Episode #157: “We spent $80,000 more than we made last year” (Part 1)

Adrienne and Rob are 59 and 62, and they are overcome with worry over whether or not they’ve amassed enough wealth to live comfortably, and apply Rich Life principles, in their retirement years. Adrienne’s head is in the clouds—dreamy and full of color. Rob lives in his (physical!) spreadsheets. 

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Show Transcript

Download the full transcript PDF.

[00:00:00] Adrienne: We’ve been following Suze Orman’s advice on investing, and it was a disaster. And once we started to work with the FIRE Movement, we thought, oh, well, we won’t be able to retire early.

[00:00:12] Rob: We tell people that our money story is that 18 years ago we were $60,000 in debt. Now we have a $2 million net worth. Things have shifted, and that’s why I reached out. We spent more money last year than we ever have before by 50% more.

[00:00:29] Ramit: Did you enjoy it?

[00:00:34] Rob: Yes. And then I get scared later.

[00:00:36] Adrienne: We don’t have that much more time left.

[00:00:39] Ramit: Wait, I’m depressed. We’re on our way to that old graveyard called death. So anyway, what do you want to do in our elderly age? God, damn.


[00:00:52] Ramit: Meet Adrienne and Rob. Adrienne’s 59. Rob is 62, and they’re wondering if they will have enough– enough to retire, enough to live the lifestyle they want. Now, they went through quite a journey. They used to be in lots of debt. They made a plan, they paid it off, and now they have accumulated money. But they are scared, especially Rob, who admits that he’s been scared of money his entire life.

[00:01:17] In today’s discussion, our sponsor is Facet. And as part of my conversation with Rob and Adrienne, I asked Facet advisors to take a very close look at their numbers so that we could get them some specific answers on if they will have enough and what their life will look like going forward. As we start this discussion with Rob and Adrienne, something really interesting happens with one of my first questions. It’s a little odd. See if you can spot it


[00:01:46] Rob: Money has been my purview in our relationship. I pay the bills, although now they’re automated, thanks to you, but I show her where the money is every couple of months, so she knows how to get at all the accounts.

[00:01:59] Ramit: Okay.

[00:02:00] Rob: But it’s my thing.

[00:02:01] Adrienne: Well, I just want to say that I started this money journey. I’m the one that was the catalyst for us going on a money journey. Before we were married, I was $35,000 in debt, and I was a massage therapist. Math is definitely not my zone of genius, but I decided one day just to pick up a Suze Orman book and just read it and start to understand what to do because I was in all this debt.

[00:02:39] So I had gotten myself out of $35,000 worth of debt. Rob and I decided to get married, and Rob said to me on the phone, I’m in $60,000 worth of debt. Do you want me to declare bankruptcy? Because it was the last year you could do it in a good way. And I said, no, let’s pay it off.

[00:03:02] And so then I moved from California to Washington DC, where he was living, and we just paid it off. So I just want to be clear that I started this journey. I’m the one that started it. I told Rob I wasn’t going to marry him unless you watch Suze Orman with me every Saturday night.

[00:03:22] Ramit: How long did you watch Suze Orman together?

[00:03:25] Rob: Nine years. Every episode.

[00:03:28] Ramit: Cool.

[00:03:28] Adrienne: Yeah. And I was shocked because I knew that since money and math is not my zone of genius, I was like, oh, I can understand concepts, and it took me a long time, but if I kept showing up, the concepts became clearer to me.

[00:03:45] Ramit: Amazing. Great lesson for all of us. Money is not this mythical thing that only some of us have access to. All of us can become good at money. Adrienne, I’m curious. Why was it important for you to tell me that just now?

[00:04:02] Adrienne: Because I don’t think it’s fair to say that my head is not in our money situation, that I know nothing about it. I do know what’s going on, basically. I guess that’s what I wanted to explain, is that I do have some idea of what’s going on.

[00:04:25] Ramit: So Adrienne, what would you say your role is in the relationship?

[00:04:28] Adrienne: In terms of money, I think my role is to stay the course with Rob to keep us rowing in the same direction. I don’t know. I think also maybe just to keep everybody calm.

[00:04:46] Ramit: Are you second guessing yourself right now? I feel like there’s a lot of self-edit editing going on. What is that?

[00:04:51] Adrienne: I guess I’m feeling like maybe I haven’t been as involved in our money as I was originally when we first started the journey. And so I feel a little bit bad about that.

[00:05:06] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:05:07] Adrienne: We did such a good job at saving, and I felt like I was proud of us. So I wasn’t really as concerned about it, but recently Rob brought up to me this idea that maybe we’re not doing as good as I think we’re doing. So I guess I don’t really know. Maybe I’m just assuming that we’re okay, and maybe we’re actually not okay.

[00:05:37] Rob: Okay. I’m going to pull this out right here. I’ve got 18 years’ worth of yellow sheets, which is our archaic way of determining our net worth.

[00:05:47] Ramit: What?

[00:05:48] Rob: And we used to do this monthly.

[00:05:51] Ramit: Why?

[00:05:51] Rob: Because that’s how we started.

[00:05:54] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:05:55] Ramit: Rob, when you were filling this application out, where were you sitting?

[00:06:00] Rob: At the same desk that I’m sitting at right now.

[00:06:04] Ramit: Great. What was going through your mind at that moment when you decided to write in and apply to speak to me?

[00:06:12] Rob: I would say that my big issue has been worry, concern. Being in debt at 44 years old was not a good feeling, and I have obsessed, I would say, in the last 18 years to dig us out of debt and put us into a place where we could retire potentially.

[00:06:30] Ramit: Okay.

[00:06:31] Rob: And so I have been concerned since last year, which was the very first time we did not save money. Last year we spent 80,000 more than we made. In spite of that, our net worth went up by $88,000, which was because of the investments and how well the stock market did last year.

[00:06:58] It was very surrealistic for me to be in a situation where every single year, for the last 15 years, we have been raking it in. And then all of a sudden, my business has dropped off. We had some extra expenses last year. And the combination, if the stock market had broken even, or whatever, if our portfolio had broken even, we would’ve been 80,000 in the hole. So that’s the real catalyst for writing in.

[00:07:26] Ramit: Okay. All right.


[00:07:27] Ramit: Early clues. Did you catch them? Rob is a worrier, and they’re actually both worried about having enough for retirement since they are 59 and 62 years old. Last year, they spent more than they made for the first time, and yet their net worth increased. This is because of their investments. This really worries Rob. Actually, it would worry most people. And I noticed these very interesting dynamics as I asked Adrienne what her financial role was and she got quite defensive. Keep that in mind.

[00:07:59] Let’s take a quick break for our sponsors.

[00:08:02] Back to my conversation.


[00:08:04] Adrienne: Well, I had just come home from being out with some friends, and I had paid for their dinner or their lunch, and Rob was like, why did this cost so much? I said, well, I thought we were doing Ramit’s thing, and I wanted to be more generous in our Rich Life.

[00:08:27] Ramit: Hold on. How did he know that you paid for everyone’s lunch?

[00:08:30] Adrienne: He looked at the credit card.

[00:08:33] Ramit: Oh, like he logged onto the app or something like that?

[00:08:36] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:08:37] Ramit: So you walk in the door, and he’s like, hold on a second. He just logged onto the app?

[00:08:41] Adrienne: But he had done it before I walked in the door.

[00:08:43] Ramit: Oh, okay. Hold on. Do you have notifications set up where every time someone charges it gets sent to the phone?

[00:08:50] Rob: No.

[00:08:51] Ramit: Did you literally manually log in between the time she paid the bill and came home?

[00:08:58] Rob: I guess so. I don’t keep track of how many times I log in. It’s way too many times, I’m sure.

[00:09:03] Adrienne: I think it was the next morning.

[00:09:06] Ramit: What did he say?

[00:09:06] Adrienne: He said, why did this cost so much?

[00:09:11] Ramit: How much was it?

[00:09:12] Adrienne: $79.

[00:09:14] Ramit: Okay. All right. I’m not laughing at the amount. I’m laughing because I’ve seen your CSP. Remember the phrase I have, like focus less on three-dollar questions and more on 30,000-dollar questions?

