Financial Independence means something slightly different to me than it means to Mr YFG. It has a much more deep meaning for me as it is linked to what it means to be a woman today.
Being FI in your own right means you don’t depend on anyone for your financial stability. This is even more important for me given the societal assumptions people hold about how finances work in a marriage.
Writing as The Wife on here is tolerable as I like to contribute to Mr YFG’s world and I feel like I don’t have enough to say in my right (yet). That said, anybody who reads this blog or has ever met me in person knows I ain’t the little woman at home. And I like to continue giving that impression.
I could spend an entire blog on this subject. But I’m just going to set out a few thoughts on some things that are important to me. I welcome views and thoughts on the topic!
A word on feminism
Feminism is the belief in equality for all, regardless of gender or sexual identity. It just so happens that women have historically been on the back foot when it comes to social equality. Hence we are the ones spearheading the movement.
Intersectional feminism is feminism that appreciates that factors like gender, sexuality, race, disability and background effect and colour how you experience feminism (and sexism). The issues are not mutually exclusive and the layers of someone’s experience will affect their lives.
Just like my FI journey is mine, my experiences of feminism and my ideals are unique to me. I am a white, university educated, middle class, able-bodied, cisgender heterosexual woman, aka the most privileged type of feminist. Had I been born in different circumstances I wouldn’t necessarily get the opportunities that I have had. My views on feminism would be completely different.
Times have moved on, but society still has deeply ingrained views about what women should do and how they should act. It is insidious in the way we work. The prejudice is still very much there and the wage gap still large.
It’s also important to understand that feminism is about fairness and equality – bringing everyone up to the same level.
I was raised in a traditional family (husband works, wife stays at home). I believed for most of my life that I would follow suit. I only started reconsidering once I started work and I realised what I would have to give up if I stayed at home. My salary gave me a new freedom I didn’t have before. I became very protective of it.
Once Mr YFG asked me to marry him (another story for another time) I had to deal with the barrage of views again on what a wife was supposed to be. People informed us about what they thought our married life should be like and their expectations based on what we “should” do. I heard all of this and then realised I didn’t want it. Shortly after I was brought into Mr YFG’s FI dungeon community (bet he actually wants a dungeon) I was inspired by all these women in the community and wanted to do it on my own.
A woman? Being the breadwinner? Who will look after the house?
Mr YFG left his job in late 2016. Some people reacted poorly to the concept of him being at home and me continuing to work. Many assumed that I was the one meant to work until I got pregnant and then become a housewife (or, shock, work part-time).
People asked how I “felt” about Mr YFG leaving work. As if it was a decision he made and just informed me of. They question us about how we could live off my salary and whether we could do it financially. As if we hadn’t considered this in advance! They asked us what would happen when we (presumably) had kids, and who would raise them. Mr YFG is incapable of many things, but he’s surprisingly good with children. I wonder how many questions we would have been asked had I been the one to stay at home instead.
These assumptions are borne out of tradition and the societal norms imposed on women, rather than knowing me as a person. A husband is the assumed breadwinner, and my income is a “bonus”. The assumption (we don’t admit it but it’s subliminal) is that the husband makes the financial decisions and the burden of those decisions rests with him. The assumption is that the husband left at home will be utterly useless at household tasks without a woman’s touch.
In fact, I have out-earned Mr YFG since I started working. So it made financial sense for him to be the one who quit when the opportunity arose. He was also at FI, which meant he wasn’t leaving a gap in our finances. I was the one who told him to quit work, partly for his sanity and partly for my own benefit (we have a very tidy house and a lot of work is lifted from my shoulders). He does all the household tasks and in many ways is tidier than me. I do the tasks he hates and those I enjoy. We fairly share the burden. He is a human being with a brain (most of the time). Therefore he is able to operate a washing machine (most of the time). There are many other household things he can’t do. But that’s not due to him being a man. It’s due to him being an idiot.
I take great pride from being the breadwinner in the household and partly that’s one of the reasons it will be so difficult for me to quit my job eventually. My job affords me a salary and status that you can get used to and I will struggle to walk away from that.
Our journeys are linked but independent
As we’ve said before, we keep our finances separate. We share the mortgage account but that is the only account we share. We pay for non-bill items separately, one of us or the other pays, and then we split the bills evenly so that we can track our expenses separately. For example, we will go for dinner and I like to pay because I get the points on my card – we don’t split discretionary spending, we only split bills.
This is incredibly important to me. I had pressure from others to open a joint account as “that’s what you did”. Joint accounts make sense for some, but I do not want to spend Mr YFG’s money and we don’t live solely off my income. We support each other completely and what’s mine is his. There’s no need to pool it. If there is a big cash requirement (building work) we choose whose account is easier to pay from and not split it.
It works both ways – Mr YFG does not depend on my salary and he has his own income in his own right.
Not being reliant on anyone for money or being trapped financially is important to me. I do not want to be a burden to anyone, financially or otherwise. This is even more important because it’s harder for women to be financially independent. Many people question why we track our FI journeys and it’s because of this – I want my own journey and I don’t want to be FI just because of my husband’s finances.
For other people, they have no choice if only one person earns money. I am lucky to have a choice and my own means and so I will make the most of that.
This is where people ask if it’s weird for our marriage or relationship to not rely on each other financially – surely the point of marriage is to join everything? My answer is that we are definitely dependent on each other emotionally and for everything but money. I don’t know what I would do without Mr YFG, but I sure as hell know I would not be financially ruined if he wasn’t around.
It is about freedom
I’m lucky at work to have senior women to look up to. Many of them have partners who do not work and stay at home. Their partners either care for children or they just stay at home after the children have left. It is more and more common and I am happy to join that crew.
It’s, unfortunately, less socially acceptable for my husband to stay at home if we do not have children. Most people don’t understand why he would need to be at home unless there were children to take care of. The simple answer is freedom: Mr YFG got freedom from the office and I got freedom from the mundane homemaking tasks people expect me to do.
Mr YFG and I have already posted about why we don’t want children. The fundamental point for me is, again, freedom. I am not restricted by my body clock or by a plan for children. I don’t have to prepare to take years out of the workforce to raise my children or worry about my career being affected by maternity leave. My FI plan will not be interrupted by procreation. Mr YFG never had to worry about that in the first place.
Not having kids is, of course, a personal choice and it’s not for everyone, but the success of feminism is such that I get to choose. The whole point of FI is making choices for you based on how you want to live your life, and luckily I was born in a day and age where making this decision doesn’t mean I get burnt as a witch.
Don’t get me wrong
I am lucky to know so many open-minded people and people who respect our decisions and motivations. But I hope I’ve illustrated here some of the societal norms which are so insidious and ingrained deep in our culture we don’t even notice until we challenge them.
What does Feminism mean to you? Do you have any views on it?