Episode #159: “How can we raise 3 kids if she only makes $15k?”

Caleb and Alex are both 27. They have one young child and foster two sisters, both of whom they intend to adopt soon. As children themselves, Caleb and Alex were immersed in missionary work in South America—an influence that colors how they see, feel, and act with money.

This episode is brought to you by:

Viator | Download the Viator app and use code VIATOR10 for 10% off your first travel experience with Viator.

Netsuite | Get visibility to everything in your business one one place. Sign up and defer payments, with no interest, for six months at https://iwt.com/netsuite.

LMNT | Right now, LMNT is offering 8 single serving packets FREE with any LMNT order. This is a great way to try all 8 flavors. Get yours at https://drinklmnt.com/RAMIT.

Masterclass | For unlimited access to every class and 15% off an annual membership, go to https://masterclass.com/ramit.

Fabric by Gerber Life | Protect your family today with Fabric by Gerber Life. Apply today in just 10 minutes at https://meetfabric.com/ramit.

Tools mentioned in this episode

Show Transcript

Download the full transcript PDF.

[00:00:00] Ramit: Are you afraid of money right now?

[00:00:02] Caleb: In this very instant, yes. I feel like we have a lot of potential, and if we can’t get on the same page, we’re not going to be able to realize that.

[00:00:11] Alex: It’s hard for me to even think about that because I’m like, well, we’re not there. That sounds nice. Sure, I’d love that too.

[00:00:19] Ramit: It’s like him saying like, I want us to fly to space.

[00:00:23] Alex: Yeah, pretty close. I know that. I know what the problem is.

[00:00:26] Ramit: You do?

[00:00:27] Alex: I avoid money.

[00:00:28] Ramit: Uh-huh. Why?

[00:00:29] Alex: Because it gives me anxiety.

[00:00:30] Ramit: Why?

[00:00:31] Alex: Because I don’t want to have the responsibility.

[00:00:37] Ramit: Why? Keep going. Stay with me.

[00:00:39] Alex: Because I can’t trust myself.

[00:00:41] Ramit: Why?

[00:00:41] Alex: Because I’ve never had to trust myself with money.

[00:00:48] Ramit: Now we’re getting there.

[00:00:50] Alex: I do have to change. Our relationship is suffering because of it, and our future is on the line.


[00:00:58] Ramit: Meet Caleb and Alex. They’re 27 years old. They live in Tennessee, and they are worried about their finances, especially because of their growing family. They have a 2-year-old daughter, and they’re foster parents about to adopt one and 3-year-old sisters. Now, what’s fascinating about this conversation is how many stories they have about their perspective on money, and some of those stories might not be true. You’re also going to hear about their fascinating religious background, which has affected the way that they interact with money. Let’s meet Caleb and Alex.


[00:01:33] Caleb: It was probably a week and a half ago, we had a fight. Essentially, I was like, you’ve worked really hard to get a bachelor’s degree, and I know you have a really awesome job, but settling for $12,000 a year is just not a great use of that knowledge that you’ve worked so hard to gain.

[00:01:55] Ramit: Okay. And what did she say next?

[00:01:56] Caleb: She doesn’t want to leave her job.

[00:02:00] Ramit: Okay. And how did you respond to that?

[00:02:03] Caleb: Not happily. I essentially said, I don’t necessarily love my job, but I’m staying here because it’s what our family needs, and I’d love for you to find a job that you love. It just needs to be something different than what it is now.

[00:02:20] Ramit: I see. How long have you been having this type of conversation?

[00:02:23] Caleb: Probably since the aquarium decided to hire her as a non-temporary option.

[00:02:30] Alex: But there was another one where we were sitting next to each other in bed, and I think we were both on our phones, and I don’t remember how it came up.

[00:02:37] Ramit: What time of night was this? Was this 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM, 11:00 PM?

[00:02:40] Alex: I think it was around 10:00 PM

[00:02:42] Ramit: Okay. That tracks.

[00:02:44] Caleb: Which for parents is about 12:00 AM.

[00:02:47] Alex: It’s really late.

[00:02:48] Ramit: All right. So you’re sitting in bed. Everyone’s on their phone just trying to decompress, and then one partner’s like, babe, we need to talk. And then the other one’s like, oh, fuck. And then you start talking about finances. Is that pretty much how it went?

[00:03:03] Alex: Yeah. He likes to scroll reels on Instagram, so I think he had found a project, and he was like, you know what? We could do this.

[00:03:11] Ramit: What’s a project? What is that?

[00:03:12] Alex: Some kind of home project.

[00:03:14] Caleb: We built a tiny home because we were like, that’s a fun project.

[00:03:19] Ramit: All right. Alex, he comes to you, and then? What happens?

[00:03:21] Alex: And I was like, well, we have other things to do, and we need to prioritize that with the money that we have and the time that we have. And he was like, well, if you’re making more money, then we could do more things faster.

[00:03:34] Ramit: Hmm. What do you think about that?

[00:03:37] Alex: I agree to a point, but I also don’t think he has a very fair assessment of what the job field is like in a non-engineering field.

[00:03:50] Ramit: Okay. You think that he doesn’t understand your industry?

[00:03:53] Alex: Yeah.

[00:03:54] Ramit: Okay. Got you. How many hours a week are you working?

[00:03:56] Alex: 20.

[00:03:58] Ramit: What do you do with the other 20 or so?

[00:04:00] Alex: So we have a tiny house as an Airbnb, and so I flip that between guests and do stuff around the house and just try to clean up the chaos that the kids make throughout the rest of the day.

[00:04:15] Ramit: Got it. And your kids are one, two, and three, I understand.

[00:04:20] Alex: Yeah.

[00:04:20] Ramit: That’s amazing. The one and 3-year-old are foster sisters. Is that right?

[00:04:27] Alex: Mm-hmm.

[00:04:27] Ramit: Awesome. Okay, great. And how would you describe the way that you feel afterwards?

[00:04:39] Alex: At odds.

[00:04:39] Ramit: At odds. Okay. What else? Caleb?

[00:04:40] Caleb: Defeated just because we can’t seem to get on the same page. I feel like we have a lot of potential, and if we can’t get on the same page, we’re not going to be able to realize that. I feel like as long as we have to keep looking at coupons when we go grocery shopping.

[00:04:54] Alex: I like coupons.

[00:04:55] Caleb: And you’re really good at finding coupons, but I’d like to strive to move past that stage in our life.

[00:05:05] Ramit: That’s interesting, that back and forth right there. Alex, do you strive to move past using coupons?

[00:05:13] Alex: No. Even if we were to have more money, I would want to save that money.

[00:05:20] Ramit: Mm-hmm.


[00:05:21] Ramit: Let me just cut in here for a second. This is a really important point. In many relationships where one partner sees money differently than the other, one of them thinks the other needs to get past doing something. Hey, we have enough money. You should get past needing to cut coupons. But that partner never actually asks this one question, why do you cut coupons?

[00:05:44] The surface level answer is, I like to save 20 bucks. But if you go deeper, you might find out that they do it because they love the thrill. Still deeper, you might discover they cut coupons because they saw their mom doing it. And if you keep going, you might even discover that they equate their self-worth to their ability to save the family money regardless of how much money they currently have.

[00:06:07] I don’t know what Alex and Caleb’s situation is yet, but I wanted you to catch that quick exchange because it’s so revealing about them and maybe even about your own relationship.


[00:06:17] Caleb: I guess to bring you back, we got married when we were 20 and completely broke. We didn’t come from family money or anything, and we’ve been married almost seven years. At first it was, we can only buy things with coupons. So I feel like it’s just a reminder of that time, and I want to get past that.

[00:06:41] Ramit: Okay. How would you say you feel when you find a good coupon?

[00:06:47] Alex: Excited because then I’m like, the $5 that I saved there, I can put towards something I actually want.

[00:06:55] Ramit: Okay. Caleb, you have a smile on your face, but it looks a bit confused. Can you tell me what’s going through your head right now?

[00:07:02] Caleb: I guess I’m still stuck on just that’s not something I want to have to use. And it feels at the moment like we’re still in the place of having to use coupons.

[00:07:16] Ramit: Okay. Alex, what do you hear when he says that?

[00:07:21] Alex: That he doesn’t want to become his mom.

[00:07:24] Ramit: His mom is a couponer?

[00:07:31] Alex: Not even a couponer. So much is just like always worried about every single thing. It’s like, oh, this costs money. I need to find the clearance aisle, and we’re going to get everything from the clearance aisle.

