Episode #115: “We’ve fought about money for 29 years. Is it time for divorce?”

Kevin and Ebony are both 52. They have two kids, both young adults, and have turned their attention to retirement planning. But standing in the way are $135,000 of debt, a recurring issue, and 29 years of deeply ingrained negative communication patterns when it comes to money.

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Show Transcript

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[00:00:00] Ebony: I really was at the point where if he doesn’t care anymore, I don’t care anymore, and I was just going to throw my hands up and walk away and either file bankruptcy or walk away and file divorce. I am that done. It was not this complicated two months ago, Ramit. What did we say in this conversation that we had? 

[00:00:21] Kevin: Uh, we need more money. That was the conversation. 

[00:00:23] Well, what he just said, more money was not going to solve the problem.

[00:00:27] I know.

[00:00:29] Ebony: He changed his direct deposit. I get paid once a month, so I was paying all of my stuff. It was already set up, and then it all came. Everything started coming out of one account. It’s crazy. 

[00:00:41] Ramit: Listen, if you guys want to fight, I’m not the place to do it.

[00:00:44] Ebony: Rationalization. Rationalizing. I like being right.

[00:00:47] Ramit: Would you like to right yourself right into another 25 years of not connecting over money?

[00:00:53] Ebony: No.

[00:00:55] Kevin: No.

[00:00:56] Ebony: And again, I got to get off this crazy merry-go-round. If I start healing from this, and he doesn’t, it’s not going to work. 


[00:01:06] Ramit: I’d like you to meet Kevin and Ebony. They’re both 52 years old, and they’ve been married for 29 years. I just loved talking to them because they have layers upon layers of things that are going on in this conversation. Now, in their relationship, she manages the money, and she admits that she loves control. He says that he’s willing to help, but his attitude is that it’s all going to work out, even while she is terrified. 

[00:01:32] Now, as you listen to today’s episode, you’re going to be frustrated at times. I can guarantee that. But you’re also going to experience breakthroughs as they experience it. So stick with it. And be sure to stay tuned until the very end when they update us on what happened after our conversation. And if you’re watching on YouTube, you’ll actually be able to see their video updates. Now, let’s get to Kevin and Ebony. 


[00:01:56] Ramit: You’ve been married for 29 years. 

[00:01:58] Kevin: Yes.

[00:01:59] Ramit: Congratulations.

[00:02:00] Kevin: Thank you.

[00:02:01] Ramit: What do you attribute being married for 29 years to? That’s quite an accomplishment.

[00:02:05] Kevin: Uh, actually, communication. 

[00:02:09] Ramit: Oh, that’s good. I appreciate that.

[00:02:12] Ebony: Ironic, right?

[00:02:14] Kevin: Yeah, ironically.

[00:02:15] Ramit: Why are you laughing?

[00:02:16] Kevin: She can be hyperbolic, but at the same time, uh, it is the truth.

[00:02:21] Ramit: Uh, do you think that the two of you communicate well with each other?

[00:02:25] Kevin: Yes, we do.

[00:02:26] Ramit: Okay.

[00:02:27] Ebony: About everything except money.

[00:02:29] Ramit: Oh, okay.

[00:02:31] Ebony: We do not communicate well about money. He avoids, and I hyper focus.

[00:02:36] Ramit: Okay. Your husband hearing it, and when money comes up now, even the word money, if it comes up in your house, how do you think he reacts?

[00:02:46] Ebony: He shuts down. He detaches.

[00:02:48] Ramit: Show me physically. How would you describe it if you had to describe it? It’d be like– yeah. Oh yeah. 

[00:02:54] Ebony: It’s a hot stove. Like no. 

[00:02:56] Ramit: It’s too hot. I don’t want to touch it. In fact, I’m going back to my part of the house.

[00:03:02] Ebony: I’m going to watch football. I am the one who tends to take the lead and take charge and start the conversation. But once I bring it up, we have no problem having a conversation, but I always have to initiate the conversation.

[00:03:17] Ramit: Okay. And in your mind, you don’t want that?

[00:03:22] Ebony: No, I don’t want that. That’s where I’m at, like, I am too old to keep doing this, and I’m in my early 50s, and I just really am like, I want someone who is mature enough to be as engaged in the things that matter in our life. And for me, really, I think what’s making me feel the sense of urgency right now is I feel like retirement is looming.

[00:03:52] Um, I really was at the point where if he doesn’t care anymore, I don’t care anymore, and I was just going to throw my hands up and walk away and either file bankruptcy or walk away and file divorce. I am that done. Our youngest, our son is about to go to college, and yeah, I’m not nearly where I want to be financially.

[00:04:17] Ramit: Kevin, do you agree that Ebony takes the lead in talking about all those topics?

[00:04:25] Kevin: Yes, she does. But at the same time, Ramit, Ebony is a talker. Ebony is one of those people who’s a busy body. Ebony is really, really smart. Um, I don’t know if you have her profile, her bio. Uh, she’s an attorney. She is, we like to joke, the smartest one in the room. So she has a lot of energy, and her mind is always going when it should be relaxing and laid back. She’s always wanting to just– sometimes you just have to let things go, and she doesn’t.

[00:05:02] Ramit: Okay. All right. I think I understand. So let’s talk about money. First of all, did the two of you talk about money?

[00:05:12] Kevin: Not really. Just the typical pay the bills. Uh, what do we need? We, um, have a spreadsheet.

[00:05:20] Ebony: I have a spreadsheet and a budget.

[00:05:22] Kevin: Yes.

[00:05:24] Ebony: That I have created, that I then show him.

[00:05:28] Kevin: That we brief with each other once a month about, oh, we don’t do that.? 

[00:05:35] Ramit: Let’s take it one at a time. Kevin, you tell me, how do you talk about money, and when do you talk about money?

[00:05:43] Kevin: When she’s going to get paid, we’ll talk about that. Um, also when I get paid, to just make sure the money’s dispersed properly or in the categories, or when we have different things coming up. Um, as she said, we have a son. He’s a, uh, basketball player. He has camps, um, trainers, different things of that nature. Uh, just the typical household budget and the extra things. Um, he had camps, so we had to figure out the hotels, everything else. So those type of conversations. But just a basic money conversation, we don’t have those.

[00:06:20] Ramit: Uh, Ebony, you want to add anything different to that?

[00:06:24] Ebony: Yeah, no, I think he summed it up. We really don’t talk about money in terms of investment and what’s our retirement plan. And sometimes I’ll say something to him that I think is really obvious because I read a lot of books about money. Like how much you need before you can retire and what you’re going to live off of. To the point it’s just basic stuff, and he’s just like, has no interest in it, does not have any information about it unless I share it with him.

[00:06:55] Ramit: Why do you think he has no interest in it?

[00:06:58] Ebony: Because with his free time, he will watch sports. It’s all he does.

[00:07:03] Ramit: Well, you told me what he does. My question is, why don’t you think he has any interest in money?

[00:07:08] Ebony: Because when I bring it up, he avoids the conversation.

[00:07:13] Ramit: Why do you think that is?

[00:07:15] Ebony: Um, honestly, I think there’s– I guess, it’s fear. There’s some trauma there. I don’t know. That’s why I’m on this show, because I really want to know.

[00:07:27] Ramit: Wait a minute. Hold on.

[00:07:30] Ebony: Why can’t–

[00:07:32] Ramit: You’ve been married 29 years. You two clearly communicate with each other. You never got curious about why does your husband not want to talk about money?

[00:07:45] Ebony: Probably not until the last three years or so. 

[00:07:53] Ramit: You were just busy for the last 26 years?

[00:07:56] Ebony: Yeah, no, because I really am, I’ll say, very controlling.

[00:08:02] Ramit: What?

[00:08:04] Ebony: Yes. I’ll just do it. I don’t have time to wait, and I don’t know what his deal is, so I just do it.

[00:08:15] Ramit: You say it like, I’m going to reveal a secret. I’m controlling. Okay. Got you. Kevin, are you surprised by that?

[00:08:29] Kevin: Oh my goodness. Oh, that’s news to me. Yeah.

[00:08:35] Ramit: Okay. Let me make sure I have the dynamics right. I just want to make sure I understand. Correct me if I’m not accurate because I want to make sure I understand what’s going on. Ebony, you’re an attorney. You’re in charge of the finances in the house. You have a spreadsheet, maybe multiple spreadsheets. Is it multiple?

[00:08:57] Ebony: Probably.

[00:08:57] Ramit: So you managed the money, and it’s actually worked in the sense that you had that role in the family for 26 years. So far, is everything accurate?

[00:09:10] Kevin: Yes.

[00:09:11] Ebony: Yes.

[00:09:12] Ramit: Okay. Got it. And then in the last three or so years, as you’ve gotten closer to your 50s, your kids moving out, etc, you’re reflecting. You’re zooming back and saying, wait a second. I’m not where I thought I would be. And this situation we have, the way that we treat money in our family is not working for me anymore. Is that right?

[00:09:33] Ebony: Yes.

[00:09:34] Kevin: She matters to me. I really love her, and, uh, I’m willing to do anything to, um, help our relationship, and truly, uh, she has a point. It’s one of those things where someone’s right, you’re like, wow. And I may not be expressive or quite feel the way she feels, but I see the numbers and everything else.

[00:09:54] Ramit: What is the point that she has?

[00:09:57] Kevin: Uh, the point being, um, we have a lot of debt as far as– I would say, on a scale of, uh, 100, we’re probably, uh, 98. We’re right where things are very tough month to month or, as they say, if you had a true emergency, one of us, any emergency where we couldn’t work anything, it would be definitely difficult. 


[00:10:21] Ramit: Lot of early clues here. First off, the stakes are high. They brought up the word divorce in the first five minutes. And let’s remember that they’ve been married for 29 years. In all that time, they haven’t explored basic questions about how they both act around money. I personally love this because it gives me a lot of low hanging fruit to work with. Another clue’s that their son is an athlete with expensive training and camps, etc. And finally, the last clue I noticed is that Ebony proudly admits to wanting control in the relationship. And that relationship, by the way, has a lot of debt.


[00:11:03] Ebony: That’s why we’re here. We were down to our last $25,000, and I said, do you know what? We paid off all the credit cards. We paid off all the stuff. And then we agreed we would do a consolidation loan and pay off the rest so that we would just knock it out and no more credit cards. But you saw the statements. There’s credit card. 

[00:11:28] So now we basically doubled it, and I’m like, what the heck? How did this happen? So I feel like I’ve lied to myself. He’s lied to me, and I guess I’ve lied to him too. But there’s been a lot of dishonesty, and I don’t know– I have been working on why this behavior continues to repeat, but I can’t– it’s probably very multifaceted.

[00:11:50] I really like to be able to look in my bank account and see money in there. And in fact, sometimes when I should take money out of the savings because I’ve saved up, like this is for this expense, I don’t want to. I want to put it on a credit card because I feel like if I deplete my savings, disaster is just around the corner. I cannot be a 70-year old person in credit card debt. I cannot do that.

[00:12:15] Ramit: No, you can’t. What would happen if you were 70 years old in credit card debt? Don’t own a home. What would you do?

[00:12:22] Ebony: Disaster is homelessness, and I just feel like it’s right around the corner because there’s so much uncertainty. If I lose my job, we are going to be homeless. I would be eating cat food and living on the street. My worst nightmare is I’m going to be homeless. That is just something I’ve–

[00:12:46] Ramit: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Let me guess. Let me paint the picture. Tell me if you’ve thought about this very picture. It’s raining. There’s a van. You’re kicked out of the van unceremoniously. You have one bag. You have cat food, if that, and you’re left alone with only your bag of things. Does this sound familiar?

[00:13:11] Ebony: Yes, except I have a lot of bags. 

[00:13:14] Ramit: Where does this homelessness fear come from?

[00:13:17] Ebony: I don’t know. Yeah, it’s bizarre. 

[00:13:21] Ramit: You want to find out?

[00:13:23] Ebony: Do I want to find out? 

[00:13:24] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:13:24] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:13:25] Ramit: Well, let’s just find out right now. Who in your family got so close to being homeless that it was talked about a lot that people use them as a cautionary tale?

[00:13:40] Ebony: I’ve given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to his relatives to help them. 

[00:13:45] Ramit: What?

[00:13:46] Ebony: We’ve helped almost every one of his siblings, and he has a lot of them, Ramit. 

[00:13:51] Kevin: We grew up really tough to where I have a total of, oh gosh. I have, um, anyway, our mom–

[00:14:01] Ramit: Wait, are you trying to count how many siblings you have, and you can’t even count?

[00:14:03] Ebony: Yes.

[00:14:03] Ramit: What is it? 25? How many are we talking about?

[00:14:08] Ebony: It’s not that bad. They’re just a blended family. There’s five kids with mom and four kids with dad, including him. 

[00:14:18] Ramit: So what, they come to you for money?

[00:14:20] Kevin: No, no.

[00:14:21] Ebony: They used to. Oh my god, they don’t come to us for money? They’ve lived with us.

[00:14:25] Kevin: Yeah.

[00:14:25] Ramit: Okay, fine. But what’s this hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ve given to them?

[00:14:31] Kevin: No. Over the time, um, one of my sisters had a daughter. We adopted her. Uh, my brother, uh, lived with us. My sister lived with us. That daughter lived with us. So over the time, you paid for childcare. You paid for school, dance class, and everything else.

[00:14:54] Ramit: Okay. I don’t mind. Family needs help. I love it. That’s very generous of both of you. I think that’s really cool. Uh, just where’d the hundreds of thousands of dollars comment come from Ebony?

[00:15:06] Ebony: Oh. It’s at least a hundred thousand dollars. I’ve done the math. The numbers are easily a hundred thousand dollars. Um, we raised this child for 13 years. Um, but then beyond just that child, his other siblings, we’ve helped bail them out of jail, paid for them to– housing. But yeah. So you talk about the housing, who I’ve known homeless, I’ve known people in his family who are homeless. Uh, but that wasn’t in my childhood.


[00:15:37] Ramit: There’s an interesting note here about money and gender. Virtually, every woman I talk to about money, if I ask them, what are your fears about money, their fear is almost always identical. And it’s the exact same scene that ebony here outlined. Being left alone in the rain with a couple of bags, etc.

[00:15:58] I even asked on social media, and over 80% of women said yes, they have this fear. I find this absolutely astonishing. Now, we have to remember that in our parents’ generation, as recently as that, many of our moms were not allowed to work or even to have a bank account from our mother’s or grandmother’s generation.

[00:16:19] Those fears persist. And even though incomes have changed and gender norms and expectations have changed, those feelings are passed down through whispers, and rolled eyes, and aunties pulling us aside and giving us a quiet warning about having a secret account. Now, part of the point of this podcast is to shine a light on all the secret beliefs we have about money.

[00:16:41] And they come from all around us. They come from gender expectations for men and women. They come from cultural expectations, income expectations. Sometimes there are expectations for our partner or our desires for a certain luxury that we believe we’re entitled to, or even our fears for ourselves. 

[00:17:01] I don’t mind us having fears about money. We all have them, me included. What I do mind is letting our fears shape our entire relationship with money. Think about it. If we’re operating solely out of fear, or ignorance, or scarcity, we tend to make bad decisions for the long term. So the question to ask yourself listening to this episode is what fears do I have about money?


[00:17:29] Ramit: Ebony, I would like to ask you a few questions. Uh, tell me about what it was like growing up.

[00:17:33] Ebony: So I grew up with my mom and my grandparents. So I lived in a multi-generational house. If you go by what the financial aid limits are, I qualified for Pell Grant, so yeah, I was poor.

