“Help! I’ve fallen for a hyper-dedicated FIRE enthusiast.”

by J. Money - Published June 27, 2019

couple money

Morning!

Got an interesting note from a reader of the blog, and thought I’d pass it along here in case it helps anyone else in a similar position :)

FIRE is awesome, but it is not *everything*!! At least my personal opinion on it!

Here’s her sitch, followed by my response and then hopefully some feedback from y’all since I’m not too sure I addressed her specific question, haha…

From Lila:

Hi J –

Hope it’s alright I float into your inbox with a personal finance (annnnnd slightly personal) problem.

I’ve fallen for a hyper-dedicated FIRE enthusiast. Don’t get me wrong – we still splurge on craft IPAs and high-quality outdoor adventure gear without any guilt, but it is always top of mind for him.

We’re at an interesting junction. We plan to move in together in September, but we both agreed we need to be on the same page about finances, specifically long-term financial goals. We’re both 30 and feel pretty confident about what we’re both looking for, i.e. no time to f*ck around.

He works like a dog and lives big on the weekends.

I’m a self-employed creative who has traveled internationally and been a digital nomad for the past 2.5 years. I’m ready to ramp up my business and continue building on my career freedom and lifestyle – AND MAKE MORE MOOLAH. I casually contribute to my IRA and savings. I’m ahead on paying off my student debt. I overall live a pretty simplistic, frugal, minimalist lifestyle.

Crossroads: He wants to ensure we’re on a similar life trajectory. With more money, there are more options. He thinks I should continue freelancing on the side, but return to the 9-5 salaried and packed-benefit lifestyle to sock that $ away EARLY and let it grow. I get it, I get it.

*Cue hours of excel # crunching and Googling self-employed tax, pass-through income tax deductions, solo 401(k)s, etc.*

My question to you: How do couples navigate long-term financial goals and find healthy ways to sync up their goals?

I read a few of your posts on the topic, but because we’re in the earlier stages of our relationship, I’m mostly curious about what you would advise or if you know how your readers approached the life partner evaluation phase in regards to their financial habits and goals.

I adore this man and support his FIRE ambitions – and I certainly would like to get there myself, but I feel at a crossroads with my own career ambitions and what’s financially realistic for me right now.

Know that was a bit of an overshare, but appreciate the gentle ear and no rush to respond or even if you don’t have time to address… this letter helps me process all the same.

Best,
Lila

*******

Here’s what I wrote back:

Hey Lila!

I re-read this a couple of times now, and the one thing that keeps coming back at me is that it seems like you’ve *already* figured out the place you want to be in right now, and that’s the place you’re currently in! Only with more money down the road, right? And if so – that’s a beautiful place to be :)

Now obviously the issue here is that it doesn’t mesh as well w/ your partner’s version of the future, haha, but interestingly you’re already kinda living that future of freedom and fun ;) Whereas he’s working like crazy most days and then gets to enjoy for a bit until going right back to it… Not that your job isn’t just as wild at times, but *lifestyle* wise you’re kinda living it already, right? At least that’s my sense of it…

So my vote of course would be to *not* go the 9-5 route unless you really feel it in your heart, but to def. keep focusing on those passions of yours and finding new ways to make money if at all possible. You won’t get the 9-5 benefits as much, but imagine if you strike something hot and then it just flows in??! It’ll def. make up for it over time! And if not, maybe you *then* go try the 9-5 route after a set amount of time? I feel like that could be a happy medium between the two.

“Give me 2 years to just kill it, and if I can’t make it happen then I’ll go back to the 9-5 route and call it a day.”

I feel like everything works out better when there are timelines in play and everyone knows the deal :) But again – just my 2 cents from afar – it’s hard to advise without knowing you two or your entire picture! Hope something helps here though!

*******

A couple days later I got a response from her, but before I share it I’d love to get YOUR opinions on this so she can get a more well-rounded perspective ;) Since obviously I was more pro-Lila than FIRE Lover which wasn’t exactly fair of me, haha… (Sorry FL!) Though I do think the *time frame* idea is a good one!!

So what say you?! What would you do if you were in Lila’s or FIRE Lover’s shoes?! How do you keep the financial peace in your own relationships?

