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Ether to FI: Mrs. E.T.F., Are We on the Same Page?

Today, we have the fifth installment from our anonymous friend E.T.F., an anesthesiologist out there in the ether working his way to FI. His goal is $3.3 Million in ten years, and he’s been documenting his journey roughly every other month here on this site.

Today, he invited Mrs. E.T.F. to answer some money questions to gauge how compatible their financial intentions are. How is it that I’ve written hundreds of blog posts and haven’t had my wife chime in yet? I may need to follow his lead and change that!

The floor is yours, Ether to FI.


Ether to FI: Mrs. E.T.F, Are We on the Same Page?


Money fights and money problems are a leading cause of divorce.  Many couples are busy reading a different page of a separate chapter in a different book and are confused by their financial struggles. In light of this, we needed to make sure the ETF household was on the same page.

You have listened to me talk about my goals and vision for the future, does Mrs. ETF feel the same way?  I asked my much better half to join this post and provide her wisdom.  Below we will each answer ten questions independently, then comment on the similarities or difference in our answer choices.

Will there be any surprises?


Drum roll, please…


1. How did you form your concept of money?


Mrs. E.T.F.: I formed my concept of money from observing my parents. I learned the basic concepts of earning, saving, appropriate use of credit cards, giving, and responsible spending throughout my childhood and adolescent years.

ET.F.: My concept of money developed through watching my parents. I was probably the only ten-year-old who was looking at the many ways to optimize their parent’s financial life.  I promised myself when I made money; I would correct the many issues I saw in their approach to finances.  My reaction to my family of origin formed my concept of money.


Comments: Parents are critical, for better or worse.


2. What is your worst financial mistake?


Mrs. E.T.F.: Reflecting on my adult working years, I would consider my worst financial mistake was not learning to invest my savings at an earlier age. Before marrying ETF, my investment knowledge was insufficient with regards to the importance of compound growth.

E.T.F.: Wasting my paycheck as a teenager. The compounding on that money over the last 20 years would have created a mini-war chest now.  They say the best time to start saving was 20 years ago; the second-best time is right now.


Comments: Start investing early even if it’s small amounts. It will maximize your growth and shorten your path to financial independence.


3. Do you have enough “blow” money?


Mrs. E.T.F.: Yes. I consider myself relatively frugal and prefer to spend my “blow” money on simple pleasures such as a good cup of coffee or chocolate after lunch.

E.T.F.: Yes, I would love some more spending money, but getting to financial independence, and traveling is more important to me. I see denying myself more blow money, as a keystone habit to help conquer larger goals.


Comments: We found a number we could both agree on; this short time sacrifice will lead to long-term benefit.

[PoF comment: I think “play” money may be a better term to use. “Blow” conjures up other images in my mind.]


4. What is the most one of us can spend without consulting the other?


Mrs. E.T.F.: I have never considered this a question (or a problem) in our relationship since we review the budget monthly. Neither of us is a big spender and generally discuss purchases outside of the budget.

E.T.F.: Everything is in the budget, there should be very few surprises. $100 for anything not in the budget.


Comments: Budget, budget, budget, it might be a curse word to some, but it does wonders on keeping both members of the team on the same page. It is comforting to know exactly where the money is going.


5. What should we do with extra-money or savings beyond long-term goals?


Mrs. E.T.F.: Travel and invest in new experiences for our children.

E.T.F.: Travel this beautiful world. There are so many places to go, and people to meet.  If we have a windfall, after saving a hefty amount, I would love to slow travel in style.


Comments: We have similar interests, and travel is high on the agenda. When we are financially independent, our passports will be full of stamps.  We have already started on that journey.



6. What is our most important financial goal right now?


Mrs. E.T.F.: Saving for a 20% down payment on a home in our desired neighborhood.

E.T.F.: $50,000 emergency fund.


Comments: We have shared goals, so it makes the process easier.  Although it appears we have different goals, Mrs. E.T.F. goal is the very next goal on E.T.F.’s agenda after reaching the $50k emergency fund in a couple of months.


7. What age do you want to retire?


Mrs. E.T.F.: Preferably before the age of 50.

E.T.F.: I want to be able to stop working at 42. I never want to retire.  I would be bored stiff.  Dream “retirement” job, would be to travel with the show Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.


Comments: Mrs. E.T.F. has no qualms about retiring early; she has no issues with boredom.  E.T.F. will probably take long pauses in employment to enjoy travel with Mrs. E.T.F. when she retires.  Who wants to be working while their spouse is enjoying Japan or Argentina?

[PoF Comment: E.T.F. has no qualms about referring to E.T.F. in the third person. That’s OK. He’s famous!]



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8. If we retired early, where would you want to live?


Mrs. E.T.F.: There are times where I would prefer to live closer to my family. However, I would gladly stay in a cheaper state and frequently travel to different countries for extended periods of time.