[00:09:29] Rob: Yeah.

[00:09:29] Ramit: Okay. So $79. What place did you go to, Adrienne?

[00:09:33] Adrienne: I went to a place called Mount Bakery.

[00:09:36] Ramit: It’s bakery. Okay, great. So you paid for a few friends. What’d you say? I’ll get this one, something like that?

[00:09:42] Adrienne: Absolutely.

[00:09:43] Ramit: Why’d you do that, by the way?

[00:09:45] Adrienne: I did that because we had been looking at what does it mean to have a Rich Life? And I thought in my mind it would be fun to be more generous. I thought this would be great. I’m going to take them out for lunch and have a great lunch together. So I did.

[00:10:08] Ramit: How did it feel when you paid the bill?

[00:10:11] Adrienne: I felt happy about it. I felt like my heart could be open to people I love. And I felt like I got to experience a really beautiful lunch with some people, and I just really enjoyed it.

[00:10:26] Ramit: I love that. I love it.

[00:10:27] Adrienne: Mm-hmm. Was it that? No, it was that night, actually, and Rob said, why did this cost so much? And I said, I thought we were changing what we were doing. I thought we were going to start having our Rich Life. And that was part of what I wanted in my Rich Life.

[00:10:49] Ramit: Okay. What happened next?

[00:10:51] Adrienne: I think he just had a lot of fear reaction. It’s like, not fair. Why are you out there just spending money? I think that was really the gist of it.

[00:11:08] Ramit: Keep going.

[00:11:08] Adrienne: I think it was different because I was just ushering in this new idea around what would it look like to have a Rich Life, and I hadn’t expressed it. I hadn’t said, hey, I think what I want to do is start being more generous. I probably could have expressed that earlier instead of just gone and done what I wanted to do.

[00:11:36] Rob: I said, did you go to Mount Bakery to spend $79? I asked the question. I don’t think I was accusing anybody of anything. I was just trying to find out why something that I thought 20 bucks would cost 79 bucks. That’s all.

[00:11:50] Ramit: Okay. What do you remember her saying?

[00:11:53] Rob: She said she took her friends out to lunch. And it’s funny. There are so many instances that I look away. That weekend Adrienne was gone 12 hours a day, three days in a row, out with her friends in a dance conference. I was alone at home worried about our money. When I think about it now, I was in a scared place. So that’s why that conversation occurred in the first place.

[00:12:24] Ramit: Got it. Okay. How did the conversation end?

[00:12:27] Adrienne: I would say that at the end of it, I felt pretty bad about what had happened. Rob usually forgets about things just like that, and it just took me a couple of days to feel okay around what happened.

[00:12:47] Ramit: Tell me more.

[00:12:48] Adrienne: I felt like I didn’t have agency in our relationship around money. And I think part of that is because I haven’t really made any money since the pandemic. So I’ve been a person who isn’t contributing in terms of our finances since the pandemic happened. I was a massage therapist, and I stopped at that point. And so I was feeling like I don’t have a lot of agency in terms of our finances that–

[00:13:23] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Like you tried to do something, you spent a little bit of money, and then it caused this disagreement, blow up fight. And what did that feel like to you?

[00:13:39] Adrienne: I felt like Rob is really in charge of the money because he is the one that is looking at the money. He is the one that is making the money. He is the one that’s doing all of the things around the money.

[00:13:53] Ramit: Is he in charge of the money?

[00:13:56] Adrienne: I think in lots of ways he is. Yes.

[00:14:01] Ramit: Okay. What are the ways that he’s not?

[00:14:06] Adrienne: Okay. He’s in charge of the money.

[00:14:10] Ramit: How does that feel to you to say? It doesn’t feel like super easy for you to say. At least that’s my perception.

[00:14:17] Adrienne: I felt for most of our time together that we built this together, that I started this money journey that I wanted it for us. I just thought let’s give it a go, because we started in our 40s, and I didn’t know what we could accomplish. I just thought, let’s just see what we can accomplish. And I was always contributing as well because I was making money. So I think it shifted a lot in terms of our power dynamics, I guess.

[00:14:57] Ramit: It never feels easy when there’s a recalibration of roles. Adrienne, would you agree with that? And if so, do you think that it’s still difficult for you to recalibrate the financial part of your relationship with Rob?

[00:15:15] Adrienne: Yes, I think it’s definitely difficult to recalibrate. I am curious to see if you feel like we’re still heading in the right direction around our money, because if it’s important for me to start making more money or just me to start making money again, I’m certainly willing to do that.

[00:15:41] I think I’ve definitely struggled sometimes with worth, and what it means. I don’t believe that people’s worth is money. I think we all have intrinsic worth, no matter what amount of money you have. But I think our society at large does often equate money with worth. And so I think I fall prey to that once in a while as well.

[00:16:14] Ramit: Do you mean because you’re not earning money?

[00:16:17] Adrienne: Yeah. Partly because I’m not earning money, and partly because I’ve always earned a lot less.

[00:16:23] Ramit: Mm.

[00:16:24] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:16:25] Ramit: Okay. Well, I appreciate you sharing that. You know what? I agree with both things you said. We should not be measured by how much we make, and yet society loves to prioritize numbers in a spreadsheet. How much is our paycheck? How’s it stack up to somebody else?

[00:16:44] What’s quantifiable? And people are a little surprised to hear the money guy saying this, but there’s so much more to a Rich Life than how much you have in the bank or certainly how much your paycheck is.


[00:16:59] Ramit: I got to say I totally understand Adrienne’s responses about her money role in their relationship. When she first said it, it sounded defensive. But now I think we can all see her perspective. She’s the one who actually came to their marriage and demanded that Rob pay off his debt. She helped drive that, and now they did it.

[00:17:19] They’ve actually paid off tons of debt, and they have accumulated a large net worth, which is incredibly impressive. And yet, because she doesn’t earn as much money on paper, she acknowledges that he’s the money guy in their relationship. And it’s not fair that in America we see the amount of dollars as the supreme worth of someone.

[00:17:42] You can be earning $0 and still be an amazing partner, an amazing parent, or all the above. This is why I say that money is a small but important part of a Rich Life. It’s not everything. I went back to Rob now to ask him about that 79-dollar charge at the bakery.


[00:18:01] Rob: That’s okay. But if I am at home alone feeling scared about money, then it’s not okay. Then we have a disconnect. And so if I’m worried about whether our money is going to last 30 years, I’m thinking about that, then I would say, yeah, taking a bunch of people out who I don’t know because you want to feel generous doesn’t feel that good to me. Because I’m sitting at home alone thinking about this money.

[00:18:35] Ramit: How long have you been worried about money?

[00:18:39] Rob: I would say I’ve been worried about money for about 57 years. As soon as I became old enough, I really thought that our family was going to run out of money for food. My mom was a saver. My dad was a spender. She was scared, and I grew up scared, thinking our money was going to run out, even though that wasn’t true.

[00:19:02] She told me, in her words, that she was terrified. She said, your father would go out and buy these things that we didn’t need, and I was terrified. I remember writing something for school about how I felt like we were not going to have money for food.

[00:19:20] Ramit: Let’s go back to you being 5, 6, 7 young. What do you remember your parents saying about money around the house?

[00:19:30] Rob: There were probably some arguments, but there was no actual physical violence or anything like that. It was just something I could feel. My dad was a domineering figure, a scary person, moody person in the house, so we all were on our toes, walking around on eggshells, watch out.

[00:19:52] You don’t want to engage dad in a bad mood kind of thing. I don’t remember. I think he liked to be a big shot, and so he would take me to nice restaurants when I was young. I ate in some very nice New York City restaurants as a kid in the ’60s and the ’70s.

[00:20:11] Ramit: Hmm. Did you like it?

[00:20:12] Rob: Yeah, we loved it. Because then our dad was paying attention to us. He got to play the role of the big shot. Yeah, it was fun.

[00:20:18] Ramit: Let’s move forward a little bit to your adolescence, talking 12 to 16.

