The Cost of My Marriage

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any.  Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

My wife and I had an interesting conversation recently – she understands that I am a somewhat “quirky” (how I like to think about it) person and she was wondering what my life would be like if I were single.  I described a very tongue–in-cheek fantasy world initially, which, although amusing (to me) was probably not all that realistic.

In reality, I would probably turn somewhat hermit-like.  My goal would move from a more conventional lifestyle which is currently dictated in order to keep my marriage together, to an extremely independent way of life that is very non-conventional.

Rather than my current stream of paying off a significant mortgage, and investing for retirement after that, I probably wouldn’t have taken on a mortgage in the first place.  Living by myself, I think I could tolerate significantly less enjoyable conditions than would be tolerated by my spouse (I once rented a room in Toronto in a house with about a dozen other people which turned out to be very roach infested, and overall very disgusting) in order to save enough to pay cash for a place of my own.

Instead of a house in town, I would prefer to be somewhere where I could grow a portion of my own food for part of the year, which isn’t possible right now with my 10’ x 10’ backyard area.  I would build a tiny house and find a reasonably priced plot of land to live on, which would reduce my normal housing costs as well as a purchase cost significantly over what I currently pay.

I think I could support this lifestyle on very little (less than $10,000 per year) so I would be able to quit full-time work several years sooner than I currently am planning (at 45).  For leisure, I’m not sure what I’d do – I might decide to work a few months of the year to be able to afford to go South to golf or travel or learn new skills (or whatever I felt like doing).

Is this an ideal life?  Not really – I love my wife, which is why I’ve compromised these very non-conventional plans to a point where both of us are happy with the way we’re living (I hope).  It would be ideal if I were single at this point.  I figure I have to work full-time an extra 5-7 years to retire with a more conventional retirement (although much earlier).  To me, this trade off is worth it – I’m generally surprised my wife tolerates what could be perceived as weirdness to the extent she does, but as I write this we’ve been married for 800 days.

Have you made any significant compromises in your marriage around spending and retirement?  How would your life be different if you were single (or in the case of single people, married)?


11 thoughts on “The Cost of My Marriage”

  1. I love your wife, too. She’s rare in this world. I think I compromised more when my husband was working in the corporate world. He was rarely home, distracted/tired and unfulfilled. I did my best to pull up the slack but often felt single in a marriage. Now that he’s semi-retired at 48 and I took the summer off from my job, I feel like we’re finally living. The only “compromise” is that our income has fallen drastically. But we’ve gained time, sleep and a sane pace of life.

  2. Dave, after your “Tiny House” post a few years ago, I actually purchased a set of plans for one of the mid-sized models. It is my intention of building it on some acerage I own. And yes, it is my intention to “live off the land” to a certain degree. My wife is simply bemused by it all. She has less of a problem with city living than I do.

  3. If I was single…I actually had a taste of that early this year when my DH was in the hospital for a whole month. Barring hospital visits, which took up most of my time, here’s how my life would be different:

    The house would be a LOT cleaner. I was amazed that something I cleaned actually stayed that way unless I messed it up myself. And my daughter cleaned up after herself pretty well too. Shows me who the hoarder / slob is in our house! Since he’s been home, the load of housework has picked up significantly again.

    I would stay on budget almost every month – I’ve taken over all the household finance since his early retirement, and I see that while I tell myself that we can’t spend like we used to, the message hasn’t gotten through to the other account holder in the house.

    I would live closer to my work, probably in an apartment instead of a house. We live in a beautiful area, in a very unique home, because my husband does not like the city. It is an hour and a half commute for me – five minutes for him when he worked.

    My kid would spend a lot of time not with a parent – since I am out of the house for work about 12 hours a day, she would be raised by someone else. That SUCKS!

    We would not have a ton of friends – DH is the social animal and the keeper-in-touch, he volunteers in the community and is a chatter. I am and can do none of those things. I think we would be sadly isolated.

    We would have two fewer vehicles in the house – DH has “toy” vehicles.

    We would own less over all – DH likes his toys!

    I would be able to retire, just supporting myself, by age 50 at the latest. Supporting the rest of the family, I estimate I will retire by 65 at the earliest.