[00:07:36] Ramit: Yeah. So I know the coupon is not the main part of the challenge in your relationship. I know that. But do you both find it interesting that we’ve already honed in on this one thing?

[00:07:49] Alex: It all makes sense when you say it like that. I struggle with seeing the big picture. I’m focused on the little details of being like, we need to save $3 here, and that’ll turn into lots of money, cumulatively.

[00:08:03] Ramit: Great. That’s a great, candid comment. Do you struggle in other parts of life as well to see the big picture and you tend to go towards the what’s in front of you?

[00:08:13] Alex: Yeah.

[00:08:13] Ramit: Okay, cool. Great. Let’s talk about that then. I’m very curious. So can you give me another example in your financial life where you tend to focus on the smaller picture rather than the big picture?

[00:08:27] Alex: Well, with any purchase for myself, I get really stressed out, even if it’s $5 for coffee. I’m like, ooh, how much do I need this coffee? I don’t really need it. I could be spending that money on the girls or on Caleb. We could save it, and we could put it into a different budget item that could go towards our vacation.

[00:08:49] Ramit: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Before we go on, how come none of those options were, I could spend it on something I love?

[00:08:58] Alex: I have a really hard time spending money on myself.

[00:09:01] Caleb: If I can jump in real quick. So after reading your amazing book, we implemented a fun money budget, and that concept was just absolutely mind blowing to Alex.

[00:09:16] Ramit: What do you mean? What happened when you suggested it?

[00:09:19] Caleb: She was like, oh gosh, I don’t know what to do with this.

[00:09:22] Ramit: She’s like, I’ll buy the girls some blankets, and you’re like, that’s not the point. It’s for you.

[00:09:27] Caleb: Yeah. She tried to get me my Christmas gifts with it, and I was like, no, you can do that, but the bulk of this is for you to spend on yourself. She loves spending on other people but not on herself, and we’ve been working on that.

[00:09:42] Ramit: Okay. Alex, is that a fair assessment of what happened?

[00:09:46] Alex: Yeah. I just don’t feel free to spend money. So when I had free reign, like I could spend this money on whatever I wanted to and it was all mine and there was– I don’t know. At one point I had almost $2,000 in it, and I hadn’t spent any of it because I don’t know what to do with it. I eventually did spend it, but I spent it on Christmas presents and then a bachelorette weekend with one of my friends.

[00:10:13] Ramit: What do you take away from that?

[00:10:18] Alex: That spending money doesn’t have to be scary.

[00:10:20] Ramit: Hmm. Yeah. It is scary, the first five, 10, 15 times, even like riding a bike or skiing is scary. But you start off slow. You go on the bunny hill, and then you get a little better and a little better. You’re going down the greens and the blues. Still scary, but you’re like, I’m strong. I can handle this. Do you see a future where you might be able to feel like that about spending money?

[00:10:50] Alex: I think so.

[00:10:51] Ramit: Okay. What if you won half a million dollars tomorrow? What would you do with it?

[00:10:58] Alex: I’d turn to kale and be like, how do we invest this so that we get more money so that I don’t have to worry about money.

[00:11:04] Ramit: Right. And same thing if you won 10 million, huh? It would be the same thing.

[00:11:10] Alex: I’d probably take a million off the top and be like, we can go on a trip with this, and then the rest of it needs to go into savings.

[00:11:15] Ramit: You want to take a 1-million-dollar trip after you struggled to spend $2,000? Where are you going to go for a million dollars?

[00:11:22] Alex: I probably wouldn’t actually spend it, but I’d be like, oh, I have a budget up to a million. Which in my mind is infinite. So I’m like, I could do whatever vacation I wanted to do. I wouldn’t have to worry about like the end of the money.

[00:11:34] Ramit: And where would you go if you had a million dollars set aside for vacation?

[00:11:38] Alex: We are about to adopt our girls, and Caleb will get six weeks of parental leave. And so that is our plan when we’re able to get their passports and everything, to go for a six-week trip, all over Europe and see friends and see places and stuff.

[00:11:55] Ramit: It sounds amazing. Just out of curiosity, in this hypothetical, you have $10 million, and you’re still concerned about a six-week vacation policy. What do you think about that?

[00:12:12] Alex: He has to go back to his job.

[00:12:14] Ramit: He does? Okay. And where would you stay when you took this trip to Europe for six weeks? Because that’s how much PTO your 10-millionaire husband has. Where would you stay?

[00:12:29] Alex: You’re not going to like any of my answers.

[00:12:31] Ramit: I already love it. Trust me. Tell me. Where would you stay?

[00:12:34] Alex: Airbnbs.

[00:12:35] Ramit: Airbnbs. Okay. Do you get a discount, like if you stay six nights, they’ll give you the seventh free, something like that?

[00:12:41] Alex: Yes.

[00:12:41] Ramit: Yeah. Okay. And would you take your daughters with you?

[00:12:45] Alex: Yes.

[00:12:45] Ramit: Okay. Three daughters, right? Three young daughters. It’s a lot of work.

[00:12:48] Alex: Yeah.

[00:12:50] Ramit: Just the two of you taking three daughters, right?

[00:12:52] Alex: I’d be open to seeing if friends wanted to come for parts of the trip. There’d be times where they could watch the girls, and we could do something.

[00:13:02] Ramit: What do you notice about that hypothetical, Alex?

[00:13:05] Alex: It’s not a dream vacation. That’s like a realistic vacation.

[00:13:11] Ramit: Yeah. It sounded like you were living the vacation that you would have taken when you were 20 or 25. It’s nice to go to Europe. That’s awesome. But even in a hypothetical, if you can’t dream with me, it makes sense why it’s so hard to deal with money on a day-to-day basis. Is that fair to say?

[00:13:33] Alex: Yes.


[00:13:34] Ramit: That was striking. Most people find it really difficult to totally imagine a different way of spending money. Even in this hypothetical, Alex was still staying at Airbnb’s, still bound by a vacation policy, totally unable to imagine a different way of spending. For someone who likes food, they might eat out at different restaurants. If they’re spending more, they might splurge for their friends.

[00:13:59] They might even hire a chef to cook at a dinner party, or they might even take a trip to Thailand to eat at an amazing street food place they saw on TV. But if you live in the weeds day to day with your money, surrounded by 3-dollar questions, it’s almost impossible to think like this.

[00:14:15] Hold that thought. We’ll be right back.

[00:14:19]  So here’s my question for you. What would be your first vacation if you had $10 million? Let me know in the comments below.


[00:14:28] Ramit: Alex, how did you grow up with money? What do you remember about money when you were a kid? What do you remember your family, your parents saying?

[00:14:34] Alex: Nothing blatantly like, oh my gosh, we have no money, but more of like, we have food at home. We don’t need to eat out because we have food at home. I grew up part of my life in Georgia, and then we moved to Costa Rica, and then Peru.

[00:14:47] Ramit: Oh wow. Why did you move there?

[00:14:50] Alex: My parents were missionaries.

[00:14:52] Ramit: Ah. Okay. All right.

[00:14:54] Alex: So then all of our money was not our money.

[00:14:58] Ramit: It went to the church.

[00:15:00] Alex: We had to support race. So we had to go around for about a year and talk to churches and be like, hey, can you give us money so that we can go and proselytize.

[00:15:11] Ramit: Whoa. And would they do it?

[00:15:14] Alex: Sometimes.

[00:15:16] Ramit: Did you do this as well?

[00:15:17] Alex: Yeah.

[00:15:18] Ramit: Any siblings you have?

[00:15:20] Alex: Yeah, all three of them.

[00:15:22] Ramit: Okay, so the four kids, and then your parents were doing missionary work. For how long?

[00:15:29] Alex: I was on the field for six years.

[00:15:33] Ramit: Did you like it?

[00:15:35] Alex: Yes and no. I had some very good experiences that I’m really grateful for, and I’m fluent in Spanish, which has been super helpful, and I love it.

[00:15:45] Ramit: Cool.

[00:15:46] Alex: But then also, yeah, it was very stressful in lots of other ways.

[00:15:52] Ramit: Are you religious now?

[00:15:54] Alex: No.

[00:15:54] Ramit: You’re not. Okay. Are your siblings?

[00:15:56] Alex: Yes.

[00:15:57] Ramit: They are. Wow.

[00:15:59] Alex: This is relatively recent. My dad is a pastor.

[00:16:03] Ramit: I see. How did your relationship with Caleb play into this?

