Episode 69. We make almost $300k per year but we can’t afford our mortgage
Chris and Camilla are 33 and 31 and they make almost $300k collectively living in a high cost of living area. They recently bought a vacation home, like everyone on TikTok tells you to do.
Surprise, surprise—there’s no fairytale ending here, no mounds of passive income, no soaring property values or slam dunk investments.
They thought they’d cash in on a hot market. But with the slow season approaching, they’ve realized they’re losing money. How should they handle it? And (gasp) what might other people say if they have to sell?
This episode is reminiscent of another Canadian couple, Eric and Elena, from episodes 49 and 50, who also bought a house they realized they couldn’t afford. But I think you’ll find this one fascinating for the differences—especially in the numbers.
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Ramit Sethi: [00:00:00] How many of your friends and family and the people around you talk about their house, housing costs, housing investments, etc.?
Camila: [00:00:06] Everybody. It’s disgusting.
Chris: [00:00:08] It’s a status thing. If you’re not playing that game, then you’re– what are you doing? Even if it’s all fake.
Camila: [00:00:16] One of the things too leading up to this was one of our friends who we knew didn’t make as much money as we did, they were able to buy a nicer home.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:28] Uh oh.
Camila: [00:00:29] Can’t help but feel a little jealous, right?
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:32] When you bought at the peak, did you have a conversation that it might go down?
Chris: [00:00:37] Not in depth.
Camila: [00:00:39] It just all came crashing down together. It’s affected all areas of our life. This is a constant state of anxiety every night.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:52] [Narration]
Chris and Camila are 33 and 31, and collectively they make almost $300,000. They live in a high-cost-of-living area and they recently bought a vacation house like everyone on TikTok tells you to do so you can rent it out and make passive income. The only problem is they realized they’re losing money. So how should they handle it? And what will other people say?
This episode reminded me of another Canadian couple, Eric and Elena, in Episodes 49 and 50 who also bought a house they couldn’t afford. But I think you’ll find this episode fascinating for the differences, especially the numbers. I’m Ramit Sethi, and this is I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
Let’s just take it back. Who was the one who had the idea to buy the vacation home?
Camila: [00:01:47] That was me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:01:48] Okay. Tell me what went through your head years ago when you were thinking about getting this vacation house.
Camila: [00:01:54] It’s always been a bit of a dream for us to be able to do something like this. But to be honest, it was more of a spontaneous thing when we actually got down to it. I go down the rabbit hole sometimes and I get very passionate about things and going about with it.
Once we got in a bit of a position where we were financially, I thought had the means to do it, I was on maternity leave at that time still, so I had time even though I was busy. Chris just started a new job that was paying a little bit more. And I just started daydreaming and looking at houses and working out numbers. And from there we started going to listings and it just snowballed from there.
Ramit Sethi: [00:02:51] What was in your mind about why buying a vacation house would be a good decision for you?
Camila: [00:02:57] Well, I thought that it would be somewhere that we could take our girls to and build memories. And the way that we worked out the numbers was a little aggressive but we thought that it could pay for itself ultimately because we were renting it out. And it has so far. But we’re heading into a different season now and we’re stuck without a firm plan of how we’re going to take care of the mortgage.
Ramit Sethi: [00:03:32] Okay. When you say it was aggressive, tell me a little bit about that.
Camila: [00:03:37] We had never done this before. So we did research. We did competitive analysis based on what other rental homes were charging. And it was just going with that and then came up with a number in total for the year that we thought we would make. And so far it’s been good because we got into that summer season, but now that we’re heading into winter for the next little bit here, it’s a little bit scary.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:07] Did you factor in winter in your analysis?
Camila: [00:04:11] We did. But I think there were just other costs that we didn’t really factor in.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:21] Like what?
Camila: [00:04:24] Well, for example, the trips to get there and back. And then when we do that it does end up being a little bit of a vacation as well, of course. So there’s what you would spend on vacation. And also just a phantom cost, I’d say, of just how much work it takes mentally on top of everything else.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:47] Wait a minute. If you know the phrase “phantom costs,” that means you’ve been listening to my stuff for a while, which I commend you for. So are you telling me that there were even more phantom costs than you had anticipated?
Camila: [00:05:01] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:05:03] [Narration]
Phantom costs are the unexpected costs when you buy something. And I’m obsessed with phantom costs because they profoundly affect how much money you have, but they’re engineered to be invisible. And the craziest thing of all, people actually do not want to know about their own phantom costs.
To me, it is so crazy that some people actually believe they made hundreds of thousands of dollars from selling their house, but if you show them and factor in those phantom costs, they actually lost $450,000. Of course, those same people will never hear this. They don’t listen to podcasts like this. They refuse to have a conversation about how they may have not made the best financial decision. And this is why I love my job.
I want to give you a simple example of phantom cost and how profoundly they can affect your finances. When I had a car payment, my monthly car payment was $350. But when I factored in parking, gas, insurance, maintenance, traffic tickets, registration, it added up to over $1,000 per month.
Now, when I wrote this earlier, a lot of people left a million comments, “Oh my God, traffic tickets. Ramit, that’s so bad, your parking tickets. I don’t have parking tickets like that.” Listen, the amount of parking tickets I got living in San Francisco was relatively modest.
But you have to factor all of it in, even that annual registration, even gas when the price goes up and goes down. Now, the more expensive the purchase, the higher the phantom cost. Most people cannot believe that a car payment of $350 actually turned into $1,000 a month.
And it’s true, you may not have a $200 a month parking fee like I did, but you probably also don’t drive a four-door Honda Accord like I did with essentially no maintenance costs. So we need to factor these things in.
Now, let me talk about how phantom costs work with a house. This is going to blow your mind. For a house, a basic guideline is you should assume 1% of the purchase price every year for maintenance. That means for a $750,000 house assumes $7,500 per year in maintenance or $625 a month. Are you putting that much money aside in a sub-savings account? Of course not.
Phantom costs are especially pernicious with a house because they’re large and they’re hidden. For example, your closing costs may be tens of thousands of dollars. Your taxes will likely go up. And what about those long-term phantom costs that remain dormant for years? They’re hiding phantoms, but then they hit you.
Think of a $25,000 roof repair that hits you 11 years after buying a house that actually costs you $2,272 a year or $189 a month. Again, nobody is putting money aside for repairs like this. My friend Carl Richards says, risk is what’s left when you think you’ve thought of everything.
So if you’re really conservative, you calculate out all these things. You would take the worst-case scenario, and even then you’d add another 15% to account for all the things you forgot about. Again, nobody does this, but I’m sharing this with you so you know what it would look like.
Finally, if you’re paying a financial adviser 1 to 2% per year AUM, that may be the biggest phantom cost of all. You’re paying literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. You’re getting worse performance than you could get with a simple Vanguard fund, and you don’t even know it unless you’ve read my book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Now that we have covered phantom costs, let’s understand why Chris and Camila wanted to buy.
Camila: [00:09:09] [Interview]
I guess, just the pride of having something like that as well.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:12] What’s that?
Camila: [00:09:15] What do you mean?
