Episode #152: “The world is going to end. So why bother investing?”

Fernando and Anushka, 30 and 31, live in San Diego and earn high incomes—matching $135,000 salaries, in fact. They have healthy investment and savings rates, send money to his family back home, and rent a nice apartment. They’re living their Rich Lives, or are they?

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Show Transcript

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[00:00:00] Fernando: I find money, it’s cliché to say, but it’s almost like the root of all evil. There’s so much bad that can happen because of money.

[00:00:06] Anushka: Every time I try and have the conversation with him of, okay, this is what you should be investing, he groans. He rolls his eyes at me.

[00:00:15] Fernando: Investing, it feels like gambling. Having lived in many other places, there’s a lot of issues I have with the way that America is set up financially for its citizens.

[00:00:26] Anushka: It’s the whole thing that like my self-worth is tied to a number.

[00:00:31] Ramit: And if you don’t max it out, that means?

[00:00:34] Anushka: I’m worthless. And I think part of that for me is my net worth and living the lifestyle that we live and being able to shove it in my mom’s face to be like, I told you I’d still make it.


[00:00:51] Ramit: I’d like to introduce you to Fernando and Anushka. They’re both in their early 30s. They’re both Sri Lankan immigrants who experienced some challenging childhoods related to the mental health of their parents. They got married, they moved to San Diego, and in many ways, they are living their Rich Life, but still, they can’t seem to connect about money.

[00:01:13] And when I ask them what’s going on, I hear about some very peculiar behavioral issues when it comes to their money from both sides. Just a trigger warning for everyone listening and watching. Today’s episode covers religion, American politics, generational trauma, and we do touch on domestic and emotional abuse. Fernando and Anushka’s story is viscerally real, and I’m so proud to be able to share it with you today.


[00:01:40] Anushka: We were in our office where I am right now, and I said, hey, Fernando, can you take a look at these numbers with me? I’ve created our combined budget. He was playing video games at the time, so he was like, not right now. Give me a little bit. And I typically get annoyed when he says that he can’t look at the numbers right away.

[00:02:01] So I think I probably started off a little annoyed. When it comes to finances, I just always think it’s the most important conversation, so he should be able to put everything else away immediately and then have that conversation with me. But I know that that is not fair.

[00:02:15] Ramit: Did he eventually come by and start looking at the numbers?

[00:02:18] Anushka: Yeah. Yes, he did. He scooted over and took a look at my screen, and we just started going down the list of all of the expense categories that I created and looking at the numbers. And I was explaining that these budgeted numbers are based on what we spent last year. And this is actually the first year that we are combining finances, but trying to create a combined budget where we align on all of the numbers for all of the different categories that I had made was very difficult.

[00:02:51] Ramit: Where did the problem come up?

[00:02:53] Anushka: The problem came up when it got down to the actual numbers for the budget that I had set for the specific categories.

[00:03:00] Ramit: Like what? Give me an example category.

[00:03:02] Anushka: Our savings percentage and our investing percentage was too low for my comfort, which means we have to change our expenses somehow. He was on the same page. He was like, okay, fine, but where are we changing it and by how much?

[00:03:16] And so that’s when I went over and I said, we’re spending too much on groceries and eating out. We need to reduce that number. Then he said, I actually like our saving and investing percentage. Why would we need to increase it dramatically, and why is it out of our grocery budget? The fact that it got down to such a silly conversation about how much the carton of just egg is is where it all went wrong, I think.

[00:03:41] Fernando: The reason it really got to me is because, from my perspective, we spend way too much money saving, and just based on my experience, that money can evaporate. Something can go wrong, and you can potentially lose all of it. That’s just based on my childhood and how the financial crisis affected us.

[00:04:01] So when it comes to setting 40% or whatever that number was of our income towards savings, it’s just such a massive amount to, in my mind, throw away and potentially never see the benefits of. On the other side of that, I’m not spending on video games already. There are other things that I have kept out of this budget to try and make this realistic. Why am I always losing, was the view I had in that conversation?

[00:04:30] Ramit: How did this conversation get resolved, or did it?

[00:04:33] Fernando: It did get resolved, but it was over eight hours, and then it started around noon, I think, and ended at 8:00 PM with us compromising in her direction, but also her meeting me and understanding like, hey, there are things that Fernando hasn’t accounted for in the budget by just holding out and not pursuing in his life that she was able to also help me place into our budget. So now I do have a video game fund, which I’ve never had in my life before, where I can say, healthily, I can buy 20-dollar game every few months and not feel bad about it.

[00:05:04] Ramit: Mm-hmm. So problem solved?

[00:05:08] Anushka: The problem persists where every time I try and have the conversation with him of, okay, this is what you should be investing, he groans. He rolls his eyes at me. We have discussions about whether investing the money is really the way to get us generational wealth, something that we had not even thought about before.

[00:05:31] We talk about our plans for the next year, once a year, but we look at our monthly numbers together. And so I know for a fact we will have this argument again next year, and I want to prevent it.

[00:05:47] Ramit: I’m going to go out on a limb, just a wild guess, and guess that he rarely gives you substantive feedback on the budget.

[00:05:58] Anushka: How did you know?

[00:06:00] Ramit: Shocking. How did I know? Actually, Anushka, how do you think I knew that?

[00:06:06] Anushka: Because I am the one who makes recommendations for us on the changes that I think we should make, and he just goes along with it.

[00:06:16] Ramit: And Fernando, you were laughing.

[00:06:17] Fernando: That is so accurate. She will be on me for a few days to be like, you need to check that and let me know. So I’ll look at the summary view. You have little pie charts, looks pretty. Finances have always been something that I’m like really bad with in terms of long-term planning in general. So it just gets overwhelming. I’m like, all right, if we’re within the numbers, I’m good. I can just keep pushing along.

[00:06:37] Ramit: Fernando, when you get those monthly reports, what do you feel? Not what do you think, but what do you feel when you get–

[00:06:48] Fernando: Anxiety. Mad anxiety. Just childhood trauma related to money. Money is just the scariest thing to me.

[00:06:55] Ramit: Okay. So do you feel that when you have to make a purchase decision?

[00:07:01] Fernando: Oh yeah, all the time.

[00:07:02] Ramit: How about when you hear people talking about investing, or buying a house, or even traveling? You feel that same anxiety?

[00:07:13] Fernando: Generally, when it comes to taking a trip or something like that, I don’t have that kind of anxiety, but I do have that anxiety when it comes to something like gambling. I don’t gamble at all because, in my mind, you are just a few steps away from losing everything. Again, I understand, it’s a moderation thing, but I don’t want to cross that line.

[00:07:32] I don’t want to put myself or my family in that kind of situation. And I think another reason that I have a lot of anxiety with money is because Anushka helps me support my family in Michigan. That is a part of the budget. A lot of my monthly income goes towards making sure that they’re fine.

[00:07:47] Ramit: Uh-huh. And just so I make sure I get this right, you mentioned you don’t like gambling. Is investing gambling to you?

[00:07:55] Fernando: In a sense, yes. Yeah, I do see it similarly. That’s where the major conflict comes in my mind in investing. It feels like gambling. I know if something’s going to happen to the stock market and all that’s going to go away.

[00:08:09] Ramit: That’s interesting. Anushka, what do you think? Are you struck at all by the fact that Fernando feels anxiety every time you send over that monthly report?

[00:08:19] Anushka: I was, at first, yeah, when he said that. I didn’t think he was immediately anxious about it. I just thought that he would feel like, okay, great. I can see the numbers. Saying it out loud now makes me feel stupid because I should have realized, but I thought he would just feel happy to see that we were on the right track for the goals that we had set together.

[00:08:44] Ramit: Would it surprise you to know that he probably never even gets down to that level of analysis?

[00:08:50] Anushka: I guess it’s obvious he does not.

[00:08:52] Ramit: Let’s ask because I don’t want to put words in the– Fernando, do you ever–

[00:08:55] Fernando: No, you’re absolutely right. I look at it from a very high level. We are inside of the guidelines. That’s all I have. But clicking on that thing beforehand, it feels like I do right now. There’s a pit. Just imagining clicking causes a pit in me.

[00:09:10] Ramit: And Anushka, just out of curiosity, when you’re sitting there spending two or three hours analyzing the credit card spend every month, what do you feel doing that?

[00:09:18] Anushka: Control and calm.

[00:09:23] Ramit: It’s like your meditation for the month.

[00:09:25] Anushka: Yeah.

[00:09:26] Ramit: You’re like, I don’t need any spending on a massage therapist. I have my spreadsheets. Look at me analyze this. Right?

[00:09:32] Anushka: Yeah, yeah. It’s very true.

[00:09:34] Ramit: And what do you feel that moment where you tell him, take a look?

[00:09:37] Anushka: I feel accomplishment.

[00:09:39] Ramit: Right. I checked all the boxes. Are you a project manager by chance?

[00:09:44] Anushka: He is a product manager, but I am a very type A individual.

[00:09:49] Ramit: What do you do as a type A individual for a job?

[00:09:52] Anushka: I am a business analyst.

[00:09:54] Ramit: Okay. That tracks very well.


