Episode 70. My husband thinks savings for our kids’ education is a waste of money
Amy wants to put money away for their kids’ college funds. She’s shocked when her husband, Gaby, says no—and that “the kids can figure it out themselves.” They’re in their mid 30s with a household income of $115,000 in the Miami area. In today’s episode, we cover money psychology, class, and creating a vision of a shared Rich Life.
Tools mentioned in this episode
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:00] How do you feel about money in general?
Gaby: [00:00:02] I don’t like to think about it or care about it. I don’t really pay attention to where my money goes and what she does with it and stuff.
Amy: [00:00:11] It would be nice for him to take a little more initia– not initiative, but a little more interest in the money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:20] Is there a question there?
Amy: [00:00:22] Not really, because I know what the answer is, “Oh, but you do it so much better and I don’t want to deal with it.”
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:32] And you accept that?
Amy: [00:00:34] It is what it is sort of thing.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:37] What happens in 15, 20 years from now?
Amy: [00:00:40] I get tired of making all the decisions. I get burnt out.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:45] Amy and Gaby are in their mid-30s and they have two young children in the Miami area. Gaby is the primary income for the family, but he is totally disconnected from money.
In this episode, we’re going to touch on a topic that we have danced around but we haven’t really explicitly confronted, and that is class. In America, it’s taboo to talk about class. We can buy fancy cars. We can post pictures of Bora Bora, but it’s considered off-limits to talk about how class affects us. In fact, many people consider America post class.
Now, one of the books that really guides some of this conversation today is a book by Jessi Streib called The Power of the Past. And I want to read you a quick excerpt. Jessi says, “There are many myths about social class. One myth is that class has nothing to do with love and marriage. Subscribers to this belief assume that love is blind to class or that Cupid’s arrow falls randomly. They suppose that two unique individuals begin a life together free from the contaminating force of social class.”
So in today’s episode, I want you to try to put on the lenses of social class as well as money, as well as psychology, and all the other things we talk about on this podcast. And I love the title of that book I referenced, The Power of the Past, because on every episode, every couple I’ve spoken to, we realize that we are not simply logical, rational people making decisions based on a spreadsheet.
The power of the past affects us all. Today we start our conversation with Amy wanting to put money aside for their children’s education, but Gaby disagrees. I’m Ramit Sethi, and this is I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
What is your position when it comes to paying for the kid’s education?
Amy: [00:02:46] We pay for it. They’re ours, they’re our responsibility. We should be able to do what we can. For me, for my school, it was always known that I was going to college. That was always a given. And I think my parents said to me at one point, we’ll pay for your four year. Anything after four years is on you. So I would like to be able to do that as well for our children.
Ramit Sethi: [00:03:12] Okay. Got it. Gaby, what is your understanding of paying for kids’ education?
Gaby: [00:03:20] I went to a very expensive school. So to me, it’s like it was a massive burden because I essentially paid for my own school through student loans. And then it was a massive burden on me. I can’t imagine having to pay for like two of my kids, like, “Oh no, man,” I already went through it myself and I feel I have to live through it two more times with them. It seems pretty rough on me. I want to enjoy now. And then let them, they can figure it out, I think maybe.
Amy: [00:03:57] And my thought is, let’s work so it’s not a burden for anyone by the time that they get to school. I had no student loans, and when I met Gaby, he was paying $900 a month towards student loans. So that was a big like, “What! You have to pay.” That just didn’t compute to me and I’d prefer to let our children get settled when they graduate instead of having this huge burden.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:26] Do you believe you should pay for your kids’ college? Let me guess. Some of you instantly said, of course, just like Amy. And some of you said, no way. Kids need to work. If it’s just given to them, they don’t appreciate it. Some of you might have rolled your eyes and said, “Pay with what? I’m just trying to get my own money in order.” I think your answer is actually quite revealing. If your instant response was, of course, I would be willing to bet you were raised with educated parents in an upper middle-class or wealthy household.
The idea that you pay for your children’s college is a value that is closely held by some of those groups. By the way, if you’re Indian, I already know the answer. It is, of course, yes, because Indian parents will spend virtually anything on their children’s education. A few years ago, I visited the slum of Dharavi, Asia’s second-largest slum where many of the poorest of India’s poor live.
And I learned there that many parents send their children to the equivalent of private schools. I found it fascinating because you imagine that, if you don’t have anything, you’re simply just taking every dollar you have and using it to live. No, no, not the case. And it really opened my eyes to how people choose to spend their money at all different levels of income.
Now, if you grew up poor and nobody in your family went to college, it’s likely this wasn’t even a question that your family ever considered. It would be like rewinding 30 years ago and asking my parents if they prefer staying at a Ritz-Carlton or a Four Seasons hotel. They would just laugh. What? We’re just trying to get by. Four seasons?
So when I ask you if you think you will pay for your kids’ college, this is about more than money. It’s more than just a financial decision because your financial decisions often reveal who you are. Let me give you an excerpt from The Power of the Past, again by Jessi Streib, “In general, those who were born into professional, white collar families had sensibilities that I call managerial. They preferred to plan, deliberate, mull over and organize their resources, their children and their daily lives.
“Their partners with blue-collar roots typically had different sensibilities. Those I call laissez faire. They preferred to feel free from self constraint rather than wanting to analyze, plan or meticulously organize their lives, they preferred to go with the flow and live in the moment.”
My point is that we often think our decisions about money are logical and rational and based on numbers, when in reality you and I are deeply influenced by the culture we grew up in, the class we were raised in, and the politics we absorbed.
Think about the last 24 hours of your life, how you tip, where you live, where you might be going on vacation, even what’s in your living room. These are determined not just by how much is in your bank account, but the way that you grew up. So, will you pay for your children’s education? Your answer to that, I think, is quite revealing. And if you keep probing, you might discover other surprises about your money beliefs.
Gaby, what was it like graduating from this university you went to? How much was your debt?
Gaby: [00:08:05] A little over $120,000 is what I took out.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:09] Okay, 120k. Did you know how much you were taking out when you took it out?
Gaby: [00:08:14] Yes. And my school didn’t educate me too well, and I took out more than I needed. So I used that to live off of, pay rent, food, and whatnot.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:28] So you were paying 900 bucks a month. How long did it take you to pay it off?
Gaby: [00:08:31] I want to say it took about a little over 10 years, maybe 11 years is how long it took.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:36] It doesn’t sound like that much.
Amy: [00:08:38] Well, because I went aggressive with paying it off the last two years.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:44] You both are 36 years old?
Amy: [00:08:45] Yes.
Gaby: [00:08:46] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:47] Does that feel like a long time to pay off debt basically 14 years?
Amy: [00:08:52] When I didn’t have any, yeah. I walked away from school without any debt. So to me, I don’t like debt. We paid off our cars. We’re driving our cars. I don’t want to add another payment in. I wanted to get rid of the student loans, we got rid of the student loans. We worked through it, and it took time. But to me, that’s one more check that I don’t need to write essentially.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:21] What do you make in now, Gaby?
Gaby: [00:09:23] I make about 105k a year.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:27] All right. And then the same question for you, Amy. When you graduated from college, what were you earning?
Amy: [00:09:34] I was probably earning around $40,000. And then I probably got up to about $50,000. And then when we were having my son about five years ago, I decided to step away. I didn’t think the jobs stress was worth the money, and I had no plans of being a stay-at-home mom, but that’s where we are right now and we’re comfortable. So that’s what we’ve been doing.
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:06] I’m guessing you sat down and talked about paying for their education, etc. And what was that conversation like? Was it heated? Was it cool? Did you pull out spreadsheets? What was it like?
Amy: [00:10:18] I honestly don’t remember, but I remember it not being heated, just like, “Oh, that’s crazy talk.” Of course, our kids’ going to go to college and we’re going to cover what we can.
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:30] Notice that. That’s a huge clue. Amy said, “Oh, that’s crazy talk.” The idea of not paying for their kid’s college was inconceivable to her because to her, in her family structure, that was inconceivable. This is how cultural traditions and rituals and beliefs are handed down. And in a way, I think it’s a beautiful thing to see. We can actually see how a family culture is transmitted. She says, “Of course, our kids are going to go to college and we’re going to cover it.” Gaby, however, does not see it that way.
And Gaby, what do you remember?
Gaby: [00:11:11] Uh, I just remember–
Amy: [00:11:13] Exactly what you said two days ago.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:17] I want to hear from Gaby.
Amy: [00:11:18] Okay.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:19] [Narration]
Another clue. Did you catch that? File it away. Now back to Gaby.
Gaby: [00:11:26] I remember it just being something so stressful like, I don’t want to deal with that now. I don’t want to have to pay for that. It’s something so far and long down the road. I feel like our kids could maybe not go to college or choose another career path or something. I don’t know if it’s worth the investment so soon. There’s so many unknowns.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:56] And when you said that, what do you remember Amy’s reaction being?