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:16] What is the pride of having a house? I don’t understand.
Camila: [00:09:21] I guess it’s just like a sense of ownership like you have another property. It’s a pretty big deal to have a property in this area that we live in.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:33] How do you know?
Camila: [00:09:34] Oh, well, for example, our primary residence that we live in, it’s quite out there in the suburbs, but it increased by 30% in two years. So that’s really partially also– I guess what didn’t even cover that part. That’s also partially how we got this place was we took out a loan from our primary residence because the value went up so much.
Chris: [00:10:00] I think it started as one decision that we were very much aligned on and it was the sense of capitalizing on the real estate sector in our area because it’s just historically done well forever.
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:19] What area is this?
Chris: [00:10:21] This is in Vancouver, Canada. So like Camila said, our primary residence actually went up 65% really in two years. And so it was this idea of like, okay, well, let’s get another iron into fire here and try to maximize– get another property. That one’s going to go up in value too.
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:47] Wait a minute. Are you guys on TikTok?
Chris: [00:10:49] No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:50] You don’t follow any of these crackpots who tell you buy a house, then just buy 10 other houses, and then they pay your rent and you’re a millionaire? You don’t hear people like this?
Camila: [00:10:59] Nope.
Chris: [00:10:59] I know those people exist, but–
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:02] You don’t hear any of these people?
Chris: [00:11:05] We’re too old for TikTok.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:07] [Narration]
Oh, my God. All right, first of all, stop listening to these people. Second, I actually started a TikTok account. I’m not very good yet, but where I shine is roasting these fools and showing how they only present real estate and whole life insurance as a surefire way to make millions overnight. You can follow me on TikTok @Ramit.Sethi. And do me a favor. Tag me with the worst advice you see so that I can eviscerate them.
How many of your friends and family and the people around you talk about their house, housing costs, housing investments, etc.?
Camila: [00:11:58] Everybody. It’s disgusting.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:02] Yeah, okay, it’s disgusting. What are we talking about right now?
Camila: [00:12:05] Yes, exactly. Oh.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:08] So you were like, “If you can’t beat them, join them. We got to get a house.” Okay.
Camila: [00:12:13] Pretty much.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:15] When you heard that kind of stuff going on around you, everyone talking about real estate, what did it make you feel?
Chris: [00:12:23] Like you need to be a part of it. For me at least it was it’s a status thing. If you’re not playing that game, then you’re– what are you doing?
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:41] You’re a loser.
Chris: [00:12:43] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:44] Where do you see that status reflected? For example, when can you tell that someone is impressed that the two of you own your place?
Chris: [00:12:54] I mean, I guess it’s just like in little conversations with people.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:58] How does it go?
Chris: [00:13:03] I mean, especially when we bought that second property, you get a lot of people that are like, “Wow, so young, got that second property. Congrats. It’s huge.”
Camila: [00:13:15] Beautiful. Well done.
Chris: [00:13:18] Yeah. So it’s like this affirmation that like, yeah–
Camila: [00:13:23] We’re winning.
Chris: [00:13:26] It’s just little things. It’s just people around you– friends, family, all the people that were trying to get this deal done, like the realtor.
Ramit Sethi: [00:13:37] Congratulations. You gave me my commission.
Chris: [00:13:40] Yeah, it’s around you.
Ramit Sethi: [00:13:46] And did the same thing happen when you bought the vacation house?
Chris: [00:13:50] Yeah, for sure. Your family is proud of you showing off to their friends.
Ramit Sethi: [00:13:58] What do they say? “Our son, they have two properties,” that kind of thing?
Chris: [00:14:03] Yeah, yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:14:05] “Our daughter, they got a vacation house. They’re going to have that for generational wealth.”
Chris: [00:14:13] Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, because people know real estate is expensive here. It’s a status thing, even if it’s all fake.
Ramit Sethi: [00:14:25] [Narration]
Whenever someone says, “I don’t care what other people think,” you have to treat it like a toddler babbling. You let them say their thing, blah, blah, blah, then you just ignore what they said because it was completely meaningless anyway and you carry on. Nobody thinks they’re affected by the people around them. But of course, we are.
Did you know when I ask people, “What’s your money dall?” Most people say eating out or travel, but nobody has ever said status. Yet when I look at what we spend our money on, it’s obvious that we all crave status in certain situations. This is why you’re listening to this podcast on a certain phone. This is why you are wearing what the people around you are wearing and why you eat at certain restaurants and have that haircut and even talk the way you talk.
I would rather people just get honest about why they’re buying something rather than cover up all the real reasons with some logical nonsense. Truck owners, I’m talking to you. People who buy a primary residence because it’s a great investment, but you haven’t ever run a buy versus rent calculation, I’m also talking to you.
By the way, if you’re curious what I’m talking about with the buy versus rent thing, go to iwt.com/house, get my three-step guide to buying a house and learn how to run the numbers yourself.
How did you come up with the idea of taking a home equity line of credit?
Chris: [00:15:49] We didn’t have the cash for setting aside for a down payment, so that was where we were going to get the down payment from.
Ramit Sethi: [00:15:57] Any concerns about taking a HELOC?
Chris: [00:16:03] No, because we felt it was a pretty safe bet considering they only let you take– you can only mortgage as much or you can only go up to about 80% of what your home is currently worth.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:16] When did you buy your primary residence?
Chris: [00:16:19] 2019.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:20] Okay. And do you believe that real estate prices only go up?
Camila: [00:16:27] Here in Vancouver, yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:30] And you believed it in 2019. Do you believe it now?
Chris: [00:16:35] I think in short term, no, prices do fluctuate. They’re going down right now. They were peaking when we bought this other property, unfortunately. But when you look at pricing over five, 10, 20 years, yeah, it feels like, historically speaking, they do go up consistently here.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:55] I have a question for you. I don’t get a chance to talk to people who buy at the peak that often. So this is my own personal fantasy right now. When you bought at the peak, did you consider for a moment that you might be buying at a very, very high price?
Camila: [00:17:14] Yeah. But we just didn’t think that that was the tail end of it. We just didn’t think it was going to be going down as quick as it did.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:26] And so as you said, you were putting rose-colored glasses on. You thought it’s going to keep going up, we’ll make money. Did you have a conversation that it might go down?
Chris: [00:17:40] Not in depth.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:41] [Narration]
God, I really have the greatest job in the world. I get to talk to people who bought at the peak, who never really thought about the price going down, and they’re actually honest about it. I cannot say this enough. House prices do not only go up, they also go down. Rent does not only go up, it also goes down.
On what universe, on what planet do I live where I have to actually say this? “Guys, things don’t only go up. They also come down.” But for some reason, aka the NAR, using decades of propaganda to brainwash Americans, I have to remind you that house prices also go down.
You must realize this when you’re deciding whether it makes sense to buy or rent. And if you believe that, then you have to question the other advice you’ve gotten over time, because much of it was likely misleading or just plain wrong.
It’s kind of a complicated thing to take out this debt. Who is giving you advice? Were you asking for help from people? Talk me through that.
Camila: [00:18:50] Yeah. I mean, we had a mortgage specialist that we just kept going back to and asking questions to.