[00:10:00] Ramit: I noticed this dynamic a lot with couples. One person, the chaser, prepares the financial discussion, crunches the numbers, sends it over, and rubs their hands together in satisfaction. Ah, I did such a great job. And the other partner, who’s usually an avoider, opens their email. Looks at the subject line and goes, ah, hell no.

[00:10:21] Thus begins the pursuit. The chaser chases. The avoider avoids. The more they avoid, the more the other chases. With Fernando and Anushka, they are classic examples of this chaser, avoider, couples dynamic. Now there are some interesting wrinkles.

[00:10:39] Fernando references his childhood and the financial crisis in 2008, which has made him afraid to invest because it feels like gambling. They also support his parents. I noticed that they spent eight hours on a money conversation, which is way too long. But personally, I think the real issues go a lot deeper.

[00:11:00] We’ll be right back

[00:11:03] Now back to the show.


[00:11:05] Anushka: When we first started dating, we were in high school, college, and I remember him going to the movies multiple times a year, maybe even twice a month. I remember thinking, oh my gosh, that is so much money you’re spending on something that I could never even imagine. A movie ticket back then was what, $10? I immediately added that up in my head to the amount of money it was per month, per year, and I thought that was too much.

[00:11:38] Ramit: How did you know it was too much? What would you base that on?

[00:11:42] Anushka: On what I spent.

[00:11:44] Ramit: Hmm. And would you say that the two of you grew up similarly socioeconomically?

[00:11:48] Anushka: I was born in Sri Lanka, so we are immigrants. And my family moved here when I was five. We started off very poor. My parents were scrubbing the bathrooms of the Big Boys. They would often point that Big Boys out in Michigan when we drove past it, and my parents did not have college educations back in Sri Lanka.

[00:12:08] So my mom now has some college degrees, but they both worked their way up to middle class, to comfortable middle class. But money was always discussed as we don’t have enough to do certain things, and that you always have to be mindful of money.

[00:12:26] I emulate my mom a lot in terms of financial control. She was the one who led our family. She was the one who made sure we were saving. Yeah, she handled all of the money, and she was very smart. She made sure that we had a beautiful house. At the end of the day, she made sure that we could go on vacations, but when I would ask for certain small things, it would always be, you know we can’t afford it.

[00:13:00] And I think very early on, I started working when I was 12 just so that I could have control of myself. For context, I think my mom was a bit of a narcissistic personality, and I became typically in a narcissistic family structure.

[00:13:19] There’s the scapegoat and the golden child. And I have a younger sister who’s nine years younger than me. She was a little bit of the golden child, and I was the scapegoat. We had just a very bad relationship, my mom and I. From very early on, I realized that money was the only way that I could gain any sort of control in my life.

[00:13:42] Started working when I was 12, babysitting. Then I was a lifeguard. Then I did everything possible to keep my bank account and keep some savings, because then I could send out what I wanted, and I couldn’t have any judgment from anyone else.

[00:13:57] Ramit: Do you go to a lot of therapy?

[00:14:00] Anushka: No. I had a terrible experience with therapy when my mom forced us to go into therapy because my parents were getting a divorce. And she was not the therapist for any of us. She made the situation a lot worse, and it just scarred me, and I’ve never gone back.

[00:14:23] Ramit: Would you read books on narcissism?

[00:14:25] Anushka: Yeah. I’ve read books, articles, watched videos about people talking about all of this, and, yeah, it describes us very well.

[00:14:35] Ramit: Do you have a relationship with your mom today?

[00:14:38] Anushka: Not really. I think she was just a very angry person, and I think that’s a direct cause of her having to take control of everything in the house.

[00:14:48] Ramit: Because she had to take control of money, that caused her to become more angry?

[00:14:55] Anushka: Probably. I don’t think my dad helped her a lot in those cases, and I’m sure she felt very alone.

[00:15:03] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:15:03] Anushka: And she ended up taking it out on me, and that’s probably one of the areas she just didn’t feel supported.

[00:15:17] Ramit: What similarities do you see with your mom’s handling of money and your handling of it today?

[00:15:24] Anushka: Both pros and cons. She taught me everything I know about making sure that I and my family are good. And I thank her whenever I get the chance, and I tell her, “You are the reason that I was able to have a beautiful apartment in Detroit. You are the reason I was able to move to San Diego. Without the knowledge that you gave me, I would have never gotten to where I am.” The part I don’t tell her is that the trauma she has caused me has made me very anxious, very scared that I have enough at all times. And my anxiety seeps through to the conversations that I have with Fernando all the time.


[00:16:05] Ramit: I’m struck by the example that Anushka shares about how she thought Fernando was spending too much on movies in high school. When I ask, what’s too much, she says, too much compared to what I spent. Think about it. In high school, we’re just scratching the surface of how money works.

[00:16:23] Hell, most adults I talk to don’t realize that it’s okay if your Rich Life is different than mine, but if you begin looking at the world by judging other people for their spending, it is very, very hard to change. I know because that’s exactly how I started off my life. I also noticed how much these early memories shaped Anushka, how much they affected her, and how that has affected Fernando and their relationship.


[00:16:49] Fernando: Similarly, my family, we were immigrants. We moved to the US in the fifth grade, but we moved a ton. My dad’s goal was to get us to the US. Around like the eighth grade or so, my dad started losing his job. And my dad suffers from a mental illness, which is undiagnosed also.

[00:17:03] He doesn’t say that he has it, which it not very helpful. Effectively after that point, he was losing his job almost yearly, and that was right around the time of the financial crisis. So we were middle class. At some point, we got up to middle class from lower class, but then after that, it wasn’t really stable.

[00:17:20] So to me, money is something that could just be gone. And just some of the roles that I had in my household, I was in charge of making sure the bank accounts were balanced, and things like that.

[00:17:30] So to me, even looking at my bank account can be traumatic regardless of the amount that we have in there. So I have to remember the days when the mortgage was going to get taken out and make sure we had the minimum in there for that, and things like that. I think that was the seventh or eighth grade.

[00:17:44] Ramit: Wow.

[00:17:45] Fernando: It got hard every two weeks or monthly depending on when the paycheck was coming. And yeah, I didn’t like it. I’ve told this to a few friends as well. I very vividly remember when Reese’s Peanut butter cups went from 55 cents to 75 cents when we were growing up. We didn’t have much money, and I remember thinking like, I’m not going to ask for that again.

[00:18:07] Ramit: Were you the oldest son?

[00:18:10] Fernando: Yeah, I’m the oldest.

[00:18:11] Ramit: All right. So when you think about even looking at a checking account, that can be traumatic, and you still feel that today?

[00:18:19] Fernando: Yeah. I like constantly live in fear of losing everything. The way I’ve described to people is like, I’ve been poor. I’m not going back, and I want to make sure my family doesn’t. I just want to make sure we set ourselves up to not have that happen.

[00:18:36] Ramit: I’ve been poor, and I’m not going back. I often speak to people who grew up poor, really poor, and one of the phrases that they say very frequently is, I’ve been poor once. I can be poor again. Doesn’t scare me. What do you think about that?

[00:18:56] Fernando: Scares the shit out of me. To be completely frank, I apologize, but like you mentioned, I’m the oldest son, but just culturally, one of the things I’ve always taken is like, I will take care of my family. That is my job. That’s my responsibility, and I am never going to let them experience that again.

[00:19:15] I will go through poverty. To be frank, that does not scare me. But I will never put myself in a situation that my family, my wife will be poor like that. They’ll never do that. That’s not going to happen.

[00:19:28] Ramit: Okay. That tracks a little bit more. I understand that you send money back regularly. Is it every month?

[00:19:34] Fernando: Mm-hmm. We pay for certain portions of what’s going on at home.

[00:19:38] Ramit: Can you walk me through how that relationship developed?

[00:19:41] Fernando: So that, I think, really started when my dad was initially hospitalized. That was my freshman year of college. It’s just like whatever expenses I can take off of their hands, I want to do, so they can live a little more free of a life.

[00:19:57] Ramit: How much do you think you send every year?

[00:20:00] Fernando: Honestly, Anushka’s budget could tell us probably precisely, but thousands, probably tens of thousands.

[00:20:07] Ramit: Per year.

[00:20:08] Fernando: Yes, at least. And it didn’t click at the time that I was doing that, but when I’m there and I see a problem, I fix it. I’ll buy a kitchen sink or something.

[00:20:18] Ramit: All right. So let’s say about a thousand dollars a month. Would that sound reasonable to you?

[00:20:22] Fernando: I think so.

[00:20:23] Anushka: On average, 1,300 a month, something like that.

[00:20:27] Ramit: Okay. And how do you feel about sending that amount of money, Fernando? What word comes to mind about the feeling you have?

[00:20:35] Fernando: I wish I could do more. We want to get to a point where I can help out more so I can reduce the amount of stress that’s putting on my sister and my mom. I want them to live a simpler life.

[00:20:48] Ramit: Unsatisfied?

[00:20:50] Fernando: Oh yes. That does pinpoint. Yes, unsatisfied. It motivates me to try and make more money.

[00:20:56] Ramit: Do you feel proud of the amount you’re sending?