[00:16:10] Alex: We have grown a lot together. So we met when we were 15. We started dating when we were 17. We got married when we were 20, so we were children when we met. So we’ve done a lot of growing together through this whole process. I’ve talked to him, and he’s talked to me, and we’ve been very open about where we each are in religion and everywhere in life. Nothing has changed all of a sudden with Caleb, but we have changed and grown together over the years.

[00:16:42] Ramit: That’s cool. And Caleb, are you religious as well?

[00:16:47] Caleb: Maybe slightly more than Alex, but not very.

[00:16:51] Ramit: Got it. Okay. All right. Well, I definitely want to ask more about your upbringing in just a minute, Caleb, but it’s helpful to hear you two met at age 15, got married at 20. Okay. I’m starting to have a clearer picture. Alex, can you go back to your childhood? Who handled the money as you grew up? Was it mom, dad?

[00:17:12] Alex: I think my mom handled it more, but my dad spent it more.

[00:17:18] Ramit: What did he spend it on?

[00:17:20] Alex: Everything. He’s like me in the way that he has lots of ideas and doesn’t necessarily follow through, but he will have an idea and spend money on it, and then drop it, and then whatever that thing is, is never used again.

[00:17:34] Ramit: So what? He buys a guitar, and then he plays it for two weeks, and then that’s it kind of thing?

[00:17:39] Alex: Yeah.

[00:17:39] Ramit: Wow. Seeing nods from both of you. Okay. All right. Give me the lightning bolt round of like, what has he run through? Guitar is just one example. What is it?

[00:17:50] Caleb: Aquariums.

[00:17:51] Alex: Yes.

[00:17:52] Ramit: Hold on. Don’t you two have aquariums in your house?

[00:17:55] Alex: Yes, but we take care of them.

[00:17:57] Ramit: Oh, okay.

[00:17:57] Caleb: We’re a biologist and a wildlife and fisheries graduate.

[00:18:02] Ramit: Fair enough. All right. So aquariums. That’s a good example. What else?

[00:18:07] Alex: Random diets. Not necessarily to lose weight, but like paleo versus vegan versus gluten-free. And all of those are expensive if you start them and then stop them. So like buying everything that’s gluten free and then never eating it.

[00:18:23] Ramit: So would you say that he’s into fads? Is that what you would say? Like, I’m going to try this. It’s hot. Ah. The minute it gets hard, I’m going onto the next thing, that kind of thing. Okay, fine. All right. Any lessons that that taught you consciously or unconsciously?

[00:18:39] Alex: My dad and I are very similar, and that causes some issues as well as it has made us very close in some ways. But one of the things that I think picked up from that is that I can’t trust myself because whatever I start, I’m just going to stop it. So why spend money on it?

[00:19:01] Ramit: Wow. That’s pretty interesting. That’s pretty profound. The idea that you can’t trust yourself is, I think, one of the saddest, most haunting things that somebody says. It’s one thing. It’s really heartbreaking to hear somebody say, I can’t trust my spouse. They don’t follow through. They never do what they’re going to say. But when somebody says, I don’t even trust myself–

[00:19:28] Alex: I feel like I don’t have any examples because I hold myself back so much.

[00:19:35] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:19:36] Alex: I don’t even let it get to that point.

[00:19:38] Ramit: Tell me the sentence you say in your head.

[00:19:40] Alex: I’ll be like, oh, I want to learn how to make stained glass. I would love to learn how to do that. I’ll be like, oh, but why would I try to start that if I know that I’m not that artistic? I might not like it. I don’t have room in the house for it. I probably couldn’t sell it or anything. So then it would just be like a money hole, so then I’ll just drop it.

[00:20:07] Ramit: You talk yourself out of it before you even get started.

[00:20:09] Alex: I don’t know. I’ve always been a side gigger. I always like to find different ways. I want to be productive, I guess.

[00:20:18] Ramit: If you’re not productive, what does it mean about you?

[00:20:21] Alex: I’m lazy or I’m not living up to my potential.

[00:20:30] Ramit: And if you don’t live up to your potential, what does it mean?

[00:20:32] Alex: We’re not going to have the future that we want with money, or time, or whatever.

[00:20:36] Ramit: Okay. How much of this came from the somewhat puritanical upbringing of like, we must be productive, and we’re here for a purpose. I’m seeing a lot of nods.

[00:20:49] Alex: Yes. A lot. A lot. And that has taken a lot of time to detangle.

[00:20:54] Ramit: Mm-hmm. How have you been detangling it?

[00:21:00] Alex: Just looking at my childhood and experiences and being like, oh, I thought that was normal, but it was very much not normal. And I had all of these things just thrown at me and drilled into me that I’m like, oh, that’s not exactly what I believe or how I would want to treat or raise my children.


[00:21:19] Ramit: We all have stories that we tell ourselves about who we are. What do you think the stories are that you tell yourself? Do you tell yourself you’re a good parent? Do you tell yourself that you’re bad at money? Do you tell yourself that you would be happy to pay taxes if they were actually going towards something productive?

[00:21:37] Each of those is a story, and sometimes stories are true, but often they’re just something we make up because we heard it from someone else. Alex tells herself she’s a side gig person. She also says she can’t trust herself. Now think about it. Imagine seeing her dad jump from one fad to another, never understanding the joy of setting a big goal and following through.

[00:22:02] She never had that modeled for her. She would think it’s normal to jump from one thing to another. And then as life pushed her to have to finish things, she would realize she’s never built the skills to do so. But instead of acknowledging that, like most of us, she creates a story to make sense of the world. I’m a side gigger. I just like to have a lot of balls juggled in the air.

[00:22:26] And eventually, the story might even morph to something like, I shouldn’t start that because deep down I know I’m not going to finish it. Camouflaged by things like I shouldn’t start that because I won’t be able to sell that and make money for the family.

[00:22:41] This is how so many of our beliefs start. They’re just stories we tell ourselves. But the good news is if we can acknowledge those stories, we have a very good shot at changing them. Now listen to the next story she tells herself.


[00:22:56] Ramit: Let’s fast forward to adolescents. Anything happened with money that you can remember that stands out in your family?

[00:23:01] Alex: Part of the visa process of being somewhere else as a missionary is that you can’t make money. So I wasn’t able to have a job or anything while I was living in Peru. So I felt very stifled, I guess, not being able to make my own decisions because I couldn’t make money. So then I couldn’t pursue things that I wanted to do because I didn’t have money for it.

[00:23:24] My entire life was devoted to doing mission work and stuff. So it made it hard to even find time to do stuff for myself, and even if I could, I didn’t have the money to do it. I guess I wanted the freedom. I wanted the freedom of having my own money that I could do with what I wanted.

[00:23:44] Ramit: I don’t believe that. You told me you couldn’t even spend your own money.

[00:23:47] Alex: Well, yeah. This makes it seem like he withholds money from me, which is not the case, but the way that I’m comfortable is asking him. Because if whatever it is ends up not working out or I regret it, then it’s not my fault, it’s his fault, because he approved me.

[00:24:05] Ramit: Mm-hmm. I hear you. As you say that out loud, you’re smiling. What does it make you feel as you hear yourself say that out loud?

[00:24:15] Alex: I’m a child asking for money. Again, going back to the, I can’t trust myself to make good choices, so I need somebody else to okay it so that I’m not the one that is the cause of it.

[00:24:31] Ramit: Right. Where do you think that comes from?

[00:24:34] Alex: I don’t know. The whole concept of not being able to trust yourself, I think comes from my religious background.

[00:24:40] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Can you just connect the dots? Because some people won’t understand that.

[00:24:45] Alex: Well, like in Christianity and stuff, you don’t trust yourself. You trust in God. You put your faith in God. Whatever happens is meant to happen or is God’s plan. So I think that’s probably a big part of it.

[00:25:03] Ramit: What else?

[00:25:05] Alex: I guess also not being able to make my own money as a teenager, so then having to ask and have somebody else approve it or be like, no, which the answer was most of the time, no. So I do that to myself now.

[00:25:20] Ramit: Do you like when somebody says no to you?

[00:25:27] Alex: Sometimes. Sometimes it’s comforting.

[00:25:30] Ramit: It reminds you of being a kid, right?

[00:25:33] Alex: Yeah. I don’t have to take responsibility or even think about it. I’ll be like, oh, can we buy a thousand dollars worth of stained-glass making things? And he’ll say, no. And I’m like, okay. I don’t have to think about that anymore.

[00:25:45] Ramit: Yeah. Caleb, does any of this surprise you?

[00:25:50] Caleb: No.

[00:25:53] Ramit: That’s an honest answer. Caleb, what is it like for you watching Alex with this journey? It’s kind of about money, but it seems like it’s a lot more than just money.

