How I Convinced My Wife To Continue Working After I Retired Early

I have a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Joe from Retire by 40. Joe is good guy who also happily does his own thing. I've known Joe for about 10 years and we live quite similar lives. The main difference is that he was able to convince his wife to continue working long after he retired and I could not.

When I left my day job in April 2012, I kind of foolishly told my wife that she could also leave her day job before her 35th birthday. My wife is three years younger than me. As a champion of equality, I thought this was a pragmatic approach to a dual early retirement lifestyle. She actually wanted to quit her job at 31 when I engineered my layoff, so it took some convincing not to.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have tried to encourage her to work longer. Not only would she have helped narrow the gender pay gap by getting paid and promoted instead of the men at her firm, but she would also have allowed me to relax more, get six-pack abs, and not have to write so much on Financial Samurai!

Now that our boy is in preschool, I'm gently trying to convince my wife to go back to work full-time again. I'd like to take the financial pressure off my shoulders for a year and focus more time on taking care of the household. So far, I'm not having much luck.

Let's hear from Joe how he did the impossible!

In 2012, I retired from my engineering career at age 40 to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger. However, my wife continues to work full-time. Everything is working out very well for us and life is awesome.

There are numerous advantages to having a working spouse. We have enough savings to support our modest lifestyle, but we don’t have to drawdown because my wife makes a nice income. Another huge win is healthcare. We’re using her employer-sponsored health plan so we don’t have to deal with ACA.

Our family life is way better than when we both worked full-time because I can take care of the home front. These are just a few of the benefits of staggering your retirement.

But is it unfair for my wife to work full-time while I enjoy early retirement? How did I convince Mrs. RB40 to continue working after I retired? Let me explain how.

Some People Like Working

Truthfully, I didn’t have to do much convincing. Some people want to work, no matter how wealthy they are. Look at Sam for example. He has enough invested to never work again, but he blogs, coaches tennis, consults for startups, drove for Uber, and continues to hustle hard. He’s wealthy by any definition. He never needs to work again if he doesn’t want to. 

Mrs. RB40 has a similar personality. She wants to contribute to society and feel useful. Retirement isn’t exactly her dream scenario. She also gets along with people and functions very well in an organization.

Working is a good fit for her personality. On the other hand, I don’t get along with people and prefer to work by myself. Working as a corporate drone was a terrible fit for me. I hated it and everyone could tell.

In any case, most of us prefer to work rather than retire (if the work is the right fit.) It’s the American way. So the main secret is my wife’s personality. She’s a go-getter and this predisposes her to continue working after I retired. 

Career and Education Timing

Another reason why she wants to keep working is the timing of my early retirement. I met my wife in college. When we graduated, I started my engineering career right away. She joined the Peace Corps and went off to Uzbekistan for three years.

Those three long years were great learning experiences, but they didn’t help land her dream job. She joined me in Portland after she got back and couldn’t find a good job locally. I guess the job situation would have been better for her if she had moved to DC, but then we wouldn’t have been together.

Anyway, she worked at a temp agency for a couple of years before finding a stable job at a local company. That position didn’t have much future, but she stuck with it for 5 years. Eventually, she realized that she needed more so she went back to college full-time to earn her Master’s degree. 

In 2007, she finished her advanced degree and started a new career. I retired in 2012. That’s just five years after she began her new career, which was just the developmental phase. She was doing great at her job and got advancement frequently. Nobody wants to retire when they’re doing well in their careers.

In contrast, I had already worked as an engineer for 16 years by then. I was completely burned out and I was ready to exit the corporate world. 

This is secret number one. If your partner is happy with their work, they won’t want to retire. You have to help them find that happy place. I encouraged my wife to go back to college full-time so she could finish fast and start a new career.

Our household income decreased for two years, but it wasn’t a big deal because we could live on one paycheck. It was the right choice for her and it gave our household income a big boost. 

Early Financial Preparation

How I Convinced My Wife To Continue Working After I Retired Early

Early retirement is tricky when it comes to the finance part. You’re too young to receive Social Security benefits and it’s too early to draw down your retirement funds. We had to make sure our investments can support my early retirement.

I wouldn’t have quit my job if we had to downgrade our lifestyle drastically. Luckily, Mrs. RB40 wanted to keep working. This gave us a chance to ramp down slowly instead of drastically. 

