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Can My Wife Early Retire Yet?


Can my wife early retire?Happy holidays! Only two weeks left in 2017! Can you believe it? It’s time to wrap up 2017 and get ready for another New Year. This is an easy time of the year for personal finance bloggers because there are so many topics to write about. I’m going to tally up my 2017 New Year goals, net worth, cash flow, passive income, blog income and summarize the result in a couple of blog posts. One of my major goals is to see if my wife can early retire soon. (That’s Mrs. RB40 for our new readers.) First, I’ll go over a little background. Then we’ll see if it makes sense financially and follow up with other parts of the equation.

Quick recap

Here is a quick recap of our current situation. Actually, it’s probably easier to look at our earnings and follow along.

RB40 earnings

  • I started working full time as a computer hardware engineer in 1996. Mrs. RB40 went off to Peace Corps and started working full time in 1999.
  • Mrs. RB40 went back to college and got her Master’s degree in 2007.
  • I was an engineer for 16 years and early retired in 2012.
  • Mrs. RB40 is still working full time.

It’s been 5 years since I early retired and life has been fantastic. Some readers, aka the internet retirement police, said I’m not really early retired because my wife is still working. However, I disagree. Why does it matter if Mrs. RB40 is still working or not? This wouldn’t be an issue if I was 65. Most couples do not synchronize their retirement. Mrs. RB40 could have early retired with me in 2012, but our finances would have been tighter. It would have been fine because the stock market did very well over the last 5 years, but we wouldn’t have been able to invest and doubled our net worth like we did. Anyway, let’s fast forward to 2017 and see if she could retire now.

Can we maintain our lifestyle if my wife retires?

Okay, it’s the moment of truth. If you’ve been following my monthly cash flow reports, then you’d already know the answer. 2017 has been great and Mrs. RB40 could have early retired without any money problems. First, let’s see how we funded our modest lifestyle this year.

We have very good cash flow with this model, but it’d be different if Mrs. RB40 wasn’t working full time. First, we’d lose her earned income. Then, we’d need to purchase healthcare for the family. Let’s crunch the numbers.

If my wife was retired in 2017…

First of all, we’d have less income.

  • Online income: about $63,000
  • Passive Income: about $50,000
  • Total income =~$113,000

Second, we’d spend more money because of health insurance.

  • Annual expense: about $50,000
  • Healthcare: estimated $12,000
  • Taxes: about $12,000 (total guess here)
  • Total Expense =~$74,000

Simple math shows that income is higher than expense so the financial side looks good. Of course, it was a banner year here at Retire by 40. In previous years, I made closer to $30,000 to $40,000. Even with less online income, we’d still be fine. In that case, we’d pay much less taxes as well. The numbers still work out with $30,000. All in all, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if Mrs. RB40 wasn’t working this year.

She doesn’t want to retire yet

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Mrs. RB40 doesn’t want to retire yet. It doesn’t look good for me because this site is focused on early retirement, but life isn’t all about me. If she wants to work, then why should she retire? Early retirement is a great fit for me, but it really isn’t for everyone. Most people are mentally conditioned to like working and that’s not easy to overcome. Work is central to most people’s lives and Mrs. RB40 is no exception. Here are some reasons why my wife doesn’t want to retire yet.

