From This Day Forward …

At a backyard ‘social-distanced’ event last weekend, people were asking me about our early retirement. As is often the case, one person cut in and asked if my wife was still working while I was being a goof off. She doesn’t work, but the question always comes with a ‘gotcha’ tone as if they are suspiciously wondering if we are really retired – or am I just mooching off my wife’s income.

Experts say it is difficult for guys when their wife makes more money than they do, but it happens in about 28% of marriages. You would think society has evolved beyond the point where this matters, yet around 70% of respondents in a 2017 Pew Research Center survey said that it was “very important” that a man be able to support a family financially in order to be a good husband or partner, but only 32% said the same about women.

If your spouse does make more money than you do, I say that’s fantastic. If that enables you to live on one income and not work, why not? If you have kids at home, it makes a lot of sense to have one parent home with them.

That said, by my thinking, if you are in a marriage, you haven’t really reached FIRE (financial independent & retired early) until both spouses have stopped working in a material way. It shouldn’t be that one spouse works hard to support the household’s essential needs, while the other claims they’ve successfully reached FIRE.

People are free to define FIRE however they want, but to me, a couple hasn’t gotten to FIRE until they both have.

I get it that sometimes people take part-time hobby jobs or do a little consulting for fun after retiring from their career, but that’s not essential income for them. That’s just ‘fun money’. If one spouse is working because they are not financially independent, but the other spouse isn’t – I think it’s better to simply acknowledge that “we’ll be retired soon when my spouse quits their job”.

Sorry if this sounds like too much pontificating on a Monday morning. I’ve found that people often have odd reactions to meeting someone that has retired as early as we did, so I thought it was worth sharing.

Related: Odd Reactions In Early Retirement

Anyone else encountered this ‘gotcha’ questioning? Does anyone else see this as an odd reaction?

Image Credit: Pixabay

11 thoughts on “From This Day Forward …

  1. I feel what you’re saying, but also think that continuing with a second job can be part of a FIRE strategy. Our current 2 job household has us both commuting 6.5 and 8.5 hours a week respectively. I am planning an early retirement, and my spouse a job switch that will reduce the commute to around 2.5 hours a week. Her new job has a generous health package and retirement match (10% for a 4% contribution). Keeping the second job reduces our short term health insurance costs and allows her to max 401K contributions for a couple more years. The shorter commute means everyone is home by 4:00. I guess you can say only one of us is retiring, but I would say the bulk of our income will still be from retirement.

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  2. I totally agree. I hate it when a blogger is giving advice about how to retire early and writing article about how they did it only to find out that their spouse has a full time job with benefits and makes 70+k a year. Retire by 40 is the perfect example of a pompous a%$ that talks a big story but his wife is a full time school teacher.

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  3. Last time I checked, retirement is individual, not collective. But as you know, Chief, there are a lot of (usually unspoken) biases related to working and not working. Many of these biases are laden with social and gender expectations. Haters gonna hate.

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  4. A male friend of mine retired at 62 from his lifelong career as a grade-school teacher. His wife, a nurse, continued full-time work until 65 – despite the many pleas of my friend for her to retire sooner. He was so uncomfortable about her working that he began part-time employment as a caddy (instead of golfing, which is his passion). When she settled into retirement, soon it became obvious that in the intervening three years, he treated their home as his domain. Rather than feeling like an interloper, she began per diem nursing (which she loves) and he moved on to frequent golfing. Now, their home is the domain of two adult children who live there full time. Life’s funny.

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    1. There are many ways to live your life, it sounds like they both found what they liked the most. I hope he wasn’t looping clubs over his shoulder at 62. If he was, he has a stronger back than I do!

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      1. Ouch. I’ve been lucky to avoid shoulder, back & knee problems so far. I’m always worried about developing some of those chronic aches & pains.

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  5. I’m with you on this one… one can be “retired”, while the other spouse still works, but the couple is only FIRE’d when both have given up full-time employment…Call me old fashioned! 😉

    I’ve had so many similar discussions in social settings, they are typically from “that guy” in the room. You know the one, he’s always loud, drives the expensive car (on lease), is up to his neck in debt, lives from paycheck to paycheck, and can’t comprehend how anyone managed to just walk away at fifty years old. “So your wife supports you staying home now, huh?!”… Well no “lease-boy”, she actually retired six months before me nearly four years ago…Crickets and dazed confusion…. (I love that two second silent sound…of pure confusion!) 😉

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  6. Mrs. RVF has always made more money than me. Some friends in the past have said they could never be happy with their spouse making more than them. I have never understood this logic. We are a team, not competitors and our goal is the same no matter who’s paycheck is bigger. Sounds like machismo BS to me.

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