How Do I Get My Spouse Interested in Early Retirement?

Last week Ross asked the following question:

How do I go about getting my wife to start reading this blog or some of the articles above?  She is already great at budgeting but isn’t as motivated or excited by the thought of early retirement as I am. I think if I could get her reading some of these blog posts it would give us something more to talk about as well. Thanks.

Well I’m not an expert on this one, but I do understand your problem since I had the exact same issue for a number of years and to some degree I still do.  You see my wife initially was good about not spending too much and knowing the value of saving, but she didn’t have any interest in my early retirement plans either.  To her the idea was a bit too far out there to really care about.

So how did I get her interested in my plans?  Well to be honest I think her curiosity got to her about what I was writing about on the blog and she realized if she wanted to know what I was thinking about she would have to read it.  So after writing this blog for a few years she finally started reading it.  She then also developed an interest into the family profiles they do in Moneysense which I leave around the house.  Then finally she developed her own interest in the meltdown of 2008 and frankly has read more books on that than I have.

On one hand this is great, but on the other she still not that particularly interested in my early retirement plans, she likes the idea, but doesn’t want to discuss it too much since it is still so far away.

So how did all of that happen?  Well first off remember you can’t force people to do anything, all you can do if make the conditions right for them to want to do it.  So to support an interest in these things here are a few ideas:

  • Leave a few magazines about money around the house or even print off a few of your favorite articles from blogs.  That way they are an invitation to learn without forcing it on her.
  • Talk about money in a more general sense that she is interested in.  For example, saving for your next vacation or perhaps expand that idea to wouldn’t it be nice to take a year off and see the world or perhaps it would be nice to able to work at something she enjoys but doesn’t pay that well all the time.  Start slow and work your conversations up to early retirement.
  • Lay the groundwork for early retirement, but cultivating interests outside of work for both of you.  Also make sure to encourage her to have her own interests and activities.  You don’t need to spend every second together.
  • Talk about how nice it is to have the security of an emergency fund.  Then just keep building the fund way past the usually six months expenses.  At some point the idea of having a four year fund starts to get interesting.

Regardless of how you approach the topic do not force the issue.  Keep the conversations interesting and useful for now if you have to.  If you get pushed off, so be it.  Let it the issue lie for a while than slip it in again for a different angle.  You might have to approach the topic for various angles to find what will eventually draw in your spouse to talk about it.

So do you have Ross’s problem as well?  If so, what worked for you?

10 thoughts on “How Do I Get My Spouse Interested in Early Retirement?”

  1. I’ll suggest that there’s probably something deeper. In Tim’s case, he made it sound as if his wife doesn’t want to get her hopes up (which makes sense). Someone may be okay with saving money to a point, but not want to sacrifice their current standard of living. They may have no interest in investing or may not trust that investment income is stable enough to survive on. A person might simply love their job and not want to stop working in the foreseeable future.

    My suggestion to Ross would be to ensure that his wife feels good about what he’s doing, then to work toward early retirement for himself. That is, save a portion of his money and invest it for income and match his investment income against his current spending to track progress. There may come a point where his wife takes interest, there may not. And maybe he’ll retire early while she continues to enjoy the benefits of steady employment.

  2. Some people just find this stuff boring. I’ve figured that out with my wife. As well, she may actually have a different viewpoint than you. Like Robert says, maybe she doesn’t want to retire early — it’s a very valid and sound position!

    Robert’s suggestions are good. You figure out what it’s going to take to meet your goals and then discuss those actions with her. If those actions are ok, then you’re good to go. Otherwise she’ll have to come to the table with other actions that she prefers and then maybe you can coax her long term goals from her.

  3. Retirement for the sake of retirement can be an un interesting proposition, especially if you are young and have a job you really enjoy. I think that it really helps to have a shared dream, goal, ambition, something you really want to do in life together(a bucket list). That might be backpacking around Europe or Australia… or RV’ing around north America… or living and teaching in the Orient…or wintering in Arizona… For my wife and I, our shared dream was to build a log house on acreage in the country… and we wanted to enjoy this dream while we were still young and healthy. We bought the property and spent 10 years planning and dreaming and looking forward to the day when we could pull the plug and get out of the rat race. My wife would sometimes come home from a rough day at work and ask me half jokingly “can we retire yet?” She very much anticipated the day, and we had numerous discussions about how we might make that day come sooner.

  4. Lead by action. Dreams and security. That’s where it’s at.

    Even if retirement is not the spouse’s desired goal, it sure is nice to have $250/mo or $500/mo additional income and you can’t get there without saving the money.

  5. As part of a young couple I can definitely sympathize with the question. I try to occasionally discuss the power of compound interest to make the results more tangible. It’s like, “We can either have a new car, or buy a 3 year used one, and have an extra 50,000 when we retire.”

    Also, I find the idea of respecting each other’s financial goals and trying to allow them to work together is important. For example my partner wishes to take some time off, and maybe work part-time while our kids are young. In return she realizes we will have to give up some luxuries or find another income source in order to accomodate my goal of part-time work at 45(I don’t feel the need to fully retire at that age)and eventual retirement at 50. It helps that her family has a little money (not wealthy, but well off).

  6. I have the opposite problem. I recognized my spouse’s need to transition to semi-retirement at 46. We spent a couple of years discussing his dissatisfaction with the rat race of the corporate world and whether his early dreams of self-employment could be revisited. I repeatedly encouraged him to give himself permission to make the change. Leaving a job with a high income certainly wasn’t easy but I earn a modest salary at a job I like and we have a rental unit income-stream to cover our needs. We have no debt and that was a big factor that enabled him to be unconventional.
    I will admit to a few nights of “OMG” once he finally announced his retirement. But six months into this new reality, I can say it was the best decision he could have made for himself.

  7. I’m definitely more into the ER at 45 thing than my wonderful spouse… but thats okay. She loves her job so much that she has no qualms about working longer than I will. Its an ideal situation really… and the additional income won’t hurt either. Her main stipulation is that I have dinner ready when she gets home… no problem, as I love to cook.

  8. My wife doesn’t have much interest in saving. Her view is that “it’ll work out in the end and I can have more shoes now”. I end up putting my spending money on the mortgage, and she buys shoes… Happy wife, happy life I’m told!

  9. Thank you for the full blog reply and all of the comments. All very helpful and I especially like the one about leaving magazines and articles around to read. I think the basic point everyone hit was that sometimes a spouse just isn’t interested in discussions about money, saving and investments, and really, who can blame them, it can be a really boring subject if you are not interested. I will work slowly towards building an interest and framing it in a way that sparks further interest. Thank you all for your great comments.

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