[00:21:00] Fernando: I used to, but I guess because it’s tapered off, I don’t as much anymore.

[00:21:07] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Do you feel proud that you send money at all?

[00:21:11] Fernando: Not really. I just find that I just have or should.

[00:21:13] Ramit: Like it’s just part of your expectation.

[00:21:16] Fernando: Mm-hmm.

[00:21:17] Ramit: Okay. All right. Anushka, what’s your take? Did you ever have a discussion about the fact that Fernando sends money, the amount that he sends? Has this ever been a topic?

[00:21:28] Anushka: Oh yeah, absolutely. I always knew that he was going to be supporting his family. That was without question. I want him to do that. I want him to be able to do that. It’s very important to him. It’s very important to me that we support his family.

[00:21:41] Fernando: When Anushka was helping with my bank account, at one point, I would have four or $5,000 in my checking account and not putting it into savings. She’d ask like, why don’t you put it into savings? I’m like, you never know. I don’t know if my family’s going to need something. So I’ll always try and have it as liquid as possible just so I can use it if they need it or someone needs it.

[00:22:01] Ramit: Okay. Is there a number for you that feels good?

[00:22:04] Fernando: Not at all.

[00:22:05] Ramit: No. Okay. It’s just more.

[00:22:07] Fernando: Right. Oh, one of the things Anushka helped me with was she had done my family’s budget for a small period of time as well, and I had thought for many, many years, since I was about 18– I think this went on until I was about 28, so about a decade– that I had to have $60,000 set aside in savings for my family to get along for six months.

[00:22:28] And when I finally mentioned it to her, because we were having another one of these arguments over budgeting, within 10 minutes, she took all those numbers, extrapolated them, and said, the number is $15,000. If no one in your house is working for six months, you’ll be fine. And she’s like, you already have that saved. And I lay on the bed, and I was like, I’m going to throw up.

[00:22:49] Ramit: Why?

[00:22:50] Fernando: I didn’t realize it, but it felt like for the first time I could breathe in a long time. And I genuinely couldn’t remember when that pressure came in. It just felt like I was existing like that.

[00:23:01] Ramit: Hmm.


[00:23:02] Ramit: One of the reasons I love this podcast is that I get to bring you stories from cultures that you might never, ever otherwise encounter. For example, when was the last time you heard of a son supporting his family? In many cultures, that’s the way it goes. We also saw this same dynamic with Barry from Episode 7 whose parents live in Pakistan.

[00:23:24] What’s notable to me isn’t that he did this in seventh grade, or that he still remembers the price of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or even that Anushka is supportive of him supporting his family. What’s striking to me is the moment where she showed him how much money he actually needs, and he just lay on his bed and almost threw up.

[00:23:45] For me, this is so relatable. It represents how so many of us just get on this raft of life and we start letting the river carry us. We almost never stop to take stock of where we came from and where we are. Do I even want to be going in this direction? Should I feel good, bad, proud? We mostly just keep doing the same thing that we’ve been doing for decades, which coincidentally is what our parents did, which coincidentally is what their parents did.

[00:24:15] That’s the other thing I love in my conversations with people on this podcast, that moment when they realize they can change the way they talk about money, behave with money, even the way they feel about money.

[00:24:26] Let’s take a quick pause for a message from our sponsors.

[00:24:30] Now back to Fernando and Anushka.


[00:24:33] Ramit: Things like eating out. How often did you eat out when you were a kid?

[00:24:37] Fernando: Very infrequently.

[00:24:39] Ramit: Yeah. You guys probably didn’t order appetizers.

[00:24:42] Fernando: No, we went to Subway.

[00:24:43] Ramit: Yeah. Subway, Tuesdays, get the special deal. Yeah. Okay. So I love that when I even throw out the word appetizers, both of you just laugh. It’s so absurd that kids of immigrants would ever even consider appetizers. New country, family. I get that. Is there a point at which you get to feel comfortable about ordering appetizers?

[00:25:13] Anushka: Well, I think we’re at that point. Actually, to be fair, I am at that point. I don’t think he is at that point. We had a recent argument at a restaurant about this, actually. So to use your words, part of my Rich Life is being able to spend money on appetizers and not think twice about it. And we do that now.

[00:25:36] We do that pretty frequently now, but we were at a certain restaurant, and it was right after we had that budget conversation. We had a friend with us, and I was like, okay, well, between the three of us we’re going to order these two appetizers. And he looks over at me and says, didn’t you just say we need to cut down on our budget for eating out?

[00:25:57] We don’t need appetizers, and I got like, I don’t know, viscerally mad because part of my Rich Life is being able to afford the appetizers that I could not as a child. But to him, it’s a small amount that’s not necessary, but I know that we can afford it.

[00:26:16] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:26:17] Fernando: It was, I think, more of just a frustration of all of the things I’ve held out on getting for myself over the years, for example, video games or things that I do, where I’ve told myself, you can’t do that. And then understanding now that like she’s at a position we’re making our life to be able to order that appetizer but not necessarily having had structured it previously for me to gratify myself in that same way by buying a video game, or buying an Xbox, or whatever it is.

[00:26:49] Ramit: You guys are married, right?

[00:26:51] Fernando: Yes.

[00:26:52] Ramit: How many years have you been married for?

[00:26:54] Anushka: Not that long. Two years.

[00:26:57] Ramit: Where do you two live right now?

[00:26:59] Anushka: San Diego.

[00:27:00] Ramit: That’s a pretty expensive area.

[00:27:02] Anushka: Very expensive. Yeah.

[00:27:04] Ramit: First of all, I deeply understand the visceral nature that appetizers can present for all three of us in this room. I also can understand, Fernando, that this feeling of, how can you justify that when I can’t justify this? Am I understanding both of your perspectives?

[00:27:29] Fernando: I think you hit that nail on the head.

[00:27:32] Ramit: As married couple, the most critical thing when it comes to your money is to have a shared Rich Life vision. And in your cases, if you were both making $50,000, together, you’d be having to make a lot of trade-offs. I want to do this, but we can’t. I want to do that. Well, we can’t. But the fact is you both make a lot more than that. To have a high savings rate and to order appetizers, you could do both. So we know it’s not the numbers. It’s something else.

[00:28:09] Fernando: You know what? That’s a good question. I want to save less so I can spend more.

[00:28:14] Ramit: And what would that change for your family?

[00:28:18] Fernando: I think that would give my sister a lot of freedom. It would allow her to do whatever she wanted, move out or maybe get a better car, whatever it is.

[00:28:28] Ramit: Mm. You don’t know?

[00:28:29] Fernando: Not 100%, but I know for a fact that she spends at least as much as I do. That annoys me that I can’t help her more with that.

[00:28:38] Ramit: She work too?

[00:28:40] Fernando: Yes, she’s very successful. She’s smart.

[00:28:42] Ramit: Oh. She make a lot of money?

[00:28:45] Fernando: Yeah. Relatively, she does.

[00:28:46] Ramit: Oh, is she asking you for you to pay more?

[00:28:50] Fernando: No, I don’t think she’s ever done that.

[00:28:52] Ramit: Hmm.

[00:28:54] Fernando: But I don’t want to even make her feel that she needs to be in that type of position where she needs to ask for help.

[00:29:01] Ramit: Hmm. Okay. And what about with your relationship here, your marriage?

[00:29:07] Fernando: When she’s like, I want to go play sports and do this thing and pay whatever the fee is, or go out to eat, I’m like, do it. I want to get new clothes. I’m like, do it. Absolutely spend, even if it takes away from something that I’d budgeted for myself, like my technology budget, or anything like that. I don’t care. I would rather you live life and experience it than me having me putting myself over your habits.

[00:29:31] When it comes to going out and eating, again, we don’t go to very expensive restaurants. We’ll go to like a Thai food place that we love. But similarly to me spending $30 on that, totally justifiable. That’s your thing. But $10 on a video game, I get anxiety- ridden. I can’t do that regardless of if I’m going to pay that for hundreds of hours. It just seems like a superfluous cost.

[00:29:54] Ramit: When do you get to come into this? I hear you putting your parents first. I hear you putting your sister first, even though she hasn’t asked for it, and she herself makes a lot of money. I hear you saying, Anushka, do whatever you want, even if it takes away from my technology budget. When do you get to say what you want?

[00:30:11] Fernando: Psychologically, it hurts me a lot to try and do that.

[00:30:17] Ramit: It hurts you to spend because?

[00:30:20] Fernando: I just feel like I am completely wasting that money. As soon as that return period’s over, I’m screwed.

[00:30:25] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Wow. That’s so funny because when I buy something, I literally do not think about the return period.

[00:30:31] Fernando: Really?

[00:30:32] Ramit: No.

[00:30:33] Anushka: He has always been the one to tell me, yes, spend it, and I have always been the one that has questioned the spending. So it’s sad to hear that he has so much anxiety over things like that. I knew it to be true, but it’s sad to hear it like that.


[00:30:54] Ramit: Usually, when we see people who struggle to spend on themselves, but openly spend on others, it’s women, specifically moms. I’m really glad to be able to talk to Fernando today because this is quite an atypical example. What I notice and what connects with me personally is the struggle to express what he really wants.

