Conventional wisdom says save 10% of your income and you are all set. We all know this is bogus. The only thing that will be set is your working career lasting 40 plus years. The two obvious ways to increase the amount of money you are saving is to increase your income and decrease your spending. There is an interesting life event many people go through where both of these scenarios can happen at once, and it is when a couple moves in together.
As I am in my late twenties and everyone around me is getting married or moving in with their spouse, so I have seen the common scenario. Spouse A pays $900 per month for rent and spouse B pays $900 per month, so when they move in together they get a nicer place in a better location for $1,800 per month. For most people housing is the budget category they spend the most on per month, and they miss an opportune time to decrease it. We all know what this is, it is lifestyle inflation. Couples see their income double when they move in together and start spending more right away.
I have another idea about what should happen when a couple moves in together. Try living on one income. You heard me. Pretend as if you only had one income and try to spend according to that one income. I know this can be a hard task, but hear me out as the benefits are tremendous.
Crush financial goals. In essence, living on one income is saving half of your income (if both spouses earn the same). The extra cash flow left over at the end of the month can pay down student loans, save up for a house down payment, speed up investment goals, etc. Saving half of your income means you can possibly retire in 17 years if you invest it. That is less than half the time of a conventional working career.
Remove money stress. If you’re living on one income and one person gets laid off, what happens? Your savings will go down but you will still be able to meet all of your financial obligations. You might not be paying off debt or investing in your brokerage account with the same vigor, but rent will be paid every month. You will be able to pay for groceries. No debt will be wracked up while the second spouse finds a new job. This also makes it much easier when making the decision if you want to start a family and have one spouse stay at home. Is one spouse really burnt out and needs to take a sabbatical? That’s okay since six months off won’t break the bank. Does one spouse have a passion that does not yield much of an income? It actually is now possible for one spouse to go down that path.
Take risk. If you are living on one income, you can go a period of time without the second income. Does one spouse have a great idea and the entrepreneurial itch? Instead of having to raise money from others to start your venture, maybe you can bootstrap it yourself since your spouse is able to pay all the bills. Starting that business no longer has extreme consequences if it does not work out. We know entrepreneurship is one great way to possibly earn an upper class income and it is much easier to take that risk to potentially earn that great reward if you can live on the other spouses income.
I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but I believe it is something to shoot for at a minimum. If you want to take it even one step further, try living off the income of the spouse who earns less. This will boost your savings rate above 50% and help you crush your financial goals in short order. Financial independence will now be a very achievable goal.
Could you and your spouse live on one income? If so, do you?