Ether to FI: Frugal Spouses: The FI Superpower & a Net Worth Update

Today, Ether to FI checks in with another of his bimonthly updates. Despite some unpleasantness in the markets, his family’s net worth continues to climb, as they’re now worth more than five times what they were when we first met them when he was fresh out of residency in July of 2017, an increase of nearly $400,000 in 17 months.

At this pace, his goal of $3.3 Million in ten years looks like it’s only a matter of time.

One of the Aces up his sleeve is something we have in common — a spouse that doesn’t like to waste money any more than he does.

It’s important to be on the same page as a partner when it comes to money matters, and when that page is titled “Frugality” while paired with a high income, wealth is sure to follow.

When my wife goes shopping, she doesn’t come to boast about all the really nice things she brought home. No, she brags about how little she spent and how amazing the deals were. It’s a lovely quality, and one that we share. When you’re married, money is not a single player game. Just be sure you’re on the same team like Mr. & Mrs. E.T.F.

 

Ether to FI: Frugal Spouses: The FI Superpower

 

The ultimate financial independence (FI) superpower is a frugal spouse. I have one, and you should get one as soon as possible. This secret was revealed a long time ago. In Tom Stanley’s Millionaire Next Door, he let the cat out of the bag. The first time I read the book, I thought used cars and small homes were the secret to wealth. Those are minor compared to who you choose to marry.

On the financial independence spectrum between make more or spend less, I lean towards the make more camp. Income from a W2 job is tied to the hours of your life you are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of more money. The trade your time for money treadmill only goes so fast. Eventually, you run out of hours in the day and ultimately have to reduce spending.

If you have the misfortune of a spouse who has never seen an Amazon box they didn’t like and is on a first name basis with every cashier at the department store, I genuinely feel sorry for you. You cannot bring money into the front door of your house faster than a determined spendthrift can throw it out of the window.

In his book The Millionaire Mind, Thomas Stanley has a chapter called Choice of Spouse, which should be required reading for single people. Married people should probably read it too, as it might help us all behave better in the arena of relationships and money.

 

 

The Frugality of Mrs. Ether to FI

 

Back to the heroine of this story, Mrs. Ether to FI.  I have a lot of examples of her frugal tendencies which have helped save me from myself. The latest highlights her superpowers quite clearly.

Mrs. ETF’s nine-year-old car had a severe case of arthritis. It was beginning to creak and groan with every turn of the wheel.  You could feel every bump in the road. Most annoyingly, it was going to the doctor’s office (aka mechanic) every couple of weeks.

It looked like it was time to start planning the funeral. The mechanic was finally able to present the chief complaint, and for a small fee of $1500, he thought he could fix the problem.   told him it was time to upgrade, so he should hold off on the repairs.

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He said he would be willing to buy the car when we purchased our updated 3 – 4-year-old replacement, because of its excellent maintenance record (he has been doing all the maintenance since we bought it used four years ago).

I immediately started shopping for a 3-5-year-old Honda or Toyota replacement for our current car since they are both reliable car brands that hold their value.  I estimated it would cost between $20,000 – $25,000 to get the used SUV I wanted.  We could make the purchase in cash without touching our emergency fund.

I ran the scenario by Mrs. ETF. The idea of spending $20,000+ on a car made me a bit queasy, but it gave Mrs. ETF an ulcer. She reasoned the vehicle is probably still a good car if the mechanic wants to buy it from us and $1,500 is a lot less than $25,000.

I soon plugged it into an investment calculator, which showed $23,500 invested at 8% over 30 years is $236,500, without adding another cent. The mechanic received his $1,500, the arthritis was treated. The car has some more years left, and our net worth will continue its upward trajectory. Frugal spouse for the win!

The lesson of the story: marry someone more frugal than yourself.  You are likely more frugal than the general population if you are reading this article. If you find someone more frugal than you, financial independence is basically guaranteed.

 

Nutella Crepes

a frugal treat from the crepe stand

 

Net Worth Update

 

Home Net Value: Appraised value – mortgage, this little formula makes my spreadsheet look nicer.  By the way, we bought a house.  I will write about the home buying process in a future post.

Our net worth is bumping along.  I had to adjust a lot of numbers down this month for our various investments. Could this be the rumblings of a recession on the horizon?  My magic eight ball is broken, so the plan is the same as always.  Buy, buy, buy.

Hopefully, we are headed down, so each dollar is grabbing a larger piece of Mr. Market.  We made a decent size jump in our net worth in the last two months.  It was a combination of buying an undervalued house and topping off retirement accounts at the end of the year.

 

 

Is anyone else excited that retirement account contributions are going up next year?  $6,000 for IRA’s and $19,000 for your 401k.  I was excitedly telling everyone at work and soon realized I had to keep the holiday cheer to myself.  The general consensus was it was already too high to reach.

I could only shake my head.

It seems there are just a few of us in the FI bubble.  I keep thinking the secret is out, and everyone will stop working, and leave all the tasks to the robots.  I am sadly mistaken.

Happy holidays to everyone, see you in 2019!