To make sure we could maintain our lifestyle, I kept track of all our income and expenses for over two years. During this period, we saved and invested all of my paychecks. So we lived on just our passive income and my wife’s income. This showed that we can survive without the income from my job. It also gave our investment a nice boost. 

I also showed her how the 4% rule works. Basically, you can withdraw 4% from your investment and it should last 30+ years. To meet this guideline, we needed to save at least 25x our annual expense. To be safe, we saved 30x our annual expense and that gave us some margin. We can withdraw 3.3% every year if needed. It’s safer for a long retirement like mine. 

If we both had retired in 2012, we’d have started drawing down our retirement portfolio. However, my wife kept working and our portfolio grew. Incredibly, our net worth doubled over the last 7 years. This was mostly due to my wife’s effort. If she had retired at the same time I did, we wouldn’t have been able to save much. Luckily, my wife enjoys seeing our net worth grow. This is another factor why she continues to work.  

Good With Kids

Our son was 18 months old when I retired from my engineering career. We hated sending him to daycare. We dropped him off at 7 am and picked him up at 6 pm. After we fed him and cleaned up, it was time for bed. It felt like we didn’t have any time with him at all except on the weekends. This is one of the big reasons why I wanted to retire early. We thought it’d be best to have one parent at home. 

Luckily, I was pretty good at taking care of our son. I took 10 weeks off when our son was born and I enjoyed being home immensely. I played with him, changed his diapers, fed him, took him for walks, and was a good caretaker. I knew I could be a competent stay-at-home dad.

In fact, our son was more attached to me than my wife when he was a baby. I’m good with kids and pets. Mrs. RB40 is way better with older people and coworkers. Maybe it’s just our personalities, but I’m a better fit as a stay-at-home parent. Mrs. RB40 didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom at all. She preferred working.  

Family Better Off After I Retired

In conclusion, it didn’t take a lot of effort to convince my wife to continue working after I retired. She wanted to work and there was no good reason for her to retire at that time. The bottom line is – today our lives are way better than when I was working.

Now, she can come home from work to a delicious dinner and a happy family. My son has someone to turn to whenever he needs a hand. I’m a coach on his soccer team and I volunteer at school occasionally. It’s a lot of fun for both of us. I’m not stressed out and angry all the time like when I was working in a job I hated. Our finances are holding up fine. All of us are happier than before I retired and that’s what counts. 

Today, we’re doing well enough that I’m actively encouraging Mrs. RB40 to retire early. I want my wife to retire in 2020, but I’m not sure if she will really retire next year. Her career isn’t new anymore and there are times that she complains about work. However, she still likes being a productive member of society.

It will be a lot more difficult to convince her to retire than to continue working. I’ll work on it. Check-in with us next year at Retire by 40 to see if she quits working or not. 


Update 2021: Joe's wife did not end up retiring in 2020. In fact, Joe has convinced his wife to keep working until 2022! He is a master at encouraging his wife to work longer so he can stay retired.

Readers, have any of you been able to convince your spouses to continue working long after you retired? If so, how did you do it? If you are a working mom with a stay at home husband/boyfriend, I'd love to know some of the blindspots men who strive to retire early without your full-time companionship should be aware of.

Related posts:

If You Love Your Spouse, You'd Make Them Financially Independent

How To Convince Your Spouse To Work Longer So You Can Retire Earlier

Financial Dependence Is The Worst: Why Each Spouse Needs Their Own Finances

Subscribe To Financial Samurai

Listen and subscribe to The Financial Samurai podcast on Apple or Spotify. I interview experts in their respective fields and discuss some of the most interesting topics on this site. Please share, rate, and review!

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. 

About The Author

27 thoughts on “How I Convinced My Wife To Continue Working After I Retired Early”

  1. One thing you didn’t discuss is how to counter the fact SAHW’s typically have a whole lot more social connections and ease of living a ‘socially accepted role’ that a SAHD. My SAHW can take part time jobs as a teacher, has endless SAHW’s to meet up with, and the whole social net makes her SAH life very fulfilling. The handful of SAHD’s in the community have an awkward position of mingling with these SAHW’s (being married of course) and they have extra time to improve themselves (good physical shape and desirable interests). In other words, it’s not as easy on a marriage for there to be a SAHD than a SAHW, and most wives are either worried about this before the ER or become worried about this over time.