Please share any and all thoughts so we can help these two love birds keep making that dough! The couple that FIREs together, stays together!! ;)

elmo fire gif

UPDATE: Thanks for all the great comments today everyone! Here’s the original response from Lila after our initial correspondence: “J$, your response made my week, nay MONTH. Honestly, you nailed what my heart has been feeling, and my brain has affirmed. I’m going to keep at it and propose a realistic timeline that I feel good about. And besides, I think what is most important is that our values around how we engage with money align. We both value minimalism, saving and investing, and we truly believe that money is a tool to access freedom. With more money, come more options. I think with time, we’ll be able to intertwine our parallel paths in a more meaningful way.”

UPDATE II: From Lila after reading everyone’s notes: “Oh boy! Just took a peek. I appreciate that most folks are #TeamLila, haha – and that most of the commenters are women and looking to protect me, as well. It’s difficult because my FL isn’t trying to squash my dreams, he’s just trying to invest in our future. His argument is, “I don’t want you stressing about when your next project will come (and the money) for the next 20 years.” He’s never traveled and he wants to give back in meaningful ways. So his hope is to hit his FIRE goal to be able to do those things. He just worries that when he gets there, I won’t be able to join him and he wants me there. : ) Life is a series of conversations. I’m glad we’re in a place where we can continue to explore our options in a way that doesn’t compromise my dream to work for myself.”

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robin | EFILYM June 27, 2019 at 5:33 am

Hi J,
Very interesting question and article!
I recently (Oct 2018) quit my 9-5 job to do other things with my time and to basically take the first big step towards living a type of ‘Financial Independence’. It took me around 3 years to convince myself (and my wife) that it was worth a try. Basically, these 3 years allowed us to build our confidence in our ability to be able to manage and live ‘correctly’ with the salaries no longer coming in.
To help support our mental and preparational journey, I built a simple financial simulator that allowed us to play with all the different positive and negative scenarios that we could imagine. It allowed us to test our ideas without taking the real plunge. When we had sufficiently tested our ideas and had found and put in place solutions to cover any risks then I resigned from my job. For us being able to jointly simulate our new lives together in advance gave us the visibility and allowed us to buy into the plan together and then as we moved forward, we were both on board with the plan we had built (and accepted together).
What’s funny is that I found this process so powerful, that now I want to make it available for others so that they can prepare their FIRE plans (or any other lifestyle change projects).
I encourage to have a look at my website (www.efilym.me) for more details if you are interested to know more about our journey as a couple towards FIRE.

I hope my comments go some way to adding value to your article and would be keen to get your point of view on my comment.
Best Regards
Robin

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2 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:31 pm

Thanks for sharing your creation with us!

Those are the best – when they came from an internal problem and turn out successful :) No doubt it will help others in the future.

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3 Kate June 27, 2019 at 6:08 am

Hello! Joining finances and getting financial goals aligned is SO hard! I’m all for saving and living minimally and debt free and paying down student loans and mortgages early but… no way I think you should have to go back to 9-5ing if that’s not what you want to do. Sounds like having made the conscious decision to be a freelancer/digital nomad it’s working out for well thus far. 9-5 can be really soul destroying if you don’t 100% WANT to be there and/or don’t 100% HAVE to be there. Just because he works like a dog and lives big on the weekends doesn’t mean you have to adopt the same lifestyle (if you don’t want it). GOOD LUCK!

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4 Jennyc June 27, 2019 at 7:29 am

You are happy doing what you are doing. Leave it at that.

When I was in my early 20s I was a teacher. I was about to get engaged and my fiance wanted to make sure we were on the same page concerning a few things. He wanted me to earn more money than a teacher’s salary and wanted to know if I would be willing to earn a nursing degree and combine that with my teaching skills and teach nursing and train nurses in a managerial position and earn a large salary in the nursing/management/admin career field. Also he said he wanted 4-5 children and while he thought my weight was perfect right where it currently was he would not want me to gain anymore as I aged. I told him I couldn’t promise any of that. This is who I am and what I earn.