Gaby: [00:12:05] I’m pretty sure she would never take my financial advice.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:10] Why is that?
Gaby: [00:12:12] Oh, because I’ve scraped by after college. I did fine right after college, but then there was some years where I just scraped by. And I would say I was definitely irresponsible when taken out tons of debt in student loan debt. My tuition was like 70k, but I ended up with like 120k. I wasn’t really that responsible. I was just taking advantage of the situation. So–
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:41] Taking advantage or taken advantage? Which one?
Gaby: [00:12:44] Both, I would say. I would definitely say the school just went bankrupt, they no longer exist.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:53] What! Which school is this? Can you tell me?
Gaby: [00:12:56] Oh, yes. The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
Ramit Sethi: [00:13:01] Didn’t you say this was some elite school?
Gaby: [00:13:04] I thought it was. The Art Institute is a fairly known university, and they’re very well schools, like good schools and good artists go there, but they also scam their students to take out massive loans.
Ramit Sethi: [00:13:17] All right. So you had this conversation. Did you agree on anything when you were talking about whether to pay for your newborn’s college education or not?
Amy: [00:13:28] I had come into some money from an inheritance and I wanted to put some of it aside for our kid. I don’t know if I was pregnant at the time or we knew that that was the next step. So I think that that’s probably what sparked it. I was like, “I have five grand. I want to put it towards our kid. Most likely for their college,” and that’s it.
And essentially what he said, “But also they can join the military and they can figure it out.” And I was like, “No, that’s not what I want to do.”
Ramit Sethi: [00:14:01] So, Gabby, is that the thought that they can join the military rather than pay for college?
Gaby: [00:14:10] That option was given to me. I took that option. I was in the military. There’s alternate routes. I’m just scared they’re going to get sucked into a trap like I did and like I saw my other friends in school. Amy knew some of my college friends who went to the Art Institute as well, and they don’t do as well as me. So I don’t want them to get sucked into some kind of trap like I did.
Ramit Sethi: [00:14:43] This is a little concerning to me. I’m not sure Gabby is taking the right lessons away from his college experience, and I’m not sure he’s really thought this through. I sense a lot of vibes, “My college was a rip off. Some of my friends didn’t even get good jobs. Therefore, college is a waste of money and I don’t want to pay for our kids.”
When people get into this random vibe-based reasoning, it is absolutely pointless to go deeper. People feel strongly about something. They’re not going to change their mind when confronted directly. So I’m going to loop back and go wide. I asked Gabby a simple question.
How do you feel about money in general?
Gaby: [00:15:24] I don’t like to think about it or care about it. I don’t really pay attention to where my money goes and what she does with it and stuff.
Amy: [00:15:34] I will say he’s good with money. It’s not the sense that he’s overspending. I think it was he fell into that, “How do I pay for college? This is what I want to do. This is a dream of mine. This is what I want to do. This is how I do it. I need to pay for it. So I’m going to get out loans.” When I started to stay at home, I took over all of our finances and I handled everything, so he’s very much taken a step back. But when were–
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:07] Amy, why did you do that?
Amy: [00:16:10] Because I had the time.
Gaby: [00:16:12] Uh-huh.
Amy: [00:16:13] When we got married, it was a given that we were putting our money together. We joke around now, but I gave him six grand for his car when we were engaged. And some people are like, “You’re not even married yet.” But it was just a given that my money is his money. And it’s not that he had nothing. He had some. I definitely had more, but it was ours no matter what.
Gaby: [00:16:39] I used to stress about the next job, the next payment. When am I going to get money for this? And that constant hunt for work and then when I finally got this job, not having to worry about all of that was so nice. And then the fact that she then has all this extra time and then she’s taken over everything I’m like, “Oh man, this is great. I don’t even think about it anymore.”
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:04] Do you like money?
Gaby: [00:17:08] Not really.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:09] Tell me more.
Gaby: [00:17:13] I feel like it gets in the way a lot.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:16] Of?
Gaby: [00:17:18] People making decisions and people enjoying themselves.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:23] First of all, if you’re in the fire community or if you’ve read more than five personal finance books, I’m pretty sure your jaw is on the floor right now. To hear someone actually doesn’t like money, you’re like, “What? Why?” And I can already see you gearing up to give your big lecture. Do you understand how important money is? It’s all about compounding. If you start now and you invest 15%, you also increase that number 1% every year plus factor and raises. And of course, we already know inflation is covered by 27% returns. You could actually have millions of dollars, seriously. Plus you can layer on specific. Haha. Shut the fuck up, please. Please shut up.
Some people just do not care about money. I love Gaby admitting it because he’s being honest about it. But I will say, I think there’s a twist. I actually think people do care about money if you can reach them in the right way. It probably won’t be with a lecture on compound interest, though. What I wanted to do was zoom in on an offhand comment Gaby made. He said, “I don’t have to worry about money.” Notice that assumption that if you pay attention to money, you’re worried about it.
Do you think that I worry about my money?
Gaby: [00:18:40] I would assume so, yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:18:42] What if I told you I didn’t?
Gaby: [00:18:44] That’s nice. I’m assuming you probably have some kind of process or systems in place that you’ve gotten comfortable with that you manage that put all the pieces together for you so you don’t have to worry about it. I assume Amy’s the one that’s doing that for me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:05] Ah, that’s interesting. You assume. You don’t know, but maybe she is. Maybe not.
Gaby: [00:19:10] I don’t know. I think that I’m rich, is the way that I see it. So that’s why I don’t worry about it because I always tell Amy that I feel like I am rich.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:21] Because what?
Gaby: [00:19:23] Because I feel I’ve hit a milestone where I remember growing up, I wasn’t a middle-class family. And I remember once my dad hit 100k, I remember my mom thinking it was the biggest thing in the world. And I was a teenager. I was probably 17, 18 years old. And I was like, “Oh, wow. That’s what it’s like, when you get that much money that’s when you’re well off or something I had assumed. So I remember once I had hit that, I was just like, I hit a jackpot, baby.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:58] Let me translate. In our family, we worry about money. My parents made $100,000 finally, and told me that’s rich. So I believed them. Do you think it matters to Gaby that $100,000 was 20-plus years ago or that they likely had different family dynamics than Amy and Gaby? Not really. This is an example of how we take simple, easily understandable concepts for topics that we don’t really engage with, and we simply believe them. What I want to know is what was Gaby’s family like?
Human beings are meaning makers. If we walk past a restaurant we’ve never been inside and our friend next to us crinkles their nose and says, “Ugh, only snobs eat there.” It’s actually very likely that we start to believe it.
Now imagine that type of meaning making happening over 50 years with thousands and thousands of examples, totally unconsciously. That’s basically how we go through the world. We see things and our mind tries to make meaning of it. And most of the time it actually works fine. We know to stop at a crosswalk. We know if we see some wild animal, stay back. Fine.
In this case, Gaby was told with a “big announcement” that they made $100,000, and now that means they’re okay. And guess what he did? As a 16-year-old, he accepted it. Do you think he understood concepts like cost of living, inflation, investments, kids, educational funds, investment returns? Of course not. He didn’t need to at 16. It was a simple answer, and he accepted it. And that kind of blind acceptance often works until it doesn’t. Keep listening.
I’m just a little curious about your family growing up. So what was it like? What do you remember about money when you were young?
Gaby: [00:22:03] Nothing. My dad made money, my mom stayed at home. She was a housewife. I had no clue how much money my parents made or–
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:17] How did you figure that out at 16 then?
Gaby: [00:22:20] I remember it was a big thing because my mom, she was excited like, wow. And she made a big announcement about it, and I was just like, oh, wow. Something like that has never happened because they don’t talk about that in front of us. So that’s why it really stick.
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:35] Big family, small family?
Gaby: [00:22:37] Oh, we’re big family.
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:38] How big?
Gaby: [00:22:40] I’m one of four. But it gets bigger beyond that.
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:46] Got you. And what was your dad’s relationship with money?
Gaby: [00:22:53] I want to say probably similar to how I am with it. I remember my mom’s the one that would go to the bank, and she helped me open my bank account and taught me how to balance a checkbook. And she was the one that wrote the checks and paid the bills. She had a desk and an office with paperwork galore, and she had Excel docs and all kinds of stuff. She’s obsessive in that kind of field.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:28] Mh-hmm. And your dad?
Gaby: [00:23:29] Oh, I’m sure he’s was just as brain dumb as I am with my own finances.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:37] Do you think you’re dumb with finances?
Gaby: [00:23:40] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:41] Why?
Gaby: [00:23:43] I don’t really think about this stuff. I just buy what I want. If I want this, I’ll go buy it and do as I please and stuff.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:56] Let me translate. Money isn’t for guys like me. I don’t want to worry about it. I don’t even really like it. I’m actually pretty dumb with money. I just feel like if I see something I want, I buy it. I find this self-handicapping fascinating, this idea that he’s dumb with money, the idea that if he tried to focus on money– excuse me, what did he actually say? Worry about money, as he puts it, he couldn’t even do it.