  2. There are other reasons for both sides:
    Going back to work:
    – Crave adult intellectual conversation
    – Pride in working (creating, enhancing products and services) and earning a living
    – Extrovert and socialize with other people with possibly similar interests
    Staying a home:
    – Want to spend more time with kids
    – Don’t want to be forced to follow a schedule, wake up early, commuting, etc.
    – The stress of deadlines, performances, competitiveness with other colleagues, office politics

    I personally enjoy going to work. My wife (yes and no, depends on the day). For now, we kind of need the dual income.

    1. It really depends on your personality. Some people will choose to work even when they don’t need the money. That’s our culture. Office politics really killed my career ambition. Some people thrive on that. Anyway, I’m a much better fit for being a stay-at-home parent than my wife.

  3. Hi guys! I love the both of you guys are supporting a woman’s right and desire to work. I think it’s so important in this day and age that women have their own finances, their own career accomplishment, and their own independence. After all, women are the majority in America.

    Sam, you’ve also pointed out in the past how there are so few stay at home dad‘s out there. Maybe Joe’s post can help encourage more deaths to be stay at home fathers and be more involved in the household instead of always feeling like they have to go to work and provide.

    I firmly believe that within 25 years, there’s going to be massive progress and change in the household dynamics.

    1. In the next 25 years the household dynamic will definitely change. Hopefully by then, parental leave would be more flexible, work flexibility would increase due to technology, the number of SAHD would increase to a point where parks in the middle of the day won’t be a mom to dad ratio of 9:1. But I think it’s the parental leave that needs serious reform for progress to be made. Also I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home and it has improved not only my QOL but my entire family’s since I don’t have to spend time commuting. I also can make adjustments on the fly as necessary to accommodate my kids schedule which makes it less stressful as a parent.

      I actually can’t imagine what life would look like if I had to physically be in the office for most of the days during the weekday.

      1. There are more SAHD now than 25 years ago. But the stigma still remains. I think the way to reduce that is to have more generous paternity leaves. More dads will realize that they enjoy being a SAHD and they’re good with kids. That’s not an option for most dads right now.

  4. FS – You and your wife do not have the same Mission Statement as a team. The easiest part for a husband and wife team is having and caring for their kids. Yet, you and your wife seemed to struggle with it from the few of your earlier blogs – considered that you are not living in poverty.

    I am quite sure it is not about money for both of you. It is more about what is it that both of you are willing to work toward together as a team that make both of you feel happy and fulfilling every day.

    This is a struggle for all traditional retirees – you and your wife just happened to face it in your 40’s. If you are succeeded in convincing your wife to go back to work, you just swept the problem under the rug. You will see it again in the coming future.

    1. Thank you for your marital advice. Are there any other observations you have noticed where I can improve my marriage? What are some specific steps you recommend I take so that we can be one?

      Is your wife a working mom? If so, would love to get your thoughts on how you guys agreed on the arrangement and who took care of your kids if you weren’t a SAHD.


      1. TheEngineer

        A successful life is measurable by 3 fundamental metrics –

        1. Financial Security
        2. Relationship Stability
        3. Healthy Mind & Body

        Highly competitive individual like yourself have ambitions that will often challenge your personal relationship and/or your health.

        If you health is deteriorating, there is not much of an option, but to reevaluate your personal goal.

        If you relationship is deteriorating, you have to weight the relationship against your ambition.

        If the ambition meant more to you, it is time to move on and find a new team member. Examples of ambitions outran relationships: on the low end of the spectrum Mr Money Mustache who divorced his wife after found success with his FIRE ambition.
        On the extreme high end, last year Jeff Bezos and his wife called it quit when the Amazon stocks propelled his net worth passed the 100 billions mark.

        If you relationship is essential to your happiness, then adjust your ambition to accommodate your precious relationship.

        I have always been much more ambitious and adventurous than my wife.

        In the 27 years of our marriage, I am responsible for bringing home the bacon, managing all aspects of our family finance. When our daughter came into our life three years after we met, I took her first shower, changed most of her stinky diapers and now her life couch as she is finishing up her rite of passage.

        Admittedly, from time to time, I am overwhelmed with responsibilities. However, I always felt the responsibilities to my wife and daughter, regardless how trivial they may seemed, are the bulk load of my life purpose/ambition.

        Many marriages failed as time goes on because the partners nickel and dime on responsibilities – who is taking out the garbage? Who is washing the dishes?

        A long lasting relationship is where each of the partners has the total freedom to choose the responsibilities and made the contribution in accordance to his/her level of comfort. Personal freewill is essential to joy and happiness.