E.T.F.: I would love to live somewhere warm and stay 3-6 months in each location. For example, Colombia for three months, Portugal for three months, Thailand for three months.  Rinse and repeat, with either the same countries in each region or another country.


Comments: The theme of travel is very consistent.  There is so much of this world to see. We cannot imagine staying in one place forever.


9. What is your optimal retirement income?


Mrs. E.T.F.: $200,000, this would be more than we made on a pre-attending physician income, but less than our current gross salary.

E.T.F.: Optimal retirement income for our traveling adventures would be $150,000, this would guarantee I did not have to focus on the costs of the trips, and I would not have any limitations in accommodations or experiences. Many of the countries I want to visit, need far less money to live very well, but the question stated “optimal.”


Comments: E.T.F. initially put $200,000, then changed his answer to $150,000.  If we spent a lot of time in more expensive parts of the world, then $200,000 is possible.  Once again, the question said optimal.  Many people do extensive traveling on ¼ of this number.  Miles anyone?



10. What is the most important financial lesson you want to teach your kids?


Mrs. E.T.F.: The most important financial lessons I want to teach our children are the importance of responsible spending and the power of early investment.

E.T.F.: Finances like most things in life, you have a choice of success or failure. If you want to be free of financial worries, you can create simple habits that will guarantee your success.  Live on less than you make, save/invest 50% of your gross income, and create a perpetual money-making machine (ex. Large mutual fund portfolio, real estate, small business or create a product).  The faster you can divorce your annual income from an hourly wage, the sooner you can leave the rat race.


Comments: The recurring theme is simplicity.  Do the necessary things well, and you will be ahead of 99% of people.


Net Worth Update:


The number keeps growing.  We are on pace to triple our starting number at the one-year mark.  It is interesting when you place saving on autopilot, how quickly it grows.  Most of the growth currently is from our contributions, when the market starts driving the returns, the real fun will begin.



[PoF: An increase of over $30,000 in two months. By the end of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the E.T.F. family 10% of the way to their $3.3 Million goal

Looks like you two are pretty much on the same page. It’s tough to reach your goals as a family if they’re not the same goals! And I think it’s easy to assume you’re on the same page, but until you ask and answer the questions, do you really know?]



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


E.T.F.: Thanks for reading, and we await your comments.  Thanks, Mrs. E.T.F., for joining me on this post. Come back sooner rather than later.

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28 thoughts on “Ether to FI: Mrs. E.T.F., Are We on the Same Page?”

  1. I am thankful to have found this thread and learn many valuable insights. I am also starting my road to FIRE. I am completing my 3rd year post-fellowship and agree that it does help to have a spouse who is supportive and agrees with my goals.

    *FYI: Colombia was misspelled above if referring to the South American country.

    • Best of luck on your FIRE journey, BD.

      And I was just assuming E.T.F. wanted to go to college in Manhattan for 3 months. 😉 (but I fixed it, anyway).


  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. E.T.F.: I want to be able to stop working at 42. I never want to retire. I would be bored stiff. Dream “retirement” job, would be to travel with the show Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.

    How could anyone have known?
    When one person dies of suicide, we are all diminished.
    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

  4. Hi ETF! It looks like you two are definitely on the same page. In fact, you two are eerily on the same page as my wife and I in terms of life goals.

    We have the same mentality in terms of frugality, simplicity, and wanting to travel the world. We are kindred spirits my friend!!!

    • Hey Dr. McFrugal, the whole FIRE community is like the lost tribe that I did not know existed. It is refreshing to talk to people with similar worldviews on so many levels. It is good to meet a kindred spirit. Thanks for the comment.

  5. I would go so far to say that ultimately reaching your financial goals is not possible if you and your partner are not working together. That’s not to say you have to agree on everything, but just like all parts of a marriage helping and supporting one another, and being able to discuss and resolve your disagreements is the key to success.

    My wife likes to refer to me as “the brakes (saver)” whereas she is “the gas (spender)”. She helps me to not be so tight that our family is sleeping in a cardboard box eating watered gruel, and I help her not to spend money like she is an oil tycoon. We complement each other well and, I think, strike a good balance between enjoying the moment and saving for the future.

    • Hey Ray, I am actually the gas in our relationship, the only reason is Mrs. ETF is allergic to spending money. After the doctor’s wife comment above, I love Mrs. ETF even more. You need balance or eventually, you will run out of gas. Thanks for commenting.

  6. ETF: I agree 100%. Being on the same “Financial Page” with your spouse is one of the keys to a happy, successful marriage.

    There’s a doc in my hometown that tries to be frugal but can’t…his wife has a monthly $100K Visa bill. Yes, $100K.

    Reminds me of the commercial, “what’s in your wallet? ”

    Maybe he needs some ETHER.

    • Wait… what?!?

      It’s like a real-life Brewster’s Millions challenge. $100K is quite a bit more than we charge in any give year.

      • I don’t think I could find enough to spend an extra 100K a month on STUFF even if I had the Benjamins to do it with!

