The Pillars of Single FI

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When I wrote my last article about being a single person on this journey, I focused a bit more on hedging off loneliness and received a lot of good feedback from the community.

My friend, Military Dollar, sent me some questions that singles are faced with when calculating their Financial Independence (FI) numbers. Miltary Dollar pointed out that these questions pose choices that committed couples already have the answer to. Up for the challenge? I am! Let’s go deep.

#1 Do you declare yourself FI once you have enough money to support only yourself, or do you wait until you could theoretically support a family?

Um, this is a tough one and I was really convicted to think hard on this rather than just going with my current plan.  So I’ve had a FI number but it’s based off my living expenses as a single person. It does not take into account a family.

The reason I’m so convicted is that one of my life goals is to have a family. Now I know biologically this may not happen in the traditional sense (I’m currently 45), heck it may not even happen in the non-traditional sense. BUT, I want to be open to it so I need to consider how this would affect the math.

I don’t plan on adopting kids as a single person so I’m pretty sure the only way children would enter into the picture is if I marry a man with kids or I marry a man and we adopt.

Not knowing what kind of wealth or income this theoretical husband will have makes the iterations on my FI number a challenge. But, I came up with something that works…

The Pillars of Single FI

My three financial independence pillars are based on the generally accepted definition of FI which is 25 times my annual expenses. They do include healthy dollar amounts for travel and skiing so if I ever needed to scale back I could. The iterations include increasingly more people in my life 🙂


  1. Single FI – this is my financial independence number if I remain a single woman.  With my current salary and savings rate (and the beauty of compound interest) I should be able to hit this number in 14.4 years. Not super extreme but I’m happy with it as I do allocate money to enjoy the ride. If I want to get more intense I can always tighten the belt.
  2. Joint FI – this is my financial independence number if I gain a husband. I factored in some additional expenses for two (more travel, a second car, double groceries, 2-person health insurance, etc.). While this FI number is higher, there will be additional income. Since the husband currently is just a theory, I don’t know his income or wealth. Therefore, I calculated how long it would take me to get to this number on my own (18.4 years). I think it is safe to say a second income would allow us both to get to Joint FI faster than I can get to single FI on my own.
  3. Family FI – this is my financial independence number if I gain a husband and kids. I factored in things like more groceries, extracurriculars, increased travel cost, family health insurance, and college funds.  That being said, there are a lot of unknown variables here – like how many kids does this theoretical man have? Do the kids have a college fund started? How many kids would we want to adopt if any? I settled on factoring increased cost for 2 kids with no college fund started. I budgeted to send these 2 theoretical kids to an in-state college. It would take me 24.4 years to get to this number on my own.

That was a fun little experiment. Like I’ve said before I don’t know what the future holds for me but it’s nice to know how much money each possibility costs.

#2 Do you know how more people would affect your FI number?

I created three tabs on my excel sheet to calculate annual expenses for the three pillars. Adding a spouse increased my annual expenses by 51.5%.

A spouse and 2 kids increased my monthly expenses by 167.7%.  Keep in mind, I made the assumption that the 2 kids come with no college savings. It does seem that more kids would increase that FI number at a slower rate because you can buy things, like food, in bulk and keep the unit costs down. With more kids, certain factors might have to change, like how much we could contribute to each kid’s college savings.

#3 Should you assume a future partner would come into the relationship with assets to support themselves?

I am making the assumption that a future partner would be bringing some type of income to the table. After all, he has been supporting himself (and potentially his children) before meeting me!

I understand life happens and I do hear of couples having to live on one income due to unforeseen circumstances. I am okay with that because after all, I take the vows, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer” seriously.

Most likely adding a second wage earner to the equation will truncate the time in which I/we can achieve FI.

#4 Are you willing to date a person who isn’t interested in FI, or who has considerable debt or trouble with money?

Yeah, here is the question that separates the women from the girls and the men from the boys. To be honest, I’ll give you my opinion here but I know that love can trump it all.

The concept of FI is not mainstream (dramatic pause) yet. So I’m okay with him not knowing about FI or even being interested in FI. What I am concerned with is financial literacy. I cannot imagine being attracted to someone who has no financial awareness.

I’m okay with debt. Heck, it took me 3.5 years to dig my way out of my own financial wreckage. Why would I not be willing to love someone who has made past mistakes with their finances? Let me answer that, I am. What I’m not accepting of is someone who has no desire to become better.

Feeback From the Community

This has been my first experience in polling the community on social media and I have some interesting results:

My Twitter poll resulted in an even split. Technically one of the single voters disclosed that her FI number would be enough to support a family if needed because it’s sufficiently fat. Another voter chose family to include support for her niece and nephew.

Next, I polled the Facebook community in the private group, Singles In Pursuit Of Financial Independence. Pardon the crude blacking out of profile pics.

This one definitely was more skewed towards people saving to only support themselves. I did receive some flack (deservedly so) for not taking into account that there are many single people who have kids. I added that as an option in the poll late and got some votes here.

Your Turn

If you haven’t calculated your post-retirement budget yet, do so. I was fortunate to go to CampFI Mid-Atlantic this year and heard Justin from Root of Good give a talk on how to do so. He was gracious and shared the link to his presentation so check it out!

After Justin’s presentation, I realized I had not accounted for everything. For example, I had to add in healthcare premium since currently, my employer pays for mine. I went to Liberty HealthShare and was able to get quotes for all the iterations.


For now, I’m going to aim for my single FI number but I’m now acutely aware of the math in supporting a family. I will welcome the blessing of having to adjust my FI number and prolong the achievement date if my family unit grows.

