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Your Money Or Your Wife

“You’re going to the project house again? Seriously? This thing has consumed 7 months of our lives…I’m so over it…!” — This is the voice of my wife just last month as I left our house at 7pm (for probably the 100th time) to go fix up our flip house. Ever heard of the book, “Your Money or Your Life“? It’s a good read that has you focus on what’s important to you instead of just piling up money for no reason. In my situation, I felt like a sequel was appropriate….Something like, “Your Money or Your Wife”!

your money or your wifeYour Money or Your Wife

Money has always been a bit a game for me. I never struggled to earn it, and I certainly don’t mind watching it stack up in my bank account. You see, making money has never been about buying huge houses or nice cars or even taking crazy exotic trips. Instead, I’ve just been enamored with the thought of, “I wonder how much I could earn?”

Money is limitless. There’s always someone out there in need of something and is willing to pay you for it. All you have to do is…

  • figure out what that something is,
  • supply the need, and
  • earn it.

And, one step beyond that, you’ve got to figure out how to do it with the least effort possible so that you can answer the need as many times and for as many people as possible (ie. figure out passive income so you can earn a butt-load of money).

My Quest For Wealth

I started earning money when I was about 10 years old. I bought items in bulk and sold them for a hefty mark-up per unit (who wants a smiley-face key chain??! :)). At age 12, I mowed lawns. When I turned 14, I started putting regular hours in at our local greenhouse and worked full-time throughout the summers.

When I turned 16, I had enough money saved up to buy my first car with cash (a 1991 Chevy Silverado). Man, that felt good! Not only did that truck represent my newfound freedom, it was also a constant reminder of what hard work and discipline can do for a person. This experience only wet my appetite for making money and becoming wealthy in the future.

Life After College

Money came and money went (mostly to tuition), and believe it or not, I wasn’t always smart with it (can anyone say multiple flat screens, video games, and 7.1 surround sound?? ;)). By the time I graduated, my net worth was approximately -$10,000. Soon after receiving my almighty piece of paper from the university, I got married, we fought about money (mainly, why we didn’t have any), and soon divorced. At the age of 27, four years out of college, I was actually worth less than at any other point in my life.

At this moment – in this place of emotional pain, anger, and vulnerability, I found a new love for money and all it had to offer.

To me, money meant independence, control, and ultimately, power. “He who has the gold makes the rules,” right? I never wanted money to come between me and what’s truly important ever again. So my solution? Make as much of it as possible now so I can do whatever I wanted later.

The only problem was…I never really asked my future wife if she was on board for this…

My Quest For Options

Six months after the divorce, I paid off $21,000 to my ex. One year later, I paid off my home mortgage. I was completely debt free and had a full head of steam toward my future financial growth.

I don’t think I ever communicated it to Liz (my girlfriend at the time), but my goal in life was to have options. My parents worked hard and they provided me with an excellent education and plenty of financial help during my college years, but I didn’t get to see my Dad very often.

He was busy working at a job he tolerated (not quite ‘hated’, but certainly not his favorite) and a side business that paid for our private education. I respect him greatly for this, but I didn’t want my kids to go through the same thing. I wanted to be there for every little thing – that dance recital, that game of catch, the pretend tea party – I wanted to do it all.

And, to accomplish a life of flexibility and minimal working hours, what do you have to do? Create a monster passive income.

This was a great goal that my future kids would certainly appreciate, but what about my current wife…? Oh yeah…my wife…

rental house project - your money or your wifeYour Money or Your Wife…

I totally left her in the dust and didn’t even realize it.

For our first rental purchase, I spent about 5 months fixing it up – all while she was pregnant with our first child. I finished it and got it rented out about 20 days before our daughter’s birth (phew! Barely made it!).

The next year and a half was awesome. The rental was incredibly passive and it allowed my wife to stay home from her job and be a full-time mom. We absolutely loved it.

And then…we decided to take on another project house…

We bought our second income property in October of 2017 and finished it at the very end of May 2018 (about 3 months behind schedule).

  • During that time, my wife and I maybe went on 4 dates,
  • I often left at night to work on the project after our daughter went to bed (which basically meant my wife was a prisoner in our own house since she couldn’t go anywhere…), and
  • It of course took up many Saturdays and Sundays where I was missing out on both my wife and daughter, and even some family functions as well…

This new rental was going to be great…until my wife and I couldn’t talk about it without getting into an argument…

This house represented everything I was trying to avoid…

  • My time away from family
  • Obsessions outside of my wife and children
  • And a large bank account for absolutely no reason whatsoever (my day job provides for us and then some)

Over the course of 8 months, we earned an extra $30,000. But, I sacrificed a deepening bond with my best friend, my wife. It’s time to start digging out of my hole and start going on those dates again…

In the End, It’s All About Communication

Some of you might say, “But Derek, sometimes you have to sacrifice in the present for the greater good of the future.”

Yup, I totally agree.

But, if only one of you is on board, then that sacrifice will only divide you, no matter how well your project turns out. Instead of having money and a wife that respects you greatly, you end up with a choice…your money or your wife. And let me tell you from experience, you don’t ever want to experience what that feels like.