    • POF took the words right out of my mouth, say what?? 100k a month, what specialty affords that lifestyle because I am quitting anesthesia today, and heading back to residency. I know exactly what is in his wallet, air because there is no money left. What is she buying? I have to show Mrs. ETF your comment. She looks confused. Maybe that doctor’s wife is using her “blow” money.

  7. The better half and I do a ‘business meeting’ once a week (usually at Mickey D’s–great coffee free WiFI) to review spending, plan investments, manage property and enjoy the quiet time away from the kids. Kids now in high school and demand entry into the meetings ….. of course we caved and it has been amazing to learn from their unique ideas and approaches. I’ve been gassin’ 50% for awhile now and 80% for longer and have never regretted it. The kiddos aren’t just an expense…..enjoy and involve them.

    • Hey Renard, we already are trying to create the next generation of FIRE. They are still both really young, but we have started talking about saving, and compounding with our eldest. They have no choice in our household but to get financially educated. Thanks for your comments.

  8. Thanks for the post. I came across a concept yesterday I never considered before. The time to FI is variable even for “the same” FI saving program. Accumulation itself is sensitive to SORR and cohorts that start even 1 year apart my have very different FI paths. The best is to start in a crash but that would not stop me from starting ASAP. Most people think the path is pretty much standard and related to some linear FV calculation. It’s much more dynamic than that. Understanding this variability can be useful in understanding one’s progress.

    • I started my career as an attending in 2006, just before the great recession. The timing of the massive bear and subsequent rebound worked out very well for me.


      • True, but someone starting in 2016 may have a 2006 expectation (like 10 years) but a who knows what reality. The bulk of your money was deposited when the shiller PE was between 15 and 25 today it’s 32+. The only time worse than now was right before the 2000 crash which ushered in the lost decade. Not giving anybody a hard time just saying the “constants” in the FV calculator are actually economy dependent variables.

    • Hey Gasem, Insightful as usual. I have been hoping for a severe market correction since the first paycheck of my attending life with the reasoning you expressed above. It still has not come. I will just keep investing on the way up, and keep putting money in the whole way down. When it does arrive, I might work extra to try to take advantage of the down market. Thanks for commenting.

  9. I chortled a bit at the response to “what’s the most one can spend without consulting the other?” Like you, we have every dollar accounted for in our budget, so the spending decisions are all pretty much accounted for ahead of time. I had to blink a couple times to think about this question — what do you mean spending without consulting the other?

    Maybe the answer is, whatever I have in my blow money [Ed: fun money].

    I guess it does come up at Costco. We have our grocery budget for the month, but the ice cream aisle beckons… How much ice cream can I sneak in before it’s shifted to the fun money category?

    • Hey Mouse, Ice cream counts towards happiness and sanity, so it doesn’t count against the budget in my book. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Great post ETF! Not much point in having money, if it means marital conflict. It could cost both a relationship and be financially crippling if followed by divorce. Best to sort out financial compatibility before tying the knot, but most of us have other things on our minds at that point in our lives. My wife and I lived together and openly discussed/shared much of our finances before getting married. We needed our combined resources to live on. What we think is important seems to change as we age and grow together. We both enjoy spending more money, now that we have it, but I would definitely be the bigger “play money” spender.

    POF: Your editorial comments today made me laugh my morning beverage out through my nose. Thanks;)

  11. I think the biggest key to success is to have a partner with a like philosophy and be on the same financial page as you.

    It makes no sense to have one partner be frugal and plan for future when the other is spending like there is no tomorrow. Basically have a situation of water pouring into a colander and no financial traction will happen.

    And of course worst case scenario would be a divorce which will most likely be the biggest financial mistake you can make (it was by far the most expensive in my I made every mistake in the book series which was just wrapped up in my blog). That divorce alone cost me over 1 million in assets and set me back a decade

    My goal is to get 125k/yr ability to spend when I call it quits. I think research says 90k/yr brings most happiness and anything above it is diminishing happiness returns. I want to overshoot that a bit just to create a good buffer and also have no regrets of doing something luxurious every once in awhile (never traveled first class but would love to at some point for instance)

    • Sorry about the divorce. Being on the same page has the best thing for our marriage. You seem like you are back on track, lets both keep chugging towards our goals.

  12. Being on the same page is vitally important. I recently wrote a post about the three most common causes of divorce, and disagreements about the bank (personal finances) are definitely one of them.

    Admittedly, my wife doesn’t know as much about personal finance (on the investing side), but is naturally frugal and so it allows our goals to mesh well. She understands and agrees with the big picture goals and trusts me to get us there.

    Communication is key! And it seems that you guys have done a pretty solid job of that.

    I always loving reading your updates as we are on a ten to twelve year timeline to our FI number as well. I am behind you in in networth by about $280,000 right now (pesky student loans!), but am following right behind.

    Thanks for the update,


    • There is a consistent theme of frugal spouses and FI success. Millionaire Next Door had the exact same sentiment. You will catch up with us in no time. Thanks for the comment.


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