My wife earns $500K a year, but drops $1,500 when she goes to the mall. She is jeopardizing our retirement

There is an article going around twitter with the headline, "My wife earns $500K a year, but drops $1,500 when she goes to the mall. She is jeopardizing our retirement". You can see the actual tweet here.

What I noticed from the responses to the tweet was:

  1. A lot of people did not read the article.
  2. A lot of people don't seem to believe in joint finances in a marriage
  3. A lot of people think 500k annually goes a lot further than what it actually does
  4. A lot of people don't know what it takes to retire comfortably...especially to retire early

I saw a lot of comments saying "$1500 isn't much. That's a small percentage of what she makes". However, the article states that she is spending this as often as he spends $150 at the grocery store. The article mentions children, so we can reasonably assume that $150 isn't buying much more than a week's worth of groceries for the family. If she is spending $1500 every week at the mall, that adds up to over $100000 per year (52 weeks per year). That's 20% of her pre-tax income at the mall. It would be an even higher percentage of her post-tax income. This does not include any other expenses on hair, nails, expenses for the children or any of that. I'm quite sure that she is spending more than the recommended 30% of post-tax income on "wants".

I also saw comments telling the husband to get a job. The article states, "While I own and operate a successful small business, it can’t be a primary source of income living the way we do." This does not mean that he isn't bringing in money. It just means that they probably have very high expenses: expensive house, private school + activities for the children, etc). Even if he was bringing in 100k, that wouldn't be enough to live that type of life, and it's not easy to just go out and get a 200k+ job without certain skillsets.

I saw many comments along the lines of her not agreeing to this plan. Whether she agreed to the exact budget is one question (i'm guessing the answer is no), but we know that she is the one who stated the goal of retiring early. We also know that she wants to continue to be able to spend lavishly after retirement. I think what many people don't understand is that 500k doesn't go as far as you thinking it goes. Taxes alone would take a huge chunk of that. After you pay mortgage, private school tuition, and all of that, there's only so much left. It's quite enough to be comfortable, but not enough that spending 100k annually at the mall is a smart financial decision.

Let's calculate their retirement number, Assuming they are able to pay off the mortgage and eliminate all expenses for their children by retirement, let's say they need 200k annually to retire. If they follow the recommended 4% withdrawal rule, this means that they would need about 5 million in savings to retire. (4% of 5 million is 200k). This is actually a bit risky because it's actually recommended that you save enough to reach 80% of pre-retirement income which in her case, would be 400k. This brings the retirement number to 10 million.

I'm not sure how much they already have saved, but let's just say that already have 1.5 million and are 35 years old. If they are saving 20% of her income, then according to this calculator, they will only have 6 million saved by age 50 which is not enough. They would need to be saving closer to 50% of her pre-tax income in order to reach the 10 million goal in the next 15 years. It would be quite difficult to do that when she is already spending 20% of that income at the mall. This only leaves 30% of her income plus whatever he makes to cover taxes and all other expenses. Taxes alone is likely close to 30% at that high of an income especially if they live in an area with high state or local taxes. Even if she were single with no children, this would not be feasible.

I won't really comment much on the joint finances, but my personal belief is that marriage is a partnership. Two people in a marriage should be a team. This couple is not currently operating as a team. My opinion is exactly the same as what the expert in the article stated, they should seek a 3rd party opinion in the form of a financial advisor. I think that if she really sees the number breakdown from an unbiased person, she will begin to understand what needs to be done. At that point, they can try to find a way to either delay retirement, cut expenses in some way or generate additional income in retirement to reduce the amount of money they need to save.


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