How do I bring my partner back to financial reality?
October 12, 2020 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Partner works for the government and is in a position to retire in their late 40's with a full pension. Partner plans to take this option and wants to set up life so that they have no major bills and can live a life of near-complete freedom and leisure. It is making it impossible for us to contemplate moving out of a small condo and into a home with more space for a family. Partner simply will not entertain the idea of having a mortgage. I tried pointing out the ways in which the lifestyle they are imagining for themself is not realistic for anyone but the wealthy. Partner did not take it well, and I don't know how to communicate with them further about these big and important decisions.

Partner and I both earn in the low six figures. We both owned condos prior to moving in together. Partner sold their condo and now has about $400K in the bank. We live in the condo I own, which is worth about $1.1M. I have around $400K in equity. We are planning to get married and start a family in the next year.

For the past several years, we have been discussing purchasing a home together. We were pre-approved for a mortgage of about $2M. We were looking at homes around the $1.5M range for a while, which in our city, is enough to purchase a townhome or duplex. Detached homes are well out of our price range. We never found a home that really spoke to us, and we were in no great hurry, so we put it off.

Since then, the $400K has been burning a hole in partner's pocket. Their friend purchased a beautiful vacation home for $700K and partner is enamored with the idea of doing the same. Partner thinks we could spend a week out of each month there. I reminded partner that if they buy a $700K vacation home, then we would be hamstrung in terms of ever being able to move out of my small condo as our main abode.

Partner thinks this vacation home is the best of all worlds. They could be the proud owner of a beautiful house (though far, far outside the city), we could eventually pay down the mortgage on my condo, and we could live large and have plenty in savings for retirement. Meanwhile, I don't think their math adds up. Buying a $700K condo, even with a $400K down payment, still means an additional mortgage of $300K plus taxes and costs of purchasing. Then there are utility bills, HOA fees, and maintenance costs for a whole house. I also don't see the point in buying a beautiful and expensive vacation home that we would spend at most 25% of our time vacationing in, while 75% of our time would be spent cramped in a too-small condo with a crying baby, soon to be a rambunctious toddler. Not to mention that the novelty of the vacation home would wear off quite quickly if we are there every fourth week.

It should also be noted that the vacation home property is not expected to appreciate in value due to the location, and that there is already quite a large rental pool at the resort where it is located. Any income that we might receive for having it rented out for a few days at a time would be largely offset by the time and expense of driving back and forth to clean and monitor the property.

Partner is now refusing to consider any homes in our city that cost more than $1.3M, even though that would be only marginally more expensive to live in than my condo. In fact, with partner's contribution of $400K to the down payment, our mortgage would be even smaller. They have also presented the catch 22 that they don't want to live in "a crappy $1.3M townhouse" but also refuse to spend any more for a nicer one. They said they don't want to sacrifice living "the way they want to" for a mortgage. Partner also does not seem to fully realize that if he purchases this vacation home, which I do not agree to, he will be carrying all those expenses alone, and sinking his own dreams of leisurely early retirement. Whereas if we were to purchase a bigger home together, obviously we would both be on that title and I would happily contribute my half.

Partner's friends who made the vacation home purchase are rather wealthy, earn 3 times what we do, and are child-free. They already own a beautiful home in our city worth $2.5M. I think it is really skewing partner's reality, or their expectations about what our life should look like. I said to partner that extremely few people earning a fairly close-to-median salary, as we do, would ever expect to retire in their 40's with no mortgage and have full financial freedom to boot. That's simply not realistic. I tried to express to partner that they would be asking me to sacrifice quite a lot in order to make their dream come true of early retirement and living large.

Of the two of us, I have the greater earning potential and I am very open to putting in greater than 50% of the expenses if that means we can find a compromise. Partner has always made very smart financial decisions up until now. I'm not sure what is going on, but partner seems to have developed some emotional blinders. Partner is falling into a number of logical fallacies, such as false dichotomies ("We will never be able to afford a nicer place so there's no point in looking, I might as well do something else with my $400K") and magical thinking ("No, a crying baby in the next room isn't going to wake me up at night" when partner is an extremely light sleeper and complains already about the city noise around our condo).

If anyone has been through a financial quandary like this with their partner, how did you resolve it? What was the best way to discuss the facts without upsetting them? If it's actually me who is adding up the numbers wrong, or if I'm missing something major in my perspective, would also appreciate that being pointed out here.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Partner has always made very smart financial decisions up until now. I'm not sure what is going on, but partner seems to have developed some emotional blinders.
I would put some energy into figuring out what is going on here. This is about more than just buying a house - it has something to do his ideas about his future and his view of self. Maybe if he can help you understand why all of this feels so attractive and also why he seems to be thinking differently about money than he did before then you might be able figure out how to get to common ground.
posted by metahawk at 7:31 PM on October 12, 2020 [23 favorites]

Partner plans to take this option and wants to set up life so that they have no major bills and can live a life of near-complete freedom and leisure.