Ramit Sethi: [00:18:57] What’s a mortgage specialist? Is that the person who gives you the mortgage?
Chris: [00:19:03] Yeah, basically the salesperson for the bank.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:06] Oh, God. Lot of sheepish looks on this call right now for anyone who can’t see it. What is the incentive for a mortgage specialist?
Camila: [00:19:17] Well, they get paid. They get paid off of what we have.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:24] [Narration]
Let me share a few lessons of life for you all. First of all, there is more to Indian food than chicken tikka masala and garlic naan. Yes, yes, we know you love it, but there are other dishes you’ve never even tried. Get an Indian friend. Go to an Indian restaurant. Prepare to have your mind blown.
Second, if you bank with Wells Fargo or Bank of America, you are asking to be ripped off. It’s just a matter of time. And third, you should not trust anyone when you’re buying a house. Every single person involved in the transaction looks at you as prey.
You are their next BMW payment. So no matter how nice they are and how they helped your mom buy her house in Dallas in 1983 and it’s appreciated by double, and that’s a really good return, right? It’s not. You do not trust any of them.
Part of life is really understanding people’s incentives. A mortgage specialist wants you to take out the largest loan you can so they get paid the most. That’s fine. Once we understand it, we know that they are coin-operated.
And once you understand their job on this planet, you can deal with them because you know what motivates them. The problem is you guys cover up these incentives with all kinds of bullshit. “Oh, this guy Ted, he’s really nice. He helped us get a better rate than the other guy.”
I don’t care if Ted is nice. I don’t care if a scorpion is nice either. His job on this earth is to sting me. So you ask, “Ted, How did you get me a better rate? What’s the catch? How are you compensated differently than my old broker?” Forget it. You know what? None of you were going to do this. Who cares? I’m done with this. Go get ripped off by your buddy Chet if you want to.
Camila goes on to explain that the interest rate has risen from 2% at the time they purchased their vacation home to about 4.5% now, which would add thousand dollars to their monthly mortgage bill. Could you afford a surprise extra $1,000 a month payment?
Did you consider that rates might go up when you were taking out the loan?
Chris: [00:21:35] Definitely. But I think we just chose to look at it with a glass-half-full type of attitude. It’s a big bat.
Camila: [00:21:46] It wasn’t big bat.
Ramit Sethi: [00:21:47] Tell me more about this. This is very interesting to me because there are certain times where people will only look at what can go right. And then interestingly, the very same people in other parts of life will only look at what could go wrong. And I’m fascinated by how situationally we change. So tell me about how you looked at this analysis with, as you put it, the glass half full.
Chris: [00:22:13] Similar to Camila, if this works out and we’re able to keep this property, it would be great for creating memories with the family. If it was purely an investment, then we would have just gone with a long-term rental apartment turnkey that we don’t even really care about.
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:32] Hmm. Camila, you’re agreeing over here?
Camila: [00:22:35] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:36] Okay. So the memories part of it. Did either of you grow up going to a vacation house?
Camila: [00:22:42] No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:43] Where did this come from, then?
Camila: [00:22:47] I think that one of the things that we really value and enjoy in life is that and we didn’t do a lot of that growing up when we were younger.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:05] How old are your children?
Camila: [00:23:07] Four and one and a half.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:09] Oh, okay. Congratulations.
Camila: [00:23:11] Thanks.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:12] Do you travel with them now?
Chris: [00:23:16] A lot of local travel. With COVID and all that, we haven’t done too much flying out of the country. But yeah, we definitely love to go up just to some of the local destinations quite a bit.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:30] Okay. I get it. I get the idea that you could create memories. You have this beautiful place a little bit outside the city and you could go there repeatedly. I get it. And if everything fell into place and worked out correctly, the value of the property would go up, you could be renting it cashflow positive, you’re essentially staying there for free, it all paints this beautiful picture. I get it.
Listen, I love a good dream, but if the dream costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, I also love running the numbers so I can sleep at night. I want you to remember something. Not everything has to be positive ROI. Sometimes it’s fine to buy something just because you want to or for non-financial reasons. But you’ve got to run the numbers. And I get it, but you’ve got to run the numbers.
Camila: [00:24:28] I guess the other thing I’ll just add too is that we actually, considering you can call it our environment, our surroundings, our friends, and our family, we live in a pretty modest home, our primary residence. And out of our group of friends, we live in the most modest home. They have larger homes than us or in better neighborhoods or cities. One of the things, too, leading up to this was one of our friends who we knew didn’t make as much money as we did, they were able to buy a nicer home.
Ramit Sethi: [00:25:12] Oh, oh. This is the beginning of every financial disaster because– we all know this in the financial world– the worst thing in the world is finding out your friend who is stupider than you has more money. This is a classic story in the financial world. So you found this out and then what’d you do?
Camila: [00:25:38] Oh, you can’t help but feel a little jealous, right? Like, wow, they get to get that?
Ramit Sethi: [00:25:46] How did they do it? What do they know that we don’t?
Camila: [00:25:48] How did they do it? We knew, though, that they obviously had a couple of years ahead of us. There were circumstances of why. We knew the whys. But just you can’t help but compare.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:03] What did that feel like to you? Where did you feel that jealousy?
Camila: [00:26:07] Well, just, for example, being able to have a backyard for your kids. That’s a pretty nice thing to have.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:17] It’s like you’re writing a real estate ad right now. You know what I mean? I want to have a backyard for the kids and the dog. When did you realize that it wasn’t working out the way you thought it would?
Camila: [00:26:32] So we have a separate bank account where the funds for this property comes in and out of. And just looking at that account as the season ended and it was like, yeah, there’s not enough cash in here to get us through the next busy season.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:51] How much was in it?
Camila: [00:26:54] Well, how much is it right now? It’s probably around $6,500.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:58] How much should be in that account?
Camila: [00:27:03] So 3,500 times– what is it now? November, December, January, February, March. Times 5.
Ramit Sethi: [00:27:12] 17,500.
Camila: [00:27:14] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:27:15] So it’s over $10,000 shortfall.
Camila: [00:27:18] Yeah. It just all came crashing down together. It’s affected all areas of our life. I’m going through my own counseling for my anxiety. We’re going through couples counseling together. There’s just a lot of things. It’s all of a sudden my whole like, where can we alleviate? What is one big thing here that’s contributing to everything that’s going on in our lives? So there wasn’t a specific moment, but if you were to look at our lives now versus pre-property, yeah, I think there’s a pretty big difference in our way of being on the inside.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:00] What’s the difference? Can you paint the picture for us?
Camila: [00:28:05] Yeah. This is a constant state of anxiety every night once the kids are in bed.
Chris: [00:28:16] Yeah. I do remember the moment that at least you communicated it to me. And it was a couple of months ago we went for dinner and we were working through our finances over a glass of wine to make it a little bit more tolerable.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:32] This is the most romantic story I’ve ever heard, by the way. I never hear couples talking about this, and I wish they did what you did. Fantastic. Keep going.
