Personal Finance, Retirement

What If Someone Won’t Spend Money? (Your Advice)

Your Advice - help answer readers' questionsIt’s not often when I receive an e-mail about personal finance that is quite different from the majority that I have received before. That was the case with this e-mail which came in from a reader about what she should do with her husband and money:

I have a problem. To most people it doesn’t seem like a problem. They think that we have nothing to worry about regarding money so I should not complain. I’m hoping that you can help me. What do you do when your husband refuses to spend money?

We have saved money all our lives and are retired. We have over $1.5 million in retirement accounts, our mortgage is completely paid off and we have no other debts, plus we have a substantial amount of money in regular savings account. We always made by on a little less than we wanted to in order to achieve this nest egg for our retirement years.

The problem that I have is that now that we are here, my husband refuses to spend any of the money that we have saved. When we go on trips, he always insists that we stay at the most inexpensive hotels like Motel 6. Last year for his birthday, I booked us a nice dinner cruise on the Bay which was lovely except for the fact that he complained that it must of been too expensive the entire evening.

I thought we had saved so that now that we both have free time we could spend the money on all the things that we dreamed of doing, but he seems to think that we need to continue saving money as best we can. How do you convince somebody who has saved all their lives that it’s okay to spend a little money on themselves now and then? Every time I suggest that we spend a little bit of our money on something exciting, he says that we need to save a little bit more before we can afford it which just isn’t true.

I’ve tried rationalizing with him and telling him this is exactly why we had saved the money all those years, but it doesn’t seem to be getting through his head. How do you convince somebody that it’s okay to spend money and have a little fun and extravagance from time to time?

If you are in a similar situation and had a partner that refused to spend the money that you had saved together over your lifetime, what steps would you take to solve the problem?

14 thoughts on “What If Someone Won’t Spend Money? (Your Advice)

  1. After all these years I don’t think you can change your husband. He is what he is and that is what makes him him.

    I suspect that I will be the same way as your husband. It is just against our grain to spend money just for the sake of spending it.

    Your husband is frugal from years and years of careful savings and to ask him to change his perspective because he is now retired is a difficult thing to do.

    This will be a slow process for the both of you. Perhaps some counselling can help.

  2. Old habits die hard. That’s too bad, cus i thought the whole idea of scrimping and saving was so that you could enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in your ‘golden years.’

    Perhaps he is fearful you may outlive or outspend your money. In that case, maybe you could sit down with him and agree on a plan to withdraw x% each year, an amount that would ensure you don’t draw down your principal. There are many online calculators that can do this for you.

    I for one would not want to die with a million dollars in the bank. Even with children, i would not want them to inherit everything as that’s not really teaching them any self-sufficiency lessons. You can look at many wealthy, but useless celebrities to see what happens when everything is just a little too easy.

  3. That is a problem I see frequently. People get a mindset of not spending money in order to provide a house, college education, a nest egg, etc. only to forget what motivated them to start saving in the first place.

    I think the saving, investing, and “what is my net worth” philosophy has led many well-meaning people down a road to greed, selfishness, and a constant discontent feeling in their lives.

    We do well to be frugal at times, save first and spend second, and invest for the future, etc., however, we have to do it all while maintaining the understanding that money, even well-intentioned money, is not the be-all, end-all and of course, “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

  4. Remind him that when you die, a relative will have a great time “blowing” all the money you worked so hard for?
    Tell him that if you get tired of living like poor folks, and decide to divorce him, half of the money will be yours to spend?
    You need to make him realize that you will not continue to live like you do.

  5. You could always try and do some quick back of the envelope math to show that maybe your reader’s husband doesn’t need to save a large amount any more. You could show that he could still splurge and potentially not eat into the principal amount of your savings.

    Of course, while the email does outline a relatively high level of of net worth accumulated, we don’t know the ages of the husband or wife or the rate at which they are spending their savings. If they are, for example, still relatively young and aggresively drawing down the principal amounts of their savings, then the husband may be justified in saying that “they need to save more”.

    I would ask who sent in the letter to provide some more details of her situation so you can get a better idea of whether her position is justified.

  6. My grandparents had the same problem — they had a nest egg about as large as yours and only bought items on sale. No trips, no fancy dinners, etc… They were stuck on the mindset of saving.