[00:26:05] Caleb: Yeah. I’m proud of how far she’s come in becoming her own true self, I guess, and I’m here for her every step of the way.

[00:26:19] Ramit: Cool. Is it stressful for you to watch her go through this journey?

[00:26:25] Caleb: It has been at times. It’s just been fun to grow with her more than anything.

[00:26:30] Ramit: Yeah. How old are you both?

[00:26:32] Alex: 27.

[00:26:34] Ramit: So been together 12 years, and those are formative years, 15 to 27. Whoa. You really change. And then you have kids in the mix, three kids. That’s a lot of changes. Okay. All right. I appreciate that. I appreciate a journey where two people commit, we’re going to change together. Do you have any resentment towards the way that you were raised when it comes to your faith and now how it affects your view on money?

[00:27:05] Alex: In some ways, yes. It’s taken a long time to even realize how deep it goes. So for a while, I was just like, oh, I’m just fundamentally different, or messed up. I don’t know. I just don’t know how to do things with money, and so I’m just going to give it to Caleb because he knows how to do things, and he has the time, and the patience, and the interest to do the research and figure out what to do. So I’ll just be like, you handle that? I’ll handle other things.

[00:27:39] Ramit: But? Is there a but? But I’ve realized that– what?

[00:27:44] Alex: I’ve realized that he feels very alone in that role, and he doesn’t want to have to make all the decisions and have all that responsibility. And also, I don’t know what’s going on with our money.

[00:27:54] Ramit: Yeah.

[00:27:55] Alex: And I just don’t understand where things are, or where things should be going, or how to do things. And I’ve resisted taking on that role.

[00:28:08] Ramit: What do you get out of the current approach that you’ve been taking?

[00:28:11] Alex: A sense of control without actually having to have control.

[00:28:16] Ramit: Hmm. That’s profound. Caleb, what do you think Alex gets out of the ignoring money but worrying about it at the same time? What do you think she gets out of it?

[00:28:30] Caleb: Having something to worry about.

[00:28:32] Ramit: Yes. Definitely important. Because if you didn’t worry Alex, what would you do?

[00:28:45] Alex: I can’t picture it.

[00:28:46] Ramit: Yeah. You can’t even remember a time where you haven’t worried about something, right? Right. Do you think that, to you, worrying means you care?

[00:28:57] Alex: Yeah.

[00:28:59] Ramit: Hmm. Okay. Caleb, what else do you notice about this?

[00:29:06] Caleb: I think your dad doesn’t worry about spending money.

[00:29:11] Ramit: Oh. That’s good. Pick it up, Alex. Pick up the ball that he just threw you.

[00:29:19] Alex: Yeah. He doesn’t worry about spending money, so he’s very reckless, and he’s the reason that they don’t have money.

[00:29:25] Ramit: Whoa. As a defense mechanism, what do you need to do so you don’t end up like dad?

[00:29:32] Alex: Worry about everything.

[00:29:34] Ramit: Right. I worry.

[00:29:37] Alex: Enough for all of us.


[00:29:39] Ramit: I hear lots of religious beliefs and personal stories here, and we can’t deny the effect that religion plays on people’s beliefs about money. For example, if you’ve been raised to have faith and to trust in God, it makes perfect sense that you might translate those beliefs over to your finances. And by the way, collective religion and individual investing can coexist, as one of the signs on my mom’s poster says, trust in God, but lock your car.

[00:30:05] The real point here is that you don’t form your beliefs like a robot by reading a bunch of facts about compound interest and splitting different labor in a relationship. Your beliefs are a messy collection of random ideas that you hear from friends, parents, even TV shows. It’s much more like a quilt that’s been cobbled together and added on for generations.

[00:30:28] We’ll get back to this story after these brief messages.

[00:30:32]  Now, I ask Caleb about his upbringing.


[00:30:35] Caleb: My parents were Christian missionaries in Costa Rica. My parents moved when I was about six months old. However, I did have to go back to the US to, I guess, ask for money from churches and families and stuff. And I didn’t grow up with much. Parents never really talked about it. Didn’t really have a job until junior year of high school, and then I got a job that paid something like 14 or 15 bucks an hour, which is pretty good for a junior, especially when it was doing almost nothing.

[00:31:10] Ramit: Where did you live when you were on these missions?

[00:31:13] Caleb: So we had a house out in the middle of nowhere, yeah, in rural Costa Rica. Before that, they worked in really rough neighborhoods, and my mom worked in the women’s prison, proselytizing and doing bible studies, that kind of stuff. Once I was in middle school, I was too busy with school and homework.

[00:31:37] Ramit: Have you had the same journey with religion that Alex has?

[00:31:42] Caleb: Similar. I’m a musician, so it’s been probably harder for me because that is one thing that Christianity does really well, is promote musical talent. It’s been a challenge leaving that. I guess I’ve had a very similar journey. I just feel like I have probably given up a little bit more as far as that being such a big part of my identity.

[00:32:13] Ramit: Got it. Okay. What else do you remember about your parents as it relates to money, let’s say, as a teenager? Any memories come up?

[00:32:22] Caleb: In part, we had to leave Costa Rica, which was one of the hardest transitions in my life because my parents were getting a divorce, and because of that would no longer be getting money from many of their previous sources of income. It was never explicitly brought up that that was what was happening, but I knew. I was smart enough to know what happens when a missionary family goes through a divorce.

[00:32:58] Ramit: Got it. What do they do for money? How are they doing financially now?

[00:33:03] Caleb: My dad’s not doing great. He has a family trust that provides him a boost, and then he works as a chaplain to get by. And then my mom is, I think she’s doing okay. Again, they never really talked about money. It was very much a, this is a grownup topic. Leave the room sort of thing.

[00:33:27] She’s doing okay. I’ve heard her talk about struggling with money, but she also has enough money to go on vacations and do home improvement type of stuff. So they’re doing okay. I wouldn’t say they’re doing great, but they’re doing okay.

[00:33:44] Ramit: Okay. What else do you think you took away from those experiences, particularly in your teenage years? How do you think that’s affected the way you view money?

[00:33:53] Caleb: I never want to have to rely on someone outside of Alex and I to survive and thrive.

[00:34:03] Ramit: Is that referring to the church?

[00:34:07] Caleb: Yeah. And I actually did work for a church out of college for a little bit.

[00:34:13] Ramit: Okay.

[00:34:13] Caleb: And so I guess that is part of it. But more than anything, I want us to be able to provide for our family on our own and do well. I had to learn it all for myself. I am very grateful to my friend who suggested reading your book.

[00:34:38] Ramit: You want to give him a shout out?

[00:34:40] Caleb: Sure. Drew Tatum

[00:34:42] Ramit: Drew, my man.


[00:34:44] Ramit: Big shout out to Drew for changing the trajectory of this family forever. Drew, DM me. I’ll send you a signed copy of my book. I’m so thankful that you have spread the word about I Will Teach You to Be Rich. And if you’re listening or watching this podcast, I’d love it if you can think of three friends whose lives would be changed with my book just as Drew changed this couple’s lives. Send them a copy, and send them a note of how I Will Teach You to Be Rich changed your life, and you might potentially change their trajectory forever.


[00:35:16] Ramit: Is there ever a moment where Caleb suggests something and you’re like, yes? Unequivocally, yes.

[00:35:30] Alex: I don’t think so. Not with money.

[00:35:34] Ramit: Not even a Panda Express meal. Okay.

[00:35:38] Alex: Unless I have something for free.

[00:35:40] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:35:41] Alex: Then I’ll be like, yeah, I have a free chicken sandwich. We can go to Chick-fil-A.

[00:35:45] Ramit: Because free means what?

[00:35:50] Alex: No guilt about spending money on myself.

[00:35:53] Ramit: Usually, I’m like, did you grow up religious? Religion, love guilt. Then I found out both of you grew up missionaries. So I think we’ve crossed that one literally decades ago. Got it. So you can see that the guilt is deep. Can you imagine, Alex, a future where one day you can make purchase decisions without feeling guilty? Do you think that that future is possible?

[00:36:20] Alex: Yes, it’s possible.

[00:36:21] Ramit: How else do you feel about money? You feel good about money?

[00:36:25] Caleb: When I don’t see numbers in the red, I feel good about it.

[00:36:27] Ramit: Okay. And what about spending on the family taking a vacation, something like that? Do you feel good about that or you feel bad about that?