Chris: [00:28:41] And that was the first moment that you had expressed that you were actually open to selling this property, which I know it is a big step for you because you’re the one that was challenging me, “Babe, stop thinking about the things that could go wrong and think about what could go right.”
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:00] Wait, that sounds like a line I use. Did you take my line and use it for your own weird investment scheme, Camila?
Camila: [00:29:09] No, no.
Chris: [00:29:15] And yeah, I remember driving home from the restaurant thinking like, “Wow, okay, I feel like we can actually talk about this thing now.” And I remember looking through the finances, and for sure, this house put us in a tough spot, but it’s also just all the other costs in our life. Even though we make money, I don’t think we were in a position to take on something like this when I already feel like our fixed costs are way too high.
Camila: [00:29:45] I just thought it was another phase in our relationship because we’ve had many instances like this in our 10, 11 years of being together where I’m the over optimistic, reassuring person, “It’s going to be fine, it’s going to work out.” and he’s a bit more risk-averse person. So I just thought this was one of those– because up until this point in our lives, it has.
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:13] What are the other examples where you’re the optimistic one and he’s not?
Camila: [00:30:18] Even buying this property, our primary property. We barely had the down payment for that as well. But I know I was the one that was the reassuring person that said we got to just do it. It’s going to be tight, but we’ve always found a way to make more money and make it work and make it happen.
Chris: [00:30:45] Yeah. And I don’t think we were expecting it to go up that much in value. When we first bought it, I remember thinking like, man, this is a little bit further out from the city. I hope it actually– it’s good out here. And then with COVID, it just like there’s a sense of FOMO in our market where anything that was listed was getting 10 different offers and everything was going way above listing price or asking price. So it was just like you could feel it in the city. People were just buying whatever they could buy.
And so the prices just went through the roof over the course of 60 days. A place in our townhouse complex sold for 800,000. And then 35 days later, that same unit is going for $1,000,000. It was just insane. And so we felt really good about the decision we made like, “Hey, this is great. No index fund could have done this. And look at us. Thank God we made this decision.” And so I think it was just like riding that feeling like okay–
Camila: [00:32:00] Sorry.
Chris: [00:32:01] No, go ahead.
Camila: [00:32:03] Or the other side of that, I remember just thinking now, too, was like– yeah, like what you said, capitalizing on that money that we were able to get. It’s like, what if for some reason, we– because the other option was we sold our house for that much more and we had that extra cash. Then what would we have done with it? Would we have bought a bigger property than at that point with that extra cash? That was the other option that we were looking at as well.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:36] Out of curiosity, if you had sold at that time, how much would you have in the bank right now?
Chris: [00:32:46] We would have had about 400,000 to 420,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:53] How much do you have in the bank right now?
Chris: [00:32:57] Cash?
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:01] Mm-hmm.
Chris: [00:33:01] Maybe 12,000, 13,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:08] I don’t usually find it useful to look back and wonder what if because, hindsight’s 2020 and all that. But just from outlining the different options you could have taken, the different paths you could have chosen, what occurs to you?
Camila: [00:33:30] I mean, there was a very safe, comfortable avenue to go with, but we decided to go with what seems like the hardest, most high-risk option instead.
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:45] And high risk gets you what?
Camila: [00:33:52] Well, you could win big, but you could also lose big.
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:56] [Narration]
Here’s what I noticed from their experience. First, they’re very candid, very self-perceptive. They’re mostly honest about what they did and why they did it. I also noticed that there’s a lot of hot emotions. I don’t think they sound frenetic, but they definitely got carried away by all the hype surrounding real estate, particularly in their area.
And you can hear this in the stories they tell about how everyone was talking about real estate, how proud people would be that they bought a second house, how jealous they might be of other people. And I remember what this is like because the same thing happened in Sacramento.
Sacramento is one of those boomtowns like Phoenix, Vegas, etc., that go boom and it goes bust. And there’s a variety of reasons that that happens there. I remember during the boom ’06, ’07, there would be developments in a neighborhood. People would be standing in line to put their names in a lottery. And if you won the lottery, you got the chance to buy the house.
Just think about that. Think about how supply and demand are affected when somebody’s selling something, in this case, the developer, makes you stand in line to put an offer down on a house. And you know what people said? They said this all the time. They would say, “Well, we got to put an offer in now because it’s going to go up by $50,000 next month. It’s going up $50,000 every month.” And then they would say, “If we don’t get in now, we might get priced out.”
I want you to think about that. In what other part of life would you say that? Would you say that about peanut butter? No. And if peanut butter gets too expensive, what do you do? You don’t use it or you find it cheaper alternative.
But when it comes to housing, people narrow their vision. It’s almost like they got punched and your field of vision starts to narrow. That’s what they do with housing. They go, “Well, Ramit, everybody needs to live somewhere. So we need to buy now. We don’t want to get priced out.”
Very true. And everybody should have affordable housing. That’s why I’m such a proponent of building way more housing to increase supply, which brings prices down. But beside that, you have other alternatives. You could rent. They go, “Why would I rent?” And this is where you can see that they’ve gone down a funnel.
If you believe that something’s going up $50,000 a month, it would be foolish not to get on board. And this is exactly how ordinary Ma and Pa put a bid in for something they can’t afford and then end up losing a ton of money because nothing goes up forever.
Chris: [00:36:49] [Interview]
We’ve talked to a realtor as well, and they still figure that we can get what we paid for. But of course, we would have hoped that it would have gone up already by now.
Camila: [00:36:59] Yeah.
Chris: [00:37:01] So it’s just hard to say what the future looks like.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:06] Mm-hmm. When they tell you that, do they factor in how much you would take home?
Chris: [00:37:14] We ran numbers on that.
Camila: [00:37:16] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:17] Okay. What did it look like?
Chris: [00:37:20] We’d be taking a pretty big hit even if we sell it for what we bought it for. When you factor in the cost we had of furnishing it and all those at the front end and now paying the fees for early termination of the mortgage as well as the realtor fees, that’s about 40,000 there.
And we had to pay GST. We had to pay a tax as if it was a new property when we bought it because they had done such extensive renovations that the government likes to collect another tax off the purchase of that. So we’re probably going to lose that and that about 40 grand right there. So all in all, we could lose like 100,000.
Camila: [00:38:06] If we listed now and–
Chris: [00:38:09] If we sell it for what we bought it at, as far as the lowest price asking price, we’d lose 100 grand.
Ramit Sethi: [00:38:15] How much was the list price that you bought it for?
Chris: [00:38:19] 796.
Ramit Sethi: [00:38:21] Okay. So you bought it for 800,000. And if you sold it for 800,000 right now, you would lose 100,000.
Chris: [00:38:31] Yep.
Ramit Sethi: [00:38:34] Do you think people know this, that if they sell a house for the same price they bought it at, they can lose $100,000?
Chris: [00:38:46] No. I don’t think so. You have to ask the right questions. You have to seek this information.
Camila: [00:38:54] It sucks. It really sucks. The one piece is dealing with all the emotional stuff with it because it was such a big deal, what it was made out to be. And then the other piece is the regret of, that’s a lot of money. But then the other piece of that, too, is it is a lot of money, but we would rather just rather cut our losses now than wait this out. And it could get better. It still could, but we don’t know that. That’s scary.