But what do you want?

Make sure you’re working with a lawyer to ensure your assets are safe. Don’t put your money towards a home you don’t want.

You have a combined income of over 200k. You are wealthy, even if your cost of living is high. Make sure YOU and your assets are legally protected, especially with a partner who wants a life of leisure.
posted by HMSSM at 7:36 PM on October 12, 2020 [43 favorites]

"if I'm missing something major in my perspective"

I don't think this is just about money*. This is seriously poor logic. Can't afford a detached house but wants a "life of near-complete freedom and leisure". Has anything major happened in partner's life lately? A parent died, or a milestone birthday hit them quite hard?

*unless QAnon is now doing financial advice.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 7:40 PM on October 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Have you talked to your partner about your future child's childcare, education, after-school & summer enrichment, clothes, food, entertainment? Because that could easily eat up a lot of that $400K.
posted by brookeb at 7:45 PM on October 12, 2020 [16 favorites]

I would be deeply hesitant to marry or have a child with someone who is that delusional. Maybe this is a way of derailing those plans? Regardless I would be very cautious going forward because they sound utterly delusional about what things really cost and what are smart spending/investing decisions.
posted by leslies at 7:46 PM on October 12, 2020 [61 favorites]

Yeah, I have to wonder if this is maybe an extremely roundabout way of telling you they don't really want to have a child right now (or ever)? I am having a lot of trouble squaring away the idea of parenthood coexisting with "a life of near-complete freedom and leisure".
posted by btfreek at 7:53 PM on October 12, 2020 [81 favorites]

Is partner 100% on board with having children? Because I fail to see how a baby fits into a life of “near-complete freedom and leisure.” Sounds like partner is not at all factoring a child into these decisions and you two have very different ideas about what the next few decades of your life will look like.

This is not just about numbers not adding up. It’s about two futures not heading in the same direction. Start there and protect yourself.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 7:55 PM on October 12, 2020 [55 favorites]

Respectfully, I don’t think this is a financial quandary. It sounds like, between the two of you, you could afford both the larger condo and the vacation home (especially if your partner would compromise on a slightly smaller vacation home). What I’m hearing is that you’re not happy with your partner’s desired lifestyle. Personally, I’m on Team Partner here; that sounds like a pretty sweet life to me: no work and chilling at the beach house. But I’m also aware that it’s not for everybody, and indeed one of the reasons that I’m not actually living that life right now is because my wife wouldn’t be on board. I think you need to talk to your partner about deeper issues, because this is more than a “how should we spend a few hundred thousand dollars” question, and more of a “what type of people are we going to be” question. The latter is a pretty difficult discussion, and I wonder if you’re focusing on the finances as a means of avoiding the bigger issues in your relationship.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:59 PM on October 12, 2020 [21 favorites]

At first I thought it was reasonable to retire early until I saw the expectations of children and multiple homes. I think you both need to visit a fee-only financial planner to have a neutral third party evaluate both of your assumptions. Depending on how that goes, therapy or pre-martial counseling may be needed.
posted by soelo at 8:09 PM on October 12, 2020 [16 favorites]

I would not proceed into marriage and parenthood with this person without seeing a financial advisor, a therapist, and possibly a lawyer. Not necessarily in that order, but I agree that this is not just a financial thing but a lifestyle and expectations misalignment.

I don't disagree with you on the idea that this sounds ... iffy... but I do feel like both you and your partner are coming across as being totally unwilling to compromise and that is not going to get you far. Maybe having third parties weigh in will help the discussion get to a more productive place.
posted by sm1tten at 8:11 PM on October 12, 2020 [9 favorites]

What? You can't afford both, either financially or logistically. The reason it doesn't sound like a sweet life to you, OP, is because it sounds like you are going to be stuck with the majority of the logistical labor. Your partner does not appear to have actually thought this through logically based on the decisions that you have discussed about your future and life. Someone in this situation will have to do more work to make this whole beach house vacation thing possible, and it doesn't sound like it's going to be your partner, just based on how they have handled this to date. That would concern me.