  1. Mrs. RB40 likes work. She changed job functions in 2016 and she is having a great time at work. She is learning new things, meeting new people, does an excellent job, and she gets good annual reviews. Work is going very well for her. Nobody wants to quit when they’re a star.
  2. Mrs. RB40 loves her healthcare. Her employer sponsored healthcare is awesome. We all have some minor health issues and we really appreciate the solid health insurance policy. I’m not looking forward to purchasing health insurance on HealthCare.gov at all.
  3. Mrs. RB40 likes being busy. I like relaxing. My perfect day would be hanging out at home, reading, playing games, and chilling out. Mrs. RB40, on the other hand, seems to find something to do whenever she has a day off. She’d garden, bake cookies, fold origami, visit the museum, volunteer, or do various things on her list. Look, she rearranged our living room during the Thanksgiving holidays. I think she’d be bored if she doesn’t go to work. (Not to mention, she’d drive me nuts if she was home all day every day.)
  4. Mrs. RB40 likes being a productive member of society. She has a social conscience. I don’t mind doing my own thing and I don’t care what other people say. She cares about other people’s opinions.
  5. Mrs. RB40 does not have a post early retirement plan. Currently, she doesn’t know what she would do if she early retire. She has too many interests, but she doesn’t have a passion project. Also, she’s not sure what to do with an unstructured schedule. I suggested that she work for Retire by 40, but she doesn’t seem overly enthused about it. It’s not her passion. It would just be another job for her.
  6. Mrs. RB40 likes being social. She has friends at work. Adjusting to a smaller social circle is one of the most difficult things about early retirement. I did fine because I’m an introvert. Mrs. RB40 is an introvert, too, but she’s also figured out how to work with it. I also have online friends though blogging. It’s not the same as in real life, but the online social interaction is adequate for me.
  7. Mrs. RB40 enjoys making money. She loves seeing her retirement account grow every year. She also likes buying nice work clothes. Now that she brings home the bacon, she feels like she can afford nicer stuff. Don’t misunderstand — she doesn’t like spending money on random stuff. She’s very careful where the money goes. If she didn’t have any income, she probably wouldn’t spend any money.

These are some of the reasons why she isn’t quite ready to retire yet. That’s perfectly fine with me because she’d doing very well at work. She’s not stressed out all the time like her previous job and she rarely brings work home. Her job is actually quite good. If I had a job that I enjoyed and paid well, I probably wouldn’t have retired either.

Why change?

We are in an ideal situation right now. Our income is good and our investments are growing. Mrs. RB40 enjoys work and I like being home. This SAHD/blogger lifestyle is a much better fit for me. Mrs. RB40 wouldn’t be happy in this environment just as I wasn’t happy at my old job. Life is good for both of us so why change? Let’s keep it going like this as long as possible.

Early retirement is an option for Mrs. RB40, but the timing just isn’t right yet. She’s happy at work so she should enjoy it while she can. Her job is great now, but it probably won’t be this nice forever. She might get a new boss or maybe she’d get transferred into a position she doesn’t like. You never know what the future will bring. We’ll keep evaluating her options every year to see if she’s ready to retire at some point. She might feel differently when she’s a bit older.

Alright, that’s it for today. I hope you’re ready for Christmas. We are all looking forward to spending a few days at home and enjoying quiet family time. Let’s hope Mrs. RB40 doesn’t rearrange any more rooms this time…

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 43 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako December 18, 2017, 12:44 am

    Our situations are really similar Joe! Mrs. Tako likes her job and all the social interaction, so she keeps doing it for now.

    The only real constant is change, so I suspect one day that won’t always be true, but I try to plan for really difficult situations like a layoff, or ill health. So far it’s worked out OK.

    If something truly bad happened, we could simply reduce expenses and go back to work. But that’s really a worst case scenario.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 11:41 am

      Working at a job you like is a great thing. To Mrs. RB40, that’s better than early retirement. You’re right about change. Life will change so we need to enjoy our ideal situation while we can. It sounds like your family is doing very well too. That’s great!
      I don’t plan to go back to work for somebody else. I’m sure I can come up with some self employment gig. Working for myself suits me.

  • Ernie Zelinski December 18, 2017, 2:05 am

    Just enjoy the ride. A lot of guys would like to have a wife who goes to work earning a good income while they get to stay home and do their own thing. Heck, I would probably enjoy that too.

  • Ms99to1percent December 18, 2017, 2:23 am

    Sounds like you guys can afford it but yeah a lot of people are not into early retirement. But if she ever does RE, maybe she can help you make the blog into a multi-million dollar empire 🙂 ? Or she can start her own?