[00:17:46] Ramit: How much do you think the household income was that your family was making?

[00:17:51] Ebony: Um, my mom, when she retired, um, probably made 30,000 a year with overtime. I was an only child, my mom’s only child. My dad was not there. No support. Nothing. But my granddad was there, which was great. We basically had three incomes until he passed when I was 14. But growing up, money, for me, it’s basically meant to be spent to cover your bills. We didn’t have extra. I never heard anyone in my family talking about, um–

[00:18:28] Ramit: Investing.

[00:18:28] Ebony: Retirement, investments, 401k, stocks. That was like, no. 

[00:18:33] Ramit: Okay. 

[00:18:34] Ebony: Nothing, none of that.

[00:18:36] Ramit: What did they talk about, Ebony?

[00:18:38] Ebony: When it came to money, I definitely heard the money doesn’t grow on trees. I was even told as a child that I was very stingy because I was a good saver. Um, one year, when I–

[00:18:52] Ramit: Look at Kevin’s face right now. Look at that big smile. Just popped up. Okay. Kevin’s like, uh-huh.

[00:19:00] Ebony: Kevin is very, very, very generous. I give him that. And that’s one of the things I love about him. And one of the things I loved when we were dating, that he’s very generous.

[00:19:10] Ramit: Do you still love that he’s generous?

[00:19:13] Ebony: Um, I do. I do. 

[00:19:14] Ramit: Okay. Are you stingy?

[00:19:16] Ebony: No.

[00:19:18] Ramit: Okay. I mean, your family called you stingy at age five. I’m not saying it. It’s your family.

[00:19:24] Ebony: I was a good saver.

[00:19:27] Ramit: All right. So Ebony, that’s pretty interesting, don’t you think?

[00:19:32] Ebony: Yeah. And it’s learned behavior. I grew up seeing this, and you asked me who was in dire straits, and while I was thinking– or who did I see, I grew up in dire poverty, so I saw people all the time down the street from me who did not have running water in their house. I grew up in Mississippi.

[00:19:51] Ramit: Okay. And you say dire poverty. Is that how you described it? 

[00:19:56] Ebony: Yeah. 

[00:19:56] Ramit: Dire poverty in Mississippi is no joke. Tell me about the people you saw around you.

[00:20:03] Ebony: Um, some people would come to school, and their clothes were dirty because they didn’t have running water. The lady down the street that used to braid my hair, they didn’t have indoor plumbing. Um, yeah.

[00:20:16] Ramit: Okay. Let me make sure I have the facts right. You grew up around people who were in dire poverty, although you and your family were not. You were the smart one. You were very smart. Went to college. I believe you went to law school too. Is that correct? 

[00:20:32] Ebony: Yeah. 

[00:20:32] Ramit: Okay. Great. You accomplished a lot, and you solve problems. You’re the junior god, or the savior. You fix things a lot. All of these things make you, what? How would you characterize it? Very accomplished. What else would you say?

[00:20:53] Ebony: I was thinking martyr complex for–

[00:20:56] Ramit: There’s probably some of that too, but that’s separate. Okay. So you’re accomplished. You’re the glue for a lot of people. Okay, great.

[00:21:02] Ebony: Yeah. I’m the smartest one. That’s the joke we always say.

[00:21:06] Ramit: I get it. I totally get it. Okay. So it’s a running joke. You’re the smartest one. And so if things were to not work out, financially speaking, worst case, you go homeless, tell me what would happen to the smart one.

[00:21:24] Ebony: I would be found out to be an imposter. I really did not have it all together.

[00:21:31] Ramit: And that identity that you have, what would happen to that identity?

[00:21:35] Ebony: What I do and my worth is so wrapped up into my identity that it would be an identity crisis. Yeah.

[00:21:45] Ramit: I think it would die.

[00:21:46] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:21:47] Ramit: The identity of you, the smart person, Ebony the savior,

[00:21:50] Ebony: And I’ll say, sometimes I feel like I’m playing with this fire that if I got into this position, maybe I really do want this facade to die so that I can just be. And I can just be, and I can for once be the not responsible one.

[00:22:09] Ramit: Kevin, are you hearing this?

[00:22:11] Kevin: Yes.

[00:22:11] Ramit: What was that last thing she just said?

[00:22:14] Kevin: To be the not responsible one. Yes.

[00:22:16] Ramit: Hmm. What do you take away from that? The not responsible one?

[00:22:25] Kevin: I need to help more. She told me today. We had the conversation. We communicated, um, that she was just like, man, take something off my plate.

[00:22:35] Ramit: I appreciate that. And I especially appreciate hearing Ebony reason through her own identity.


[00:22:43] Ramit: How our identity affects our money is underexplored, in my opinion. I love that Ebony just let us understand a little bit of her life as the savior, the one in control, because it helps me see that she’s been operating on a high wire for over 20 years. The way she tells the story to herself, if she’s not in control, meaning if she doesn’t create multiple spreadsheets, and take on the work, and ensure that everything’s happening in order, not only would things around her fall apart, but crucially, her identity would shatter. 

[00:23:17] She even said, “Sometimes I just wish I could not be the responsible one.” And you hear this a lot with couples. One person will say, at work, I make decisions all day long. Sometimes I wish I could just come home and not have to make more decisions. This is about identity. It has nothing to do with a spreadsheet or 401k, but your identity leaves fingerprints everywhere around your money. Let me ask Kevin about his background.


[00:23:47] Ramit: Kevin, what do you remember about money growing up?

[00:23:50] Kevin: I was raised by my, um, grandmother.

[00:23:53] Ramit: Okay.

[00:23:54] Kevin: Very dysfunctional family. A lot of different situations and everything. Um, it’s just a lot going on. It’s one of those deals where you know you’re poor, and everybody else knows you’re poor, and it’s just one of those, you just deal with it and get through it.

[00:24:09] Ramit: When you say poor, what are we talking about?

[00:24:12] Kevin: Uh, government assistance, that type of deal. Where it’s like, all right, this is what we’re eating. You don’t have choices or options, those type things. Um, my grandmother raised me, but she was a, uh, what is it? Domestic– where she was a maid. She would clean up people’s homes and everything, and just made ends meet. So it’s one of those deals where you knew not to ask for much, and whatever you were given, you just appreciate it and moved on. You didn’t have conversations about money. Oh, this is my checking account. Nothing was broken down to you or anything. 

[00:24:53] Ramit: Okay. Did you ever eat out at restaurants?

[00:24:56] Kevin: No. That was an extreme treat. I’m talking about even McDonald’s. It was, uh, I can remember, as a kid, if you get an A, you get a free cheeseburger. I actually got an A this time. Yeah, let’s go. So getting a pizza from the local pizza shop was a treat. 

[00:25:14] Ramit: Okay. All right. How’d you get to go to college?

[00:25:18] Kevin: I was an extremely talented athlete.

[00:25:21] Ramit: Really?

[00:25:21] Kevin: Yeah. 

[00:25:21] Ramit: What sport?

[00:25:23] Kevin: Uh, football?

[00:25:24] Ramit: No kidding. All right. So seems like you passed that on to your kids as well. And then, uh, what age were you when you met Ebony?

[00:25:35] Kevin: Well, we were 22.

[00:25:36] Ramit: 22. Okay. How soon did you get married?

[00:25:39] Kevin: Uh, two years after.

[00:25:41] Ramit: Okay. Um, how about when you had kids? Did you talk about money before or right after that?

[00:25:47] Kevin: Uh, yeah, we definitely talked about that. That was one of the big things. We actually waited till we were well into our, um, 30s to have children. We spaced them out and everything because of that. But yeah, in our 30s. Wanted to make sure we were stable.

[00:26:06] Ramit: All right. Um, when did it become clear, Kevin, that Ebony was going to take the lead in managing money in your relationship?

[00:26:15] Kevin: Well, um, since we’ve always been together. I mean, like I said, she’s one of the most organized people I know. And, um, I don’t know. I’m a big team player. It is whatever you do good, you do it. And like I said, I do all the cooking. I mean, we have non-traditional roles. I’ll wash. She’ll wash. We do whatever’s best for our family. And I mean, since I’ve known her, she has been good. She’s very organized. We have about 20 calendars around here, Ramit. She manages her time well and everything. So that’s just always been one of our things. She’s always done that.

[00:26:59] Ramit: Is she good at managing money?

[00:27:03] Kevin: She is. She is.

[00:27:05] Ramit: So what’s the problem?

[00:27:07] Kevin: Her attitude changed. One moment, she’ll say, oh, I want you to do it. I don’t know. Before we came on here, we were talking. She wants me to do it. But on the flip side, if it’s not to “her standard” or the way she likes it, and it is one of those deals where if you want me to do it, it’ll be done, but it may not be done to your liking. It’s almost like all three of us can cook a hamburger. It’ll be cooked an entirely different way, but it’ll be a burger at the end.

[00:27:42] Ramit: Okay. Is that true? What do you want, Ebony? Do you want Kevin to manage the finances day-to-day?

[00:27:51] Ebony: Yes, I do. But he’s burned me so many times. I don’t trust that it’s not going to happen again.

[00:27:57] Ramit: Okay. I’m going to ask you again this time what you want to do, but there’s only one rule when you answer me. You can’t use the word but.

[00:28:06] Ebony: Okay.

[00:28:08] Ramit: What do you want to do when it comes to the management of your money?

[00:28:13] Ebony: I want Kevin to do it.

[00:28:15] Kevin: I hate to even say this, but just in transparency, uh, I hadn’t even thought about it.

[00:28:22] Ebony: Thank you for your honesty.

[00:28:25] Ramit: How’s that possible if Ebony’s been talking about money for a long time?

[00:28:30] Kevin: Well, what do you mean how is that possible?

[00:28:34] Ramit: I’m serious. She even said to you before, I need help. Uh, I want you to talk about money, etc. How did it never come up that you might take over some of this?

[00:28:45] Kevin: She didn’t mention she wanted me to do that.

[00:28:48] Ramit: Ah. Ebony, is that true?

[00:28:51] Ebony: I would say that’s true, and yes. And classic Kevin style, unless I say I need you to do and fill in the blank, it means I’m not going to engage.

[00:29:02] Ramit: So why not just say that if you know that?

[00:29:06] Ebony: Me, why wouldn’t I just say– yeah.

[00:29:08] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:29:08] Ebony: Then he’s going to say, you’re not going to be satisfied with the way that I do it, so I’m not going to do it.

[00:29:16] Ramit: Okay. So do you see the dynamic here? Let me role play it out so the two of you can see it. All right. Here’s, uh, Ebony, and here’s Kevin. All right. Ebony says, “I’m so frustrated. We’re going to run out of money. We’re going to be homeless. This is so crazy.” Well, babe, you’re so smart. You always make it work. Yeah, I know I make it work. That’s not how I want it to be. I’m so frustrated with the way things are. I wish you blank, blank, blank, blank, blank. 

[00:29:54] Well, we’re a team, and I’m happy to help, but you’re so great at this, etc. Fast forward 29 years, same conversation happening. What you didn’t hear, but what could have happened, would be Ebony saying, here’s what I would like for you to do. I would like for you to take this spreadsheet, and on the fourth of every month, go through it and pay off every single thing that’s listed off. Can you do that? Never happened. But instead, in your heads, what did you do?

[00:30:32] In your heads, and I’m sure this has come out in other places in your relationship, well, if I told him that, then he’s going to say, well, you’re not going to want me to do a right, so da da da da. Then we’re going to just get in a fight again. And then da da da da. And so you end up not doing anything. How does that sound? Familiar?

[00:30:49] Ebony: Sounds right.

[00:30:50] Ramit: Can I get a round of applause for performance?

[00:30:52] Kevin: You nailed it. You nailed it.

[00:30:54] Ramit: Goddamn. Ramit Sethi, theater performer. So Kevin, you can see why Ebony would be extremely frustrated. In fact, what are some words you would use to describe how she must feel?

[00:31:09] Kevin: Simply angry. It’s a hot button for her.

[00:31:19] Ramit: Okay.

[00:31:20] Kevin: And literally, about, uh, once a month, or every so often, she just gets mad, and we get into an argument about money.

[00:31:29] Ramit: And does she have a right to get mad?

[00:31:32] Kevin: Yes. Yes, she does.

[00:31:33] Ramit: Kevin, what’s going on in this dynamic?

[00:31:35] Kevin: Yeah, just cycle, cycle, cycle, cycle.

[00:31:38] Ebony: I do want Kevin to do it. I just am very afraid because I’ve seen him do it before, and it has become a complete and utter mess.

[00:31:48] Kevin: When was this?

[00:31:50] Ebony: If he would educate himself, I would be okay with him doing it.

[00:31:54] Ramit: Okay. Uh, do you believe that if he educated himself, that you would actually be okay with him doing it?

[00:32:02] Ebony: And communicate with me about it.

[00:32:04] Ramit: So Ebony, you have this budget or budgets that you’re very proud of. What level are you tracking on your budgets? You tracking the price of turnips?

[00:32:14] Ebony: No. 

[00:32:15] Ramit: What are you tracking in there? How many lines are in there?

[00:32:19] Ebony: Oh, I think there’s probably 30.

[00:32:22] Ramit: Okay. 30. So what does it tell you at the end of the month?

[00:32:26] Ebony: Basically, it’s a zero sum budget, so I am basically just trying to say we’re not going in the red this month, and I just itemize everything we’re paying. But I have put things like groceries, miscellaneous, and gas in a lump sum category that we don’t micromanage.

[00:32:46] Ramit: Okay. So you’ve been doing this for 29 years, correct?

[00:32:50] Ebony: Mm-hmm.

[00:32:51] Ramit: Okay. And you manage the money in the house, correct?

[00:32:55] Ebony: Correct.

[00:32:56] Ramit: And your budget is zero sum, so you want to make sure you’re out of the red. Right?

[00:33:01] Ebony: Yeah. 

[00:33:02] Ramit: Okay. How much debt do you currently have?

[00:33:08] Ebony: I’m doing math in my head, so give me a second.

[00:33:10] Ramit: Take your time.

[00:33:11] Ebony: Because I have these things all in different categories. So credit card debt is probably about. 55,000, or 60,000. The cars are probably about 30, and student loans are about 30.

[00:33:38] Ramit: Yeah, that’s about right. You’re missing about 15,000, but you’re in the ballpark. So here’s my question for you. Are the budgets actually working?

[00:33:46] Ebony: No, the budgets aren’t working, which is why we’re here.

[00:33:50] Ramit: Hello, 29 years of doing this thing, which doesn’t even– you got $135,000 of debt.

[00:33:57] Ebony: Yeah. It gives me a false sense of control. I get it. Yeah, I know.

[00:34:03] Ramit: That’s extremely perceptive. How did that just roll off your tongue?

[00:34:07] Ebony: Oh, I’m in therapy. I’m working on it. I’m trying to change.


[00:34:11] Ramit: I really love how honest Ebony is. What a gift she’s bringing for her and Kevin to come on the show and be so transparent about something that’s bothered them for decades. Most of us never get the chance to hear a real couple having a real conversation about money behind closed doors. And I think that’s even more true for a couple that’s been married for almost 30 years. The longer you’ve been married, the less likely you are to talk about these type of problems publicly. 

[00:34:42] Now, I want to point something out about Ebony’s budget. This is something I frequently see with people who are the ones managing money in a relationship. Many people believe that managing money means tracking the expenses of everything,  making sure the bills get paid on time. I’m going to be really direct. That is not managing money. A computer can do that better than you or I could ever do it.

[00:35:08] You can read Chapter 5 of my book, set up your automation, and really never have to think about this very much again. And frankly, what good is tracking a budget for 29 years if you’re in 135,000 of debt? Did it actually work? Sometimes we need to take a candid assessment of what we’re doing and what the outcomes are.

[00:35:32] If you’re doing what you think is right, but you’re not getting the outcomes you want, maybe what you’re doing is actually not the right strategy. In my opinion, the real solution is to radically reconceptualize what managing money actually means. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with paying bills on time. That should get done, but that’s not what managing money is about. 

[00:35:54] Managing money is designing your rich life, which you can use my journal to do. It means setting up your investments, which you can do with Chapter 3 and 7 of my book. That alone will be responsible for the majority of your wealth over your lifetime. And it means living your rich life. Which, if you need help with that, come into Money Coaching, where I do Q&A, and we all share how we’re using money to live an amazing life. I’ll throw some links in the show notes. Just remember this. Tracking your spending alone is not managing money. A robot can do that better than you or I ever could. 


[00:36:29] Ramit: So have you been discussing the need for control?

[00:36:34] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:36:34] Ramit: And it manifests in one particular way, I’m sure others, but through a budget.

[00:36:39] Ebony: Right.

[00:36:40] Ramit: All right. So can we go back to the thing about Kevin, if Kevin educated himself? Kevin doesn’t need to keep a budget that results in $135,000 of debt. Can we agree?

[00:36:49] Ebony: Uh, we can agree.

[00:36:51] Ramit: Thank you. Kevin, you’ve been holding your tongue for about 10 minutes. Looks like that tongue’s about to fall out of your mouth. How does our conversation that Ebony and I just had strike you?

[00:37:02] Kevin: Well, that’s typical Ebony. She can be all over the place. First of all, uh, Ramit, I have a business degree, so I know all about budgeting and everything else, but in our home, I do all the cooking. Sometimes we play different roles that you may want to play, and she’s really awesome at what she does. And it’s just one of those things where, over the years, everything has accumulated. Like she said, we were out of debt before, and different things have come up, and here we are again back at this point in our lives. But no, it is not as cut and dry as she makes it seem. Uh, it’s so many details that–

[00:37:50] Ramit: You think there’s layers here beyond the income and the expenses?

[00:37:55] Kevin: Yes.

[00:37:56] Ramit: Okay. What are some of those layers, Kevin?

[00:38:00] Kevin: Well, first of all, we’ve lived in multiple cities, multiple things. So that affects different incomes that I can make, that I can have.

[00:38:10] Ramit: Hold on. Meaning you both travel for her career, and therefore you have to start over each time that happens. Is that right? 

[00:38:18] Kevin: Yes.

[00:38:18] Ramit: Okay, fine. So your income may not be where it would’ve been had you been in one place.

[00:38:23] Kevin: Exactly. 

[00:38:25] Ramit: What else? What are the other layers?

[00:38:27] Ebony: The most expensive luxury item we have are our kids.

[00:38:31] Kevin: Well, I don’t know. I feel it’s one of those situations where everything is going to improve, number one, simply with time. Uh, number two, as our children, they’re not going to be here. Our expenses will go down anywhere from 40 to 50%. Well, at least four years from now, we’ll have a better control of everything, and we could have everything paid down. That was my train of thought.

[00:39:07] Ramit: Uh, can you show me the numbers behind that, or is that just a feeling?

[00:39:13] Kevin: No, it’s not a feeling. I could show you the numbers. 

[00:39:16] Ramit: All right, let’s look at them. You want to do it right now?

[00:39:18] Kevin: I don’t have a pen and a pad, but okay, let’s go with it.

[00:39:23] Ramit: I have a conscious spending plan. You could show me. Should we do it? 

[00:39:27] Kevin: Okay. Yes, we good.

[00:39:28] Ramit: All right. So just so we know, just so I make sure I understand, your contention is your youngest is going to college next year. Your expenses are going to drop, let’s just say 50%, and therefore you’re going to pay off the debt, etc. And you’re going to live happily ever after basically.

[00:39:49] Kevin: Yes.

[00:39:50] Ramit: Okay. Are you sure? All right, let’s play it out. We got to look at the numbers here.

[00:39:55] Kevin: No. Well, yes and no, but–

[00:39:57] Ramit: Why are you backing off? What’s the no part? Don’t caveat yourself. Go ahead.

[00:40:04] Kevin: The money is there. If you really look at it, the money is there.

[00:40:08] Ramit: Is it?

[00:40:09] Kevin: If we tighten up some things and manage our lifestyles, the money’s there.

[00:40:13] Ramit: Can I just ask you, if that were the case, why don’t you just do it without calling me and before you get into $135,000 of debt?

[00:40:24] Kevin: That’s true. I have no response for that.

[00:40:30] Ramit: Kevin, realistically, I am going to go through your numbers with you. Maybe you will cut your expenses 50% from having one kid out of the house. I know you spend a lot of money because you take them around for sports and stuff like that. Okay, fine. Maybe you will cut your expenses 50%. But for me, if I were in this relationship, that’s not enough. I would need to know a plan. How are we getting out of debt? When?


[00:41:01] Ramit: Let me cut this short just to give you their numbers. Their assets, $87,000. Their investments, $460,000. Savings, $1,300. Debt, $135,000, and their net worth is therefore $413,000.


[00:41:19] Ramit: How do you feel about that number, Kevin? 413,000.

[00:41:23] Kevin: That’s tough. Uh, when you put it all on paper, it is, uh, I don’t know what’s the word to describe. I don’t know. Disappointing

[00:41:41] Ramit: Why?

[00:41:42] Kevin: Because, um, we have the knowledge, the know-how. We have an idea of how things should be, and I think that’s probably one of the disappointments because you just feel you should be in a better spot. But on the flip side, I mean, we’re first generation. No one’s given us anything, and everything we’ve got is just literally her and I.

[00:42:07] Ramit: Okay. When you say you feel you should be at a different place, what place do you feel you should be at?

[00:42:13] Kevin: The different periods in our life, um, as recent as, um, oh my goodness, uh, the COVID deal. Um, we changed our spending habits. We put a really big dent in our debt. What was it? Um, how much was it, Ebony? Uh, about 40,000, 30,000.

[00:42:33] Ebony: It was probably more than that. We paid off both cars. We paid off a lot of credit card. Store credit card debt.

[00:42:41] Kevin: You build that momentum, and you just feel like, okay, now we’re really on track. And then to see it all back again, and as she said, life happens. Um, with the cars, we had a couple accidents, and it’s just like, wow, we’re back in this hole again. And to really put it out there like that. And that was one of the things after seeing– when you really put the numbers out there, it’s disheartening, almost. Like, man, it’s that bad.


[00:43:10] Ramit: I want you to notice how Kevin didn’t answer my question. In fact, Kevin doesn’t answer my question a lot. His responses are a lot of words jumbled together with feelings, and a lot of easygoing, ah, it’ll be fine, but very few specifics. And part of the reason he can get away with answers like this is that Ebony takes on the load and handles all the finances.

[00:43:35] If we lived in some alternate dimension where Kevin were single, and he was responsible for his own money, he would not talk about money like this. Not for a second. Because he would have to know exactly how much it takes to pay the bills, pay for kids, and so on. 


[00:43:52] Ramit: Okay. All right. I appreciate the honesty. Ebony, how about you? When you see those net worth numbers, how do you feel about it?

[00:44:01] Ebony: The interesting thing is I thought that was high. I don’t really feel like I have that much net worth. And we pulled the numbers together, and I’m like, this can’t be right. All I see is the debt. I don’t even see any of the assets.

[00:44:18] Ramit: Okay. So one of you thinks you’re in a worse position than you thought, and the other thinks you’re in a better position than you thought. What does that tell you?

