Episode #130: “I don’t trust him with spending. Do we have a future?”

Alise is 38 and Jesse is 42; they live in Portland with no kids and have been married for 10 years. Alise has a growing sense of urgency related to their future–their lack of savings, modest investments, and credit card debt—fed by pressure from her family. But Jesse is hands-off with money.

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Show Transcript

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[00:00:00] Alisa: So what it is for me is knowing how much debt Jesse has, and how little savings, and how little he’s put in his Roth over the years. When I see that extra money being spent on things unnecessarily, or just what I view as maybe excessive for his situation, it makes me angry.

[00:00:23] Ramit: Angry.

[00:00:23] Alisa: It seems irresponsible. I’m just really agitated by it. Scared of not having enough scared. Scared that we’re not going to be able to live the life that we want and do things we want in the future because of where we are now. And I’m also scared that this might not work. We might not work.

[00:00:40] Jesse: There are other fish in the sea that look better on paper than I do. We don’t have to be married. Maybe I’m not that person for you that can give you the security that you want.


[00:00:54] Ramit: Meet Alisa and Jesse. Alisa is 38. Jesse is 42. They are married, living in Portland, with no children. There’s two examples I want you to pay attention to right in the beginning of this conversation. The first is a big one. It’s a timeshare purchase. And I want you to notice the dynamic that happened when they purchased that timeshare. The second example is when they went to dinner. And that’s a small example, but I want you to also notice the dynamic there. And as we dig into who they are and how they grew up, you’re going to discover some big surprises along the way. 

[00:01:30] Before we dive into the episode, let me ask you this. What would you do if you found out your partner was in $100,000 of debt or they told you, “I have a money guy”? One who charges 1.25% AUM. This Saturday, in my newsletter, I’m going to break down major financial red flags to look out for in a partner. And you can only get it this Saturday, Nov 18th, by making sure you’re signed up at iwt.com/podcastnewsletter.

[00:01:5900] And one more thing. Before we get to the show, I want to thank all of the couples who have come on this show this year. I’m now looking for amazing guests for 2024. And these are couples who are stuck with finances in their relationship and are serious about making a change.

[00:02:160]One thing you may not know is what you see on this show is only a portion of the full conversation I have with my guests. if you are accepted, you get a two- to three-hour private coaching call with me. There is no other way to get private financial coaching except through this podcast.

[00:02:37] I’m looking for serious applicants who are ready for help. Maybe it means you can’t get on the same page with your spending, or one of you has tons of debt, or maybe you’re about to have a huge life change, and you’re stuck on how to handle the financial side of it. If that’s you, I want to hear from you. Please apply here at iwt.com/apply. Now let’s get to the conversation.


[00:03:00] Alisa: A big thing we did together comes to mind, but it was actually before we were married. It was really stupid.

[00:03:07] Ramit: I already love this.

[00:03:08] Alisa: It was a couple of years before we got married, and we were on this trip. I found his killer deal to go to Honolulu. Long story short, we end up in a timeshare.

[00:03:24] Ramit: I knew it. Okay, go on.

[00:03:28] Alisa: We end up in this timeshare meeting, and we were already like, no, no, no. We kept saying no, first of all. We didn’t even meet the financial requirements to be in the meeting.

[00:03:38] Ramit: Okay.

[00:03:38] Alisa: So five hours later, we were talking to buying a timeshare. They came up with this biannual plan for us to make it more affordable.

[00:03:49] Ramit: Okay, hold on. I got a few questions. First of all, I just love this already. And you were not married at the time?

[00:03:55] Alisa: We were not married.

[00:03:55] Ramit: Even better. Amazing. So what timeshare company is this?

[00:04:00] Alisa: Wyndham.

[00:04:01] Ramit: Wyndham. Okay. And what does Wyndham get you with their special timeshares? Tell me. Tell us all.

[00:04:06] Alisa: With your points, you can go to any other locations all around the world. And because our deed was in Hawaii, that’s one of the most sought after areas, and maintenance fees would be low because it’s Hawaii.

[00:04:21] Ramit: How low?

[00:04:22] Alisa: At that time, they were 50 some dollars a month, but that didn’t last.

[00:04:27] Ramit: Oh, it went up?

[00:04:29] Alisa: Yeah.

[00:04:30] Ramit: Oh, they didn’t mention that in the sales pitch. Okay, go on.

[00:04:31] Alisa: And then there was all sorts of owner perks and discounts you can get. I don’t know how many we did. We did several. We actually no longer have it. We got out of it this year

[00:04:43] Ramit: How did you do that?

[00:04:46] Alisa: I know, right? It was very difficult after many years of trying. But I spoke with someone from the company and asked options about getting out, and they’re like, you could just give it back. It was paid off. We borrowed money from my parents to pay it off

[00:05:03] Ramit: How much did you borrow?

[00:05:05] Alisa: We borrowed $12,000.

[00:05:06] Ramit: Okay.

[00:05:08] Alisa: Because the interest rate was wild.

[00:05:11] Ramit: Was it? This is the best story of my life. What was the interest rate?

[00:05:15] Alisa: I think it was 17.9. And the initial–

[00:05:19] Ramit: What the fuck? 17%.

[00:05:21] Alisa: Yeah. The initial purchase was $16,000, and I had to put 2,500 of it on a credit card for the down payment.

[00:05:28] Ramit: Let me just put things in perspective for people who don’t know what 17% means. Okay, let me put it this way. If you’re a very good investor, top 10%, you can get 7 to 8% returns in the market. Hold on. I need to take a deep breath. I’m getting really, really angry right now.

[00:05:46] Okay, cool it down. If you could get 17% in the market, you would be one of the best investors in the world, forever. Ever. In history. Fuck you, Wyndham. The fact that they’re charging 17% interest rates to everyday Americans who they brought into a nice little resort– what’d they give you? A free trip for two days, three nights, free breakfast, and a free little boat excursion?

[00:06:20] Alisa: There was some goodies, yeah.

[00:06:21] Jesse: Pretty much. Yeah.

[00:06:22] Ramit: You guys know you’re supposed to just go and get the free gift and leave, right?

[00:06:26] Alisa: We tried.

[00:06:27] Ramit: It’s what you’re supposed to do.

[00:06:27] Alisa: We tried. We got so sucked in to whole–

[00:06:31] Ramit: Americans love to be suckers. They hate the idea of being scammed, but they also love being scammed. Although you two look quite happy, I think it’s because you got out of the timeshare.

[00:06:41] Alisa: We got out of it.

[00:06:43] Ramit: Freedom has a price. And you know what? Honestly, to get out and even lose money, fine. Just get out.

[00:06:48] Alisa: Jesse told me that was my engagement ring.

[00:06:54] Ramit: Wait a minute. Who was the one who wanted to sign it, by the way? Who wanted to do it more?

[00:06:58] Jesse: I think Alisa did.

[00:07:02] Alisa: I think maybe I did. I think I got emotionally sucked in, and then I was like, oh, we should do it.

[00:07:05] Ramit: What’s emotional about it? Oh, I know. These sales guys are very good. You could come here. And every year you come, and then you have your kids, and blah, blah. Your family. Shut up. All right, fine. So you got the thing. You got rid of it. Not a great decision, but okay. How long you’ve been married?

[00:07:21] Alisa: We’ve been married for 10 years.

[00:07:22] Ramit: What was the last time that you disagreed about money? What happened? Paint the picture for me.

[00:07:28] Alisa: We went out to eat, and we don’t go out to eat very often. And we were at this Mediterranean place that we liked. And I was like, oh, what are you getting? And he was going to get this entree that was $27. I recognize that that’s not that much for a meal out, especially in a big city.

[00:07:47] But at this particular place, I was like, no. I was like, you’re going to get that. I was like, Jesse, that’s ridiculous. I was like, that’s so expensive for what you’re going to get. You could get this same thing, and it’s basically the same meal, and it’s 17.

[00:08:01] Ramit: All right. So then what happened?

[00:08:05] Alisa: I went on about it and kept talking about it. And then he decided to get the one that he knows that he likes that’s really good that he’s had before, that is 17 or 18. And we shared an appetizer, and that was that.

[00:08:24] Ramit: Did you feel good that you won?

[00:08:27] Alisa: Yeah. I felt more relaxed because I was like, oh, okay. He’s not going to spend too much. I felt more at ease as a result. My body felt more relaxed, and then I didn’t feel concerned about the cost.

[00:08:45] Ramit: Who pays?

[00:08:47] Jesse: I do.

[00:08:28] Alisa: Most of the time, he does. Sometimes I will, or we’ll trade off.

[00:08:53] Ramit: Okay. Are your finances combined?

[00:08:56] Alisa: No.

[00:08:56] Jesse: No.

[00:08:57] Ramit: Got it. So Jesse, you’re paying out of your money or joint money?

[00:09:05] Jesse: My money.

[00:09:06] Ramit: Okay. Wait, what? Does anyone else find this interesting? Alisa, what? Can you explain?

[00:09:15] Alisa: Yeah. So what it is for me is knowing how much debt Jesse has, and how little savings, and how little he’s put in his Roth over the years. When I see that extra money being spent on things unnecessarily, or just what I view as maybe excessive for his situation, it makes me angry.

[00:09:36] Ramit: Angry.

[00:09:37] Alisa: It seems irresponsible.

[00:09:40] Ramit: Okay. And how does that show up? In this case, we saw you had him  get the ground beef. Where else does that anger show up?

[00:09:42] Alisa: Mm. It shows up in other things that he buys too. I see shim buying multiple coffees out a week. I’m like, that money could be redistributed. And so sometimes I end up saying something because it just eats at me.

[00:10:12] Ramit: Eats at you means what?

[00:10:13] Alisa: I’m just really agitated by it.

[00:10:16] Ramit: Because you want him to pay down debt, save more, etc. Okay. That $10 that he saved with the beef, did it go into debt payoff?

[00:10:27] Alisa: I don’t know. Jesse, did it?

[00:10:30] Jesse: No, I think it went into the pint of ice cream we got after.

[00:10:35] Ramit: Okay. So this is very interesting. And Jesse, do you agree with the way that Alisa characterized it? That she feels agitated. She doesn’t agree with your debt, and the way that you don’t invest as much as she would like. And then she makes comments. Is that fair to say?

[00:10:50] Jesse: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:10:54] Ramit: How long has this been going on?

[00:10:57] Alisa: A number of years, for sure.

[00:11:00] Jesse: At least five years.

[00:11:01] Ramit: You seem worried about money.

[00:11:03] Alisa: I am.

[00:11:04] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:11:05] Alisa: I know it doesn’t do anything for me, but–

[00:11:09] Ramit: Let’s just take it step by step. First, we got to know where you are, what’s going on, and then we can get to the solution.


[00:11:16] Ramit: Here’s what I mean by Americans love to get scammed. They love to buy cars and only look at the monthly payment. In fact, they ask the car sales guy for advice. Americans love to buy expensive houses without even understanding how much it costs in total. Again, they only look at the monthly payment.

[00:11:37] Americans love to buy timeshares and pay 1.25% AUM fees to their financial advisor, which actually costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they don’t even want to know how much they’re paying. Oh, that’s my financial guy. I love that he has his eyes on it, and I don’t have to worry about it.

[00:11:57] And yet Americans are obsessed with not being scammed. When they go to a restaurant, they complain about 1% fees for health insurance for the waiters, calling it a scam. They often rant about taxes, saying how they’re a scam, and if only they got value, they’d be happy to pay, while driving on safe road, to clean air, to a well-maintained national park where they can call the fire department who will arrive in minutes.

[00:12:16] And finally, when they travel, they obsess about being overcharged $5 for being American. Americans hate being scammed, but they also love being scammed. We’ll be back after these messages. Now back to the show.


[00:12:33] Ramit: Jesse, did you grow up working class?

[00:12:37] Jesse: Yeah. My father was a state trooper, and my mother was a dental hygienist.`

[00:12:43] Ramit: What do you remember about money in your family when you were young, Jesse?

[00:12:47] Jesse: Asking for money from one parent, and then that parent saying, go ask your dad or vice versa. I’d ask my dad for money and be like, what did your mom say? I also remember just working, not for an allowance, but just having to do chores, and then certain times given money at that time.

[00:13:11] Ramit: And what about your parents when they talked about money? Did you ever hear them talking about money in the family?

[00:13:17] Jesse: Mm-mm.

[00:13:18] Ramit: No, never. How about when it came to things like paying bills, buying a car, eating out, anything ever come up then regarding money?

[00:13:29] Jesse: Eating out, it was sparse. This was an extravagance. This was a special event. It was mostly dinners at home, and my mother would cook.

[00:13:37] Ramit: Okay. What lessons do you think you carry with you now as an adult about money that you learned when you were younger?

[00:13:46] Jesse: You can’t take it with you. Money is meant to be spent, and you’re going to die anyways, so might as well spend it on stuff or spending it on things that you love. To save money means that you’re saving for something to spend it on. You’re saving up for a shiny something, in that way. If you can pay your bills, you’re doing all right.

[00:14:14] Ramit: Who told you that one? 

[00:14:15] Jesse: I think it was my dad. I remember him saying money comes and goes. And I remember him saying that you can’t take it with you.

[00:14:23] Ramit: Powerful phrases. They really, influence someone who’s young. We’re not born knowing how money works. It’s something we learn socially. And when you learn it from your dad or mom, you accept it. And then you go 20 years not earning any money of your own until you’re in your teens or early 20s.

[00:14:44] We don’t pick up a book and read it. We just lean on those phrases that magically reappear in our head that we heard when we were maybe seven years old. Okay. That’s very helpful. Thank you for taking me back. Alisa, anything surprised you as you hear what Jesse shares about his family history? What do you make of him saying money comes, money goes?

[00:15:06] Alisa: He said that to me before. He shared that before, so I’ve definitely heard it. I feel like I’ve witnessed that in the way he is with his money. It comes in. It goes out. He gets it. He spends it.

[00:15:21] Ramit: How does that make you feel?

[00:15:23] Alisa: I don’t think I thought about it much years ago, or didn’t really pay attention to it as much. How does it make me feel? I guess nervous.

[00:15:37] Ramit: Because the money going part?

[00:15:39] Alisa: Yeah.

[00:15:40] Ramit: Okay. I think I understand. Alisa, how about you? How’d you grow up?

[00:15:47] Alisa: It’s probably middle class, I would say. My dad was mostly in accounting-type work, and my mom was a practical nurse. They were frugal. I would say we always had everything we need, and we were comfortable for the most part.

[00:16:02] One thing that was actually significant, something that I experienced, was when I was in sixth grade. So I was 12, and my dad had a really good job and everything. He was more the breadwinner. He got laid off. And I remember my parents took me out to dinner, just me, to have this conversation with me and tell me what happened. And they’re like, it’s going to be okay. I remember being a little scared, but I didn’t really understand.

[00:16:32] End up being really stressful in my family because we lived in a really small town, and the job options were really slim, and my dad couldn’t find anything. So just my mom’s salary was holding the family together, a family of five, for a period of time. My dad ended up moving four hours away for a job, and he lived there for two years, and we would sometimes go down and visit. And there was a lot of stress in our family at that time.

[00:16:58] Ramit: What did you make of it at the time? You you’re young. What did you make of it back then?

[00:17:07] Alisa: I noticed that certain things changed. It seemed like my parents had to be that much more cautious of money and conscious of things. And so it felt like I maybe got told no more or had to choose between, you can do this activity or this activity, but you can’t do both. I felt upset about it because I felt like we weren’t as well off, and I couldn’t do certain things. Yeah, just the dynamics of our household felt different. Yeah, it was stressful, and it was obvious.

[00:17:46] Ramit: Like phone calls, things like that?

[00:17:48] Alisa: Yeah. And then going into middle school and stuff. That’s a hard age, and I was a total brat and had all this attitude and stuff. So I would sometimes say different things to my mom immaturely at the time that I know were really difficult. 

[00:18:06] Ramit: Tell it for all the parents out there. Just tell them what told your mom so everybody knows. Let’s get a little [Inaudible] to all the moms out there.

[00:18:12] Alisa: I would get mad if I couldn’t have like certain clothes or certain things.

[00:18:16] Ramit: What did you tell her? I hate you, mom. You’re the worst mom.

[00:18:18] Alisa: Yeah. Or I would bring up my friends. I’d be like, so and so gets to have all the– but she would sometimes kind out in different ways. There was a lot of stress. I’m the youngest. I remember sometimes asking for different things, and my mom would be like, how are you going to pay for it?

[00:18:37] Ramit: Oh, wow.

[00:18:38] Alisa: Save your money. I was a kid. We didn’t get allowance, so it was like, okay, I’ll save my birthday and Christmas money.

[00:18:45] Ramit: Okay, hold on a second. Hold on a second. Do you think that Jesse’s parents ever said that same phrase to him?

[00:18:54] Alisa: Did they ever tell you to save your money, Jesse, if you wanted something?

[00:19:00] Jesse: Not often. Or if they did say it, there was no action behind it because they would either maybe give me the money or I wouldn’t get it. So it’s only a matter of time where I don’t do enough chores, or I skip my chores, or whatever, and I don’t get the thing. I fail. It’s a matter of choosing not to have that thing or choosing to really just move on.

[00:19:33] Ramit: Or your parents just got it for you.

[00:19:35] Jesse: Or my parents just got it from me. Exactly.

[00:19:37] Ramit: Okay. All right. Alisa, how old were you when your parents started saying that to you? Why don’t you just save for it?

[00:19:45] Alisa: I remember them saying that when I was pretty young, like in elementary school. What is that? Nine, 10 years old.

[00:19:52] Ramit: Okay, so basically, you’ve had somebody in the back of your head saying the word saving for about 30 years.

[00:20:00] Alisa: Yeah, at least that.

[00:20:04] Ramit: What does that tell you? Let me ask Jesse what that tells him. Jesse, what does that tell you?

[00:20:11] Jesse: It tells me that it’s ingrained. It’s there. It’s part of your programming.


[00:20:17] Ramit: I asked that question because I wanted Alisa to realize how different her upbringing was from Jesse’s. If you have parents even saying the phrase “save your money,” you’re further ahead of at least 50% of people your age. Sometimes I have to make this point explicit because, deep down, we mostly assume that other people were raised the same as we were, with the same values and messages. But they weren’t. If Jesse never heard the phrase “save your money,” from his parents, is it any surprise he sees money differently than Alisa does?


[00:20:45] Ramit: Tell me about your parents’ financial situation today.

[00:20:57] Alisa: Yeah, so from what I know, they seem very comfortable. They downsized their home when I was in high school, since I was the last kid in the house. So they’re in a condo that’s paid off. My mom has a pension. My dad, I think, has a combination of pension, 401K, and I know he had investments. I always actually remember as a kid, I used to sometimes pretend to be accountant because that’s what my dad did, and I would sit at his desk, and I remember the envelopes with the Fidelity logo on it. Really young. So he’s got investments.

[00:21:32] Ramit: Okay, cool. Do they talk to you about money today?

[00:21:38] Alisa: Not in a productive way, and it’s usually coming from my mom. I experience it as a lot of shame about the way we live, and how she sees us doing different things, how we don’t own a home, we don’t have assets. And she wrote in a Christmas card this past year.

[00:21:59] It was tough because we had had a disagreement about something, and she wrote us a Christmas card apologizing in it, saying, I’m sorry, but, and the whole but was all about, but you don’t have assets. You don’t have this. You don’t have that. We really worry about you. Yeah, I had to get rid of the card, and I really hurt emotionally. Some of it was concerns I already have, so it just being mirrored to me in that way was–

[00:22:34] Ramit: Yeah, it’s tough. It’s like you’re already thinking about it all the time. You’re talking to Jesse about it all the time. And then to have your mom, who obviously loves you and you love her, but then to bring that up, particularly in a Christmas card, it’s not what you needed. I can understand that.

[00:22:50] Alisa: Yeah.

[00:22:51] Ramit: I’m sorry.


[00:22:52] Ramit: What is it about parents writing these insane holiday cards to their kids? In Episode 102, you’ll remember that Mike’s mom wrote him a card, which added up all the costs they were owed through his years in school. To receive a card like that is devastating. And it really suggests that Alisa has a very difficult relationship with her mom, which I’m sorry to hear. It informs a lot of the way she feels about money and treats money.


[00:23:20] Alisa: I guess I would add that I get scared it’s going to go away. There’s not going to be enough.

[00:23:27] Ramit: Tell me more about that.

[00:23:29] Alisa: Partly is we’re both independent contractors, so it’s just working for ourselves with client-based work. I guess with the volatility of that. And then also, I do believe it’s from my upbringing of when my dad lost that job and struggled. I didn’t mention this as part of that story too, but once he did get a job and moved away for a period of time, he found a job in my hometown and was able to move back a couple of years, and that lasted so long.

[00:23:59] And then they did layoffs. He got laid off again. He tried different things. He worked in real estate for a hot second. It was just difficult him finding something stable. And then he did for a period of time. It was more pay, and he was excited about the opportunity. And I think that’s one where he wanted to work essentially till he retired, and he got laid off. And then at that point, he was early 60s and never got hired again. And he got essentially forced into early retirement. And he wanted to work till he was 70. So I saw a lot of waves.

[00:24:38] Ramit: I would guess that you don’t bring up money with them.

[00:24:44] Alisa: No, because it doesn’t go well. It probably would be better with my dad, but it’s also– I don’t know. I find it difficult to talk to him about certain things too.

[00:24:58] Ramit: Why? Because he’s an accountant?

[00:25:00] Alisa: It just can be–

[00:25:03] Ramit: I have nothing against accountants. I love them. I’m just saying they’re very different than knowing what investments are. There’s a two very–

[00:25:09] Alisa: Yeah, I think I’m scared of being judged. Also questions like this can be so long-winded that I get lost. It was too much stuff that I tune out.

[00:25:26] Ramit: How about your sisters? How are they with money?

[00:25:30] Alisa: My oldest sister seems to be doing really well. I know she’s had a, like a 401K with her job that she’s been utilizing since her mid-20s. I know this because my parents have spoken about it. She has a nice chunk of money in savings.

[00:25:47] Ramit: Are your parents Indian? From everything you’re saying, I’m like, wait a second. Your parents are leveraging the kids against each other. They’re like, this person is so good. I’m like, this sounds very familiar.

[00:25:55] Alisa: But this particular sister is divorced. And when she was married, there was financial difficulties. They never had a savings together and stuff. She has a significant savings now, and I’ve heard my dad say, I’m really proud of that girl. I’m really proud. She’s got over $30,000 that she’s just saved up and blah blah blah. And she has a stable job.

[00:26:19] Ramit: What does that make you think?

[00:26:22] Alisa: That they’re not proud of me.

[00:26:23] Ramit: Right. The implication is, in order for us to be proud of one of our daughters, they have to have $30,000. And because I don’t have 30,000 then– not that anyone said that out loud, but it’s there in the air.

[00:26:37] Alisa: Yeah, and she owns a home. She has a home in–

[00:26:41] Ramit: I’m sure you have not ever sent him a Zillow link from your neighborhood and been like, look at this. No? You don’t do that?

[00:26:48] Alisa: Not in that manner, but I’ve spoken about the costs out here.

[00:26:53] Ramit: So that brings us to where you are today. You do see money very differently. Jesse, any surprises in hearing Alisa share about her upbringing with money?

[00:27:03] Jesse: No. I’m familiar with some of her background and things. The one thing I might add is that we tend to hide things from her parents. So if we are going on a trip, or if we’re spending money, we don’t tell her parents because of the potential backlash of the Christmas card, of the shame that will come along with it.

[00:27:32] Ramit: Have you developed your own unspoken set of rules? Like if they text you while you’re traveling, you don’t mention that you’re traveling.

[00:27:41] Jesse: Yeah, in a sense. Even Instagram or Facebook. You have to block your sister and anybody because you don’t want them to see your stories, because if we post anything, they’ll see your stories, and they’ll know that you’re in Hawaii, or wherever.

[00:28:01] Ramit: What does that feel like for you?

[00:28:03] Jesse: It feels like I’m lying. I have to lie. I have to hide, even from my family, which my family just doesn’t care.

[00:28:16] Ramit: Oh, you don’t tell them because they might tell–

[00:28:19] Jesse: Yeah, because our families live in the same town.

[00:28:22] Ramit: Oh, okay. All right.

[00:28:24] Jesse: Small town.

[00:28:25] Ramit: I don’t know. It’s horrible. You shouldn’t have to lie. And we’ll fix all this stuff. But it’s very quaint, the idea of the whole town’s going to talk about it. It’s a small town. We better hide what we’re doing in this big city. I get it. I totally, deeply understand what’s going on. I’m not making a joke of it. And let’s talk about some ways, but it just reminds me so much of my own community.


[00:28:52] I just love when couples create their own rituals for handling family matters. Because everyone in an Eastern culture, actually, every culture, has done the same thing. Maybe it involves tip-toeing around someone who drinks too much, or is jealous, or always causes a fight at Christmas. What I love is that the ritual is never explicit. It’s never written down, but it’s nonetheless real.

[00:29:18] First-time listeners to this podcast will say stuff like, “Who cares what other people think? Just do what you want” But long-time listeners will recognize that the expectations of your community are very real, and in some cases, they’re even more powerful than life or death. I mean that explicitly and literally. Just study the psychology of cults. When many people would rather die– again, literally die than to change their behavior or recognize basic, objective facts.

[00:29:49] The power of psychology is stronger than you can possibly imagine. Now, to summarize what I heard. Alisa’s dad was forced into early retirement. Her mom shames them for a lack of assets, compares Alisa to her successful sister, and Alisa and Jesse have had to hide things from their parents.


[00:30:07] Now, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you was that in the application– Alisa, have you shared your application with Jesse before?

[00:30:15] Alisa: No.

[00:30:16] Ramit: Okay. By the way, Jesse, I understand that you didn’t know that Alisa had applied. Is that right?

[00:30:20] Jesse: No, I didn’t know. To my knowledge, we were enjoying your podcasts, your programming, your books, and things of that nature.

[00:30:30] Ramit: But she didn’t tell you. You found out when?

[00:30:33] Jesse: When she had to tell me because I needed to be there. And when I found out, because this was a point of contention in our relationship, about communication, I felt like, where was the communication on this? We’ve sat down together, and we watched these things together.

[00:30:51] Ramit: Alisa, how come you didn’t tell him?

[00:30:52] Alisa: I don’t know exactly. I think I was maybe a little nervous because I knew that I initially was feeling emotional when I applied.

[00:31:06] Ramit: I would like to read a little bit of Alisa’s application. So Lisa said, “Our relationship feels very financially insecure. I love my husband, but I’m so terrified for our future and feel stress about it nearly every day. It makes me sick to my stomach, and I wonder if it’s even possible for us to create wealth together. I often cry, and when I get emotional about it, he tends to withdraw, get defensive, and angry. I wonder if it’s possible to turn our situation around at this point.” Alisa, as you hear your own words that you wrote, what do you think?

[00:31:51] Alisa: It’s intense to hear my words back. I feel teary-eyed hearing it, but I feel like that’s true. I think I’m scared. I don’t know. I know I’m scared. Scared of not having enough. Scared that we’re not going to be able to live the life that we want and do things we want in the future because of where we are now. And I’m also scared that this might not work. We might not work.

[00:32:29] Ramit: Because it’s on your mind, it’s one of the primary things you worry about.

[00:32:35] Alisa: Yeah.

[00:32:36] Ramit: Okay.

[00:32:36] Jesse: I often feel then, well, there are other fish in the sea that look better on paper than I do. We don’t have to be married. Maybe I’m not that person for you that can give you the security that you want. And I’ve said that to myself over the years, and what it’s done to me is it’s made me not try financially for myself to do better at my own business, or rebuild my business after the pandemic tore it apart, to really not invest any more of my money, energy, and time here.

[00:33:27] Ramit: Because? Can you finish the sentence for me? You haven’t invested. You haven’t wanted to–

[00:33:33] Jesse: Because I don’t see a future with Alisa and I.

[00:33:35] Ramit: Okay. And is this a topic that the two of you speak about together in therapy, etc?

[00:33:44] Jesse: Yes.


[00:33:46] Ramit: I’m very glad that they’re speaking to a therapist about this because there are, obviously, some deeply personal issues here. As a reminder, I’m not a therapist, I encourage lots of my guests to speak to a therapist. One of the things I want to do on this podcast is to demystify and destigmatize seeking help of all kinds — whether it’s a personal trainer, a coach, or a therapist.

[00:34:09] And one of the reasons that I started this podcast was I wanted people to have a place to get help, and to listen to others getting help. Now, that help with your money can come in the form of reading an email newsletter, buying a book, listening to a podcast, joining a group of people who are going through similar things you are, it could hiring a financial advisor, or speaking to a therapist. There are so many options on the spectrum of how you can get help. But the important thing is to get help.

[00:34:39] We’ll be right back. Now to Alisa and Jesse.

[00:34:40] My focus in these conversations is on money and money psychology, so let’s turn to that.


[00:34:49] Ramit: I think probably a lot of your relationship with money is negative, going back to childhood. Jesse, I think that your relationship with money actually feels quite effortless. It’s like, hey, easy come, easy go. And if I have a little bit of extra money, I’m good. Right?

[00:35:09] Jesse: Yes.

[00:35:10] Ramit: And the two of you are disagreeing a lot, and it’s coming out for things like a 10-dollar cut of meat. We all know it’s not really about that cut of meat. It’s obviously a different way of looking at the world. What do both of you think the fix is, if there is a fix? 

[00:35:31] Jesse: I need to make more money.

[00:35:33] Ramit: If you made more, what would change?

[00:35:35] Jesse: The amount of money that I could put into my debt. My debts would go quicker. The amount of money that I would be able to save and show Alisa, what’s going into the Roth and be able to even come around to the idea of a solo 401K. I think that would provide the security that Alisa is looking for.

[00:35:59] Ramit: How much would you need to have in those accounts in order for her to feel secure?

[00:36:03] Jesse: For, say, an emergency savings, it would be around 30 grand.

[00:36:09] Ramit: That’s a very poignant number. Are we in a movie back to the future right now, November 5th, 1955, showing up everywhere? Anyone hearing this? 30 grand. We’re probably going to hear this 20 more times in today’s episode. Okay. So 30 grand, and then she would go from feeling worried and anxious, and she would wake up the next morning and say, I love money. I feel so good. Is that what would happen?

[00:36:35] Jesse: Yeah, I would hope so.

[00:36:37] Ramit: Okay. All right. Alisa, what do you think the fix is, if there is a fix?

[00:36:43] Alisa: I agree with increasing our incomes. And it’s coming up with a shared vision. What does this look like, and what do we really want together or do we want to create so we know what we’re working toward.

[00:36:57] Ramit: Okay. Is there something here about your family?

[00:37:03] Alisa: Probably.

[00:37:05] Ramit: Tell me.

[00:37:07] Alisa: Knowing that they’re proud would be really nice. And I know there’s part of me that wants that. I recognize that ultimately. Do I need other people’s validation? No, but it would be really nice. I would consider that really bonus.

[00:37:21] Ramit: Okay.

[00:37:23] Alisa: Yeah, to know that they’re proud of me, and I guess the word is approve. And I know that sounds ridiculous because I’m an adult, but it’s like a wound that’s still there.

[00:37:40] Ramit: Your feelings aren’t ridiculous. There’s nothing ridiculous about it. I don’t think if I told you something really intimate and deep that you would tell me it feels ridiculous.

[00:37:52] Alisa: No, I wouldn’t.

[00:37:54] Ramit: But you did that to yourself. I don’t think there’s anything ridiculous about wanting approval from your parents or your family. I think it might be possible. It might not. Who knows? That’s something I’m sure you and your therapist can discuss. But I can understand it.

[00:38:14] And I can also understand probably not wanting to have to tiptoe around and hide as a married couple. To actually be able to say, this is what we’re doing, and we’re proud of it. We feel good. You don’t have to agree. But this is what we’ve chosen to do. What do you think that would feel like?

[00:38:39] Alisa: Peaceful.

[00:38 :40] Ramit: Wow. Jesse, what about for you? To be able to not have to tiptoe around on some of those decisions.

[00:38:48] Jesse: I would feel empowered, and I’d feel motivated to continue–

[00:38:50] Ramit: Wow.

[00:38:51] Jesse: To do more. To just be able to be empowered, and proud, and motivated that this is what we’re doing.

[00:39:03] Ramit: I like the two of you a lot, but it sure would be a shame for anything to end without having a full, rich set of conversations about money and really giving it your all because, actually, a lot of stuff can turn overnight. You’re both trainers, right? Fitness trainers?

[00:39:25] Alisa: Yeah.

[00:39:26] Ramit: Okay. So take somebody who’s 48 years old, and `they’ve never done anything fitness related, and they’re like, it’s not for me. Maybe it’s my genetics, etc. And you go, let’s take it step by step. And they start, and they have one step forward, two steps back, all that stuff that happens when you start training for the first time. And then they stick with its. And they’re not perfect, but they do a better job than they were doing. And suddenly, what happens, Jesse?

[00:39:55] Jesse: They love it, and then they’re motivated.

[00:39:59] Ramit: Yeah. And then the motivation’s not coming from their husband, or wife, or somebody who’s telling them you need the doctor. It’s like, oh, no, I actually enjoy this. And they do it for themselves. What a beautiful moment that is. You must have seen it a 100 times with your clients.

[00:40:15] Jesse: It’s my favorite part about my job.

[00:40:17] Ramit: I always love working with trainer. To be a trainer, you really, really have to love transformation. That’s just part of the journey. That’s exactly my relationship with some of the people that I work with. So I have a lot of compassion for where you both are with your money because I know you’ve had the same compassion for your clients.  Let’s give it a fair shot, and then let the cards fall where they may. I say we take a look at your numbers and then that will help us start to see what’s going on here financially speaking. What do you say?

[00:40:54] Alisa: Mm-hmm. Sounds good.

[00:40:55] Jesse: Sounds good.

[00:40:56] Ramit: All right.


[00:45:57] Ramit: I vaguely remember studying Ancient Egypt and hearing about how only certain priests had access to astronomy, which was considered the mystical realm of the gods. Come to think of it, the same idea is true today with a lot of religions. I might be getting the facts wrong with astronomy, but the concept still remains true today, that only certain people have access to information, which is out of touch of mere mortals.

[00:41:25] And that’s exactly how most people think about money, including Alisa and Jesse. Money feels, to most of us, like something that others know, but they don’t. That some people are just naturally gifted, or they have access to fancy information because they’re fancy Wall Street brokers. But everyday people like you and me get access to that stuff. We don’t get access to secret investments.

[00:41:50] I have to tell you that I absolutely hate this idea. Yes, money involves its own language, just like driving a car does, but everybody can learn it. That is the entire purpose of my business. The very reason I wrote my books and launched all my programs. I want everyday people to take control of their money. But it starts with realizing that money isn’t some mystical topic that only some small, chosen group has access to. It’s just learning a few new concepts, a few new terms, and once you do, you realize it’s actually quite simple.

[00:42:27] Now let’s go through their numbers. Their assets are $0. Their investments, $29,500. Savings, $22,800. Their debt is $96,000, which includes 71k of Jesse’s student loans, 17k of Alisa’s student loans, 6,800 of Jesse’s credit card debt, and 500 of Alisa’s Credit card debt. Which brings us to the their net worth, which is -$44,000


[00:42:54] Jesse: The debt is a gut punch, but that’s mostly my student debt. I think the savings and the–

[00:43:07] Ramit: Investments.

[00:43:0] Jesse: Investments are at least a good starting point. And they’re nothing extravagant. They’re nothing to write at home about, but there’s a start.

[00:43:16] Ramit: I can’t help, but point out that– what was that magic number we all talked about earlier today? What’s that right there next to investments? Alisa, can you say it out loud for everyone?

[00:43:28] Alisa: Yeah, it’s almost 30,000.

[00:43:29] Ramit: See, your parents can’t be proud of you until you have $30,000 in investments.

[00:43:34] Alisa: That was so unconscious, though. Until you’re pointing it out, I didn’t– yeah.

[00:43:44] Ramit: Pretty interesting. All right. What do you think about the numbers that we just covered, Alisa?

[00:43:50] Alisa: I don’t think it’s good.

[00:43:51] Ramit: Okay. What would be good?

[00:43:53] Alisa: I would like the net worth to not be negative.

[00:43:59] Ramit: Okay. So you want it to be zero or $1? That’s good?

[00:44:02] Alisa: I don’t know where this number comes from. So if you ask me, I don’t know, but at least 50,000. But I need money for the future. I need a buffer.

[00:44:20] Ramit: How much? How much?

[00:44:22] Alisa: The money that comes to mind is $5 million?

[00:44:25] Ramit: Five million. Okay. You need five million. Okay, great. Five million.

[00:44:29] Alisa: In investments. Yeah.

[00:44:31] Ramit: Five million in investments. And when do you need this by?

[00:44:35] Alisa: Ideally when we’re retirement age, whatever we decide that is. It’s 65, 70.

[00:44:42] Ramit: Sixty five. And what does five million represent to you?

[00:44:47] Alisa: Enough.


[00:44:49] Ramit: I Have to say, I’m obsessed with asking people how much enough is because they always have completely wild answers. People will go their entire lives feeling like they don’t have enough, but when I ask them one question, “How much is enough?” they’ll give me the most random answer. And when I ask, “How did you pick that number?” they’ll shrug, keep munching on a week-old apple. It is fascinating.

[00:45:13] I want to remind you that the way you feel about money is highly uncorrelated with the amount in your bank account. Alisa could win the lottery tomorrow. She could have $5.1 million in her Fidelity account and she would not feel differently about money, not at all. Not unless she specifically worked on improving how she talks about money, behaves with money, and therefore feels about money.


[00:45:39] Ramit: Go ahead and read off your combined gross monthly income. What do you see here?

[00:45:44] Alisa: $10,394.

[00:45:48] Ramit: Cool. Did you know that the two of you make $124,000 a year?

[00:45:52] Alisa: No.

[00:45:54] Ramit: No. Nobody knows. The fact that roughly 50% of the people I speak to do not know how much income they make on an annual basis is extremely telling. It primarily tells me that most people only think about money in a very myopic and limited way.

[00:46:09] They think about it on a monthly basis. I get paid per month. I pay my bills per month, and that’s it. They’ve shrunk their field of vision to this. So no wonder they feel stressed. A 10-dollar dish should not be causing stress on 125,000-dollar income. But if your field of vision is this small, of course it is.

[00:46:31] Alisa, just as a thought experiment, what if your field of vision was a annual basis, $124,728 per year? How do you think that would change the way you treat money? Look at my hands.

[00:46:44] Alisa: It feels expansive.

[00:46:46] Ramit: Yes.

[00:46:47] Alisa: I guess I just see a lot more possibility around wealth. I feel better about that and knowing that. I feel more of a sense of security.

[00:46:59] Ramit: Hopefully, Alisa and Jesse, showing you that you have $125,000 a year is expensive because it shows you, oh my gosh, we have more than we thought. We have more time. We can make long term decisions.


[00:47:12] Ramit: You know when you look through a telescope and you can only see a tiny circle and it feels claustrophobic? That’s how you treat your money. And the crazy thing is, you yourself chose to look at money through that tiny lens, of only a monthly basis. How much are we going to have at the end of the month? Oh, my gosh, we don’t have enough. How much are we saving? Month, month, month.

[00:47:32]Just take away the telescope. Zoom out. You can feel better and make better decisions. I think about money on a 40-year basis. It feels great. I factor in compounding. I can save and invest, and travel, live a rich life. But the important thing is to not narrow your field of vision and only think about money on a monthly basis.

[00:47:53]That means you look at 12 months, how much are we going to spend upcoming birthday parties, and our anniversary trip? Do we need to fix our car sometime in November?  You write these down. You plan ahead. We cover this in my Money Coaching program at iwt.com/moneycoaching, where you can do it on your own.


[00:48:13] Ramit: All right, let’s look at your fixed costs. Alisa, tell me this number here of your joint combined fixed cost number.

[00:48:197] Alisa: 72%.

[00:48:22] Ramit: What do you think about that number?

[00:48:23] Alisa: It’s too high.

[00:48:24] Ramit: It’s too high. Yeah. Jesse, what number should this be?

[00:48:26] Jesse: 60.

[00:48:28] Ramit: Yeah, 50 to 60%. So right here tells me why you’re all stressing out about ice cream and beef, whatever. This is it. It’s somewhere in here. Okay. How much do you charge as a trainer?

[00:48:42] Jesse: $85 per session. 85 per hour.

[00:48:45] Ramit: Okay. And Alisa, how much do you charge as a trainer?

[00:48:48] Alisa: That’s the same. 85 an hour.

[00:48:51] Ramit: Are you required to both charge that much, or is that what you just picked?

[00:48:54] Alisa: That’s where I’m at right now. And I also do half hour sessions. So some people pay 45 for half hour.

[00:49:04] Ramit: All right. Let’s keep looking along here on the CSP. We have these debt payments. By the way, Alisa, you have some credit card debt as well, right? What’s that debt?

[00:49:11] Alisa: It’s basically the remainder of a course that I did last year that was pretty costly.

[00:49:18] Ramit: What course?

[00:49:20] Alisa: It was a coaching certification that was a year long.

[00:49:24] Ramit: How much did that cost?

[00:49:26] Alisa: $11,000. I did a monthly payment plan, and I was able to keep up with it for a period of time, and then it accumulated more. And then I was able to move some money around and pay a big chunk of it down.

[00:49:44] Ramit: Is this going to make you more than you put in?

[00:49:48] Alisa: More than the investment that I put into it?

[00:49:50] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:49:52] Alisa: It could in theory. It was a lot of really good personal development work that I got out of it, and that was really valuable, and I’ve noticed how I’ve been able to integrate it just naturally into some of my personal training sessions and now how I hold space for people and navigate different things that can come up.

[00:50:10] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:50:12] Alisa: And then I can do it as a standalone on its own. So I’m at this point now where getting ready to raise my rates also.

[00:50:19] Ramit: What are you going to raise it to?

[00:50:21] Alisa: I was thinking of 90. I don’t know if that’s high enough.

[00:50:27] Ramit: Look at the look on my face.

[00:50:29] Alisa: I knew you were going to disapprove. I get scared– 

[00:50:32] Ramit: Hold on. Just hold on. I know you get scared. I know this coaching course is part of a comprehensive thing of your own personal stuff to learn. Fine. But how long do you think it will take you to make back the 11,000-dollar investment if you raise your rates by $5?

[00:50:52] Alisa: A long time. I don’t know what the number would be, but–

[00:50:55] Ramit: 11,000 divided by 5 is 2,200 sessions. I don’t even know how to calculate that in terms of how long that will take, but it’s too long.


[00:51:06] Ramit: Can I first point out the irony of the many people who come on my podcast and have joined other people’s 11,000-dollar programs but have not joined my programs that help them start and grow their business? You know, the ones with over 50,000 customers? Whatever. I get it, I get it. You’re taste testing everything out there, just so you can try it. Sometimes it costs you $11,000. Whatever. When you’re ready for the best, go to iwt.com/products.

[00:51:33] Now, what Alisa would have learned in my Earnable program is a concept called my money is good money. If you’re charging $85 per hour, you can charge $100. You can even add more value and charge $120. But being hesitant and tentative to raise your rates by $5, which is literally 6%, means you will find it very hard to grow your business because you’re so focused on what can go wrong instead of falling in love with your clients and thinking about how you can transform their lives. Just as a data point, I pay my own trainer a lot more than $85 per hour.


[00:52:16] Ramit: You’re at 72%. All right. That right there is why you all feeling stressed out about– it’s one of many reasons you’re feeling stressed out about money, disagreeing. If this were lower, I guarantee you both would have a lot more breathing room, and you’d have more money going into savings, which says 3%, $200 a month. Is that even true? Or was that just started two months ago?

[00:52:42] Alisa: That’s me. Most of the savings, in the top part, most of that is mine.

[00:52:48] Ramit: Okay. So basically, what you’re pointing out is that you two make roughly the same amount of money, but you’re saving money radically differently. Let’s talk about that. Alisa, you are putting aside 300 bucks a month in investments.

[00:53:03] Alisa: Yeah, sometimes more when I can.

[00:53:06] Ramit: All right. And Jesse’s putting aside a 100 pretty recently. Okay. Jesse’s not saving anything. Alisa, you’re saving 200 bucks a month. So what do you think of this conscious spending plan? Jesse, looking at it, what does it tell you?

[00:53:23] Jesse: There’s zero investments. There’s no vision. There’s nothing.

[00:53:28] Ramit: Say that again, those two words. There’s no what?

[00:53:32] Jesse: There’s no vision.

[00:53:34] Ramit: There’s no vision. There’s no vision. The two of you have never really created a joint vision, and therefore, you have a relatively small amount in savings, a relatively small amount in investments. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s a great start. No doubt about that. But for where you want to be, it’s not.

[00:53:55] And your investment rate and savings goals are quite modest. You see why? Because why would you put money into this black hole that you’re never really going to get it out of. At least that’s how you might interpret it. You don’t even know what it’s going in there for. Alisa, is that lighting something for you, as I said that?

[00:54:21] Alisa: Without the vision, yeah, it’s hard to envision what it’s for.

[0o:54:32] Ramit: Yeah, yeah. And then the spending, the credit card debt, all of that, where do you think that comes from? No vision.

[00:54:47] Jesse: No vision.

[00:54:48] Ramit: Easy come, easy go. Why would you trade off a nice dinner out or whatever? What’s the alternative? Put the money in a savings account where it’s locked up forever, or investments where it’s, again, seemingly a black hole? There’s no powerful vision. It’s the same as your clients.

[00:55:06] Why are they going to want to come and train and eat properly with you if there’s no vision? Are they going to a high school reunion? Do they have some health-related issue? What is it? And without that, it’s really easy to make alternative choices. 

[00:55:19] Alisa: Makes a lot of sense.

[00:55:23] Ramit: A powerful vivid vision is what is going to get you to be able to make some pretty big changes you might need to make. What do you spend time talking about when it comes to money?

[00:55:35] Jesse: Not having enough.

[00:55:37] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:55:39] Jesse: What am I doing to make more?

[00:55:45] Ramit: Doesn’t feel good, right?

[00:55:47] Jesse: No, it’s always stressful. And Alisa has mentioned in this conversation, and to me many times, that I tend to shut down or stonewall when we have money conversations, and it’s because it’s unpleasant.

[00:56:05] Ramit: Yeah, yeah. What do you think it would look like if it were pleasant?

[00:56:12] Jesse: It would be a nicer casual conversation with this idea of looking forward to the future rather than cautious and worried about the future.

[00:56:25] Ramit: Instead of being cautious, what would it be?

[00:56:28] Jesse: It would be living. It would be enjoyment, happiness.

[00:56:33] Ramit: How do you enjoy it if you have a credit card debt, $95,000 of debt, etc.? How do you do that?

[00:56:39] Jesse: There are other things that we enjoy that don’t require money.

[00:56:44] Ramit: Okay. Love that. And what about the money part?

[00:56:51] Jesse: I think the money part would come back to my core beliefs around money, easy come, easy go, but with a sense of there’s going to be enough, there’s money on the horizon.

[00:57:09] Ramit: How do you know?

[00:57:12] Jesse:  I know because we’re in a business where people need what we have. People need the services that we have, and the talents that we carry. It’s only a matter of reaching those people and continuing to show up and give back to our community.

[00:57:32] Alisa: I believe that, but it sounds like running on this fluffy hope thing that it’ll happen without any– it sounds like some of what I’ve heard before, like, we’ll be fine. It’ll be okay. But without any substance, I guess, like a plan.

[00:57:55] Ramit: What do you need, Alisa?

[00:58:00] Alisa: I would love there to be more specifics, real action and a specific plan.

[00:58:07] Ramit: What’s an example of that? Because I think Jesse believes he just gave you a plan.

[00:58:14] Alisa: Yeah. To me, it feels loose.

[00:58:16] Ramit: Okay. What is an example of what you need?

[00:58:23] Alisa: Hmm. I don’t even know if I know completely. I know it’s not that.

[00:58:34] Ramit: You could see how that would be frustrating to Jesse, right?

[00:58:38] Alisa: Mm.

[00:58:46] Ramit: This is tough, huh?

[00:58:48] Alisa: It is hard. I don’t know. I know feelings I want to feel, by that’s not a specific plan, so to speak.

[00:59:00] Ramit: In looking back on all of your contentious conversations together, what do you think you have been talking about?

[00:59:16] Alisa: That’s a good question. All the worry.

[00:59:20] Ramit: Keep going. Tell me about that.

[00:59:22] Alisa: Yeah, all the worry and things that aren’t going well. I recognize where I’ve also tried to control different things as well.

[00:59:33] Ramit: Such as?

[00:59:35] Alisa: Jesse’s spending and like at a restaurant, for instance, or the things he buys for himself.

[00:59:42] Ramit: Why do you do that?

[00:59:44] Alisa: It gives me a sense of safety, but I know that it’s not actually giving me safety, but it’s a sense of it. If I can control that, then maybe I’ll feel a little safer, but I know it’s not true.

[00:59:59] Ramit: Probably a lot of places in life that you unconsciously do that. I think you’re very perceptive that you’ve tried to control Jesse, and his spending, and things like that. Maybe Jesse needs to change his spending. Actually. I’m probably sure he does, but I don’t still don’t know what you need.


[01:00:21] Ramit: If you find yourself stuck in a pattern of the same conversations over and over, spinning, like Alisa and Jesse are, try asking your partner this. What would you want to see from me, and what would you want to see from us? They’ll probably reply with something like, “I just want to see a plan.” Don’t stop there. Get curious because a plan is just a word. 

[01:00:43]Ask them, “Hey, that sounds reasonable to me. Can you tell me what a plan what a plan looks like? What kind of plan would make you feel good and make us feel connected? Can we actually create it right now?” Better yet, you tell them what a plan means to you, and say, “When I think of a plan, it has this and this. It probably doesn’t include that, but it has this, this, and we check it every three weeks.

[01:01:08] And then say, “Is that what you had in mind?” Don’t make them do the work. You do the hard work, and then get their thoughts. In the vast majority of couples I talk to, neither person is actually specific with what they want because they actually don’t know what they want. They simply know that they feel bad. And you can change that.


[01:01:33] Alisa: I need to have my feelings validated, and be heard, and taken seriously when I talk about money conversations. And I need to be met with compassion. I need to know that we’re going to work as a team, that we’re like moving toward the same thing, and that we talk about what the vision is. Yeah, I need us to be partners in this.

[01:02:06] Jesse: By you saying a partner, what does that mean? To give you an example, would it be every Thursday night we get together and talk about finances as a way to come together as a team? So you bring your numbers, I bring my numbers, we come onto the same playing field in the same court, and we practice.

[01:02:29] Alisa: What’s funny is that that was actually one of the things I was just going to say, that we have a weekly meetup around money and where we’re at, just as a check in, making sure that we’re working toward our vision and goals together.

[01:02:50] Jesse: What else?

[01:02:51] Ramit: Hold on. Hold on. Take the win. That was awesome. That was so good. Seriously, that was amazing. Really good. You were both thinking the same thing. Neither of you had said it. I love that. Alisa, remember what Jesse said about what he needs in your conversations together? What is it that he said? Validate that back to him. 

[01:03:08] Alisa: What would make it positive for you for us having these weekly meetings? What are some things that you would like to see?

[01:03:20] Jesse: Just off the top of my head, I think, we gather. We have dinner together each night. I don’t think that’s the time to necessarily talk about these things, but maybe instead of after dinner, sitting down watching a show, watching I Want to Teach You to Be Rich, talk about money over a dessert, or some tea, or whatever it is for that night.

[01:03:52] And we can even get creative with it, and switch venues, and go someplace, and do these things. We don’t always have to do it at home, but we just need to be consistent about it. And to make it fun, we treat ourselves to something fun, something we both enjoy, whether that be dessert, or a treat, or just a good conversation with each other at the end of the night.

[01:04:19] I think all those things are things I can give you. And with practice and time, I would hope that that’s enough. Yeah, I think I deserve more than I give myself credit for. I think there’s a sense of safety in my attitudes around playing small, if you want to use those words, or being comfortable.

[01:05:04] Ramit: Wow.

[01:05:05] Jesse: And I think I’m scared of the challenge of more. So when it comes to more, it feels out of my reach.

[01:05:20] Ramit: What if you fail? What if you get it and you didn’t actually like it, and all these things? Gosh, if I were in your relationship right now, I’m seeing these things searing a hole in my brain. I’m writing notes for our first conversation, second, third, fourth. If I’m Alisa, on the next money conversation. I’m going, you know what, Jesse? I love you. And I really want to thank you for opening up when we were speaking to Ramit. 

[01:05:49] I never realized that you think of yourself as playing small. I’d love to hear you talk a little bit more about that. Where did that come from? Have you ever noticed that before? Why do you think you do it? What would it feel like to play big? Just listening. No advice, just listening. I could tell from Jesse. Jesse, have you ever been asked those questions before?

[01:06:13] Jesse: No.

[01:06:14] Ramit: Yeah. Might be tough the first time, second time. That’s very intimate, just listening. Just listening. That’s what partners are for. So it’s a beautiful opportunity for the two of you to meet each other again.

[01:06:34] Jesse: I think that it’s possible for us to live our rich life. We have work to do, but it’s not as far out of a reach as we might think it is.


[01:06:50] Ramit: I didn’t go into detailed solutions with Alisa and Jesse, and I want to tell you why because this is important for you. A lot of times, people want to see me work through the conscious spending plan and make some specific suggestion about some savings, or investments, or something like that. Fine. But today, it wasn’t the right time for that.

[01:07:06] What I did was to gently reorient them to the money dynamic between them and give them a couple of small reframes, such as how to talk about money positively. And here’s the lesson. When you’re trying to change your relationship with money, you’re not going to do it in one conversation. It takes time. It often feels really slow. But that’s normal. Slow it down, and take the wins along the way.

[01:07:34] That’s what we did today with Alisa and Jesse. And now they have the guidance they need to build a shared vision. Let’s check out the follow ups to see how they’re doing. First, Jesse.

[01:07:45] Jesse: What I learned in our conversation was that my particular relationship with money is one of laxity. It’s almost laziness, laissez-faire, that really hasn’t served me, or maybe doesn’t serve me anymore. And that can be changed. I believe in the ability to change our mindsets in fitness, so why not within money?

[01:08:16] What surprised me the most in our conversation was the urgency that I need to pay off my credit card. Seeing the numbers was a smack in the face. What I’m going to be doing differently is plotting a different course to pay off my credit card debt sooner than later, and meet with Alisa once a month to begin our shared vision, starting this October.

[01:08:45] I hope that our conversations around money will be pleasant, if not peaceful or productive, versus what we’ve always experienced, hiding, and shame, and ugliness, and disgust around talking about money.

[01:09:12] Ramit: And now Alisa.

[01:09:14] Alisa: Something I learned on our call was that we do actually have more time than I think to turn things around and make significant changes and build wealth. And I know I wasn’t fully buying into it and accepting that on our call, but in having some time to process that more, I’m coming around to that now and starting to accept that more.

[01:09:38] And it was really helpful to hear that from you. Something that surprised me was how hard it was for me to express my needs and be clear about what I meant, and I didn’t really realize that until after the fact how much I was unconsciously holding some of it in, the degree of how scared I’ve been, and how lonely I felt, and how much I felt like I’ve had to bear this all on my own.

[01:10:05] Something I’m doing from here is brainstorming what my rate increase is going to look like. And it is definitely going to be more than $5. I see the ridiculousness of that and how that’s another example of me playing small. I’m just hashing out what that’s all going to look like, and I’m going to be rolling that out soon.

[01:10:27] Ramit: I received an email follow up from Alisa several weeks later, and I wanted to read you a little bit of it because it’s so fascinating. “Hi, Ramit, I hope you don’t mind me reaching out. I’ve had a lot come up since our conversation last Monday, and since recording my follow up video, felt called to share. Our conversation seemed to open the flood gates and many more details about my upbringing with money have come through. 

[01:10:53] “I’m surprised at how many relevant things have come up, like how my parents drained my college savings account during the period when my dad first lost his job because they needed the money, and I was the last to be going to college. I’m seeing now how much I resented that. My mom also shamefully told me, during one of the periods when my dad was out of work, that they borrowed $40,000 from my grandparents and would probably never be able to pay it back.

[01:11:22] “I remember feeling her shame, and I was just an early teen. I also recall feeling like a burden during my college years and getting in arguments with my parents about student loans. I went into adulthood just to find purchases, and that has been a consistent pattern that I still struggle with. And despite hearing the idea of saving since childhood, I didn’t really start doing that until more recent years.

[01:11:48] “There’s more I could say, but you get the idea. Stuff really got stirred up, but I think it’s a good thing, despite the fact that it was overwhelming. I want to thank you for this, though, because it helps me see things more clearly. I also know where I have more healing to do, and I see that as a gift.” 

[01:12:06] Alisa, thank you for the follow up, and thank you for allowing me the permission to share this email with everybody who watches and listens to this podcast. That in itself is a gift. The thing I love about Alisa and Jesse follow ups is that crystallization that they have control over their money much more than the thought. I think for so many of us it’s frustrating to feel like money is happening to us. 

[01:12:33] And one of my goals with my conversations and my guess is to show them that they can actually take more control over their money than they had previously thought. As always, thanks for listening, and thanks for watching. If you enjoyed this podcast, you’ll probably enjoy Episode 102, which had some similarly fascinating money psychology.