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 11:42 am

      I don’t think blogging is her thing. She likes real life interaction more. 🙂

  • Chris Urbaniak @ deliberatechange.ca December 18, 2017, 3:13 am

    Hi Joe!

    “If she wants to work, then why should she retire?” Retirement or financial freedom is about doing what you love without having to work for money. Some people choose to travel or relax, while others choose to start new paid or unpaid ventures (e.g. “work”). Being in a position to choose your lifestyle and activities is one of the greatest accomplishments!

    “She has too many interests, but she doesn’t have a passion project.” I feel exactly the same way here, and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. 4 years ago I took an 8 month “mini-retirement”. (In Canada, we have job-protected, partially subsidized parental leave!) It was a great opportunity to try out many of those interests while spending tons of quality time with my young family. It had the net effect of delaying my future retirement by 6-12 months due to reduced income, but MAN was it worth it!

    “Why change”? It’s about being deliberate in your choices. Sounds like her latest career move WAS the change she was looking for! Kudos to you both for pursuing activities that keep you engaged and enjoying life.

    Here’s some food for thought: What about serial retirement? You mentioned she might feel differently under different circumstances, but FIRE is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If Mrs. RB40 ever gets bored or unsatisfied with her 9-5, then she could always consider a mini-retirement or sabbatical before looking for other meaningful work.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 11:44 am

      The mini retirement sounds really cool. I think she’d be willing to try that at some point. We’d need to move to a bigger place, though. I need a bit more space if she’s around all day. 🙂
      I don’t know about going in and out of ER. It’s be tough to get a new job. I guess it really depends on your field.

  • Lily @ The Frugal Gene December 18, 2017, 3:24 am

    It’s weird Joe but I think Jared and I are (or hope to BE) mini versions of you and your wife. Jared wants to do the SAHD / early retirement thing but I’ll always want to be involved in some active side hustle (if not several of them until I’m 79!!)

    If MsRB40 doesn’t want to go, more power to her! That health care is mmm mmm good.

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 11:45 am

      That’s awesome. You guys sounds like us. Mrs. RB40 likes the structured schedule. Side hustling isn’t in her blood. 🙂

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify December 18, 2017, 3:47 am

    Joe, Maybe not retired according to the internet police, but let’s just call it financially secure living life on one’s own terms. Isn’t that what we are all after anyway? Thanks for the post. Tom

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 2:21 pm

      Exactly! Living life on your own term is the ultimate goal. That’s when life is good.

  • Mustard Seed Money December 18, 2017, 3:52 am

    It sounds like you all have the perfect situation at this point. Mrs. RB40 likes her job, you like being able to be at home. Sounds like a win/win situation for everyone at this point 🙂 Now if things change that will be different but until then enjoy it 🙂

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 2:22 pm

      I hope it stays this way for at least a few more years. We still have a few projects that will cost a lot of money. They’d be much easier with Mrs. RB40’s income.

  • Budget on a Stick December 18, 2017, 5:36 am

    My wife is the same way. I wouldn’t be surprised if she keeps working after we are at the FIRE numbers. I would love to just hang around home all day but she is one of those weird people who like to be “productive member of society” too.
    Just do what I would do…send pictures of all the fun you are having while she is stuck at work. (you will need: balloons, beer, party hats, etc)

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 2:23 pm

      It’s really great to be a productive member of society. We need those people to keep the economy humming. 🙂 I don’t want to torture her like that. Anyway, I’m not having that much fun while she’s at work.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance December 18, 2017, 5:43 am

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and your family, Joe!

    I really liked this article. It not only shows the online retirement police that their argument is flawed but also gives us such a great insight into what you and Mrs. RB40 are like as a couple and two individuals. It’s great that you don’t want to force early retirement on her. I wouldn’t be happy if Mr. FAF did that either. Just do what makes you and your family happy! ^.^

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 8:57 pm

      The IRP should focus on improving their lives instead of criticizing bloggers. 🙂
      Mrs. RB40 is too stubborn for me to force anything.