 

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[PoF: Dang! In two months, Ether to FI’s net worth has increased by a whopping $100,000. Meanwhile, ours dropped by about $200,000 over the same timeframe.

That’s a good illustration of how little the market affects your net worth when new additions account for most of the fluctuation.

Conversely, we see how little new contributions affect my own net worth. We’re more at the mercy of the market. As I learned in my $10 Million Dream article, our future net worth (and potential path to $10 Million) depends less on me working and more on the market treating us well.

Lately, the market hasn’t treated us so well, but a correction has felt overdue for some time. If this drop evolves into the first bear market in ten years, I won’t shed any tears. It is bound to happen eventually, and I’d rather see the market drop and rebound while I’m still earning money and before we implement our retirement drawdown strategy.]

 

Follow Ether to FI’s progress to FI in his previous posts:

 

 

 

 

Do you have a frugal spouse aiding your financial wellness? Or is it the opposite? Give us an example in the comments!

16 comments

  • We wouldn’t be sad to see a bear market ourselves… But we are still very much in the accumulation phase. So, the opportunity to “buy stocks on sale” is very appealing.

    ETF, your progress continues to be amazing! Keep it up.

    P.s. looking forward to hearing your house buying story since we just bought one, too!

    TPP

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  • Congratulations on the amazing net worth jump. That is remarkable given the way the markets have behaved this year.

    It shows you can power through tough market times with brute force (ie contributions) and you are indeed buying things relatively on sale (and when the markets rebound (which they have always done) you have positioned yourself for an even more astronomical rise in net worth).

    Your emphasis on the right spouse is something that is one of the most overlooked but most important aspects of true financial bliss and can help you on your path to wealth so much faster.

    My story of my awful divorce is living proof of what happens when you don’t marry right (again to my defense I grudgingly went into an arranged marriage to appease my mother (see how that turned out 🙁 ).

    I conservatively put my financial loss at a million dollars because of the wrong spouse and I would bet the farm that the true number is far higher.

    You can never outearn someone who is a spendthrift. One of my favorite sayings is that a colander can never hold water no matter how much you put into it.

    Looks fade. Financial personalities tend to be lifelong so choose wisely.

    • Ether to FI

      I have never heard the colander saying but I am going to steal it. The best decision I ever made was marrying Mrs. ETF. Thank you for the comments.

  • I totally agree about the frugal spouse being very important in seeking financial independence. My spouse has been extremely important in my journey and I wrote an article about that if you want more info on the subject.

    https://drcorysfawcett.com/your-spouse-is-your-greatest-financial-asset/

    Without both of you pulling on the same side of the cart, it’s hard to make progress.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    • Ether to FI

      I just read your great article on having a frugal spouse. At least Mrs. Fawcett wants you there to push the cart. Mrs. ETF would rather I stayed home with the kids. It looks like we are walking in both of your footsteps. With that being said, how rich will I be when I am in your shoes. 🙂 Have a good holiday season and thank you for the comment.

  • I am also fortunate to have a spouse who is not a mindless consumer. She’s one of the main reasons why it’s so easy to make my money work for me instead of spending it frivolously.

  • Gasem

    Good job E to FI. I found PoF’s comment about market caused fluctuation in NW when the portfolio is nearing the crack the nest egg stage spot on. Market fluctuation is definitely amplified in a big portfolio where a heretofore big contribution (like 100K new money into a 300K portfolio risked at 15%) doesn’t overcome (like 100K into a 3.3M portfolio with 11% risk). Just wait till you become totally reliant on return and SORR kicks in and you start withdrawing money instead of depositing money. You’ll be turning that risk meter down even further.

    I would have bought the car, though my wife would have complained. She liked to drive them till they died. I always pre-planned the car purchase based on resale value and I always funded a separate car buying account (not unlike a 529 account) using muni bonds, so it worked like a self funded lease. I became my own leasing company. I always bought Honda’s since they were reliable and resellable. When the car hit about 58K miles the residual value plus the muni bond money was enough to replace the car with a year old “new” model, without pesky $1500 nickle and dime. I think I put $250 a month in that account. At 58K miles a used car buyer can still get a loan so the car tends to retain it’s value in the market. At 75K+ miles there is a rapid decline in value as the loan possibilities dry up and a rapid increase in impending maintenance doom.

    • Ether to FI

      Mrs. ETF wants to drive the car into the ground, we are skating pass the 100k mark, and the car is not a Honda or a Toyota. Let us hope it keeps ticking along. I like your strategy though. Thank you for the comments as always.

  • Great post – agree completely on the financially comparable/frugal spouse. My wife (Dr Shirts perhaps PoF?) just isn’t programmed to spend money, still driving the Jeep Wrangler she had in vet school.

    I have mixed feelings on the big drop, within three months of pulling the plug and I’d rather see it down now instead of after I give up my job…but hate now I’m doing the math of what I’ll save with an extra month/quarter/year. Was past that!

    • Ether to FI

      Congratulations Mr. Shirts on pulling the plug and enjoy the freedom. The market will go up and down, but your peace of mind outside of the required daily grind will be well worth it. Thanks for commenting.

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  • wannabeFIRE

    eager to see an update on this couple!

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