        This marital advice is very hard to execute for couples in the lower economic spectrum.

        As a solid 5% Percentiles, you and your wife have plenty of times and resources to align your partnership onto a blissful path.

        1. The attitude of don’t nickel and dime me and I won’t nickel and dime you works on so many different areas and at different levels. At work. At home. With kids. With friends. It’s amazing how much relationships will flourish if people don’t keep score or hold grudges for trivial or petty issues.

          I do most of the house chores because I’m a neat freak. I clean the house. I do the dishes. I take care of the lawn. I maintain pretty much everything in the household that needs TLC. I also manage all of our finances because my wife HATES numbers. It doesn’t even matter if the numbers look good. She has an aversion to number and money. The only thing she cares about is do we have enough, are we giving enough, and are we saving enough. So naturally it makes sense for someone who likes budgeting, tracking expenses, planning for retirement, etc., to take the steering wheel.

          Sometimes I actually wonder if I’m doing too much chores, but it’s a personal choice that I made. And it fits my comfort level, 99% of the time.

          At work as well. I never complain or say no (unless there’s an emergency) when I need to work overtime to get things done. To me, that’s what work is about. Relying on each other to achieve the same goal. Helping each other our when help is needed. At the same time, my coworkers don’t give me a hard time if I ask for flexibility or when I need to ask them to accommodate my schedule.

          1. Jeff – you sound like a first class person to be in relationship with!

            The only thing I would encourage for you (and I) to make effort in cross training our wives on the critical aspects of the family finance – just in case God decided to give us an early birthday present.

            I considered this is the weak link of my relationship, and it needs to be addressed.

            Trust is an awesome psychological endorsement in a relationship. Blind trust the Achilles heel of a marriage!

        2. “Highly competitive individual like yourself have ambitions that will often challenge your personal relationship and/or your health.”

          Sounds like I have to give up my 7 years of unemployment and get back to work. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and now I know what has to be done.


  5. Financial Freedom Countdown

    Good to see you here as well Joe.
    For everyone commenting on your retirement status; go and read Joe’s latest article on 10 stages of retirement.

    Personally I don’t have a partner and am single. It does makes for interesting dates when I casually bring up finances though. I have still not found a good way to approach this topic.

  6. Thanks for sharing your story Joe! Fascinating insights. Your wife’s career path sounds quite adventurous and fulfilling. It’s great to hear you guys found a groove that works really well for everyone. Congrats!

    1. Yes, she’s pretty happy right now. That’s why she doesn’t want to retire yet.
      Before she went back to get her advanced degree, she was stuck in a dead-end job. I’m really glad she went back to college.

  7. First, the years you (Joe) spent with your son from 18 months to kindergarten were the farthest from “early retirement” as you can get. That is hard work and a huge gift you were able to give to your son.

    Second, one main difference between Joe and other stay at home parents is that Joe already built up a significant nest egg before he decided to work as a full time dad. I’ve seen in other couples (typically where the wife/mom stays home) a power imbalance in the relationship where the wife/mom becomes financially dependent on her husband in the years where she’s home, and depending on how long she’s out of the work force, she may be face permanent consequences in her career or earning capacity. Sometimes it works out beautifully and other times it appears the stay at home spouse has put themselves in a vulnerable situation and it things can get ugly. I saw this in my parents relationship. They’ve been married a very long time and now that I’m older I can see that they have a much better relationship than most other couples and an overall happy life, but watching my mom’s dependence on my dad growing up did not leave a good impression on me, and it made me grow up to be self reliant and not willing to be dependent on another person. However, Joe is totally different because he already made a nice pile of money before he became a stay at home dad. That is an awesome path, but it’s not an easy one for women to emulate because we have limited fertility windows, and waiting until our late thirties to have kids is risky.

    Also, is it lonely having a working spouse but being “retired” or a stay at home parent? I still work although I’ve chosen a “family-friendly” career path and my spouse is full on with his job. Even though I know I’m exactly where I want to be, there are times when it sure sounds nice to be at sxsw or having a work dinner in an international city instead of changing a diaper or doing a night time feeding!

    1. You’re right. The first few years were not easy. However, it was a lot less work than my old engineering career. Maybe that’s just my experience. Once our son started kindergarten, it’s really more like retirement.
      I think you’re right about the power imbalance. We both feel empowered to make financial decisions. That’s a lot different than if you’re dependent on your working spouse. My wife and I are on equal footing.