  • [email protected] December 18, 2017, 5:43 am

    I love that she’s not retiring just because she can. This is why the FI is more important than the FIRE. Knowing you can retire means you are living in your terms. Do whatever makes you he happiest. The two of you are both #Winning congrats!!!

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 8:58 pm

      It really depends on your personality. I’m very happy with early retirement, but she won’t be. Maybe later.

  • Dave @ Married with Money December 18, 2017, 7:03 am

    THAT is the kind of employment people should be seeking – a place where she’s actually happy and likes what she’s doing.

    I’m more like you though, but I am guessing that in retirement I’ll find a bunch of projects I want to tackle around the house and online and such. But plenty of video games, too haha

  • Mr. Groovy December 18, 2017, 7:32 am

    “Mrs. RB40 likes being a productive member of society. She has a social conscience. I don’t mind doing my own thing and I don’t care what other people say.”

    I knew there was a reason why I admired you, Joe. Congratulations on the great year you and Mrs. RB40 had in 2017. Merry Christmas, my friend.

    • Pennypincher December 19, 2017, 3:31 am

      Great comment Mr. Groovy, I agree. If you don’t care what other people think (of you), it will set you free.
      I think we all admire and enjoy what Joe has to say. Thanks, Joe. Happy, healthy holidays all!

      • retirebyforty December 19, 2017, 7:06 am

        Not caring also makes you a bit anti-social. It’s a delicate balance. 🙂

  • Mike Drak December 18, 2017, 8:07 am

    Joe, part of the problem is that we really don’t know what to call our particular situation and that is why we came up with the term Victory lap Retirement as we had to call it something. I was so happy to escape the corporate working but I’m still working doing seminars, published a book, running a blog. But I don’t really consider it work in the traditional sense as I’m not overly concerned about the money aspect I just like doing what I’m doing. My wife still works and she really enjoys it so why would we ever take that away from her via retiring. it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The key is to create a lifestyle for yourself that is meaningful and fulfilling, it’s not more complicated than that.

  • freebird December 18, 2017, 8:09 am

    I think your statement “You never know what the future will bring” justifies staying the course.

    If her workday vibe is positive why cut off another income stream? As you suggest a buyout/reorg could make her job less pleasant. But online income isn’t a for-sure thing going forward either– who knows what could happen with all the new entrants and a possible declining attention span? Even passive income could turn, a good example is how seniors who only invest in CDs have fared over the past decade.

    The main idea is that losing any of these income streams requires no adjustment to your spending. You built up a nice three-legged stool, I’d say keep it!

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 9:01 pm

      You’re right about online income. I find that it tapers off so I have to keep finding new sources.
      Everything is good right now so we’ll keep investing and focus on the future. At some point, we’ll be comfortable with taking some money out of our savings.

  • Dividend Growth Investor December 18, 2017, 8:17 am

    I am in a somewhat similar situation… I hit my dividend crossover point this year, and could call myself FI.. But I like my job, and keeping busy with everything. My wife is not so happy about working, she prefers taking care of DGI jr, and is thinking of going back to school for her masters. She is the one who is not FI yet (we married last year so still consolidating finances)

    So she cut her hours at work. We may cut them even further down the road as we are definitely pondering her being the SAHM.. I suck as being a SAHD btw – I took a leave from work a few months ago, and find it incredibly difficult to find any time for blogging when parenting required 110% of attention… So I have a newfound respect for you as a SAHD..

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 9:03 pm

      It’s much easier now to be a SAHD because our kid is getting older. It was really tough when he was little. He needed so much attention. Mrs. RB40 couldn’t handle it for more than a few days.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks December 18, 2017, 8:41 am

    I think you are all set, and there is nothing wrong with working if you enjoy it 🙂

    We are in a similar situation. Mrs CK quit her corporate job before me and now teaches at the community college. She gets plenty of time off, and loves helping the kids while expanding their engineering program. So the rewards go beyond monetary.