[00:36:36] Caleb: Oh, I love it. This past winter, we took our first, I’m pretty sure at one point I at least called it our Ramit vacation. We saved something like 7,000, and I was like, this vacation’s going to cost 5,000. And we ended up spending all 7,000 of it. And I didn’t feel bad about it. At the end, I was like, that was awesome. We saved for it, and I want to do this again.

[00:37:04] Ramit: Wow. Where’d you go?

[00:37:06] Caleb: We went to Puerto Rico for two weeks with the kids.

[00:37:07] Ramit: Awesome. That’s so cool. Amazing. What a great trip. Alex, how did you feel about that trip?

[00:37:14] Alex: It was amazing.

[00:37:15] Ramit: You liked it. I’m going to guess you were not involved with the financial side of it, is that correct?

[00:37:21] Alex: Yeah.

[00:37:22] Ramit: So that’s typical for each time you travel?

[00:37:24] Caleb: Yeah.

[00:37:24] Alex: Yeah, I would say so.

[00:37:26] Ramit: All right, fine.

[00:37:27] Caleb: And we were able to bring my brother and pay for– we had two of our friends come with us the whole time, and we were able to pay for their three or four nights at a hotel for them.

[00:37:39] Ramit: Wait, how come this real vacation is better than the hypothetical vacation where you had $10 million? What the fuck? Can anyone explain that to me?

[00:37:46] Alex: Because I had to plan it.

[00:37:48] Ramit: It’s surprising that in the actual vacation, which you actually went on, it was cool. You went for two weeks. You took all the kids. You brought your brother and paid for them, and all this stuff.

[00:38:01] But then in the real vacation, it’s like, oh, we got to get a coupon to Airbnb, and then let’s stay at the place with the buffet next door. What the hell? Alex, do you find that a little like concerning?

[00:38:14] Alex: Yes.

[00:38:15] Ramit: Okay, good. That’s all I want. It’s concerning, but very illuminating. Cool. All right, I think I got it. So Caleb, in one sentence, if you to tell me what you wish Alex would understand about money in your relationship, what would you say?

[00:38:39] Caleb: Right now we are doing all right, but we have this shared dream, and we’ve talked about it, but we can’t achieve that on our current trajectory.

[00:38:54] Ramit: Okay. So then are you afraid of money right now?

[00:39:04] Caleb: In this very instant, yes.

[00:39:08] Ramit: Okay.

[00:39:08] Caleb: Yes, but I don’t want to be.

[00:39:10] Ramit: Oh, okay. All right. Alex, what do you think hearing your husband say that he’s afraid of money right now?

[00:39:19] Alex: I understand.

[00:39:21] Ramit: Are you afraid of money, Alex?

[00:39:23] Alex: Yes.

[00:39:23] Ramit: You are too.

[00:39:24] Alex: Yes. That’s why I don’t mess with it. I let him do it.

[00:39:27] Ramit: Ah, so you’re afraid of money, so you avoid it, Alex. And Caleb, you’re afraid of money, so what is your conclusion?

[00:39:37] Caleb: Monitor it and control it.

[00:39:39] Ramit: Yeah, monitor it nightly in an app.

[00:39:44] Alex: More than nightly.

[00:39:45] Ramit: More than nightly.

[00:39:47] Alex: Throughout the day, he will open that app, putting the bubbles.

[00:39:50] Ramit: What the fuck? What are these bubbles? Actually, I don’t give a shit about these bubbles. Some type of completion, gamification, whatever. So how often are you logging into this app? Tell the truth, Caleb.

[00:40:01] Caleb: Honestly, sometimes I do it mindlessly.

[00:40:03] Ramit: Okay. And just out of curiosity, when you do it, what is the feeling you get?

[00:40:08] Caleb: I’m content when everything’s in its place.

[00:40:10] Ramit: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

[00:40:12] Caleb: With all the disorder of having three toddlers around, that’s one thing I can control.

[00:40:17] Ramit: Wow. That’s powerful. Alex, did you know that?

[00:40:23] Alex: Not so explicitly, but I can tell when he wants to be in charge of something and like have it be done and closed out, completely fine.

[00:40:33] Ramit: Hell yeah. Look at that smile on Caleb’s face. He’s dreaming about [Inaudible]. I fucking used Jira so well. I closed that ticket so fast. He loves it. All right, fine. And Alex, when he asks you to get a job that pays more, do you think that maybe that has something to do with his desire for control in an otherwise uncontrollable world?

[00:41:06] Alex: I don’t think that does specifically. I think it’s more like he has always wanted me to reach my full potential, and he sees that I’m not currently, and he wants me to just go ahead and skip all the steps up to getting my dream job.

[00:41:24] Ramit: I see. Do you agree that you’re not fulfilling your dream potential?

[00:41:30] Alex: Yes. But also, in this field, I feel like you have to work your way up. So I’m like, this is a normal part of me having to figure out my way to getting my dream job.

[00:41:41] Ramit: Did you go to college?

[00:41:43] Alex: Yes.

[00:41:44] Ramit: How’d you pay for that?

[00:41:45] Alex: Scholarships, grants, and some student loans.

[00:41:49] Ramit: All right. Still have loans?

[00:41:51] Alex: Yes,

[00:41:51] Ramit: All right. And so you graduated. I believe you studied biology, right?

[00:41:56] Alex: Yes.

[00:41:56] Ramit: All right. What kind of job did you think you were going to get when you were studying?

[00:42:02] Alex: The reason I went for biology versus a more specific field is that I could get a job wherever. I could be a lab tech, or I could be a zookeeper. So I was hoping for something closer to aquarist, zookeeper, something with animals, anything in conservation, a field biologist, anything like that. But I was willing to take whatever.

[00:42:26] Ramit: Caleb said something to the effect of, we’re doing okay, but we have this vision for our lives, and we’re not living up to that potential. Alex.

[00:42:43] Alex: I understand because it’s our shared vision, but I really like my job, and I don’t want to change.


[00:42:52] Ramit: More stories. The idea that you get a degree and you’re willing to take whatever job is a story. The idea that I have to work my way up is also a story. So is I like my job, and I don’t want to change. That story implicitly says, I don’t want to change because the next job will probably be worse.

[00:43:12] Now, my philosophy is if you’re going to make life decisions based on a story, why not write a better story for yourself? In college, I wrote a story that I could get amazing internships even as a sophomore, and I created a story that I was going to make money and live a very Rich Life with amazing people around me.

[00:43:32] I have to acknowledge that I had a lot of advantages, and those advantages affect the stories that I can even think of. Just remember this. What stories are you telling yourself, and what if you chose a different story?

[00:43:47] We’ll be right back.

[00:43:49]  Now, I wanted to help them crystallize a vision together, so I walked Alex through an exercise to communicate more effectively with Caleb.


[00:43:59] Ramit: Get curious. What shared vision?

[00:44:01] Alex: What do you want to see us doing?

[00:44:05] Ramit: What shared vision? Can we make sure that we are talking about the same vision? What vision do you have? And then I’d love to share what vision I have. Try it, Alex.

[00:44:16] Alex: What vision do you have? And then we can figure out if it’s the same vision.

[00:44:23] Ramit: Hold on. This is a really important point. I want you to start using I because right now you’re invisible in this conversation. You’re asking him, which is great, and you’re talking about we, which is the two of you. But nowhere am I hearing you. Just the same as nowhere do you spend money on yourself. And I need to bring you as a powerful woman into this conversation.

[00:44:43] So I’m going to give you the exact words to use. You’d literally just borrow the words from me. Caleb, I totally hear what you’re saying. Can we make sure we’re talking about the same thing? What is your vision of us together? And then I’d love to share my vision of us together.

[00:45:05] Alex: Caleb, I totally understand, and I want to make sure we’re headed towards the same vision together. What is your vision? And then I’ll tell you what my vision is.

[00:45:19] Caleb: I would like for us to be able to take the girls on one or two trips totaling three to four weeks a year, either to other countries or national parks here in the US and not have to worry about where that money’s coming from. Just like Puerto Rico, I’d like to have it all saved for and planned out.

[00:45:47] I’d like for us to be able to put our girls in extracurriculars without trying to figure out where the money’s coming from. I’d like for us to be able to hire a housekeeper once a week. It’s really hard staying afloat of with cleaning the house with three toddlers. I want us to be able to spend time, going out to eat with the family, and again, not having to worry about coupons.

[00:46:19] Ramit: You want to do this all alone, Caleb?

[00:46:21] Caleb: Now on a do this with Alex. I want to be on the same page. I want her to be there with me every step of the way. I want you to take ownership of our finances with me of our plans of where our money goes.

[00:46:42] Ramit: How’s that feel to say, Caleb?

[00:46:48] Caleb: Good. I feel like I have said it in the past, maybe not in that way, but I do feel like I’ve shared that.

[00:46:53] Ramit: I think you’ve shared the trips part. That rolled right off the tongue. You did what I do. I love to talk logistics. Oh, let’s talk. I talk about this with my wife all the time. She’s like, hold on. Forget the logistics. How do you feel? And I’m like, what’s a feeling? Let me pull out my wheel of emotions.

[00:47:12] It’s not a joke. I have a wheel of emotions. Therapist gave it to us. It’s very helpful. Sometimes I don’t know how– I’m like, I feel good. She’s like, no, pull it out. So you were just cranking. You said one to two trips, one to two weeks a year. Girls an extracurricular. Hire a housekeeper. Go out to eat. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.

[00:47:29] You’ve obviously thought about this, but it was only at the very end that you said what I think is actually the most important, which is, I want you to take ownership of our plans, of where our money goes. I want you to participate as a partner. Have you said that before?

[00:47:51] Caleb: Yes.

[00:47:52] Ramit: Okay. Alex, have you heard him say that before?

[00:47:54] Alex: Yes.

[00:47:57] Ramit: And what was your response when he said that?

[00:48:03] Alex: Okay, I’ll try.

[00:48:07] Ramit: And you didn’t, right?

[00:48:10] Alex: I am open to trying it.

[00:48:12] Caleb: She has been better since we went on our first money date, but it’s participating in setting up the budget for the next month. That’s been the extent. It’s not really taking ownership as much as helping out.


[00:48:29] Ramit: Honestly, I think they should take the win on having a money meeting at all. That is amazing. What I’m really trying to do here is go deeper than the numbers on a page, which obviously does not connect with Alex. It doesn’t even really connect with Caleb. In fact, numbers themselves don’t really connect with anyone.

[00:48:47] They’re not that inspiring. Oh God, I know a lot of FIRE guys right now are sitting back cracking their knuckles as they gear up to write 15 paragraphs on how creating their crossover point calculation is actually super motivating to them. They love the idea of building an FU fund, and all this other bullshit, but they’re wrong. Numbers themselves do not equal a Rich Life.

[00:49:05] You’ve heard it time and time again on this podcast as I’ve spoken to multimillionaires who still worry about money. Numbers are an important part, but overall a small part. Once some dude finally retires at age 51 with a 64% savings rate and no hobbies and no skills on how to spend money, I can tell you right now his Excel model is not going to keep him warm at night.


[00:49:28] Alex: It’s hard for me to even think about that because I’m like, well, we’re not there. That sounds nice. Sure, I’d love that too, but we’re not there.

[00:49:39] Ramit: It’s like him saying like, I want us to fly to space. Is it at the same level for you, like flying to space and what he said?

[00:49:48] Alex: Yeah, pretty close.

[00:49:49] Ramit: Okay. That’s pretty interesting. Caleb, did you know that?

[00:49:54] Caleb: I didn’t know that you saw it as such an unachievable goal.

[00:50:00] Ramit: Let me repeat what you said for your vision, Caleb. The one that Alex candidly says is equivalent to flying to space, which is one to two trips a year for one to two weeks. Put the girls in extracurriculars without wondering where the money’s coming from. Hire a housekeeper once a week. Go out to eat without worrying about coupons.

[00:50:20] And for you, Alex, to take ownership of our plans, including where our money goes. Be a partner. Alex, as I say that out loud, do you see the qualitative and quantitative difference between Caleb’s vision and taking a trip to space?

[00:50:37] Alex: I see the differences.

[00:50:38] Ramit: You don’t feel it though.

[00:50:40] Alex: Yeah. When you listed that out, I was like, the most achievable part of that is me stepping up and being more of a partner, and the rest of it still feels like much less achievable.

[00:50:50] Caleb: I felt like that was honestly a very conservative list of goals that–

[00:50:56] Alex: It’s conservative for you. Yes.

[00:50:58] Ramit: Right.

[00:50:59] Caleb: That’s like my, I want this done in the next year or two. That’s what I want to do. That’s not my plan.

[00:51:03] Ramit: But Caleb, do you see that it doesn’t matter?

[00:51:07] Caleb: Yeah.

[00:51:08] Ramit: She doesn’t know how. I want to just pull this apart for a second. So that Puerto Rico trip that you took sounded awesome. Sounds like you had a great time. But Alex, you didn’t participate in the planning or the spending of it. Correct?

[00:51:21] Alex: Mm-mm.

[00:51:22] Ramit: Is it any surprise then that you can’t look to the future to the next 12 to 18 months to understand how you can take one to two trips per year when you didn’t plan the last one?

[00:51:37] Alex: Yeah.

[00:51:37] Ramit: So let’s just play this out. Let’s be very explicit. If you were to step up as a partner, if you were to take ownership in part of the finances, not all of it, but some of it, tell me what it would look like one year from now for you to be planning your family vacations.

[00:52:00] Alex: After I’ve become more of a partner or in my current state?

[00:52:09] Ramit: Does it matter?

[00:52:09] Alex: Because what I can’t get over is the guilt. So even like in our trip to Puerto Rico, I don’t remember why, but we needed to DoorDash something and I was like, oh my gosh, DoorDash is so expensive. I cannot justify this. I think I ended up having one of our friends go down the street and get food for us instead of DoorDashing it. It’s ridiculous.

[00:52:32] Ramit: Why?

[00:52:34] Alex: Because I couldn’t just spend a little bit more money to just have it DoorDash so we could spend time together.

[00:52:40] Ramit: Do you have the money?

[00:52:43] Alex: Technically, yes. We have the money, but I want to keep having the money. Because I don’t want it to run out.

[00:52:52] Ramit: So if you spend $10 on DoorDash, that’s one step closer towards running out.

[00:52:58] Alex: Yeah.

[00:52:58] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Okay.

[00:52:59] Alex: Essentially.

[00:53:00] Ramit: Do you like how much know you have?

[00:53:05] Alex: Currently in our bank account? A few thousand dollars.

[00:53:09] Ramit: A few thousand means what? 3, 4, 5, something like that?

[00:53:12] Alex: Like four.

[00:53:14] Ramit: Okay. Is savings money real?

[00:53:16] Alex: Yes.

[00:53:17] Ramit: Why do you say it like that?

[00:53:24] Alex: Because it’s saved over there where we can’t touch it.

[00:53:31] Ramit: I agree. Savings money is not for spending on DoorDash. I agree with you. But is it nonetheless real?

[00:53:40] Alex: Yes.

[00:53:40] Ramit: Okay. What about your investments? Is that money real?

[00:53:45] Alex: It feels less real because you’re technically gambling on it.

[00:53:49] Ramit: Oh God. Okay. We’re going to go through this step by step.

[00:53:56] Caleb: I’ve tried to have her read the book.

[00:53:57] Alex: I haven’t read the book.


[00:53:59] Ramit: The funniest part of this whole thing is that we have literally thousands of people on a wait list to appear on this podcast. If you apply and you’re accepted, it takes a long time. We carefully screen. You have to submit all of your financials. Then you have to come on a podcast with so many people listening and watching to talk about one of the most intimate parts of your life.

[00:54:20] Then people routinely go, oh, I haven’t read the book. I actually don’t mind. I actually love it because it is a great view into human nature. That’s people. That’s how we behave. Anyway, let’s look at their numbers. Assets, $350,000; investments, $47,350; savings, $2,000; debt, $336,000; for a total net worth of about $63,300.


[00:54:49] Ramit: So you have a number of different income sources. You have two incomes. You have Airbnb income. You have a foster stipend. Let’s just go straight to the gross combined monthly income. Caleb, what do you see here?

[00:55:06] Caleb: $10,851.

[00:55:08] Ramit: Cool. For a total annual income of $130,000. Okay. Alex, did you know that your household makes $130,000?

[00:55:19] Alex: No.

[00:55:19] Ramit: What’d you think you made?

[00:55:23] Alex: I thought we made around 100,000.

[00:55:29] Ramit: Okay. It’s interesting. So you just magically made $30,000 more than you thought. Do you feel any better about money?

[00:55:38] Alex: No.

[00:55:39] Ramit: How do you not feel better about money?

[00:55:44] Alex: Because it doesn’t matter.

[00:55:46] Ramit: Why?

[00:55:48] Alex: Because I don’t have a healthy view on money.

[00:55:51] Ramit: Okay. Alex, what’s this number you see here under fixed costs?

[00:55:57] Alex: 63%.

[00:55:58] Ramit: Yeah. 63%. What do you think about that number?

