Author Topic: How do I strike an appropriate Mustachian compromise in my relationship?  (Read 2200 times)

drteter

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Iím moved to ask this board what they think about a twist on the common relationship situation (read through the 50 steps to MMM your SO and still find myself at a loss). My girlfriend is a truly fantastic person - extremely sharp, funny has a strong and fulfilling career for which she is well-paid. Weíre very compatible in most ways and have a strong connection. However, one sticking point is money/career.

My career plan and desired lifestyle:
My plan was to retire by 35 or 40, and then continue working on a variety of interesting projects in retirement, some of which would likely generate money so that I wouldnít have to touch my nest egg for quite some time.

In terms of lifestyle, I am not currently the most Mustachian person out there but I do save ~40% of my income in a HCOL city. In the future, I want to carefully avoid the type of car-reliant suburbs I grew up in, opting instead for a walkable area for day to day errands and a minimal commute to work if possible. Iíd like to own the correct amount of (nice) house, one fuel-efficient car bought in cash and infrequently used, and practice domestic insourcing to build skills, etc.

Her career plan and desired lifestyle:
She is in a career that requires a great deal of training, so she is only a few years into her working career and loves it. Her family is all in the same line of work, and the precedent has been set that people work for a very long time (her grandfather recently retired at age 90), so she doesnít plan to retire early if at all.

For lifestyle, she is not necessarily a spendy person and is generally thoughtful with her money. However, she is not Mustachian by any stretch and thus has no issue with driving for errands, having a suburban house and lifestyle, purchasing things because she wants them and can afford them, even if she is not deluded into thinking that an average consumer product can deliver happiness.

She is also I think a product of her upbringing and system from a career/money standpoint Ė she believes that you should save for retirement and life goals, but has expressed concern that she would feel drained by consistently evaluating money decisions in a Mustachian way, particularly on medium or smaller ticket items. She also wants to be with someone who has a career focus, goals, etc. for both reasons of growth and financial stability.  To her, this means that my desired retirement date and retirement activities would be concerning if not an outright issue.

To summarize: Iím very much opposed to a kind of ďtraditionalĒ suburban life with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, expenses running high and incomes having to run ever higher to ensure a strong and secure retirement at 70. I don't think she's going to spend us out of house and home, but I do think she wants a more traditional life than I do in that sense.  However, I think that this is a truly amazing person, and though she is not a card-carrying Mustachian she is still far better in this regard than the typical spendypants American.

Two questions: 1) is the gap too wide to bridge? 2) if not, how do I ensure that I can lead a fulfilling, Mustachian life with a non-Mustachian SO?

MrsWolfeRN

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Could you pitch MMM/ city living from an environmental angle? Talk about how much carbon a commute from the suburbs would generate. Maybe watch some documentaries about factory conditions in Bangladesh while you're at it to cut down on the consumer spending. As for not wanting you to retire, why not offer to be the SAHP for those 2.5 kids?

drteter

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Could you pitch MMM/ city living from an environmental angle? Talk about how much carbon a commute from the suburbs would generate. Maybe watch some documentaries about factory conditions in Bangladesh while you're at it to cut down on the consumer spending. As for not wanting you to retire, why not offer to be the SAHP for those 2.5 kids?

Thanks for the suggestions!

I have tried the environmental angle, and while I think it has been somewhat effective (getting a fuel efficient car vs. a gas guzzler) I don't think it's gotten me as far as I'd like. Minimizing environmental impact by buying via Craigslist, walking or biking where possible, living close to work and where you do your errands/socializing are all hard sells when they stand opposed to convenience of using a car for a trip to the grocery store, the specificity of getting the item you need rather than a comparable one from Craigslist, etc.

