreddit eventually led him to /r/financialindependence and Mr. Money Mustache where he learned more about the concept of early retirement.
At the time, he had just started receiving a paycheck from his first full-time job. He was making money and already living frugally so he quickly got onboard with the idea of early retirement and tried to convert me as well.
As I’ll show you, I was…resistant to the idea (to say the least). Here’s a fun snippet from a Google Hangouts chat in 2012:
Partner: When are you set to retire now?
Me: Not for a while I think. Planning to put 12k into my 401K, but that’s not enough to retire anytime soon…Learning I might not want to though.(Current Me: What are you talking about?!?!)
So what got me over the hump? What steps led me to overturning my entire life, moving to the other coast and striving to retire by 30 instead of some unknown, far away date in the future?
It started with a conversation on a Greyhound bus. My partner and I were busing from Manhattan to see his family and on the bus my partner knew it was the perfect time to strike because he had a captive audience (AKA me).
On this fateful ride, he showed me how the math behind early retirement worked with the 4% rule of thumb. I wasn’t very open to the idea. I didn’t know if I even wanted to retire. I didn’t want to give up the luxuries I thought I needed and I wasn’t fully convinced retiring that early could even work.
My Mom retired at 55 after not even investing in stocks until 40. That was my general goal and it seemed so far away I didn’t feel the need to think about it. I was already saving a little in my 401k and had an emergency fund – wasn’t that enough?!
My acceptance of the idea went through stages over the next several years, which has been documented by our Google Hangouts chats (why does Google still save this stuff?!):
First, I Ignored The Idea
Partner [after sending a Mr. Money Mustache article on how to retire early]: I want to do this! I want to work until the returns on investments are greater than my cost of living!
Me:…What do you want from the grocery store?
Then, I Got Annoyed By It
Partner: We’ve got to find some way to cut our housing costs.
Me: Damn it – I’m too stressed to think about that right now.
(Current Me: Hey! Be nice to your partner! No cursing at him.)
And Finally, I Accepted It – And Began Arguing Retirement Semantics Because Why Not?
Partner: Things aren’t looking so good for our early retirement plans.
Me: What?! How so?!
Partner: Cause of vacations to the Maldives and all my food spending and getting new computer parts and all our clothes shopping.
Me: Uh – no. I’m still right on track thank you. And I’m not going to enjoy myself less so i can retire ridiculously soon. That doesn’t work for my lifestyle.
Partner: What’s your current retirement plan have you retiring at?
Me: No idea – whenever i feel like it. I’m still on track for early retirement. Early = before social security kicks in at 67
Partner: That’s barely early. Early retirement means something like Mr. Money Mustache, i.e. pre 40.
Me: One shopping trip of $54 isn’t getting me off track.
Partner: It’s not about one, it’s about lifestyle.
It took years for me to come around. It wasn’t until late 2014 that everything clicked and I dove in with both feet and quickly surpassed my partner’s obsession with FIRE. Based on my experience being the ‘convincee’ in this scenario, here are my tips for convincing a partner to early retire:
1. Be Patient
This is the hardest step I imagine and for me it was the most important. Those 2+ years where my partner tried to convince me gave me time to experience more of life. Time to realize that even a job that checked all my boxes wasn’t good enough, time for me to find a position that was less stressful and allowed me time to think and reflect on what I wanted out of life.
I know that the fact that we don’t combine finances is what allowed us to take this time. It’s obviously harder to wait when two people are sharing finances and working at cross-purposes, but I found that having that time was what made me finally come around to his way of thinking. Depending on someone’s current situation they might not be ready to hear about FIRE or early retirement.
2. Provide Non-Judgmental Insights
I recommend providing more information like my partner did on the Greyhound bus and less like my partner did with our argument over semantics. Providing logic and numbers to back up your findings is great, but arguing over minute details or things that don’t matter is not very helpful.
Keep your insights non-judgmental (I’ll go to the Maldives AND retire early if I want to!) and provide resources based on your partner’s interests and concerns.
3. Talk About Your Perfect Day
A recent post described me realizing that my perfect day is also how I plan to spend my days in retirement. Chatting with my partner about what we want out of life and how we can get it was the final step to me realizing that I needed to try and retire early. The activities in my perfect day are not compatible with a 9-to-5 job, so I dove in.
And that’s it. I hope my experience can help someone else if their partner is waffling on trying FIRE. Since we’ve aligned our goals, having both partners on the FIRE train makes it feel turbocharged. We are both striving towards the same goal and can provide motivation and encouragement when the going gets tough.
Republished with the permission of A Purple Life.