  4. Usually it’s the women who sacrifice mostly in the way that Sandy describes, though not as often or as much as some would have you believe. Dollar-wise there are more expensive husbands and wives. There will always be one who is less expensive than the other and so that one experiences a cost. However I would say that usually, there are major overhead savings which are saved by two people living together, most especially housing (again, unless one would live in a hovel otherwise).

  5. M: Sounds like things are a lot better now….the summer off would be very nice.

    jon_snow: I think I would get the same reaction, all the way up until the final nail was in and it was move in ready, then there would probably be some panic and “discussions” 🙂

    Retired Sid: I’m not sure how my wife’s would go, it would definitely be different than this one…..

    Sandy: Sounds like it would be a bit of a different life.

    Alex: I think that the compromise my wife and I have made works for us – I retire later, and my wife will retire earlier. I agree on the overhead savings in general, I am just willing to do with significantly less (probably more than most….by North American standards anyways).

  6. I’d sell the house in the country in a heartbeat and get a little apartment in the suburbs. Get rid of at least one car, probably both. Use the ~400k equity in the house to retire immediately instead of in 10years.

    FYI for all those with romantic dreams of life in the country, I just spent $2500 to have racoons removed from the attic and steel mesh installed over all the sections of roof soffits where they could break in again. The lovely big garden I intended to have has now been abandoned. Unless I intend to install a 12+ foot fence around it, the deer have finally triumphed. Our hard water has finally destroyed another iron filter – replacement will be $4500. We used to be 20 minutes beyond the city, now the city has amalgamated all the country townships bordering it. Our property taxes for our 3 little acres are nearly $5k per year and for that we still have only volunteer fire department. City taxes for country services, oh yay.

    Yes it’s peaceful and quiet here, but don’t count on country living to be cost effective. I figure I can rent a one bedroom apartment for what we spend here on taxes and electricity alone. Neither of those costs go away when the morgage is paid off, and my equity would still be tied up in the house. I’d much rather retire now at 47, live small and travel the world.

  7. Any chance of a guest post from Dave’s wife? I’d love to hear something from her perspective, not necessarily the life she’d be leading if she were single (though that would certainly be interesting), just anything about her perspective on the financial plan for early retirement.

  8. @JMK – we lived in the country and ran into the same types of things … we had snakes in our house that we never did entire purge the place of and a variety of other costly issues. I finally convinved hubby (this was an effort as he loved the place) to move to a subdivision on one acre of land. We have had new issues here … squirrels in the attic chewing the rafters, sewer odor, high property taxes, etc.

    As I said in a previous post, we are both done (again, he was slow to come around on moving but he is there now) with ownership and our house is for sale. We just bought a small townhouse in a co-op where THEY do the maintenance and lawn. Whew!

  9. I would be living in a small apartment downtown with no car (he loves cars and houses with lots of storage since he is a packrat). I too would take the equity from the house sale and retire a lot earlier. But he is worth it.

  10. I Would like to think of myself as a bit of an exception here. I have decided to stay single and “serial date” considering the odds of how many marriages actually fail. I am in my 40’s. I do respect a couple that are truly a match and have a wonderful life together. I think that’s actually rare though.

    I decided to buy a bigger house even though it cost more and cost me quite a bit in property tax every year. I was able to pay it of quite quickly using a LOC rather then a conventional downpayment. I saved up a nice downpayment and used the equity in my home to get the secured LOC. I did this twice. I truly believe that is the best and cheapest way to finance a house.

    I don’t think my salary has ever been all that great either. I’ve simply just been smart with what i make from a young age. I’m very comfortable have little stress and really enjoy my life. I have way too big a house but it’s a nice piece of equity to fall back on if ever needed and can’t stand these little yuppy condo or freehold units. They make me claustraphobic.

    You can easily get stuck with a partner that has no money sense and would actually bring their debts and bad habits into the relationship. So if you don’t pick the right partner, have a few kids the theory of being in better shape financially goes right out the window. If you get divorced once or twice, then your really in trouble.

    Sorry to bring a little negative to these posts but that too is reality.

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