[00:31:15] I find that to be true in my own life and sometimes in my own relationship. I was never really taught how to connect with my emotions, how to ask for what I want. And I think that’s true for a lot of men. Personally, when it comes to money, I don’t love people who are only selfless with their money. That’s because it’s easy to only play one note with money.

[00:31:36] This is what you see when you have hyper frugalistas who save and save and are totally unable to spend. They actually consider it a virtue. Here, we have Fernando who can give all his money to others, but he struggles to spend it on himself. He also struggles to understand how money and investing actually work, neither of which are part of a healthy relationship with money.


[00:32:00] Anushka: And I do it. I try and encourage him and tell him like, logically we have the money. You don’t need to feel that way. Even this year, he was saying, oh, I’m going to be spending, whatever, $2,000 on a new monitor for his computer.

[00:32:14] He’s very into computers. That’s one of his biggest passions. I try and help him logically think about, okay, well, yes, it’s $2,000, but it’s actually this much money over this many months, and also you’re going to use it for this period. We have the money. You can spend it. I know that he doesn’t think of it that way.

[00:32:34] Ramit: Do you think that he’s confused about the numbers?

[00:32:42] Anushka: No. It’s like the fact that he remembered that the change of Reese’s price of when he was 10. That is shocking to me that he remembered when it went from 50 cents to 75 cents. It’s the same thing. I think he still has this arbitrary number in his head that he can’t go over, but we make so much money, so much more than his family made when he was 10.

[00:33:08] Ramit: You were roughly in seventh or eighth grade. You had to help start taking over with the family finances, Fernando, but you said something so interesting. You said, I wanted to extricate myself from the family or relieve them of having to pay for me. Fernando, that sounds like you considered yourself a burden to your family?

[00:33:33] Fernando: Yeah. From a financial perspective, I did. Coming from– I lived in like, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Canada– countries where college is pretty much paid or there’s certain safety nets for you, when I finally got to junior year and I’m applying to college, I’m like, so dad, how much money do you have saved? It was literally one conversation. And he’s like, what do you mean? I was like, how am I going to get it? He’s like, you need to get a full ride. And I was like, oh, sick.


[00:33:56] Ramit: If you grew up with immigrant parents, you just get it. You get what Fernando is saying. The immigrant experience is something that cannot be replicated unless you went through it. Children of immigrants are told to work hard, harder than anyone else. I personally spent hours practicing from a bright yellow Spelling Bee book.

[00:34:16] My Indian friend used to read a book called Rapid Math Trick, a book he even brought to college with him. This is the experience of many children of immigrants who know that they have to work incredibly hard to make it in a culture that their parents moved to and did not fully understand.

[00:34:34] I’m not even mentioning language barriers, cultural differences, how kids at school will complain your family’s food smells bad or make fun of your name or skin color. Those are part of the immigrant experience in America too. I simply want to share that if you did not grow up as a child of immigrants, you might not realize that an entire world exists right around you, but it’s real, and Fernando knows it’s real, and Anushka knows it’s real, because they’ve lived it, and so have I.


[00:35:03] Fernando: In my mind, every time I go there, even when I go back to visit, I’m a burden because my mom has to buy extra food for me.

[00:35:10] Ramit: Mm-hmm. And so when you go back– look at Anushka’s face. She’s seeing something. We’ll come to you in a second, Anushka. So now when you go back, none of those purchase decisions are subject to the same level of scrutiny that you make for yourself at home. Not one.

[00:35:29] Fernando: Right.

[00:35:30] Ramit: Why? Because you are still paying back your family.

[00:35:34] Fernando: I don’t know. I’ve pretty much always thought that of myself. I’ve understood that. I was like, in my mind, I’ve been a burden, and I didn’t want to be. So I want to ensure that I can do whatever I can to ensure my mom and sister are happy.

[00:35:49] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:35:51] Anushka: Can I say something really fast about this? So both him and his sister feel similarly about being a burden, and I think it’s specifically because they feel that they are the ones that locked their mom into the life that she has as a victim of domestic violence, as a stay-at-home mom, as now a divorcee that is working a minimum-wage job. I think that they both feel that they are the ones that did that to her, and that they will spend the rest of their lives making it up to her.

[00:36:35] Ramit: Well, the first thing I’ll say, Fernando, is I’m really sorry. I’m sorry you had to grow up like that. I’m sorry that you had the unstable parental structure. It’s hard enough to grow up as a kid, no matter where you grown up. It’s doubly hard to grow up as kid of immigrant parents to add on all the additional things with your mom, your dad, domestic violence, mental illness. I’m really sorry you had to go through that.

[00:37:06] Fernando: Appreciate it. It happens. It’s life.

[00:37:11] Ramit: You chose something so rare, which is you said, I’m going to become the provider for this family, not for one year, not for five years, for the rest of my life. And you’ve told me, I’ll give them anything they ever need. I can be in the poor house, but they never will. So I’m almost speechless because I hardly ever see something like this. I’m moved because it’s incredibly generous, and still, I want to help you live your Rich Life. I suspect that’s what brings us here today.

[00:37:59] Fernando: Yeah, absolutely.


[00:38:02] Ramit: This is all a lot to take on for any one person, especially to take on alone. I wanted to mention that in most immigrant cultures, the idea of therapy is not really a concept, certainly not as popular as it is in the West. I mentioned to Fernando that I hope he will see a therapist, and I genuinely hope he does.


[00:38:22] Now, if we’re looking at it from a 30,000-foot view, how would you describe this relationship you both have with money?

[00:38:29] Anushka: The fact that Fernando and I were able to move out by ourselves in our 20s and live in a gorgeous apartment in Detroit, the fact that we were able to still spend money on his family while we were doing that, and then on top of that we moved to one of the highest cost of living cities in the US, we have the best apartment I could possibly think of for our age.

[00:38:56] I am quite proud of all of these things that we have accomplished. I think that in many ways we are living our Rich Life. When we discuss how we want to live, and I’m talking day to day, I think we are already doing that, so in my mind, that’s the freedom part that comes into it, what we’ve been able to actually accomplish with our money.

[00:39:18] But then we take the 10 steps back whenever we discuss what we need to improve on, and then we have these conversations about how much are we actually spending month to month on groceries, or whatever it is.

[00:39:30] Ramit: You’ve accomplished a lot. Pride. Pride in helping family, pride in where you live, pride in the way you live, all that. Pride in just doing well. And you should be proud. But when you’re doing this well, oftentimes I just want it to be a little bit easier. Look at the looks on both your faces, like, yes. It was just a little easier. If we could just save a little bit more easily, if we could be just a little bit more generous with family, if we could have better conversations just a little bit more easily. That’s it. That’s all I want. How about you?

[00:40:14] Anushka: Absolutely.

[00:40:15] Ramit: Okay.

[00:40:16] Anushka: I guess I just always felt that my leading us in the ways I have in the past in terms of creating a budget, sticking to our savings goals, I am the reason, or a lot of the reason that we are able to live the life that we lead now. I’ve said Fernando’s so generous with everything that he does, and he very rarely tells me no. But he doesn’t plan for the long term, whereas I do, so I feel like, why would I stop doing it? I don’t know.

[00:40:48] Ramit: If it’s working and you’re both happy with how it’s working.

[00:40:54] Anushka: That’s the part.

[00:40:55] Ramit: Oh yeah, that part. Let’s say you had just produced destruction. Then it be easy for me. I’d be like, look, is it working? You’re like, nah, this sucks. I’d be like, cool, let’s fix it. But in this case, what you’ve done has actually been very helpful, but it’s also not quite serving you in the way that you want it to.

[00:41:15] Anushka: Yeah, that’s super fair.

[00:41:16] Ramit: Okay. And if we fast forward 15, 20, 30 years–

[00:41:20] Anushka: I’ve seen it play out, and I think Fernando has as well. I think I wrote in the application specifically that I am very afraid of becoming my mother in controlling everything and driving my partner away. And I am very scared of Fernando becoming his mother and letting me do whatever I think is necessary, and then at the end of the day, we don’t agree, and it’s a huge mess of a divorce, just like what happened to our parents.

[00:41:50] Ramit: Fernando, what do you think?

[00:41:59] Fernando: I think that actually it is very enlightening to me because I didn’t see myself going down that path, but that’s the first time I saw it from that perspective. We have one person that really wants to control the budget and make sure everything’s going well. And another person is very afraid to spend and is constantly checking to make sure that any purchasing decisions make sense. From a long-term planning perspective, it’s definitely something I’d let go of.

[00:42:27] At work, I can do that, but when I come home, I turn it off, and it’s just like, I just want to play video games or hang out, or whatever else, because I feel like I did that work and it caused me so much stress. But hearing you read that statement, it opened my eyes in just the most devastating way. I did not realize that is what my future could hold. That really, really surprised me.

[00:42:54] Ramit: I think the two of you fit together well when you were 17, 18 years old when you got together. And I think that probably there was some discussions you both had about your family structure and things like that. But you’re not the same 18-year-olds you were back then. Can you imagine going back and telling your 18-year-old selves where you’re living right now?

[00:43:20] Fernando: Absolutely not.