[00:20:22] Rob: My parents separated when I was 15.

[00:20:25] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:20:27] Rob: They had a series of discussions and then announced they were separating. What I do remember about money at around that era was that we were renting a three-bedroom apartment. I have two brothers. And a lot of my friends lived in the houses, and their parents owned the houses, say a half a mile or a mile away.

[00:20:47] And so I was never really sure where we stood with money, because if you’re comparing yourself to your friends whose parents own a home, we’re living in an apartment– it’s a nice apartment, and I’m not complaining about it at all, but that’s what I remember about our finances back then.

[00:21:07] Ramit: As you got older, as you became an adult, did you go to college?

[00:21:11] Rob: I did.

[00:21:12] Ramit: Okay. How’d you pay for that?

[00:21:13] Rob: Tuition was much cheaper back in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

[00:21:19] Ramit: Wait, wait, wait. Just to enrage everybody listening to this, go ahead and tell everyone how much tuition was back then. Just tell them.

[00:21:26] Rob: Well, my first semester at San Diego State in the fall of 1981, tuition was $205.

[00:21:36] Now, in couple of years before I transferred, I went out of state on the East coast and my dad paid for it. And it was more expensive because it was out state tuition, for sure.

[00:21:49] Ramit: What was that like?

[00:21:50] Rob: I don’t remember the price.

[00:21:51] Ramit: If you say $400, I’m going to lose my mind right now.

[00:21:54] Rob: No, I don’t remember what it was.

[00:21:55] Ramit: It was crazy. It was 400 bucks a semester.

[00:21:58] Rob: Yeah, I don’t know what it was, but my dad at that point was paying alimony, and he wanted me to go to college, but was probably concerned about the finances. That’s why he wanted me to move to California, where he was living and pay the 205.

[00:22:14] Ramit: Got you. In his later part of his life, what was his relationship with money?

[00:22:22] Rob: That is a hard story.

[00:22:24] Ramit: Wow. Just to point out, before you begin your answer, everybody, just notice Adrienne’s nod there. Adrienne clearly clued in on this story. This has clearly been discussed between the two of you, I’m sure. Okay. Go ahead, Rob.

[00:22:36] Rob: Okay. My dad who’s a spender, remarried a woman who was a bigger spender.

[00:22:42] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:22:43] Rob: And that is a cautionary tale. He was making good money when he married her, but at some point, later on in his life, he stopped making that kind of money, and she didn’t stop spending what he was spending. And so they had some financial issues in his later years. There was some real regret. If I get into the psychology of my stepmom, this could take a long time.

[00:23:10] Ramit: She still around?

[00:23:12] Rob: I believe she is.

[00:23:14] Ramit: You don’t have a relationship with her?

[00:23:15] Rob: I do not.

[00:23:16] Ramit: Okay. Did your dad tell you these things as he was older? Like, oh, I’m worried about money. What’d he say to you?

[00:23:25] Rob: I would say that he got sick when he was 59 and a half, major bypass, this and that. He lived to 72. He confided in me that he wished he hadn’t sold his business right after he got sick. The business was a cash cow. And so the last 10 years were rough because once he sold the business, he never made the income again.

[00:23:48] And so they probably fought. I can’t imagine that it was easy, and there was some serious arguments over insurance policies, and so on. That’s why I don’t have a relationship with my stepmom anymore.

[00:24:03] Ramit: Lot of similarities, Rob, between your dad and you. How often have you thought that you’re going to die at age 72?

[00:24:13] Rob: I’ve thought about that because I read somewhere that if your parents don’t live to be a ripe old age, you don’t have a model for living to that, living that long.

[00:24:25] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:24:26] Rob: I don’t think I’m going to die at 72 because I think I’ve had a less stressful life. I’ve really worked pretty hard on my emotional wellbeing.


[00:24:42] Ramit: What really stands out to me here is the role of myths and stories in families. Almost every one of us has a story that has been passed down through our family tree. Maybe it was about an uncle who was an alcoholic, or an entrepreneur who made a bunch of money and gambled it all away, or someone who immigrated to a different country and paid for all her brothers and sisters to join her.

[00:25:05] Those stories are passed down in whispers and phrases. People will say things like, just like your aunt, or she reminds me so much of Uncle Mark, or we all know what happens when you make a bunch of money too fast. These stories are repeated over and over until you start to believe that they are unquestionably true, and then they calcify into invisible scripts which are beliefs so deep you don’t even realize they’re there.

[00:25:31] If you are trying to get good with money, you will eventually have to interrogate your own family beliefs about money. One good way to do this, if you want a shortcut right now, is to simply jot down the stories you’ve heard about family members in your life. What lessons were passed down about other family members and their relationships with money?

[00:25:50] Let’s take a quick break to hear from our sponsors

[00:25:54] Let’s get back to our conversation with Rob and Adrienne


[00:25:57] Ramit: Your dad had a business. You have a business. Your dad worried about money. You worry about money. Your dad had a new wife who spent a lot. You have your first wife, Adrienne. Do you worry about Adrienne’s spending?

[00:26:19] Rob: I do, but not because she’s like my stepmom. My stepmom would spend $1,000 a night in a hotel. Adrienne’s not like that.

[00:26:28] Ramit: What about $80 at a bakery?

[00:26:33] Rob: Generally not. I think we have a rule. Anything less than $100, we don’t have to discuss.

[00:26:38] Ramit: Wait a minute. When did you come up with that rule?

[00:26:41] Rob: We’ve had that for a while.

[00:26:42] Ramit: Wait, 80 is less than 100, so how do you reconcile that?

[00:26:49] Rob: I don’t falter for spending the $80 without asking. I think I was just feeling bad that I was home alone worried about money at the same time.

[00:26:59] Ramit: Okay. Fair enough. Although, Rob, this whole conversation began with me asking you how long you’ve been worried about money. You said 57 years. So when you say I was at home worried about money, that’s the behavior you’ve become accustomed to for decades, right?

[00:27:17] Rob: Yeah.

[00:27:18] Ramit: If you’re breathing oxygen, you’re worried about money.

[00:27:20] Rob: And that’s why I applied to come onto your podcast.

[00:27:23] Ramit: Mm. You’ve detected that fear from Rob about money?

[00:27:27] Adrienne: Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:27:28] Ramit: What does he say that makes you think he’s fearful of money?

[00:27:32] Adrienne: Pretty much every single year, especially when we owned our house previously, he would sit me down, and he would look at me very intently, and he would say, my business is not going well. Things are going terribly. This is not going to work out.

[00:27:57] Ramit: Okay.

[00:27:58] Adrienne: And then I would say, okay, well, let’s move to a lower cost place, or let’s sell the house, or whatever feels good to you, because I want you to feel comfortable. Then he would make a ton of money, and everything would be okay again. We’ve done that for years, and now I just think of it as the weather, like it’s going to happen. He’s going to tell me about how scared he is and how freaked out he is, and then generally everything’s going to be okay again.

[00:28:28] Ramit: How many years have you done that for?

[00:28:30] Adrienne: Quite a few. Since he had his business, for sure.

[00:28:34] Ramit: How many years? 1, 5, 10? How many?

[00:28:36] Rob: 15.

[00:28:36] Adrienne: 15.

[00:28:38] Rob: 15 years in business.

[00:28:40] Adrienne: The funny thing is when he first started his business, he was like, the business isn’t going to work out. And then it just became really successful. And like, fine, whatever.

[00:28:52] Ramit: Adrienne, do you like this dance that Rob does with you regarding money and his business?

[00:29:02] Adrienne: I don’t love it. It brings fear into my body, and I start to feel like– I look at the numbers, and I feel confident in general because I know that Rob is better at math than I am. I start to wonder about my sanity and think, do I not know how much money we have? Am I wrong?

[00:29:29] I go back to, I feel super grateful for what we have. I bring myself back to, I feel really grateful. We have what we have. I know we’re going to eat tonight. I know everything’s okay. I know we’re okay. So I just start to bring myself back to, there’s nothing we can’t handle.

[00:29:51] Ramit: Adrienne, are you religious?