The pandemic has made a lot of people reevaluate their lives. Maybe your partner is going through a change in what they envision their future will look like. This sounds like something you need to talk about. If they are unable to talk to you about it, that is also an answer. I would discuss how you feel, and what your concerns are. I would not bring up the other couple as a comparison. If your partner does that, I would encourage you to try to steer the conversation back towards talking just about you two and your circumstances. Best of luck and I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by k8lin at 8:11 PM on October 12, 2020 [8 favorites]

I'm skeptical that it is the case that a $1.5M townhouse would accommodate a hypothetical baby/toddler but a $1.1M condo would not. I have a four month old in a 2BR apartment currently and it is working great and I expect it to continue to work for years to come, if need be. So I suspect that your partner is not the only one who is suffering from keeping up with the Jones.

If you just stayed in your condo for X more years, while you get married and have a baby and then at a point you actually outgrow the condo, you'll build more equity and presumably develop some of your greater earning potential. Then you might not need partner's money to get the home that you want. Or conversely you might not actually outgrow the condo. Maybe check in on how families that aren't earning a multiple or three of the median income in your area are getting by.
posted by Kwine at 8:20 PM on October 12, 2020 [29 favorites]

The word partner seems a bit of a misnomer here - they sound more like a bachelor/bachelorette who thinks they have a sidekick tagging along. I thought it interesting that you mention the $400,000 had been burning a hole in their pocket, they were living in your condo, and were talking about buying a vacation home that they alone would own just before you get married and have children. It doesn’t sound like they think of the two of you as financial partners, except maybe to see your role as financing their lifestyle. How is their parent’s relationship/attitude to money? My ex had similar delusional ideas about money that were uncoupled from reality and the source of many of them were his parents, whereas I had been raised knowing about mortgages etc. There are couples counsellors that focus on financial issues, (and financial counsellors that focus on relationships), it sounds like a third party could maybe help you figure out your goals and the role each of you have to play to achieve them.
posted by saucysault at 8:49 PM on October 12, 2020 [20 favorites]

That does not sound like partner envisions the same future that you do. At least, not anymore. Partner feels they have put in their time, and wants to relax... that's not going to mesh well with having a child. At all.

I don't see this going well. You're ready to settle into family life - and they're already starting their midlife crisis.

Take the advice and see a counselor. Preferably together and alone. Barring a miracle, I think at least one - if not both - of you will end up unhappy if you continue on this path. Don't bring a child into it until an awful lot of things are settled... if even then.
posted by stormyteal at 9:02 PM on October 12, 2020 [14 favorites]

Google "FIRE investing with Kids" . You will find articles with spreadsheets on how much savings and income is needed to have 1, 2, 3 kids at different lifestyle levels. There's an entire ecosystem around FIRE ("Financial Independence/Retire Early"), with conferences and everything. Running the numbers would be a useful exercise and a good starting point for a conversation.
posted by dum spiro spero at 9:02 PM on October 12, 2020 [14 favorites]

sounds like an hour with a fee-based financial planner would be a very worthwhile investment.

If that doesn't get you to clarity, then there's something else going on, possibly related to a change of mind re kids.

Also, the vacation home development will have someone there who can help you estimate the costs vs cash flow of the properties. Sometimes there's an in-house realtor; sometimes you just have to go to the open houses and look at the disclosures. As you instinctively know, those HOAs and mgmt fees add up fast, and the income is seasonal and depends on you not using it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:03 PM on October 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mod note: We don't know where the OP lives or if these amounts are American dollars, so please don't make assumptions about their relative wealth or out-of-touchness. If they say they make close-to-the-median for where they live, assume they are correct.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:33 PM on October 12, 2020 [6 favorites]

There is nowhere near enough information in the question for anyone to say whether your partner's plan is financially plausible or wise. It depends on the value of the "full pension", your living expenses, property taxes, and dozens of other things. You should get help from a professional to run the numbers on what is and isn't possible from a purely monetary point of view. But it sounds like you need to flush out the answers to some bigger questions about lifestyle and whether you want kids first though.
posted by caek at 9:50 PM on October 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

“Partner works for the government and is in a position to retire in their late 40's with a full pension.“

Ah- this is probably what it’s alllllll about.

This sounds very similar to my partner... he felt that he had chosen a golden cage... in a way, getting one of those jobs is like winning the lottery- but on the other hand they gave up any career changes of exciting future opportunities. This bothered my husband a lot and he felt trapped and had an existential crisis about how his children would view him and he had a lot of negative emotion towards his job. He also sold his apartment and and let some of that money burn a hole in his pocket and had a few other odd ideas, including a wonderful vacation home in a place that I didn’t like that much.

Anyway, he eventually came to his senses but it was a very difficult time and we had babies. I would also not recommend that unless you guys find a clear financial path you are both happy with. I’m not sure in my next life if I would choose to marry a man who didn’t love or at least enjoy his work.