[00:56:02] Alex: That feels like a reasonable number.

[00:56:04] Ramit: Your housing itself is 15%, which is good. That means you have a relatively inexpensive house. Great. I do see that you’re spending $1,400 a month on home renovations. How long is that going to go on for?

[00:56:18] Caleb: So we just got a HELOC.

[00:56:21] Ramit: Oh God. Why did you do that?

[00:56:23] Caleb: We own a two-bedroom, one bathroom house with three toddlers, and the house has an unfinished basement and unfinished attic. So we’re working towards finishing both of those.

[00:56:37] Ramit: How much will it cost? Not a good sign.

[00:56:44] Caleb: About another 30,000?

[00:56:48] Ramit: Did you do the thing where you triple the expected costs? You didn’t, right?

[00:56:53] Caleb: Yes.

[00:56:54] Ramit: It’s supposed to be 10, and it’s actually going to be 30.

[00:56:57] Caleb: Well, maybe not triple. It should be 15,000 for the rest of it, but let’s just call it an even 50.

[00:57:05] Ramit: Okay, let’s do that. 50 is reasonable. Financially speaking, will you make an ROI on this?

[00:57:13] Caleb: Yes. We’ll be making it. So it’s currently 1,500 square feet. It’ll be 3,000 when we’re done with it. And it’ll be go from two-bed, one bath to five-bed, four bath.

[00:57:26] Ramit: Five bed, four bath. That’s pretty big, man.

[00:57:28] Caleb: Yeah.

[00:57:29] Ramit: You going to stay there forever?

[00:57:31] Caleb: We’d like to keep the house, and if we don’t stay here, rent it.

[00:57:37] Ramit: Mm-hmm. All right. I don’t mind. Sounds like you thought it through. I don’t mind that. Let’s pull back these numbers here and keep looking. So yeah, 63% with your 1,400 a month spend on renovations. Fine. I don’t mind it. Nothing else stands out to me. $450 a month in groceries. Is that true for three kids?

[00:58:03] Caleb: It’s the coupon. She’s really good at it.

[00:58:05] Ramit: I just want to say–

[00:58:05] Alex: Oh, you’re saying that’s low?

[00:58:06] Ramit: Yeah. This is amazing. Daycare is $520, and I assume that’s going to go up correct? A lot.

[00:58:16] Caleb: Let’s call it double because our oldest will be four, and Georgia has a free preschool for four-year-olds.

[00:58:23] Ramit: All right, so like $1,100, let’s just say, right?

[00:58:28] Alex: Sure.

[00:58:29] Ramit: Okay. So instead of 550 bucks or so, I put it to 1,100 bucks, and suddenly your fixed cost jumped from 63% to 70%. Uh-oh. And there’s more changes to be had. I understand that your foster stipend is going to be– is it eliminated? Is that what’s going to happen?

[00:58:56] Alex: It’s going to be about halved.

[00:58:57] Ramit: So let’s say that instead of 1,800, it’s going to be 900 on net and gross, which now moves your fixed costs to 78%. Alex, what are you seeing here? I see your face.

[00:59:13] Alex: Doesn’t look good.

[00:59:14] Ramit: Yeah, it’s tricky. It’s going the wrong direction. At 63%, I was like, all right, that’s not bad. It’s fine. You’re with in parameters. Then it went to 70. That makes me nervous. And at 78, this is where couples are super stressed about random cheese purchases, and I’m like, it has nothing to do with the cheese. It’s just that your fixed costs are too high. Alex, do you see so far why this is stressful for Caleb?

[00:59:42] Alex: Yes.

[00:59:43] Ramit: Are you stressed as well?

[00:59:46] Alex: Yes. It’s more of a general stress, and Caleb, he knows why he’s stressed. I’m just stressed.


[00:59:52] Ramit: Just a quick note that I don’t accept the general stress comment. Look, if you have general stress, the solution is to get help to diagnose and manage it. The solution is not to avoid basic essentials around the house. Let’s be practical. Let’s get real. Running a household is like running a business.

[01:00:10] You have a partner. You have things that must get done, and you are running that business of the household together. If you were stressed at work, you wouldn’t avoid your responsibilities. You simply couldn’t. Your business partner wouldn’t accept it. Your colleagues wouldn’t accept it. You’d find a way to address it so you could do your job, and that is exactly what we have to do with our finances.


[01:00:30] Alex: I know that. I know what the problem is.

[01:00:33] Ramit: You do?

[01:00:34] Alex: Yes, I avoid it. I avoid money.

[01:00:37] Ramit: Uh-huh. Why? That’s a symptom.

[01:00:41] Alex: Because it gives me anxiety.

[01:00:42] Ramit: Why?

[01:00:46] Alex: Because I don’t want to have the responsibility.

[01:00:51] Ramit: Why? Keep going. Stay with me.

[01:00:58] Alex: Because I can’t trust myself.

[01:01:01] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[01:01:01] Alex: I feel like I can’t trust myself with money

[01:01:03] Ramit: That’s a good correction. Why?

[01:01:08] Alex: Because I’ve never had to trust myself with money.

[01:01:15] Ramit: Now we’re getting there. I’ve never had to. I don’t really have to even today. Things are working great. I just want a beautiful vacation. Sure. My weird idiosyncrasies come out about money, but it’s not really that big of a deal. What do you think, Alex?

[01:01:40] Alex: I do have to change. Our relationship is suffering because of it, and our future is on the line. He is in charge of everything, so he feels the responsibility and the burden of being in charge of all of it. It’s stressful for him. Even though he has his little app and everything and likes to do the bubbles, it’s still stressful because he still has to be the one doing everything and making all the choices for our entire family.

[01:02:11] Ramit: Mm-hmm. That sounds like it’s tough on him. How is it affecting your relationship?

[01:02:18] Alex: We don’t know what’s going on together. I’m not proactive with our budget or anything with money, so I go up, and I’m like, just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. Not actually being like, hey, I’m an equal part in this. We can do this together. Or like, I will initiate talking about money or making choices.

[01:02:44] Ramit: Yeah.

[01:02:45] Alex: Planning things.

[01:02:46] Ramit: But he feels hurt. He feels alone. What else does he feel, Alex?

[01:02:54] Alex: Frustrated. I hate it. This has been an ongoing thing where he’s told me that, and I’m like, I’ll do better. And then I do the same thing where I’m like, just tell me what to do.

[01:03:08] Ramit: What would it look like if you changed that?

[01:03:09] Alex: Like me sitting down with the budget and being like, this is where we should be putting money. Letting my voice be heard and not putting all the choices on him. Looking at the goals and stuff that we have for the future and what we can achieve, and working on a plan about how to actually get there.

[01:03:34] Ramit: That’s hard for you, right?

[01:03:35] Alex: And believing it’s possible.

[01:03:37] Ramit: And part of the reason you don’t believe it is that until now, a lot of it has been like, let’s just believe in faith, and we don’t need to make a plan. Let’s just do our best day to day– that kind of thing, right? But you yourself chose not to live that type of life. So that means building skills of a different life. A life where you have agency, where you have control, where your voice has to be heard.

[01:04:03] Caleb: And I think she is very good at having her voice heard. She’s a great mom, and always, it’s the girls first. It’s just in this financial partnership and things that I know are deeply ingrained in her upbringing that she struggles with.

[01:04:22] Ramit: Yeah. Did I catch, Alex, what your dream is? Now that I think about it, I’m not sure we ever heard what your vision is.

[01:04:30] Alex: It’s very similar. It’s being able to travel with the girls. One of our big dreams is for Caleb to be a consultant in wildlife crossings, and I could potentially help as the biology part of that, the field studies.

[01:04:51] Caleb: Potentially opening our own non-profit in the future sort of thing.

[01:04:55] Alex: Yeah. And being able to just move around with the girls and travel, and be able to do extracurricular activities for them and everything.

[01:05:07] Ramit: It’s a cool vision. I like it.

[01:05:10] Alex: It’d be nice if we could actually experience other things.

[01:05:13] Ramit: What if I told you you can?

[01:05:19] Alex: Seems hard to wrap my head around.

[01:05:23] Ramit: Why?

[01:05:29] Alex: Because it’ll be more money and time.

[01:05:33] Ramit: What if you all could hire a babysitter one more time per month and go out to a dinner?

[01:05:40] Alex: That feels doable.

[01:05:42] Ramit: Is it something you want to do? Does it feel good?

[01:05:46] Alex: Yes.

[01:05:47] Ramit: I noticed that you have a lot of trouble feeling good about money even in these hypothetical scenarios. Have you noticed it?