    It also does provide us with the best health insurance we’ve ever had. We’re both fairly active, and it is nice to be able to go to the doctor when we have an injury without worrying about deductibles.

    I do think she will be ready to move on to full retirement in a few years, but for now it’s a win win situation for us 🙂

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 9:04 pm

      That’s great. Your situation is ideal too. The health insurance is a huge benefit.

  • Accidental FIRE December 18, 2017, 9:46 am

    Congrats to you Joe, I agree with all the other comments that you and your wife are living the dream. Anyone in the internet retirement police squad or elsewhere that disparages this is assuredly jealous.

    And also congrats on the big blog income this year!

  • Caroline December 18, 2017, 10:34 am

    That is what FI is all about, having the freedom to do what you want, and if working is what your wife enjoys, there is nothing wrong with that:) I like to keep busy too and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life December 18, 2017, 10:34 am

    I love that you two have built a life where you can have the choices that you each want. If she wants to keep working, that’s awesome that she can, and does at a place she enjoys. That’s what most people would aspire to when FI isn’t on your horizon.

    I’m ready for a break too, but I think it won’t come until after Christmas. Lots of family responsibilities to deal with this season but I really hope that I can have that in our rearview mirror by the end of Winter.

  • Darren @ Learn to Be Great December 18, 2017, 11:45 am

    I’d love to be in your shoes. Unfortunately, my wife has never worked a job in her life. Even better, she has a Korean history degree from a University in Korea. We’ll have to figure out how to get something started for her so that I can retire while she works some years down the road. Enjoy your early retirement, Joe!

    • retirebyforty December 18, 2017, 9:06 pm

      Good luck to your wife! Maybe she can teach or write a book.

  • Jason December 18, 2017, 5:37 pm

    I am probably very similar to Mrs. RB40 and so is Mrs. ROB. She would go crazy if she just sat around. Plus, I really like my job and the intangibles like going to travel abroad and getting paid for it I can’t get in other places. We are still at least 7 years from FIRE anyway because of student loans and PSLF, but I don’t know if I will ever “retire.” If the Mrs. likes working I hope she continues to have a great time.

  • Jim @ Route To Retire December 18, 2017, 6:08 pm

    You couldn’t ask for a better position to be in than that! Having the ability to retire if desired but not wanting to shows that Mrs. RB40 really does enjoy her job.

    Although my wife is currently not working, I have a feeling that she wants to get back out there. Very similar to Mrs. RB40, she enjoys a lot of the “perks” that having a job provides.

    Have a merry Christmas, Joe!

    — Jim

  • Kris December 19, 2017, 3:16 pm

    It sounds like a great situation for both of you guys. She likes to work and socialize with her co-workers, doesn’t sound ideal for her to retire now as long as she enjoys what she doing now. You are enjoying your early retirement by staying at home and blogging. No need to change anything for now, both of you are settled with your lifestyles.

  • Ck December 20, 2017, 5:13 am

    This has got to be one of my favorite post from you. I feel my goal is to be on Fire/FI but no intention to quit my job. The listed you have on this post makes me feel I can do both which is freedom and still hold a career!

    • retirebyforty December 21, 2017, 9:29 am

      Thanks! FI is more important because it gives you more options. You can work, retire, or even start a business. Good luck.

  • Anne January 11, 2018, 10:15 am

    I think the main reason to have your wife keep her job as long as possible- is the medical insurance policy that you both benefit from through her company. We have a lot of friends that are self-employed and that is a real problem for anyone not part of a large group plan right now. We think its worth it to keep a job sometimes just for the insurance coverage!!

    • retirebyforty January 11, 2018, 11:57 am

      I agree. Healthcare is a huge deal now. We’ll probably spend about $10,000/year just on the premium.
      My wife should keep working as long as she enjoys it.

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