I wish I could take you out for a drink and talk alllll about it. But I know that if I were you I wouldn’t want a husband who would retire early and spend the next 20 years knocking around with that much time on his hands. The condo would feel minuscule then.

I also think you should buy the townhouse yourself, if you can.
posted by pairofshades at 10:01 PM on October 12, 2020 [10 favorites]

This was a very confusing post.

When you mentioned your partners plans of retiring very early, it sounded like they were going to object to the plan of buying to a larger house suitable for a child (although if you stay in the same condo, can you renovate for sound proofing?).

But then it turned out they wanted to buy a $700K holiday home...
which doesn't gel with the goals of early retirement, OR having a kid and larger house together.

Honestly, the $700K sounds like an escape plan. Well, not a 'plan', so much as possibly an escapist fantasy they are having in preference to thinking about the impact having a child will have on their life (e.g. the denial is around the effect of having a baby).

Are they having anxiety about the plan of having a child that they aren't otherwise able to express?

I can see why this would be frustrating, because your partners own goals and plans don't seem to line up at the moment, which makes it seem like they are in denial about *something*. And parenting is the most obvious suspect.

When it comes to the holiday home however, if you have friends who have a holiday home, can he rent it off them when they aren't using it if he wants to spend more time there?
posted by Elysum at 10:02 PM on October 12, 2020 [7 favorites]

"No, a crying baby in the next room isn't going to wake me up at night"

To me this sticks out, are you sure your partner does want a child?

Are you going to raising this planned child on your own? Which it sounds like. If you are also the one who will earn more money it will tough for years to come, working full time and raising a child with a partner who does not intend to wake up is very hard.

I mean this kindly: please reconsider having a child with this partner.
posted by 15L06 at 10:54 PM on October 12, 2020 [28 favorites]

Ps even raising a child as a stay at home mother eg not working, with a partner who never gets up at night is tough. I did this and cannot recommend.
posted by 15L06 at 10:57 PM on October 12, 2020 [8 favorites]

You've done an excellent job of sounding like the only reasonable one in the relationship; but a less editorialized version of leaving a job with a generous pension to "live a life of near-complete freedom and leisure" is, you know, "retirement". Which doesn't sound particularly odd to me. Or: In the talk about the vacation home, you talk about it as if purchased, you're going to spend as much time there as your partner, but without paying a dime for it.

A lot of your perspective seems to be that the only reasonable thing for you and your partner to do is whatever your idea of a societally standard person in your perceived situation (including who is "wealthy" and who is not) would do.

None of this is to say that you are necessarily wrong in the big picture. But fundamentally, it sounds to me like you and your partner have very different goals and plans, different dreams, and different priorities, and you need to work them out before you marry, and before you have a child. And I think a therapist will help more than a financial professional at this point.

And I think that if you approach working these foundational issues out like you're the only one with "reality" on your side and your partner is the only one being led by their silly emotions, you should probably just skip the angst and fighting and break up now.
posted by Superilla at 11:07 PM on October 12, 2020 [17 favorites]

I would be wanting to do exactly what your partner is planning, and I will add to the chorus: this is a life / goals issue not just a financial one, and it will help if you look at it that way. You do not have the monopoly on "realistic" or "sane" ideas of what to do!
posted by Meatbomb at 11:52 PM on October 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

If your partner's job is boring I can see being frugal and retiring early is very enticing, in fact it sounds like making the most of "winning a watch" as we say here - being in a fortunate and priveleged situation. I live on a fraction of your money but can say endless freedom and relaxation gets boring quite quickly (I am on disability and have some inheritence savings left), so I'd check how they planned to spend their days and make sure they wanted to be fully active in parenting, and are not just ambivalent about it. Since work is not an option for me and I've passed (or is that failed?) the strict assessments to quailify as unfit for work, I am trying to make the best of my situation with learning languages and journaling and whatnot. Ernie Zelinski has a book with the somewhat heretical title "The Joy Of Not Working" and a similar one about being retired, they might help either of you understand the positive possibilities of this kind of life. But if he's ambivalent about having kids or committing to his part in raising them, and the vacation home is an escape fantasy, then there's bigger problems than just running the financial numbers.
posted by AuroraSky at 12:30 AM on October 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think the "being frugal and retiring early"-thing is a bit of a red herring thing here - he's not being frugal, he wants to buy a vaction home. Now how much that new goals conflicts with his other goal of early retirement is a question none of us can answer just based on the information given here, but it's absolutely a question worth investigating with a neutral third party/financialy planner type, because if your partner's goals conflict with yours, you can maybe work out a compromise, but if his goals conflict with each other, that's a recipe for malaise and might indeed be a sign of an early-on-set-midlife crisis, which would be really bad timing for starting a family. No amount of accomodation on your part could solve that particular problem.