How about you? Are you accounting for unknown future variables into your FI number?


25 thoughts on “The Pillars of Single FI”

  1. Great analysis! I love that you put significant thought into this – I imagine some of those people from the Singles Pursuing FI group would change their minds if they thought about it this thoroughly.

    The good news is, *when* you meet this guy chances are he will come with either assets or the ability to earn them, so that truncation might just happen.

    Good luck!

    1. It was a good experiment for me. Thanks for giving me the inspiration!

      Yeah, I kinda feel like whatever happens next will be good news. Knowing the math eliminates a lot of guesswork. Thank you!

  2. I completely understand not wanting to be with someone who has no financial awareness. I married a man like that, and ultimately, it caused our divorce. Of course, there were many factors, but they all seemed to branch out like a tree from lack of financial know-how. He just didn’t care, and I plan on never ending up in that kind of situation again. I can only assume my actions with him set me back at least 3 years (which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it feels like a long time).

    I think planning for yourself is the best way to go for now. It’s good to plan for the unknown, but you can’t live your life around it. It’s cool that you ran all those numbers though!

    1. I am sorry you went through a divorce. They are not fun. All we can do is move forward and learn from our past, right?

      Yeah, I’ve heard that money is the #1 cause of divorce so if a couple can agree on that they have a good shot. I once heard someone say to make sure your three F’s line up – faith, finances, and family. I agree.

      It’s nice to know the numbers, but yeah, I’ll plan for what I know as of today 🙂

  3. Nice post! As a single guy I’ve also made my calculations factoring in what I think I would need if I stay single/have a family in the future. Because I’m open to having a family I don’t think I would consider myself FI until I reach that family FI number, if someone joins me on the journey that hopefully means we’d just be able to get there faster!

    I share your thoughts on meeting someone who may not be open to FI.. however, I must admit that finding out someone has a mountain of debt may be a potential turnoff.. not sure if that’s selfish or not but I think for the right person I’d still be open to it.

    1. Thanks, YFK! I can appreciate your reasoning.

      Yeah, it is tough to say definitively that I would not be open to dating someone with a mountain of debt; however, I agree it might be a turn off. I think it depends on whether or not they are interested and/or in the process of getting out from under it which will make it acceptable.

      Cheers to us both finding are future partners!

  4. Not single, but I have to say, it’s hard to plan exactly for the future no matter your family situation. I like the separate numbers you worked out here though, because then it at least gives you a ballpark idea. And no matter what, saving and preparing is no bad idea. Once you’re a couple of years out is where I feel like you need to buckle down and start dealing with absolutes. Before then, flexibility is key because you have no real idea of what the future holds.

    1. Yeah, I have tremendous peace now that I worked out the numbers and know the math behind the different possibilities.

      Great advice on being flexible now but settling in on absolutes when I’m a couple years out. That is wisdom. Thank you!

  5. Enjoyed reading your post. You mention lonliness. That has happened to me since I was forced to retire at the age of 42. My wife continues to work. I never thought I would experience lonliness but I do.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Mark.

      Yeah, I guess loneliness can occur for any of us at different times. I hope your experience of it lessens and lessens over time.

  6. Good read! I have played around a bunch with my numbers and am currently looking at it from an income replacement standpoint based on my current salary and budgeting a healthy sum for my healthcare. I think no matter what, I will be able to retire from my full-time job at 57 (12 years out) but possibly sooner. I don’t want kids of my own and like you assume if I was to enter into a relationship with someone they would be able to support themselves and their kids if they had any. Lots of things to think about!

    1. Thank you, Jenny!

      Yeah, there are so many iterations with all the different possibilities. It is nice to know the math behind some of them and then be willing to be flexible when a change occurs! I love that you factor in your support for your niece and nephew 🙂

  7. You put a ton of thought into this and I bet it feels great to have those numbers figured out! Planning for the future is hard regardless (and yes, I think moreso for single people because so many things could happen!) but you’ve got some solid numbers to work towards while remaining open and flexible.

    I’d have to think long and hard about things if I met someone with zero financial knowledge or with a ton of debt. It’s not a dealbreaker, but I’ve made so much progress on my own in the last two years and I’d love to continue that momentum with a partner!

    1. Thanks, Erin! I do feel a peace now that I know the math behind some of the possibilities. Hopefully whatever happens in the future will be equal to or better than my projections.

      Yeah, it’s such a tough thing to think about dating someone with a mountain of debt. I don’t want to be closed off to it as I know I had a past to clean up but I also think, do I want to go through that again? But for love…

  8. I’m only planning for a solo FI, since I don’t even date. It’s a dream of mine to have a family, but since I’ve only ever had a 2nd date twice in my life, it’s probably going to remain a dream unfulfilled.

    1. I can appreciate planning for what is a current reality but my 2 cents is don’t sell yourself short on your dreams! Life has a funny way of working out when you least expect it 😉

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  11. One of the things that has fascinated me is how difficult it is to figure out someone’s financial literacy/philosophy prior to becoming involved. I’ve come to the motto (in response to “I can’t live on 50K per year!”) ….

    “If you can’t live on $50K per year, you can’t make it on $500K per year, either!”

    1. I love your motto!! It is a litmus test of sorts.

      For people who have the same or similar financial standards as I, it’s easy to tell. Why? Because I love to talk about this stuff and it becomes evident that they do too! However, for people who have financial secrets or are not financially literate, I noticed they don’t talk about it. The money conversations go flat real quick.

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