we’re total romantics, you guys. we love talking about love. and today we’re back on that favorite subject of ours, through a personal finance lens: love and money. couples planning for early retirement seem to talk about money a lot. we know we do. and we wonder: do all couples talk about the love part of the equation just as much? and why does it matter?
because the truth is: for early retirees, if our marriages don’t work out, there’s a high likelihood that our early retirements will fail as well. we have every possible reason to want our marriages to thrive and flourish. that’s why we should invest as much in our marriages as we do in our index funds or our dividend stock accounts — maybe more. we should see our marriages as our most important investments, and nurture them accordingly.
here’s how we view our situation, in the most unromantic terms possible: the amount of money that we’re saving for retirement should be more than enough to support our retired selves for a good long time, so long as we stay together. but if we were to split, we’d be in some pretty deep financial trouble. sure, we could sell our house and split those proceeds, but where we live, a small house costs much more than half what a big house costs, so we for sure couldn’t each buy our own small house. we maybe couldn’t even buy two condos with the proceeds. that would be the first problem. the second problem would be the cash. while our planned stockpile will be enough to support us together, there are a ton of efficiencies you gain as a couple. one set of utilities, one property tax bill, shared health insurance, shared car insurance, built in social interaction (meaning no need to go out to bars or restaurants), shared travel expenses, and on and on. splitting our funds in half would put us each in a pretty tight spot.
splitting up causes lots of financial difficulties for any couple, but for those who have retired early, there is a rather enormous added complication: the difficulty of finding a new job to solve some of these money woes. by removing ourselves from the workforce, the simple fact is that we’re going to make it much harder to ever find well-paid jobs again in the future. we know lots of very smart, talented, well-educated people who did some part-time consulting for a few years and are now finding it extremely difficult to get interviews for full-time positions. and they have no gap in their work experience, like we most certainly would. this should be a serious wake-up call to anyone out there who thinks we can just quit our jobs, be retired for a while, and then go back to the same kind of gig if we get bored or mismanage our money. so before quitting that job, we should all make sure we’re completely certain, not just that our account balances are where we need them to be, but that we’ve invested properly in our relationships, and we have a plan to keep them strong, just as we plan to keep our portfolios strong.
the old stat about half of all marriages failing is outdated and no longer true (see this recent breakdown from the new york times if you’re dubious), so the odds are already on any couple’s side. the odds are even more in your favor if you are college educated. but as any married person knows, there is work that goes along with being married, and that work is important. we won’t schmoop out and talk about how happily married we are (you can read about our origins here, if you’re interested), but we will share that we’ve put in the work to get to this point — and we expect to keep putting in the work for the rest of our lives. before we got married, we went to couples’ counseling, to help give us tools to resolve conflicts and to understand what each of us needs from one another. that was one of our best investments, and if you find you and your partner having the same fight over and over again, we say: do the counseling. it’s worth the money. just go with a truly open mind, not with a view that this will fix the other person. sadly, couples’ counseling has the reputation in our society of being something people only do when their marriage is already on the verge of failure, and that’s so unfortunate. how great would it be if people instead viewed it as a way to touch up relationships, to make them even better? we know it made us better.
aside from counseling, it’s so important to check in with your partner on a regular basis. to make sure you really know how they’re doing emotionally. to make sure they’re getting what they need, and feel listened to and validated. to talk about your goals for the future together, to ensure your visions for early retirement or whatever else you’re planning for are at least similar, if not the same. we definitely know how easy it is to get carried away with the early retirement fantasy, and realize only later that we’ve each developed fairly divergent pictures of what we want our future to look like. fortunately we figured that out well before pulling the ripcord, and we’re now back on the same page.
love is wonderful. but, contrary to what our beloved beatles might tell us, love isn’t all you need. strong marriages need care and attention, too. but that care and attention will pay off with a lifetime of dividends.
how do you and your partner invest in your relationship? any great tips for staying on the same page about your money and your day-to-day life goals? single folks — does thinking about early retirement shape decisions you make around who to date or whether to pursue a relationship? we’d love to hear from you!