Ramit Sethi: [00:39:37] [Narration]
Huge kudos to Chris and Camila for being so honest and sharing their mistake with everyone. Let me ask you. Would you be willing to go on a podcast and share your biggest financial mistake? I really, really appreciate the couples who come on here and open themselves up to me.
I try to help them, but I think in many ways they’re actually helping all of us by being honest with their money decisions. All of us have made bad financial mistakes. And these couples are doing a service by sharing what they did and why.
Most people have never, ever considered that they can buy a house, sell it for the same price, and actually lose tens of thousands of dollars. It just doesn’t make intuitive sense. And that is exactly why I named the term phantom costs. They’re invisible, and it’s highly possible that you think you made way, way more than you actually did.
But guess what? Even if Chris and Camila lose $100,000, the realtor still gets paid, the mortgage specialist still gets paid, the bank still gets paid. You need to know this stuff. And when you face the cold, stark numbers like they are, suddenly you lose those visions of a backyard and kids playing by the pool.
Those visions evaporate. Even worse, you start to ask yourself, could we have gotten the same thing for a few thousand dollars at a hotel or even rented an Airbnb ourselves? Was it worth it? This is why I insist, for the biggest purchase of your life, you must understand how the math works. I put together a guide on knowing if you’re ready to buy a house, it’s free. I’m going to add it to the show notes.
Let’s see what we learn by running through Chris and Camila’s numbers. Before I had them come on the show, I asked them to fill out a conscious spending plan which breaks down their spending into four categories– fixed costs, investing, saving, and guilt-free spending.
You can get your own conscious spending plan and instructions for filling it out at iwt.com/episode69. Now, normally I like to see fixed costs between 50 to 60% of take home, investing 5 to 10% minimum, savings 5 to 10% minimum, and guilt-free spending between 20 to 35%. Listen in.
So how much do you have in assets?
Chris: [00:42:17] About 1.74 million.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:21] And your investments?
Chris: [00:42:25] Down to just under $11,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:29] Your savings?
Chris: [00:42:32] About 13,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:34] Mm-hm. And how much debt do you owe?
Chris: [00:42:37] 1.48 million.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:39] All right. So your total net worth is about $280,000. How old are both of you?
Camila: [00:42:47] I am 31.
Chris: [00:42:48] 33.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:49] Okay. Chris is 33. Camila is 31. And your incomes? Let’s go, Chris, then Camila.
Chris: [00:42:56] So my base salary is 135. And then my bonus, which is annual, is around 50,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:05] Okay, awesome. Camila, what’s your income?
Camila: [00:43:09] 100,000 annual salary.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:12] Great. All right, so the two of you collectively make around 280, maybe a little higher gross. And you’re in your early 30s. How do you feel about that?
Camila: [00:43:26] Pretty good, but also we are in Vancouver, so it’s just making us live a comfortable life.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:36] Chris, how do you feel about it?
Chris: [00:43:38] Yeah, same. I think 10 years ago, I would have been thrilled to know that. But now actually making that money and seeing the quality of life we have, it’s not all that impressive.
Camila: [00:43:52] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:56] I do want to say, listen, I live in high-cost-of-living cities, too. And I think for someone who doesn’t, they’re just like, “Fuck off. You make 280,000 a year. What are you talking about?” And the fact is that is a lot of money. It is. And we’ll look at your expenses. Some of the expenses you’re spending might be considered luxuries, premium things, etc.
But I do want to acknowledge that high-cost-of-living cities have expenses that are often extremely costly. I’m talking about everything from the comparative price of a sandwich to child care. It is extremely expensive. Now, you don’t have to have child care. That is a choice. Some people have the option to do a variety of things. But the fact of the matter is, living in some of these cities very, very expensive.
The least interesting thing in my life is some dude living in a city with 480 people munching on his month-old pickle, having the avatar of a piece of cheese, and then listing off all the reasons he wouldn’t ever live in New York City or LA or Vancouver. We get it, dude. You’re scared of crime at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
But at the same time, almost nobody living in these high-cost-of-living cities acknowledges that you’re wealthy. 280k a year in your 30s, you are wealthy. So let’s just get it out on the table. Let’s be honest, then we can decide what to do. Can somebody tell me the percentage of your take home that your fixed costs represent? Just before you tell me that number, as a comparison, I like to see that number between 50 to 60% of your take home. What is your number of fixed costs?
Camila: [00:45:43] 84%.
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:46] Oh, wow. Wow. Are you telling me that the conscious spending plan has automatically narrowed in on the problem here? That is so crazy. I wonder who came up with this conscious spending plan, which you can find on iwt.com/podcast. All right. So let’s take it from the top here. Your primary house mortgage costs you roughly $3,000 a month and your vacation home costs you $3,500 a month. Anybody find that interesting?
Chris: [00:46:20] Vacation home is more expensive than our primary home.
Ramit Sethi: [00:46:23] Yeah. And again, the thinking there was, we’re going to just print money and it’s going to be profitable, etc., right?
Camila: [00:46:30] It’s going to pay for itself.
Ramit Sethi: [00:46:31] It’s going to pay for itself. That’s the favorite word of people on the Internet, “It’s going to pay for itself. It cash flows.” I go, “Do you even know what that fucking word means, cash flow?” They just throw it around. There are a few words that people throw around in the financial industry that almost like, I don’t know, these Marvel comic people, but I can imagine there’s some Marvel superstar who has some trick where they throw their hands up and it just blinds people. That’s what this is. In the financial industry, these words blind people. Let me share passive income, cash flow. What else? Tax benefit. Fucking tax benefit. Radicalized anti-tax weirdos. What else? Anyone else have another one?
If you have a magic word that people use to blind others to reality in the financial world, go to my Instagram page and leave a comment there on today’s episode. I want to get a list of all these phrases people use with money. Now listen to me talk about the season of life they’re currently in. I think you might be surprised.
Overall, you’re just in this phase of life. And one thing you’ll never hear me do, I’m not going to berate some two young parents who are like, I don’t have a lot of time. I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for you to do what you do with your kids. You really nailed it, Camila, when you said, “This is our season of life right now. It might be a little more expensive. It might be a little less time.” But if you can have a long vision, you’ll get through this part.
Camila: [00:48:17] It’s a different thing every month. It’s like, oh, kids are going to start a dance class. Okay, that’s $100 a month extra. Oh, we got to buy a uniform. Oh, Halloween’s coming up. Let’s get costumes, birthdays, just random life stuff.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:33] Does it feel like it’s one step forward, two steps back?
Camila: [00:48:36] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:42] Well, that’s common in different parts of life. Having kids is very common. I think if you had more time and more room to breathe, the two of you would be able to zoom out and think further than the 50 feet that you’re thinking ahead. Right now very much feels like you’re driving in the fog. You can only see 50 feet ahead of you.
And one of the things that I get to do with you is to help you see beyond that. If you had time and energy, you would be able to focus on what’s going to happen every month for the next 12 months. There’s a class that we’re going to enroll in here, and there’s a Halloween costume. Let’s plan for it. Let’s put a little money aside. What would that feel like versus what you’re doing today?