[00:29:53] Adrienne: I’m a spiritual person.

[00:29:55] Ramit: Thank you for helping me understand. Rob, what do you think about Adrienne’s characterization of this dance that you do?

[00:30:04] Rob: I agree that it’s cyclical, that sometimes I feel scared about money and sometimes I don’t. It’s changed over time. Fifteen years ago, when we were in debt, I worried constantly about paying the debt off, balance transfers, robbing Peter to pay Paul, all kinds of things like that. Now the fear has shifted into a more long-term, low-level fear of, is this money going to last 30 years for us?

[00:30:34] Ramit: Mm-hmm. And Rob you are 62 years old. Hey, Rob, when do you get to stop worrying about money?

[00:30:46] Rob: Oh boy. I hope right after this conversation.

[00:30:49] Ramit: That’s it? Just one phone call?

[00:30:53] Rob: Yeah. Can you wave the magic wand? I don’t know.

[00:30:57] Ramit: Well, I’m curious. If it just took one call, and I hope that I can help– that’s my goal– why not have this conversation with somebody else 14 years ago?

[00:31:13] Rob: Well, 14 years ago, looking back on it seemed like there really was something to worry about. If you owe $60,000 to the banks, and your income is not that high like it was 16 years ago, that’s scary. To me, thinking back on it, it feels scary.

[00:31:29] Ramit: Are you scared right now?


[00:31:33] Ramit: Notice the story Rob tells himself. He’s been worrying about money for 57 years, and for the last 15 years, he sat Adrienne down and told her, “This is going to be a horrible year.” And when I ask him about that, his answer is, “Yes, I agree that it’s cyclical.” Cyclical. Nice choice of words. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious.

[00:31:56] See, Rob thinks that this conversation will change his feelings about money. And deep down, I suspect that Rob– in fact, Rob and Adrienne believe that if I show them some magic number, they will feel better. Well, I am going to show them numbers. I will answer their question about whether they will have enough, and I’ll answer it very precisely. But I can tell you that numbers alone rarely change feelings.


[00:32:22] Ramit: Do you think that everyone worries about money?

[00:32:23] Rob: No. People might have more faith than I do that everything’s going to work out okay. I come from a family where disaster was right around the corner or expected right around the corner kind of thing.

[00:32:42] Ramit: Your mom, what is her relationship with money now?

[00:32:46] Rob: She is still scared. Look at her face.

[00:32:50] Ramit: I see that, Adrienne.

[00:32:52] Rob: Adrienne will tell you that my mom is– my mom has a million dollars in a Vanguard account and still likes to shop at the Dollar Store.

[00:33:03] Ramit: Mm-hmm. What do you think of that?

[00:33:05] Rob: It seems crazy. She’s 83 years old.

[00:33:09] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:33:10] Rob: It seems like she can afford to fly first class, shop at any fancy store she wants. But her goal is to leave money for her grandkids and her kids. I can respect that.

[00:33:25] Ramit: Rob, you have a lot more than that in your investment account. Wouldn’t you say you were a little concerned about $80 at the bakery?

[00:33:34] Rob: Yes. I think it got wrapped up into feeling alone.

[00:33:37] Ramit: Adrienne, when I asked Rob, what is his mom’s current relationship with money, you really lit up.

[00:33:45] Adrienne: Oh, I just know what she’s like. She is interesting because she can be really generous. She’ll buy us dinner and all of those kinds of things, but she’ll drive way out of the way to go to Costco to get gas.

[00:34:02] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:34:03] Adrienne: Because it’s the cheapest gas.

[00:34:05] Ramit: Why does she do it?

[00:34:06] Adrienne: She just thinks it’s the best way to live. And I remember she was telling me that she wanted to take all this money out of the market because the market had gone up and she wanted to take all this money out and take it off the table. It was like this gambling thing.

[00:34:26] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:34:27] Adrienne: I said, why would you do that? Leave it in there? It’s going to go up and down. Why even worry about it? Just let it go up and down. I Think Rob brought different qualities to our relationship in terms of it’s like an expansion and a contraction.

[00:34:48] There’s these moments where Rob is so confident about, we’re going to be fine, and we’ve got this, and we’ve done such a great job, and I’m so grateful, and everything’s going great, to this plummet of everything’s going terribly. It’s not going to work out. We’ve got to quit spending. So it’s a roller coaster, say, effect.

[00:35:18] Ramit: Do you remember the words that he used to describe his dad?

[00:35:22] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:35:23] Ramit: What were the words? Started emotional something.

[00:35:26] Adrienne: Well, walking on eggshells with his dad.

[00:35:29] Ramit: Uh-huh. What else? The emotional instability, something that. Any this sound familiar?

[00:35:37] Adrienne: Yeah. We’ve got a little bit of that going on.

[00:35:40] Ramit: It’s different, right?

[00:35:41] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:35:42] Ramit: Rob, from what I heard, you’re maybe not the angry guy, but walking on eggshells, like, oh-oh, Rob is here with his beginning of the year freak out about money. I’m going to walk on eggshells. I’m going to learn how to deal with him, because it’s that time of the year.

[00:35:59] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:35:59] Ramit: Right?

[00:36:00] Adrienne: Mm-hmm.

[00:36:00] Ramit: And then the ups and the downs you mentioned, Adrienne, it affects you. It’s quite negative for you. It even makes you question your sanity, is how you put it.

[00:36:10] Adrienne: Mm-hmm. Sure.

[00:36:11] Ramit: Rob, what do you think about this?

[00:36:14] Rob: I apologize for doing that to you. I’d be happy not to do that anymore.

[00:36:23] Ramit: I’m not here to blame you, for sure. I don’t even think Adrienne’s blaming you. I just want to see if you see that connection and if you agree with that connection.

[00:36:33] Rob: I would agree.

[00:36:35] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Have you ever made that connection before?

[00:36:40] Rob: Maybe not quite this clearly.


[00:36:43] Ramit: There are some obvious parallels here between Rob and his dad. I wonder what that might mean for the rest of the money dynamic that we’re going to talk about.

[00:36:51] And now a quick message from our sponsors

[00:36:55] Listen now as I ask Adrienne about her family.


[00:36:59] Adrienne: My parents had a very separate relationship with money. My dad was also the one in charge of the money. He also made the majority of the money, and he was also very terrified about money as well.

[00:37:17] Ramit: Why?

[00:37:18] Adrienne: He grew up in the Great Depression. He was 13 years older than my mom, so he grew up in a generation completely different than hers. He just had a lot of fears around it. We would go out to dinner, say, for example, and my brother loved to order the most expensive thing on the menu, not because of the price, but because he was like, I love shrimp. So he would order the shrimp, and I would look at the menu and, I know what was going on in my dad’s mind and his heart, and I would try to order the least expensive thing.

[00:38:00] Yeah, that was a lot. That was going on with how they felt around money. And my mom started to make her own money. All of her money went to fun, went to all the fun things. If we were going to go on vacation, my mom paid for vacation. If we were going to do anything fun, my mom paid for all of the fun. They kept their money completely separately, and my dad paid for everything else, I think, basically.

[00:38:32] Ramit: Pretty unusual for that time, right? That they would be keeping money separate. What do you make of that?

[00:38:39] Adrienne: They knew they were having a lot of fights, and that was their way of resolving the fights.

[00:38:45] Ramit: Oh wow. So they were having fights, and they said, as a result, we’re going to keep money separate. You do your thing over here, and I’m responsible for this thing over here.

[00:38:55] Adrienne: My dad’s a really interesting guy because my dad has a big heart, and he always made sure the servers got a good tip, and he always made sure that people around him felt a lot of his love and light with that. But with us, he was constantly in fear.

[00:39:23] And it was also very difficult to know what was real because my mom would say like, oh, he is just being insane. And my dad would be like, nobody’s listening to me. I don’t know. So there was just a lot of–

[00:39:40] Ramit: Can I ask a question?

[00:39:41] Adrienne: Yes.

[00:39:42] Ramit: You mentioned, it’s hard to know what was real.

[00:39:46] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:39:47] Ramit: You sometimes feel that way when Rob comes to you and says, business is going in the toilet, and then you find out he made tons of money?

[00:39:55] Adrienne: Yes. I felt really comfortable when I found Suze Orman, and she had all these rules.

[00:40:06] Ramit: You like rules, huh?

[00:40:07] Adrienne: I do like them. And it felt really comforting to me to be like, oh, there’s these rules, and you can follow them. And when you follow them, everything will work out fine.

[00:40:20] Ramit: Just explain to me for a second, because I want to make sure I understand. I’m guessing you don’t just love rules with money. I’m guessing you like structure in many other parts of life. Is that correct?

[00:40:32] Adrienne: I do. I like structure because it does make me feel safe. Yeah, for sure.

[00:40:39] Ramit: Safe?

[00:40:40] Adrienne: Well, because when there’s a structure, you can trust it.

[00:40:44] Ramit: Ah, so someone somewhere created this rule.

[00:40:48] Adrienne: Mm-hmm.

[00:40:49] Ramit: And I know if I follow this rule, then what?

[00:40:53] Adrienne: You’re going to have enough money. For example, if I’m following, say, nutrition rules say as well, then I’ll just be like, well, if you’re eating good, then you’re going to have good health. If you are following these money rules, your money’s going to be okay.

[00:41:13] Ramit: Does Rob feel the same way about rules? Does he like that same level of structure? Oh, you’re laughing.

[00:41:19] Adrienne: I’m just laughing because he likes to break the rules a lot.

[00:41:27] Ramit: He’s an entrepreneur. He has probably a different relationship with rules. Rob, is that fair to say?

[00:41:34] Rob: Yeah, I looked at a lot of rules as hurdles to get around.

[00:41:40] Ramit: Yeah. I like it. I feel the same way. It’s so interesting, Adrienne, talking to you. And as you got older, do you remember them saying anything about money, talking to you differently as you became like 12, 13, 15, 16 years old about money?

[00:41:56] Adrienne: The biggest thing was there was this implication that my brother and I would not do well, that we were lazy, this whole thing.

[00:42:11] Ramit: Right. Okay.

[00:42:13] Adrienne: I don’t know. I did a lot of things. I became a massage therapist. I put myself through massage school. I came out as a massage therapist. I started making money, and then I told my dad I was a massage therapist. He was like, oh, you’re making money. Good.

[00:42:28] Ramit: That’s surprising. I would’ve expected him just from what you’re telling me to say, that’s dumb. Why don’t you do this instead?

[00:42:38] Adrienne: No, no. If I was making money, he was going to be okay. But the whole idea of the run up to making money was not going to be okay with them. The going to school and becoming something, that may or may not work out. That was not going to be okay. I just knew once I got there, if I just said, hey, guess what? I’m making a lot of money, and I’m a massage therapist. He be like, oh, great.

[00:43:01] Ramit: Mm. Did you become good at knowing what to do and say around your dad and knowing what not to do and say around him?

[00:43:10] Adrienne: It took me a second to figure out how to be with my dad when I was a kid, because we definitely had some clashes, for sure. But I am really woo. My dad’s a Leo.

[00:43:24] Ramit: What? What the hell? What’s that?

[00:43:28] Adrienne: Astrologically, my dad’s a Leo.

[00:43:30] Ramit: Yeah. So what does that mean?

[00:43:32] Adrienne: What it means is, if you are nice and you tell them all the great things about them, they’re going to be nice to you.

[00:43:41] Ramit: Wait, I’m a Leo according to that. Let’s talk about money. I’m a lot more comfortable over there.

[00:43:47] Adrienne: Okay.

[00:43:51] Ramit: All right. So we talked about your childhood. Your dad passed away. Your mom’s relationship with money, what is it now?

[00:43:59] Adrienne: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. When I started learning about money, I would say to my mom, let’s talk about it. I know all these things now. Let’s talk about what’s going on with your money. And my mom was like, I’m not good at it. I’m not good at it. So she would just be like, it’s not something I can do. So what was happening was when my dad passed, she had given all her money to this–

[00:44:28] Ramit: Oh, no.

[00:44:29] Adrienne: One of those guys who takes the 1% in everything.

[00:44:32] Ramit: Do you remember the company?

[00:44:33] Adrienne: I don’t remember his name. I just remember my mom kept saying, well, we’re friends. And I was like, you’re not friends with this guy. You are not friends with this guy.

[00:44:43] Rob: We managed to wrestle the accounts away from him and put her in a Vanguard.

[00:44:48] Ramit: Wow. Good job.

[00:44:48] Adrienne: Yeah.

[00:44:50] Ramit: That’s great.

[00:44:51] Adrienne: We did that with both our moms. Both of the moms are with us. We’re the brokerage now.

[00:44:56] Ramit: Good job. I have a question. Adrienne, I’m very impressed. Would you consider yourself good with money?

[00:45:02] Adrienne: I don’t consider myself good with math, but I do understand a lot about concepts. I know what Vanguard is. I know what the 4% rule is. I know a Roth IRA versus a 401k. I know what all of these concepts are.

[00:45:20] Ramit: Can I ask you the question again, Adrienne? Would you consider yourself good with money?

[00:45:30] Adrienne: I think for who I am and my right brain, artist mind, I am excellent at money.

[00:45:39] Ramit: Wow. All right. Caveats and all, fine.


[00:45:45] Ramit: There’s literally years of details to uncover in what Adrienne just told me, how her dad would say one thing and do another, how her mom and dad spent money differently, and how she sees herself as kind of good with money, but loaded up with all kinds of caveats. What I especially want to draw your attention to is how much your relationship with money can affect your children.

[00:46:10] Because her parents didn’t know how to handle money, Adrienne grew up in a ton of uncertainty. That’s probably one reason she loves rules, because as she put it, rules make her feel safe. She married someone who, like her dad, swung wildly with his moods around money. And of course, she learned how to tiptoe around him, just like she did with her dad. Be very thoughtful about how you behave around money because you will send a message to your children that will echo for generations.


[00:46:45] Ramit: I want to understand a little bit more about your history together with money. I understand that after Suze Orman, you got into the FIRE community.

[00:46:52] Rob: Right. I started reading FIRE blogs and reading personal finance blogs. For the last 10 years, I’ve been online reading about finance.

[00:47:00] Adrienne: Rob showed me an article in the New York Times that Mr. Money Mustache was in, and he said, this might help us with investing. Because previously, we’ve been following Suze Orman’s advice on investing, and it was a disaster. It was not working at all. And once we started to understand or started to work with the FIRE movement, we thought, oh, well, we won’t be able to retire early, but maybe we can retire actually. That would actually happen.

[00:47:40] And because we had a short period of time, a short window or shorter window to do it in, that seemed like it was going to be really helpful. So Rob would show me a lot of different articles from the FIRE movement, and I read anything that he was showing me. There’s meetups once in a while, so we would go to some FIRE meetups.

[00:48:04] Ramit: Do you like it?

[00:48:07] Adrienne: I do like it. I think it’s really amazing. I think it’s always really interesting because my people are not there. I am the only one there who’s a massage therapist or an artist. Everyone is a tech person or super smarty pants people and everything.

[00:48:28] Ramit: So how long were you involved with the FIRE Movement?

[00:48:31] Rob: I would say I was 52, and we left Austin when I was 60, so eight years we were doing these meetups probably. I started reading about FIRE at 52.

[00:48:44] Ramit: Great. So you said at 52, we may not be able to FIRE, that is retire early, but we can certainly increase our savings rate. We can start to invest aggressively. We can cut our costs, and at least hopefully we’ll be able to get a line of sight on retirement at all. Okay. Went to the meetups. Great. What happened at the end of eight years?

[00:49:07] Rob: We moved.

[00:49:08] Ramit: Okay. Adrienne, what was your journey after FIRE?

[00:49:11] Adrienne: Your ideas actually came into our view after FIRE, because I thought it was really interesting. Well, it was interesting we saw you in Austin.

[00:49:23] Ramit: Oh, at the book talk that I did.

[00:49:25] Adrienne: At the book talk that you– at BookPeople.