And really, what’s the point? He already makes six figures, so he’s rich. So what does it matter? It’s like he’s created this cobweb of identities to preserve his comfort. And you have to acknowledge that he was raised in this scenario. But you can also see why Amy is so shocked at his reaction to paying for their kids’ education because deep down, his reaction goes way beyond a college fund. It’s the way he sees money at a core level. And if you go even deeper, the way he sees himself. I want to show you what I mean. Listen to Amy and Gaby answer the same questions side by side.
Tell me what you notice.
Amy: [00:25:09] I remember always being comfortable. My mother was the breadwinner of the family, but my dad still worked from home. He had his own little business.
Ramit Sethi: [00:25:18] Okay, well, sounds like the exact opposite, doesn’t it? What about travel? Vacations? Where would you go?
Gaby: [00:25:25] Same place every year. It’s like a beach condo in an island on the west coast of Florida. So we would go to that beach condo for like a week every year. They’re still doing it.
Amy: [00:25:39] We traveled a lot. I think when I was younger, it was mostly road trips. We went to Maine, we went to New York, we had family in California. We did the national parks. At least I would say once a year we went someplace and my grandparents usually came with us or we would meet friends.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:06] Ever taken an international trip growing up?
Amy: [00:26:10] I think the first international trip was– well, we did Alaska. So we went on an Alaskan cruise when I was probably in middle school. So we went to Canada to get to Alaska. But a real international trip was my graduation present from high school. We went to Italy. My mom and I went to Italy.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:35] Okay. And Gaby, I didn’t get a chance to ask you that. Did you ever do an international trip while you were growing up?
Gaby: [00:26:41] Oh, never.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:43] Those are just a couple of differences. Now, imagine the accumulation of those differences over 25 or 30 years. It starts to make sense how they are taking the singular decision of college funds and seeing it totally differently. Again, let me give you a quote from the book, The Power of the Past, “Other blue-collar origin respondents learn from their parents’ precarious financial situations that a small amount in their savings account was normal. They learned that there was little reason to worry about limited savings as they had gotten by on shoestring budgets in the past.”
And the book goes on to describe a couple, specifically, Vicki, in that couple who is frustrated by her partner, “Like retirement and savings, saving for college, just all those things that I know are so important, for him, that’s just not important. He doesn’t think twice about saving. He thought even less about it when we first met. He just goes, ‘They could get student loans. We had student loans.’ I go, ‘No, no, they can’t get student loans.’
“He has an answer for everything. Like you don’t have to plan for retirement because everyone’s going to have to work until they die. That’s just how the economy is.” I love this quote because it essentially mirrors Amy and Gaby. And in this book, it explores the class differences and the differences from the past, how all come to bear for questions like who pays for the kids’ college? So with Amy and Gaby, I decided to go deeper on their experience with education.
Gaby: [00:28:27] But I really wanted to pursue my art. But my parents never really pushed my art stuff. They always pushed me to do more and more I would say boring stuff. I was really good at math, so they wanted to push on that and–
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:44] Okay. So how did you decide to go to college and choose that college and take out loans? How did that happen?
Gaby: [00:28:50] I did two semesters of community college. I hated that. And then I decided on my own to join the military. So that took my parents by surprise, but they were happy about that choice. So then I did the military thing. Hated that as well. And I wanted to get out and I wanted to go to school right away, right out of the military.
I was done with it. I wanted to pursue my art stuff and I wanted to go to the school. And I was like, hell-bent. I didn’t care what was going to stop me. So I got out of the military. I was like, “Take out loans.” I was like, “Hell, yes. I don’t care. How big? Signed me up.”
Amy: [00:29:38] We had two different experiences with college. Like he said, it wasn’t a given or it wasn’t to me, at least from what I understood it wasn’t like they were pushed to go to school. Not to say that I was pushed, but it was always, “You do good in school. You go to college. You get a job.” And I think with his family, it was more, “You go to college if you want, or you should but I’m not going to push you to do it. And then you go to work.”
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:18] Would you agree with that?
Gaby: [00:30:19] Oh, yeah. That’s definitely how they’re very easygoing like that. I had applied to college on my own, but it wasn’t like they’re over my shoulder pushing me. I just remember community college if you could fill out your name, you could get into community college. And I was just like, “Ooh, yeah, I did it.”
Amy: [00:30:36] For me, like I said, education was always a given, after high school, you go to college.
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:44] Oh, that’s a given.
Amy: [00:30:45] Yeah, it was.
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:46] How do you remember that being presented?
Amy: [00:30:50] You go to elementary school, you go to middle school, you go to high school, and then you go to college.
Ramit Sethi: [00:31:04] Amy, I’m curious, what kind of family values do you remember about your family?
Amy: [00:31:09] Education was always important. And then I come from a small family, but we’re close to my cousins who live across the country. Family was always important. I would go to my grandparents all the time.
Gaby: [00:31:36] That’s a tough one. I don’t know. I would say my parents weren’t really ones to talk to us a lot. And they had a lot of kids, so fell in the middle, and I was the black sheep. So–
Ramit Sethi: [00:31:57] Why were you the black sheep?
Gaby: [00:31:59] Oh, I would cause a ruckus and all kinds of trouble all the time.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:03] Oh, you were a bad kid?
Gaby: [00:32:05] Oh, yeah. Definitely.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:06] Okay. Are you still a bad kid?
Gaby: [00:32:09] No.
Amy: [00:32:11] You might be the favorite now.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:12] Wow.
Gaby: [00:32:13] Oh, am the favorite? Oh, wow.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:15] That’s cool.
Amy: [00:32:16] I might have helped with that.
Gaby: [00:32:18] I would say something that was really important to my family was safety and security.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:25] That’s very good. Okay. Great. So what’d you guys like buy safe cars, live in a safe area, that kind of thing?
Gaby: [00:32:32] I remember a weird thing about my house I didn’t notice till I got a little bit older is that my house had bars on the windows.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:41] Well, your dad was in law enforcement, right?
Gaby: [00:32:43] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:44] Okay, so that probably has something to do with it. Amy went to Italy for a graduation present, and Gaby grew up with bars on his windows. How did the two of you meet?
Amy: [00:32:55] Online.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:57] Okay. And when you first started talking, when you start talking about your families and how you grew up and things like that, what occurred to each of you?
Gaby: [00:33:08] I notice she’s definitely closer with her family than I am with mine, especially her, her mom, and her grandmother. The three of them are interconnected and joined. When you talk to one, you talk to all. And that’s what really stuck out. That relationship, I didn’t have a relationship like that. So that’s really something that stuck out to me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:42] Cool. That’s great. Great insight. Amy, what about you?
Amy: [00:33:46] When we first met, it was like pulling teeth to get information from him. And it seemed like a very different family than mine.
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:55] How so?
Amy: [00:33:55] I’m Jewish. He went to Catholic school. It’s just me and my parents and him was him and his siblings, but then he also would mention that he has like 60, 80– I don’t remember the final count– cousins that are all mostly in Miami. He’s like, oh, I had cousins that ended up moving, but it was just me and my parents and my grandparents.
Ramit Sethi: [00:34:27] Hold on. This is crazy. You have 60 cousins?
Gaby: [00:34:30] I don’t know the exact number, but Catholic Hispanics, they make a lot of babies.
Ramit Sethi: [00:34:46] So one thing that I notice about the way that both of you describe your upbringing, it seems like your family values were quite different.
Gaby: [00:34:58] Oh, yeah. I grew up with around a bunch of Hispanics people. To be 100% honest, by the time I met Amy, she was probably, like, the second Jew I ever met. Going to Catholic school and church and all that, and then her nod and then having all these different holidays and stuff, it was just like, Huh? So I knew that right there I knew it was definitely completely different.
Ramit Sethi: [00:35:26] And what was that like for you? Because if she was the second Jewish person you’d ever met, it must have been quite a different experience, different holidays, different food, different rituals, just different ways of communicating around the dinner table. Did you welcome that or was it uncomfortable for you?
Gaby: [00:35:48] Yeah, I definitely welcomed it when I met Amy. Change and something different was always exciting. And I was always open to it. Like, sure, I don’t care. Hanukkah. Yeah. What is this? I’ll do it. Lakos? I love them. They’re great.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:07] Amy, was that your experience too?
Amy: [00:36:10] With him? Yeah. He was open to it. Not very religious, but we do celebrate the holidays and he was always like, “Oh, what do we learn this time? What’s going on here?” So he was always open to it and never saying anything bad or like, “Oh, we’re doing this again.” There was never any of that.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:31] That’s cool. I like that. And Amy, what about for you meeting his family, who must have been different from your family? What was that like?