The key, or course, is communication. If you’d love to retire at the age of 35, but you don’t want to work like a maniac and never see your spouse until then, well, you’d better rethink your goals and dreams. If, however, you’re $100,000 in debt and in danger of losing your home, then going 12 months without much of a relationship might be worth it considering the amount of strain a bankruptcy would put on the mortgage. They key question is, “Are both you and your spouse on board?”

What’s the trade-off and what’s the benefit? Is it worth it? Only you and your significant other can decide the answer to these questions. Your money or you wife? Just don’t go there.

Love freely, flirt always, and communicate often. Now, I’m off to get a bouquet of flowers…

Battle of the Mind Money

AUTHOR Derek Sall

Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially--one email, one article, one person at a time.


  1. Thanks for sharing. A few extremely valuable lessons learned here. Good points raised.

    I also initially didn’t communicate clearly with my wife of now 8 years on my goals toward creating wealth and passive income. Not intentionally; we’d just go about our day to day and then not assess where we stood as often as we should have been doing.

    We’ve since found a good balance, but it’s important to slow down when needed. – Mike

    • Glad you liked it, Mike! Right now, I’m reading the One Page Financial Plan, by Carl Richards. I anticipate my wife and I writing out our future goals again soon. 🙂

  2. Hi Derek,

    Great article. Your story illustrates what many of the young fail to consider. And that is, “The most important life decision you will make is your choice of a spouse.” If you get this wrong, everything else will be negatively effected. I wish I would have emphasized this more with my two children.

    • That too, James. Choice of spouse is very important and not typically something a young-20’s person can do very effectively. Some of us figure it out when we’re older. Some of us just get lucky when we’re younger. And of course, some of us never learn. 😉

  3. Wow.. Excellent article and I’m sure many families are in this exact situation.. The accumulation of wealth important to the husband but not necessarily for the wife. It’s such a fine balance and so easy to get it wrong.. I know I have dealt with the issue and still am.. For me, wealth is some sort of security or a means to a life with options.. And, I seek that not only for myself but for my family. I just think that is difficult sometimes for a wife to understand because they can sometimes see it as an obsession that is priority #1 for the husband… And, unfortunately, I believe it can easily become that and while seeking wealth for the family it can sometimes destroy it.. Like you say, it’s all about communication and balance.. Something I am continually working to improve…

    • Thanks Jamie. I’m sure this article will hit home for a ton of people as it’s only common for the guy to go out and make a bunch of money to propel his family ahead financially…but in reality, he’s destroying his family by not being around. There’s a really tough balance there. Yes, you need to provide for your family, but they also need to see you, experience you, and get the best of your life too (instead of work sucking all the fun out of you each day).

      I’m continually working on this balance too, Jamie. I’m not at all perfect at it yet (obviously), but I think I’m getting better.

  4. Derek, had a similar situation– loved my job, loved my company, but came home one night to a loving (truly loving) comment from my wife, “just want to let you know that you haven’t been home for dinner for the past 10 days”– and this wasn’t due to travel… just long hours. That was eye opening. Helped me to refocus, and we spent the next 12 months asking ourselves what lifestyle we wanted, where did we want to live, etc. Ended up moving to another part of the country (and have been here 18 years)!

    • Good additional commentary, Bruce. Always love your words of wisdom. Liz and I need to ask ourselves those important questions soon – that way we’ll be on the same page with what we’re earning, spending, and saving.

      P.S. Might be time for breakfast again soon. I think I need some more of that wisdom that spews out of you on a daily basis. 😉

  5. Thanks for sharing. My situation is reversed. My wife started her own business several years ago which required evening hours, weekends and travelling overseas for weeks at a time. I wanted to support her dreams and aspirations but darn it, it was tough with two young kids plus holding down a busy full time job as a physician. We fought, but we perservered because we wanted to support each other. Now it’s a bit easier b/c the kids are older. Communication is key, and you do need to have shared goals, otherwise, it’s not worth it.

    • That’s the key – the shared goals. My wife and I need to be more clear on this, but we’re working on it and getting better.

  6. Hi Derek,

    Your problem as I see it is your preference for buying “project” homes. You put down 20% of the purchase price then spend months of your time and invest more cash to bring it up to standard as a rental (all the tme collecting zero rent). Why not buy “move-in ready” homes and skip the time, money and hassle? You can use leverage more effectively (80% of the entire transaction amount instead of 80% of the purchase price + 0% of the cost of improvements) and rent it out immediately (intead of months down the road).

    My wife and I have 8 rentals and we have learned the hard way that buying move-in ready properties is the better way to go. Just a thought! ?

    • Hi Don – thanks for the comment!

      So actually, we put 100% down on our properties, and then use our own money to fix them up… ;). It’s the way we prefer. But, I totally get the idea of having a nearly move-in ready home (now). After the sale of this house, we’ll earn a one-time check of $25k or something like that. If I would have bought a property that was nearly move-in ready, I could have already collected $10k in rent! Yup, totally getting it. I’ll look for better properties in the future. It’s just so much easier to find a deal on a project than it is to find a deal on a move-in ready house!

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