Author Topic: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO  (Read 2190 times)

throwaway1234

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I find the relationship posts fascinating so I thought I'd post my own. Well that's not really the reason but I could use some insight from people that may have experienced something similar.

I have a fantastic SO with whom we mutually enrich each other's lives in countless ways. We've been together for a couple of years and I find the relationship has just been getting stronger and more loving. I also know that we don't share the same philosophy around finances.

I would describe myself as loosely Mustachian, of the "grad student who avoided lifestyle inflation" type. I'm 35 with NW around $300k, annual spend around $25-$30k so roughly halfway to FI. I'm a freelance software developer and pretty picky about projects so I'm sort of semi-retired already as I rarely get up to 40 hours of work in a week. I track my spending, have a budget, and have made around $100k/year pre-tax the past few years so my "take-home" saving rate would be around 50-60%. So I'm on track to not have to work at all by 45ish, or maybe a couple years sooner if I go back to a full time gig.

I would describe her as someone who's not spendy or extravagant but also not mindful of money. She doesn't track anything and has gone from being topped up by her parents for her first two years working full time to now saving 25%+ of her salary as she's switched to a higher paying job. Pretty much the same spend regardless of what's coming in. Lifestyle-wise this seems to work out as we spend about the same and on similar things (e.g. both happy with living with roommates, no car, not much eating out, a fair bit of travel, athletic activities etc).

I've read all the 'how to convert your SO to MMM' posts but they doesn't really resonate with me as I pretty much love her the way she is and don't really care to change her outlook, and I think that's OK as long as we are able to keep consistent boundaries around our separate financial lives. But I wonder if this is really sustainable in the long run and would love to hear from people who either tried this and failed, or who have made it work over a longer (e.g. decades-long) period.

So the question is, is it realistic to keep separate finances and financial philosophies over the long run, or does something eventually tend to give? Is the tension from one person retiring and not needing to work and the other continuing for maybe 10-20 more years bearable, or even productive?

terran

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2018, 10:54:47 AM »
We're combined in all ways and working towards the same FIRE goals, so I can't help you there.

I imagine as long as you're both totally up front about what you're each working towards then you can make it work. What I think you need to consider and then share with her to consider is what happens when you FIRE? Are you cool with not working while she continues to work, or do you really need both of you to FIRE to have a happy early retirement? How will she feel about the situation? Do you want to travel? If so, are you ok with being constrained by her job and/or going by yourself? Is she ok with that?

As I see it, if you stay on your current paths, at a certain point those paths will diverge so you have four choices: 1) you can both decide that it's ok that you're on different paths and you'll just make sure the paths criss-cross enough that it works for you,  2) you can decide now that diverging paths won't work and you'll both have to come up with a single compromise path you can stay on together, 3) you can decide diverging paths won't work so you split up now, or 4) you can decide diverging paths won't work so you'll stay on the same path until they diverge and split up then.

Edit: to put things in perspective, your current "joint" savings rate is (60%+25%)/2=42.5%, so it wouldn't take much to get you both to a "FIRE approved 50%, so since you say her spending doesn't really change much when she gets raises you might very well be able to FIRE together without it taking too terribly long either.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2018, 10:58:49 AM by terran »

ixtap

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2018, 11:16:17 AM »
She spends the same amount of money as you, on the same things...so you are really complaining about her income?

SKL-HOU

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2018, 11:23:44 AM »
Do you plan on having kids? How would you handle that financially? Does she want to retire early and does she have the means to do so?

arob54600

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2018, 12:29:24 PM »
When I met my husband, he was one of the most frugal men I'd ever dated (loved that!) but he didn't quite understand that 401ks and investments were a big deal. Now to the untrained eye looking at our portfolios side by side, I had it together and he did not. But honestly that was not the case. He is just a passionate about goals and FIRE as I am, he just didn't know it yet. So we are catching him up, because we are a team. We put the checking account and budget together after a year of marriage because it felt unnecessary and petty to keep it apart. And while technically my name has more "assets" it's our money and I'm not FIRE til my dude is too.

My question to you is what is the thought process behind keeping things separate vs combining your resources? Because a dual income-combined bill situation could really increase your saving power.
And if shes "not spendy or extravagant but doesn't have a mind for money" well that could be where you could come in to save the day. Sounds like your more compatible than you give yourselves credit for.

honeybbq

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2018, 01:03:59 PM »
Out of 2 people in a relationship, one is usually more 'into' finances than the other.

My spouse hardly spends any of the household income (we are joint finances). But I'm the one who gets groceries, buys the plane tickets, clothes for the kid, pays the mortgage, etc. So I probably spend 75% or more of the money that we spend as a family. But that doesn't make me unfrugal.

I'm also the one who calculates our NW every month and figures out FIRE dates, what things will look like if one of us retires, does the asset balancing, manages the 529 and the after tax money, etc.

I also probably spend more on luxuries or non-essentials than him.

But we are compatible as a whole and our system works together. So maybe your spouse only saves 25% and she's not really interested in tracking her saving/spending. Can you live with that? Does it work for your lifestyle? Can you pick up where she drops off? Are you similar in philosophy (save more than you spend?) but not in execution? Only you can decide.

erutio

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2018, 01:12:43 PM »
She saves >25% of her income.  That is already great!

socaso

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2018, 04:50:21 PM »
She sounds lovely! Have you ever talked to her about your FIRE goals? It would be a good place to start if you haven't. Lots of couples keep separate finances and are perfectly happy but I think it would be good to let her know what your financial goals are and see what hers are just so you know what each other's priorities are. The main thing I notice is that she doesn't seem to have any spending habits that make you grind your teeth and that is a big deal. Most of the divorces I have seen happen with my friends were usually due to very different ideas about what was important financially.