However, taking the charitable read on your partner's financial literacy, it seems to me like you're both fortunate enough to be financially stable, so you both feel it's time to upgrade your lifestyle - you just have different ideas what the best upgrade would be. And yes, in a sense, both of your ideas involve a certain degree of luxury. People can raise a kid in a condo. And people can raise a kid without a vacation home.

Personally, I would be firmly team you in that debate. In my twenties I lived in 36m2 flat with a roomate, and was happy enough and used to think having a lot of space is overrated. Just more to clean, I thought. I might have been down for the vacation home plan then. But since the pandemic and the lockdown etc. I've really learned to appreciate every additional m2; especially if you're living with others; when you should not go out and spend most of your time at home it's crucial that you can stay out of each other's way for a while and have enough space to withdraw.

But I'm obviously not your partner, and, crucially, not your future kid. If your kid turns out to be the outdoorsy type, who won't spend a minute longer than necessary in their room, maybe they too would prefer the vaction home option over the long haul. But if they're more of a homebody, and rarely go out, and spend most of their time in the cramped condo, they might be quite miserable. Or if the're very social and want to bring friends over all the time, the small condo could really become a problem too. Also kids often also come with a lot of stuff they need (if the family is fortunate enough to afford it, which you seem to be), and lots of kids are not terribly tidy. That's a bigger issue in a small condo than in a townhouse. But sure, some kids won't just be terribly materialistic, and may be quite neat. Impossible to tell!

Is this really a decision that has to be made right now? As long as you can both agree that the kid is the non-negotiable part of this all, I'd just wait and see what kind of kid you have. With a certain type of kid, your partner might quickly learn to see the flaws of the small condo himself. For the time being, I would just argue for keeping options open.
posted by sohalt at 1:41 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Partner plans to take this option and wants to set up life so that they have no major bills and can live a life of near-complete freedom and leisure. ... Partner simply will not entertain the idea of having a mortgage.
From the numbers you give, I don't understand how this is compatible with the vacation home purchase.
Does partner have a hypothetical budget for the post-retirement era? I understand that a lot of it would be roughed in, but the exercise of generating, say, a year's worth of projected numbers might be salutary.

(I also don't understand how 'near-complete freedom and leisure' is compatible with having a child unless partner has no childcare responsibilities, which would leave you being effectively a single parent, but that's not really what you asked.)
posted by inexorably_forward at 2:52 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

First, you should absolutely see a financial advisor and plan out some different paths, (you don't have to just plan one, do the home and vacation house, do your condo and vacation house, do just the condo, map a childless life and a child life (even change the number of children if your concerned with options you would be considering for childcare and schooling). Include them working past their retirement age, include them retiring, just shake things up.

Second, I think it would be good to approach them with questions. Even things like what do they like about the condo you are in now, what do they dislike? How do they think a child will change the condo? How do they envision themselves participating in patenting? You will need to be able to articulate their position and plans to be able to ask questions and point out (gently) where things seem to fall apart and express concerns like "you really don't like the noise outside this apartment, but I'm concerned about noise in the unit from a baby. Do you think it will bother you? I definately think it will bother me in this small space" by understanding their perspective fully, you'll be able to articulate where your dreams don't match up and figure out what is the path you both want to take together, and if there is a path for the two of you together

Also the cost of however you want achieve the goal of parenthood can be pretty expensive, depending on how you are planning to achieve that goal, and especially if you run into any issues at all, so that immediate cost estimate should be taken into account, with some lower expectations and higher cost estimates.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:50 AM on October 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Partner's friends who made the vacation home purchase are rather wealthy, earn 3 times what we do, and are child-free. They already own a beautiful home in our city worth $2.5M. I think it is really skewing partner's reality, or their expectations about what our life should look like. I said to partner that extremely few people earning a fairly close-to-median salary, as we do, would ever expect to retire in their 40's with no mortgage and have full financial freedom to boot. That's simply not realistic. I tried to express to partner that they would be asking me to sacrifice quite a lot in order to make their dream come true of early retirement and living large.

Well, it sounds like your partner, because of their pension arrangements can indeed expect to retire in his (late) 40s but as you say there is an inconsistency here regarding his desire to live without a mortgage since he has $400k to contribute to purchase of one or more residential properties and that will not cover 50% of one, let alone of two.

I note though that you haven't said how old your partner is now so of course it is possible that he has few more years of capital accumulation left in him before he retires. That would explain the disconnect between wanting to buy a $700k holiday condo and contributing to a $1.3m condo purchase with only $400k of capital and a desire not to have a mortgage.

If he has a final salary pension, which it sounds like he does, then with the right budget he can even continue to accumulate capital after retirement / contribute to mortgage payments.

