Episode #164: “I stress over money—but we’re seeing Taylor Swift in France tomorrow”

Taylor is 39 and Steve is 42. They’re married and live in New York City. Steve lost his job years ago, but has coasted without getting serious about his career. Taylor’s done the opposite—and now she’s ready to buy a home. Does Steve have what it takes to make a change for their future?

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Show Transcript

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[00:00:00] Taylor: You know that quote, all work and no play? He’s like, all play and no work. I don’t want to say I wanted to marry rich. That’s not true. I think I was expecting to have a more traditional relationship.

[00:00:10] Steve: I can get the points, I can cash them out or use them for travel versus sending out applications into the either and not necessarily know what happens with them.

[00:00:20] Taylor: We’ve had this conversation, are you going to be contributing to the house or not?

[00:00:23] Steve: I mean, I really want to.

[00:00:24] Ramit: Does it feel like you have a partner in that decision making?

[00:00:28] Taylor: No. It feels like I have someone that’s along for the ride. It’s been so many years. The trying is great, but where’s the results?

[00:00:38] Steve: I just need to believe that for myself. It’s really hard for me to believe in myself.

[00:00:44] Ramit: How do you think you could believe in yourself?

[00:00:45] Steve: Honestly, I feel like taking mushrooms could help.

[Narration]

[00:00:48] Ramit: I’d like you to meet Taylor and Steve. Taylor’s 39. Steve is 42. They’re married. They live in New York City, and they’re frustrated. Taylor’s a high achiever. Steve has struggled in his career. They can’t seem to get on the same page with money, and it is causing a lot of problems. And you’re going to hear that in this conversation, which we recorded live in studio in New York.

[00:01:10] I would highly encourage you to come watch the video on YouTube where you can see a lot of new material, including some behind the scenes clips that we’re adding to today’s episode. Now, the story begins at a recent dinner that they both remember vividly for different reasons. Let’s talk to Taylor and Steve.

[Interview]

[00:01:28] Taylor: I was just getting over being sick, and we decided to go out to dinner because Steve had this coupon. And I asked Steve about his day. I just didn’t get a lot of response, a lot of answers, which is typical. There’s a shutdown when I ask about his day because he thinks that I’m asking, have you worked on some kind of income stream or something?

[00:01:03] Which, yeah, that’s part of why I ask. But there’s this tension, this pink elephant in the room with us often when I try to get a little more information from him or connect with him about work stuff.

[00:02:02] Ramit: So when say you go out to dinner, were you at a restaurant?

[00:02:04] Taylor: Yeah.

[00:02:04] Ramit: Okay. And what did you say to him?

[00:02:05] Taylor: What did you do? Oh, I emailed someone about something and tried to work on my blog. I’m like, anything else? I try to share things that I’m proud of with him. If he does something, like works on a blog, I’m like, great. That is so great.

[00:02:10] I try to lift him up. And I think I’ve also gotten to a point, because it’s been so many years, where we’re at a time. The trying is great, but where’s the results? Where’s the stuff that needs to really start happening?

[00:02:20] Ramit: Okay. Steve, what do you remember about that dinner?

[00:02:21] Steve: She asked me how was my day. Fine. Then she was asking more and more details, wanting to know. It felt to me like it was a bit wanting to track my schedule not to the minute but really granularly, and I just felt overwhelmed. Once I feel like I’m done talking, it’s hard for me to continue with the nudges and the pushes.

[00:02:34] Ramit: What do you mean by nudges and pushes?

[00:02:37] Steve: She started out with like, how was your day? And then, what did you do? And how is this? Just more and more questions, which honestly, I probably need to handle these questions better and be more self-reflective. But I generally don’t.

[00:02:57] Ramit: Mm-hmm. Why is that?

[00:02:58] Steve: I don’t feel really happy with where I’m at. I feel like it’s something that I don’t love sharing necessarily.

[00:03:10] Ramit: When you say you’re not happy with where you’re at, do you mean professionally or also otherwise?

[00:03:13] Steve: Professionally. I think personally I’m in a great place.

[00:03:16] Ramit: Okay. Cool. So when the topic comes up, feels a bit raw, and you don’t want talk about it.

[00:03:22] Steve: Yeah. I feel like everyone’s doing better, and it’s something I don’t love talking about.

[00:03:28] Ramit: Okay. How often do you talk about your professional work at home?

[00:03:35] Steve: Every day, feels like.

[00:03:37] Taylor: I talk about mine every day.

[00:03:39] Steve: We talk about it, and then she’ll get mad, and then we won’t talk about it for a while.

[00:03:43] Ramit: A while means what?

[00:03:45] Steve: A few days.

[00:03:45] Taylor: No. 

[00:03:47] Ramit: Why don’t we let him answer?

[00:03:50] Steve: Recently, it feels like it’s been more. I don’t know. On occasion, in the past, it’s been a few weeks.

[00:03:57] Ramit: Can you look at me? I notice that when I ask you questions, you’re looking at her. Have you noticed that?

[00:04:06] Steve: It feels to me like we talk about it a lot. Because I know I should be earning more and doing more, so for me, I always try to avoid the conversation because I feel like I haven’t improved it.

[00:04:28] Taylor: I know these things. In the moment, I get so angry, and then when I take a step back, I can understand that he feels so down. And I don’t want to add to that. I don’t want to make him feel worse. That’s never what I want to do. I think I just try to balance checking in about it and also giving him space to cope.

[00:04:49] Ramit: And you interpret that as she’s me about work again, and I, therefore, need to what?

[00:04:57] Steve: Shut down. 

[00:04:58] Ramit: And if you shut down, then what happens?

[00:05:01] Steve: It feels sad and awkward and like, what are we doing here? 

