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?
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