Really there are two separate issues here:
-What can your collective finances actually support? Your income, his current income and then his pension income, the 2x$400k you have between you. This is really just a matter of modelling. If this is something you are not comfortable doing (potentially with the help of the FIRE spreadsheets linked above) then a fee-only financial planner really is a good idea. It may indeed be the case, as you say, that it is simply not possible to both move into a bigger primary residence and buy holiday property.
-What do you each want out of life? This is the real issue TBH. As others have said - it is of course totally possible to raise a child in your current place and buy the vacation house as well [but not, it sounds like, mortgage free], it is also possible to upgrade to something bigger and not have the holiday place. Either of those *may* be possible even if he does retire as he wants to but not both, that is pretty clear. Therefore, you will have to compromise.

Personally, I think buying a larger place let alone a second one, even with a child is an extremely wasteful deployment of capital and that most people would be happier with more income producing investments paying for experiences than with space they rarely use. What I think doesn't matter though because you need to work this out between you.

What I would recommend: First, you two need to take each others desires seriously. I get that he doesn't seem to be doing that from your description. I hope you are also taking his desires seriously.

Second, desires notwithstanding, you need a financial plan. You are very lucky that all your choices are good ones, don't either of you forget that, and being able to fully or even partially retire in your 40s is a very fine thing but the nature of not being in the 0.01% means that your choices, however pleasant, are constrained. It is important that you have a shared understanding of what is financially possible and what is not. It is not possible to arrive at a compromise if you do not have this shared understanding.

I really think you can do this in a very calm and pleasant way (and hopefully your partner is not actually delusional but just hasn't done all the math) because you are only modelling which very pleasant way you wish to live your lives rather than desperately trying to keep the proverbial wolf at the door.

Third, having arrived at this understanding, you need to have an open discussion about what you both want (not what property you respectively want to buy, but why and for what goal). If your partner wants to spend significant time out of the city after his retirement, there are ways that can be done that do not involve buying a second house, particularly one that expensive. Maybe a cheaper cabin? Using investment income from his capital to fund rentals? You also will need to consider how this will work with having a young child. Very young children are of course extremely portable but school aged children will need to be attending school in a fixed location unless your partner intends to be a full time carer and home-schooler which does not sound compatible with a desire to live a relaxed life.
posted by atrazine at 3:57 AM on October 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

It kinda seems to me like the partner doesn't want to live in the city and wants to retire to the more affordable vacation house? And that you want to keep working longer and thus you require a city dwelling? So you need to communicate that you want your career and thus need a place to live close to it.

Also, If partner is one of those FIRE (financial independence retire early) people, that is totally achievable, but having kids will fuck that right up. Reddit FIRE communities often have discussions about this and the timeline / expectations shift required to pursue the lifestyle with kids.

Basically I don't think you two are on the same page about kids or living location and it's a desires issue, not a financial craziness issue.
posted by WeekendJen at 4:42 AM on October 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Does your partner want to buy a vacation home so they have someplace to go in case they want to move out?
posted by bluedaisy at 4:48 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also, If partner is one of those FIRE (financial independence retire early) people, that is totally achievable, but having kids will fuck that right up. Reddit FIRE communities often have discussions about this and the timeline / expectations shift required to pursue the lifestyle with kids.

Just wanted to disagree with this a little.

I don't consider myself part of the FIRE "community" because I think that once you've accepted the central logic of substantially increasing your savings rate there's little value in being part of such a group, also all the FIRE people on reddit seem to really hate their jobs and lives and often have really unhealthy obsession with FIRE as some kind of displacement activity. That being said, I do follow the general principles of it in my own financial life which is basically to earn an upper middle class income, live a (relatively) modest middle class life, and aim to be independent of having to work at a substantially earlier age than is considered normal.

-Do come with some increased costs inevitably since they increase the minimum size of living space and food you need but most Americans who could plausibly ever consider early retirement spend so much more than the minimum that this is basically a rounding error.
-Come with potentially *much* higher healthcare costs / reduce the acceptability of certain insurance choices for Americans.
-*Can* but do not have to trigger a whole bunch of additional spending
-Are much more expensive to have if you have them while still working than if you are not

That last point in particular is a big one and something that you two should discuss. While I do not think that just because your partner is retired, he should automatically just do *all* the childcare, it is absolutely the case that it opens up choices to the two of you as a unit that, if taken, might make certain financial goals very much more achievable. In particular, where two working parents would require a substantial expense in five day a week, whole-working-day childcare for a number of years followed by part of the day childcare until they're... I don't know, 12 or something? Costs a small fortune. I would encourage you and your partner to think about and model these choices.
posted by atrazine at 6:30 AM on October 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Saving up 4 years' salary is a big accomplishment, but you can't retire on that when you don't even own a place to live in the clear. You still owe 7 years' salary on the place you are already living, and you're not remotely satisfied living there. Your situation is not going to be carefree in the near future, or maybe even in the distant future. It seems to me that on the precarious-stable-easy street continuum your partner thinks he's firmly at easy street, where I think you're barely in the stable area. A loss of one of your jobs could quickly put you WAY over into precarious. And who has a stable job (or a stable anything) in 2020?