[00:05:07] Ramit: That’s how the dinner ended.

[00:05:09] Steve: I was quiet for a long time, which I’ve realized I’ve learned from my dad. He will shut down, and I get annoyed by it, but as I get older, I’ve seen more and more traits for my parents in me, which I don’t necessarily love.

[Narration]

[00:05:24] Ramit: Here we have their dynamic. First, Taylor’s the chaser, Steve is the avoider. Second, there’s a power dynamic at work, which we can see not only from income, but also from how Steve looks at Taylor as he answers questions about himself.

[00:05:38] Finally, we noticed that when they talk about money or even about his day, Steve shuts down because he’s not proud of where he is professionally, and this, by the way, reflects his parents’ dynamic as well. 

[Interview]

[00:05:51] Ramit: All right. Take me back to the beginning of the relationship. When was the first time that you remember having a serious conversation about money?

[00:05:58] Taylor: I was on a date with Steve, and at the time, I was much different. I don’t want to say I wanted to marry rich. That’s not true. I think I was expecting to have a more traditional relationship where the man makes more. I make less. That’s possible. I was not making a lot, and we had a conversation, and Steve said, if you want to be in a relationship with me, we’re going to have to do things equally, meaning dates.

[00:06:28] Ramit: Okay. All right. And how did you feel about that? 

[00:06:32] Taylor: Disappointed.

[00:06:33] Ramit: I know it was a long time ago, but do you remember what you said in response to that comment?

[00:06:43] Taylor: Okay. And just trying to figure out, I really liked him. I didn’t want to breakup. I also knew in my heart that I couldn’t depend on someone else to support me.

[00:06:57] Ramit: We’ll be right back after this short break. Now, back to Taylor and Steve.

[00:07:03] Taylor: I was disappointed, but not surprised. And it was a good kick that I needed.

[00:07:08] Ramit: Okay.

[00:07:09] Steve: For me, the idea of having a housewife was never something that even crossed my mind. For me, I was so used to everything being equal.

[00:07:22] Ramit: Where did that come from?

[00:07:24] Steve: I think I was modeled on this by my parents who are a two-income household. And I was just used to seeing two equal partners in a relationship. 

[00:07:35] Ramit: What was the next time that you started talking about money seriously?

[00:07:40] Taylor: When your job reduced your salary. That was what, eight years ago? 

[00:07:45] Ramit: What happened?

[00:07:46] Steve: My company wasn’t doing well, so they like cut. I think at the peak, it was about 100,000 a year, and then it was down to like 40,000 a year.

[00:07:54] Ramit: In what time period?

[00:07:57] Steve: Over the span of a year. 

[00:07:58] Ramit: Okay. Big reduction pretty quickly. Can you tell me about how if at all your identity changed inside your relationship? You were earning more than your wife was at the time, right?

[00:08:14] Taylor: I was 42,000 a year.

[00:08:17] Ramit: Okay. Steve, you were earning like more than twice as much. All right, so suddenly your income drops to less than 42,000. You’re making 40K. How did that affect your identity?

[00:08:28] Steve: I felt really insecure, I guess. I’m so used to being, my whole life, independent, able to do my own stuff, save a lot of money. And then when it dropped, I couldn’t really save very much. I had to be much more careful about spending, but there was something in me that made me feel really bad about myself, sad, frustrated.

[00:08:59] Ramit: How long do those feelings last? 

[00:09:01] Steve: Probably for a while. I still feel that to some degree now. I felt like I probably could have done more to prevent it.

[00:09:16] Taylor: Yeah, it sucked, but I didn’t think it would last this long, this confusion and insecurity and regret that he has.

[00:09:25] Steve: I got really into points and miles at that point, because I felt like I had to like make it up somehow.

[Narration]

[00:09:32] Ramit: Before we get back to that, I have an announcement to make. This content is not free. You have to pay, and the price is clicking Subscribe. Hit that button so I can keep sending you videos.

[Interview]

[00:09:43] Steve: I love getting a good deal. It’s true. 

[00:09:48] Ramit: You always loved that your whole life?

[00:09:50] Steve: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Even when I was in my teens, I would order the Columbia House CDs and then sell them individually to people. But I definitely think I get caught up in the granular deal stuff too much for sure. And this has been my thought, but also pointed out by Taylor.

[00:10:10] Ramit: We’re talking credit card points, miles, that kind of thing?

[00:10:12] Steve: Yeah.

[00:10:12] Ramit: All right. Would you end up on the subreddits and stuff like that?

[00:10:14] Steve: Yeah, but even before then I was like, the various forms even before all those churning forms, etc. Random ones.

[00:10:24] Ramit: Like what? Deals?

[00:10:26] Steve: Yeah, I don’t even remember it now, at this point. It’s just random miles. 

[00:10:29] Ramit: What do you love about miles?

[00:10:32] Steve: I do love to travel, so I love being able to travel for free. We go on multiple vacations a year for free. We’re going on one in two weeks. 

[00:10:42] Ramit: You’re going to France, right?

[00:10:42] Steve: France, yeah.

[00:10:43] Taylor: We’re leave tomorrow. 

[00:10:44] Ramit: How long are you going for? 

[00:10:45] Steve: Two and a half weeks.

[00:10:46] Ramit: Whoa. Really? Where are you going to go in France?

[00:10:50] Steve: We’re going to the Loire Valley, and then Paris, and then Lyon for Taylor Swift, and then Provence where we met a magical car last year at a firm. I want to see that car again. 

[00:11:00] Ramit: How much do you think that’ll cost?

[00:11:03] Steve: We’re pretty good. We like to eat good food, but we don’t like to spend a ton of money. 

[00:11:09] Taylor: Fifty a day? 

[00:11:10] Steve: Yeah, fifty a day probably.

[00:11:11] Ramit: 50 bucks a day. What about Taylor Swift?

[00:11:14] Taylor: That was only 300 each. 

[00:11:17] Ramit: Okay. That’s pretty interesting. All right. So 50 bucks a day, maybe a hundred bucks a day for two weeks or so. Would you say that’s fair? Do you set a number when you travel or no?

[00:11:28] Steve: No, we play it by year. Honestly, we did a six-week vacation last year after our cat died, and that ended up a little bit more expensive with food than we thought. And halfway through, we were like, we need to chill a little bit. But for two weeks and with the knowledge of last year, we’ll do pretty well.

[00:11:49] Ramit: Okay, fine. What’s behind the points? Why do you love the points?

[00:11:55] Steve: It feels like I’m getting a really good deal, and it feels like I found a way to get “free” money. I can sign up for these cards. I can get the points. I can cash them out or use them for travel versus sending out applications into the either and not necessarily know what happens with them

[00:12:18] Ramit: So with the points, you have a sense of control. If I do this, I’m going to get that, and not only that, that turns into our vacation in France. Or I can try to apply for jobs, where I just send my resume over and over into the black hole of doom, and I never hear back.

[00:12:36] Steve: I feel like that’s true. Yeah. At least for an emergency fund, we have our points as a emergency fund. 

[00:12:43] Ramit: What the fuck? What? I’ve never heard that. Who has points as an emergency fund?

[00:12:48] Steve: We use them for travel, but we could liquidate them for about 40,000, $50,000 right now if we wanted to.

[00:12:54] Ramit: What? Hold on. Are you serious? How many points do you have?

[00:13:00] Steve: Millions. 

[00:13:02] Ramit: How many? 

[00:13:03] Steve: 3 million Amex, a million and a half Chase, 400,000, 500,000 Capital One and then some various other airline points.

[Narration]

[00:13:14] Ramit: A lot of this actually makes sense. If you go from being the higher earner to the lower earner, that’s going to change relationship dynamics. But there’s also a point where I go, come on, that happened eight years ago, and nothing’s changed? And you spend hours every single day online amassing credit card points? That doesn’t sit right with me. And the cherry on top is that when they met, Steve told Taylor that he wanted to split things equally. So why isn’t he holding up his end of the bargain?

[Interview]

[00:13:46] Taylor: I hate to say it but this happening to him in a ripple effect was me becoming more confident and more driven, and I really enjoy it. So it was a positive thing for me over a long period. 

[00:14:02] Ramit: Can you draw the line for me? So Steve losing his job eventually rippled to you becoming more confident. What’s the connection?

[00:14:14] Taylor: Because after time passed and things weren’t changing with him, I realized I would have to figure it out. And in figuring it out, and failing, and applying to jobs, not getting them, starting my practice, it really, really has helped me create a full life. I’m really proud of myself. Because he’s so down on the– like, what could happen on the possibilities. I’m like, I’m going to show him what’s possible. There is this almost competitive, like, see, look, if I can do this, you can do this. And it’s like, do it. You can do it. If I can do it; you can do it. 

[00:14:54] Steve: What changed for you to make you start earning a lot more?

[00:14:57] Taylor: I think a lot of it was losing my confidence in him being able to figure things out.

[00:15:04] Ramit: When did that happen?

[00:15:12] Taylor: Five years ago, six years ago.

[00:15:16] Steve: So several years after you lost your job.

[00:15:18] Taylor: Yeah. Because he got a pay cut and then he lost the job.

[00:15:20] Ramit: When you had that pay cut, did you feel the urgency to get back to the number you used to make?

[00:15:26] Steve: I really wanted to, yeah. But I feel like I was also coasting to a degree. My life was great. I had great friends, a great partner. Living in New York, had lots of stuff to do. So I think I could have more urgency. 

[00:15:44] Ramit: Do you have urgency today?

[00:15:47] Steve: I could probably have more urgency today too.

[00:15:51] Ramit: Is that a yes or no?

[00:15:51] Steve: To be honest, probably no.

[00:15:59] Ramit: Yeah. How long have you gone since the pay reduction until now? How many years has it been? 

[00:16:05] Steve: Eight years. Something around that.

[00:16:06] Ramit: So I can understand, pay cut, six months, it’s like, I don’t know what happened. I feel bad. I get it. Maybe the market’s down, recession, a year, 18 months. What do you think happened over eight years?

[00:16:24] Steve: Every once in a while, I go back and do a burst of it, but I haven’t put in a sustained, consistent effort. 

[00:16:33] Ramit: Why?

[00:16:34] Steve: I feel like I lack this urgency. I have my investments, and they are pretty decent. Could be in a much worse spot. I have a great partner who’s earning a lot of money.

[00:16:52] Taylor: Not that much. I mean.

[00:16:53] Ramit: Why do you roll your eyes? You are earning a lot of money.

[00:16:56] Taylor: It’s never guaranteed. That’s the thing.

[00:16:58] Ramit: So what? I’m never guaranteed to have legs tomorrow. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them.

[00:17:03] Taylor: Yeah, it’s still hard for me to wrap my head around.

[00:17:09] Ramit: Steve, if you had to give me a one-sentence description of the challenge that you’re facing today in your relationship, what would you say?

[00:17:17] Steve: I feel like I’m not bringing enough to the table financially for us to grow as a couple and for our future.

[00:17:27] Ramit: Okay.

[00:17:27] Taylor: Yeah. And I think we have gone through periods where I have accepted this is the reality. I can’t control what he’s going to do. I’m going to focus on myself. And I do. And then we go months or years, and I’m just focused on my own stuff. I’m focused. But then reality hits and it’s like, oh wait, I want to grow. I can do it, I think. It’d be so much easier if he could also contribute a little more. He’s so capable.