Rosy

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2018, 06:36:20 PM »
I find the relationship posts fascinating so I thought I'd post my own. Well that's not really the reason but I could use some insight from people that may have experienced something similar.

I have a fantastic SO with whom we mutually enrich each other's lives in countless ways. We've been together for a couple of years and I find the relationship has just been getting stronger and more loving. I also know that we don't share the same philosophy around finances.

I would describe myself as loosely Mustachian, of the "grad student who avoided lifestyle inflation" type. I'm 35 with NW around $300k, annual spend around $25-$30k so roughly halfway to FI. I'm a freelance software developer and pretty picky about projects so I'm sort of semi-retired already as I rarely get up to 40 hours of work in a week. I track my spending, have a budget, and have made around $100k/year pre-tax the past few years so my "take-home" saving rate would be around 50-60%. So I'm on track to not have to work at all by 45ish, or maybe a couple years sooner if I go back to a full time gig.

I would describe her as someone who's not spendy or extravagant but also not mindful of money. She doesn't track anything and has gone from being topped up by her parents for her first two years working full time to now saving 25%+ of her salary as she's switched to a higher paying job. Pretty much the same spend regardless of what's coming in. Lifestyle-wise this seems to work out as we spend about the same and on similar things (e.g. both happy with living with roommates, no car, not much eating out, a fair bit of travel, athletic activities etc).

I've read all the 'how to convert your SO to MMM' posts but they doesn't really resonate with me as I pretty much love her the way she is and don't really care to change her outlook, and I think that's OK as long as we are able to keep consistent boundaries around our separate financial lives. But I wonder if this is really sustainable in the long run and would love to hear from people who either tried this and failed, or who have made it work over a longer (e.g. decades-long) period.

So the question is, is it realistic to keep separate finances and financial philosophies over the long run, or does something eventually tend to give? Is the tension from one person retiring and not needing to work and the other continuing for maybe 10-20 more years bearable, or even productive?


Well, we started out with separate finances and still have separate accounts although the other has full access - mostly because I hated the idea of having "him" tell me what to spend "my" money on:) He's naturally frugal, pedantic and takes forever to make a decision.
He's pragmatic about money and life - I'm emotional, period. I knew he didn't entirely approve how I handled my money, being a frugal person.

However, we never have had any money issues, our values are basically the same and while I'm naturally a spendy pants by MMM standards, I don't spend money I do not have. I save up for stuff I want or trips to see family in Europe - he hardly ever wants or needs anything - he's just that way.
We've always discussed any major expenditures and how best to deal with whatever came our way - renovations and their expenses was my area - replacing the AC was mostly his.
Over time we came to trust each other more.

In the beginning, I had very little income compared to him, I was probably in the worst financial shape of my life. Fast forward 20 years later and we decided to add each other to our accounts and we developed a plan for our retirement together.
Things changed and shifted over the years and I'm actually doing slightly better financially than him - something neither one of us ever anticipated. I've become an asset to him - financially speaking, due to a number of unexpected developments.

I literally told him at the start, "Look, I don't have much money right now but I do have plenty of talents that will save us money - from renovations to gardening, to gourmet dinners and savvy shopping on a dime, having fun on a budget".

We fixed up the house and the garden in style and I don't mean fleamarket style. I have a knack for that sort of thing and I enjoy being creative on a dime with no one being the wiser.
It's been a long journey together - but we were compatible from the start and cared deeply for each other, that made everything really easy.

Money is important but overall compatibility is every bit as important. I was afraid he would try to be controlling because he made more money than me and I even had to explain to him that, "No, I can't carry 50% of the expenses, because I don't have enough income." Talk about being embarrassed, but it would have been foolish to put up 50% of expenses when to me that would have meant I had nothing left - whereas to him it was less than 15% of his income.
It just hadn't occurred to him before and I wasn't particularly thrilled that I couldn't handle my share, because I still had other obligations at the time.
I told him what I could handle and those items became my monthly bills, but over time things improved and we decided that, "OK, it's time to combine finances and accounts.

He never tried to change me or tell me how to spend my money - so my initial fears never materialized. So I slowly relaxed and we started working on projects and our future together.

If you have concerns of some sort financially it would be good to address them and discuss how you want to handle things - where you see yourselves in the future.
I think it would be beneficial to you both if she set up a retirement plan or 401K or Roth - she may not care about money as much as you do - now, but as she gets older that will become important to her and you don't want her to lose out on years of savings - she'd be giving up a huge advantage in time that she can never recoup if the two of you don't make plans for the future together.

If you love her - help her set up a plan and discuss all of your plans for your future together.
Life is funny - you never know what the future brings - discuss and implement - together.
Good Luck!

AlwaysBeenASaver

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Re: Long-term separate finances/financial style with a non-Mustachian SO
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2018, 05:14:59 PM »
We sound similar as a couple to you, I'm very financially minded, frugal, into saving and investments. He's not extravagant, but also doesn't pay a lot of attention to his spending, doesn't keep a budget, and buys what he wants in general. He does know the importance of having money to retire on other than SS, so he fully maxes his 401K, much to my relief. He's not on the path to ER, but will be able to retire comfortably in his 60's.

We've had separate finances throughout our 25+ year relationship, and it has so far worked out just fine; I don't see any changes to that going forward. We don't have, nor plan to have, children. We have a joint account. Once a month we each put the same amount of money into that account, and we have a written budget for that account - it covers all shared expenses: housing, groceries, utilities, maintenance (we own our home together), etc. We also have a shared credit card that is only used for shared irregular expenses - vacations, vet bills, appliance purchases, etc. We each pay half of that credit card bill each month. Other than that, our money is our own to save and spend, and we have our own bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts.