A 3-Part Plan for Presenting Real Estate as an Investment to Your Spouse
When it comes to investing, the more conservative partner in a marriage has an easier argument: “We’re not putting all our money into some pipe dream!”
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This, in turn, is why I hear married people ask over and over in my real estate investing Facebook group about how they can get their spouse on board with real estate investing.
It’s amazing how often spouses have vastly different visions for their finances. My wife Katie wishes I had a regular nine-to-five job. I wish she’d spend less on coffee and clothes. And believe me, that’s a mere scratch on the surface of our financial differences.
It’s no wonder a quarter of married couples lie to each other about money.
Real estate investing feels higher risk to people without real estate experience. And I’ll be the first to admit I’ve lost plenty of money in real estate. Then again, compared to stocks, real estate investing is often lower risk!
Of course, your spouse won’t take your word for it. Or mine, for that matter. They won’t even take the word of joint researchers from the University of California, the University of Bonn, and the German central bank, who found that real estate offered the highest returns over the last 145 years, with far lower risk than stocks.
You're going to need to make an organized, persuasive case for why real estate investing can offer both high returns and low risk. I'm going to use rental investing as the example, but the same principles apply to convincing your spouse to embrace flipping, commercial real estate, land, or any other form of real estate investing.
Part I of Your Devious Conversion Scheme: Reframing
The first thing you have to do is reframe the conversation.
Your spouse is apprehensive about the idea of “spending” and “risking” and “losing” money on a real estate deal. Shift the conversation toward the income you’re going to earn.
“Hey honey, the property I’ve been looking at produces around $500/month in income. If we had an extra $500/month, where would you like to put it? I have some ideas, of course—you know I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa—but I know you’ve been talking about doing a more regular date night. What are your thoughts?”
Get them envisioning the tangible, life-improving benefits of real estate investments. Set the hook.
The second way you need to reframe the conversation is away from “Here’s why we should invest in real estate” and toward “Let’s discuss our target asset allocation and how much of our portfolio we want in stocks, real estate, and bonds.” Who can argue with diversification? Not me.
Besides, real estate serves many of the same functions as bonds: income, diversification from stocks, low volatility. And it comes with an innate advantage in that rental income rises alongside inflation.
Finally, frame the conversation in terms of creating multiple income streams, for safety and security, to protect against the risk of job loss. After all, passive income is how you scale the ladder from middle-class to financially independent!
Suddenly real estate isn’t about taking risks; it’s about reducing risk through diversification of assets and income.
Part II of the Plan: Inviting Them into the World of Real Estate
Your spouse will never feel comfortable with real estate investing if they remain an outsider. You need to gradually draw them into this exotic, exciting world with you.
Now that they’re emotionally primed and ready to listen to you with an open mind, you can start introducing facts and figures. Start by showing them some cash flow calculations for a potential investment property (even if it’s just an example and not one you’re personally considering).
Next, show off a few tax benefits. Higher income, lower taxes—that’s a hard combination to beat.
Start tuning into real estate investing podcasts while driving in the car together. Or turning on audiobooks that establish a mindset oriented toward investment and passive income, such as Rich Dad Poor Dad.
Ask for their opinion about a particular property. Get them sitting down with you, running the numbers, comparing potential property investments. Together, form an investing strategy and plan.
When it comes time to physically walk through properties, bring them with you. Get their feedback. Make them part of the decision.
Drive the final, piercing nail in the shell of their resistance by forming a plan with them to use real estate as an opportunity to teach your kids about money. Real estate investing really is the perfect vehicle for it; you can teach kids about budgeting, investing, passive income, leverage, retirement planning, tax strategies, even home improvement and hands-on renovation skills.
If you don’t teach your kids how to build and retain wealth, who will? Certainly not public schools, I can assure you.
Part III: Contingency Plans
Went off without a hitch, right? Your spouse said, “You’re right, honey! How did I ever question your financial genius?”
Hi-fives all around if that’s the case, because my wife sure didn’t say that. I probably should have married a less stubborn woman. Alas.
Alright, if your spouse is resisting your charms and logic, it’s on to the contingency plans.
First, offer to let you prove the returns, with a relatively small investment. Negotiate an amount that your spouse will allow you to invest with, a trial run for proof-of-concept.
If it’s not enough money for a down payment to buy a property yourself, you have other options. You can invest through a partnership with another investor, a REIT, a crowdfunding website, a private note, or a syndication deal.
As soon as the investment earns you $100 or so, take your spouse out to dinner. As you pour the second glass of wine, casually mention, “By the way, this dinner comes courtesy of our real estate investment.” I’m not above a little gimmickry and theatrics every once a while, are you?
Another option is to offer to house hack or do a live-in flip, to simultaneously remove your housing payment and demonstrate the efficacy of real estate investing. Just don’t screw it up, because your spouse will have a front row seat for your spectacular failure if you do.
If your spouse simply will not budge on investing any of your joint money, you can always just invest with “your own money” to demonstrate the proof-of-concept. Where “your own money” comes from varies marriage to marriage, but do what you have to do to put aside an extra $500 or $1,000 to put in a high-yield real estate investment so you can demonstrate the awesome power of real estate to your spouse.
Spouses can be a pain in the rear, but they can also serve as a voice of reason—and as a second set of eyes on your real estate deals. New real estate investors have a tendency to get excited and do too much leaping with too little looking.
Spouses will keep you accountable and offer a sober perspective on investments.
Run your numbers three times over, by yourself and with your spouse, before pulling the trigger on a real estate deal. Get outside feedback from experienced investors, real estate agents, inspectors, property managers, and anyone else you can ask.
The last thing you want is to lose money on your first real estate deal – your spouse will never invest with you again. My wife saw me lose money on a deal early in our relationship, and has been reluctant to trust real estate since.
It’s been my job, both literally and figuratively, to gradually warm her to the notion of real estate. Don’t expect your spouse to be on board the first time you bring it up. It will probably take weeks, months, even years to ease your spouse into comfort with real estate investing.
And it’s worth it.
What’s been your experience in persuading your spouse to invest in real estate with you?
Leave your comments below!