[00:17:52] Steve: I did dabble in day trading.

[00:17:56] Ramit: What?

[00:17:56] Steve: I know. Not anymore.

[00:17:57] Ramit: Is this a joke?

[00:18:00] Taylor: No, it’s not.

[00:18:00] Ramit: What were you day trading?

[00:18:02] Steve: So I made some money. I lost some money, and I think probably lost a little bit more than I made. Before COVID, I ran into it once, an issue with margin, with–

[00:18:17] Ramit: You were margin trading. Why did you do that?

[00:18:19] Steve: Back in 2007 or so, when 2008 happened.

[00:18:22] Ramit: Oh, that’s a good time.

[00:18:22] Steve: Yeah, yeah.

[00:18:22] Ramit: So overall, has this been worth your time, or no?

[00:18:24] Steve: Probably not worth my time.

[00:18:25] Ramit: All right. Do you still do margin trading?

[00:18:29] Steve: I still have stocks on margin, but I don’t really trade them very often.

[00:18:32] Taylor: Help me. Help me.

[00:18:34] Ramit: How much do you have?

[00:18:35] Steve: Probably about 200,000.

[00:18:38] Ramit: $200,000?

[00:18:39] Steve: Yeah.

[00:18:40] Ramit: What the fuck?

[00:18:41] Taylor: I know.

[00:18:42] Ramit: Wait, is this for real? You have $200,000 in what?

[00:18:46] Steve: Nvidia, Microsoft, Google. It’s pretty big stuff at this point.

[00:18:50] Ramit: All right.

[00:18:51] Taylor: But he has to pay every month to be on margin.

[00:18:54] Steve: Yeah. Now that the interest rates are up and even without it, in general, I should not be on margin.

[00:18:59] Ramit: All jokes aside, why do you do margin trading?

[00:19:03] Steve: There’s two things. One, it seems like such a get rich quick idea, which is bad, but for some reason it still appeals to me. And two, it’s another example of me being able to exert control over things. I can buy and sell stocks, just like with the points, versus hoping someone else will give me a shot.

[00:19:23] Ramit: That’s pretty insightful. It’s one thing to be insightful about yourself. It’s another thing to change.

[00:19:27] Steve: Yeah. I feel like I need the leverage to add to my income.

[00:19:32] Ramit: Why?

[00:19:34] Steve: So I can approach her income a little bit more.

[Narration]

[00:19:37] Ramit: One of the things you learn is that some people rarely face failure. And then the first time something doesn’t go their way, it knocks them down, and they can’t recover. We hear this a lot of times from my guests who will recount that their dad got laid off usually when they were a teenager and basically never recovered. That is what we are basically seeing here.

[00:20:00] Now, I also want to talk about the margin account, a high-risk investment strategy, that’s typical of people who feel they’re behind. Whenever someone tells me that they feel behind with their money, it is a huge red flag. Because the next thing they’re about to say is going to make no fucking sense at all. I feel like I’m behind, so I put all my money into crypto. I feel like I’m behind, so I quit my job to get into this MLM.

[00:20:25] That’s how I’m going to make a ton of money. They’re simply comparing themselves to the figment of some imaginary goal. And it almost always produces dysfunctional behaviors. Let’s look at their numbers. Their assets, $80,000; investments, $691,000; savings, $128,000; debt, $60,000; total net worth $839,000. Their income, for Taylor, is $12,000 a month. For Steve, it is 3,000 a month.

[Interview]

[00:20:53] Ramit: How long have you been making a lot of money?

[00:20:56] Taylor: I don’t know. Four years? I’m in New York.

[00:21:02] Ramit: Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Oh, the hot dogs are so expensive in New York. It’s so crazy.

[00:21:06] Taylor: No, I wasn’t going to say that. I was going to say that–

[00:21:07] Ramit: Oh my god, lettuce. It’s crazy.

[00:21:09] Taylor: What I make in New York is normal.

[00:21:11] Ramit: 170, that’s a lot of money. That’s not normal in New York, by the way. That’s way above median.

[00:21:16] Taylor: That’s the thing. I’m still back in this place where I was in, had student loan debt. I was making 40,000 a year. This goal, to make six figures, I would sit on the subway thinking it was impossible. I remember doing the math on my calculator every day on the subway, not knowing how it was going to work out. And it’s like, I did it. I actually did it.

[00:21:36] Ramit: Part of the next challenge is now embracing it.

[00:21:41] Taylor: Yeah.

[00:21:41] Ramit: Accepting it.

[00:21:42] Taylor: I know. I’m so grateful.

[00:21:44] Ramit: So Steve, you started getting into the points. How much time do you spend on points every week?

[00:21:51] Steve: Probably multiple hours a day, to be honest.

[00:21:53] Ramit: Okay. Two, three?

[00:21:55] Steve: Three to four.

[00:21:56] Ramit: Let’s say four a day. So that’s 20 plus hours a week.

[00:21:59] Steve: Yeah.

[00:21:59] Ramit: All right. That’s a lot. You earned $60,000 last year, right?

[00:22:06] Steve: Right.

[00:22:07] Ramit: That was in your business.

[00:22:08] Steve: Yeah. Correct.

[00:22:08] Ramit: Okay. So I heard that that was a good year, but I also heard that that just came to you. Is that right?

[00:22:16] Taylor: Mm-hmm.

[00:22:17] Steve: I had worked in the industry for 20 years prior, so yeah.

[00:22:20] Ramit: All right. That’s interesting because you made 60k. How do you feel about that number?

[00:22:26] Taylor: Amazing.

[00:22:26] Ramit: All right. Is there a but?