[01:05:56] Alex: Yes.

[01:05:57] Ramit: if you want to feel good about money, feel good about money. Means you start with something small, like you get that Haagen-Dazs for your husband. You say, you know what? I’m so happy. I love you so much. I know you love this Haagen-Dazs. I bought it for you. I know we can afford it. Here you go. Let’s have a bowl together.

[01:06:18] Start by feeling good. Notice that that was the easiest of training wheels because you’re doing it for somebody else. And next time you can do it for yourself. And you can start off with the simplest of things. It could be a pack of gum. It doesn’t matter. Caleb, any of that surprise you?

[01:06:34] Caleb: No, I’m excited for it. I like it.

[01:06:40] Ramit: All right? Right now, as it currently stands, you cannot live that Rich Life vision. Good news is I’m here right now, so I’m going to try to help as much as I can for our time. All right, so you’re at 78%. Let’s not freak out. Let’s just acknowledge the numbers are what they are.

[01:06:54] And that’s when I factor in the reduction in the foster stipend and the increase in childcare. So you’re actually losing money every single month. Let’s keep in mind you have $2,000 in savings, which will last you approximately one and a half weeks. So you are out of money pretty soon. How does it sound?

[01:07:16] Alex: Great.

[01:07:19] Ramit: Yeah, it’s not a good situation.

[01:07:22] Caleb: We do have a few upcoming changes in income. Our Airbnb should start making closer to 1,200 a month.

[01:07:31] Ramit: Okay.

[01:07:32] Caleb: And then my income is almost certainly going to be around 8,300 a month

[01:07:44] Ramit: So your fixed costs have now dropped to 67%. That’s pretty good. I do want to talk about the disparity here in income. The disparity is 8,300 for Caleb, and 1,300 for Alex. Alex, that’s like 15,000 a year.

[01:08:01] Alex: Yes.

[01:08:03] Ramit: What do you think about that?

[01:08:05] Alex: That’s when I come into the conversation. I like, what other side hustles can we do so that I can keep my job and we can still make money?

[01:08:14] Ramit: Let’s try to walk through it. Can I ask you something, though? You have three kids. They’re all young. The gig thing to me seems more confusing than having one stable, well-paying job.

[01:08:32] Alex: I think it depends. We’ve done a lot of gig stuff in the past, so I guess that’s where my comfort is, because I’m like, we’ve made really good money in the past doing stuff.

[01:08:42] Ramit: Mm-hmm. We means who?

[01:08:45] Alex: Both me and Caleb, like when we were in college.

[01:08:47] Ramit: Okay, how much is good money?

[01:08:49] Caleb: I was going to say, I wouldn’t call it good money. I’d say it was enough to get by.

[01:08:54] Alex: It was enough to get by and to be able to snowboard when we lived in Colorado. And that’s really all we wanted, I guess.

[01:09:00] Caleb: Which is getting by as a college student.

[01:09:01] Ramit: Alex, you have three kids now.

[01:09:04] Alex: Yeah.

[01:09:05] Ramit: We’re not talking about snowboarding anymore. We’re talking about things like daycare and groceries, which are only going to get more expensive as they start to grow up. We’re talking about your husband wanting to actually have a date night with you. These are really important things. What would it take for you to take off the lenses of 22-year-old Alex where it was great? You did an awesome job for that time in life, but take those off and to put on the new lenses of who you are today. What would it take?

[01:09:36] Alex: Finding a job that would not be horrible and would pay more.

[01:09:45] Ramit: There’s a lot of not horrible jobs. There’s a lot of amazing jobs out there. How come you started off with it not being horrible?

[01:09:53] Alex: Because it’s really hard to find a job in my field that–

[01:09:57] Caleb: She really loves her job right now.

[01:09:58] Alex: I do really love my job.

[01:10:00] Ramit: I’m asking, does this number fit with what you want to do for your Rich Life vision?

[01:10:07] Alex: No.

[01:10:09] Ramit: Okay. So what are your options?

[01:10:16] Alex: Changing my vision or getting a new job.

[01:10:19] Ramit: Yeah. Agreed. So what do you want to do?

[01:10:25] Alex: Get a new job.

[01:10:26] Ramit: I don’t believe you, honestly, the way you said it.

[01:10:29] Alex: I don’t necessarily want to, but I will because I want my vision to come true.

[01:10:38] Ramit: Okay. So what job do you want to get?

[01:10:48] Alex: I’d love to get an environmental biologist job, or something like that.

[01:10:54] Ramit: Mm-hmm. And what do they pay around where you live?

[01:10:59] Alex: I think around 40,000.

[01:11:03] Caleb: 40,000 to 60,000.

[01:11:05] Ramit: So you have options.

[01:11:06] Alex: Mm-hmm.

[01:11:08] Ramit: How hard would it be on a scale of one to 10? 10 is the hardest. It’s impossible.

[01:11:16] Alex: To get a new job?

[01:11:17] Ramit: Yeah. One that pays $50,000 a year?

[01:11:22] Alex: Probably a three.

[01:11:26] Ramit: This is awesome. You can get it if you want to. It’s not about can I get the job or not? You know you can get it. I agree. Great. Fantastic. So what is it really about?

[01:11:42] Alex: Staying in my comfortable, cool job.

[01:11:47] Ramit: Uh-huh. Why?

[01:11:48] Alex: I haven’t thought it out like that before. So just you asking how hard it would be, I feel like I built it up and I was like, no, it’ll be really hard, but it really wouldn’t be.

[01:12:05] Ramit: Can you work more, make more money there?

[01:12:09] Alex: Not currently.

[01:12:11] Ramit: Okay. I would never say get a job you hate, but I also want you to remember your job is one part of your overall Rich Life. And maybe getting paid well could help you develop that Rich Life.

[01:12:25] Caleb: With having to pay for two kids in daycare, she either does need to work completely from home, and we need to adjust what our joint dream is, or she needs to work full-time or getting much higher paying part-time job.

[01:12:46] Alex: It makes sense. Part of the reason that it’s hard for me to imagine getting another job is having side hustles and stuff. Airbnb feels like it takes away less time from spending with the girls.

[01:13:02] Ramit: Right.

[01:13:02] Alex: Right now I’m only working part-time, and then we’re doing the Airbnb stuff. So I feel like if I were to go full-time, that I wouldn’t have as much time with them. I know if that’s true, but that’s what feels true, and that’s what I’m scared of.

[01:13:18] Ramit: Sometimes I think that the way you feel about things, while your feelings may be real, they may be leading you astray. Especially if you work with a therapist who’s like works in CBT and things like that, they’ll be able to give you some tools so that when you start to have these ruminations and you start to spin into certain like, oh my God, if I do this, then this, this, this, this, this, this, this, they’ll help you bring it back under control and start to build some tools for what to do to manage that effectively.

[01:13:45] I think this is a great example. It’s like, well, I love my job, which is true, and therefore if I get another job, it’s going to be the worst job, and they’re going to yell at me, and I’m not going to make any money, and then I’m going to have to quit, and then I’m going to be out in the street without any biology experience.

[01:14:01] Alex: Yeah. I didn’t even realize that I was spinning out.

[01:14:05] Ramit: It’s really helpful to talk to people who have experience in this. Trying to do it on your own, it’s really brutal.

[01:14:12] Alex: Yeah.

[01:14:13] Ramit: I would rather you cut out some of your discretionary expenses and spend the money on therapy, for sure. 100%. I would rather you do that.

[01:14:23] Caleb: And that’s already accounted for in our pre-tax. We have an HSA.

[01:14:26] Ramit: Amazing. I want you to be so good at money that at age three, age four, your oldest sees mom sitting there paying the bills. Come here. Help me push this button. We’re going to pay the bill. It provides us the food. It provides a roof. She’s getting excited. High five.

[01:14:40] I want you to get older and start planning things together. I’m planning our vacation. I want you to help do it. I want your daughters to see a balance in your relationship, not just daddy paying for it. Because if that’s what they see, that’s what they’re going to pursue in their own life. And I’m tired of seeing that pattern.

[01:14:57] Alex: Yeah. I’ve never thought about it that way.

[01:14:59] Caleb: I am all for it.


[01:15:01] Ramit: For fun, we ran their numbers again, and I made an assumption that she can get a $40,000 a year job, which I know she can do. Their fixed costs went down to 56%, and their guilt-free spending went up to $2,600 a month. Sometimes when we have really complicated problems, the solutions can be very, very simple. I want to thank Alex and Caleb for coming on, and I wish you the absolute best.