[00:44:26] Kevin: We’re not on the same page.

[00:44:28] Ebony: That’s how we think. We’re never on the same page. And really that’s all I want, is for us to be somewhat on the same page of the facts. I appreciate that he doesn’t think like me. I don’t think like him, but some things are– like one plus one is two. It is not three.

[00:44:53] Ramit: I think we can agree on that. Okay. So it is interesting to me, before we go into the rest of these numbers, that if the two of you aren’t even agreeing on a basic set of facts, that’s a bigger issue than 5,000 or 10,000 here or there. Would you agree? 

[00:45:12] Ebony: Yes. 

[00:45:13] Ramit: So I want to point out that the primary reason that you, Ebony, feels so stressed out about money is this number right here. What is that number?

[00:45:28] Ebony: 91%.

[00:45:30] Ramit: Your fixed costs are 91%. The reason that you’ve had to create all these elaborate spreadsheets, and the reason that you worry about being homeless, all of it, from a financial perspective, purely, not talking about the emotional side of it is this.

[00:45:49] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:45:51] Ramit: So when you’re talking about Kevin spent $25 on this or that, it’s irrelevant. You could triple your income, and that dynamic doesn’t change. That is what controls what’s going on.

[00:46:02] Ebony: I mean, I’ve asked him it directly, and he always gets out of it. He’ll say, oh, you’re going to get mad if I don’t do it the way you want to. And he dodges it.

[00:46:12] Ramit: And you let him.

[00:46:13] Ebony: Yeah. And I let him.

[00:46:15] Ramit: What been the consequences? He told me just now, just two minutes ago, he candidly said, it never crossed my mind to do this.

[00:46:24] Ebony: Yeah. I call him Mr. Magoo. He just walks around with his glasses and can’t see anything, but everything’s going to work out perfectly. The ladder’s going to come down over the halls. I’m the ladder. 

[00:46:37] Ramit: Yeah, you are. 

[00:46:38] Ebony: And I’ve let myself be the ladder. 

[00:46:40] Ramit: And you’re still recreating that dynamic right now as we speak.

[00:46:46] Ebony: Yeah. But I don’t want to anymore. I promise you I don’t. I really want to change.

[00:46:52] Ramit: So tell me, what are you going to do about it? Because I can’t do it. It’s got to be the two of you doing it. 

[00:46:57] Ebony: I’m going to give him the finances, and if I end up homeless, so be it.

[00:47:02] Ramit: All jokes aside, I’m not sure that’s probably the healthiest thing. Can I just say that?

[00:47:09] Ebony: Yeah. 

[00:47:10] Ramit: Kevin, do you have the skills to manage the household income right now?

[00:47:13] Kevin: Yes, I do. 

[00:47:16] Ramit: I’m not insulting you at all. I’m saying like, this is the complex stuff. The way it’s laid out, even I’m like, what the hell is going on here? I’m serious. And I do this for a living.

[00:47:27] Ebony: That’s why I was like– educating yourself. He doesn’t understand my system. It is overly complex. 

[00:47:34] Ramit: Ebony, but your system sucks.

[00:47:36] Ebony: Yeah, it sucks. I agree. It sucks.

[00:47:39] Ramit: Listen, there’s so many layers here, and the two of you have constructed so many layers, and every single one of those layers keeps you stuck in place. Ebony, you don’t even ask him what to do. Mr. Magoo over here– first of all, I hate these fucking jokes with each other. If you’re going to joke with each other, say something nice. I hate this. These insulting running jokes, it does you no favors at all. You ever go out to dinner with a couple and all they do is snipe at each other? How’d that feel?

[00:48:12] Kevin: Didn’t like it.

[00:48:13] Ebony: We were probably that couple, Ramit, that was doing the sniping. So no, it does not feel good.

[00:48:20] Ramit: It’s not good. And so all these running jokes are actually so toxic. Okay. So let’s just put that aside because that needs to be resolved. That’s a long-term thing. So then Kevin goes– he finds a way out of it, but although, I will say, Kevin, to your credit, you’re saying, hey, I’m open to doing this. I appreciate that. I recognize that. 

[00:48:37] Uh, and then Ebony’s going, okay, you’re in charge of every single thing in this household. Ebony, your system is super complicated. I don’t know why you set it up like this. And there are definitely reasons, because if no one else can understand your system, if Kevin tries to do it and fails, then what does that make you?

[00:48:56] Ebony: The savior.

[00:48:59] Ramit: Yeah. 

[00:49:00] Ebony: I completely agree that the system is way too complex.

[00:49:04] Ramit: Okay, great. Cool. I appreciate that. So maybe, instead of handing off this extremely convoluted system to Kevin who’s never done it, and you’re basically setting him up for failure– do we all agree? Kevin, if I were in your seat, I would not feel good about taking on this system. I’m telling. I wouldn’t even do it myself right now.

[00:49:26] Ebony: It was not this complicated two months ago, Ramit.

[00:49:29] Ramit: If a system got this complicated in two months, you got a problem.

[00:49:32] Ebony: Yeah. Yeah, we did. We had a problem. Our accounts got screwed up. So yeah, it was a problem.

[00:49:40] Ramit: That’s shocking, that your accounts got screwed up because your system was so convoluted. That’s the point.

[00:49:45] Ebony: No. Because he changed his direct deposit. It was not that. I get paid once a month, so I was paying all of my stuff. It was already set up, and then it all came. Everything started coming out of one account. It’s crazy.

[00:49:59] Ramit: Ebony. Did it feel good to explain that to me right now?

[00:50:02] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:50:03] Ramit: Why?

[00:50:04] Ebony: Because I don’t want you to think that I’m some crazy person. 

[00:50:09] Ramit: No. 

[00:50:10] Ebony: There’s a rhyme and a reason to the– 

[00:50:12] Ramit: No, Ebony. That’s not why you did it. Can I suggest something to you? I’d like the two of you to reframe the way you’re both treating this. This is the problem, and the two of you are the team. So figure out a way to solve it together. It’s not one, and then the other shooting down their ideas. The two of you have this problem. It’s your money. You want to start talking to each other?

[00:50:42] Kevin: What do you think? Ramit, we’ve had this conversation, and that’s, uh–

[00:50:48] Ebony: What did we say in this conversation that we had?

[00:50:50] Kevin: Uh, we need more money. That was the conversation. 

[00:50:53] Ebony: Well, what he just said, more money was not going to solve the problem.

[00:50:57] Kevin: I know.

[00:51:01] Ramit: Listen, if you guys want to fight, I’m not the place to do it.

[00:51:04] Ebony: No. I’m not trying to fight.

[00:51:06] Ramit: Listen to me. It’s a waste of my time, and it’s disrespectful to me if you perpetuate these patterns. You’re wasting my time. Here are the numbers. You two are a team. Let’s create a way to solve it. If you want to play ball, let’s do it. I’m here to help. I’ll stay as long as I need to. If you two want to argue back and forth, I don’t want to be here. So tell me how you’d like to proceed because I’m here to support you if you’re in the game.


[00:51:33] Ramit: I wish I hadn’t lost my temper there. I was frustrated that they kept going back to sniping with each other. The dynamic for them is so familiar, it’s almost like they’re glued to it. And when I was trying to get them to look forward, it felt like they were both going backwards. Sometimes, on this podcast, I will say something extremely direct in order to get my guests attention. But when I do that, I’m intentional about it. But that right there, with Kevin and Ebony, that was not intentional. I just lost my temper. So to Ebony and Kevin, if you’re listening to this, I apologize. 


[00:52:12] Ebony: It’s the rationalization. Rationalizing.

[00:52:15] Ramit: And when you explain something, even something that’s not getting you the outcome you want, what does it get you?

[00:52:25] Ebony: Relief. Control.

[00:52:27] Ramit: Yeah. It makes you feel right? 