[00:22:29] Steve: It’s not consistent. So like this year has been pretty quiet.

[00:22:33] Ramit: Quiet means what?

[00:22:37] Steve: Seven, eight thousand so far.

[00:22:39] Ramit: The whole year?

[00:22:39] Steve: Yeah.

[00:22:40] Ramit: All right. You mentioned earlier that the points allow you to feel like you are contributing financially to the relationship. Is that true?

[00:22:48] Steve: Yeah. All the vacations are free. Obviously, I think big picture, my energy would probably be spent more working on my business and maybe trying to get a new job versus trying to gain for as many points as I can.

[00:23:04] Ramit: But do you believe that? Because how long has it been?

[00:23:05] Steve: I actually do, but I love doing the points thing. So it’s like I love traveling, so it’s something where I need to really be serious about where I want my life to head, I think. I need to decide where that is.

[00:23:22] Ramit: Where is that?

[00:23:23] Steve: I would love to buy a house too and have a huge garden. We both love gardening, but we live in New York, so it’s very difficult here. Have some more cats. I think not have to have these conversations about money and both be totally on the same page. Buy a house, have growth in our lives. I feel like we’re stuck because I feel like I can’t afford having a kid or have a house at this income level.

[00:23:49] Ramit: Do you know why you haven’t changed?

[00:23:51] Steve: I’m pretty content with what I have. I’m not someone that has a ton of drive and needs, is constantly reaching for the next big thing. And I think I’ve been like that for a long time.

[00:24:03] Taylor: And even before we met, you applied to law school, got into Cornell law, and then was like, eh, I don’t feel like it.

[00:24:08] Ramit: What’s behind that? Why do you think you get to the finish line and then you don’t cross?

[00:24:12] Steve: It’s a good question. Fear at some point, I imagine.

[Narration]

[00:24:18] Ramit: I once took a management course where they asked, how do you motivate an employee? And the answer turned out to be, you can’t. When the instructor said that to us, I wasn’t sure if I agreed. It seemed so blunt, so cutthroat. But over time, after hiring and managing lots of people, I’ve come to agree with it.

[00:24:38] If you give me an unlimited budget and unlimited time, maybe I could change somebody. But that’s not the way reality works. If you don’t have the drive, I can’t put it in you. If you don’t want to improve, I can’t make you want that.

[00:24:56] If you don’t enjoy talking to people, I can’t make you want to enjoy it. They either have it or they don’t. So throughout this episode, I’m wondering whether Steve has the motivation or the reason to change. Let’s find out. Were you always successful in school as a kid?

[Interview]

[00:25:13] Steve: Yeah, very high achieving in school.

[00:25:16] Ramit: Yeah. Now, what was it like coming from high school where I assume you’re one of the smartest people, most successful? Okay, seeing a lot of nods.

[00:25:23] Taylor: Perfect SAT score.

[00:25:24] Ramit: Seriously?

[00:25:25] Steve: Well, no, close.

[00:25:26] Ramit: What? He’s like 1590.

[00:25:28] Steve: I don’t know, 1550.

[00:25:29] Ramit: That’s pretty good. So what was it like going from high school where in a lot of high schools it’s easy, going to college where it becomes a lot harder?

[00:25:40] Steve: Since I’ve been a little kid, things came to me pretty easily. I was good in school, then I was good in college, and then I got this internship that turned into a job immediately after school. I’ve never really had to struggle. My parents made sure I didn’t have student loans when I went to school. I guess, honestly, my life was good until my pay got cut.

[00:26:02] Ramit: Did you have the skills to hustle?

[00:26:06] Steve: Not really, I guess. So used to things coming so easily for me. I expected I would apply for a job and eventually get some interviews.

[00:26:16] Ramit: Yeah. Do you have the skills today?

[00:26:19] Steve: Maybe my hard skills in terms of job search have atrophied to some degree, but I’m much more cognizant of everything thanks to Taylor.

[00:26:30] Ramit: I want to understand a little bit more about your upbringing because your parents you mentioned were professors and they helped you graduate with no debt. What do you remember them saying about money when you were a kid?

[00:26:43] Steve: They were always really good with money. They loved investing. They got me started in the Young Investors Club, I think it was. I always taught that savings was really important. They helped me open up my first Roth as soon as I finished college. I saved $10,000 in a few months after college and then put the rest into another investment account.

[00:27:06] Ramit: What do they think of your professional situation right now?

[00:27:09] Steve: I don’t really talk to them that much about it. I told them when I was laid off from my job in 2022 and then when I started my own business right after that. And it went really well last year. So I’ve told them about it, but I feel like they don’t necessarily listen too much.

[00:27:31] They know a lot. I think as professors, they’re used to talking to people or instructing people. So when I say something, sometimes I feel like it goes in one ear and out the other. My sister also doesn’t tell them much about her life necessarily because they’re such big worriers.

[00:27:52] Ramit: What do they worry about?

[00:27:55] Steve: Everything.

[00:27:56] Ramit: You worry a lot?

[00:27:58] Steve: I worry, but I don’t do things to alleviate the worry. I’m worried about my financial situation, but I’m not really doing that much to improve it. I’m coasting again.

[00:28:07] Ramit: Okay. Do we all know why you’re coasting? Does everybody at this table know why?

[00:28:13] Taylor: Yeah.

[00:28:14] Ramit: Why?

[00:28:14] Taylor: Because he’ll always be fine. He’ll always be taken care of.

[00:28:17] Ramit: By whom?

[00:28:18] Taylor: Me or his parents.

[Narration]

[00:28:20] Ramit: Let’s take a quick pause to support our sponsors. Now, back to the show.

