Teamwork makes the dream work, you know what I mean? I’m not trying to be cheesy, but it’s true! One of the main reasons Amon and I have been so successful on our journey to financial independence is teamwork. From making money to saving and investing, everything we do is as a team - and that’s how it needs to be done! I cannot stress this enough: teamwork is non-negotiable!
Amon and I have been together for twenty years now. In that time, we have gone through so many different financial situations. We’ve been in situations where one has been making more than the other, where one of us has been unemployed, where both of us have been starving students, where each of us has had to support the other through grad school, where one of us has only been able to find part-time work . . . We’ve basically been through ALL the situations. Trust me, we’ve been there, and we’ve navigated it all as a team.
What we’ve learned is that not being on the same page as your partner when it comes to financial goals can be a serious hurdle to achieving financial independence. So I’m going to outline a few tips here to help you and your partner get on the same financial page, so that your journey to financial independence can be even smoother.
Communication, communication, communication!
Communication is key for any lasting relationship. It should be the basis of any major relationship decision, including setting financial goals. You need to sit down and talk about these things as a couple. And ideally this would be in a low stress, structured environment.
Once you sit down, it's important that both of you try your hardest to stay away from words like “I” or “me.” These are really individualistic words, and immediately sets up the conversation as something that pits the two of you against each other, which is obviously not conducive to having a productive conversation. Instead, you should be looking at everything as a team. Try phrases like “what if we try this”, or “what’s our solution to that.” Discuss everything with each other and come up with a solution that works for you both.
Don’t be a dictator in your relationship
No one likes a dictator . . . so don’t be one if your relationship!
You need to work as a unit. Hear each other out and, if necessary, compromise. If not, if you force your views on your significant other and try to make them do things that they don’t want to do, it can lead to resentment. And resentment in a relationship is never good.
Even if you think your plan is amazing, if your partner doesn’t agree and is only following along out of a sense of obligation or to not rock the boat, they probably won't feel a sense of ownership over the plan. And it's harder to succeed at something you feel forced into.
Develop a plan together
Identify your long-term goals and all of the strategic steps that you need to meet in order to achieve those goals. This plan should help you look to the future and see how your everyday activities and expenses will impact that future. It should help you establish your goals and have something to look forward to.
This plan should serve as a sort of charter between you two, and this is something that can end up being quite helpful if, at any time in the future, problems arise - and let's face it, problems probably will arise at some point. When they do, you can have a more productive conversation using the plan that you both signed off on.
Budget as a team
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: budgeting is the most crucial aspect to achieving financial freedom. And because the budget is such a fundamental part of this journey, both of you have to be actively involved in its creation. Both of you should understand and agree with every budgeting decision. Simply put, you have to budget as a couple!
Now I get that this may not be the most fun part of the journey. But it is NECESSARY. Especially if you and your partner are starting on completely different pages when it comes to money.
The best way to look at budgeting is really as a series of negotiations. Neither one of you is going to get everything you want, and you have to be ok with that. Ideally, there should be a give-and-take, with the end result being a budget that both of you can stick to.
I’ll be upfront about this: This process probably won’t be too much fun in the beginning. But that’s exactly why you need to keep things as positive as possible! During these concessions, it's easy to get caught up on what you had to give up or what your partner refused to give up. But try to cultivate positive vibes! Trust me, if you adjust your point of view and focus on what you gained instead of what you couldn’t get, you’ll both end up much more satisfied.
I’ve mentioned before how vital it is to surround yourself with positive people on this journey. Now’s your chance to BE that positive person. Don’t sweat the small stuff- focus on your wins and congratulate each other on a job well done!
And remember: positivity breeds positivity. And that will honestly just make the whole process that much more pleasant.
Maintain Reasonable Expectations
I’m not going to lie to you- this is going to be hard! It's going to take time. It's not going to happen overnight. BUT, you can use this opportunity as a kicking off point to start working towards getting on the same page as a couple. Build on your relationship everyday so that someday you can get there! Without realistic expectations, the pressure on both of you will likely increase, making your failures feel even more significant, so just take it one day at a time. Understand that it IS possible for you both to get on the same page - it just won’t happen overnight. And that’s totally ok!
Money Arguments May Be Rooted in Other Issues
All couples argue sometimes. It’s normal. But make sure that when these arguments happen, you know what they're really about. Oftentimes arguments about money aren’t actually about money at all. What I mean by this is that sometimes if there is tension in the relationship that isn’t addressed, it can come out in the form of money arguments.
So to avoid this, make sure that your conversations with each other extend past just money. Whatever the cause of tension in your relationship is - whether that be politics, religion, how to raise your kids or even if it is just money, start to have those conversations and address those issues as soon as you can. If you don’t, these problems may start to boil over into other aspects of your lives and result in things like - you guessed it- fights about money.
Being on the same page, financially, as your significant other really is a make-or-break situation. In fact, I’d go as far as to say being on the same page when it comes to money is crucial in maintaining a healthy relationship, especially while working towards financial independence. But remember: this isn’t going to necessarily happen overnight. It will take communication, compromise and hard work, but hopefully these tips will make getting there a little easier.
Our Life in Early Retirement | Financial Independence: 2020 Year in Review