While I’m fully aware that money can’t buy happiness, I wouldn’t mind being known as “the melancholy guy who drives the red Lamborghini Diablo.” –wise person somewhere
On Monday, I wrote about how FIRE has resulted in some issues for my own marriage. Having more time to think has brought issues to the surface that may have remained buried due to the time constraints of a job. While this may sound scary, it’s a good thing. FIRE has forced us to work through issues and I believe we’ll come out the other side better for it. Enough about me.
Over the summer, I spent time with three other couples who are living their own version of FIRE. I observed and took notes. With their permission, here is what I discovered:
Courtney and Steve (ThinkSaveRetire)
Steve and Courtney left work to travel the United States in an airstream. In between taking awesome pictures and exercising, Steve works on his blog and Rockstar Finance. Courtney knits, works on a site about living on the road and makes videos.
When I asked Steve about how his relationship was getting along post work, he had this piece of advice:
The key is to have your own separate space.
So, even in their Airstream, Steve and Courtney maintain separation. They have their own projects and to keep them busy and even their own space. One of their first projects after moving into the Airstream was to remove the built-in dinette that came with the trailer and build a desk in its place. This gives Steve a dedicated and much more user-friendly workspace.
And if this post is any indication, they really are doing fantastic. Way to go friends!
Noah and Becky (Money Metagame)
Becky and Noah left their jobs at the beginning of 2018 for a gap year on the road. Mrs. 1500 and I caught up with them in Albuquerque at the Trinity Site in April and then in June when we hosted them at our home for a couple of days.
Out of the three couples we met, Noah and Becky are the most extreme. They’re traveling the country in a little Mazda 3; sometimes camping, sometimes staying in hotels and other times, staying with friends. They’re with each other pretty much 24/7. I asked Becky about how things were going:
We have been on the road now for 4 months, spending pretty much every minute with each other and have not noticed a change in our relationship.
We have always had good communication and approach any problem with the attitude that we will figure it out together.
If you can spend 24/7 with someone else and be good, you have a really solid relationship.
Penny Planters (Planting our Pennies)
I was able to observe the Penny Planters for a long time because we let them stay in our house for about a month. Much of the time, we were on the road, but not all of it. So, I had a chance to take some good notes.
*insert evil laugh*
I kid, I kid!
Mr. and Mrs. PoP’s trajectory is similar to my own with Mrs. 1500. Mr. PoP and I have both left our jobs, but our spouses continue to work in some capacity.
Mr. and Mrs. PoP:
- have their own space. In the morning, Mrs. PoP would head off to yoga and Mr. PoP would depart for random walks to who-knows-where. He could be found at: <insert one: local coffee shop, library, gym, ???> Hours later, he’d return and often take a nap while Mrs. PoP completed her work day.
- are healthy. I’m guessing Mr. PoP walks about 2,393,333 miles per week. He had free use of our vehicles but was content to go everywhere on foot. He’d eat all sorts of strange, but healthy concoctions (mounds of peanut butter on a banana). At the same time, Mrs. PoP ate salads and homemade tofu jerky.
- are different people. Mrs. PoP hiked a 14er with me. Mr. PoP wanted no part of it. Later this year, Mr. PoP is going to a music and arts festival. Mrs. PoP is staying home. They understand, accept and embrace their differences.
And here is what the Penny Planters themselves had to say:
Even though I’m still working, having him (Mr. PoP) not working brings more flexibility into my life. I’m actually looking forward to seeing this play out when we get back to Florida, but I’ve already happily delegated more projects to him that I would normally do because he has more free time. But mostly, it’s just so wonderful to have deleted all of his work stress from our lives. It wasn’t much the past couple years, but it was enough – and he’s clearly happier and that makes me happier too!
FI pays dividends for years before either spouse checks out of the work force. Money is the number 1 reason that couples divorce, and to pursue FI you have to be on the same financial page. Also, with FI you spend years focusing on what makes you happy instead of climbing the corporate ladder, or getting pressured into a bigger house or nicer car. You’ll also be very wealthy for many years before you are actually FI…you don’t have to worry about sudden job loss, or getting passed over for that promotion, or if you need to take care of sick relatives. Theres no downside to having a few extra hundred thousand dollars in the bank.
FIREy couples have a head start: If you have the means to take a gap year or retire in your 30s, you probably have your shit together. Money is often cited as a reason for divorce. If you have your money figured out, you have a strong base.
People in FIREy relationships have their own identities. Co-dependent relationships are not healthy. The FIREy people that I wrote about are all strong individuals. They’re good together, but they’re also good apart. It just so happens that the partner in their relationship makes them a little happier.
They’re a fit bunch. All three couples take their health seriously. Noah even does those crazy races where you run through mud and get shocked. Health is probably a smaller contribution to relationship success, but healthy people are happier.
More Money Equals More Marriage
I hope that I didn’t come off as elitist. People on the FIRE path are no better than anyone else. However, in my observations, FIRE people seem generally happier and FIRE couples seem to have healthier, more well-adjusted relationships.
Of course, much of this comes down to views around money. If you’re on the same page about finances and have a lot of money, you have a substantial advantage.
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
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