[Interview]

[00:28:25] Steve: I don’t like admitting it, but it probably is true. It’s I guess crazy to me because I had three jobs. I was working probably 90, 100 hours a week for four or five years after school to make enough money for myself. So obviously, I can do it.

[00:28:40] Ramit: Are you confused at your own behavior?

[00:28:44] Steve: I think I’ve gotten just too comfortable.

[00:28:46] Ramit: If you were single tomorrow, what would you do? Don’t look at her. Look at me.

[00:28:53] Steve: No, I’m trying to imagine. It’s so hard to imagine life without her, but probably travel a lot.

[00:29:00] Ramit: How are you paying?

[00:29:02] Steve: Points.

[00:29:03] Ramit: Taylor, what do you think he would do if he were single overnight?

[00:29:06] Taylor: He’d probably be snowboarding, traveling, and probably be just scrounging money from his savings and investing. I think the margin would continue and just managing it all as well as he can until, I don’t know.

[00:29:24] Ramit: Until what?

[00:29:25] Taylor: Until he probably inherits money from his family.

[Narration]

[00:29:29] Ramit: One of the recurring patterns on this podcast is that people will not make a financial change unless there is a compelling reason to. Your spouse wanting you to change is not compelling enough for most people. Your feeling uncomfortable when the credit card gets rejected at dinner is not compelling enough to change. Even having $50,000 of credit card debt is not enough to make most people want to change. And this truly blows people away.

[00:29:57] Because we all like to believe we are logical, rational people, but none of us is. That’s why we don’t take our health seriously enough. It’s why we don’t read a single book on money, including most of the guests that come on here. The sooner you accept that we’re not logical and rational, the better. The sooner you accept that we typically only make huge changes if we have to, and sometimes not even then, the sooner you can understand what is going on with all of my guests, including perhaps in your own relationship.

[Interview]

[00:30:29] Taylor: Yeah. So my mom is the mom that would drive five miles to get cheaper gas.

[00:30:38] Ramit: What did she say about money when you were a kid? What phrases?

[00:30:42] Taylor: Stuff like, oh, I got it on sale. But there also was such a discrepancy in what our lives looked like and the money. My dad passed away when I was nine, and I always had this understanding that there was going to be money for my brother, my sister, and I. When my sister turned 25, that was known.

[00:31:11] But when she turned 25, there was no money left. And so my mom, this was right after the 2008 crisis, was bankrupt at that time. So we grew up in a way, it was a nice house. My mom drove a navigator, all these things that were just very fancy, but not mindful. And she had, I learned over the years, a financial advisor who depleted the funds doing all these trades and stuff.

[00:31:40] And I’ve had to do a lot of processing around what happened with that money. And when I think about it now, my mom raised three children by herself. She had to spend it all. I get it. But I think there was this understanding, oh, you’ll be fine. There’s money there for you, and there’s money.

[00:32:00] Ramit: And she genuinely believed that. She didn’t know what the financial advisor was doing?

[00:32:06] Taylor: Yeah. So there was a whole thing, and it is what it is. I feel much better about it today than I did back when I was with my student loans and all of this stuff, but I think it taught me a lot of lessons to think I had a cushion, and then no cushion.

[00:32:21] Ramit: What lessons did that teach you?

[00:32:25] Taylor: I can’t depend on anyone else.

[00:32:28] Ramit: What do you find yourself still living in when it comes to the money messages you received as a kid?

[00:32:37] Taylor: I think if I’m being honest, I still want a cushion. I want safety and security.

[00:32:44] Ramit: What does that mean?

[00:32:44] Taylor: If something happens to me, are you capable of figuring out how to make it work?

[00:32:49] Ramit: And is he?

[00:32:52] Taylor: I will always believe he is.

[00:32:56] Steve: I just need to believe that for myself. It’s really hard for me to believe in myself.

[00:33:01] Ramit: How do you think you could believe in yourself?

[00:33:04] Steve: Honestly, I feel like taking mushrooms could help. Am I allowed to say that? I don’t know.

[00:33:08] Ramit: Yeah. You can say whatever you want. I did not expect that answer. I’ll tell you that right now.

[Narration]

[00:33:13] Ramit: A lot of their relationship dynamics actually make perfect sense now. Taylor’s dad passed away when she was nine. Her mom promised there would be money, but actually there wasn’t. And today she feels a need for safety and security, and she worries about money.

[00:33:26] Steve had parents with high expectations. He had early academic success without really facing any adversity, and the first time things didn’t go right, he fell down and hasn’t gotten up. And why would he? He has multiple safety nets that give him a great life. Again, it all makes sense. Don’t be distracted by the odd diversions in this story, like the millions of credit card points and that comment about the mushrooms.

[00:33:52] That stuff is just a distraction. This story is actually classic. Taylor wants Steve to want more for himself, to become a financial partner in their relationship. But he has no reason to.

[Interview]

[00:34:06] Ramit: Do you tell him what he should do?

[00:34:08] Taylor: I try to help brainstorm. I don’t say, you need to do this. Or maybe I do tell him what he needs to do.

[00:34:13] Ramit: That sounds like you tell him what to do.

[00:34:14] Steve: It’s both. But honestly, I could use the feedback. It’s so easy for me to just be comfortable in my lane.

[00:34:22] Ramit: Sometimes getting feedback can be helpful when you’re brainstorming, when you solicit it. But can you think of anyone in your life where when you talk to them, they start talking back at you, and they’re not really listening? They’re just giving you a lecture.

[00:34:35] Steve: I guess, yeah, my parents.

[00:34:36] Ramit: Hmm. I wonder if there’s any similarity here.

[00:34:44] Steve: I guess you’re right.

[00:34:44] Ramit: So let’s put the pieces together. Your mom and dad worry about money. Who else worries about money here at the table?