    They finally made a deal with each other after my grandmother put things in perspective for my grandfather– that they are not even spending what they make in interest. At 6% interest for a $1.5 million account, you will be making $90k/year. You can start by asking him if he think it’s fair to at least spend what you make from interest.

  7. My step-father was the same way. Even after he retired, he complained that he wasn’t saving enough money. Unfortunately, his parents died and left 4 young children, he being the oldest. They saw alot of hard times and his parents were from the depression.

    I think if you could find something that would show you percentages of what you should be spending on certain areas that it may help him. Also, like another poster said remind him who will be inheriting his money.

    Also, total all monies that you have and show him how long it would last if you spent what you should be spending. I liked the ALL YOUR WORTH (Elizabeth Warren) book because she talks about people who are not spending enough on wants. Also, my step-father worried about health care taking all of his money. A lot depends on his health and how he sees himself. Many times people don’t talk about their health issues and lastly like someone else said, it’s also a mind-set.

  8. I’m 27 and is a saver. I can totally see myself not being able to spend the money I will accumulate in my retirement years. I have a good amount of money saved up right now but I’m unwilling to use it for my wedding/buy a house. I think my fiance has trouble coping with my lack of action sometimes. I hope it will be okay!

  9. I’ve seen this before, too–my grandfather was the same way. He wouldn’t use the air conditioning in 100 degree weather, barely used electricity at all, didn’t own a car, and bought everything at garage sales. Now that he has passed away, my grandmother has purchased all new furniture and some newer clothes. I hope you will be able to find a compromise with your husband much sooner.

    How much have you discussed this issue with him? Do you know what lies behind his financial concerns? It will be difficult for you to address the problem if you don’t fully understand his underlying concerns.

    I agree with another commentor who suggested that we need more details about your financial situation to get a better idea about where your husband is coming from, but since we don’t have that information, I’ll suggest that a budget might alleviate the problem. You and your husband could sit down together and figure out what you can comfortably spend each month on nonessential items so that your savings will still be there to cover all of the essentials like health care. That way, he can keep his saving mindset by continuing to cut back on some expenses, but at the same time, you can have some nicer things. You can forgo the nice dinner out so that you’ll have enough money left in the budget to stay in a nice hotel, for example. I don’t think this totally solves the problem from your perspective, but it might be a good compromise or a good stepping stone to more flexible spending habits in the future.

    Another thing I would suggest is that maybe there are certain things he would be more willing to splurge on than others. Maybe, even though you have plenty of money now, he simply doesn’t care much about the quality of a hotel room and doesn’t see the need to spend more money on it than the bare minimum. But maybe there is something else he would actually enjoy spending his money on and you just need to find out what that is. I’m a big saver myself, but take me to a good restaurant and even I will open up my wallet.

    I can’t believe that someone would suggest divorce as an option in this situation. That’s terrible.

    Let us know if you have any success!

  10. Perhaps a visit with a counsellor/clergyperson/psychologist may be in order. Compulsive behaviour such as this extreme miserliness can be a sign of mental illness.

  11. I find I can get people with money to spend by selling them on dreams of what they like.
    Create a vision, and then make it worth it to the person in their mind.

  12. whats it worth to you to give up basic creature comforts . does he think a uhail truck is going to be trailing the hearst , with all HIS money in side . make sure your not sacraficing too much . it sounds like an addiction problem to me . extreames are a habit that leads to additions . you are co-dependent

  13. You know,the saddest part is that (unless you have used a financial planner) half of this money (maybe more depending on the value of your estate) will be paid as estate taxes when you both die. Which means he has been saving his money to give to the government!

  14. You go out and you buy yourself something very frivilous, that you want but would never consider buying because you just don’t want to here him bitching. Then you invite your girlfriends over and pull your new purchase out in front of your husband and say “Look at what my husband bought for me just because he said he loved me and appreciated me!” The attention he will get for being such a “considerate” guy from your girlfriends will give you the upper hand on the conversation the two of you will have after they leave. Men like feeling superior, intelligent, and being praised. Don’t ever forget they are just like children. If you demand something from them you aren’t going to get it, but if you show them the rewards they will reap by giving you what you want they are puddy in your hands! Good luck

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