[00:52:29] Ebony: Right. Yes. I like being right.

[00:52:32] Ramit: I’m shocked. Would you like to right yourself right into another 25 years of not connecting over money?

[00:52:42] Ebony: No. 

[00:52:43] Kevin: No.

[00:52:45] Ramit: Do you see how deep the changes that the two of you have to make really go are?

[00:52:50] Ebony: Yes. This is the tip of the iceberg. Not even the tip. But he doesn’t even think there’s an iceberg, so this is why we’re here. Thank you, Ramit. He thinks everything’s fine. Everything’s great.

[00:53:07] Ramit: How do you know that? Have you ever asked him?

[00:53:08] Ebony: Because he told me. He said, hey– we were just having this– 

[00:53:11] Ramit: Stop right now. Stop right now. Stop right now. Do you realize what you’re doing as we talk about the layers that you have to change?

[00:53:18] Ebony: Repeating the same pattern.

[00:53:22] Ramit: It’s not getting you anywhere. I’m telling you right now.

[00:53:24] Ebony: No. It’s not.

[00:53:27] Ramit: Every time you do it, you get this short feeling of relief. I’m right. And each time, you push the two of you away just a little bit more. I wonder what it would be like if you think about someone who you really admire, the way they treat money and the way they talk about money. Ebony, who comes to mind for you?

[00:53:52] Ebony: Uh, it would have to be somebody famous like you.


[00:53:56] Ramit: Let me cut in here really quick. If you’re watching this on YouTube, leave a comment below with who comes to mind for you when you think about someone you admire for the way they treat money. I’m curious to see what you say.


[00:54:12] Ebony: I was thinking I was going to have to find a new job. I could probably double my salary.

[00:54:17] Ramit: Double?

[00:54:18] Ebony: Yeah. 

[00:54:19] Ramit: What?

[00:54:20] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:54:21] Ramit: Why haven’t you?

[00:54:23] Ebony: I really like what I do now. I have been in some very toxic workplaces, and this is the first time I’ve ever had a job where I’m not stressed at work. I actually took a pay cut, and so I’ve shifted my stress from work stress to money stress.

[00:54:41] Ramit: You know what? That’s very perceptive. Yeah, you have.

[00:54:44] Ebony: Yeah. 

[00:54:45] Ramit: Do you think that maybe there’s a job that you can do that’s not toxic and pays you more?

[00:54:53] Ebony: I really hope that there is, and I’ve had so many negative experiences that I don’t believe it. It’s the nature of the field that I’m in, unfortunately.

[00:55:08] Ramit: Well, let me say this. I know many people have been in many toxic industries. I will tell you that I believe there is a way for you to do it. I have to believe it because I’ve seen so many people in similar situations. They go, I’m never going to find a job like this. There are ways. One, you can screen for it as you start to go through your interview process, remembering that you are selective just as well as they are selective.

[00:55:39] Asking the right questions, speaking to people off the record, people who used to work there and left. All of those things. Great ways that you can find out what’s really going on in an org. But honestly, Ebony, if you’re telling me you can double your salary, that solves a lot of these financial problems.

[00:55:58] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:55:58] Ramit: I mean, can I just show you? I want to show you so it really sinks in here. Imagine this. Look at this. Let’s say that this becomes, uh, I’m just going to do it, for easy math here, 15,000. I mean, that’s it. That’s the ballgame. Your number, just your fixed cost just dropped to 49%. Now, is it going to be 15? I don’t know. But the point is, you can see it changes everything.

[00:56:33] Ebony: Yeah. I just don’t want to be miserable 10 to 12 hours a day again.

[00:56:39] Ramit: No, I don’t want you to be miserable.

[00:56:41] Ebony: Every job I’ve had, I’ve been miserable, and I’ve never really been in a position to negotiate because I was running from horrible situations to a new job. So I’ve never been in a position like I’m in a job I really like, and so I can turn down things where I see red flags, which would be nice to do for a change. So that could change everything.

[00:57:03] Ramit: Okay. I love that. I love your honesty. Hey, Kevin, this is a great opportunity for you. You’re hearing her. It’s a great opportunity for you to step up and take off some of the loads so that she could focus on healthily finding a new job. What can you say to her? 

[00:57:22] Kevin: What can I do for you?

[00:57:26] Ebony: Take care of the finances. Isn’t that the obvious answer? I don’t know. It’s not rocket science. Um, take care of the finances and just being more helpful with the kids and knowing their schedule and keeping up with all the things. 

[00:57:47] Ramit: Ebony, you’re in your head. You’re doing this whole spinning thing. Do you notice it? 

[00:57:50] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:57:52] Ramit: I want you to really think about this. He’s asked an awesome question, and I think he’s willing to play ball here, so get out of the spinning and really think specifically what can he do. He’s asking you, so tell him.

[00:58:10] Ebony: Uh, we could start back having weekly family meetings where we discuss a list of what’s going on in the week so that we’re both on the same page, and we can divide up what needs to be done equitably. And maybe you take a larger portion than you normally take. So that would be really helpful. 

[00:58:35] Kevin: Yes, I can do that. I’m interested in that. Yes, for sure.

[00:58:40] Ramit: Love it. Love it. Love it. Great response. Ebony, what do you notice about that dynamic that just happened there?

[00:58:49] Ebony: Uh, I asked, and I received.

[00:58:51] Ramit: Exactly.

[00:58:52] Kevin: Told me exactly what you wanted.

[00:58:56] Ramit: Exactly. And he’s happy to do it. Now, I know eventually you want him to be coming up with these things, and that will happen over time. But Ebony, I think this is something for you to really take note of, for you to write it down, for you to talk with your therapist.

[00:59:10] Ebony: Yes.

[00:59:11] Ramit: And I think that feeling good at home with Kevin taking on, being proactive– I see Kevin. He’s getting it. He gets it. He’s like, I’m ready.

[00:59:19] Kevin: That’s right.

[00:59:21] Ramit: If that happens, then Ebony, that gives you a little room to explore the market and to be selective.

[00:59:29] Ebony: Yeah.

[00:59:30] Ramit: You said you’ve never had the chance to look for a job because you were always running away from something. Now you have a good situation. I need you to believe that there is a job out there where you can make more and be respected at work. I know it exists. You’ve got to believe it. And I’ve helped a million people find those kinds of jobs. It’s out there. You’ve got to believe it because then you’re going to be searching for it. Okay?

[00:59:57] Ebony: Yeah. 

[00:59:58] Ramit: So far what are the key messages you’re taking away from our conversation right now about the money part of it?

[01:00:10] Kevin: Tough. It’s a tough conversation to have. It is a complex situation we got.

[01:00:22] Ebony: We created a hot mess. 

[01:00:24] Ramit: Kevin, how worried are you about your finances on a scale of one to 10? 10 is the most worried.

[01:00:31] Kevin: Uh, I would say about seven. Six or seven.

[01:00:36] Ramit: You’re a seven? You don’t sound like a seven.

[01:00:41] Kevin: Because, Ramit, at the end of the day, it is going to be fine. We can do this. We are very capable.

[01:00:48] Ramit: Because right now, did you know that you’re losing money every single month? 

[01:00:54] Kevin: Yes, I’m aware.

[01:00:55] Ramit: How much are you losing every month?

[01:00:57] Kevin: Uh, anywhere from, what is it, uh, 500 to 1,200. Some pay period fee on balance. Or you talking about the credit card debt?

[01:01:14] Ramit: All of it. 

[01:01:15] Kevin: Um, no, I don’t know that amount.

[01:01:18] Ramit: How can you be sure that it’s all going to work out if you don’t even know how much you’re losing every month?

[01:01:26] Kevin: That’s a great question.

[01:01:28] Ramit: Do you know the answer to it? There is an answer as to how you’re able to sleep very soundly at night, even though you’re losing thousands of dollars. Do you know what it is?

