Mrs YFG: my top tips for getting your partner on side

After work yesterday, I walked upstairs to our little office room and found my husband squirrelling away on a spreadsheet. He was creating safe withdrawal predictions based on index funds since 1990.

For fun.

Mr YFG is a peculiar person. But I know his enthusiasm is the reason one day in the near future work will be optional for us. He is the only reason I’m interested in Financial Independence (FI). I wouldn’t have found it on my own. With this in mind, I wanted to share how Mr YFG got me involved.

The first thing to say is you and your partner don’t both necessarily have to be in the same frame of mind. It depends what you want out of FI. If the idea is that you’re both free of work, then you’ll probably both need to be on board.

Finances are probably one of the most important and oft-neglected items couples should talk about. If you aren’t even talking about finances yet then a discussion about a FI lifestyle change will be going too far.

But here’s my top tips anyway.

1: Show and tell

One of my common questions to Mr YFG every time I come home from work is what he’s read or seen that day that’s interesting. I want him to tell me about his day.

He’ll usually start on some spiel about the government or some study he read. Last week it was life expectancy. But more often than not, he will send me a link on WhatsApp to an interesting blog post he read.

He did this with Mr Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme. And that’s how I initially got interested. He let me read them in my own time. He asked whether I liked the post. What I thought. When I had a question, he engaged and explained how we could do the same, and what it would look like for us.

Before 2014, early retirement for me was age 55. I assumed that anyone for whom work was optional had a lot of money or had some help. I was resigned to the fact I would work until I was at least 55. The concept of Financial Independence was alien to me. But once I looked at other people who had rejected a traditional working life, I wanted some of the action.

2: Translate it into real life

Once I had read the blogs, I started asking my husband about the figures. The difficulty for me was that the FI figure seemed too insurmountable for me: we need more than a million pounds? W.T.F.

I couldn’t get on board with the idea that I cut our spending on coffees and clothes and then miraculously end up a millionaire.

Absolutely illogical.

I was too busy buying things to make up for my stressful day job, and treat myself to make the 60/70 hour weeks worth it. I’d resigned myself to this being my choice as I had so much invested (I had trained for 6 years at that point). The idea of retiring early was so alien.

3: Simple math

But then Mr YFG sat down with me and went on a simple early retirement calculator and Mr MMM’s Shockingly simple math behind early retirement.

He input my wages, savings rate and our current net worth and then showed me the number of years until I would hit FI. Back then it was in the region of 10-15 years if I remember rightly. He had a rough idea of expenses and he put that in.

Mr YFG then pulled the levers (savings rate up, expenses down, wages up) by incremental amounts and showed me the huge difference it made.

He drew diagrams to show me how compounding worked, and how much your pounds saved today equates into years in the future. With each move of the lever, he showed me how my mandatory working life was dropping down. That’s what got me hooked.

4: Context

The key was that he put FI in context. It’s easy to read a few articles.

But to see it with your own figures, and to see a realistic projection, is invaluable.

He showed me, with pictures and diagrams, how I could change my financial decisions now. How I could end up being able to freely choose whether I work or not. He showed me how close he was to FI (at that point) and what he started with. The penny dropped.

I doubt this would have happened if he just tried to explain it to me.

I didn’t change overnight, but my values did. Once you plant the seed of the idea, starting the journey is important.

5: Tracking expenses

In 2011, when we moved in together as a couple, Mr YFG started an expenses spreadsheet. He used it to track our bills and rent, and it started out as a purely functional thing. He also added in his expenses and income and tracked these.

It wasn’t until 2014 he convinced me to track mine too. I was spending all my salary and going into my overdraft. I didn’t know where my money went. After we had chatted about FI, I complained to him that the FI figure was impossible. He explained that to get a realistic FI projection I needed to track my expenses.

At the end of the month, Mr YFG asked me to login with him to my credit card and current account and we went through the transactions. This was the only way he was going to accurately work out my savings rate and where my salary was going.

Not gonna lie, this was very difficult to do.

It took me a while to agree to log my expenses. I was always honest with my husband (then boyfriend). Seeing what I spent in detail – the raw data – was literally like sharing my deepest darkest secrets. I was defensive and worried that he would think less of me for spending so much on things he would never dream of purchasing. Subscriptions, clothes, £150 at SpaceNK etc.

It was airing my financial laundry. Being honest I didn’t want to look too close.

6: No judgement

But he never judged. This is so important for getting a partner on board: don’t judge them. For the FI-minded partner, some decisions may not make sense. The instinct is to say “what were you thinking?!

But please try not to judge. What was obvious to Mr YFG at the time was not obvious to me.