GF was raised with two parents who worked for much of her childhood, and her mom quit her job when GF was relatively young. GF was raised with help from a nanny + her parents, and feels this was a strong and supportive upbringing (and it seems one she'd be willing to replicate). Furthermore, her mom now wishes she could rejoin her field but is unable to due to advances since she quit work, so I think she is likely to be opposed to the notion of a full-time stay at home parent. If I was running my own venture from home I think she'd be OK with that, though.

lhamo

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Can you look at what she thinks her minimum lifestyle requirements are to be comfortable, and come up with a budget for what that might cost you over time.  So maybe:

1)  Nice 3br 2ba house in a suburb with excellent public schools

2)  1 or 2 kids, nanny or au pair for 1-2YO, mid-range pre-school for ages 3-5

3)  Low cost, fuel efficient cars purchased no more frequently than every 10 years (of 5 if purchased used)

4)  Fully funded retirement accounts every year

5)  Reasonable vacation budget (unused portions in one year can carry over for splurges in later years)

6)  Reasonable budget for occasional  splurges on other stuff

7) One or two structured activities for kids once they hit school age

8)  Agreed upon amounts or percentages for each of you to contribute to household income from work earnings until your non-retirement stash reaches the amount that can generate the committed to amount (adjusted for inflation) or percentage-- this can be supplemented by PT or contract work if you want to step back a bit before the stash can generate that much

So let's hypothesize that all this is going to cost roughly 100k/year, at current economic levels, and your partner makes 100k and you make 80 k.  If she puts in 55k and you put in 45, and she can do whatever she wants with her extra 45k while you save your extra 35k in your non-retirement stash, in 10 years you would probably have a non-retirement stash of about 500k (assuming decent market returns -- I didn't do the actual math), which you could safely draw on at 20k/year and cut down to working part time or intermittently.  Or you could keep working full time to generate more for the stash.

The main thing is you have to be able to talk about your different goals/values and find a way to reconcile them, or the relationship isn't going to work (or will be full of tension and resentment).

Telecaster

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To summarize: Iím very much opposed to a kind of ďtraditionalĒ suburban life with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, expenses running high and incomes having to run ever higher to ensure a strong and secure retirement at 70. I don't think she's going to spend us out of house and home, but I do think she wants a more traditional life than I do in that sense.  However, I think that this is a truly amazing person, and though she is not a card-carrying Mustachian she is still far better in this regard than the typical spendypants American.

Two questions: 1) is the gap too wide to bridge? 2) if not, how do I ensure that I can lead a fulfilling, Mustachian life with a non-Mustachian SO?

Short answer:  1) No.  2) You compromise and communicate.

Long answer:  My wife grew up poor.  So for her, getting to do/spend money on stuff that she only ever dreamed she would be able to do is like...well, a dream come true.  We both earn good incomes and she feels like she already knows what poor is being like, and doesn't want to experience that again.  She grew up in a house where they couldn't afford to turn up the heat.  I keep the heat turned down as a matter of baddassity.  I work at home most of the time, and keep it it 62 during the day.  She hated coming home from school to a cold house at night and doesn't want that again.  I get it, so I turn up the heat to whatever she likes when she's home.   Her family are (mostly former) Jehovah's Witnesses who don't believe in celebrating holidays like Christmas or birthdays, so she missed out on all that stuff as a child and wants to make up for it.  I get it. So the nieces and nephews get spoiled, with my full support. On and on. 

I don't think pitching conditions in Bangladesh will be effective unless she is already concerned about conditions in Bangladesh.  What I do is frame spending in terms of our relationship.  Yes, we could buy a new dining room set, but we could have a month in Maui for the same price.  And in 12 years, that could be two months in Maui.  Or three months vacation at home. 

And there is FIRE, and there is FI.   We have seen example after example on these boards of people who achieved FI (including MMM), who then went onto do the work they really wanted to do.  And in many cases made more money post-FI than pre-FI (MMM, again).  Your GF loves her career.  What if she could work anywhere she wanted and not have to worry about a salary?  She should want the same thing for you.

And finally, your personal relationships should be vastly more important than money.  So pick your battles carefully. 


Cranky

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Well, first of all, if you aren't actually living the way you envision living in the long run, you don't know whether it's going to work for you, either. Plus, I caution you that what sounds fabulous when you are in your 20's is not always what you want years and years down the line. (Am I raising goats in the country today? No, I am not.)

So, at this point, I think you can start living a little more the way that you find valuable, and that might be more persuasive than just saying that you don't ever want to live in the suburbs.

Lady SA

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I would say that the best solution for you both is separate finances.

It is important to you that you achieve freedom and independence. It is important to her that she have stability and income from working as long as possible. Both of these are fine, and both can happen at the same time. It is not really fair for either of you to pressure your partner into doing what you want to do. Its not fair for you to pressure her into retiring early when she doesnt particularily want to, and it isn't fair for her to pressure you into working indefinitely (as long as you aren't a deadbeat, are responsible and have a plan for supporting yourself, obviously).

Why is it important for you that she also achieve financial independence? Do you want her to retire early too? Is it ok with you that she is opposed and uncomfortable with this? Or do you just want her to agree to some of the bigger lifestyle items to enable you to be independent (home location, home size/amenities, car, etc)? What do you want to do when you FIRE, travel? Putter around at home? If she continues working, you may need to compromise to shorter vacations, or be ok puttering around at home by yourself instead of together.

Why is it important to her that you keep working indefinitely (stability? fear that she will be "used" to support you?)? Can you address and mitigate these concerns in ways that dont involve working? Perhaps as you come closer to independence and you show her that you actually are pulling an income (just from investments, not a job), that will ease her concerns.

Separate finances would allow both of you to achieve your goals. You get a handle on your portion of the household expenses, and you work until you can cover your portion with investment income. If this concept is foreign to her (and it well may be, many people don't really understand how you can support yourself on investments), it may just take time to bring her around--it may not work until you reach the point of FI and she can see with her own eyes that the investments are throwing off enough to cover your expenses. It wasn't until I found MMM that I understood investments could be used to replace income (so I can totally relate to your girlfriend if she doesn't quite get it yet), and it still took more than a year before I really understood generally how it worked and felt more comfortable with it.

Separate finances means you can support yourself, and it also mitigates her possible worry that you want a "free ride" and live off her income while not supporting yourself. I think if my DH had pitched this FIRE idea to me back before I understood investing, I would be very concerned that I was being used for my income so he could goof off.

Yes, FIRE is important to you, but instead you should focus on how she is feeling about it. I have a feeling that she has some similar concerns and doesn't quite know how to tell you that she is worried that you might be a deadbeat. If you want to convince her, don't talk about your dreams for FIRE, talk about how you have a bulletproof plan to cover your obligations indefinitely that doesn't require a job.

Noodle

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The ideal Mustachian situation for a couple is, of course, similar goals and agreement on means. But I think a very successful and happy partnership can be had if both partners feel their individual goals are respected and supported. What does this mean for you? Well, neither of you is going to have your ideal situation. But you can both have some of what you want, with a lot of talking--especially talking about the values BEHIND the desires. For instance, WHY does she want a traditional suburban house? Good schools? Ease of commute? Not wanting to deal with the hassles of higher-density living? Preferring a newer build so as to have less maintenance? A back-yard for kids and pets? Some of those factors could be accommodated in older, walkable neighborhoods, while others can't. Also, on a scale of one to ten, how important is it to her to have a home that suits her perfectly? If it's a 3 for her and a 7 for you, maybe you get the house you want and she gets something else she wants more (a newer car, for instance).

If she doesn't want to deal with constant Mustachian optimization, then you do the parts that are higher-maintenance like grocery shopping, and automate as much as you can to reduce the negotiation. If she's nervous about you leaving the workforce with no particular plan, then make one (you should do that anyway, the people who retire with no particular goals seem to end up unhappy). Financial flexibility can support her professional goals too...for instance, if she's in medicine, one day she might want to be able to take time away from paid work to provide medical care for those in need, or work for a clinic that can't afford a high salary, or run her own practice in the way that SHE thinks best instead of being a slave to the insurance companies.

If the idea of being in a partnership with a lot of discussion and compromise isn't for you, then maybe she isn't your perfect fit...but I wouldn't give up quite yet...