[00:49:27] Rob: Yeah.

[00:49:28] Adrienne: I was so annoyed because you are telling people they could keep drinking coffee or whatever. And I was like, little things matter. I felt really passionate about it at that point. I was like, little things matter.

[00:49:46] Ramit: Woo. You disagreed with me? I like that. So what was it, that little FIRE voice in the back of your head? Ah, it’s actually not $3 anymore, Ramit. We did index for inflation. It’s actually $3.85. And if you compound that for 95 years, it actually turns into $10,011. Like that?

[00:50:02] Adrienne: Well, absolutely that, and also because my journey as a massage therapist, I had to give up some small things in order for me to pay off my debt. And I knew that that had worked for me. So I guess there was a part of me that was like, who’s this guy? Who does he know?

[00:50:23] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:50:25] Adrienne: But then after a while, after we had amassed a larger amount of money and all of those kinds of things, I started to think, well, what’s this guilt-free spending? Is that a thing? Can we have that?

[00:50:46] Ramit: Was it just having more money, or was there something else?

[00:50:49] Adrienne: I think getting older, you realize like you don’t have as much time left, so you’re coming out of this survival mode into a place where you’re in more of a freedom place. You want more freedom. I think all of those things were shifting inside of me.

[00:51:14] And I also felt confident that no matter what, we could always cut our spending, if we needed to, so I just felt really confident in us. I believed in us. I believed that we could do what we needed to do, no matter what came towards us, because I had seen it before. And then I like rules, and you’re like, maybe 10% of your spending could be guilt-free. And I was like, that seems cool, seems exciting.

[00:51:50] Ramit: Awesome. Okay, cool. It is interesting though, Adrienne, you were in credit card debt before a lot, and then you decided I’m making a change. You spent several years paying it off. So you were highly engaged with your money before you got married, right?

[00:52:06] Adrienne: Mm-hmm. Yes.

[00:52:08] Ramit: This was what, in your 40s?

[00:52:10] Adrienne: Mm-hmm

[00:52:11] Ramit: Okay. It’s difficult to turn around credit card debt at that age aggressively, which you did.

[00:52:18] Adrienne: Mm-hmm.

[00:52:19] Ramit: So you were highly engaged, but now you’re less engaged. Did that change when you got married?

[00:52:25] Adrienne: Not right away.

[00:52:28] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:52:29] Adrienne: I let Rob be more engaged with our money because it seemed like his zone of genius. And we always had a money date every month, and we always went through our net worth, and we went through everything, and we looked at it. And so I knew where everything was. I knew what we were doing. I’m not in the dark about anything. I know absolutely what we’re doing. I know our money’s in Vanguard. I know it’s in Fidelity. I know where–

[00:53:00] Ramit: Do you still have these money dates every month?

[00:53:03] Adrienne: Now we have them a little bit more sporadically, but we do go back to them.

[00:53:08] Ramit: Okay. I appreciate that. How often are we talking about?

[00:53:11] Adrienne: It’s now, what, quarterly maybe.

[00:53:14] Rob: Quarterly, probably. Yeah, maybe quarterly.

[00:53:17] Ramit: Maybe less. Is it on the calendar?

[00:53:20] Rob: It’s not on the calendar, and what I would say, sometimes it feels like I’ve got to drag you to the computer to do it.

[00:53:33] Ramit: Talk to Adrienne, Rob.

[00:53:35] Rob: I think this is where I’ve continued to take responsibility for this stuff, and maybe you just decided that that’s okay, since the pandemic, since we’ve had all this money. We sold our house in Austin a couple years ago. We made a lot of money on it. Took all the cash, and invested it. I don’t know. It feels like since then something shifted.

[00:54:03] It’s funny. I think since we’ve sold the house, moved away, had 2 million bucks in the bank, we’re floating these last couple of years. There’s this transition to like, okay, well, we’ve made it. We don’t have to push as hard. But there’s certain things that we haven’t been doing. It’s a very strange feeling to be on cruise control, I guess. And that’s what these last couple of years has felt like, in a way.

[00:54:33] Ramit: Is there something you want to change about that, Rob?

[00:54:38] Rob: This conversation’s making me think, well, maybe this is why I’m obsessing about this, as opposed to just looking at it and having Adrienne also look at it at the same time so that I don’t have to feel like we’re not on the same page. Maybe we should put it on the calendar for a quarterly date where we go through the net worth again. Like we used to do monthly, just do it quarterly.

[00:55:06] Ramit: It’s easy. Adrienne, you good with that?

[00:55:09] Adrienne: Absolutely. Yeah. I want to do that.

[00:55:12] Ramit: Rob, I like that you are asking for something specific. First, you asked for a quarterly meeting. Adrienne was like, yeah, all right. Notice that it has nothing to do with anybody ignoring money or anything like that. It’s just that one person has taken on increasing amounts of it. That’s you, Rob. And then Adrienne, you created a story, which may or may not be true, about, this is Rob’s zone of genius. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

[00:55:40] I know he tells me he obsesses and worries about money almost every day. That’s not healthy. So perhaps there’s a renegotiation that needs to happen here with one person taking on a little bit more of the load. Does that sound fair to both of you?

[00:55:57] Rob: Yes.

[00:55:57] Ramit: All right. I am curious about after Susie Orman. So you both had debt. Adrienne, you had, what, $35,000 or so of debt? Am I remembering that right?

[00:56:06] Adrienne: Mm-hmm.

[00:56:07] Ramit: Okay. And Rob, how much debt did you have when you were about to get married?

[00:56:11] Rob: 60.

[00:56:12] Ramit: 60k. All right. That’s a lot. So Adrienne, you paid off your debt. And then, Rob, you were like, hey, I have 60k of debt. Better tell you before we get married. And then what’d you all decide?

[00:56:25] Rob: Adi committed to help me paying it off. That was the agreement that we would pool our money, pay it off together. Took a couple of years to pay it off.

[00:56:38] Ramit: That’s it? Two years?

[00:56:40] Rob: Yeah, we were pretty frugal back then. And so we didn’t go out to eat, and we set up a game where if we paid off 10,000 of debt, or if we saved 10,000 after we became solvent, then we would go out to eat once we saved 10 grand.

[00:56:58] Ramit: I love it. I got to say this for the world because a lot of people think Ramit’s Sethi’s like, oh, everybody, go spend on all these expensive clothes while you have all this debt. I’m like, you can live a Rich Life today and a richer life tomorrow, even if you’re in debt. But I have to tell you, when I see people with 25, 30, $40,000 of credit card debt and they’re eating out a ton, or they’re taking a huge family trip to Disneyland, it’s their money. It’s their choice. But I just think to myself, I wouldn’t do this.

[00:57:26] But gosh, two years to pay off 60k in debt. I love that you both said, we made it a game. That is amazing. It wasn’t like, oh, this sucks. Boo-hoo. It’s going to suck for us all. You’re like, oh, we’re going to crush this. And then you even made rules for yourself where you could win, like every 10,000, we get to go out to dinner. Textbook. Amazing work. Great job. I have to give you a round of applause. That’s so impressive. What did it feel like once you finished paying that debt off?

[00:57:57] Rob: Well, I can tell you the date that we paid it off was December 8th, 2008.

[00:58:04] Ramit: Wow.

[00:58:05] Rob: Yeah, it was two years from when we go–

[00:58:06] Ramit: How do you know that?

[00:58:08] Adrienne: Because of the yellow sheets.

[00:58:10] Rob: Show him yellow sheet.

[00:58:10] Ramit: What is that? Tell me.

[00:58:11] Rob: You want me to show you?

[00:58:11] Ramit: Yeah. What is that?

[00:58:14] Rob: This is 18 years’ worth of our finances right here on these yellow sheets.

[00:58:18] Ramit: Wait, hold that up. Hold that. What is it? What am I looking at here? Numbers?

[00:58:22] Rob: Now you’re looking at our net worth, which is much higher.

[00:58:25] Ramit: Oh, okay. All right.

[00:58:26] Rob: Yeah, we write it out every month for a long time.

[00:58:29] Ramit: Pull the bottom one. Let’s just read those numbers off. The first one there.

[00:58:33] Rob: A couple of pages have been taken away. This is $45,000 of debt where we had 72,000 in credit card debt and 26 grand in the bank. And so this one from June 5th, 2006. So it took about two and half years to pay it off.

[00:58:52] Ramit: Hold on. First of all, these papers are archival. These could be found in the Smithsonian. I’ve never seen something this detailed. Amazing. Well done.

[00:59:03] Rob: Yeah. I’ve had way too many bank accounts through the years. I’ve had way too many credit cards through the years. I’ve done the hacking thing. I’ve done the churning thing. I’ve done balance transfers way back when they were a better deal than they were today.

[00:59:18] Ramit: When you look at these pieces of paper, Rob, what do you feel?

[00:59:22] Rob: I actually really feel proud of us that we were able to document this journey from being 60k in debt, all the way to being virtually able to retire.

[00:59:31] Ramit: Do you still maintain these yellow pages?

[00:59:35] Rob: I’ve got them at a bottom of a drawer. And yeah, we’ll continue to make them quarterly. I have certain things on a spreadsheet. I’ve got our monthly expenses mapped out on a spreadsheet, but I don’t have our net worth.

[00:59:50] Ramit: Rob, what do you get out of it?

[00:59:53] Rob: It tells a story really.

[00:59:55] Ramit: What is the story?

[00:59:56] Rob: The story is we went from 60k in debt. Our net worth is $2 million. Yeah, it’s miraculous. Feels miraculous. The miraculous story.

[01:00:07] Ramit: I love it.

[01:00:09] Rob: Took two people busting their ass for quite a few years to make it realistic.

[01:00:14] Ramit: Together.

[01:00:15] Rob: Yes.

[01:00:16] Ramit: As a team. Beautiful.

[01:00:17] Rob: Yes.

[01:00:18] Ramit: Now, here’s my question for both of you. What story do you want those yellow pages to tell now? You’ve done the miraculous thing. You paid off the debt. You’ve made a bunch of money. What is the next chapter of those yellow pages going to tell you?

[01:00:36] Rob: I hope that if I do a yellow sheet 20 years from now, that it’s going to show enough money so that we’ll have– we don’t have kids. We don’t have anybody to leave this money to. I hope it’s going to show enough money that there’ll be 10 or 20 years’ worth of assets there that can still be spent and that we’ve maintained our lifestyle through it all.

[01:01:03] Adrienne: I hope those yellow sheets tell the story of our freedom, that we have a lot of freedom to be able to do things that we want to do, that we’ve been able to give money to charities, that we’ve been able to spend money on people we love, that we’ve been able to spend money on ourselves. It’s just that we had a really, well, a Rich Life, actually. But in all ways, not just money ways, but we enjoyed this life. That’s the story I want it to tell.


[01:01:41] Ramit: What’s beautiful about these yellow pages is that to an outside observer, they’re just a stack of random pieces of paper. But to Rob and Adrienne, they tell their life story. They tell a story of adversity, and hard work, and triumph. And I have to say, I’m very impressed at what they’ve accomplished together. My job now is to help them make meaning out of what they’ve accomplished. In other words, to ask them now what?


[01:02:08] Rob: The limitation of the yellow pages is that it’s really just numbers in bank a account.

[01:02:12] Ramit: Huh? It is?

[01:02:14] Rob: It is in the sense of it doesn’t show expenses. It doesn’t show the trip we took to Tahiti last year.

[01:02:20] Ramit: Why? Why not?

[01:02:22] Rob: Because it’s just listing our net worth and what we have in the accounts now. Our expense sheet is somewhere else. But you’re trying to tell me–

[01:02:32] Ramit: Keep going. Keep going.

[01:02:36] Rob: I can look at our expense sheet and tell a story about how we’re living a Rich Life, where we’re spending our money. When I look at the yellow sheet, I just see what we have, what we say. That’s what’s on the yellow sheet.

[01:02:51] Ramit: Rob, do you think Adrienne has ever had a vision board in her life? Because laughing we both know the answer. She probably has one in her room right now. It’s 10 feet tall. Am I right, Adrienne?

[01:03:06] Adrienne: It’s not 10 feet tall. It about–

[01:03:08] Rob: Turn the camera around. Turn the camera around.

[01:03:11] Ramit: It’s got like different textures. She’s got a silk thing from Kyoto. Okay. I know.

[01:03:18] She just gave you two gigantic clues, which I find very interesting. Number one, she has a vision board. Number two, she said, I want the yellow pages to tell the story of our life, not just the math, but– what was the rest of the thing she said?

[01:03:32] Adrienne: Yeah. Our freedom.

[01:03:33] Rob: That we had freedom. That we were generous. That we lived a Rich Life.

[01:03:38] Ramit: But I don’t know many people who get a lot of joy from looking at their expense sheet. Oh, Tahiti was so cool. We spent $82 at that dinner one night. No, that’s not how you create a memory. You create a memory by looking at your videos, looking at your photos, maybe the little notepad from the hotel.

[01:03:57] And I just wonder, in these yellow pages, which tell a beautiful, beautiful story that you’re both proud of, and I love it– I’m proud of it too– is might there be a way in the next chapter of your life to keep focusing on the big numbers, but also start to incorporate the stuff that you love?

[01:04:17] Rob: Yeah, yeah. I can see that. I’ve got great pictures of Tahiti on my phone, and I also know it costs nine grand to go to Tahiti for a month last year.

[01:04:27] Ramit: I’m less interested in how much that costs. I think for the purposes of this, Adrienne would probably be more interested in a few beautiful photos and memorabilia on those yellow pages. Adrienne, am I reaching here?

[01:04:43] Adrienne: No, I agree. I felt really sad when we got home from Tahiti, because I had enjoyed it so much, and I trusted that Rob knew the numbers and that we could afford it. And when we got home, he said, oh my God, what did we do? We spent so much. Oh my gosh. And then immediately, I felt like, oh, I can’t enjoy this memory anymore because we blew it.

[01:05:16] Rob: Fear level was up. I had lost a client when we were on the trip. First quarter of the year is generally slower, so we went in February. So I think I just came home and started worrying.

[01:05:29] Ramit: Feel out of control with money?

[01:05:33] Rob: Well, if you go away for four weeks and spend extra couple thousand bucks, it can feel out of control.

[01:05:40] Ramit: Do you notice the times that you act in a peculiar way with money? There are times that you do not feel in control.

[01:05:46] Rob: Yeah.

[01:05:47] Ramit: So every time you are feeling out of control and worried, you bring it to Adrienne in very unusual, often disproportionate ways. Adrienne, you’re nodding your head a lot.

[01:06:02] Adrienne: Yeah. I think because Rob works out of the house, and I am definitely the sounding board if things are not going well.

[01:06:18] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[01:06:19] Adrienne: For sure.

[01:06:20] Ramit: How often do you log into the apps and credit cards, and all that stuff?

[01:06:25] Rob: I would say, now, probably every other day, every third day sometimes.

[01:06:29] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[01:06:30] Rob: I would love to ignore the money the way that Adrienne or her mom does, and not so much ignore it, but not worry about it, not think about it. If I could stop thinking about it all the time, I would be really happy. And I have made some steps to do that, and it’s really incredibly difficult to break a habit like that.

[01:06:54] Ramit: What steps have you taken?

[01:06:57] Rob: Well, it was looking at all the bank accounts and credit card statements every day, and now it’s every second or third day.

[01:07:04] Ramit: Okay.

[01:07:05] Rob: It’s evolved. And even relationship with my phone has shifted in the last few months, where I’ve turned the notifications off, so I’m not responding quite as quickly as I used to.

[01:07:17] Ramit: Rob, how many financial apps do you have on your phone?

[01:07:20] Rob: The financial apps, I seem to have 10 of them.

[01:07:23] Ramit: I seem to have. The app God drop them onto my phone. Vanguard God, thank you.

[01:07:30] Rob: I have 10.

[01:07:32] Ramit: Ten fucking apps? What?