Camila: [00:49:32] Oh, my God, it feel so good. Sense of relief and just confidence, the at-peace feeling like you just know there’s a plan in place. Yeah, we’ve just never done that. I feel that seems so far off at this point.
Ramit Sethi: [00:49:54] [Narration]
When people have young children, their savings rate drops. It’s very predictable. And that’s okay. There are seasons of life where you can’t be this super-disciplined machine. When you have kids, most people are just trying to get by. And if they have to cut their savings rate by a few percentage points to make life easier, fine.
The important thing is to acknowledge that and to make a plan. And it might go something like this, “For the next two years, we’re going to cut our monthly savings from $500 a month to $200 a month. And we’re going to spend that $300 a month on other expenses. It might be hiring a babysitter, maybe it might be things we can’t even predict right now. And we know that this won’t last forever. But this change is going to help us get through the next couple of years. And after that, we will return to our normal savings rate.”
Let’s discuss what we can discuss now, which is that every month you’re spending more than you make and it’s likely to get worse. Would we agree?
Camila: [00:51:07] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:10] It’s going to get worse because you have winter coming. What else?
Chris: [00:51:16] That feels like the big one. It’s a big ticket item. With winter coming, we’re not going to collect as much and come from the rental.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:24] What about the non-financial part? What’s going to get worse about that?
Chris: [00:51:31] Just the stress.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:33] Yeah, it’s no fun.
Chris: [00:51:36] We don’t have a lot of capacity for any more stress in our life, so–
Camila: [00:51:42] We’re not going to get any less busier either.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:51] Boy, that’s a really great point you just made. Sometimes our future selves, we eat perfectly, we work out every day, we’re perfect parents and friends and sons and daughters and all that. But I think what you just said, Camila, is right on the money. The best predictor of our future selves is our current self.
But let’s give ourselves a little bit of grace that you’re not terrible people. It’s a really hard time, right? I don’t run marathons, but I would imagine mile 20 to 24, oh, wow, that must be really hard. But you know that you’re going to get through it if you can keep putting one step in front of the other. But what else? Camila, why are you stressed out? Why are you spending all this money on food? Why do you both feel so tired?
Camila: [00:52:45] Because we’re dealing with too many things on our plate. And one of them is the vacation home.
Ramit Sethi: [00:52:51] Very good. It’s not often that I talk to some couple and one of the issues they have is like a blaring red light and we can instantly identify it and we can just chop it off. It seems pretty obvious to me that this vacation house is a problem. You’re losing money. It’s not really living up to the story you told yourself that it was going to be passive and print money and whatever. So what is stopping you from immediately selling this? What’s going through your mind?
Camila: [00:53:31] It’s just the loss of funds. You heard the number. That’s $100,000 that if we did sell it now and got that number, that’s a big chunk of money that we’re for sure going to lose versus there’s a chance of us salvaging that still, if the market picked up again and we worked really hard to get rentals for winter. Just it’s a bunch of them. If there’s a will, there’s a way. I would need to spend time in pulling together another marketing strategy or just coming up with a business plan like again.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:09] Are you selling this on Airbnb?
Camila: [00:54:11] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:15] All right. Are you aware of what’s going on with Airbnb and all the owners who are not getting any rentals anymore?
Camila: [00:54:20] No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:21] Okay. How do I know more about Airbnbs than you do?
Camila: [00:54:25] When do I have time to read on things because this is very current? Oh, my goodness.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:29] Okay, so you don’t have time to read the Airbnb forums and stuff like that, but you’re going to come up with a magical marketing strategy for the winter.
Camila: [00:54:40] Apparently, now I feel very dumb.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:43] You don’t have to feel dumb. Not everybody keeps totally current. This is my business. And I love to hear what’s going on with the real estate market. I love it when it’s going up. I definitely love it when it’s going down and I want to know what’s going on.
So maybe not everyone’s like that, but you do have an Airbnb that’s costing you thousands of dollars every month. It’s definitely a problem that you’re not aware of what’s going on in the market. And I think it’s possible, although it might be optimistic thinking to believe that some magical marketing strategy will fill up this Airbnb at the rates you need. But I also think that what we’re seeing is this dynamic play out of Camila comes up with, if we just try harder, we can make it work. Do you see that trend playing out here? She’s nodding here.
Camila: [00:55:44] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:46] But is there a different way to make big financial decisions in a relationship besides one person is optimistic and says we should do this because it’ll work out in the end and the other person says, I don’t know. All right, fine. I’ll do it because I want you to be happy.
Chris: [00:56:03] You could probably take a bit more of an objective outlook on something. Just really run the numbers and compare these numbers. Is this aligned with where we want to be? Where do we want to be in five years, 10 years?
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:16] You’re telling me that you’re suggesting for the biggest purchases of your life you should actually run the numbers? Hold on a second. This is blowing my mind. Camila, what do you think?
Camila: [00:56:31] I remember running the numbers, but I don’t remember– and correct me if I’m wrong, Chris, but I don’t remember you taking a crack at it on your own, too. And I don’t want to say that to call you out, but I did my own version of running the numbers and then you looked at it and you gave feedback as well. But I don’t recall you taking a crack at it in the same way that I did.
Chris: [00:57:11] Yeah. I mean, I think that’s because I didn’t want to really do this. When we talked about running the numbers in hindsight, looking at this, we looked at monthly operating costs type of numbers, like how much could we get from rent, how much are the monthly utilities, mortgage? But I think what we missed was like, what does this look like in four years, five years, six years? What are we trying to get out of this thing instead of can we survive on a monthly basis if we do this?
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:48] Well. Do you see any similarities with what you’re doing right now and how you made this decision to buy a vacation house?
Camila: [00:57:54] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:55] What do you see?
Camila: [00:57:57] There’s no long-term planning.
Ramit Sethi: [00:58:00] Yeah. No vision. You’re living month to month and you’re looking 50 feet ahead, and you’ve been doing it for so long that now that’s all you know. But I am also saying it’s not that surprising that you feel behind and busy. And objectively speaking, you’re losing money every single month. That’s a problem. So you tell me, what would you like to do?
Chris: [00:58:27] Just have a better plan. I just feel like we’ve gone so far in one direction and we’ve got this mess. I feel like the mess needs to be cleaned up even if it means that we come out of it with some very expensive lessons that we’ve had to learn. But just to have simplicity, almost in like here’s what we do, is what we spend money on, just have a plan and really think about how like– we’re doing this for a purpose because in five years, we want to have X or we want to be in X position, I feel like there’s some cleanup that needs to be done.
Camila: [00:59:18] It almost seems too good to be true. But I want that. The simplicity, I desire that.
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:29] The more advanced I’ve become with money, the more I’ve had to fight for simplicity. And I would imagine that you both intuitively understand this as parents. The more children you have and the older they get, you have to fight for simplicity. Otherwise, you’ll just have a bunch of stuff in your house, endless amounts of stuff. You’re both nodding.
Chris: [00:59:53] Mm-hmm.