[00:34:53] Steve: Taylor.

[00:34:54] Ramit: Your parents talk at you. Who else, not always, but sometimes talks at you?

[00:35:02] Steve: Taylor.

[00:35:03] Ramit: Okay. Is it possible some of the things that you have decided to distance yourself from with your parents, maybe you are internalizing some of that here?

[00:35:13] Steve: Could definitely see that, I guess.

[00:35:14] Ramit: When it relates to money.

[00:35:15] Steve: Yeah.

[00:35:16] Ramit: And yet, you probably still have to figure out the solution.

[00:35:20] Steve: Yeah.

[00:35:21] Ramit: Candidly, if my partner had taken a pay cut eight years ago and had not made moves to become an equal partner, or not even an equal partner, but some meaningful contribution to the relationship, the vacations help, the points help, yes, but sometimes the best points program is just being able to pay for a trip with cash.

[00:35:49] And if I didn’t feel confident about that, then I might not feel confident about their professional abilities. Where are we going together? I’ve come this far. Is my partner on that journey with me? What do you both think about that? I’m seeing a lot of nods.

[00:36:05] Taylor: I’d feel very validated because I really do try so hard to communicate in a way that is respectful, and helpful, or not even do any of it, just focus on my own stuff. But yeah, there it’s been eight years. I feel like it’s fair for me to be concerned.

[00:36:26] Ramit: Eight years is a long time. I think you’re more than concerned. What are you?

[00:36:31] Taylor: Scared?

[00:36:33] Ramit: Tell me about it.

[00:36:33] Taylor: Sad?

[00:36:34] Ramit: Scared meaning?

[00:36:34] Taylor: Disappointed. Scared that it’s never going to change.

[00:36:38] Ramit: Can I ask a question? What if Steve earned three times more than you? And what if you said, I make some money, but career is not really my thing.

[00:36:51] Steve: For some reason, I feel like I would be more comfortable with it. I don’t know why. If it goes back to the whole gender roles and stuff, it was already like that, and it was fine for me.

[00:37:02] Ramit: Meaning you were making more.

[00:37:04] Steve: Yeah.

[00:37:04] Ramit: And what was there? What was the feeling there?

[00:37:06] Steve: I was totally okay. I wasn’t like, she needs to make more, or she needs to change things.

[00:37:15] Ramit: Mm hmm. Although you did say, we need to be equal.

[00:37:17] Steve: Oh, true. Oh, that’s a good point.

[Narration]

[00:37:20] Ramit: I can already tell that a bunch of commenters are going to want me to scream at Steve and tell him, hey, Steve, it’s time to step up and earn more. Get lost. First of all, it’s not my style, nor is it effective to scream at people about money or anything where there’s behavioral change involved.

[00:37:38] Taylor and Steve both know what’s wrong. They just need a little guidance to say it plainly to each other to acknowledge their true feelings. So no matter how obvious something is to you when you listen to a couple, please remember, it’s easy to critique others. But for my guests, this is a very, very serious challenge, and they want help, not yelling. Back to Taylor where I’m going to ask her to be extremely clear about exactly what she wants.

[Interview]

[00:38:05] Taylor: I want him to be making $100,000 a year.

[00:38:09] Ramit: I know that you don’t only want him to make $100,000. I know you wouldn’t want Steve to make 100,000 if he’s miserable at his job. I understand all that.

[00:38:18] Taylor: Yeah. That’s true.

[00:38:18] Ramit: Let’s stipulate all that. I’m willing to bet, correct me if I’m wrong, that a lot of the conversations between the two of you are you, Taylor, telling him, or suggesting, or nudging how he can get to some indeterminate goal. Have you tried this? Have you logged onto LinkedIn? Have you done this resume website, right?

[00:38:38] Taylor: Mm-hmm.

[00:38:40] Ramit: And how does that feel to you, Steve?

[00:38:42] Steve: I feel like I need the prodding. I guess so far it hasn’t really worked. So maybe I don’t–

[00:38:48] Ramit: Only eight years. Maybe eight more years.

[00:38:50] Steve: I do a lot of what she says. She’s given me so many books to read.

[00:38:55] Ramit: I guess I’m less interested in the effort and more interested in the outcome. You may believe that you need somebody to nudge you. You’re an adult. You don’t need somebody to nudge you. In fact, number two, I actually think it’s pretty disempowering if someone’s constantly checking. Did you do this? Did you do this? Like a kid. Did you put your boots on? Did you use the bathroom?

[00:39:17] And after a while, the kid doesn’t even stop to think about using the bathroom themselves. They go, mom and dad’s going to tell me to check on the bathroom, or did I eat, or did I pack this or that. So ultimately, what do we have to do? We have to let them become themselves. And sometimes that means they fail.

[00:39:31] Sometimes they forget something at home. Sometimes they don’t get a job because they didn’t do their resume the right way. But we have to let them come to their own conclusion. Steve, you have to come to your own conclusion.

[00:39:44] Taylor: No, it’s just like, I don’t know what he’s doing. He has to figure it out. I’m just going to do this.

[00:39:49] Ramit: Well, he has figured it out.

[00:39:50] Taylor: Yeah.

[00:39:51] Ramit: You have, right, Steve? You have a pretty good life.

[00:39:54] Steve: I do feel like I have a pretty good life, but it could be a lot better.

[00:39:57] Taylor: It could be more secure, I think.

[00:39:58] Steve: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, secure too.

[00:40:01] Taylor: You know that quote, all work and no play? He’s like, all play, no work.

[00:40:06] Ramit: You’re saying he needs to figure it out. He has figured it out. He’s going to France tomorrow for two and a half weeks. You snowboard a lot.