[00:43:22] Anushka: I talk about that all the time. It’s ridiculous. I am eternally grateful for where we have ended up through sheer luck and–

[00:43:32] Ramit: And? What else? Not just luck.

[00:43:33] Anushka: And work.

[00:43:34] Ramit: Exactly. So both of those things. By the way, thank you for saying that. Luck played a huge role. Yes.

[00:43:39] Fernando: Absolutely.

[00:43:40] Ramit: And hard work played a huge role. And that’s that pride. And I love seeing that, that I was talking about, that I see in the two of you. But I don’t think those puzzle pieces are the same today. They may have fit together at 18, shared family trauma, immigrants into the country, all that. Okay. Not only do you both change, meaning those puzzle pieces are changing shape, but the way you two fit together.


[00:44:10] In so many relationships I talk to, they got married, and then one partner decided to embark on some type of self-development journey. Could be losing weight, fixing finances, traveling more, whatever. The other one, understandably, might not be interested. And as one partner goes down their journey, the other becomes increasingly disconnected. And in fact, one person may see the other actively trying to prevent them from improving.

[00:44:40] Personally, one of the key things I was looking for in a partner was someone who liked self-development, who was into improving themselves. Not only is it my business, I think that self-development allows for partners to grow and to change, which is a natural part of life. I’m thankful that my wife, Cassandra, loves self-development.

[00:45:00] We’ll be right back

[00:45:02] Now back to the show.

[00:45:03] For Fernando and Anushka, what brought them together might not be the most important parts of their lives anymore. In fact, where they are today is vastly different than where they are at age 18. I’m not just talking about geographically or financially. I’m talking about where they are, who they are. My question is, have they taken the time to turn the page on their story?

[00:45:26] Have they actually sat down and surveyed how far they’ve come and decided what they want the next chapter of their life to be? Almost certainly no, almost none of us do this. Now, to help me understand where they are today, I pulled up their numbers. Here’s what they added to their conscious spending plan or CSP.

[00:45:44] By the way, as a reminder, you can download the CSP template for free at iwt.com/csp. Their assets, $10,000; investments, $253,000; savings, $100,000; 0 debt for a total net worth of $364,000.


[00:46:05] What do you both think about that number?

[00:46:08] Fernando: It’s crazy. Sounds imaginary.

[00:46:10] Ramit: Crazy what? Crazy good, crazy bad?

[00:46:13] Fernando: It’s crazy good. And it’s feels like it’s not real. That’s so much money, more money than I ever thought we would ever be able to have.

[00:46:20] Ramit: Do you believe that this is real?

[00:46:22] Fernando: Yes.

[00:46:23] Ramit: Do you believe that you have access to this money?

[00:46:25] Fernando: Yeah.

[00:46:26] Ramit: Does it make you feel good to see it?

[00:46:29] Fernando: Not the investments, which is the problem. It’s in a 401k that we can get Tech, Window, or Roth, or whatever else, that I can access when I retire. And in my mind, I’m like, I’m probably going to die before then. That’s useless towards an emergency that I need to be able to access or use.

[00:46:48] Ramit: When do you think you’re going to die?

[00:46:51] Fernando: Probably like 55 or something. Maybe in my mind, I think it was by 55, I will have had to take care of my mom and my sister and make sure they’re all good. And at that point, money doesn’t really mean anything to me anymore. And with Anushka, now that she’s in my life, I’ve put myself in a position of ensuring that she’s able to also be successful and live healthy till that point. And I don’t have any wants beyond that.

[00:47:17] Anushka: I honestly think 55 is the age that he thinks that his mom might not be around any longer. And I think to him that means the burden is lifted and he doesn’t need to, I don’t know, be alive anymore. He doesn’t need to provide for someone anymore, so he’s good. He’s done.

[00:47:42] Ramit: This is a very traditional– you see this in old Indian movies. This is a Sri Lankan thing too. You’re simply here to provide for everyone else, and you’re not here for you. This is a thing, right?

[00:47:53] Anushka: It’s a thing.

[00:47:55] Ramit: There’s a word for it. I don’t know the word that’s coming to mind, but it’s like my body is not important. I’m simply here to provide.

[00:48:02] Anushka: Well, we are Buddhist.

[00:48:04] Ramit: There we go.

[00:48:08] Anushka: We’re atheists, but we are culturally Buddhist, so that is very much a part of how we were raised.

[00:48:13] Ramit: But it’s one thing if you lived in Sri Lanka and you were saying this. I could get that. But you live in San Diego. You’re literally surrounded by the most western of West beliefs, and you still believe this. Right?

[00:48:29] Fernando: Yes.

[00:48:30] Ramit: Okay. I’m not making fun of you.

[00:48:32] Fernando: No, no. I totally get it. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:48:33] Ramit: I’m simply expressing my surprise at these beliefs which are very different than I would encounter in 99 out 100 on the street. Okay. All right, let’s continue working down the numbers. Anushka, can you read your combined gross monthly income, please?

[00:48:59] Anushka: Yes. Combined gross monthly income is 22,500.

[00:49:03] Ramit: All right, so you make $270,000 a year, household income.

[00:49:07] Anushka: Yes.

[00:49:08] Ramit: What do you think of that?

[00:49:11] Anushka: I think it’s good. It could be better.

[00:49:14] Ramit: You two are 31 years old, right?

[00:49:16] Anushka: Yeah. 30, 31. Yeah.

[00:49:17] Ramit: It’s pretty good. How come you two have exactly the same income? That’s what I want to know.

[00:49:21] Anushka: In the past couple years, so when we were in Detroit and the pandemic hit, I realized, oh, I can work from home. And so I had asked my old job if I could continue working from home, and they had said no, so then I transitioned to a new job as soon as we moved to San Diego, pretty much.

[00:49:39] And then a year after that, I got a new job, and so I was just able to keep upping my salary in that way in a very short period of time. And I used his salary to motivate me, and now we make the exact same.

[00:49:53] Ramit: Very impressive. All right. Great. So you two are making 270k gross living in San Diego. Hey, will you do me a favor? I get a lot of people online who say things like, if you make anything less than half a million dollars in California, you’re fucking broke, bro. Can you please tell everyone listening and watching, how’s life in California on $270,000 a year? Is it good?

[00:50:21] Fernando: It’s fantastic.

[00:50:21] Anushka: It’s great.


[00:50:23] Ramit: So many online losers do this thing where they post 15 comments about how it’s impossible to get by in New York, or LA, or any big city making less than $500,000. I’m like, are you aware that literally millions of people make less than $500,000 in these cities? Do you even know how much it costs to live in these places?

[00:50:42] And then I look at their profile photo, and it’s a picture of a turnip, and you realize this person lives in the middle of nowhere. They’ve never been to a big city, and they’re basically just repeating the same old anti big city fear mongering that all the people around them say. Ooh, big cities so full of crime. So scary. But also you need $500,000 to live there. How am I, a multimillionaire, more in touch with people’s incomes than these online turnips?


[00:51:07] Ramit: Anushka, what’s this number here, your fixed costs?

[00:51:10] Anushka: 53%.

[00:51:12] Ramit: All right, very good. What do y’all think about that number? It’s pretty good. Fernando, why are you smiling?

[00:51:16] Fernando: It’s solid, but in Anushka mind, it should be lower so we can have a higher savings rate.

[00:51:23] Ramit: Oh, well, we’ll get to that. All right. 22% on your housing. Fine. I have no comments. That’s a high cost of living. All right. You’re renting. Great. Car payment is $430. Fine. Debt, zero. Great. Groceries– what do I care? I don’t care about any. It’s great. I have no comments. If you’re at 53%, I have no notes. Savings. What do you say, Anushka? What number is this?

[00:51:49] Anushka: 15%.

[00:51:50] Fernando: Yes. Actually, I’ll rephrase and say I think our investments are too high.

[00:51:55] Ramit: Okay, fine. Because you think that investing is like gambling, and you think that if you invest, you don’t really have access to the money because it’s in a retirement account and you’re going to be dead anyway. Right?

[00:52:06] Fernando: Precisely.

[00:52:07] Ramit: Okay. All right. And then let’s go down to your guilt-free spending, the last category here. What do we see here, Fernando?

[00:52:14] Fernando: 10%.

[00:52:15] Ramit: Is this number accurate, 1,666 per month, Anushka?

[00:52:19] Anushka: Yeah, I would say so.

[00:52:20] Ramit: Okay. I fucking love the confidence. That’s good. I believe you. I actually believe you. I hardly ever believe anyone when they come on here. It’s okay. I’m not expecting total precision. In this case, I believe every last number on this CSP. Well done. First of all, let’s take the win. Well done. I don’t see it too often. Good job. Anushka, what is your reaction here?

[00:52:42] Anushka: I don’t know. I feel like I just got that A on the test that I was waiting for.

[00:52:50] Ramit: If, you were looking for my approval, you have it. But I think the most important thing that you’re going to realize is that your Rich Life is not about my approval. Your Rich Life is not even about your approval, Anushka. It is about the two of you coming up with a vision together and then implementing it together. So if you had to critique this CSP, because we know the things that are great about it, almost everything, what’s not working?

[00:53:23] Fernando: I think from the car payment perspective, I would like to get a car at some point. Currently, the car payments actually go towards car maintenance. It’s really just within the year I expect to spend several thousand on fixing up my car and keeping it in the best shape because I very much value my car. I always looked at it as something I could sell if I needed to and make sure my family was good. That was the entire reason I purchased it.

[00:53:46] Ramit: What the fuck? What? Why are we talking about having a car as a backup asset? No. Fernando, you realize you’re not 14 years old debating on the 65-cent Reese’s Pieces.

[00:54:03] Fernando: That’s how I’ve always looked at it.

[00:54:06] Ramit: Do you want to keep doing that?

[00:54:07] Fernando: No.

[00:54:08] Ramit: Okay. Because I’m sitting here looking at a total net worth from a young couple of $364,000, and I just spent five minutes telling you all the things that are amazing. It’s one of the best CSPs I’ve seen in any of my conversations on this podcast. And I asked, what would you do to change it, and your first comment was, I want to maintain my car because if I need to I could sell it. Do you see what you’re doing here?

[00:54:36] Fernando: I’m still looking at everything from a money scarcity perspective.

[00:54:43] Ramit: Yes, you’re playing defense, and you’re going to play defense the rest of your life. You make $11,250 a month? We’re operating at a different level here. Vacation currently is 500 bucks a month. That’s 6,000 bucks a year. Are you taking $6,000 a year of vacations?

[00:55:03] Fernando: We are currently not.

[00:55:04] Ramit: Two young successful people making $270,000 a year, yeah, you can’t take a vacation right now.

[00:55:10] Fernando: We have not.

[00:55:14] Ramit: Maybe one day you’ll be financially successful enough to take a vacation. What do you say?

[00:55:20] Fernando: Hopefully. I think that’s what I really need to better understand about myself and get, is that doing some things or spending towards larger spending goals that I had always aspired to get. For example, I’ve always loved driving, and having a dream car has always been something I wanted to do, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become harder and harder for me to rationalize it.

[00:55:44] Ramit: What’s the car you want to get one day?

[00:55:46] Fernando: I told Anushka before. I was like, we can either move to San Diego, or I could get a CT5 Black Wing, which is a 105,000-dollar car.

[00:55:54] Ramit: What brand is that?

[00:55:55] Fernando: Cadillac.

[00:55:56] Ramit: All right. Fine. And then she said, well, we can actually get it. We just need to plan for it. And your reaction was?

[00:56:04] Fernando: No, thanks.

[00:56:04] Ramit: Exactly. Because that would be 105k that could go to your family. Right?

[00:56:08] Fernando: Right.

[00:56:09] Ramit: Okay. So this zero-sum perspective. You’ve heard about this phrase, zero-sum?

[00:56:15] Fernando: Yes.

[00:56:16] Ramit: So if I get this, somebody else loses. Okay. You could go through life with that perspective. It’s actually very convenient for Anushka because she goes, well, this makes zero-based budgeting really easy for me. Fantastic. I know where the 105k goes. Beautiful.

[00:56:33] Anushka, what is your critique? I’m going to put this up on screen here. What would you critique if you had to? She’s like, critique? This is my fucking masterpiece. What are you talking about?

[00:56:51] Fernando: Oh no, I know where she’s going to go.

[00:56:55] Ramit: She looks so confused. What does this word mean? How can you critique this?

[00:57:00] Anushka: Fernando doesn’t have a company-sponsored 401k plan, which is why I want him to do the post tax retirement savings and the stocks a little bit more than I do because I get to contribute to my employer-sponsored 401k. So I would want him to invest more money.

[00:57:23] Ramit: What each of you told me you would change here probably won’t actually make you feel better or bring you closer together. Anushka, you look surprised?

[00:57:36] Anushka: Yeah, it might make me feel better for a little bit, but then we’d get into more arguments.

[00:57:44] Ramit: Yeah. Do you know why you’d get into more arguments?

[00:57:48] Anushka: Because that’s not really a compromise. That’s just me getting my way.

[00:57:51] Ramit: Which is common. I saw that in your screening interview. You both debate this or that, and then oftentimes you get your way, right? Fair?

[00:58:01] Anushka: Yeah, fair.

[00:58:03] Ramit: More importantly, when you invest more money, I know you see it with compound interest, and rule of 72, and SWR, and all kinds of these terms. I get that. But he doesn’t see it that way. In fact, do you know how Fernando would see you taking an extra $25,000 and investing money? How would he see that? Describe it in a word.

[00:58:30] Anushka: Apparently it’s gambling.

[00:58:32] Ramit: Gambling is one. Loss. That money’s being taken away from you. Right, Fernando?

[00:58:41] Fernando: 100%. I could have been driving my dream car years ago, but instead it’s going into my retirement. Hopefully I live that long.

[00:58:50] Ramit: You put quotes around retirement as if it’s not a real word. That’s a real word. Retirement is real.

[00:58:56] Fernando: Yes. Yes, it is real. I find money, in a sense, it’s cliché to say, but it’s almost like the root of all evil. There’s so much bad that can happen because of money and there is so much waste because of money. I don’t want to be that guy in a mad car when I’m old because there’s poor people. I don’t like that type of overspending.

[00:59:19] That’s one of the things I fight with. Coming from where I have, having lived in many other places, there’s a lot of issues I have with the way that America is set up financially for its citizens. We don’t provide enough in terms of safety nets for old people. It breaks my heart every time I go to a store and I see someone 70 years old working, like an old grandma. I’m like, ma’am, you should not be here. You need to be living your life outside.

[00:59:48] Ramit: I agree with you, but if you get something, you believe it means someone else cannot, and you don’t want to live in a world where you have something that somebody else does not. Is that fair?

[01:00:02] Fernando: Yeah. That’s not what I was brought up on.

[01:00:07] Ramit: Meanwhile, Anushka is saying like, I don’t want to end up having to work at Walmart at age 78, and that is why I want you to open up an IRA, and I want to fund it. Right, Anushka?

[01:00:22] Anushka: Absolutely.

[01:00:23] Ramit: All right. Two ways of looking at money.

[01:00:26] Fernando: You brought it up in such an interesting way, especially looking at this and realizing that we were both hitting the exact same thing from completely different angles of me saying, well, I would take away from investments, and from Anushka perspective, she’s like, well, I want to add to investments.

[01:00:38] And the amount we would be adding or subtracting is some of my dream. That could be the car payment that I could be having if I wanted to live that type of life. It is completely funded by taking away from that specific category.


[01:00:53] Here’s what I see happening here. Fernando and Anushka have vastly different perspectives on money. I’m talking completely different. She wants to invest aggressively. She has a need for control. She wants more. He thinks investing is gambling. He should give all of his money to his family.

[01:01:14] He’s going to die at 55. Oh, and also, he wants $105,000 Cadillac. It’s not a very coherent viewpoint, but guess what? Most of us have incoherent viewpoints about money, so I don’t mind. The question that faces us now is, what would they change with their CSP? Asking a couple to critique their own spending, not CSP, but spending is basically pointless because they’ll all say the same thing.

[01:01:39] Well, we should try to eat out less. The average person has no idea where they’re spending money. They have no idea how their spending is related to their savings rate, which is related to their investments, which if you calculate based on a 7% return– you see what I mean?

[01:01:52] Asking the average person to critique their own spending is like asking a golden retriever to critique their exercise regimen. It’s just pointless. But here, we have a couple that has a CSP, and at least one partner deeply understands the numbers. They could invest more. They could invest less. In their critique, they could put more towards a vacation.

[01:02:15] There are so many things they could do, but when I asked the question, I’m getting nowhere. So I decided to take a different approach, and when I did, suddenly I stumbled into something fascinating from Fernando.


[01:02:30] Fernando: I think it’s more of a mental shift I need to have because I know I don’t have a healthy and realistic perspective on investments in America.

[01:02:39] Ramit: How much of it do you think your perspective on investing in America is based around fear?

[01:02:43] Fernando: Oh, 100%

[01:02:45] Ramit: I’ve been hearing this since I started my site in 2004. I would get commenters particularly around ’08, ’09, saying, investing is dead. It’s never going to last. Things are different now. And if you basically started investing the day my book came out, March, 2009, you would’ve had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. You’d be doing extremely well. They didn’t understand how investments work. They didn’t understand the literature.

[01:03:17] They didn’t understand that 7% returns have persisted through wars, and recessions, and inflation. They simply felt this fear viscerally, and they decided not to invest, and it cost them probably millions of dollars over their lifetime.

[01:03:33] Fernando: Funny, because you saying that actually I think helped it click in my mind in a way that Anushka saying it to me over the last decade has not in that, like, I do have that visceral fear and in my mind, the future is uncertain. I don’t know what’s going to happen to this election. I don’t know what’s going to happen, etc.

[01:03:57] What I was telling her, and she’s very well educated on this, is more on– I’m listening to like NPR politics or whatever else, and they’re like, hey, we’re coming close to the fiscal cliff every few months now. A few years ago, the US’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time ever.

[01:04:14] And that increased our interest on bonds and things like that. I’m like, we don’t know what’s happening in the political system, and things could get shaky. I don’t know what that means in terms of investing, but what I know is I’m putting money into a system that could potentially be screwing me in the future.

[01:04:30] And I’d rather use that money now to live and do things than put it into the system that I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But to your point, and I think you made it really well, if someone had invested that money in 2009 when I was getting traumatized by the financial market, it would be a completely different lifestyle.

[01:04:52] Anushka: But when I tell him that investing in our market will still get us returns, and that has been proven over the long term, he brings up the point that some of the things that we are facing today we’ve never experienced before.

[01:05:25] Ramit: Oh. That’s like code for, this time it’s different.

[01:05:28] Anushka: I don’t know. I want someone else to talk to him about this because I don’t listen to the news every single day so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

[01:05:38] Ramit: Okay. Well, let’s talk about it. So what is your alternative, Fernando? If you genuinely believe that there’s going to be some type of fiscal cliff or something’s going to go wrong, what is your alternative?

[01:05:49] Fernando: It would be spending it now and living more opulent life, for lack of a better term, than saving for an arbitrary future.

[01:06:00] Ramit: If we have money, we better spend it fast because we don’t know what’s coming around tomorrow.

[01:06:04] Fernando: Yeah, exactly.

[01:06:04] Ramit: Look at Anushka’s face. Yeah, both. Okay. Yeah. Well, guess what? Good news, if you want to spend a little bit more money today, you can. That’s not a problem. You want to live a more opulent life– your guilt-free spending is 10%.

[01:06:22] So if you want to live a little bit more opulent, we can make that happen. No problem. What I’m really hearing you say is, I don’t fundamentally believe in this investment stuff. I want to spend it without having to think, or send it to my family, or whatever, because sooner rather than later, this whole game is over. None of this stuff really matters.

[01:06:47] Fernando: Yeah. I think a bit. To be frank, watching what happened during January 6th scared the crap out of me as an immigrant. We stopped that day working. I pulled her off our meeting and we sat there, and then as an immigrant, I remember thinking our parents struggled to get here, and I’m watching it burn, and now people are covering up what happened?

[01:07:11] And they’re like, it wasn’t that bad. And I’m like, this is how it starts. This is how it happens. I watched it happen everywhere else. And so in my mind, I’m like, we are steps away. We are steps away from it happening again. And if that does happen and we do lose everything, what do I have at the end of the day?

[01:07:30] Ramit: What do you have?

[01:07:32] Fernando: The few dollars in my savings account.

[01:07:34] Ramit: Well, let’s just play that out. You get on the next plane to somewhere. What do you have? It’s not a few dollars in your savings account. What I currently see is you have $364,000 of net worth. That’s liquid cash. That’s a lot of money.

[01:07:53] Fernando: I guess in my mind, I think that’s fundamentally a misunderstanding of what does it mean to have something in an investment account versus savings. For example, a Roth or a 401k that’s invested in the stock market, if that goes down similar to 2008, it would be a 20, 30% reduction. Maybe it wasn’t even that large. I apologize. Whatever percentage reduction in value. And really, the only thing I’d quickly take out would be by savings.

[01:08:18] Ramit: Why? You can sell your stocks that day. How much of this do you really know?

[01:08:24] Fernando: Investments, very little, admittedly.

[01:08:27] Ramit: While I’m not trying to dismiss your fears, if you have a belief something’s going to happen, I think you should get educated about it. I think you should have a plan for it. Yes, I’m all for that. But you just said two things that are factual things. You can check in two minutes.

[01:08:42] Fernando: Yeah. This is actually very true.

[01:08:43] Ramit: Is it possible that you are using what is going on politically as yet another way to avoid money?

[01:08:52] Fernando: I think so. I think that’s a really good point. And phrasing it as like, you could get very quickly educated on these things, I’m like, yeah, you’re not wrong. This is something I could very quickly just read up on and understand, but every time it comes up, I’m like, break it down for me. I just feel like, what does this mean? Because I don’t want to even spend that 15 minutes to do it.

[01:09:12] Ramit: Why?

[01:09:12] Fernando: Because it feels scary. It still really feels like really nerve wracking to think of putting my head back in that space.


[01:09:19] Ramit: I don’t know. Fernando’s agreeing with me just a little too easily. What I’m saying should theoretically rock him at his core because it directly contradicts an entire narrative that he’s created and held for decades– the narrative that money is evil, that geopolitics mean the end of our economy, that he should just spend all of his money. And with one sentence, I point out the logical flaw, and suddenly he goes, I think that’s a really good point.

[01:09:51] I’m just not buying. Nobody changes an entire logical apparatus that fast. What I can tell is that Fernando has created a story to make sense of a world that’s not in his control. He doesn’t really have any proof. In fact, Anushka has actually tried to show him proof of just the opposite.

[01:10:10] But as humans, we love our stories, and stories trump proof almost every day. The problem here, of course, is that his story is costing him. It’s costing him satisfaction in his relationship. It’s costing him a financial future. It’s even costing him the ability to spend more money today.


[01:10:31] Fernando: It’s helping me confront my understanding that I was struggling with thinking I could be back in that place as that eighth grader looking at money and being like, we don’t have enough. But looking at it, looking at this plan with you, and honestly you say like, this is an amazing plan, is wild to me.

[01:10:48] We came from almost nothing, the two of us. To realize like I’ve done so little to help her is– and I love learning. The fact that I’ve frigging read up on how these things work when it would take seconds is shocking to me.

[01:11:06] Ramit: Do you think your mom would want you to feel bad about money for your whole life?

[01:11:09] Fernando: Absolutely not. That’s something she tells me all the time.

[01:11:13] Ramit: Providers inevitably want to smooth over things for everyone around them. They often want to provide reassurance instead of clarity. It’s going to be okay. You’ve been doing that since you were, what, five years old?

[01:11:34] Fernando: Oh, older, but yeah.

[01:11:36] Ramit: Right. Pretty young. Long time ago. How come you don’t do that for your wife when it comes to money?

[01:11:44] Fernando: Because she takes care of me.

[01:11:46] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Like her mom.

[01:11:48] Anushka: He takes care of me in every other way. We’ve talked about how he’s generous. When he said that he doesn’t feel like he’s helping me in this, I don’t fault him in any way. This is the role that I’ve also stepped up to do because he does so much else in our lives. I don’t step foot in the kitchen because he does all of that, and he’s great at it, and he loves doing that for us. And he provides a lot of mental stability that I need and I didn’t have at home. He’s so generous in every way, not just financially.

[01:12:23] Ramit: The reason that this is so important is that if the two of you cannot come to a shared vision on money, including investments, saving, spending, family, the big stuff, if you can’t come to an agreement on that, you will constantly be perpetuating the pattern that you currently have. Do you see how the way that you have both entrenched your views of money make it very difficult for the two of you to come together?

[01:12:58] Fernando: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think realizing now that I have the ability to take control of that aspect of my life, which previously I thought, well, every time you plan something, someone else is going to change it. You have no control. Now I realize, no, I do.

[01:13:15] Ramit: Anushka, by you taking over the finances, you’re doing two things. Number one, you are fulfilling the same role that your mom did, and number two, you have set the expectation that you are the money person, and he is what?

[01:13:38] Anushka: Oh.

[01:13:39] Ramit: He’s the avoider, and he’s also the worrier. So he worries and worries and has all these thoughts that are in the clouds about what’s happening in politics, and will we be able to access our money? But he avoids talking about it, learning about it, engaging with money, and you, who have helpfully co-created this dynamic, it’s always two. It’s never just one. You say, oh, it sounds good. I will prepare the documents for next month.

[01:14:08] And that pattern actually works. It works enough that, yeah, you get in minor arguments here and there. It works except for the end of the year when you get in fights, and what else? When does it not work? Look at this amount that you’re investing every month. What does it say, Anushka?

[01:14:26] Anushka: $3,625.

[01:14:27] Ramit: Yeah. And so right now you have $253,000 invested. You’re going to have tens of thousands of dollars being invested every single year. That number’s going to be 500,000 soon, 600, 700, 800, a million, 2 million, 5 million. What do you think is going to happen when you have $3 million in the bank and you’re arguing over had Thai for $15 at the Thai place?

[01:14:55] Anushka: I feel like I would be. We wouldn’t have as much to worry about. I don’t know. We’d have more to fall back on.

[01:15:04] Fernando: This is that one part in all of the discussions that I’ve watched where, you say this, and I’m watching it, and I’m like, of course. Come on, guys, how are you not seeing this? But I just realized like, oh shit, it’s us.

[01:15:18] Ramit: Finish the sentence. What do you see?

[01:15:20] Fernando: I’ve always thought your first million is easy, 10 million is hard, making those investments, getting to those points. And I don’t see us stopping at that point. I don’t think we’d ever feel comfortable buying appetizers, regardless of us having 10 million investments or whatever else because it doesn’t feel real to say that we had that much money because of this whole perspective we’ve had up until now of looking at this cash and be like, no, we don’t have enough, and it’s never going to feel enough. And I think that’s what this has helped me realize.

[01:15:53] Anushka: So when I say we need to invest more, because I want us to live a bigger life and I want us to save more because I want us to be able to afford, I don’t know, the beautiful bigger apartment or the beautiful house someday, and I want us to be able to donate more money than we are.