Reminds me of the “OH Sherrie” lyrics…You should be gone, if I’m not who you’d thought I’d be.

We never married.

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5 Sarah June 27, 2019 at 11:33 am

Glad to see you never married. Hopefully you’re not still together at all. He sounds awful, to be honest. You are a whole and beautiful person with a life that is yours and yours alone. :)

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6 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:35 pm

WHAT SARAH SAID!!!

That weight part was hard to read, damn…

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7 Gwen @ Fiery Millennials June 27, 2019 at 7:43 am

I mean, I broke up with my ex who had different ideas than I did on how best to spend my time so maybe I’m not the best one to comment. I like the line about giving it two years to crush it. How he responds will be very telling. If he respects her, he’ll go with that plan. If he pressures her to do differently….. well…….

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8 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:36 pm

If two finance bloggers can’t make it work, where is the hope????! ;)

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9 Kevin June 27, 2019 at 8:09 am

I’d echo J’s thought that they’re already FIRE to some degree, and living a lifestyle that 90% of the population would love to have.

I think the husband-to-be is letting his over-enthusiasm for FIRE color his behavior towards his fiancee. If he truly loves her, then he would respect the path she’s on. I certainly wouldn’t want my wife to spend her days in a soul-crushing job. From the letter, it sounds like they’re already in great shape, so what’s the fuss?

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10 Samantha June 27, 2019 at 8:15 am

Lila is already living her best life! Keep at it girl. And I agree with Gwen above – how he responds will be very telling of where his first priority is.

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11 Liz June 27, 2019 at 8:17 am

I was kind of in shock when I read the part about him wanting you to go to a 9-5!

I married my husband at 19 was a full time student and worked 50 hours a week. My husband was/ is enlisted in the AF. He deployed to Iraq 6 months after we married before returning he asked if I would leave my job and just focus on school. Hell yeah! I never got to see him when he was home I worked so much. I earned my bachelor’s in accounting worked for 3 years and left when our first child turned 2 and I was 20 weeks pregnant with our son. We received orders to the UK so I had to leave my job. I’ve been a stay at home mom now for 4 years. My husband is 100% supportive of my descicions whether it be I work or not. So I guess my point is your significant other should support your wants and dreams. I’m 30 husband’s 34 we currently have 280k in networth and are only debt is our house. Could it be a heck of a lot more well yeah but we could die tomorrow. It’s a balance. Live your dream!

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12 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Thanks for sharing your story with us :)

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13 Financially Fit Mom June 27, 2019 at 8:51 am

I am a FIRE Lover and the main driver of that is so I can quit my 9-5 and have more adventure. Part of that would be volunteering at places I think I’m passionate about for a chance to get a deeper view into those companies without being committed to stay for a paycheck. This is what I will consider my “work” when I no longer have the 9-5.

I like my job, but it’s just a job. I’ve always been jealous of those that really feel a passion or love for what they do. My guess is if you are a creative and making it work, you probably have that passion. You are already living the FIRE lifestyle your guy is working toward! WHY would you give that up to go backward into what all us ‘normal’ FIRE drivers are trying to escape from?! You are already there!

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14 Arnold June 27, 2019 at 9:13 am

Flexibility is wonderful, but so is a steady paycheck! Freelancing can be so rewarding but also such a hustle. If I were Lila, I may consider pursuing longer-term contracts (part-time or full-time) or a salaried remote gig with reasonable work-life balance. That could still provide some freedom and flexibility along with a more stable income stream. Good luck, Lila!

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15 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:42 pm

The remote work could be a good idea!

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16 Jen June 27, 2019 at 9:24 am

Why is he living “big” on the weekends if he’s so focused on FIRE. Focused so much so he wants you to change your path in life for more money?

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17 Pam June 27, 2019 at 10:06 am

Honestly, my first reaction was well that seems to be a bit controlling of him, particularly so early in the relationship. Probably not the best sign. Getting on the same page in a relationship doesn’t mean changing the person to your lifestyle. It means finding a happy compromise that helps you both achieve your goals. Sounds like hers aren’t at the top of the list for him. Sorry if that sounds harsh but I’m betting she’s got a friend or family member out there telling her the same thing.