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:55] So you get it. The same is true of parenting. The same is true of money. I have a million different things I could do. Some of it could be all these weird investment options. Some of it could be as simple as let me open up an Amazon credit card because I would get $800 cashback over the next year. That sounds like a lot of money.
But when I think about all the stuff I would have to do to maintain that, and what if I forget the number, and what if I lose the card and all the stuff I go, “Is it worth it for me? No.” So I have to fight for simplicity, sometimes turning down free money.
And I think when I look at the way you set your money up is so complicated that you can’t even put all the expenses on this spreadsheet. And it’s so complicated that the way you talk about it has no joy. It’s just stress. And I don’t want that for you.
I want you to actually feel really good about money. I want when you go to sushi that the two of you are like, “Hey, we can get steak tonight. We already planned for it. Let’s not worry about it because our investments are being handled. Even our debt is being paid off and we can still live a rich life today.” Camila, tell me what’s going through your mind right now.
Camila: [01:01:14] Yeah, I think it’s just when you say, “Fight for simplicity,” that just resonates so much.
Ramit Sethi: [01:01:43] Do you want to do it together?
Chris: [01:01:46] Mm-hmm.
Camila: [01:01:49] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [01:01:51] All right. Anything else on your mind, Camila? You look like you’re very deep in thought. I want to hear what you’re thinking.
Camila: [01:01:58] No, just that was it. Ultimately, again, I feel like I’m a preacher here. That’s my new word that I’m going after is just at peace. It’s like you’re right. Everything that you just said, our money is so complicated. We can’t even organize our expenses. I don’t want it to be like that. Even if it does mean there’s $100,000 of debt that we’re trying to pay down, it seems counterintuitive, but if that is going to simplify a bunch of things, it’s weird that I get how that works, even though it sucks. Does that make sense?
Ramit Sethi: [01:02:53] Yeah, everything you said makes perfect sense. Sometimes in order to go forward, you have to take a couple of steps back. The thing that also stands out to me, which I don’t think you both have reckoned with, is that you have high incomes. And so even though you may have made a financial mistake, a high income solves a lot of financial problems. You two are so young that you have a long life ahead of you. And I think we can make some changes that will really enable you to thrive.
Isn’t it fascinating that the big houses, the cars, the sushi, the vacations, all these things are what get glorified as things that should be our end goal? But when I mentioned simplicity, Camila started crying. If you had to describe what a rich life is for you in a single word, what would it be?
Now back to Chris and Camila. Open up the conscious spending plan. Let’s look at it together and you two can come up with a plan. I’ll advise on what you want to do. So I see both of you are in there. All right. So look at it and tell me what your options are.
Camila: [01:04:20] Removing the vacation home is one.
Chris: [01:04:24] I think we’re both ready to take that step.
Camila: [01:04:26] I’m ready to take that step.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:28] Okay. Do it and let’s see what happens. What I want you to do is remove it and look at that 84%. See what happens to the number. Can you tell me what was the before number in your fixed cost and what’s the after number?
Camila: [01:04:45] 84 to 76.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:48] Okay. So you went from 84% fixed costs to 76%. What do you think about that?
Camila: [01:05:01] It’s a good start.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:03] It’s a good start. I agree. I say we give everybody a round of applause so far. All right, I’ll take the win. It’s going in the right direction, at least. Still a little high. Talk to me about your other options.
Camila: [01:05:19] Child care is one that’s going to get affected once in December and then once next September.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:30] So play that out for me. What’s going to happen in September?
Camila: [01:05:33] So in December, it’s going to drop to 2,360 because of a new government credit.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:44] And how is that going to change your fixed cost number?
Camila: [01:05:48] So we’re down to 69%.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:53] Whoa. That’s pretty good. All right. And then what about the rest?
Chris: [01:05:56] I imagine that goes down to about 1,800.
Camila: [01:06:00] Let’s say 1,800 to be fixed.
Chris: [01:06:02] So 65% now.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:07] That’s pretty good. We’re within striking distance. Although it’s going to take a while for you to get there. What else? Keep going.
Camila: [01:06:16] I don’t really see anything else.
Chris: [01:06:17] We spend a lot of money on food and online shopping and–
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:23] Really? Online shopping. How much could that be cut down by?
Chris: [01:06:31] Pretty conservatively, probably 200 to 300 a month.
Camila: [01:06:35] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:36] Which one is it? 200 or 300?
Chris: [01:06:38] Call it 200 because that’s more conservative.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:40] Make the change. I like it. I like being conservative. Very good. I don’t want you to go from 60 miles an hour to zero overnight. I like being conservative. Slow. Gradual. Well, what are we at right now in fixed cost?
Camila: [01:06:51] 63%.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:53] That feels pretty amazing to me. Can we do another round of applause, please because you went from 84 to 63? Wow. Test. Test.
This is such a great example of the IWT process at work. We could have jumped right into the conscious spending plan, but if we did that, it would just be some guy berating them and telling them all the areas of life they should stop spending money on. So instead, we spent a lot of time digging into why they’re in this current situation and how they see money, and even what their vision of a rich life is. And now that we’re getting to the numbers, everything is so much easier. They can literally change their lives in 10 minutes.
Let’s look at your guilt-free spending, which is just called everything else. Holy shit. Am I reading this right? It’s 5,000 a month?
Chris: [01:07:47] We’re actually spending closer to like 6,600 a month on this category.
Ramit Sethi: [01:07:53] So this seems like an opportunity that has a lot of places you could cut. Would you agree?
Chris: [01:07:58] Yes.
Camila: [01:07:59] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [01:07:59] Like what? Sushi.
Camila: [01:08:02] Yeah, the amount of times we do take out.
Ramit Sethi: [01:08:06] How are you going to do that so it’s not just a wish, but it’s actually going to be something that you follow through on? Who’s meal prepping?
Camila: [01:08:15] No one right now.
Ramit Sethi: [01:08:16] Well, let’s make a decision. Who’s going to meal prep and when is it going to happen?
Chris: [01:08:25] We’re laughing because no one wants to commit to this right now.
Ramit Sethi: [01:08:29] Well, I know you’ve been living in the fog for so long that when I’m asking you to actually make a plan for something ahead, it’s really hard to think like that. So come up with a way that both of you feel good about it.
Camila: [01:08:44] If we actually do it together, I would do it. I just can’t do it by myself.
Chris: [01:08:53] I do feel like that’s the only way it’s going to work is if we’re doing this together.
Ramit Sethi: [01:08:59] When?
Chris: [01:09:01] I mean, I feel like Sunday–
Camila: [01:09:02] When the kids go to bed.
Chris: [01:09:03] Sunday’s probably– man, it’s hard. This is hard for me.
Ramit Sethi: [01:09:11] It’s supposed to be hard.
Camila: [01:09:14] It’ll be at night at some point.
Ramit Sethi: [01:09:16] What day?
Camila: [01:09:17] Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, if we do Sunday, we just have to commit. It’s like a no-fly zone for any plans whatsoever for other people, which I’m okay with. It becomes just a family ritual that we do meal prep on Sundays.
Ramit Sethi: [01:09:32] That is correct.