Amy: [00:36:38] So his family, as we went over, didn’t do big family reunions, but Thanksgiving, that was like the big what the heck is going on? Because it was 90 of them at my mother-in-law’s house. And I was just like, “Oh, Thanksgiving for us is like six people. We have a turkey and that’s it.” And this was like a full Cuban spread turkey and rice and beans, everything. And I’m like, “Oh my goodness, this is a lot of people and you’re related to everyone?” It was an adjustment with that, but his family was always very welcoming to me, so I didn’t have any issues with anything.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:18] Well, what I love hearing these two examples is you two are blending and creating your own family, your own culture, your own family values. I love that. And I bet it’s just naturally happening. I bet if I shadowed you for a couple of days, I would discover a bunch of values that you have you don’t even realize it.
I think what excites me about getting the chance to talk to you is that you can be more intentional with your values. So you can choose whether it be education, whether it be cooking together, family reunions, whatever you can choose. But with money, it seems like you are mostly recreating what your family taught you. And because both of your families were quite different, it’s not really gelling.
Do you both feel there’s any connection between the way that you were raised and the way that you think about your own children and their education?
Gaby: [00:38:25] Oh, yes.
Amy: [00:38:26] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:38:27] Can you explain what connection you see?
Amy: [00:38:32] Because it was a given and it was the next step, I believe it’s the next step. And that’s ultimately why I decided to go with the 529. And it took me so long to get to set up an account for my kids because I figured the 529 it can go to what they want. It doesn’t lock them into a certain school like the program that I used or that my parents used for me. But it’s just what’s next and I’m responsible for putting food on my kid’s table. I’m responsible for sending them to college. That’s kind of how I view it. It’s just another responsibility that if we’re able to, we should do for them.
Gaby: [00:39:18] Okay.
Ramit Sethi: [00:39:19] What about for you, Gaby?
Gaby: [00:39:22] Like I said, I took advantage, and I had fun in college and I just see my son having fun on my dime in college. I just hope he doesn’t have as much fun as I have, and he’s more responsible than I was because I definitely made a lot of like, poor choices.
Amy: [00:39:49] I partied, I studied, I graduated. That’s part of the college experiment experience to party and have fun. You’re in college. I get it. Our kid’s going to get drunk at college, it’s going to happen. But he’s also going to study, hopefully.
Gaby: [00:40:07] I just hope the return on investment is as beneficial for them as it was for me, because I feel like I was lucky, extremely lucky because I know so many people who’ve gone to college and it was just a waste. All my siblings, they went to college and it’s completely unrelated to what they do now.
My brother studied art history, it was such a waste. He did nothing with that. And I know other people who went to school for many years and, it was after nothing. I just hope that this investment that we’re doing isn’t going to be to his first throwaway degree and then his second degree–
Amy: [00:40:53] Well, that he pays for himself.
Gaby: [00:40:55] Yeah, I hope so.
Ramit Sethi: [00:40:58] This quote really stood out to me, when Gaby said, “I don’t want him partying on my dime.” I am just struck by that comment. Personally, it is something I would never, ever have come up with. In my culture, there’s an almost maniacal focus on giving your children access to the best possible education you can. The idea of considering them partying on my dime is so foreign to me, it is inconceivable.
Now, I will say that this maniacal focus on education can be taken to an extreme. Some people go into debt to pay for their kid’s college, which is not a good move. But in general, it would never occur to me to be almost resentful of my child going to college and even to use the phrase “partying on my dime.” Think about the different phrases that you might use that come from the way you were raised.
And in this conversation with Amy and Gaby, notice the dynamic taking place, by the way. They’ve now backed up into their respective corners. I was raised like this, so I think this. Well, I experienced that, so I think that.
Now knowing what you know and being married to Amy, who had a different educational experience than you, I’m curious what lessons you two choose to pass along to your children rather than simply recreating what each of you individually did. What lessons would you want to pass to your children about education, Gaby?
Gaby: [00:42:42] I want to say when I was 12, that’s when I figured out what I wanted to do, and that’s what I do now. So I think it’s about once you find that thing you like, is like, how do you keep learning more and more about that? So I feel if there’s something that sparks my kids’ interests, if we educate them into that interest to improve that skill or whatever it may be–
Amy: [00:43:14] You lean into it.
Gaby: [00:43:15] Yeah, we can nudge them into that because I never got that nudge.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:20] I love that. Amy, do you agree with that?
Amy: [00:43:22] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:23] Okay, great. Now, Amy, what’s one of yours that you want to design for your children and pass along?
Amy: [00:43:30] I’m pretty open, which is ultimately why I decided to go with the 529 because it goes–
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:37] It is not about the 529. He doesn’t even want to save money for college at all.
Amy: [00:43:40] But it goes into whatever they decide to do, it’ll cover that. It’ll help with that. If they want to go to tech school for something, they can do that. If they find a path, I did not have a path. I sat in my orientation and was like, “What should I do with my life?” And I kind of vaguely got there.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:02] But Amy, do you get that your husband isn’t even convinced that you should save a cent for your kid’s education? That’s why you’re here.
Amy: [00:44:11] But I look at it more as not aware of how easy it could be right now as opposed to when they’re 18 years old. And it’s like, “Okay, well, we need to come up with 120 grand. He doesn’t understand how beneficial it is to do it now is my assumption on where he’s at.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:39] Okay. Do you guys want to talk about it and see what happens? Because I’m sure you can sketch out a compound interest chart for him and show him. How do you think that conversation will go, Amy?
Amy: [00:44:53] At the end of it, he’ll be like, “Well, just do whatever. You’re in charge of the money.”
Gaby: [00:45:01] All that stuff, it’s so complicated to me. I don’t understand how it works.
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:05] Amy, just to really be transparent, if you could explain something to him and then he’s just going to go, do whatever, then you just put it in a 529. Why are we here?
Amy: [00:45:16] Because I want someone to tell me what to do with the money. We seem to have a lot of extra money, which is a good problem to have. So it’s just how should we divvy it up?
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:30] I don’t think that’s the real question you want to ask. You truly already know the answer to that. You can invest the money, you know right now from your conscious spending plan you’re a little over here, a little under there. You can adjust it. You have research to 529. I don’t think that’s your real question today.
My job isn’t to answer the questions people come to me with. If that was my job, I’d be an executer. I’d be a desk clerk. Hell, I wrote my book answering every conceivable money question you can have, and people still get stuck. It’s not their fault. It’s just that sometimes people believe they need an answer to one question when really they need an answer to something totally different.
So in these conversations here on the podcast and with the ones in my money coaching group, I start by thinking of myself as a detective. People might come to me with a question they think they want answered, but sometimes as we talk, the real answer they need is totally different. And this is a recurring theme on this podcast. People come on here asking, “Why does my partner spend so much at Target?” And it turns out that one of their dads got divorced 37 years ago, and that’s the real issue.
I think this is such an important point for you to use in your life, because often you walk into a room thinking your job is to answer questions, but your actual job is something totally different. For example, when I work with people in our dream job program, many of them go into an interview believing that their job is to answer the interviewer’s questions. Wrong, if that’s how you walk in, you’ve already lost.
When you walk in as an interviewee, your job is to communicate your key messages. Yes, answer the questions, but also make sure that you communicate the key messages you want to share to make sure that you stand out from everyone else.
If I had simply answered Amy’s questions, which, by the way, she already knows the answer to. This conversation would have been 5 minutes long and they would have left and in about a month they would have run into a much bigger fight. And they would have failed. So I pushed back. I said, “Amy, I don’t really think that’s your real question today.” Listen to her response.
Amy: [00:47:46] It would be nice for him to take a little more initia– not initiative, but a little more interest in the money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:55] Is there a question there?
Amy: [00:47:56] Not really, because I know what the answer is. I know–
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:59] Which is what? What’s the answer?
Amy: [00:48:02] Oh, but you do it so much better, and I don’t want to deal with it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:09] And you accept that?
Amy: [00:48:12] It is what it is sort of thing.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:15] You’ve both created lots of unconscious strategies to keep your two philosophies with money separate. The biggest strategy of all is Amy manages the money. Gaby’s out. Whatever. I don’t care about money. I’m not good at money. But of course, nobody wants to make a final decision because in the end, Amy’s probably just going to win. Gaby’s probably not going to care. So let’s not really get into it. How does that strike you?
Gaby: [00:48:48] It seems it could be a time bomb ticking.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:53] How so?
Gaby: [00:48:54] It seems we’re both driving in separate lanes and they’re going to merge soon.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:59] Or what if they don’t merge?
Gaby: [00:49:02] They could veer off course.
Ramit Sethi: [00:49:03] They could go away from each other. Imagine just fast forward for me for 20 years from now. Your kids are in college or whatever they’re doing, but they’re in their 20s. Two of you haven’t connected on money in 15 years. What do you think happens then?
Amy: [00:49:21] I feel like I’m always transparent with him, so I try to connect. When I add money to my account or when we get a bonus or he gets a bonus, let’s be real, it doesn’t automatically go into one place or another. We’re going to redo the floors. So I try to discuss it and say, okay, well, I think this is what we’re going to do next. And he’s usually like, “Yeah, okay.” And I’d like a little more of a conversation about it.
Gaby: [00:49:57] Yeah, that’s exactly how it is. I will get a big check and then she’ll deviate out like a bunch of money goes to this, a bunch of money goes to that and but yeah, I leave her to make decisions. I don’t really kind of pitch in.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:16] What happens in 15, 20 years from now?
Amy: [00:50:19] I get burnt out. I get tired of making all the decisions.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:22] Two totally different views. One, short term, it’ll work itself out. It always does. The other long term, let’s save. Let’s invest. Let’s make a plan. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to live a smaller life than we have to or our kids have to? Do you see how the way that you were raised with your families trickles down to even what you consider important?
Amy: [00:50:52] Yes.
Gaby: [00:50:52] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:52] It’s everywhere. And very few of us pay attention to the way socioeconomics play out, our family dynamics play out, class plays out. All these things play out. Even the questions you’re asking are represented by your family environments.
The kid savings might be the question and the culture and class differences might be the theme, but the biggest challenge here is really Gaby’s lack of involvement and worse, his lack of desire to be involved.
Who changes the kids diapers?
Amy: [00:51:30] We both did.
Gaby: [00:51:31] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:32] Why? Who’s better at changing the kids diapers?
Amy: [00:51:37] No one was better.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:38] Come on. Somebody is better?
Amy: [00:51:41] There are things you don’t strive to be better at.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:43] That’s true. You got me on that one. Okay, who could do it faster?
Amy: [00:51:49] Probably me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:50] Okay. All right. So then, Amy, why weren’t you just the diaper person? You handle the diapers.
Amy: [00:51:57] That’s a lot of shit. It’s not that I want him to take on responsibility of like, okay, well, you decide what’s going to happen here. It just a conversation, more of a dialogue as opposed to you set up this, you set up that. I set up this. It’s just a, this is where our money is going. This is what we’re doing. What do you think we should spend the next bonus on?
Ramit Sethi: [00:52:27] Gaby, what do you think when you hear Amy say this?
Gaby: [00:52:31] It seems like she’s got a lot of stuff planned, and I’m on the passenger side on for the ride.
Ramit Sethi: [00:52:40] What does that mean?
Gaby: [00:52:43] I take what she gives me and I accept it. And I just nod and smile. It’s like we sync up and then go away.
Ramit Sethi: [00:52:53] Amy.
Amy: [00:52:56] I don’t think he ever really syncs up. He just hears it and says, okay.
Ramit Sethi: [00:53:01] Well, why would he? There’s no reason for him to get engaged with money. What is the reason for him to learn any of this? Can you think of one?
Amy: [00:53:11] Because it’s our place. It’s our life. It’s what we decide to do with our money. Like I said, we travel, we’re paying for it. We’re using our money to figure it out. So you should have some sort of understanding of what is going on with your money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:53:34] Amy, do you think his dad ever showed any interest or excitement about money ever?
Amy: [00:53:41] Not really, because I think he just focused on I do what I like to do and I get paid for it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:53:46] And Gaby, you told me you feel, what about money? What’s that word? It starts with an R?
Gaby: [00:53:53] Oh, I’m rich.
Ramit Sethi: [00:53:54] Yeah. You feel rich. So, Amy, let me translate. For Gaby, Gaby grew up with a dad who never really engaged with money. Mom took care of it. And by luck and by hard work, Gaby has made it. He is rich. He’s married. He has two children. You can afford to go on vacations and the kids are going to schools. It’s great. What reason is there at all to engage with all this weird, confusing stuff about money?
Amy: [00:54:32] Just knowledge to know what’s going on, just to be aware of what you have. It’s great to feel rich and by no means are we struggling, but it’s good to know where we can go and what we can do and how the money will get us further in life.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:51] You may have grown up with that value. Ask Gaby if he grew up with that value.
Amy: [00:54:59] Did you grow up with that value?
Gaby: [00:55:01] I was completely unaware of it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:05] The real question today is not about a 529. It’s not even about where should the money go. It’s about how the two of you see money. You see it profoundly differently. Amy, your perspective is we have a set amount. We need to automate it, invest it, save for the children, plan vacations, get the floors repaired. We could do all this stuff. We have money. We could do it. We could take control of it. Does that sound accurate?
Amy: [00:55:35] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:36] Okay. Gaby, your perspective is, we made it. We are rich. We can buy the things we want to buy. We go on nice vacations. House is good. Kids are good. If we need more, it’s there. And why worry? Does that sound accurate?
Gaby: [00:55:58] Oh, yeah, definitely.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:01] Do you see how those two lenses on money are profoundly different?
Amy: [00:56:10] Yes.
Gaby: [00:56:11] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:14] Okay. Pause here. If you were me, how would you proceed from here? What would you do? Amy has admitted she wants Gaby to be more involved with their money. To take initiative, to do it for the knowledge. Gaby says he already feels rich, so why worry? If you were me, what would you do right now? Let’s watch what happens.
So, Gaby, walk me through your net worth. Tell me about those numbers.
Gaby: [00:56:43] So assets, $468,000 and that is–
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:49] What is it?
Gaby: [00:56:50] Oh that’s like our house, cars.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:54] What kind of cars do you have?
Gaby: [00:56:57] Hybrids. I got a Prius, she’s got a cord hybrid or something like that.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:01] Thank God. All right. Anyone who gets a Honda gets an automatic high five from me. Well done. Round of applause. Honda lovers, come together. Okay. Very nice. So your net worth is about $350,000. You’re both 36. All right. How do you feel about that?
Amy: [00:57:21] I feel like that’s not accurate because our house is extremely overpriced right now.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:26] Wow. We finally have accurate homeowner comes on this podcast. Most are all delusional. Oh no, I put some new covering laminate and it raise the value $50,000 because I saw it on HGTV. All my fucking God, you’re about to have a real realization when you mark that thing to market. Never mind. You, Amy, actually can you please say it louder for all the homeowners listening?
Amy: [00:57:50] It’s ridiculously overpriced right now.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:53] If that’s true, why don’t you just sell it?
Amy: [00:57:55] Because then we would have to buy a ridiculously overpriced house.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:59] She’s preaching to the choir. Can I get some gospel music in the background right now? Does everybody hear this? All the people who go, I’m going to buy a house. I got to be so rich. And then I go, oh, that’s cool. You’re going to buy your primary residence. That’s cool. And you’re going to treat it like an investment. You go, yeah, because real estate only goes up. In America, real estate, it’s the greatest investment of all.
I go, okay, interesting. By the way, when your house price goes up, if it does and you factor in all costs, if you do, which you don’t, let’s say you make $100,000 profit or $500,000 profit, how are you going to get that money out? If you sell your house, where are you going to go live? Most homeowners do not want to go rent again, and if they sell, they’re selling into a higher market than when they bought. And they just look at me and they just blink. And you know what they say, Gaby, something you said earlier on the call.
Gaby: [00:58:45] Well, they’re rich.
Ramit Sethi: [00:58:45] When it happens. God, I hate that. All right. Thank you, Amy, for the refreshing. I feel I listerine my mouth. I feel so fresh and honest right now. All right, Amy, how much income is your household making here?
Amy: [00:59:10] I think, including bonuses, Gaby’s probably at like $115,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:16] All right. Your rent is $1,911, your mortgage. That’s pretty good. What do you think about that?
Amy: [00:59:25] It is better than–
Gaby: [00:59:25] I know people that pay more in rent and apartments in this same area.
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:31] Yeah, that’s really good. All right, I’m pleased. That’s 21 or 22%. Okay, fine. You have an HOA, fine. Why is your utility so high?
Amy: [00:59:45] I wrote down 375 because why did I put it in? I have our water, our electricity and our cable. I wrote down 375 and I probably just went up to 420 just to–
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:58] Because you’re a saver.
Amy: [00:59:59] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [01:00:00] Yeah. All right. So, again, I want you to notice Amy and Gaby, you better be listening to this because this is going to affect you for the rest of your life, both of you.
So, Amy, you have this thing where you like to play it conservative. I don’t mind it. I’m conservative in many different areas, financially speaking. And yet if you do what you just did, like it’s 375, but you put 420 in and you multiply that out for the next 40 years and you do that with your investments and you do that with this and that, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Okay. I don’t mind a little margin of safety built in. I don’t mind it.
But if you’re doing this just everywhere, which you probably are, you don’t even realize it, you’re doing yourself a disservice because it’s almost like going swimming with a 20 pound weight on your back. You can’t reach your full potential when you jump in the pool for the first time with a 20 pound weight on your back, okay?
Gaby: [01:00:59] All right.
Ramit Sethi: [01:01:01] So you guys are paying basically 29% of your gross income towards your housing. Generally, the recommended guideline is less than 28%. 29%, I’m not going to throw a fit. It’s no big deal. It’s fine.
Just a second. I want to talk about being conservative with money. If you’re conservative with money, that can mean you have a 20, 25% savings rate, or it can mean you drive an old car, you live beneath your means with your housing. It can mean a lot of things.
Being aggressive with your money can mean you put all your money into crypto– wait, wait, sorry, that’s not aggressive, that’s just stupid. Or it can mean you take risks like using leverage. It can even mean you quit your job and start a business.
Generally speaking, I like being conservative with my money. I personally value having a little more money in savings than I typically recommend and I lived beneath my means for a car, etc. But I’m also aggressive in other areas. For example, if I get a huge windfall, I will invest aggressively and I spend extravagantly on the things I love, like travel and convenience.
I want you to get in the habit of knowing how to put on different money lenses at different times. For example, if I’m at the grocery store, I’m not going to worry about what a head of lettuce costs because no lettuce is ever really going to change my finances. But if I’m going to buy something that will be with me for years, like a house or a car, I’m going to scrutinize it extremely carefully.
In other words, don’t be aggressive or conservative with your money overall. Instead, I would encourage you to pick the areas of life where you want to be conservative and pick the areas of life where you are intentionally aggressive. You choose.
Let’s talk about investments. Gaby, walk me through this.
Gaby: [01:03:01] I see that we have the post tax retirement savings, Roth IRA. Amy has like 350. Then we have the kids 529. That’s another 50 bucks there. And then, how come there’s nothing here with my 401(k), Amy?
Amy: [01:03:21] Because that’s all pretax. That’s the money that the company essentially pays for or puts before it even gets to our bank.
Ramit Sethi: [01:03:34] How much is that per year that you’re contributing?
Amy: [01:03:39] For him?
Ramit Sethi: [01:03:40] Yeah. 401(k) it’s not too much because we only just started to do a little above the match. I want to say maybe $10,000, $12,000. I don’t know off the top of my head. I don’t remember.
Gaby: [01:03:58] It looks it was somewhere around $11,000 or $12,000 last year in total, got contributed.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:04] That’s kind of a lot. What are you guys talking about this like it’s changing your couch. 12K? It’s a lot of money. Nobody knows anything right now. Amy’s like, “I don’t know.” Gaby’s lost in the paperwork. What the hell is happening right now?
Gaby: [01:04:21] The money just disappears and it goes there.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:23] If you feel like you make more money and it’s just disappearing, that is exactly why you need a system to decide where the money is going to go. You can decide if you want the money to be invested or used for amazing vacations or whatever you want. I’m going to talk about this more in my money coaching program. You can go to iwt.com/moneycoaching to join and get live coaching directly from me.
Your savings goals. You have no savings goals except a long term emergency fund.
Amy: [01:04:54] So I don’t do the whole bucket system. I’ve never done that. I just put the money in. I have my base if I have $30,000, I’m comfortable and we’re good.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:06] How dare you not use my sub savings account idea? I need that.
Amy: [01:05:10] So far?
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:12] Well, okay, let’s talk about that. I’m not going to berate you. Look, I’m here to help. But I will say this. You currently have $55,855 in your savings account. It’s a lot of money.
Amy: [01:05:25] But some of it’s for the kids.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:27] So is there a sub savings account called kids?
Amy: [01:05:29] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:30] Oh, there is.
Amy: [01:05:31] They each have their own account.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:32] Amy, are you like the mom who go buys stuff for her kids but never buys anything for herself? Like the mommy martyr? Are you that?
Amy: [01:05:44] I’m not a wander, so I don’t look at it as a martyr. If I want something, I buy it.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:49] That’s a yes. I’m a little concerned that you have some savings accounts for your kids, but not you. Do you know why I’m concerned about it?
Amy: [01:05:58] Why?
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:59] What do you think?
Amy: [01:06:02] Well, I have it set up for them because I look at it as, that’s their money and we have our money. So we do have a savings account and I use it when we need it.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:14] Okay, fair enough. Again, I’m not here to berate you.
I will say this, the reason that I find it helpful to have sub savings accounts, named sub savings accounts is that when people put money in a general pool, it just kind of sits there. And often it produces very dysfunctional behavior. So people will come up with an arbitrary number, “They go, I need 10,000 to feel safe.” And then they get $10,000, and then they still don’t feel safe. So they put 20 and 30 and they just keep going and they have no purpose for it. So it just sits there.
Meanwhile, a couple of things are happening. Number one, they’re not actually using their money for things that they want to do a vacation, etc. And if they do go on vacation, they’ll just arbitrarily pull it out of there without understanding if they actually had enough or not. That’s problem number one.
Problem number two is actually more serious, but more invisible. They often let money sit in their savings account at the expense of investing it and therefore lose tons of money due to low investment returns and inflation.
You can imagine, Amy, that this account, which is now 55k, might grow to 100k, maybe 150k. Now, in a way, you should be applauded for that. But in another way, that’s money that could have been deployed and used elsewhere. That’s what a savvier investor would do. What do you think about that?
Gaby: [01:07:45] I kind of like the bucket system because there’s been many times on vacation where I want to indulge a little bit more and she’ll be like, No, no, no. Don’t. Just because the vacation and stuff is expensive, we don’t need to go do this extra excursion or this because it’s super expensive. But I think if we had a bucket system and we dedicated like this is the vacation money, who cares? It’s there. Let’s just pull out of it. So I guess that’s why she’s scared of pulling out of the really big bucket for everything.
Amy: [01:08:24] But I will say that that is something that, and I even mentioned this to you, I don’t know if you remember, but I said, “I would like my rich life to be when we go on vacation to do more things.” So we go on cruises a lot because it’s really close and it’s an easy trip for us. We usually would do an inside cabin and I would like to do a window or a balcony to kind of just make the trip a little better.
So we just went on a vacation. It sounds like we go on a lot of vacations. We really don’t. But we just went on this trip and we did an outside room and I think we did a few more things than we normally would. So I’ve– I don’t know the right word. I have taken that into light of how we use our money.
Gaby: [01:09:18] But you say that, yeah, we buy the cruise now and that’s all paid for it and done. But once we get to the cruise, they’re going to suck money out of us anyway.
Amy: [01:09:31] What did you want to do that we didn’t do on this last one? I remember we had our two kids with us.
Gaby: [01:09:36] No, it’s not just that. Like even on when we went to Disney a few years ago, and I wanted to spend a little bit more money and you weren’t happy about that. And that’s probably going to happen on this next Disney trip we do where the kids are going to drive us nuts and we’re going to have to spend a little bit more money. You don’t just pay for the vacation. You always spend more when we get there. And I know you’re always a little bit tight when we get there. That’s when you start really pinching the pennies.
Amy: [01:10:08] When we went on vacation, my souvenir was a postcard. We were not wanders. My parents told me. “You get a postcard. Look at this fun thing that you have to look at. I didn’t get a T-shirt–
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:21] Can I point something out?
Amy: [01:10:22] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:23] Amy, what was the entire purpose of what you want on this podcast? What is it?
Amy: [01:10:29] To be more aware of where we’re at, for him to be more aware of where we’re at.
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:37] For him to be more engaged.
Amy: [01:10:39] Yes. And he’s being engaging. Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:41] He is being highly engaged. Gaby, I really appreciate you that last entire thing about your perspective on the subsavings accounts. You know what I love? I love that you have a point of view. You go, “You know what? I really would like sub savings accounts because of this reason, this reason, this reason.” So I love that.
And I’m not saying you have to agree, Amy, but I definitely want to give Gaby a round of applause for engaging. That is awesome. I’m always looking for a point of view because I want both of you to be engaged. Amy, what was your reaction to hearing his point of view?
Amy: [01:11:20] But I agree with him. I don’t understand how– I could not understand.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:25] No, you did not agree with him.
Amy: [01:11:27] I understand where he’s coming from, and I–
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:29] You did not understand.
Amy: [01:11:30] I will work on that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:32] Wait, I’m just asking a question not what do you want to do? I’m saying, what was your instinctive reaction to his comment?
Amy: [01:11:40] To explain it away, I don’t think I realized I even did that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:44] Exactly. What do you think we’re doing here right now? Exactly. Amy, he has a point of view. If I’m in your chair, I’m going, “Oh, my God, he’s getting engaged.” Let me talk about this. Hey, Gaby, tell me why? Oh, my gosh. I never thought about that. I didn’t realize that I did that. You know what? First of all, when we go on vacation, I want us to both feel great. I never want either of us to feel like we’re wanting as long as we’re within reason.
But we have money. We save it. We should be able to enjoy ourselves if it’s getting an extra drink or an extra excursion. So I’m really open to changing things. If you think we should have a sub savings account for vacations, I’d be open to it. I’m still trying to process it because I never really thought about doing it that way, but gosh, I guess I’d be open to it. How do you think that differs from what you said, Amy?
Amy: [01:12:46] No, because if you look at my other chart, I did separate a vacation and a regular saving. So I–
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:53] You’re not answering my question. Amy, if you want Gaby to be engaged–
Amy: [01:12:59] I need to listen to what he’s saying.
Ramit Sethi: [01:13:03] Exactly. And you probably need to welcome his input, even if he disagrees with you on a couple of things. Honestly, personally, I happen to think he’s right because to sub saving account, I have a lot of reasons for it, whatever. But my opinion is not what matters here. It’s the two of you coming up with your Rich Life system together.
The way I would be thinking about it, if I’m in your shoes is saying, is this a deal breaker for me? Because if Gaby comes along, he goes, I think we should put 98% of our money in Bitcoin. No, we’re not going to do that. Okay, that’s a deal breaker.
But he’s saying something quite healthy. “Hey, I’d really like for us to do sub savings.” If I’m you, I’m encouraging him, “That is a great idea. Gaby, would you be willing to help me sit down and figure out how to do this in our Capital One account?” Oh, my God. Suddenly it’s a way for you two to connect on money. Oh, that’s what I’m looking for. Cool?
Amy: [01:14:03] Let’s do it, of course, yeah.
Gaby: [01:14:06] You’ll get me excited. Yeah, because then I know I could spend this and go crazy on the cruise then.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:11] Yeah, and you should. You save for it. Hey, why don’t we just pick the sub savings accounts right now? What are they? Let’s start with Gaby first.
Gaby: [01:14:21] Well, I promised her when we got married I would do one cruise every year. So definitely there has to be in the budget for a minimum of one family cruise.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:30] Great. One cruise. Let’s go back and forth. I like the dynamic. Amy, you’re up next.
Amy: [01:14:36] We could do a vacation and a house and then just general emergency fund. Very exciting.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:48] So the vacation is the cruise. Is that the same thing?
Amy: [01:14:53] That’s the only thing we do.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:54] So let’s split it out. We have the cruise, that’s one. We have like–
Gaby: [01:14:59] We have like Orlando Parks. I think she’s assuming like going to Disney and Legoland. We’re planning on doing a lot of those kind of trips for the kids.
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:06] Theme parks?
Gaby: [01:15:07] Yeah, theme park.
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:08] Let’s be descriptive. I want to be descriptive because I don’t want to call it vacation. It’s just too weird. You take too many vacations to just call it vacations. So we got the cruise. We got the theme park. What else?
Amy: [01:15:19] I would like to do a bigger trip for our 10 year anniversary so we could–
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:24] Oh, speak in my language.
Gaby: [01:15:25] Europe.
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:26] Wow. Hey, Gaby, look at your face. You kind of perked up right there.
Gaby: [01:15:33] Oh, because when she says that, that’s a no kids vacation, and no kids vacation are always the best.
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:41] Anyone hearing the big clue? The deafening clue. Amy, what does that tell you right there?
Amy: [01:15:51] That we are working together–
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:55] I love that.
Amy: [01:15:55] Figuring out what to do and–
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:58] Yes, and what gets Gaby excited when it comes to money and saving and spending?
Amy: [01:16:05] Vacations.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:05] What kind of vacations?
Amy: [01:16:09] One without kids.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:10] Bingo. So let’s talk about that because, guys, I’m always hunting for the thing that gets someone excited about money. 10 year anniversary. Book it. I love it. You put money aside. You you should talk about where you want to go and then reverse engineer how much it’s going to cost. I’ve talked about how to do this before. But this kid-free vacation is really giving me some ideas. Why don’t the two of you take it and run? Let me hear you talk about it.
Gaby: [01:16:39] I know she mentioned Europe. Where would you like to go in Europe?
Amy: [01:16:45] I would love to do the Netherlands and Holland and that area because we haven’t done that before. I haven’t done that, and I know that’s not some of the areas that you’ve been to.
Gaby: [01:16:57] Oh, okay. I don’t know what’s happening there. It just sounds cold and boring.
Amy: [01:17:06] What would you like to do?
Gaby: [01:17:08] I don’t know. I want to have exotic food. That’s why I really want to go to Japan, because you know how much I like sushi and all that. And then, of course, all the underground arcades in Japan. I got to go there.
Amy: [01:17:21] I’m open to go wherever you look that. So we can look at that and see what we can do.
Gaby: [01:17:31] Also I do have a cousin in Japan, so we always see him there too. I got cousins everywhere.
Ramit Sethi: [01:17:35] Okay. First of all, how did that feel compared to the first time?
Amy: [01:17:40] More scripted.
Gaby: [01:17:42] I like specifics.
Ramit Sethi: [01:17:44] Specifics are good. More scripted. I’m like, “Well, that’s not the answer I thought I was going to get, but okay.” You know what? Sometimes if you’re in a conversational route or a dynamic that you can’t seem to shift out of, sometimes scripting is actually okay. And you just make fun of it. You go, okay, “This guy, Ramit, he told me we got to use these weird scripts, so sorry if it sounds a little theatrical.”
Dear Gaby, where would you like to go? And everyone’s kind of like, in on the joke. But guess what? It still works. It still works. So I don’t mind if it felt a little scripted. Honestly, I just want you two to feel positive. I felt a lot better listening to that. And my favorite part of that was when Gaby, you were like, “I don’t really like the Netherlands.” And then, Amy very, very skilled response. Amy, do you remember what you said to that?
Amy: [01:18:37] I’ll go anywhere. I love to travel, so I get to wherever I want to go eventually. It’s my goal.
Ramit Sethi: [01:18:44] That’s great. And you asked him, “Where would you like to go?” You tossed the ball back to him. That was such a beautiful dynamic.
It’s funny how resistant we are to scripted conversations. And it echoes what I’ve said a lot, that many of us are more comfortable doing something that we’re failing at than doing something new that we might possibly fail at.
So we keep having the same kind of conversations instead of trying a new approach, like a scripted set of questions which might feel weird. But to me, weird is going through the next 40 years of life not being able to talk about money. That’s one of the reasons I wrote the new journal so I could share a bunch of provocative questions and scripts for you to think about money in a new way.
And if your partner gets a copy, you can both work on it independently and then bring your answers together and compare them. Talk about money in a way that you’ve never connected on before. Sometimes I think we just need a little help to have these conversations. Now back to Amy and Gaby.
How much is a trip to Japan going to cost? Ballpark it for me. Just so you know, I looked up the prices of airfare. It looks like about 2,000 bucks per ticket. That’s one way.
Amy: [01:20:04] 8 to 9 grand. 10 grand.
Ramit Sethi: [01:20:07] Maybe 10. How many years till your 10 year anniversary?
Amy: [01:20:11] Two.
Gaby: [01:20:12] Two.
Ramit Sethi: [01:20:13] Ah, okay. So this starts to become something you really want to think about. Here’s how we did it. We had the exact same thing. Ten year anniversary for my wife and me. In your case, I would do back of the napkin calculation. I would look at airfare. I would figure out basic hotel prices. Where do we want to stay? Maybe you care about hotels. Maybe you can economize there. Food places. How many days are you going to go? Things like that. And then I would add on 15%, maybe even 25% to account for things I didn’t count for, like taxes.
Taxes in hotels and airfare is quite expensive. Factor all that stuff in and then you’re going to come up with a number. Let’s just say it’s $15,000. If it’s happening in two years, that means you divide by two. That means you need to save $7,500 per year. And if you break it down by month, you know exactly how much you need to save. Roughly 700 bucks a month. Now, could you do that? If I asked you today, could you save $700 a month for the next two years?
Gaby: [01:21:22] Let’s be rough.
Amy: [01:21:24] I would say no because there are other things that I’d want to save for as well.
Ramit Sethi: [01:21:29] Okay, fair enough. So what happens when your 10 year anniversary comes up?
Amy: [01:21:35] We dream a little smaller or we don’t go for as long.
Gaby: [01:21:39] And essentially we’re dipping straight out of the savings.
Ramit Sethi: [01:21:44] Well, what’s that savings money for?
Gaby: [01:21:47] Well, yeah the way she has it planned out right now is the saving is just one big bucket for whatever we want or needed at the time.
Amy: [01:21:53] What we need or want, yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [01:21:55] Oh, really? Well, do you want to go to Japan?
Amy: [01:21:58] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [01:21:59] So do you do you see, Amy, why it helps to have some savings accounts? Because you would be able to see you actually need some of that savings money. You need it. It’s an emergency fund. You need that. You need it for your children. It’s their money. Okay, fine. But the rest of it is not clear how much is there. And so you can have an honest conversation about should we go to Japan for an extra two days or should we get our flaws done?
And that’s a conversation that I think would be a really healthy, fun conversation for the two of you. In order to get there, step one split out your sub savings accounts and put the amounts needed for each. Two, calculate how much your dream Japan trip would be. Dream. And then you have the information to be able to decide, hey, maybe we can’t do the dream. Let’s chip away a couple of things, shorten it by a day, kill this type of hotel, whatever.
But I have a feeling that’s very possible the two of you, I think you should do something special for your 10 year anniversary. 10 years is amazing. I think you should celebrate it. So a couple of suggestions. One, do you have to wait two years before you take a child free trip?
Amy: [01:23:17] No.
Gaby: [01:23:17] No.
Ramit Sethi: [01:23:20] Gaby’s very excited about that.
Gaby: [01:23:21] I think one of our cruises next years is childfree.
Ramit Sethi: [01:23:25] Good. Great. Great. I’m glad because when I asked you, what sort of childfree places might you go, you had a lot of really exotic ones, which I love. But I also think sometimes it’s just about the two of you connecting. And it could be like an hour away staycation. Could be super cheap.
But when I saw Gaby light up with the idea of a childfree time, I thought to myself, “Wow, if I’m in this relationship, I am creating a money rule that says something like once a quarter, we are going to have at least one night childfree somewhere outside the house. How does that sound to both of you?
Gaby: [01:24:05] Awesome.
Amy: [01:24:07] Good.
Ramit Sethi: [01:24:08] That’s what we’re talking about. That’s how we use money to get excited. That’s how Gaby, you start to get involved. You start to ask really great questions. “Hey, I’m curious. Why are we putting this much in our 401(k), or could we save $100 here and put it towards our childfree trip? That would be really cool. So you get engaged. Amy, what do you think about that?
Amy: [01:24:31] I like it. I can get behind that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:24:37] So, how much do you currently have invested?
Amy: [01:24:46] He has about 43, 48, somewhere around there.
Ramit Sethi: [01:24:51] 48 what?
Amy: [01:24:52] Thousand.
Ramit Sethi: [01:24:53] Okay. And just give me the total amount.
Amy: [01:24:55] Okay, I would go like $55,000.
Ramit Sethi: [01:25:02] How much are you investing every year? Ballpark is fine.
Amy: [01:25:08] I would say 10 to 12, but this would be like the first year we’re actually doing that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:25:14] Let’s just say $10,000. Be conservative.
Amy: [01:25:16] Okay.
Ramit Sethi: [01:25:16] All right. And you two are mid 30s. So let’s say you have 30 years to grow it. What should I choose for the interest rate?
Amy: [01:25:24] Something conservative.
Ramit Sethi: [01:25:25] Like what?
Amy: [01:25:27] We usually say like 7 to 10%, right?
Ramit Sethi: [01:25:31] 7% is good. Eight you could make an argument for. We would not use nine or 10. Those are what’s called nominal. That doesn’t take into account inflation. So seven is the number I use. It’s conservative. So you end up at 65 with this much money. Look at Gaby’s face. Gaby, read that number out loud.
Gaby: [01:25:48] Oh, man, that’s a lot of digits. That’s like $1.4 million.
Ramit Sethi: [01:25:52] Yeah. What do you think about that?
Gaby: [01:25:53] Holy shit. I would never even imagine that much.
Ramit Sethi: [01:25:57] Are you ready to become a millionaire?
Gaby: [01:26:01] I already feel like one. But this is like you feel superhero because you’re a little kid, but this is like you actually become the superhero.
Ramit Sethi: [01:26:11] Just compare Gaby’s tone right now with how he sounded when we first got on this call. At the beginning, he was not engaged at all. What do you think changed? What do you think was the key moment that Gaby suddenly got interested in their money?
So the good news is you have so many options. If I were to tell you, I want you to hit the $2 million mark, and I want you to take your cruise, and I want you to go to Japan. Do you think it’s possible?
Gaby: [01:26:43] Now that I see these charts and numbers, it seems possible with some balancing out of little numbers here and there.
Ramit Sethi: [01:26:55] Agreed. Amy, do you think it’s possible?
Amy: [01:26:57] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [01:26:58] Okay. Great.
Amy: [01:26:59] It just seems like it’s very doable and it’s easy for us to get there if we just adjust our numbers.
Ramit Sethi: [01:27:11] I love it. And what numbers might you adjust? Not saying we have to do it right here, but what numbers might you adjust?
Amy: [01:27:19] How much we invest, how much we make.
Ramit Sethi: [01:27:22] Mm-hmm. What else?
Gaby: [01:27:24] Well, I would say it’s the buckets. It’s like these big things that we want to do is put those numbers on the table so we can look at them and make sure that we essentially can meet those goals for those projects and vacations and stuff. I think leaving those out in the ether is stressful because it’s unknown. But I think when you put the numbers down and you actually just look at the numbers, I think it eases the pain.
Ramit Sethi: [01:27:58] Amy, what’s that smile on your face?
Amy: [01:28:01] He’s getting it.
Ramit Sethi: [01:28:02] He’s getting it, but also you’re getting it. I think that’s amazing.
Amy: [01:28:06] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [01:28:07] It becomes like a puzzle, and the two of you get to design how the puzzle works. It’s your life. It’s your Rich Life. Final thing I want to talk about is saving for your kid’s college. So with all the things that we’ve talked about, I would love to hear the two of you discuss how you might make a decision about the kids.
Amy: [01:28:39] How do you think that we should assist our children? And make it so they can do what they want to do and get to where they want to do go with us being able to do the things that we want to do as well?
Gaby: [01:29:00] In regards to their education?
Amy: [01:29:03] No, in addition to us traveling and us assisting them and being the people that they want to become.
Gaby: [01:29:12] I think the best way to get me excited is if we can, because I don’t want to be stuck like my mom was stuck with like be stuck with our kids for years on in and they never leave the house. So what get me excited is if we can get our kids– because I think staying at home in college is like the worst thing ever. They cannot stay home and go to school.
So I think what will get me excited is they leave the house and go to school elsewhere. I don’t care if it’s an hour away or like on the other side of the country. I would be excited if they had an education and were able to venture off our house for their education. That will get me excited. If we can come up with a plan that can push them to get out of here and get an education, I think that’s a good goal for us to have.
Amy: [01:30:12] And I think to get to that goal would be to assist them how we can and help them get there. My parents helped me and I went away to school. I come back, but I had the tools and the diploma and things that got me out of the house.
Gaby: [01:30:31] And it’s all coming to my realization my parents didn’t help my sisters with their college or any of that, and that’s why they were stuck there and still stuck there. And it’s now becoming clear if we do invest in their education, that we won’t be stuck with our kids till they’re 30 also. So, yes, this is actually getting me excited now.
Ramit Sethi: [01:31:02] Wow. Round of applause for both of you. That was fantastic. I really love both of you smiling. I loved both of you talking. Gaby, I loved you making that connection. You’ve never thought about it. You are 36 years old. You never realized it until just now the dynamics of what played out in your family.
And think about how many other invisible scripts or hidden messages you carry from your family that you’ve never thought about. And think about how those might be affecting you today. So when Amy is sitting here saying, let’s put some money aside for the kids and she thinks she’s talking to you, it’s almost like you’ve got a screen up and she’s talking to the invisible script from Gaby’s family 20 years ago.
This is where the two of you get to really have some great honest conversations. Use the journal that I just created. I’ll talk about it. Both of you fill it out and you can compare some of those questions in there go right to the heart of this. What did my parents teach me about money? What would I change? Who do I admire? And the two of you sit down and get a glass of wine, go somewhere without the kids. Talk about it and go, oh, my God. I never realized that until now.
And it’s almost like the two of you are putting on new eyeglasses. You can finally see each other in focus. It’s a beautiful thing. Gaby, if there were one thing I would want you to take away from today is that you walked into this call believing that the opposite of ignoring money is worrying about money. What do you think it is now?
Gaby: [01:32:52] It seems being aware of it can get you excited.
Ramit Sethi: [01:32:57] Yeah. Love that. Love that. Being aware. Doesn’t mean you have to worry about it. But aware means the two of you can talk about it joyfully. You can spend an hour a month doing your Rich Life review. That’s in the journal. You talk about fun things. Oh, my gosh. This cruise. Look at the pictures. I found some new pictures of the cabin. I think we should do this cabin. What kind of cabin do you think we should do? It becomes exciting.
I love this conversation with Amy and Gaby because it allowed us to dig into the power of their past. Again, I want to encourage you to pick up this book, The Power of the Past by Jessi Streib. I found it to be extremely insightful. Also very controversial. There are a lot of things in there you might not agree with, but to me, that makes a fantastic book and a fantastic way to engage with some of these concepts that are often taboo in our culture.
Now, I received a follow up from Amy and Gaby after speaking with them. You can read the full follow up at iwt.com/followups, but here’s what they said, “Today, we were able to sit down and reallocate our extra money in savings to go towards our investments and our newly formed buckets.
“Since our emergency fund currently covers six months, we will focus on savings for our house, cars, our annual family trip, and a big kids’ free trip we will try to do every 2 to 3 years. Once we land on a place and get approximate prices, we will adjust our savings rate to match it accordingly. This gives us more time to save up for Japan.” I love it. And you can get these very same buckets using your conscious spending plan, which you can get for free at iwt.com/episode70.
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.