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18 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:45 pm

See recent update to the post :) A good sign!!

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19 Renae June 27, 2019 at 10:17 am

In my view, a life-long partnership doesn’t stay life-long without compromise on both sides. I think you could work toward an agreement where you both give a little. Maybe you’re not willing to do a 9-5, but are willing to find a way to sock more money away now.

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20 Lisa June 27, 2019 at 10:20 am

It’d be different if you were married and had kids and there wasn’t enough money to support yourselves. But asking your girlfriend to give up her financial dream of creating her own business in order to work 40 hours a week to support YOUR arbitrary financial goal when she’s happy and financially stable – I just don’t see why you should humor this suggestion at all.

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21 Fred Leamnson June 27, 2019 at 10:26 am

This is a very common problem couples face, married or otherwise. Couples have to be willing to listen to and respect each other’s views. If one tries to push (gently or otherwise) the other into their way of thinking, it won’t turn out well. Resentment will creep up and damage the relationship.

I like J’s idea of setting a time frame for Lila to give her business a go. Although I’d say 2 years may not be enough. Most businesses take 3 – 5 years to get going. But I do agree a good compromise is setting some sort of time limit.

Here’s the deal. Money problems are in the top 3 of any list of causes for divorce (or breakups). I’d be hesitant to move in together until you come to an agreement and compromise on your views of money and lifestyle. It can get pretty messy if you find out after moving in that there isn’t enough give and take.

Some members of the FIRE community are really dug into their views. I have no idea whether your partner is or not. It sounds like he’s in the neighborhood. Sometimes the FIRE Kool-Aid can taste pretty bitter.

I’ve been married longer than most people in FIRE have been on the planet – 36 years in 2020. We’ve learned a few things about communication, especially around money. If you’re interested, you can check out my post on the topic – Want to Have a Healthy Marriage? Talk about Money – https://moneywithapurpose.com/have-a-healthy-marriage/

Sorry if I’ve overstepped here. I’ve just seen too many people enter into relationships thinking things will work out and then be sorely disappointed when it doesn’t. Give and take. Compromise and forgive. It goes both ways.

Good luck!

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22 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:48 pm

Not overstepping here at all – thanks for sharing that article with us so others can see it! I’m sure Lila is not alone in the least here…

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23 Joe June 27, 2019 at 10:36 am

I’m with J. Sounds like you already found the ideal lifestyle with flexible work and play.
That’s what FIRE is really about. You can do what you really want once you achieved financial independence.

Oh yeah, do you know the Mexican fisherman parable? Here, I found the link.
https://www.budgetsaresexy.com/the-mexican-fisherman/

If you’re already happy where you are, why make a negative change? It doesn’t make sense to go work 9-5 unless you really need money.

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24 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Classic right there ;)

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25 SMS June 27, 2019 at 10:46 am

I dunno – sounds like his idea of “aligning” is for YOU to drastically change your life. Where’s his alignment? If you love your freelance lifestyle (sounds like it), don’t give it up for some soul-sucking job! He should support and respect the person you are (getting angry as I type this). Maybe you could be more intentional about saving for retirement, but I don’t think you should change more than that.

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26 Kim June 27, 2019 at 11:53 am

Tell you the truth, I’d be pretty uncomfortable if my partner was trying to push me to make such a big career change for those reasons. It sounds like she’s already happy and making money, if not crazy money. Going back to a 9-5 lifestyle is no small shakes, especially if your goal is to make enough money that you can…go back to a freelancing and international travel lifestyle??

If both parties are contributing fairly to expenses etc., is it vitally important to be on the same page about FIRE?

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27 Nita June 27, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Can I like this comment please?
I did quite a double take at “he thinks I should”. I sure hope he hasn’t expressed that view unsolicited. The letter reads like he wants to make more more more faster and too bad if you’re unhappy with it.
You want healthy? Be firm on what’s negotiable and what isn’t, that’s a good start. As J$ would recall, the right answer is not always the correct one.
Also, indeed, where does he align? Your letter sounds like you’re asked to do all the effort. It doesn’t work like that.

