My husband and I never used to talk about money, but when we finally did we realized we'd been using the same smart savings trick to stash cash for retirement

My husband and I never used to talk about money, but when we finally did we realized we'd been using the same smart savings trick to stash cash for retirement

September 11, 2020

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  • I grew up in the '70s and was taught not to talk about money, so when I got married 23 years ago, my husband and I continued the pattern.
  • We both saved, though, putting away $50 here and there when we could, and increasing our savings rate as we earned more.
  • We never gave in to lifestyle inflation either, and when we eventually did start talking about money we realized we were well on our way to a comfortable retirement.
  • Use Blooom to analyze your 401(k) today and see how you can grow your retirement savings »

When I was a young girl growing up in the '70s, we didn't talk about income or money. There was a saying that adults would frequently use: "In polite company, don't talk about sex, politics, or money." I never knew how much my dad brought home in his paycheck from his full-time job working on the railroad, or how much my mother made in her various careers, including DJ, police dispatcher, office manager, and art dealer. 

Because we didn't talk about money, my parents didn't teach us any principles for saving, budgeting, or how to stretch a paycheck. I received an allowance, but I would spend it all on candy, magazines, or lip gloss without concern for when the next payday was going to arrive. 

Things are vastly different now than when I was young. Popular magazines have columns with money diaries where the participant discloses their salary and writes everything they spent for a week. There are FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) blogs where people discuss their incomes and how much they are managing to save (in most cases, a lot!). 

I didn't talk about money with my husband when we married

I'm thankful that talking about money is no longer taboo. The experience of others is helpful for those people who can use the knowledge and not have to learn everything by trial and error. But this current transparency and openness came too late in my life to help me use the advice of others to build a financial plan while I was young. 

Having no examples, my husband and I didn't discuss money when we were first married. Although we both knew each other's salaries and benefits, we didn't talk about a plan to get us from where we were to retirement.

Even though we were both professionals, we didn't make high salaries. Luckily for both of us and the health of our finances, we weren't the types to spend every cent available to us and end the month with a zero balance. We didn't count every penny, but at the beginning of our marriage, it came pretty close. 

We eventually had an 'a-ha' money moment 

In those first years, we lived a simple lifestyle and managed to start contributing $50 here and $50 there to build up emergency savings. During that time, I changed jobs, and my husband received bonuses and a raise. Even though we had more money available to us, we didn't change our spending habits to equal our increase. We added more to our savings instead. 

After about four years, we both had an epiphany that we did discuss. Even though we hadn't sought out professional advice, and we hadn't developed a plan, we had been moving in the right direction for a retirement we had recently started to consider.

Receiving salary increases, but not using the extra money to add to our liabilities, was helping us see real growth in our emergency fund and 401(k)s. Those $50 deposits made here and there turned into $100 deposits made regularly.

We didn't allow lifestyle inflation and were able to increase our savings rate

As we moved up the ladder in our careers, we stuck with the same older cars, stayed in the same small condo, and only updated our wardrobes when necessary. Our spending had not grown to match our salaries, and we have managed to keep it that way for over 23 years. 

Our expenses are higher now than when we first got married due to inflation and a slight increase in our unnecessary costs (love those Sunday brunches with our friends!). However, we still live below our means and practice a relatively simple lifestyle. 

That simple lifestyle will help us in retirement. Not only will we be able to draw down the nest egg it has helped create, but we will also be used to living on less, which will come in handy when there are no more paychecks or bonuses or raises to pay the bills.

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