Prairie Stash

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Compromise

Telling someone that you would like to stop working at 35 or 40, if you're 25 is unreasonable. Saying the exact same thing at 33 is different. In the former case, you are asking the other person to come along on your journey and asking them to choose your lifestyle over their own. In the latter, you have already done the work/planning and you are asking them to embrace who you have been for 10 years already.

Early stage mustachianism is fraught with challenges. Its hard to take people seriously until they have done it for a long time, until then it's like going to university and meeting all the Pre-Med students on campus, I swear my school had 1000 pre-med, but only 100 would become doctor (I assume its a common phenomenon). Its easy to talk about it, harder to accomplish. A lot of the challege peole around mustachians have is they come in with great ideas, but no track record.

My solution is to build your track record, dollar by dollar, until the plan isn't just a theoretical idea at age 40 but has money behind it. Having the conversation when you have $500,000 in the bank is different from the conversation at $50,000. People take the big number seriously and will acknowledge the committment, with the small number people hesitate and wonder if its just a short phase (human nature, its not the listeners fault). All you have to do is live the mustachian lifestyle for a few years, eventually she will come around to respect your lifestyle. 3-4 years is really all that seperates a mustachian from a non mustachian, its a really thin line. Have you done the 3 years yet?

Most of my mustachianism is one sided, it works. Nothing will ever stop you from insourcing tasks, not personally driving, she isn't limiting your biking to places (or walking). If you're asking her to change, what changes are you willing to do?

Laura33

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Give up on the idea of changing her, and work on finding solutions that meet both of your emotional needs.  She has a high need for security -- she wants both of you to work full-time indefinitely so she feels safe.  OK.  Maybe she needs to see that the best security of all is not having to work to meet your needs.  And the lower those "needs" are, the easier it is to hit that goal. 

The way you get there is to figure out her "why" -- why does she want a house in the suburbs?  Is it because she thinks that's What You Do, because she wants a neighborhood filled with kids, because she doesn't like the city schools, because she wants a big yard or privacy, because she thinks you get more for your money and she wants a bigger living space than you can afford in the city, or what?  There are a million possible reasons, but the only one that matters is hers.  Stop trying to persuade her about how great your lifestyle is, and start figuring out ways that she can get what she wants without you tossing everything that means so much to you.  She likes the convenience of driving?  Ok -- get a house in the city with a garage, and that way you can walk and she can drive.  You want to insource, she wants to outsource?  Ok -- split the chores, and then each of you can accomplish your share however you see fit.

And you need to be clear on your "why," too -- why do you want to FIRE?  Is it because you can't stand working for The Man, because you have some volunteer or low-paying work you really can't wait to do, because you want time home with kids, because you have your own need to feel secure and think the best way to achieve that is not to need a job, or what?  FIRE is just the goal, the same way "having a career" is a goal; you guys both need to talk about why your particular goals matter so much to you.

MrThatsDifferent

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It is interesting how much we try and convince people to stay in relationships where people arenít really compatible, but we talk ourselves into it. So iím going to go against the grain and say, yes, the gap is too wide. Iím in a similar situation. My SO comes from working stock and retirement makes no sense and doesnít want to skimp, even though isnít a spendypants. I want to retire and see the world, my SO wants a couple of trips but wants to be close to home and the parents. Our dreams have diverged. Maybe we can set up something, maybe not. Itís a point of contention and if I mention MMM then generally a fight will ensue. Now maybe your partner will change, read about the Mad Fientist, his partner changed. I think the key is to keep your finances separate except for a joint account. You take responsibility for yourself. Just hold off on marriage until you know for sure. There are amazing partners in the world who will share your values, itís ok that she doesnít. It doesnít mean you have to force it when you know that youíre really not a match. It will not get easier with marriage.

hdatontodo

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I dated someone whose ex was in sales and was a spendy pants.

I lived with a gal who did not make money and was a spendy pants.

The best each of us could do was to get x dollars saved up front from each check from the partner and let them spend the rest.

Neither of us could get them to change  their attitude toward money.


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