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28 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Added up some updates to the post – sounds like the original email may not have painted him properly :)

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29 taylor June 27, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Maybe maintain separate finances and work toward your shared goals, but just at different paces? As long as you’re both moving in the same direction, you’ll get there together. But this way, he can go as fast and hard as he wants with his money, and you can be more steady with it while still enjoying your job and loving your days. Not sure if that helps, but I tried :)

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30 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:53 pm

I think that’s a fantastic route :) Start a “house fund” to cover all shared items, and then do as you please w/ the rest of the money! Whether you have lots of it left over or not!

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31 B.C. Kowalski June 27, 2019 at 1:23 pm

This one hit home a little just because I’ve always wondered what a serious relationship would look like financially for me. To be honest, I have a hard time imagining combining finances with someone, and I’m not sure what it would look like with separate finances. I just plain don’t know. I guess I assume I would figure it out when the time comes but in the meantime plan my finances as a single person.

I’m going to agree with J$ here, minus the time frame – because what is the rush? Why do we want FIRE in the first place – to sit around watching soap operas, or so that we can pursue the things we want, regardless of the 9-5? And guess what: You’re already doing that. You have location independent work that is earning enough to pay the bills, live your minimalist lifestyle (which is awesome BTW!) and pay down debt and contribute to your retirement. You’re ready to start ramping up your business more, and that’s great. It’s also important: You have the ability to take on more clients, or fewer, to adjust to your current life. (Based on general freelance, since we don’t know what you do.) If the whole point of FIRE is to escape the 9-5 for a better lifestyle, well, you’re already there, with a great deal of flexibility and decent earning potential.

Unless there is something not in the letter that changes things, I say stick with what you’re doing. I think taking on a 9-5 would be foolish. That’s my two cents, anyway.

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32 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, my man…

And I think for all future relationships you should ask your partner if they read Budgets Are Sexy religiously, and if they say yes it’s safe to combine your finances, and if they say no – RUN AND HIDE YOUR MONEY!! ;)

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33 Hillary June 27, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Sounds like too controlling of a guy to be with long term. If you are happy and making enough money for a lifestyle you enjoy, he should support that. I echo the question of why he’s “living big on the weekends” if he wants FIRE so badly.

My vote is to keep your situation but HUSTLE. I so badly want you to prove him wrong that you CAN make that monayyyy doing your own thing. GOod luck!!!!

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34 Eric June 27, 2019 at 9:58 pm

Keeping finances in check between couples.I’m glad they had the forethought to think about their future goals before pursuing farther and realizing they were heading in different directions.Just ensure both are feeling fulfilled and not stuck or doing it for the other person to the point where resentment grows.

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35 J. Money June 28, 2019 at 4:58 pm

That is a good point – they’re both discussing this stuff super early on!!! Which I can’t say for myself when I met my future Mrs!! Money was the last thing on my mind when we collided on the dance floor, haha… (thank God I happened to luck out with someone more frugal than I!)

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36 Girt July 7, 2019 at 12:27 am

There is some great advice here and it is wonderful that you have been brave enough to ask for some. There is the elephant in the room though of children .. at 30 statistically this is a biggie for most couples.

It is fraught for both men and women in many ways in terms of how to provide for them. If you guys do want kids, the issue of how to support them is key. Will the financial and physical care be shared equally, or is there an implicit expectation that you will have a more traditional division of labor?

These can be very tricky topics to discuss but the process could blow some oxygen into the fears and motivations each of you carry. The skills of you and your partner in navigating these questions respectfully together and build trust will be a good starter for family life. There are no wrong answers, although perhaps some strong emotions on the way.

Also, it could be that building up your freelance business makes great sense in terms of having a sustainable basis for ongoing earning if you guys do start a family. Conversely, if you only have a couple of unencumbered years there may be a pressing need to build a stache.

Tanja Hester’s book Work Optional has some great thoughts on all these issues.

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37 J. Money July 8, 2019 at 10:10 am

Haha yup! Kid stuff is a whole other ballgame :) But you’re right that it’ll take some damn good communication around it when/if the time comes…In fact, having an entire “Life Talk” is smart once you start getting serious with someone! The dreams don’t always line up!

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