I think you've dodged a bullet because this stuff has all come up before you marry him and have a kid or two. I agree with bluedaisy that his vacation home will be for him to live in when he decides working and raising the kids is something you should take care of.
posted by fritley at 7:53 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you two want the same things in life to be honest. Your desires are so different that you probably should hold off on marrying and combining your finances until you figure out what you want and what he wants.

"the $400K has been burning a hole in partner's pocket" ... how is he not considering all the expenses of having kids, if that's actually what he wants to do? presumably you are going to have to pay for a wedding of some kind, then there will be medical bills, clothes, food, toys/baby equipment, sports and other after school stuff, babysitting, entertainment, orthodontics, driving lessons, maybe a car, money to prep for and take standardized tests, money for college, etc. what if you have a child with special needs, or a child who experiences a medical emergency somewhat early in life? in the US (if you are there, may not apply) that can eat up a lot of savings very quickly.

"No, a crying baby in the next room isn't going to wake me up at night"
Buddy, the crying baby is SUPPOSED to wake up you up at night so you can get up and do childcare, therefore allowing your exhausted wife (who pays most of the bills and works all day and gave birth and looks after the kid as soon as she gets home) to get some rest.

I agree with the other posters that he is probably interested in buying a vacation home because he wants to move there and live a life of leisure, not become a stay at home parent. It may be a hopeful fantasy that is providing him some psychological relief at the moment.
posted by zdravo at 9:02 AM on October 13, 2020 [5 favorites]

Mod note: Hey folks, OP never disclosed their partner's gender identity and there are a lot of assumptions being made here about that. Please use They/Them pronouns moving forward.
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 9:56 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

I also want to add that there's at least a chance that some of the reason the partner wants to retire early is to be able to spend time with children. Maybe I'm wrong, but for me personally, that would be a huge motivating factor. I hate dropping my kids off at daycare while I work. I had the great fortune to be unemployed a few years ago after moving, and until I found a new job in our new area, I was home taking care of our infant daughter. It was three of the best months of my life. Taking care of the kids *is* the life of leisure for me. I'm not saying definitively that that's the case for the OP's partner, but it's at least possible that's part of the plan.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:27 AM on October 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

From what you describe, you're in one of the highest cost areas in the world. Like New York City or similar. Most people in places like that don't own any residence, and most of them have not accumulated equity in the amount of twice the median income, let alone four times, as you have done. In an ultra-high cost of living area, it's pretty common to be able to afford a vacation home by forgoing extra space in ones primary residence. In general, even the desperate will not commute four hours round trip on a daily basis, so prices tend to be dramatically lower for vacation homes. People even buy them and rent their primary residences, as a way to get their foot in the door. Add in a generous pension, and it's not clear to me that your partner is that far off from reality, in the financial sense. Among your friends you may not feel wealthy, but in absolute sense you almost certainly are.

That said, it doesn't sound like you like this person that much. For one thing, if your partner covers all the expenses of the vacation home, would you still take advantage of it? Maintaining a second home is a lot of expense and effort, you do have to want to spend a lot of time there to make it worth it. It does also sound like your partner is unrealistic about the issues of raising a baby in a small space, especially in a pandemic. There were times when I was so completely done with caring for a colicky baby (more than three hours of crying a day for more than three hours a week, less than that is considered normal) that I would go into the garage just to scream. On one occasion I booked a cheap motel room just to get a nap without having to listen to crying. To be fair, most babies don't have colic, but we had a whole three-bedroom house with a yard. I dunno, I have never understood how couples function with wholly separate finances, but there seems to be a lot of daylight in terms of the type of life you both want, where, and how many kids.
posted by wnissen at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

You have so much money saved, I can't even imagine it. I thought, yes, don't buy a house and pay a mortgage! Retire now and live simply. But then I read his alternative plan and was as confused as you are.

First. I agree he sounds like he's not considering what a kid costs or does to change your life at all. Main concern here, really.

Second, I would sit down and do the math on an actual vacation home. Pick one comp and do the math together. All of it. See what the actual numbers are. If that doesn't change his mind....don't know. Did you talk out numbers already or was it all abstract from you that this wouldn't work?
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:54 AM on October 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

My spouse and I kind of went through some of the same calculus at one point.