[01:07:34] Rob: I only use a couple of them.

[01:07:35] Ramit: What apps? Read them to me.

[01:07:37] Rob: Vanguard, Capital One, Discover, Chase, Venmo, American Express, City, Bluevine, Alliant, and Fidelity. But I only use a couple of these. I log in on the laptop all the time.

[01:07:47] Ramit: A lot of times when I find people stuck in the weeds, it’s somebody who has a very small amount of money. They often are doing what you used to do. You mentioned robbing Peter to pay Paul, transferring over here, not over there. Oh, I hope this check doesn’t get cleared today. That’s common for people who don’t have a lot of money. That’s not your situation.

[01:08:08] Rob: You’re at the opposite end, and yet you are still behaving as if you are poor. And what that tells me is the way we feel about money is highly uncorrelated to how much we’ve got in the bank, which is why you continue those behaviors, which is directly related to how you feel about money. Fixing the behaviors won’t change your feelings, but they’ll certainly help. 

[01:08:34] Rob: We sold our house, and that shifted our finances tremendously.

[01:08:37] Ramit: Did you make a lot of money?

[01:08:39] Rob: We did. We lived in a house for 11 and a half years. We bought for 385, and we sold for 875.

[01:08:48] Ramit: Great. All right.

[01:08:50] Rob: Yeah. So we pocketed it and hit the road. We just moved and invested all of it right into our Vanguard investment. What did we do with the house money? I bought a new car when we got here. I needed a new car. We bought a car.

[01:09:08] Ramit: Yeah. So what’d you put in? 350, 400,000 into the market?

[01:09:12] Rob: Oh no, we doubled, maybe 800 grand. We cleared 815, probably 750 of it went into the market.

[01:09:24] Ramit: Did you dollar cost average it, or did you lump sum it all?

[01:09:27] Rob: No, I lump summed it. I would’ve made more if we dollar cost averaged it, maybe, but I had read that lump summing is better.

[01:09:38] Ramit: It’s better two thirds of the time. It’s better two thirds of the time. I always like to ask because, big amounts of money like that, first time people put in a big amount of money, it could be 25,000. It could be 800,000. They’re usually really nervous.

[01:09:53] Rob: Yeah. We just doubled what was in our portfolio overnight. So we had already had the asset allocation. We stuck with the asset allocation. I just doubled everything that was in there.

[01:10:03] Ramit: Fantastic. Rob, do you feel confident that you can start to enjoy some of the money that you’ve accumulated or no?

[01:10:12] Rob: I do, and I have been trying to loosen up. It’s funny. It’s like deceiving. I think I’m less fearful, but then when we’re talking today, it seems like I’m still really fearful. But we have spent a lot more money in the last couple of years. We spent more money last year than we ever have before by a 50% more.

[01:10:36] Ramit: Did you enjoy it?

[01:10:41] Rob: Yes, and then I get scared later. I’d say, at the end of the year, when I look and see we spent 80,000 more than we made, I get scared or start to question whether this is sustainable for the next 20, 30 years.

[01:10:57] Ramit: When you talk about your Rich Life together, what are some of the things? Adrienne first, then Rob.

[01:11:03] Adrienne: I think we’re more in the thinking stages around what that means. I don’t know that we’ve created a team effort around it as much as we could have.

[01:11:17] Ramit: Want to do it right now?

[01:11:19] Adrienne: Sure.

[01:11:21] Ramit: Go ahead.

[01:11:23] Adrienne: I know, for me, I would like to be more generous. That is for sure. I love that idea when you bring that into your podcasts. It just made me feel really good. For us, my Rich Life would include when we go on vacation and we spend money, that it’s not guilt ridden at the end of the vacation. That we are happy that we spent this money. That we feel confident that we spent it, and it was fun, and we had a good time, and we got to live this adventure that is life.

[01:12:01] Ramit: Okay. I love those, Adrienne. Can you tell Rob those things in a way that connects with him? And then Rob, I’d love for you to engage, get curious, toss the ball back and forth between both of you as Adrienne describes her Rich Life.

[01:12:17] Adrienne: Okay. So I think what would be great is if we came up with a plan about how much is our guilt-free spending and we stuck to that plan.

[01:12:30] Ramit: Sorry. Can I just cut in? When you describe your Rich Life, what I want to hear and what most people respond to is something inspiring, something expansive. I can tell you that creating rules for some budget number fucking sucks. It’s not inspiring. Get this FIRE thing out of your system. Everybody, go like this, it’s out. We’re not doing that anymore. We’re living the Rich Life. So you got to start by being inspired. Paint the picture for us. I know you know how to do it.

[01:13:05] Adrienne: Yeah, inspiring. Okay. All right. We don’t have that much more time left.

[01:13:13] Ramit: Wait, I’m depressed. We’re on our way to that old graveyard called death. So anyway, what do you want to do in our elderly age? God damn.

[01:13:24] Adrienne: Well, no, I just mean that time is precious.

[01:13:29] Ramit: Thank you.

[01:13:29] Adrienne: Time is precious. Our relationship is precious, and the people we love are precious. The people on this planet are precious actually. The people who serve us food and coffee in some ways are precious because I am seeing a vision for us of having this life of feeling relaxed, and we get to use our hearts to spend our money in ways that feel really, good and ways that also help the planet, and ways that help other people around us.

[01:14:07] And a ripple effect of spreading our love to our love and our generosity out into the world. That’s my vision. That’s part of my vision for us and also for us to feel like we’re spoiled. We get to have the things that we want, that are fun, and that we get to relax into the fact that we get to have these fun things. If it’s a massage, or if it’s a trip, or whatever it is, that we relax into these amazing things that we’ve created for ourselves as well. How was that? Was that inspiring?

[01:14:50] Ramit: That was amazing. I’ve never heard anyone describe their Rich Life like that. That was beautiful, and that is exactly what I wanted to hear from you. Something that fits you like a glove. Thank you. That was awesome. Rob, respond to that. What did you hear her say?

[01:15:11] Rob: Yeah. Can you repeat some of it? Can you summarize? No.

[01:15:17] Ramit: No, she can’t summarize. She created art. It’s never going to be heard again. And you’re like, do it again.

[01:15:23] Rob: Right. I’m going to watch the replay.

[01:15:26] Ramit: No. Listen. Rob, Rob, listen. Okay, Rob, I want to tell you something. This is all jokes aside, I notice a lot of patterns among people when they come and talk to me about money. That’s part of the joy of my job. And I notice that people, particularly people who are in the weeds, in the spreadsheet, oftentimes people who came from the FIRE community, whenever I ask them about something they did that they really enjoyed, like a trip, or a new pair of shoes, or whatever, they will almost always tell me about the price. You did that with Tahiti. Did you notice that?

[01:16:08] Rob: Yeah.

[01:16:09] Ramit: Right. And I’m like, I’m not interested in how much you paid. I’m interested in like, what’d the sunset look like?

[01:16:14] Rob: Okay.

[01:16:14] Ramit: Are you able to play ball here? Because I need you to engage with Adrienne’s vision. Otherwise, we’re going to be spending the next 25 years of your life with you talking about why you are worried and everyone around you walking on eggshells, just as you yourself described, doing that as a kid.

[01:16:37] Rob: You want me to talk about using our hearts? I’m stuck.

[01:16:44] Ramit: Do you ever ask her questions about money?

[01:16:47] Rob: About how she’ll spend it, or how we’ll make it, or what? Like what? How we’ll balance a checkbook? What do you mean?

[01:16:57] Ramit: Any questions about money at all?

[01:17:00] Rob: I can’t remember. I’m drawing a blank.


[01:17:15] Ramit: How do you live a Rich Life if you are stuck in the spreadsheet? How do you change if you’ve been worried about money for so long that you don’t even know how to feel good about it anymore? And what do you do if your partner is the one who’s just unable to dream about money? Next week, on part two of this episode, we’re going to get into specific numbers, and I asked our partners from Facet to run the exact scenarios of how their lives might turn out. I can promise you this, you are going to be surprised. See you next week for part two of Rob and Adrienne.