What Is Your Purpose? Is Your Spouse Aligned?

It is often in the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) Community that I hear people struggle that their goals and their plans seem to be a little different and not in alignment with their spouse. This usually happens in the early days of someone catching the FIRE fever. One member of the couple will read an article or read a book and they will start internalizing the possibility of financial independence and financial freedom. They start to dream big and they begin unwrapping what a frugal lifestyle and high savings rate will eventually afford them — hopefully peace of mind, security, and independence.

The new community member begins to devour everything they can read, they subscribe and listen to the hot podcasts, and begin following every blog. Soon after, once they start to gain a little perspective and get the confidence that they can point their household ship in the right direction, it is time to have the talk with their spouse. Unexpectedly, the talk doesn’t quite go as planned and there is a moment of deflation, sadness, and concern. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get their financial household in order and put a retirement plan in place to ensure financial stability in your later years. Or what about knocking off seven, ten, or twenty years from the average retirement age (65 for men, 63 for women) and having a successful strategy for your Social Security Benefits (that you’ve been paying into) — will you have the means to get to full benefits at 67 or are you going to have to take a less portion by accessing it earlier?

First, I would offer you the advice to not stress about this. Give it time. You have to remember that you’ve been looking into this for days or weeks and if your spouse is like me, it takes me a bit to settle into an idea that wasn’t initially mine. Remember that this is potentially a drastic lifestyle change. If your spouse is a spender, a borrower, or a high consumption credit card junkie, you are asking this person to do a 180 on their lifestyle. Even if they aren’t a high-spender, they may love their job or profession and have always grown up believing that the responsible thing to do is to work until you retire in your mid-to-late sixties. FIRE is a completely different mindset. There are a long list of believers in the movement, but there are probably exponentially more unbelievers.

Second, I would suggest giving it a few more days and then come back to the overall topic. Not the topic of retiring early or a frugal lifestyle or becoming a super saver. I think the most important thing you can do for yourself and for your marriage is to be open and honest with your life goals. Maybe you got married prior to discussing about retirement (when or how) and what you ultimately want to achieve in your life. Or, maybe you got married and the rollercoaster of life and kids had you take drastic turns and unexpected detours and now has you in a rut. Maybe you are in the the rat race and trying to keep up with your friends and neighbors because you have worked hard for your money and you want to show off your hard work. This is the most critical step for your future. Are your life goals aligned?

Third, if you have (high) debt, it might be a good idea to do a financial analysis. Nothing screams for a discussion to be had than a financial analysis that can showcase the money that is being wasted month-over-month and year-over-year. If you have high interest credit cards and are paying $200 to $300 per month in fees, that is $2,000 – $4,000 a year that the credit card company is stealing from you and your family. That is pure robbery and needs to be viewed as such.

If you do a comparative analysis on your mortgage and see how much money you are giving to the banks on a 30-year loan vs a 15-year loan, is there a discussion to be had to refinance your mortgage. These companies are stealing real dollars from you, your family, and your livelihood. What if you could invest that money instead of giving it to the banks. These are the discussions I hope will warm your unbelieving spouse into the possibilities to secure the financial freedom for you and your family.

My Purpose

My purpose has changed slightly over the years. At the age of 19, I knew my retirement age was going to be 59.5 years old. Why? Because that is what was/is set for 401(K) withdrawals without taking the 10% penalty (we’ll get into backdoor Roth Conversations later). I knew without a doubt that I will NOT work past that date regardless how much I loved my 8 to 5 job. So, as soon as I learned about the 401(K) and the company match, I started planning to make sure I was prepared for that day.

But, that isn’t my purpose. My purpose is happening now; I’m just looking forward to when I can jump in fulltime for my purpose. My purpose is pretty simple — to give back. To help those that are in need. To help those that cannot help themselves. This is where I’m currently directing my giving and any volunteer hours while I work at my high-intensity job. I feel strongly that I have been blessed. A poor boy from Louisville, Kentucky now working for one of the greatest companies in the world. I just celebrated my 20 year work anniversary. I could have easily gone a different direction. I grew up in a neighborhood with low expectations, high school dropouts, teen pregnancies, drug use, etc. I was raised by a wonderful single mother that worked hard and loved generously. So, yes… I feel blessed. And with great blessings, I feel great responsibility to give back.

I’m also fortunate that my wife is basically on the same page with me. We both come from similar neighborhoods and lifestyles. We both feel blessed to be where we are today. So, together, we are trying to make a positive impact in the world.

We don’t always see eye-to-eye. We are both frugal in our different ways; yet we both spend more than we know that we should. There is a running joke in our family… that she cheats on me with Clearance… the clearance rack at any store. She will buy ten $5 blouses and talk about how she saved several hundred dollars. I mention that she spent fifty dollars that we didn’t have to spend (heck, if you see a picture of me from 5 or 10 years ago, I probably have that same hoodie and wore it yesterday). Meanwhile, I won’t just buy the new XBOX Game System, I’ll buy both the XBOX and PlayStation and make sure I have the big screen TV to go with it.

Here is where we are trying to come to terms now. I’m looking forward to retiring so I can travel the world 6 to 9 months a year and do humanitarian work in impoverish countries. I don’t think she is fully on-board with that (yet). I think her vision is more local and doing two to three week humanitarian missions trips with our church. But, our purposes do align with each other — We are BLESSED and we know we want to BLESS others. Nothing else really matters to us… not even our retirement savings. Our retirement savings is just a vehicle to help us bless others.

I hope this article had some value and meaning to you and your spouse. I wish you, your spouse, and your family the best as you work through these important discussions. It’s these discussions that make living worth living.

-Stephen

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