Mr YFG would log in to my accounts and copy and paste the numbers, and show me a totalling spreadsheet. After a few months, some material patterns started to show, and seeing the numbers made me realise where I was wasting my money. Mr YFG didn’t use that term; I did. Seeing the numbers (£600 a month on clothing and accessories) made you think: what have I got to show for it? It helps you put things in perspective.

Reactions

When I share this story about showing him my expenses, there are generally two groups of opinions:

The first says that if you trust each other, you shouldn’t need to account to each other for your expenses.

The second says that if you trust each other you should bare all, and have complete transparency in where your money is going.

The problem is a point missed: it’s not about trust. It’s purely about optimising your financial life, and working out where your money goes is the first step on the financial freedom ladder. For any couple on the FI journey, it’s an essential part of your relationship.

Since then, Mr YFG has logged in and downloaded my statements, and can see everything I buy.

Top tip: buy surprise gifts in cash.

15 thoughts on “Mrs YFG: my top tips for getting your partner on side

  1. Definitely agree with the “no judgment”. I think if had a long term partner I would have to approach FI on the same terms you and Mr YFG approach it – i.e. you reach FI on your own terms. I couldn’t bear someone scrutinising my spending on the basis that it could be affecting their own financial independence/early retirement.

    1. Hi FF yes that’s always been important to me- to be Fi on my own terms. Not because I intend to go anywhere but, as you say, to not be a burden (financially anyway!)

  2. Spending reviews are the most excruciatingly painful yet eye-opening way to kick-start a saving mindset. I discovered that I was a total sucker for the “special occasion” excuse when spending. Holidays, Fridays, Wish-it-was-Fridays: all seemed like perfect reasons to spend a little more in the moment. Only a review of spending got me to acknowledge that these “special occasions” were happening most weeks.

    I’m not certain I’d have been keen to do a review with my partner though. It’s great you found what works for you.

    1. Hi there, yes a spending review is difficult some months especially as (for example) I have a habit of over-gifting! Mr YFG often just doesn’t care unless it’s a material figure like £100+

  3. Always fascinating to see how different couples approach this. We have a shared joint account that our salaries go into and then separate “pocket money” accounts. The joint account it complete transparent while the pocket money accounts are private.

    You’re right about the importance of not judging. We talk through large amounts that go out of the joint account but mostly to make sure that there aren’t any frauds and we understand where the money has gone. Not to have a go at each other.

    Also completely agree on the point about simple maths and your own numbers. Seeing an ISA tick up or a mortgage tick down is very hugely motivating

    1. Hi Caveman, yeah we thought of a joint account but the main reason we didn’t do it was the hassle of moving all direct debits over ! Every month end (wine and net worth time) is fun most of the time, but not when it goes down….

  4. Love this post Mrs YNG. I think this is a template for couples to reach common ground on any number of issues. Persuasion is the art of understanding and acceptance.

    Mrs Accumulator and I had separate finances for the first decade. It seemed natural at the time and worked. Finances have been pooled for a longer time since. It seems natural and works. I think it’s followed the trajectory of our relationship. Our paths have merged over time.

    1. Hi TA, we are very much only in the early stages of marriage and so I suspect maybe at some point we might revisit a joint account or pooling finances! I think we came into the marriage with very different finances and so it just stayed separate.

  5. I agree with all your points.I couldnt be where I am without my wife being on board. Its given us control and makes sense but can be uncomfortable to shine a light on expenses!

    My FI plans took a HUGE bump with two kids (and 45% less joint income) but the prep gave us the buffer on our expenses for my wife to drop to work one day a week for six years and look after the kids whilst I was on about £4K over average salary (with a really flexible low pressure job). We couldnt have done that without my wife being on board for the prep.

    Thats what I call financial independence! Choices like that being available.

    P.s. we have a way to go to “proper FI” but its got to be about the journey not the destination and without starting the FI journey our choices would have been hugely limited.

    1. It sounds like you have a really lovely relationship, and it’s so nice to have a supportive partner on side. Some people don’t have shared financial goals or interests and are fine that way, but that’s important to me as it obviously is to you.

  6. Hah, love this post.

    I’m lucky to have a wife that spends very little and earns a ton. She wasn’t on board with FI back when I started to talk about it, but now that I’m 35 and I really only have 5 more years to go, she is fully on board. Also fortunately, as I said, she has spent very little and earned a ton. She doesn’t really know how much passive income she is generating, but I have a clue. So she kind of is on board even though she doesn’t fully realize it.

    It’ll be a fun day 5 years from now when we quit.

    1. It must be so lovely to both have a goal in sight and be counting down the days. Your wife also sounds like an excellent asset (as my husband calls me)!

  7. Late to the party, but I really liked this post! I’m in the process of converting my girlfriend to the FI way of thinking. She’s pretty much on board now, but I think it’s still worth showing her this.

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