      Lonely? I wasn’t great at socializing with coworkers anyway. I don’t miss that much. Now, I have some friends through my son’s school and activities. It’s okay. It’s hard to make close friendships these days.

  8. Hi Sam,

    First of all, I love your blog and you actually convinced me to start one myself (I used your tutorial to set up my blog), so thank you!

    Secondly, I just want to know why you want to convince your wife to go back to work so badly when she’s obviously happy to stay at home? Furthermore, if you’re already wealthy then any more added wealth would not make much of a difference so why not just let your wife do what she loves?

    In my case, I love hanging out with my baby but I’m also ready to go back to work after 1 year if taking care of her. Like Joe mentioned, I think if someone is intrinsically motivated to work then there needs no convincing. My husband wouldn’t need to convince me to work because I want to. If I didn’t, he could forget about it cause my mind is set :) I would also imagine that it’s more difficult to actually want to go back to work after you got a taste of freedom? Let me know what you think cause I’m not there yet.

    1. Congrats on starting your site!

      It’s not “so badly.” I’m “gently trying to convince her to go back to work.” My wife is a smart and talented woman. With up to 8 hours a day of free time now, I think it might be good to work at a job in a field she cares about, make new friends, and make some money. Further, our healthcare costs are over $1,940/month now. Having family healthcare benefits from work would be nice.

      It’s good to get out of the house. One of the solutions I have is to sell Financial Samurai and then go back to work if my wife wants to continue staying at home. It’ll be fun to see what happens as I’ve been a stay at home dad for 30 months now. Tough work!

      Enjoy going back!


      Reflecting On My Time As A Stay At Home Dad

      One Woman’s Path To Financial Freedom

      1. Okay, got ya! And I agree with you, staying home to care for a child is hard work. It’s so much easier to drink coffee with colleagues, go to mundane meetings, give presentations all day, but it’s less rewarding.

  9. I’m not sure I believe Joe can call himself retired. I think of him as a SAHD. A lot of women decide to leave paid employment to take care of the house/kids and I have never heard them refer to themselves as retired. I stay home and think it is part of my job to manage our money so my husband can join me at home when he is ready. I actually thought your post was satire when I first started reading…

    1. How about semi-retired? :)
      Once our son started kindergarten, being a SAHD is a lot closer to retired than working. It was a lot more difficult when he was a baby.

      1. My wife stopped working when we had our 3rd child, at age 30 and is a stay at home mom. Neither of us look at her as “retired”. She’s plenty busy. I don’t feel like she should be writing a retired by 30 blog, when I am fully employed.

        Just seems weird. Glad your family has a stay at home parent, it’s great for the kids and great for the employed parent.

  10. Hi Joe, I think it’s awesome that you’re good with kids. I learned the hard way that my attention span / patience when spending time with kids has a hard limit. After spending certain amount of time with them, reading and playing with them, and going into their worlds, while teaching boundaries, proper etiquette, and doing my best to make them the best version of themselves, I completely burn out. So much so that I physically need separation or I’d mentally crumble.

    I tolerated my inability to be that “perfect” dad early on and really pushed through as best as I can with my first born, but with my second, I’m learning to let things go. I’m also relying on my spouse to do a lot more. Luckily she understands my flaws so she’s OK doing the heavy lifting, but when I read or see dads doing such a wonderful job of being a good parent, combined with having a spouse who’s a little less in tune with kids and more in tune with older folks (aka work), I feel a bit better.

    When I retire, the last thing that I will do is be a stay at home dad. I feel guilty just typing that in this comment box, but I’m coming to terms with it. Lol. So, like your wife, if my wife asks me to continue working while she RE — it would need no convincing from her end as I would fully buy in. Immediately.

    Anyway, keep up the good work with your passive income. I’m building a small dividend portfolio as well to cover my monthly food expense (which is too high). I hope to cover 75% of my living expenses with passive income by 2025.

    1. Hi Jeff,
      I’m good with kids, but I’m not the perfect dad either. We all have those bad days. Kids will drive you nuts occasionally. There is no need to feel guilty about it. Nobody is perfect all the time.

  11. I know my fiancee has a similar personality where she wants to feel productive and has already indicated to me that she would continue working to make up for lost time she had before ending up in her current career.

    She has 2 grown children and wants to build up her assets and retirment plans so that she can provide for her kids.

    I on the other hand am like Joe and want to exit after I feel comfortable with my safety net.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *