Episode #108: “We achieved FIRE with $4.3M. Why can’t we enjoy it?”
Mindy and Carl are in their early 50s with two teenage children and a successful track record flipping real estate that’s helped them build a $4.3M fortune. But as devoted members of the Financial Independence community, they struggle to talk, think, and spend it in healthy ways.
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[00:00:00] Mindy: He never spends any money. What does Lisa call you, Carl? El Cheapo? Mr. Cheapo?
[00:00:05] Carl: Yeah.
[00:00:05] Mindy: That’s a good thing, to be not wasteful with your money. And why spend actual dollars when you can spend on a hotel instead. I feel security in the investments, but I don’t want to touch them. They’re for the future.
[00:00:23] Ramit: Not to be too blunt, but when’s the future? Wow. The silence of mortality. Maybe 10 more years.
[00:00:39] Carl: And the older you get, the more you think about that very thing. I’ve heard you say prime spending years are 40 to 60. So yeah.
[00:00:45] Ramit: Aren’t you two in that range?
[00:00:47] Carl: Yeah. We’re dead center in the middle.
[00:00:50] Ramit: I think it’s really hard for us to look at ourselves and how we’re spending money and acknowledge that– this isn’t really what we want to be doing. We don’t want to just keep throwing money on the pile and keep being cheap. I do look at everything based on how much it costs, and I don’t need to. I shouldn’t.
[00:01:21] Mindy: I don’t know how to change.
[00:01:25] Ramit: Today’s conversation is absolutely fascinating. Meet Mindy and Carl. They’re both right around 50 years old, and Mindy is well known in the FIRE community. That’s financial independence, retire early. In fact, I’ve spoken to her on her podcast before. What’s fascinating is that they are worth over $4 million.
And when I say they struggle to spend that money, I mean it. You’re going to hear some fascinating stories. If you’re watching this on YouTube, you’re going to actually see the facial expressions, and I want to tell you why I’m bringing you this story of Mindy and Carl today. Because I’ve gotten a few comments from people that we only feature multimillionaires who have trouble spending.
And I want to tell you, it’s really important to me that we feature a very diverse set of guests on this show. Wealthy, not wealthy, US-based, international, different races, different sexualities. We spend a lot of time seeking out couples, and I want to give a special shout out to the IWT podcast team for making that happen.
Now, I think millionaire couples are so unusual that when we hear one, they stand out in our head. Think about it. When was the last time besides this podcast that you actually heard a couple with millions of dollars talking about how they have trouble spending money? It never happens, except on this show. And I share these stories, not because I only want to feature multimillionaires.
That’s not true. We have a lot of different diverse guests. But because I want to emphasize to you, there is no magical amount of money where you will suddenly feel safe. There’s no magical amount of money where you will suddenly flip a switch and become generous with money. Your feelings about money are highly uncorrelated with the amount in your bank account. So I’m going to continue to keep an eye on our guest selection process, but for now, meet Mindy and Carl in this absolutely fascinating conversation.
Would you say we’re cheap, Carl?
[00:03:31] Carl: Yeah. I’m thinking about the restaurant in New York City with our friends a month ago.
[00:03:36] Mindy: Yeah.
[00:03:37] Carl: So we had good friends who had agreed to come up to visit us when we were in New York City, and I wanted to pay for the meal. They were going to travel two hours. And the first thing I did after he suggested the restaurant is I pulled up their menu and looked at how much everything costs.
And, uh, the thought I had after I saw this is, holy crap, I have to tell Bob that we need to pick somewhere else. This is too expensive. And I thought better of it. I never did that, and I felt ashamed for doing this. This is a really good friend who was making a big journey to come see us.
[00:04:07] Mindy: And it turns out it was family style. So they were large portions. It wasn’t like one entree was that expensive.
[00:04:15] Carl: It was still expensive though.
[00:04:18] Mindy: Take me back to that menu moment. So your friend suggested this restaurant, and you hang up the phone, and was that the first thing you did? You pulled up the menu?
[00:04:28] Carl: It was the very first thing I did. Yes.
[00:04:31] Ramit: Why did you do that?
[00:04:32] Carl: Uh, I guess that’s how I approach most things in life. I’m always looking at the cost. Uh, but always been obsessed with money. I probably have money scarcity issues.
[00:04:44] Ramit: Mm-hmm. I mean, probably? I’ve been talking to you for 60 seconds. Uh, I think we can safely make a bet on that one. What if you had not looked at the menu? What would you have felt?
[00:04:58] Carl: I probably would’ve looked at the price when I got to the restaurant. I would’ve done the same thing, and then I would’ve had some anxiety, maybe a little mini panic attack, and I would’ve tried to hide it, and then moved on with dinner.
[00:05:12] Ramit: Would you feel that physically in your body?
[00:05:15] Carl: Yeah, a little bit.
[00:05:16] Ramit: Where?
[00:05:18] Carl: Um, I guess my head and my heart. I would’ve just felt a little bit uncomfortable with it. I would’ve looked at that number and be like, oh, wow, this is going to be one of the most expensive meals I’ve ever had in my entire I would’ve done some math in my head. I would’ve added up how much I thought the meal would’ve cost, and I would’ve tried to hide my emotions because I don’t want to look like an idiot or, uh, a cheap person in front of my friends.
They’re really good friends. We love them, and they made a big effort. And why was I thinking about money? Why did I even have this consideration? We should have been the moment that we got to spend with these people who don’t live near us, who we get to see two or three times a year. Money should have an afterthought.
[00:06:03] Ramit: Mm-hmm. It’s a lot of thinking.
[00:06:07] Carl: Yeah.
[00:06:09] Mindy: We went to a restaurant yesterday for breakfast, and that my daughter ordered item that I had noticed was the most expensive thing on the menu. It was a breakfast. I don’t know if you knew about that, Carl. And it was like, is she going to–
[00:06:27] Ramit: What was it?
[00:06:28] Mindy: It was $20.
[00:06:29] Ramit: What was it? What was the dish?
[00:06:31] Mindy: It was, uh, pancakes, and eggs, and sausage, and, I don’t know, French toast or something. She got just– it was a mound of food that she need, which is wasteful. And then when the bill arrived, I put my credit card in the thing, and then I hit 25% tip, and I’m like, $99 for breakfast? Oh my God. What did we order? It just seems like a lot of money for one meal.
[00:06:59] Ramit: Is it?
[00:07:02] Mindy: It is to us. It is to us in the regard that we don’t spend $99 on a breakfast all the time. Um, is it going to ding my net worth? No.
[00:07:14] Ramit: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:17] Mindy: But letting go hard. I don’t want to be wasteful.
[00:07:24] Ramit: Because wasteful means?
[00:07:27] Mindy: What if we run out of money?
[00:07:31] Ramit: Mathematically, you know that’s impossible.
[00:07:34] Mindy: Yeah.
[00:07:35] Ramit: So wasteful means what?
[00:07:37] Mindy: I don’t want to spend and not get any joy out of it. I don’t want to do something stupid with my money. I don’t want to spend it and have a bad experience, or spend it and have a bad time, or spend it and say, that wasn’t worth it.
[00:07:53] Ramit: At the core, you’ll find a pattern with cheap people and even ultra frugal people. They’re often terrified of tripping and falling and then having to eat in a Michelin-starred restaurant every night for the rest of their lives. I’m actually serious. This is how the thought process goes. If I go to that restaurant and I spend money on it, I might actually like it, and then I have to eat out at those kinds of places for the rest of my life. You’ve heard this before. You’ve heard people say, I’m not the kind of person who needs to stay at a Four Seasons every time I travel.
Let me tell you how I think about it. I’ve eaten at very nice restaurants, and I’ve eaten at taco trucks and pizza places. I trust myself enough to know that I can eat at a nice place once in a while and not suddenly become addicted to seven-course meals. I have control over my spending. And just because I try something nice occasionally doesn’t mean I’ll lose all control.
That’s one of the things going on with cheap people. They are deeply afraid of losing control. Now, when it comes to Mindy and Carl, let’s take a look at their numbers. I’ll give you a quick rundown. They’re assets, 925,000. Their investments, 4,275,000. Their savings, 10,000. Real estate debt, 910,000. And if you add it all up, they’re total net worth at roughly the age of 50 is $4.3 million.
[00:09:23] Ramit: When do you think that it’s ceased to serve you? Your obsession with money as you call it.
[00:09:28] Carl: Probably when we reached all our financial goals about six years ago. Yeah. Exactly six years ago today. April, 2017, was when we reached our financial goals, and I knew I didn’t have to work anymore.
[00:09:42] Ramit: Did your feelings magically change the next morning when you woke up knowing that you had hit your goals?
[00:09:47] Carl: No. I felt exactly the same.
[00:09:49] Ramit: What? I’m shocked. You’re telling me that after a lifetime of saving, you didn’t magically turn into a– what have I been doing my whole life? How’s that possible? I thought once you have the money in the spreadsheet and you show the 4% withdrawal rate, then everything changes.
[00:10:07] Carl: No, you’re exactly right. And that’s what I felt too. Why am I not happy? Why do I feel pretty much the exact same? I started doing some research and I learned that happiness is mostly something that comes from you. It comes from the inside, not an external factor. I don’t want to downplay the money.
I’m still thankful for it, but it is an external circumstance, and it was at that point I learned, ah, I probably have to work on myself a little bit. That money isn’t going to be this– it’s not going to flip a switch. I’m not going to be instantly happy. And I’m foolish because I thought I would be.
[00:10:39] Ramit: Mm-hmm. So six years later, after that very valuable realization, which is, I agree, insightful, what work have you done on yourself?
[00:10:55] Carl: Not probably, uh, I’ll start over. What work have I done on myself? I try to pay attention to my mood all the time, and when I’m truly happy, make a note of it and figure out why I’m truly happy at that particular point.
[00:11:12] Ramit: Hmm. What was your answer going to be? You said not probably. Can you finish that sentence for me?
[00:11:20] Carl: I was going to say not enough. I’ve cut myself so busy. Again, not a great life choice. Uh, I don’t know if you can see behind me, but there are doors that I’m going to install in my house.
I’ve been just as busy I as I ever was at work in the past six years since I left, I haven’t taken time for myself to do as much introspective work as I think I should have.
[00:11:42] Mindy: We conversations about this frequently, and we don’t know how to proceed.
[00:11:48] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Okay. How hard was it for you to reach out to me to have this conversation?
[00:11:55] Mindy: Well, I heard you on the Mad Fientist podcast, and I was like, I need to talk to him about this.
[00:12:04] Ramit: But we’ve talked before. You remember our conversation last time?
[00:12:07] Mindy: Yes.
[00:12:08] Ramit: Years ago, I went on Mindy’s podcast, BiggerPockets, and towards the end, I just asked her what her rich life was. She mentioned taking a trip with her family. Got me interested. I started asking her a couple of questions, and suddenly, she started crying. It was an amazing moment. Listen in.
[00:12:31] Ramit: What would you do if you had to quadruple or 10x you’re spending on bikes? Tell me.
[00:12:36] Mindy: Ooh. I would go on long distance bicycle trips?
[00:12:39] Ramit: How would you plan this trip? Again, you get 10x spending on this. Look at this discomfort on your face, Mindy. Why?
[00:12:47] Mindy: Because first of all, I didn’t have any time. It would have to be in the summer because the kids are in school.
[00:12:51] Ramit: Forget about that. Mindy, the vision. Stick with the vision. Stop thinking about the dollar amount. You have the dollars.
[00:12:59] Mindy: I do have the dollars.
[00:13:01] Ramit: How long would your rich life bike trip be?
[00:13:04] Mindy: Uh, probably two months.
[00:13:07] Ramit: Wow. Love it. That’s amazing.
[00:13:09] Mindy: Do cross-country.
[00:13:10] Ramit: Mindy, you could do a lot of things. I can visually see you shrinking outside of the camera range. Can you tell me what’s going on with you?
[00:13:18] Mindy: This is uncomfortable because I don’t think about things like this.
[00:13:23] Ramit: Yeah. And what do you think about instead, Mindy?
[00:13:26] Mindy: Saving.
[00:13:28] Ramit: Mindy, you save. You already won. You have enough.
[00:13:31] Mindy: I know.
[00:13:32] Ramit: It’s time to shift into learning how to spend it. Mindy, what would you do if you had to quadruple or 10x you’re spending on bikes? Tell me.
[00:13:39] Mindy: Ooh. I would go on long distance bicycle trips.
[00:13:43] Ramit: How would you plan this trip? Again, you get 10x spending on this. Look at this discomfort on your face, Mindy. Why?
[00:13:50] Mindy: Because first of all, I didn’t have any time. It would have to be in the summer because the kids are in school.
[00:13:55] Ramit: Forget about that. Mindy, the vision. Stick with the vision. Stop thinking about the dollar amount. You have the dollars.
[00:14:03] Mindy: I do have the dollars.
[00:14:04] Ramit: How long would your rich life bike trip be?
[00:14:08] Mindy: Uh, probably two months.
[00:14:11] Ramit: Wow. Okay. Love it. That’s amazing.
[00:14:13] Mindy: Do cross-country.
[00:14:14] Ramit: And do you want to have any photos of this, uh, trip?
[00:14:19] Mindy: Yes.
[00:14:20] Ramit: Wouldn’t it be nice to have a beautiful professional photo of your family with the sunset behind you?
[00:14:26] Mindy: Yes. But we could just set up tripod too.
[00:14:29] Ramit: Probably in your family forever. What was that?
[00:14:31] Mindy: We could just set up a tripod too.
[00:14:33] Ramit: Mindy, you could do a lot of things. I can visually see you shrinking outside of the camera range. Can you tell me what’s going on with you?
[00:14:41] Mindy: This is uncomfortable.
[00:14:43] Ramit: Why?
[00:14:44] Mindy: Because I don’t think about things like this.
[00:14:47] Ramit: Yeah. And what do you think about instead, Mindy?
[00:14:50] Mindy: Saving.
[00:14:52] Ramit: Mindy, you save. You already won. You have enough.
[00:14:55] Mindy: I know.
[00:14:56] Ramit: It’s time to shift into learning how to spend it. And this skill, you can see it. By the way, I hope everybody can see this, because I think you have a lot of courage to do this with me. This is really hard stuff. So Mindy, thank you. You’re being very courageous. You’re changing not just your own way of thinking, but what was passed down to you from your parents and possibly their parents. And here we are. Look at this. We’re talking about maybe hiring a photographer. It would cost $500. It would cost nothing. It would be a memory in your family for generations. Mindy, you’re having the courage to discuss this. You think you’d have the courage to do it?
[00:15:41] Mindy: You wanted me to spend money on a bicycle trip.
[00:15:46] Ramit: Uh-huh. But it was quite a beautiful image that you painted for all of us, including yourself about taking a trip. I was with you. I don’t bike, and I was like, that sounds amazing. At the end of that episode, how did you feel once you went off on your own?
[00:16:06] Mindy: I felt overwhelmed because I don’t think I can do it.
[00:16:13] Ramit: Yeah. And you talk about money professionally.
[00:16:17] Mindy: All the time.
[00:16:18] Ramit: You talk about safe withdrawal rates, 4%, trinity. You talk about rule of 72, compound interest, diversification, real estate, all of it. And so what happened when we started talking about you and spending your money on the people you love?
[00:16:36] Mindy: I felt panicky. I really felt in my chest. Not so much my head, in my chest, like I’m having a hard time breathing. This is really difficult to talk about spending lot of money.
[00:16:54] Ramit: Okay. And so, um, did you ever take the bike trip?
[00:16:59] Mindy: We did a trip to Germany instead. Our daughter was going to Germany with her school, so we went to Germany instead of the bike trip.
[00:17:07] Ramit: Cool. How was it?
[00:17:10] Mindy: It was good. Um, it was good.
[00:17:14] Ramit: What’s that mean?
[00:17:15] Mindy: We had a great time, but we spent a lot of money on the airline tickets because we couldn’t optimize for those. It ended up– I think it was $6,000 to fly to Germany and back from our home airport. Uh, that’s probably the most we’ve ever spent on airline tickets.
[00:17:35] Ramit: Why are talking about money right now? I asked how the trip was.
[00:17:40] Mindy: Because you’re Ramit.
[00:17:43] Ramit: Yeah. I want to know. How was the trip? Was it good?
[00:17:46] Mindy: The trip was lovely. We saw Berlin, and, uh, Munich, and we ate lots of German food, and drank lots of German beer, and relaxing time.
[00:17:56] Ramit: All right. Now, when I asked you how the trip was, you said it was good, like that. I’m trying to understand what– was that referring to the price of the airline tickets?
[00:18:06] Mindy: Yes. I feel bad that we spent that much money on airline tickets. I’d love to be able to drop $6,000 on airline tickets and not care. But sometimes feels wasteful.
[00:18:17] Ramit: When you took this trip and you came back, did friends ask you how the trip was?
[00:18:22] Mindy: Yes.
[00:18:23] Ramit: Did you tell anyone about the price of the airline tickets?
[00:18:27] Mindy: I did.
[00:18:27] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Who? What percentage of people who asked about Germany did you tell about the airline tickets?
[00:18:35] Mindy: It wasn’t the first thing I talked about, but I probably told 75 or a 100% of people about the tickets because I’m supposed to be the money expert and I didn’t do any optimization on the price of the tickets.
[00:18:51] Ramit: Wow.
[00:18:51] Mindy: And we had to pay last minute.
[00:18:53] Ramit: You just said that you are the money person, and you’re supposed to be able to optimize, but you couldn’t optimize, so you feel bad. You think those two are related?
[00:19:07] Mindy: Yes.
[00:19:08] Ramit: How so?
[00:19:10] Mindy: I’m supposed to be good at this, and here was a time that I wasn’t good at this.
[00:19:14] Ramit: Oh. Okay. Can you clarify for me? Spending $6,000 for two, is that bad at money?
[00:19:24] Mindy: I could have been better.
[00:19:26] Carl: I see where you’re going with that. And one question you asked to us, what were other people’s reactions? And I was around Mindy when we were having these conversations, and one cared about the money.
[00:19:37] Ramit: Including me. In fact, I was confused why we weren’t talking about time with your family, and food, and sites, and instead talking instantly about an airline ticket.
[00:19:49] Carl: I think that she thinks she gets credibility. She wants to show people that she optimized it as well as she could have, and she doesn’t feel like it, so she has to make an excuse or give an apology ahead of time. A preemptive apology that no one really asks for perhaps.
[00:20:07] Ramit: And the biking trip, what happened with that?
[00:20:14] Mindy: We just got really busy. Um, we are really busy, so we put things to the side.
[00:20:25] Ramit: When we talked, it really seemed to hit an emotional nerve for you to start spending money, and that was, I don’t remember, a couple years ago, let’s say. What has your journey been in terms of spending money since we last talked?
[00:20:39] Mindy: The same.
[00:20:40] Ramit: Hmm.
[00:20:41] Mindy: We haven’t really spent lot. Um, we did another house to turn into a rental, so that’s an investment. So is that spending money?
[00:20:49] Ramit: It’s not spending. What else? I’m talking about stuff that you enjoy.
[00:20:54] Mindy: I don’t mind spending money when we have people over.
[00:21:01] Ramit: Okay.
[00:21:01] Mindy: We have a backyard with, uh, this beautiful deck that we built, and, uh, we’ve got a pool in the backyard, and we have a lot of parties over the summer. I don’t bat an eye at that, but I feel weird spending on other things
[00:21:15] Carl: We did let go with our trip to New York City, and I think that’s probably the first time we really let money not dictate what we do. We bought two shows. We stayed near Central Park. Um, we went out to that Italian restaurant I mentioned earlier.
[00:21:31] Ramit: What are you talking about you didn’t let prices dictate? You told me the first thing you did was look at the menu. Carl, what are you talking about? Hold on. I got to just paint the full picture. Okay. You stayed in near Central Park. Which hotel did you stay at?
[00:21:44] Carl: Uh, it was– the funny thing was, I was just about to tell you that we got it on points, that it was free.
[00:21:50] Ramit: Okay. And just again, Carl, what would you have gotten out of telling me it’s on points?
[00:21:55] Carl: I have no idea. Same thing why Mindy told you about the 6,000 airline tickets. Uh, yeah. I don’t know why we always say that. I guess it’s an issue with both of us.
[00:22:05] Mindy: But I hear people do that my life all the time. Oh, that’s a cute skirt. Oh, it was on sale.
[00:22:15] Ramit: Wow. That’s so surprising that the people around you mirror the same values that you yourselves espouse, and that you are finding it increasingly hard to change your values while being surrounded by those very people.
[00:22:32] Mindy: I definitely lived in a buy bubble. That’s a thing in the buy community, is to be optimizing your money so you can stretch it farther.
[00:22:48] Ramit: That alarmed look on your face, Mindy, the realization that maybe that is actually not the best goal to have.
[00:22:59] Mindy: I think when you’re in the accumulation phase, I mean, that’s a good thing, to be not wasteful with your money. And why spend actual dollars when you can spend on a hotel instead?
[00:23:19] Ramit: And this is one of the biggest critiques I have of the financial independence movement. If your value is defined by what you don’t want to do, which for many people in that community is spend money, then number one, that’s not an effective, cohesive value system because values are about what you do want to do, not simply what you don’t want to do.
And second, what if you actually achieve financial independence? Now, the only way that you can spend money is, what, Mindy, as it relates to the FI community that you are so deeply embedded in?
[00:23:59] Mindy: It has to be an intelligent way. It has to be frugally.
[00:24:07] Ramit: Keep going.
[00:24:11] Mindy: It can’t be wasteful.
[00:24:13] Ramit: What if you decide that you and Carl just want to start spending wildly? What would that mean for your membership in the community that you are so deeply embedded in?
[00:24:30] Mindy: Hmm. That’s an interesting question. I don’t think we would get kicked out.
[00:24:37] Ramit: What would your neighbors say?
[00:24:42] Mindy: They would talk. We have some nosy neighbors.
[00:24:45] Ramit: And what would they say?
[00:24:47] Mindy: What kind of car is that?
[00:24:52] Ramit: They think you’re homeless, right? I heard this. They think that you’re– we had a neighbor who thought we were destitute.
[00:25:01] Mindy: Yeah. They congratulated us.
[00:25:02] Ramit: You told me that.
[00:25:03] Mindy: They congratulated us on buying this house that was, uh, a super dump.
[00:25:09] Ramit: Wow. Congratulations. You’re so destitute you were able to scrape together a few nickels to get this fixer-upper meanwhile, they’re sitting over here with millions of dollars.
[00:25:18] Ramit: There are two big clues here. The first is that Mindy and Carl are embedded in a community that highly values frugality and stigmatizes spending. They’ve been in that community and system for decades. That’s why she immediately told 100% of the people she talked to about the price of their trip rather than the memories as so many of us would normally share. And if you consider that old Jim Rohn quote, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, you start to realize how difficult it would be for Mindy and Carl to actually change.
The second clue is that their neighbors thought they were “destitute”. Cheap people often ignore blatant clues, such as their friends calling them cheap or destitute. And they’ll say things like, I’m not sure we’re cheap. We’re selective. They reframe their cheapness to be a virtue. But just as a quick guideline from me to you, if you ever hear more than one person joking about you being cheap, you’re cheap. And there are always many, many more clues as well.
[00:26:30] Ramit: The world gave you another clue when you took a trip, and I understand that you, Mindy, got to the airport with Carl and you discovered– how many layovers did this trip have?
[00:26:44] Mindy: Two.
[00:26:44] Ramit: Mm-hmm. And did you care? I mean, two layovers, you’re probably going what? To India? Where were you going? Morocco?
[00:26:52] Mindy: Denver to Florida.
[00:26:55] Ramit: Okay. And, uh, how come so many layers? Was the weather bad? What was it?
[00:27:01] Mindy: No, we were saving money.
[00:27:03] Ramit: Mm. How much?
[00:27:05] Mindy: $20.
[00:27:07] Carl: I think it was $20 each.
[00:27:09] Mindy: What does Lisa call you, Carl? El Cheapo? Mr. Cheapo?
[00:27:13] Carl: Yeah. My sisters used to call me Mr. Cheapo when I was growing up. Um, yeah. Multiple neighbors thought we were destitute because I would change the oil, and mow my own lawn, and all that crap.
[00:27:25] Ramit: Mm, I don’t think that’s why they think you’re cheap. So you decided to reach out to me, why?
[00:27:33] Mindy: We have heard you talk, and you are very good at teaching people how to lead their rich life and changing their mindset. And you are a spender.
[00:27:47] Ramit: I am?
[00:27:49] Mindy: Yes.
[00:27:49] Ramit: What does a spender mean?
[00:27:51] Mindy: You spend money.
[00:27:53] Ramit: But isn’t that bad? You spent money on those Germany tickets, and that was bad, as you put it. So am I a bad person?
[00:28:00] Mindy: No.
[00:28:01] Ramit: How can I be a spender and not be a bad person? Got very quiet in here.
[00:28:14] Mindy: Because you’re spending on things that are important to you, and you can afford it. And I’m well aware of what that sounds like as soon as I say it. Thank you very much.
[00:28:24] Ramit: Go ahead. What does it sound like? Finish it for us.
[00:28:27] Mindy: Well, it sounds like I could spend on things that are important to me because I can afford it, and I don’t.
[00:28:34] Carl: Well, I think we’ve identified that we probably live sub optimally. If something truly makes you happy, you should spend money on it, and that’s what you do. And there’s stuff we’ve postponed or we think about money too much, and at this point, we probably shouldn’t.
[00:28:50] Ramit: So what’s the gap between us?
[00:28:52] Carl: I think it’s how we view money. For me, money has always been my security blanket. Even though I don’t relate to it well, I feel comfortable deep down inside knowing that there’s a big pile of money in our investment accounts.
[00:29:05] Ramit: No problem with that. I like my investment account too. Feels great. Uh, what words would you use to describe the way that your investment account makes you feel, Carl?
[00:29:18] Carl: Really good. Secure is probably number one.
[00:29:21] Ramit: Secure. What else?
[00:29:22] Carl: Happy.
[00:29:23] Ramit: Mm-hmm.
[00:29:25] Carl: Liberated.
[00:29:26] Ramit: Mindy, how do you feel about your investments?
[00:29:29] Mindy: I feel security in the investments, but I don’t want to touch them.
[00:29:38] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Because?
[00:29:41] Mindy: They’re for the future.
[00:29:42] Ramit: Mm-hmm. I mean, not to be too blunt, but when’s the future? Wow. The silence of mortality. Maybe 10 more years.
[00:30:01] Carl: And the older you get, the more you think about that very thing. I’ve heard you say prime spending years are 40 to 60. So yeah.
[00:30:08] Ramit: Aren’t you two in that range?
[00:30:09] Carl: Yeah. We’re dead center in the middle.
[00:30:12] Ramit: I’m not convinced that there’s actually any reason for you two to change. I’m trying to figure that out right now.
[00:30:20] Carl: Yeah. I think there is. I think you only have a certain amount of mental bandwidth. You can only do so much in the day, and when you spend precious minutes of your life, especially if you get older, when you’re 50, you could be using that time to do other things. So maybe any purchase under a certain amount, you shouldn’t even think about or consider. You shouldn’t waste any mind space considering it.
[00:30:45] Ramit: Carl, why are all your sentences in the second person? Why are you saying you? Why are you talking like you’re telling someone else a lesson about money.
[00:30:56] Carl: Okay. Yeah, I’ll switch to I. You’re right. I don’t know why I talk that way. But yeah, I think–
[00:31:04] Ramit: Hold on. Think about it for a second. Why did you suddenly switch into this very academic language?
[00:31:10] Carl: Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe I’m trying to pin my issues on someone else and not be accountable for it.
[00:31:22] Ramit: Mindy, what do you think?
[00:31:26] Mindy: I think it’s really hard for us to look at ourselves and how we’re spending money and acknowledge that– this isn’t really what we want to be doing. We don’t want to just keep throwing money on the pile and keep being cheap.
[00:31:53] Ramit: So far it sounds like a lot of shoulds. We should spend money. We’re 50. You talk about 40 to 60. Shoulds are not very compelling.
[00:32:05] Mindy: I think you’re right. How do you go from should to do?
[00:32:09] Carl: We grew up, uh, there was some money scarcity issues. My dad was often laid off from work. My mom did not work. So we’d have sad conversations around the dinner table occasionally about how we’d have to clamp down. Uh, it was rough. I think it scarred me and put these money scarcity issues. So whenever I got money, I would love to go to the bank, and I’m going to date myself, Ramit, but bank would have these little books they would give you, and they would write down your deposit with this little machine. I used to love going there and depositing my money, and that was it. I didn’t spend it on much.
[00:32:40] Ramit: How old were you when you went to the bank and did this?
[00:32:43] Carl: Oh geez. And the funny thing is, I still have my– would give you this little toy car when you signed up for an account, and it’s 50 feet away from me, right over there. Probably started seven or eight.
[00:32:55] Ramit: You mentioned that you used to have sad conversations about money around the dinner table. What does that mean?
[00:33:00] Carl: Yeah. It would happen– my dad was an and he would get laid off when winter would come, the work would die out, and he would get laid off, and it happened multiple years in a row where we would just sit down, hey, we have to have a family meeting. Your father’s been laid off again.
We’re going to have to clamp down. Uh, not spend money. And, uh, it put fear in me like, holy crap, are we going to lose our house? Shit. This is bad. Not good. My grandmother would talk about it more than my parents. She was a child of the Depression, so she would sneer at me and say, save your money, every time I saw her.
And if I came over with a toy that she thought was a stupid purchase, she would not hold back to tell me that if it was a stupid purchase, that I should have put that money in the bank. My mom would even tell me not to show my grandmother. I remember one time I bought a yo-yo, and it was 10 bucks. And my mom’s like, do not take that in her house because going to be angry with you.
[00:33:58] Ramit: So she’s, um, I don’t know how old she would be, but let’s just say pretty old. Her values are still present with you today.
[00:34:11] Carl: Absolutely.
[00:34:13] Ramit: Have you passed those values down to your daughters?
[00:34:17] Carl: We try to. They’re both very different children. They both know about money. They both could come down here and tell you what an index fund is. One is more of a saver than the other one.
[00:34:28] Ramit: Sorry. Just to clarify, the values that your grandmother passed down, which values do you think those are?
[00:34:34] Carl: Don’t be silly with money. I think it’s a good value.
[00:34:39] Ramit: I’m struck that when I said your grandmother passed her values to you, the values that I see are not constructive values. They’re actually quite negative. And you took that instead to mean those are positive values, and you have passed those along to your daughter.
[00:35:02] Carl: Hmm. I don’t think we’re as caustic as she was. We’re not mean about it, but we want them to be financially literate at the core. We want them to know how to save. We want them to know how to invest. Uh, and part of it is we want to set them up. We’ve talked about perhaps helping them out when they’re young adults, maybe buying them even a house or that when they’re young. And the money will do them a lot of good versus leaving them a big pile when we croak, when the money will be a diminishing return.
[00:35:33] Ramit: If your daughters are 50 years old and they have the same behavior and attitudes towards money as you two do, will you consider that a success or a failure?
[00:35:47] Carl: It’s better to be conservative than to be struggling. I know plenty of folks who struggle, but I think they could be a little bit better adjusted than we are.
[00:35:58] Ramit: Okay. So was that a success or a failure?
[00:36:02] Carl: I would say it’s a success, but maybe not a perfect success. Success with an asterisk.
[00:36:07] Ramit: Okay. Mindy, you had a peculiar look on your face when I asked that question. Can you tell me what was going through your head?
[00:36:16] Mindy: I know a lot of people are paycheck to paycheck, struggling with money, can’t buy anything because they don’t have any money or they don’t care, and they spend money that they don’t have to buy stuff either that they need or they don’t need, uh, just because of external factors. And I would consider it to be a success if they were like us and had the money to spend and weren’t spending it as opposed to having the money to spend and spending it anyway. I would rather they be more conservative. So success with an asterisk. I don’t think it’s a failure to have a lot of money and be conservative with your spending,
[00:37:10] Ramit: And when you talk to your daughters, you ever tell them what to do after they do all those smart saving and investing things?
[00:37:21] Mindy: We talk about having options so that they don’t have to work their whole lives.
[00:37:28] Ramit: It’s different than telling them how to spend money meaningfully.
[00:37:33] Mindy: Yeah.
[00:37:34] Ramit: This is where I took a huge left turn. Listening to Mindy and Carl, I don’t really believe that they want to change. They are leaders in a community that stigmatizes spending. They have decades of this habit under their belt, and it’s worked well for them. And even when I’ve talked to Mindy years ago, and we got into great detail, remember, she was crying at her realization that she wanted to take this trip, she changed nothing.
Even when I ask, would you want your children to turn 50 and be like you, they both say, yes, that would be a success. They’re on this podcast asking for help to change something deeply foundational to them and they don’t actually believe it’s a problem. So I just got really honest. If you watch their reactions, especially on video, you’ll see that they were shocked.
[00:38:27] Ramit: I have to tell you that I don’t think the two of you actually want to change, and I’ll tell you why. You occasionally acknowledge that what you’re doing is not serving you, but you have redefined the way that you treat money to be a virtue. We are conservative with money. You’re more than conservative. When I asked about the rare trip that you take with your family, which is a beautiful thing, you jumped right into the cost of the airline tickets. I don’t think that you genuinely want to change. How does that strike you?
[00:39:21] Carl: I would disagree, and I think it’s a factor of age, and, uh, I value my time more than anything right now for– Mindy will tell you another flight story. For the longest time, I wouldn’t sign up for pre-check, and we just did. And it’s glorious.
[00:39:34] Ramit: Pre-check costs $50.
[00:39:36] Carl: I know. I think it’s 75, but, uh, yeah. But totally worth it because I get some of my life back. It’s worth 10x when I paid for it because you saved so much time at the airport and frustration. I don’t like waiting in lines.
[00:39:50] Ramit: Carl, if you really cared about the time that you could get back, then you would not be spending the next 4 to 12 weeks doing doors. Mindy, how does it strike you, what I said?
[00:40:09] Mindy: I don’t agree, but I don’t– I’m going to prove it to you. I’m going to go spend a lot of money. Uh, I don’t know how to change. I mean, you just spend money. That’s how you change. But that’s not what I–
[00:40:31] Ramit: No. It’s not even about how, Mindy, because we talked about how last time, and you didn’t do it. And again, I don’t mind that you didn’t take the bike trip. You took another trip. Great. But the how is– you’re not even at the how yet. You don’t even know why you would want to spend more money. In your minds and the dynamic you’ve created between yourselves and with the relationships around you, spending less is a virtue, and spending more is wasteful. So we’re not even at the how.
So we talked about the bike trip, and I’m not fixating on the bike trip. If you go on the bike trip or not, that’s not important. But there was something that we both felt in that moment, something very powerful. Here it is years later, and I’m trying to get you to understand why you haven’t followed through on that. And your answer to me was, we’ve been busy. I don’t believe that. Carl doesn’t believe it. Look at his face. Carl, that’s ridiculous, right?
[00:41:48] Mindy: He believes that we are busy.
[00:41:52] Carl: Yeah. I believe that we’re busy. I think, um, Mindy perhaps has had a hard time of letting go of certain aspects of making money and working.
[00:42:07] Mindy: But I have stepped down an enormous amount of hours. So I went from 32 hours to about six or eight hours.
[00:42:15] Ramit: Cool. Okay. All right. So you actually– yeah. Sure, you’re still working a few hours here and there, but you’ve eliminated a considerable amount of time.
[00:42:24] Mindy: Yes.
[00:42:24] Ramit: Okay. How do you feel about that?
[00:42:27] Mindy: I feel good, but this was my first week, so that time suck is gone, but then there’s still the house time suck. And as we are finishing the house up, then it’ll feel great.
[00:42:40] Ramit: Do you mean the house, though? I thought houses are all passive. There’s no work involved in making money from real estate. Everybody just says it’s passive. That’s true, right?
[00:42:48] Mindy: Yeah. Those people are wrong.
[00:42:52] Ramit: All right. Okay. First of all, I’m going to give you a round of applause. You took back some of your time. That’s awesome. Fantastic. I wonder if you jumping from one busy thing to the next reminds you of anyone else we’ve heard on this podcast who jumped from one busy thing and has remained just as busy. Reminds you of anybody?
[00:43:17] Mindy: Uh, it’s ringing a bell.
[00:43:19] Ramit: Hmm. Who would that be?
[00:43:21] Mindy: Carl.
[00:43:24] Ramit: Uh, so what’s up with this dynamic here? The two of you both acknowledge you’re cheap. The two of you talk about money constantly focusing on cost. The two of you then tell each other, we should be better. We should spend something. But then you don’t.
[00:43:47] Carl: I have to tell you, I did do something. I learned that this band that I really like, one of my top three bands had a Kickstarter where you could have a live performance. They would fly out to anywhere in the world and do a live performance for $10,000.
[00:43:59] Ramit: Hmm.
[00:44:00] Carl: And at first, I thought this was completely ridiculous. Then I tweeted about it, and a bunch of friends said, no, I think you absolutely should do this. I did do it.
[00:44:11] Ramit: You did that?
[00:44:12] Carl: Yes.
[00:44:13] Ramit: It seems like Carl and Mindy are now trying to prove that they actually want to spend money. I’m not really here for them to impress me. I actually really want to help them. I like them. They’ve been highly disciplined about their savings and investments. They’ve retired early. They set a huge ambitious goal, and they won. So I want them to enjoy the results. But to live a rich life, you’ve got to be honest with yourselves and the people around you.
[00:44:41] Carl: Well, the show is going to happen in August. It has not happened yet, but I don’t know, it’s been a lot of fun so far planning this whole thing, and inviting friends.
It felt terror typing my credit card number, added my expiration date, the CVC, the little number. After I did it, it felt really good. It felt awesome.
[00:45:00] Ramit: Huh? Look at this smile on your face right now. Do you see that you are viewing that purchase through a completely different lens than anything else in your life? What’s the difference? How come you were able to feel that amount of emotion and excitement around that but not so much around other things?
[00:45:26] Mindy: It’s a big hurdle for him. He’s had a lot of fun planning this event. We had to find a location for it and talk to, uh, several different people about, alcohol, and food, and, are we having a party beforehand? There’s a lot of things going on with this, and he’s had a lot of fun.
[00:45:49] Ramit: Mm-hmm. I hear that. What’s interesting is it sounds like it took up a considerable amount of time, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t consider that being really busy. Fair?
[00:46:03] Carl: No, not busy at all, because it’s super fun.
[00:46:05] Ramit: Uh-huh. What if you could do more things like that?
[00:46:09] Carl: Yeah. I super look forward to it as soon as I’m done hanging those doors, which Mindy gets to help me with her newfound time.
[00:46:16] Ramit: Which is fine if you like the house. If that’s what you love, if it is your business, or it provides you joy, great. Carl, does it?
[00:46:27] Carl: Not so much anymore.
[00:46:29] Mindy: Uh, we used to, and this’ll be our last remodel.
[00:46:32] Carl: It was our path to wealth. We would fix and flip houses, the 2-out-of-5-year rule, not pay capital gains, reinvest the money in stocks or another house, but it’s run its course at this time. We’re going to finish it up, like Mindy said, and no more.
[00:46:48] Mindy: Once this house is finished, there are no more projects. And we’ve said this to several friends, and they’re like, yeah, right. You’re going to find something else. No, this is it. This is the last one. We don’t enjoy it anymore. I don’t enjoy it anymore. He says he enjoys it, and he really does enjoy tile.
He’s very good at it. I think it’s something that he really does enjoy doing. The solitude. And he’s got headphones, and he is listening to a podcast, and having a great time, but I don’t think that there’s a lot of the other parts that he enjoys. Hanging drywall sucks. Installing doors sucks. Um, living in chaos sucks. And there’s still five weeks left.
[00:47:31] Ramit: When was the last time that I hung a door? Any idea?
[00:47:35] Carl: Uh, probably never.
[00:47:36] Ramit: Correct. I mean, you have the skill to hang a door and undo whatever those packages are and stuff. Okay. You have skills. I agree. Is there a future where maybe you don’t hang doors?
[00:47:49] Carl: Yeah. I hope that future starts in about four weeks from right now.
[00:47:53] Ramit: Hmm. So when the project completes.
[00:47:56] Carl: Yes.
[00:47:57] Ramit: And then everything will magically change.
[00:48:01] Carl: I don’t think it’ll magically change, but–
[00:48:03] Ramit: Carl, you already did this. Do you see what I’m trying to show you? You already did this. You hit your FI number and nothing changed the next day. You could be right. Maybe all this is going to be completely wrapped up in exactly four weeks, and everything will change magically after that. Another way to look at it is the way you live today is the way you are going to live for the rest of your lives.
[00:48:32] Mindy: No.
[00:48:33] Carl: No.
[00:48:34] Ramit: Oh, that’s the first time I’ve actually heard the two of you say something in a resolute way.
[00:48:38] Mindy: That is the way that we have lived for the last 15 or 20 years. And it is not– we used to like it, and we don’t like it anymore.
[00:48:51] Ramit: I have a question. If this were all going to be resolved in two or three weeks, why didn’t we just talk in two or three weeks? What I suspect is that things are actually not going to change that much in three weeks. It’s really hard to change. You know that. I know that. It’s really hard. So aren’t you doing yourselves a bit of a disservice by just kicking everything off till this date, three weeks in the future, and not really looking inside?
[00:49:22] Carl: Yeah. I don’t know. It feels weird because, uh, we took on these projects. Now we know we don’t want to do them anymore, but we have to bring them to resolution. We have to finish them up, and I think we really– Ramit, I’ve got to tell you. We’ve been doing this our whole entire lives. We’ve lived in a house that’s not a construction zone.
I’m holding up my– I’m in my dining room, and my nail gun is right next to me, which is, uh, but I don’t think we want to do this anymore. And like you said, change is hard, but I think we’ll actually have the time and mental bandwidth and hopefully be able to, uh, we just haven’t ever slowed down in the past. As long as we’ve been married, we’ve never slowed down. And this’ll be it.
[00:50:11] Ramit: I once saw a video clip that I’ll never forget. It was a self-development seminar, and a woman stood up and asked a question with way too many details. And the person on stage, she responded by saying this. She said, “I think you talk a lot so you can escape yourself.” I still remember the deafening silence in the room, and I remember my own heart speeding up as I wondered. Do I do that too?
This is what Mindy and Carl are doing, and what so many of us do. We frantically respond to emails. We make the kids lunches. We schedule weekend activities, and optimize our savings, and we read fire blogs. Also, we can escape the deeper meanings of a rich life. Am I spending my time and money on the things that matter? Do I have strong relationships? How would I know if those things are true?
Let’s look. If you claim you have strong relationships, look at your phone. Look at your text messages and calendar from the last week. Show me proof that you have strong relationships. Do I work on my health? Where does that show up in your calendar and your spending? Am I generous? Where does that show up in your conscious spending plan? Do I even know what my rich life is?
In America, we are experts at doing more work, more work, chasing a goal that we tell ourselves our boss created, or our partner, or even society. But when you meet a couple like Mindy and Carl, who were independently wealthy as a result of their discipline, they even retired early, and even they can’t stop doing things they dislike, you start to realize this may be a crystal ball into your future, unless you make a change.
[00:52:02] Ramit: What are you going to do with all the time?
[00:52:06] Carl: Learn Spanish, play the piano, play the guitar, work on another website I’ve been thinking about for the past five years, um, exercise.
[00:52:16] Mindy: Exercise. Go long bike rides.
[00:52:20] Ramit: Wow. That actually sounds really good. Are you guys kidding, or is this for real?
[00:52:24] Mindy: No, this is for real. We’ve got a big list of things that we want to do. Uh, we have two kids. They’re 13 and 16, and so we’re a little location dependent right now, um, while they’re in school. But they’re in school from 8:00 to 4:00, or 8:00 to 3:00. So we can spend that time doing other things.
[00:52:42] Ramit: Got it. Okay. Cool. You have a list. That’s cool. What else is on that list?
[00:52:46] Carl: One thing I’ll say is it was difficult to do the trip to Germany just because it was expensive. And our younger daughter is a homebody. She did not want to go. She’s like, I just want to stay here. Can you leave me with a relative or our friends?
[00:52:59] Ramit: She’s 13, right?
[00:53:00] Carl: Yeah, she’s 13.
[00:53:01] Ramit: 13-year olds, they don’t want to do anything.
[00:53:02] Carl: Yeah. But the amazing thing was she got back and the first thing she said was, dad, can’t wait to go back there, and I’m going to start doing German on Duolingo.
[00:53:12] Ramit: Wow.
[00:53:13] Carl: I know, right?
[00:53:14] Ramit: Wait, that’s amazing. Okay. Amazing. What’s your takeaway from that?
[00:53:18] Carl: My takeaway was, holy shit, how can we give you more of these experiences that you really enjoyed? The memory dividend, she’s going to take that with her forever, and it might change her life. Maybe she’ll take up German in university, or maybe she’ll go to Germany to study. Who knows? And it was something she was resistant against doing, and now she’s in love with the place.
[00:53:40] Ramit: So you may have changed the trajectory of your daughter’s life with this one trip. What are the implications of that as it relates to money?
[00:53:49] Carl: Oh, my implications are, what else can we spend money on? What else can we show her that’s going to change her world, maybe make her come out of her shell, make her more enthusiastic for these experiences, which might seem a little bit scary, in the end, she loves?
[00:54:06] Ramit: Okay. When was this trip to Germany? How many months ago?
[00:54:11] Mindy: Ten.
[00:54:12] Ramit: Ten months ago, almost a year ago. What money have you spent on for that daughter to create experiences for her?
[00:54:25] Mindy: Uh, we have Hawaii planned. She was last in Hawaii when she was two or three, so she doesn’t remember. She’s really excited about that. We’re staying at very nice resorts. We are planning a helicopter trip. We are snorkeling. What are we– snorkeling with manta rays. Um, things that we would not have done the past because they would be too expensive. And I don’t even know how much the helicopter trip costs.
We haven’t discussed how much it costs. We just asked the girls if that was something that they would be interested in doing because the little one may have some issues with getting into a helicopter, and they were both very excited about it. The same with the manta rays. Um, and they were so excited, we just booked the trip. We look at the cost.
I heard you on Chris Hutchins’s show talking about you went to Japan, and you got a photographer while you were there, and they took pictures, and I said, oh, we should do that while we’re in Hawaii. So we’re going to find a photographer to take some family photos on the beach, and it’s going to be a cost because it’s somebody’s time, but I’m not concerned about that cost.
[00:55:42] Ramit: Can we try to reframe that? I loved everything you just told me. Everything. It sounds beautiful. It sounds like a memory of a lifetime. Take me to the end of that sentence where you said, we’re going to get a photographer. And then you lapsed into cost.
[00:55:59] Mindy: Well, I don’t know what it’s going to cost. I haven’t looked into it at all.
[00:56:01] Ramit: Hey, Mindy. I don’t care what it costs.
[00:56:04] Mindy: And I don’t either. I mean, I don’t want to spend $10,000 on it, but I want to find somebody to nice pictures. I don’t know how much it costs.
[00:56:17] Ramit: When I talked about it on a Chris’s podcast, did you hear me talk about the cost of it?
[00:56:23] Mindy: No.
[00:56:23] Ramit: No. What did I talk about?
[00:56:26] Mindy: You talked about how you would have these memories for the rest of your life because you had somebody else take these pictures.
[00:56:33] Ramit: In fact, the more money I accumulate, the more meaning I get to create in more adventurous ways, in bigger results ways, in more convenient and safe ways than to have to only look at the world through cost. So when you tell me that I took a trip to Germany, I’m more interested in how your daughters thought the food was and what you saw there in terms of history. That gets me pumped. That is creating memories. And your youngest wants to learn German. Oh my God, I love that. The price of an airline ticket for the two of you, couldn’t care less. Mindy, you look startled. Carl is smiling too. Mindy, what’s going through your head?
[00:57:45] Mindy: I am thinking of new ways to look at things. I do look at everything based on how much it costs, and I don’t need to. I shouldn’t.
[00:57:56] Ramit: Now this is good. No matter how much someone struggles to change their money, attitudes, and behaviors, there is always a glimmer of hope, and I see that glimmer shining brightly when they talk about their daughter’s reaction to visiting Germany. I saw it with their upcoming trip to Hawaii. I even saw it with Carl’s birthday party concert. To me, these are really promising clues. And they tell me that there’s a yearning here to change, and even some proven behaviors that they’ve done, but it’s going to take a lot of work.
[00:58:25] Ramit: When I was young, as you know, I grew up, frugal family, dad worked, mom was home with the kids. We had a pretty big family. Not a lot of money. Middle class, hardly ever ate out, hardly ever took vacations. We did not waste money. Sometimes you have to do that. There’s just no extra money to– you can’t actually afford to waste money.
Now, I’m CEO. I’ve run my business. I have all these people around me. Sometimes money gets wasted. Now, I’m not saying I love it, but maybe I order something and it doesn’t get returned in time. The more money you have, the more money you will naturally waste, and that is okay because any system of any complexity has waste in it. Carl, you’re building this house along with Mindy. Have you wasted any of your supplies?
[00:59:27] Carl: Yes.
[00:59:28] Ramit: Of course. That’s waste. That’s normal. Any system has waste. If it has no waste, it’s probably not doing anything productive. But with money, Mindy, you have this view about waste as if it’s the worst thing in the world. Why?
[00:59:49] Mindy: I am a grandchild of the Depression, and you did not waste anything back then because you didn’t have anything. So anything that you had, you had to keep. You had to save.
[01:00:04] Ramit: But Mindy, yet you still live and breathe that same value today.
[01:00:10] Mindy: Yeah.
[01:00:12] Ramit: So I grew up the same way. Not, uh, descendant of grandparents or others who were in the Great Depression, but I grew up with a frugal family by nature and partially by culture. And we found lots of inexpensive ways to have fun, and we had a great time. But what do you think changed for me to be able to spend extravagantly on the things I love? What changed? It wasn’t just making more money because you’ve made more money, and you haven’t changed.
[01:00:40] Mindy: I don’t know what changed for you.
[01:00:42] Ramit: Hmm. Do you want to ask some questions? Let’s flip this podcast. This is your podcast now. Go ahead.
[01:00:52] Mindy: Ramit, when did you first find yourself starting to spend more money and being okay with spending that money?
[01:01:01] Ramit: Right after I graduated from college. I remember asking a friend to help me dress better, and she took me to the Palo Alto Mall, and we went into the store, I think it was a Macy’s or something, and the way I had always shopped was, if you see something you like, you look at the price tag, and then if it’s reasonable, you take it in the dressing room. So I started doing that and she stopped me. She goes, “Don’t do that.” I said, “What?” She said, “First, see if you love it, then we can talk about the price.” That blew my mind. That was the first thing I remember.
[01:01:39] Mindy: What did it feel like for you when your friend told you not to look at the price tag and then you go into the dressing room? Did you look at it then?
[01:01:48] Ramit: No. I trusted her. I had asked her because she had really good style. I had asked her to come help me. I wanted to learn how to dress better, and I trusted her. So I walked out, and she had these extremely memorable reactions. When I would wear something, she would get excited. She was like, this looks amazing.
[01:02:10] Mindy: So when it came time to pay, they told you that the total, you bring your pile of clothes to register. How did that feel?
[01:02:21] Ramit: Well, I had the money. So the first thing is I was not worried about the money. I had the money. I knew my numbers. Um, but the way that I felt was focused on how I was going to look, and the numbers were a mere triviality. Yeah, they were more than I would’ve ever paid before, but I was more focused on my friend getting me excited about how I was going to look and how to style these new clothes.
[01:02:48] Mindy: Okay.
[01:02:49] Ramit: All right. What are you taking away from this, Mindy?
[01:02:55] Mindy: I don’t know how you go from a frugal family to not looking at price tags at clothes. I mean, Macy’s can have some sweaters, or they could have some $5,000 sweaters.
[01:03:09] Ramit: They don’t have $5,000 sweaters at Macy’s. I know that. Mindy, if you’re going to try to throw around prices of stuff, the one thing you do not want to throw around with this guy is the price of sweaters. Your point is, Macy’s can have expensive sweaters. Yes. But the principle is still the same. What was the principle you heard me say?
[01:03:30] Mindy: You trusted your friend and you focused on the result, not the cost.
[01:03:36] Ramit: I focused on a bigger picture than cost. What would be the equivalent for your Hawaii trip?
[01:03:45] Mindy: I think we’re doing most of it.
[01:03:47] Ramit: Yeah, I do too. What is the big picture, the thing that you’re actually getting excited about?
[01:03:53] Mindy: Spending time with the girls and having a great trip, doing things that they want to do.
[01:03:58] Ramit: Yes. How come you’re not agonizing over the price of everything?
[01:04:03] Mindy: Because we’re trying something new.
[01:04:05] Ramit: Yes. Do you see the direct analogy?
[01:04:11] Mindy: Yes.
[01:04:13] Ramit: Why is it uncomfortable for you?
[01:04:18] Mindy: Because this is new.
[01:04:21] Ramit: The difference is, I had a reason, a very compelling reason when I was in my early 20s. A young 20 something guy wants to look good. I was single. I have asked many times, and I’m still looking for a compelling reason from the two of you to change. I’m still looking. I will ask again and again, why now? And the answers are, we should spend more. We have enough in the bank. Not compelling. Not enough of a reason to actually change. You have both embedded yourself in systems and structures that makes it extremely difficult for you to actually build the skill of spending money.
[01:05:14] Carl: Hmm. Well, I’ll ask Mindy. I think our lives will change very shortly when all this stuff is done. Uh, but it’s probably a recent realization, I think, the New York trip where we did allow ourselves to spend money on two shows and nice experiences there. I think that was an eye opener. I don’t regret a thing about spending that money, and now more than anything in life, just want my time.
[01:05:40] Mindy: That seems strange though, if they have that kind of money. I mean, I’ve only seen the cartoon rich people who are like, I got to do all this stuff so fast, and I’ve got– time is money, and let’s get going. We’re always so busy we don’t have time to do anything and people who have that kind of money aren’t rushed. That seems–
[01:06:02] Ramit: Never rush.
[01:06:03] Mindy: We are at a point where the older one is going to be going off to college soon. I want to make a lot of with the four of us while there’s still the four of us.
[01:06:15] Carl: Ramit, we committed to these projects years ago, where my mindset was a little bit different and, I think, was shitier, but now I just want to get past them and move on.
[01:06:28] Mindy: Well, I had some notes up here, and my top thing was I don’t want to be wasteful, so I’m crossing that off.
[01:06:35] Ramit: I like it. Can I make a suggestion? Maybe going forward, you don’t use the word optimize anymore. At all. How do you feel about that?
[01:06:45] Carl: I feel good. I’ll have to get the word optimized, the tattoo removed from my ass. But I like the reframing of it.
[01:06:54] Ramit: Cool. Use that between the two of you. So you both have a lot of fun with each other. I can tell. Just the way you talk. If that optimize comes up, you can, ah, what’d you say? You can have fun with it, but it’s also a half joke because you actually don’t have to live a life of optimization for everything. People who have the wealth you do, it’s a tragedy to live a smaller life than you have to. You can live a life of comfort, safety, or pure delight. Carl’s writing something down. Carl, what are you writing down?
[01:07:31] Carl: It’s a tragedy to live a smaller life than you have to.
[01:07:33] Ramit: Okay. I appreciate that. It’s the first thing you wrote down today. What struck you about that phrase?
[01:07:41] Carl: Geez. I don’t want to be 80 and regret not buying the photographer or doing other shit that we could have done, uh, on the vacation that we been doing. I mean, the thing that– one of the things that really stuck out to me was our younger daughter telling us how much she liked the trip and the experience, and I want to give her more experiences like that. I want to come back from Hawaii and for her to tell us that was the best weeks of her life.
[01:08:06] Ramit: Now, that is a powerful vision. Mindy, how much did you say you’re going to have by the time you’re 70 or 80 or something? That big number that you said in your pre-interview.
[01:08:16] Mindy: Oh, it’s going to be– well, if we– God, I wrote those down, and then I don’t have that off the top of my head, but the rule of 72 says that it’s going to double every eight years. So I’m 50 now at 4.3 million. At age 58, I’ll have 8.6. At age 58, 64, I will have 16 million.
[01:08:41] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Keep going.
[01:08:41] Mindy: And then at 74, 72, I’ll have 32 million, something like that.
[01:08:48] Ramit: Okay. Stop right there $32 million at age 74.
[01:08:52] Mindy: Yeah.
[01:08:53] Ramit: What does it mean to you?
[01:08:54] Mindy: That’s unfathomable.
[01:08:56] Ramit: Mm-hmm.
[01:08:58] Mindy: I don’t really identify with that.
[01:09:01] Ramit: So if you continue the way you are, what are you going to do with that much money by then?
[01:09:06] Mindy: Pay a lot in required minimum distributions.
[01:09:11] Ramit: And then what are you going to do with that money?
[01:09:13] Mindy: Yeah. I want to buy my kids a house before I have to pay for all of that.
[01:09:19] Ramit: Okay. A house costs a million bucks, maybe even two. Great. What else? That’s your interest for about nine months.
[01:09:28] Mindy: Yeah. I don’t know how to handle that kind of money.
[01:09:33] Ramit: If you can’t learn to spend a little bit of money right now, this is just income, by the way, then how can you learn to spend millions and millions and millions of dollars? Mindy’s taking deep breaths right now.
[01:09:53] Mindy: Yeah, because I don’t know how I would ever spend $16 million.
[01:09:57] Carl: Yeah, I think it would be a failure if we ever got to that. I think that would be an indication that we didn’t spend enough when we were younger, because who knows what shape we’ll be in when we’re that old as well. So I don’t want to get to a point where we have that much. And even if that means giving it away–
[01:10:13] Ramit: Yeah.
[01:10:14] Carl: And seeing our money doing good. I don’t want to leave a bunch of money when I die. I want to blow it all before I croak, and hopefully, here’s the o word again, optimally blow it. Uh, so either give it away or spend it on stuff. I don’t want to have that wealth where I don’t–
[01:10:30] Mindy: I still want to go on that bike ride.
[01:10:31] Narration: [Narration]
[01:10:32] Ramit: And now for their follow-ups, which I asked them to record on video. So make sure you come to YouTube and subscribe so you can see their reactions. It’s actually quite telling, and you’ll be able to see future video follow-ups from our guests. Don’t forget, you can sign up to get my podcast newsletter every single week where I share material you will never see publicly. It’s at iwt.com/podcastnewsletter. This week, I’m talking about the dynamics of cheap people. First up, Mindy’s video update.
[01:11:09] Mindy: What really surprised me is that you didn’t think that we really want to change. Um, I do want to change, but the change is hard. I’m old. I’m set in my ways, and this is a big part of my whole life. And it is tough to change, and I really thought that you were just going to wave some magical wand and everything was going to be easy. And apparently, I have to do the work. Um, so I’m thankful for the conversation. You really made me think. I did not sleep well the last night or two nights ago, so thanks for that.
Uh, but I have a lot to think about. And why would I sit through this if I didn’t want to change Ramit? Um, what did I take away from this conversation? I don’t think Carl and I are really on the same page about money sometimes. And I really thought we were. I thought we were both on the same page all the time. And I want to pay somebody to come in and finish this stupid house so we can be done, and he wants to DIY everything.
Um, and I get both sides of it. I get his point because finding good help is really, really hard. Um, but we are both frustrated with the house and the way it’s going. So we did end up hiring our friend Eric, and, um, he came in and hung all the doors today, and they look great. And that’s a huge weight off of our shoulders. And the amount of mental bandwidth that that freed up is, uh, you can’t put a price on that, even though it only costs– well, I’m not even going to tell you how much it cost because I don’t do that anymore.
Um, I do have a comment from my daughter. She said, uh, I said how we were talking to this guy last night, and we’re always concerned about the cost of things. She said, “Since when are you concerned about the cost? You’re rich.” And I asked her if she thought we weren’t concerned about the cost of things, and she replied, “I think you obsessed about the price of everything, and it’s annoying.” Anyway, um, the idea that all this could all be done soon is delightful. Thank you.
[01:13:24] Ramit: And now Carl’s video update.
[01:13:28] Carl: Hi, Ramit. So this is my friend Eric. One of the suggestions you had was to hire some of our stuff out so we get through this and move on to our next life. And when we were on the call the other night, I texted Eric, and he had actually responded a couple minutes later saying he could help out today. So that’s Wednesday, and we are installing doors now. We’re not only influenced and reinforced by our community, but we’re reinforced by each other.
I think Mindy and I are on the same page, and I think it’s great to be on the same page with your partner, but maybe we’re not exactly on the right page. So that’s what surprised me. I think Mindy and I have lived in maybe a tunnel vision situation for a long time, where we’re pretty much exactly on the same page and haven’t considered other views or what else we could be doing with our money to live a better life.
Uh, one of the big takeaways was I was thinking about our recent trips to New York and Germany with our daughters, and what a great time they had. I think that’s probably some of the best times we’ve had as a family. And after we got off our call with you, I thought, why aren’t we doing more of this? So I’ve done a couple things. I’ve taken three different actions since we talked. This one was inspired by you and the photographer story. We have a good friend who lives on Maui, and we offered to fly him and his partner over to Kauai for a day to hang out with us and to also take pictures of ourselves and our family.
Number two, yesterday, Mindy and I asked each girl, each of our daughters, to make a list of the top 10 places they would like to see in the world. We are going to see what they come up with and see what overlap there is on their list, and then pick a place and go there for at least a week on December break.
And here’s a really big one. I think you’re going to like this one a lot. Uh, my mom is still around. I also have two sisters who both have partners, and all of them are doing all right, but not nearly as well off as Mindy and I. So yesterday, I sent everyone a text offering to take the entire family on a cruise to Alaska. So this is my mom, my sisters, and their partners. I would pay for a cruise to go to Alaska in 2024. My mom has always dreamt to this, but has never been able to pull the trigger on it for herself. So I look forward to being able to take all nine of us on this pretty cool trip. So thank you for the inspiration.
[01:16:18] Ramit: Well, I want to thank Mindy and Carl for coming on this show. It took a lot of courage, particularly because of their place in the FIRE community to come here publicly and ask for help. So Mindy and Carl, thank you very much. I’d love for you to keep updating me with how you are developing your rich life.
If you enjoyed this, let’s do a couple of things. Number one, please leave a written review on Apple Podcast. It helps a lot. Number two, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. And number three, go to iwt.com/podcastnewsletter. This week, I’m sending something you’ve never seen, my seven-part scorecard on how to tell if you are cheap. Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next time.