What two people can accomplish when they are working towards a common goal is phenomenal. You’re not just adding up the sum of what they can achieve as individuals, you’re multiplying it. You’re compounding brain power, because you have the ability to challenge each other, discuss, and brainstorm. You’re compounding efficiency because now you have the ability to delegate tasks by individual strengths. You’re compounding passion and energy, because when one person is down, the other is there to get them re-motivated.
Nowhere is this effect of 1+1=3 so blatantly observed than in cohesive relationships. In the world of relationships the best parents, home renovators, entrepreneurs, dinner party hosts, you name it, they all have a strong commonality. They approach life as a team. They present a united front. From the kids, to the Jone’s next door, the office party, the business pitch, they are in it together. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and use that knowledge to decide who should take the lead, and who should play a supporting role in each different situation.
Key components of this type of true partnership are sharing similar values and common goals.
You don’t have to want the exact same things, but it is incredibly important to share your desire for some primary life goals. The direction you want to head as a couple, and the type of lifestyle you want to achieve. This is especially important when it comes to pursuing Financial Freedom (FF). I know some might argue with me and say it’s entirely possibly to pursue FF as one partner when the other partner isn’t interested. That’s true, you can do it, it’s just WAY harder. When you don’t share the common goal of FF, you have competing interests, and where competing interests are present it is very difficult to get traction let alone start to see your efforts begin to snowball.
When one person is a spender and the other is a tad more……frugal, it can create a ton of conflict. Joint finances or separate, it really doesn’t matter. When the spender want’s to go on a last minute trip to Mexico and frugal didn’t plan for that expenditure and doesn’t want to deviate from their plan, does anybody win? If spender somehow convinces frugal that they need to live in the moment, frugal is likely going to feel frustrated and perhaps even resentful about being pushed into spending the money (especially if having their FF plan waylaid is a frequent occurrence).
Meanwhile, if frugal convinces spender that its better to delay gratification for future benefit, it’s likely that spender is going to feel some frustration and eventually resentment that frugal refuses to live life to it’s fullest, costing spender some pretty cool life experiences along the way.
When two people have such polar opposite approaches to finance, it’s never just the Mexico trip. It’s everything in life, and there’s always something else. Let’s go out for dinner tonight because I really want to try that new restaurant in town vs. let’s start meal planning to cut our food costs, or let’s go out to see that new movie vs. let’s watch something free on Netflix (or watch youTube video’s because I cancelled our Netflix subscription to save $9.99 a month).
These competing interests create an abundant source of conflict, and cause both people to feel like they are constantly sacrificing and compromising. That tends to lead to resentment. When people feel like their partner is inhibiting them from doing the things that are most important to them, or being true to themselves (IE: messing with their values), that resentment can start to build. When resentment builds it leads down the garden path to the grim reaper of relationship emotions, contempt. If you feel contempt for someone, it is EXTREMELY hard to reverse that emotion. I guarantee we all know a couple who regularly demonstrate contempt for each other. Who feel and express (out loud!) that their “sacrifices” in life for the other person has robbed them of things, experiences, or opportunities they will never get back. Everyone around them can’t help but wonder, why are these two people still together! They make each other miserable!
All that to say, if you want to pursue FF, no matter what your life situation is, some critical assessment and reflection of your relationship, or what you want in a relationship, is a must!
Let’s say you aren’t in a relationship, or maybe one that’s not currently that serious. That means you can really dig into Step 1: How do you measure YOUR wealth, and come up with a strong framework of what’s important to you. Once you have that framework, use it when you are dating! Know what you want in life and look for someone who shares your values and will be on board with your pursuit of FF.
But what if you’re already in a serious relationship. Well if you haven’t already, and before you go any further in your FF plan, sit down with your partner and talk about FF. Explain why it’s important to you, how you think it will benefit your family, and why you believe that delaying gratification in the short-term will be so worthwhile in the long-term. Get them to buy-in to the concept.
Once they’re on board, even if it’s just a teeny tiny little bit on board, then you can move onto goal setting (which we’ll talk about in the next post). Identifying some concrete actions you can take together to pursue FF. It’s not about one person sacrificing for the other, it’s about sacrificing together in the short-term, for the long-term win. If you can pursue FF together, as a team, you’ll be AMAZED at what you can accomplish.
When Mike and I set the goal of paying off our mortgage in 7 years, I was the doubtful one. It felt overwhelming, like I was going to have to sacrifice a ton, and like it was never really going to happen. 7 years felt very far away. But Mike sat me down and explained why he thought it was important, and what he envisioned our lives would look like if we were able to accomplish the goal. He won me over AND he got me excited about the process.
Because we shared the goal neither one of us ever felt like we were sacrificing our values for the other. We were so excited about what we were doing and accomplishing together that it never even felt like sacrifice. We got excited when the other person came up with a new idea for how to cut costs or build income! We built-in short term goals along the way so we could celebrate every time we hit one. We talked about (and still talk about) our finances almost daily. Always assessing, re-evaluating, and adjusting our path as needed. In the end, not only did we pay off our mortgage in five years, we also managed to successfully retire from our regular jobs. In just 5 years. And the kicker, it was really fun.
The ability to work together as a team, feed off each others energy, recognize each others strengths and use them to our advantage, all of those things snowballed. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I thought we would be where we are today, my answer would have been a hard no. Not because I’m a pessimist, I’m actually a pretty optimistic, glass half-full kind of person, but simply because I would have looked at the numbers and concluded that it wasn’t feasible.
What I wouldn’t have accounted for is how creative, efficient, and passionate two people chasing the same goal can get. If either one of us had done it on our own, we wouldn’t have been able to relate to each other the same way when the inevitable struggles, roadblocks and setbacks showed up. The satisfaction we feel for what we accomplished together is huge, and if we hadn’t tackled it as a team I know it wouldn’t feel nearly as good as it does now.
When I think about what it takes to achieve FF, I like to think of the analogy of rolling a snowball on a flat field, beside a really big hill. FF is the tipping point when you finally get that snowball big enough that you can push it over to the edge and let it start rolling, all on its own. If you roll that snowball by yourself, it’s easy in the start, but then the snowball starts to get a bit bigger, and a bit heavier, your feet start to slip, your breathing gets heavier, maybe you even need to sit down and take a break from it here and there. How much faster would it be if you had a second person beside you, who you can dig in with, and who can catch you when you slip. It’s still hard work, but ultimately you end up with a WAY bigger snowball to push over the edge of the hill.
Now imagine what happens when you push your little individual snowball over that edge. Sure it rolls, it builds, and it meanders its way down the hill. But now push that two person monster of a snowball over to the edge and give that sucker a mighty shove. It’s going to accumulate more snow, and get way bigger, way faster than your individual snowball ever will. The difference at the bottom won’t even be comparable.
From experiencing the effect myself, there is no doubt that in a partnership where you can both clearly see and desire the goal, 1+1=3 (or maybe even 30). The earlier you can recognize that AND make it work for you, the bigger your snowball is going to be.