The general economic, financial and monetary knowledge and skills in our society are, in my opinion, quite low. Our educational system don’t pay much attention to basic financial knowledge, at least here in Belgium, and for many families finance is one of those taboo topics that never really comes up at the dinner table. What happens, then, when a financial savvy person gets into a relationship with someone who is less so? Or even more extreme, someone striving for financial independence with someone who is clueless about it?
It’s something I’ve always wondered about, even back when I started this blog and was single, but now am slowly having to deal with since being a relationship. How do I explain my quest for financial independence? And how do I get my partner excited about it? Should I get my partner excited about it? In what way?
I have written a little bit on this topic already when discussing the ups and downs on running a blog. Back in 2015 I received some negative and sometimes envious comments on my high savings rate in relation to me being single. Even though I was quick to brush them off, somehow they still lingered in my head: “What will happen to my savings and investments when I get into a relationship?”
Spoiler alert: not much! (You can skip the rest of this article, ha.)
In all seriousness, it did change ofcourse. On the one hand, two people have a higher combined income with more shared expenses like housing and heating, while on the other hand they potentially spend more on shared experiences. It’s not a clearcut mathematical equation, and it doesn’t have to be. Nor is that the essence of what financial independence means.
In my opinion, there are four questions that you need to go through with your partner to potentially expand your financial independence focus from one person to two people:
- What does financial independence mean to you? Why do you want it?
- How does it work? How does money make your goals possible?
- How do both of your money attitudes relate to each other and to the maths behind financial freedom?
- Based on these previous questions, which common ground is there for a shared life plan?
There, problem solved. Good luck!
If only it were that easy. Let’s take a deeper look at the conversation that you should be having.
What does financial independence mean for you?
By far the hardest question of the bunch: why do you want financial independence? The paradox is that you’ll first have to disconnect the financial aspect from the kind of life you want to live. The money is secondary, your purpose in life primary.
A good starting point for me was to first explain what the perfect life would look like to me. What does it mean for me to be free? What would I do with that free time? How does my partner fit into that picture? What would I like to enjoy together?
The focus should not be on getting to financial independence, but on how to enjoy the journey towards it and after having achieved it. What does ultimate freedom look like to you?
Ofcourse, you’re just one half of a relationship, so it’s important to let your partner reflect on these same questions. Please do remember that it’s not easy to find clear answers. If you’re interested in financial independence you have probably gone over similar questions a thousand times already, but for someone newly exposed to the idea of financial freedom this can be difficult.
Try to find commonalites between your view on financial freedom and your partner’s. Make sure you are both equally excited for the shared life you wish together.
How to make financial independence work?
Now that we have a clear view on our ideal life, it’s time to turn to the financial aspect. This part of the conversation is closely linked with the third part we still have to get to: some people plain hate dealing with anything maths-related or going through the nitty-gritty of money discussions.
Therefore I think it important to focus on the big ticket concepts first: your savings rate, the effect of compounding interest, and how those two things interrelate and kickstart the 4% rule.
These three aspects – saving, investing and safely withdrawing – make up the core mechanics of any financial freedom journey. Of course, you can get into more specific topics like how to invest, or even into a specific ETF strategy or a dividend growth approach, but that’s highly dependent on the amount of interest of your partner. Do remember not to overwhelm them with new concepts, for it can leave them bewildered and force them to withdraw from the conversation.
When you have the core components out of the way, it’s important to tie them to the perfect life you both want. If your perfect life is to live in a luxurious beach resort, driving a Ferrari on even days and a Lamborghini on uneven days, this is the moment to make clear to one another that you had better up your savings or become investing geniuses.
Do you have the same attitude towards money?
If you find matching your perfect life to the core mechanics of financial freedom difficult, it might be time to look at your money attitudes. If you’re the person talking up financial independence to your partner, it’s highly likely that you already have the right mindset to achieve it. You probably know that it’s necessary to live below your means and only spend on what adds value to your life.