Camila: [01:09:33] It screws us over for the weekend. We’re only available other nights of the week.
Ramit Sethi: [01:09:40] Yep. Now, you could adapt it. You could say, “Oh, we can join you after 8PM, whatever, but the time for this is sacred for the two of you because you can see that if you don’t create a time that’s on your calendar and both of you honor it that it trickles into every other part of the week and it all starts to add up into you losing money every single month.
It’s funny, we have a couple who make 280,000 a year. They have over $1,000,000 in real estate. And here we are talking about who buys the cereal. But I want you to notice what’s going on here. We spent a lot of time on the vision, the big picture.
Now, to make this a reality, we have to get into the absolute tiniest details, including what time they’re going to get their groceries every Sunday. Behavior change is this beautiful combination of high, low. It’s big picture and excruciatingly small details. And I am infinitely patient at this point because I know we’re at the cusp of a huge breakthrough.
My proposal is build your plan for at least six days a week. That would be my recommendation. And then at least on your seventh day, you have something to look forward to, etc. But I would not just give yourself two days because two days often turns into three days and now you’re basically back where you are right now. So my suggestion would be like a big meal prep Sunday and then a mini meal prep Thursday. But that’s up to you.
Camila: [01:11:24] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:25] 2 hours. Let’s be conservative. How’s the food getting to your place?
Camila: [01:11:33] Yeah. I mean, we played around with grocery delivery or those actual meal kits.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:40] Don’t do the meal kits. You guys can’t afford that. What else?
Camila: [01:11:44] Grocery delivery.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:45] Okay, you want–
Camila: [01:11:46] Costco.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:48] Which one? Guys, can we just make some decisions? I hate this indecision. It’s driving me insane. What did we say 10 minutes ago? Fight for simplicity. We can’t even pick where we’re getting the groceries from.
Chris: [01:12:01] I would say, let’s go to the grocery store. Let’s go to Costco. Let’s buy them where it’s cheaper.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:09] Okay. What time are you going to Costco on Sundays? It got really quiet.
Chris: [01:12:15] Sunday morning.
Camila: [01:12:18] Sunday morning.
Chris: [01:12:18] Sunday morning with the kids go, or one of us goes and the other one stays.
Camila: [01:12:25] Yeah, we’re on with that. Sunday morning.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:29] Can you guys just tell me what’s the decision? No, we’re not going to play around with it. You guys, come on. You make $300,000 a year. Just tell me what your plan is.
Camila: [01:12:38] Sunday morning, we’re all going together.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:41] All right, So you do the Costco thing. Great. I mean, you guys just want a meal prep right then you come home, you just do it, or you want to wait till night?
The reason I’m pushing them for clarity on the details is that if they don’t get crystal clear on how they’re going to implement this, the entire plan will fall apart. You all know what I mean. Think of the last time you decided to do something new. Maybe it was start a fitness journey or learn a new language. That is the time where you’re at your most vulnerable because your body and your mind will do anything to bring you back to a place of comfort.
“Oops, I forgot I don’t have a clean gym shirt. I guess that means I can’t work out today.” Wrong. You can work out wearing a normal cotton shirt. But more importantly, what we want to do here is walk through every single step of what you’re likely to encounter so you can visualize success and also any potential barriers.
Camila: [01:13:49] Well, Chris isn’t going to like this, but we could do it when the kids snap.
Chris: [01:13:57] Yeah. I mean, look, it’s got to be done like– I think what’s important is thinking about this. It’s not just about like we need to eat better. We’re doing this for a reason. From the financial aspect, it gives it a purpose. So that helps fight the want for convenience.
Camila: [01:14:20] If you’re going to go at this with excitement with me.
Chris: [01:14:26] I think she’s going to be excited.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:29] I have to say, I think you both seem pretty enthusiastic just to share my perspective. I do notice it’s fun going through this exercise because it really tells me a lot about how you make decisions. For example, you both are totally in tune with the other, like, “Oh, we have to do it around when they nap or like what a family calls on Sunday.” You know what’s going on in each other’s lives, which is beautiful.
At the same time, you both kick the can down the road. You’re like, “We’ll have to figure that out.” I’m like, “Let’s just figure it out right now.” And I notice a lack of decisive actions and that’s what will trap you. I want you to start investing money every month. You’re going to have to start paying off some debt, probably.
And every month you check in with each other. Okay, we may have debt. How are we tracking? We know that it’s supposed to be paid off in this many months or years. How are we tracking? How are our investments doing? Each month you’re building up a little buffer. You’re also paying down any debt that you may have. And most importantly, you have a future.
You can see this is when we’re going to be zero. This is when we’re going to have $1,000,000. You can create these milestones and you can know the exact month and year. That’s how you do it. How would that feel to be able to do that? Camila first then Chris.
Camila: [01:15:47] Really exciting. Just to come up with a plan like that and just actually see it, I think we would actually be energized to stick to a plan.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:04] Yeah. Chris.
Chris: [01:16:07] Just to get out of the fog. It just give that confidence and peace of mind and purpose to everything that we do so that when you sacrifice you feel like it’s actually for something.
Camila: [01:16:22] Yeah. I agree.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:25] Okay, great. So you’ve got a plan. Sounds like in the next 5 to 10 days, you’re going to assign things, milestones, come up with a decision. Sounds good to me. Great.
Chris: [01:16:36] I’m okay with it especially if we know it’s by design, then that changes everything.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:43] That’s exactly right. What a great comment. Great comment, Chris. We are willing to take on situations that might even be unthinkable to other people if we know that we chose it and if we know that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, there’s just not. But with these changes, oh, my gosh, you wouldn’t believe how much the two of you can handle together knowing that you have chosen this path and you’re in control.
It is such a joy to hear my lessons really sink in like this. And we went on to run the investment calculator and with some back-of-the-napkin math, it was apparent that they could have an easy $3 million by the time they turn 60, and we tweaked them and that number turned into $6 million. This is what’s at stake for Chris and Camila. We are talking millions and millions of dollars.
Now, we didn’t spend much time on their investments because they aren’t adding to them with this vacation house weighing them down. But it was important that I show them this calculation as one of the final pieces here, that they may have to make uncomfortable decisions in the short term. But there’s a much bigger, rich life vision that they are working towards.
After our call, Chris and Camila sent me follow-up messages. You can read the full follow-ups at iwt.com/followups. But here’s what Chris said, “Top lesson for us was to have a clear why behind our decision making. Meal prepping on a Sunday when all we want to do is relax is hard, but it’s only hard because it’s being viewed as a burden and a shitty task that needs doing.
“I’m changing my mindset to something more like, ‘We are meal prepping today because we want to pay ourselves more via investing and saving, ultimately to become millionaires, retire young and do whatever we want.'” You can read the full letters at iwt.com/followups. And thank you for listening to I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
Ramit Sethi: [01:19:03] Thanks for listening to I Will Teach You to Be Rich. I’m Ramit Sethi. Please follow the show on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you haven’t read, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, my book, pick up a copy. You can get it at any bookstore or any library, and it will show you the specific tactics for how to build the I Will Teach You to Be Rich system into your personal finances.