[01:01:40] Kevin: What’s that? Because Ebony has it under control.

[01:01:47] Ramit: Yes. So you’ve delegated all that worry over to her, and what did she just tell you just a couple of minutes ago?

[01:01:55] Kevin: She needs help. She needs me to do it.


[01:01:57] Ramit: So you stepping back has put all the burden on her, and she herself has admitted she’s not equipped to do it. She has her own demons that she’s working through.

[01:02:09] Kevin: Mm-hmm. 

[01:02:10] Ramit: She needs your help. Are you willing to step up and help?

[01:02:14] Kevin: Yes, I am.

[01:02:15] Ramit: All right. I appreciate that. Now, Ebony, think carefully about your answer to this question. What would you like Kevin to do to help you?

[01:02:32] Ebony: Listen to me explain the system that I have and figure out how he wants to help me with that system, make it more simple.

[01:02:44] Ramit: Okay. Kevin, are you in agreement with that? You’ll help her do that?

[01:02:49] Kevin: Yes, I can do that.

[01:02:50] Ramit: Okay, great. And I have a question for you. So this call’s going to end at some point. A couple days from now, you’re going to have this conversation. Let’s say you have a couple, two, three conversations. What are the odds that you end up right back where you were?

[01:03:09] Ebony: Well, I feel like they’re very high. Higher than 50% chance.

[01:03:13] Ramit: Yeah. Kevin, what do you think?

[01:03:16] Kevin: I don’t know. I think we’re going to change because I– you guys are calling me out, and I don’t appreciate it. It pisses me off, but this is the most in-depth or, I would say, as you’ve been saying all night, this is the most layers we’ve gotten through. I truly didn’t know she was this passionate. And I guess now that we’ve sat here, and the more she’s talked, I’m like, wow. I guess all along she’s been telling me this, and, as you said, I’ve tuned her out or blocked her out and just not listening, but she’s actually been saying it now over three to four months. 

[01:03:56] Ramit: Three to four decades.

[01:03:58] Kevin: No. I truly love mine. I love Ebony. She is so awesome. I love my wife. And like I said, I want to do the right thing. I want to help. And I don’t want her to feel that way. I’ll be honest. I didn’t know it was this deep. I was aware of the money. I’ve seen what we have, and we definitely got to do something different. But yeah, I didn’t know the emotional depth of everything that’s going on right now. I’m going to have to step up. I’m sorry you feel that way. I didn’t know it was this bad.

[01:04:43] Ramit: How do you receive that, Ebony?

[01:04:46] Ebony: I feel seen for the first time in a long time.

[01:04:50] Ramit: Yeah.

[01:04:51] Ebony: And heard.

[01:04:52] Ramit: I love that.

[01:04:53] Ebony: I feel like that’s been the most breakthrough we’ve had.

[01:04:57] Ramit: That is a huge breakthrough. Kevin. My man. The two of you are obviously very loving, and that was the first conversation about money where I could see it. Kevin, I saw you feeling genuinely hurt, realizing how deep it goes for Ebony.

[01:05:18] Kevin: Yeah.

[01:05:19] Ramit: And Ebony, I heard you receive what he said open arms. It was just, thank you. I feel seen. I feel heard. That’s beautiful. I’d like for you two to be able to continue to have conversations like that. Wouldn’t it feel good?

[01:05:40] Kevin: Yeah.

[01:05:41] Ebony: Yeah.

[01:05:42] Ramit: So how can you do that? This was a beautiful moment, a flash of what’s possible. And if you could do that 90% of the time, gosh, it would transform everything. I have no doubt that the rest of your debt would start to go down way more, way faster if the two of you were talking like that 90% of the time. It’s more important than the $25 expenses. It’s more important than the Excel spreadsheets. It’s more important than your kids’ sports. It’s more important than everything, is the two of you being able to communicate in a healthy way. 

[01:06:25] Kevin: Healthy way, Ebony. We got to remember that.

[01:06:28] Ebony: Definitely. Yeah.

[01:06:30] Kevin: That’s the key. 

[01:06:31] Ebony: Yeah. I mean, I feel like there’s nothing the two of us can’t do together as a team. 

[01:06:38] Ramit: Mm-hmm. 

[01:06:39] Kevin: That’s right.


[01:06:40] Ramit: I think that was a really beautiful demonstration of their love for each other. Kevin really showed up. For our entire conversation, he said he’s willing to help, but it was really in those last few minutes that he acknowledged he could do more. And he seemed to get it. I’ll take the win. And Ebony, she’s changing the way she communicates. She’s asking for what she wants. As time goes on, my wish is that she starts to see how her identity has caused her to pile on so many different things that she’s now wearing, all parts of her identity. And that maybe it’s okay to ask for help. 

[01:07:18] Now, if it were me, let me just tell you what I would do. I would dramatically simplify the way that we handled finances. I would just throw out this complicated budget, use the system from the IWT book, Chapter 4, stop trying to reinvent the wheel. I would then have a series of clear conversations about who does what. And I would write it down on paper, not use a lot of complicated words.

[01:07:40] If I was Ebony, I would start off by asking Kevin to take on something small. I would set him up to win. I would celebrate that win within five to seven days, and then I would work together on making money management much more equitable. If I were Ebony, I would immediately look for a new job. If a 2X salary increases on the table, take it. An increase like that could change everything for them.

[01:08:05] I’m going to throw a link in my show notes to my dream job program, which routinely helps people get 10,000 raises, 25,000 raises, even more, including helping you discover what your dream job even is. Now, let me show you what they sent me after our conversation. Let’s start with Kevin’s video follow-up. And you can head over to YouTube to watch and to listen.

[01:08:29] Kevin: What surprised me was the level of patience that, uh, Ramit exercised with my wife and I, and the level of in-depth questioning that he was able to, um, bring to the surface some things that I didn’t realize was there and how it impacted not only my wife, but um, our marriage.

[01:08:50] One of the biggest takeaways was that my wife needs me. Um, she needs me to step up, uh, relieve some of this financial stress that, um, we have in our marriage, uh, take more of a leader role, or even an active role. Um, I didn’t realize the depth of her frustration, um, or hurt, but now I do. I’m up for the challenge.

[01:09:16] Although we have much work to do, I really think we can do this in the short-term and long-term and, um, change everything around. And specific change, basically, we’re going to communicate more. Um, not only come up with the new financial strategies that involve both of us. Not one of us. Also stop using credit cards, possibly new jobs, and a debt relief plan, um, that we can be out of debt within, uh, a year or two.

[01:09:56] Ramit: Next up, Ebony’s follow up.

[01:09:58] Ebony: What surprised me the most was definitely how hurt I was and how immature I was behaving. Um, and that my budget wasn’t working, my spreadsheet wasn’t helping. That was a surprise. No, I’m just kidding. I knew it wasn’t working, which was why I reached out. Um, but I had some key takeaways, and it was just that the problem was much deeper than just money and finances that it’s like, um, more so a reflection of some issues that have been going on, um, inside of my marriage for a few years, and I haven’t really been attending to them.

[01:10:44] Kevin and I are definitely going to couples counseling, and we also are going to work on coming up with a plan together. I’ve already given him a list, and we are talking about what things on the list, realistically, he can take off of my shoulders, so free up some time for me to find, uh, a better paying job. And I realized I deserve an equal partner. We both needed the wake-up call, and thank you for being so direct.

[01:11:15] Ramit: I want to thank Ebony and Kevin again for their honesty and openness in our conversation. This was a challenging conversation, and I like that. You both came here. You needed help. You were ready to change. That’s why I do this podcast. So thank you for showing up, and thank you to everyone for listening and watching. And the last thing I want you to do, go to iwt.com/podcastnewsletter. I send out a weekly newsletter on money psychology. You will not find it anywhere else. You can only get it at iwt.com/podcastnewsletter.