Therefore the question that remains is, what kind of person is your partner? Generally speaking, people can be categorized based on two aspects:
- Is your partner someone who loves to spend or hoard money?
- Do they have an interest in finance or not?
If your partner is someone who loves to hoard money and shows genuine interest in the ins and outs of the financial freedom maths, congratulations. This conversation will go swimmingly. If, however, your partner loves to spend money and doesn’t care about the financial independence mechanics, be ready to face an uphill battle (and start saving for that Ferrari and Lambo).
Don’t let yourself be frustrated by this realisation, however, and also don’t expect immediate change in your partner’s attitudes. Remember that habits are formed over a very long time and also take a long while to change. Even if your partner wants to come on board with your plan, it’s highly likely they’ll make a few rookie mistakes here and there.
Can you agree on a shared plan?
Mistakes can and will be made, but the essence remains simple: can you both agree on a shared plan to achieve your perfect life? How much common ground is there in both setting a shared goal and a blueprint to work towards that goal?
In this stage you both should be able to agree upon your personal aspirations with regards to the core components of financial independence. How much do you want or need to save? Which expenses are essential to the lifestyle you want? How are you going to invest your savings and make sure your money works for you?
With the different money attitudes in mind, please remember that it’s not necessary for both of you to be extremely detailed in all aspects of financial independence. It is perfectly fine to offload investing to you, for example, as long as it’s clear to your partner that what you are doing is in line with your shared goals. Similarly, if your partner doesn’t like budgetting, find a way for them to not feel budgettary constraints without sacrificing your savings rate.
Expect a bumpy ride! This not an easy topic to get into with your significant other. In most cases, you are showing a completely different approach to life than what most people view as normal. Most of us grow up with the idea of working 9-to-5 for about 40 years to then finally retire and enjoy blisful peace, while financial independence puts that thought 180 degrees on its head.
When someone’s view of reality is challenged like this, it’s highly likely they will not accept the new paradigm. It takes a long time for people to adjust and it’s impossible to force change. Try to be patient with your partner and lead by example. The best way to convince people of something is to show them it works and brings you benefits.
Be creative, try not to focus on the monetary aspect too much. The thing that opened my eyes the most to financial independence is its emphasis on exchanging time for money. It’s not money we want, but time. Time is the ultimate currency to hold things and experiences to: ask your partner if they’re fine with working a certain amount of hours for certain lifestyle benefits you currently enjoy, or if they’d rather spend their time doing something else.
So, what if all of my great advice fails? Well, then I think it’s time for a new partner.
In all seriousness, that is not the solution. In my opinion, you should go back to square one: what does the perfect life look like to both of you? Is this lifestyle even possible with your earnings potential and the basic principles of financial independence? Go over the steps again and before long you’ll discover new shared thoughts and ideas will start to crystalize.
This, again, was a post that felt very personal to me because it’s a challenge I’ve had and still am going through myself. I sincerely hope it helps others that are in the same boat with me to clarify the process I think is necessary to get your partner excited about financial independence.
Do you recognize the difficulties of setting or sharing a common financial freedom goal? Or maybe you have some additional tips? Please feel free to share below.
It depends on a lot of things and you can’t force your ideas and thoughts onto your partner. It requires a balance between both of your believe systems.
In that regard I’m lucky to have found a partner who also sees the benefit of investing and saving (though not as heavy as myself :D).
We both have our own investment accounts AND one for our daughter. We are also open about each others income and we share a similar view on expenses. I even assisted my wife with setting up her IBKR account.
If your partner is the complete opposit it can maybe work but then you to ask yourself, will the other’s way of handling money be a hindrance to our happiness together?
You’re absolutely right. I added this “find a new partner” as a tongue in cheek thing, but there’s a certain truth to it.
When your view on money and how it correlates to your life or lifestyle differs so much that it’s impossible to bridge, both partners’ happiness will suffer as a result.
I’m really happy for you that you are in sync about this with your partner and I hope you can both enjoy the FI journey and reach your goals!