[01:16:10] And in reality, our goals align because I know he also wants to live a bigger life in the future, but it’s like, I don’t know, the day to day. When we say that 53% of fixed cost is too little, in my head, it doesn’t make sense still. I’m trying to get there.

[01:16:27] Ramit: Let’s talk about it. I don’t think your goals are aligned. I think that this is something that every couple tells me. Let me just read what you wrote on your application. I’m not sure I have many years left to have the same conversations over and over again.

[01:16:44] Anushka: I wrote that on a very low point.

[01:16:48] Ramit: Is it accurate?

[01:16:50] Anushka: At that point, it was. At my lowest, yes, it’s accurate

[01:16:54] Ramit: What do you think the real problem is here, Anushka? It’s not a percentage problem. That’s a math problem. That’s easy.

[01:17:00] Anushka: Fernando, what’s the real problem here?

[01:17:02] Fernando: I think actually it actually is a percentage problem in the cleanest sense in that she has a number that she thinks we have to hit to be saving the correct amount. And then that leads to us as we gain more and more monthly income, shoving way more into savings and way more into investing.

[01:17:24] Ramit: Why does she think that she needs to save and invest a certain amount? Have you ever asked her?

[01:17:29] Fernando: I think I have, and correct me if I’m wrong here, and I feel like my understanding is that’s what the stock template of saving percentages should be to your income

[01:17:40] Anushka: It is in terms of like, okay, we stick to a range of percentages for saving and investing, but it’s more of like, I don’t know. I guess I realized this about myself a couple days ago. I am trying to– both of our parents wanted us to go to med school.

[01:17:58] Obviously we’re brown. And we were both on that track. And we both, because of our own reasons fell away from that. And since then, my parents have never thought I was successful. And I want to prove it to everybody and myself that I will be successful and more successful than anyone ever thought. I want to prove everybody wrong.

[01:18:25] And I think part of that for me is my net worth and living the lifestyle that we live and being able to shove it in my mom’s face to be like, I told you I’d still make it.

[01:18:41] Ramit: That’s honest. I appreciate the candor. Anushka, I really do.

[01:18:45] Fernando: I never realized that. That was so enlightening. I’m not even kidding. I genuinely didn’t realize wanting to be perceived by your family as being successful was such a driver to her. And that helps me understand so much why she’s so rigid on investing as I am rigid on sending money back to my family, which she supports, to be clear.

[01:19:09] It’s like, you have to. The reason we had that large argument is because my investment percentage, I think, was 15%. It was like, you’re just taking my money where you want to put it. But now I have an understanding of, okay, this is something that was core to her and her view image of herself, and that helps me understand why those arguments got so heated.

[01:19:32] Ramit: Anushka, you just shared something pretty candid. Did you realize it before today?

[01:19:39] Anushka: I like started to think about it before this conversation, to be quite honest. Why am I so driven by the numbers, the percentages? I was just trying to figure that out by myself. Why it meant so much to me that when he didn’t agree that our investments had to be at 25% why it made me so mad.

[01:20:05] Ramit: That same anger you felt when he questioned you wanting to get an appetizer. It’s not about the appetizer. It’s about what it represents. So now that you’ve articulated it out loud, maybe for the first time, I want to invest a lot of money, so that?

[01:20:23] Anushka: I look successful to my parents. That sounds so ridiculous.

[01:20:30] Ramit: Well, sometimes the biggest truths do, but that doesn’t change the fact that they feel real to us. So can I ask you a couple questions about success? Are you successful?

[01:20:44] Anushka: Yeah, yeah.

[01:20:47] Ramit: I’m going to ask it again. Are you successful?

[01:20:50] Anushka: I know that I am, but I have a long way to go. Well, I would feel successful if I was doing something that I truly enjoyed and I was making good money from it.

[01:21:06] Ramit: Okay. What’s going through your head right now?

[01:21:10] Anushka: Yikes. Calling me like that. That’s what’s going through my head. I guess it’s the whole thing that my self-worth is tied to a number.

[01:21:21] Ramit: And if you don’t max it out, that means?

[01:21:24] Anushka: I’m worthless.

[01:21:25] Ramit: Okay. So like your feelings would just change overnight one day when you had a different job, or a business, or something like that.

[01:21:36] Anushka: And if I had a million dollars in the bank. Yeah.

[01:21:40] Ramit: You want to model it out right now?

[01:21:42] Anushka: Yeah. Kind of.

[01:21:42] Ramit: Okay. All right. Let’s do it. Let’s pick some basic numbers here. And I’m going to ask you, Anushka, to give me, what numbers we should use. I know you have these at your fingertips, so it should not be a problem, but let’s take a look here. All right. So your current principle of investment is what, 250,000 bucks?

[01:22:01] Anushka: Mm-hmm.

[01:22:02] Ramit: How much are you currently adding?

[01:22:06] Anushka: 43, something like that.

[01:22:10] Ramit: 43,500. And let’s say you’re going to let it grow for 35 more years. Fair?

[01:22:18] Anushka: Mm-hmm.

[01:22:19] Ramit: All right. And at 7%. So right now, this is what you currently have if you never got a raise, even though you’re at the beginning of your career. Read that number out, please, Anushka.

[01:22:28] $9,103,380 and 87 cents.

[01:22:35] Ramit: Wow. I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to get the mango with sticky rice when we’re at the Thai restaurant. What do you guys think? 10 million before you can get a dessert? How much do you need?

[01:22:44] Anushka: So we’ll have 9 million in 30 years. That’s what we said.

[01:22:49] Ramit: Correct.

[01:22:52] Anushka: I guess I want to be living a bigger life before then.


[01:23:00] Ramit: This is where I stepped in to make a quick suggestion. See, they’ve already accumulated a lot of money. They continue to invest aggressively. What if they kept investing but they cut their investment contributions by half? What would happen? And what I really want to know is, what would they do with the extra tens of thousands of dollars that they could spend now?


[01:23:24] Ramit: Let’s say instead of 43,500, we cut that by half.

[01:23:30] Fernando: Jesus Christ.

[01:23:31] Ramit: Whoa, everybody freaking out here. 21, 750 a year. All right, here we go. Instead of 9.1 million, oh my gosh, it’s only going to be 5.88 million.

[01:23:45] Anushka: I think it’s good. I think it’s good.

[01:23:49] Fernando: I think it’s good. It’s probably the understatement of the century. In the long run it was beneficial to have taken it out, and $20,000 more a year potentially in what we could be doing now, I could not even imagine.


[01:24:04] Ramit: I really enjoyed speaking to Fernando and Anushka. You don’t hear stories like this very often, and I really love that they were so candid in sharing their childhood, their finances, how they feel about money. Sometimes even when it may seem irrational, we’re all irrational. Let’s see what Fernando had to say in his follow-up.

[01:24:25] Fernando: Honestly, it’s wild to say this, but I had not realized how successful the two of us had become over the last few years and how much that’s impacted both our savings as well as our lifestyle and the financial scarcity perspective that I had in my head.

[01:24:39] I think that also goes to the point that you identified about therapy. So it was extremely interesting to hear you say that the CSP that really Anushka has set up for us through her budgeting and planning has been one of the best that you’ve seen, and that we could cut our retirement in half and still be in a great place. That’s really crazy.

[01:24:58] We are going to be taking 1,000 out of our retirement account monthly to now allocate more towards my family, 300 more towards a dream car, and some more money for us to do activities and live life here in San Diego and be happy now, as you were saying like, living your Rich Life today and prioritizing that.

[01:25:16] The other thing is the fact I need therapy, she needs therapy, we need therapy, and how much that’s really affected how we’re living our life day to day, where we’re putting our money, and what we need to do to be happy.

[01:25:32] And beyond that, really, the fact that I’m not financially educated, it’s really holding back my relationship with my partner and causing her undue stress. I will be looking to get better read up on that, better understanding of financial responsibilities, personal finance, retirements, savings, all of that, so that I can be more of a partner when it comes to planning our next five and 10years again together.

[01:25:57] Ramit: And now Anushka’s follow-up.

[01:25:59] Anushka: One of my biggest takeaways from our conversation was that I truly thought we were doing the bare minimum when it came to saving and investing, and you showed me how that was not the truth and that I was actually over saving and over investing and it was directly leading to my partner’s anxiety and fear of not having enough money and that I really need to work on cutting back in those areas.

[01:26:24] One of the biggest surprises was that I really thought I was logical when it came to money talks, and turns out I’m just as emotional as any other human being. I want to work on that in therapy, for sure. I want to be more logical when it comes to my saving and investing goals.

[01:26:43] I’m also getting a raise and a bonus coming up shortly. I know we didn’t really discuss that, but I want to put at least 75% of that towards our guilt-free spending as well. So that’s a big goal of mine. And then in the long term, when we continue getting raises and bonuses, I want to try to hit that 75% mark of putting most of that towards our guilt-free spending as well because I know that we are saving and investing a perfectly good amount right now that will set us up for the future. So therapy will help me feel more secure and help redefine what I call success. So thank you so much again.