Here's what we learned:

- when we did the math on a second home, it was anything but frugal. Certainly there's an argument to be made that if you own you are investing in the real estate, but paying taxes, utilities, maintenance fees or maintenance, transportation, and everything else for a place that was going to be empty a lot of the time just didn't make sense. We ended up renting places for a fraction of the cost (basically, for just the property taxes alone we could budget a really quite nice family week in a rented place). If he would do all the math he might rethink this dream really quickly.

- Environmentally it didn't make sense to us either, again, because in our case 11 mos out of the year it would be sitting empty unless we treated it like a business, which wasn't what we wanted at the time due to time/energy constraints. Plus two sets of pipes to burst! Stocking toilet paper in two places!

- We gave ourselves the gift of saving more money towards that dream while we rented equivalent space* and learned...we like to stay home. Especially once we had kids and renting a cottage meant packing up all their necessities and navigating carsickness etc. When we didn't have kids a two hour drive was easy-peasy; after kids for the first 3 years or so it was a lot of lost sleep and a lot of rounds of "Anansi, He Is A Spider!!" in the car.

- We still reserve the right to buy a cabin near a lake in the future. He could plan for this and still not do it at a point where you are both still working in the city.

I would actually make the same argument to you. I posted in a different thread that when your space doesn't work for you, it's worth moving. But if you don't have a baby yet, and you haven't tried having a baby in the space you have, there may not be a rush to buy a townhouse unless you're worried that you'll get priced out of the market.

You can wait and buy for the family you end up with, not for the future. That's what having cash kind of affords you - you can get what you need and not more and not less.

* I was wondering where this money went besides our mortgage and I realized it went to...paying a nanny well, Montessori, day camps, and finally a minivan for my increasingly large children, my MIL, and their other words, the child expenses were so much greater than we thought once we got there. My income wasn't where yours was, but for two years I made negative money working 'cause of the childcare we needed/wanted.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:02 AM on October 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Sorry! They! I missed the edit window.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:08 AM on October 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

How are the two of you going to spend a week a month at a vacation home far far from your jobs? That doesn’t seem realistic until after you both retire. If the vacation homes are not appreciating, why buy one while you are both still working?

Why is your partner not considering retiring from the government job, taking the pension, and getting another job? Even part time? Or is that not possible under his pension rules?
Leisure gets old fast if everybody else is working, or the usual retirement age. People 20 years over your partner’s age may not be interested in the same activities. Maybe have your partner describe specifics of their life of leisure. Who takes care of the kids? Who takes care of the maintenance on the two properties? How do you two spend your time together?

It may be that he doesn’t envision kids in this life of leisure. Or you.
posted by KayQuestions at 11:35 AM on October 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

[Mods might need to fix the couple of instances in the post where OP accidentally specified partner's gender.]

And OP, I agree with folks on here who are saying it doesn't sound like your partner wants to have children. Your partner is already insisting on buying a second home partly in order to get away from the annoyance of a child they do not yet have! Like. Holy shit!!
posted by MiraK at 12:33 PM on October 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

So we have your partner who is planning on retiring early, having a baby in a small condo that they’ve already said they don’t want to wake up to look after at night, want to buy a holiday condo to escape to (one can only assume to get away from the child) with no money to pay off the condo, you know, because they’ve retired.

So in short, you’ll be working yourself to the bone to pay off the holiday condo that your feckless partner is living in to get away from the baby, (you do know you’ll never be the one to enjoy it, right?) while you’re not only working all day, you’re up all night. With the baby. Up to your eyeballs in debt. With a baby. And a partner who won’t work. Or help. With a baby. In a tiny condo. Yeah. I know I’m repeating myself. I just want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. This is nuts.

Tell your partner (everything in me is screaming that this is a man but I guess I could be wrong) that they can go retire and buy that holiday home with your blessing, leave the keys to your current home and never ever come back because you two are as incompatible as they come and this person is telling you in everything except words that they don’t want what you want.
posted by Jubey at 3:25 PM on October 13, 2020 [13 favorites]

Mod note: Oops! I missed those he/hims in there, sorry about the confusion in my mod note above. If Anonymous wants to drop us a line at the contact form if they did prefer it be consistently they/them, they're welcome to do so and we'll follow up."
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 7:38 AM on October 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

"No, a crying baby in the next room isn't going to wake me up at night"

It is always possible that your partner is anticipating that the baby won't be waking them at night because they will be at the vacation home, not with you and the baby.
posted by yohko at 7:30 PM on October 20, 2020

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