[00:40:12] Steve: Yeah.

[00:40:13] Ramit: You spend hours online every day, optimizing points, which is fun because you can get immediate control over it. What’s to figure out?

[00:40:21] Steve: The future.

[00:40:22] Ramit: What do you care? How long you’ve been doing this? Almost a decade. It’s pretty good in my opinion.

[00:40:28] Steve: I definitely feel like a change needs to be made. I’m 42. I’m not getting younger. If I want to live a good life, a sustainable, good life, I definitely need to make some changes.

[00:40:44] Taylor: My biological clock is ticking, so if we do want to have kids, that has to be figured out pretty soon. And this is something that a big part of this. I’m ready for a house.

[Narration]

[00:40:55] Ramit: I don’t buy it. When people talk about making an entire lifestyle change for super vague reasons, it’s almost never true. Steve is saying, a change needs to be made. I’m not getting any younger. That’s not a real reason; those are just words. It’s hard enough for people to sell seven cars if they’re facing divorce as we heard on a recent Episode 151. Let me dig into this house though. Maybe there’s something important enough here to change for.

[Interview]

[00:41:23] Ramit: So what does it take for you to get it?

[00:41:26] Taylor: That’s where these complications are coming in. Because if he is not going to contribute financially, that’s going to change the kind of house that I buy. It’s going to change whether or not we’re able to still keep our apartment in the city.

[00:41:38] Ramit: Go ahead. Have the conversation. I’ll just listen in.

[00:41:40] Taylor: Okay. We’ve had this conversation. Are you going to be contributing to the house or not?

[00:41:45] Steve: I really want to.

[00:41:46] Taylor: Are you going to be able to?

[00:41:48] Steve: If I take money out of my stocks, I can.

[00:41:51] Taylor: What about every month? Not just the down payment. I know what kind of house I can afford on my own, and I can’t be in the apartment if I want to get the kind of house that I want. And so if you can’t contribute to the house, then I don’t know how you’re going to be able to pay for the apartment.

[00:42:10] Steve: I think I’m scared leaving New York for a rural place upstate. That gives me some pause too.

[00:42:18] Taylor: As we’re looking, I don’t need rural. I can do something that’s off the train line. Again, I don’t want to have to give up the apartment. I know a lot of people keep their apartment and buy a place upstate. But if I’m the only one paying for the house, I’m going to have to give up paying for the apartment to afford the house. And so I don’t know if you want to come with me. If you come with me, you have to pay rent. I just don’t feel right about just paying for your life.

[00:42:47] Steve: I don’t want you to pay for my life.

[Narration]

[00:42:50] Ramit: We’ll be right back. Let’s get back to the conversation.

[Interview]

[00:42:53] Taylor: It’s hard. It’s like I’m in control. It’s like, okay, I have the finances, so if I want to move, I guess we’re going to move, and you’re just going to have to come with me, and it’s hard. But I know my heart is in this. And I also think there is an element of, I know it’s there for me rising to the occasion.

[00:43:13] If I have to pay for a house, I have risen to the occasion before, and I will do that. And I hope maybe you will, maybe. Maybe you’ve just been too comfortable. Maybe you can rise to the occasion too.

[00:43:25] Steve: I’m worried I won’t be able to, I think is my reaction to that.

[00:43:31] Taylor: I understand why, but you also have never really been in a place where you’ve had to.

[00:43:38] Ramit: Okay. Let me pause you right there. Do you feel better or worse after having those conversations?

[00:43:44] Steve: Generally worse.

[00:43:47] Taylor: Yeah, yeah. More tired.

[00:43:49] Ramit: Yeah. Taylor, what did you notice as you zoom up and observe the dynamics of that?

[00:43:54] Taylor: I felt like a mom disciplining her child, or lecturing, like, I need this.

[00:44:02] Ramit: Explain that to me. How would a mom do that the same way you did that?

[00:44:06] Taylor: If you don’t clean your room, I’m going to–

[00:44:08] Ramit: Yeah. And what does that make you feel?

[00:44:15] Taylor: Yucky. It’s like I should know better, but I just get so– this is definitely how my mom was too. It’s a lecture going on, and so it’s ingrained in me. And I do feel like I work hard to try to fight against it, but sometimes the emotion takes over, and I’m trying to figure out ways to make it work.

[00:44:40] Ramit: I’m sure you are. You’ve been trying to do that for the last decade.

[00:44:43] Taylor: Yeah.

[00:44:43] Ramit: Does it feel like you have a partner in that decision making?

[00:44:48] Taylor: No. It feels like I have someone that’s along for the ride.

[00:44:53] Ramit: I say we take a five-minute break.

[Narration]

[00:44:55] Ramit: I could see them getting overwhelmed, especially Taylor. And sometimes, you just have to take a break. This let them catch a breath, which also makes my job easier because I want to talk to both guests when they’re engaged with each other and they’re present with me.

[00:45:09] You’ll notice that each of them brings invisible scripts to this relationship, but there’s also a dynamic between the two of them. It’s almost exponentially complex, like 1 plus 1 equals 3,000. And that’s what makes this so confusing and overwhelming to people in the middle of this dynamic. So after we took a break, we came back, and I wanted to bring the conversation back to the numbers.

[00:45:34] Interview: [Interview]

[00:45:34] Ramit: I think we need to look at the numbers because we could be talking in circles all day long.

[00:45:37] Taylor: Yeah.

[00:45:38] Ramit: But let’s just look at the numbers, shall we? You did the conscious spending plan. What was it like doing that CSP together?

[00:45:47] Steve: It was stressful.

[00:45:49] Ramit: We asked Taylor and Steve to record themselves as they did the conscious spending plan a few days prior. Let’s listen to a few excerpts from that recording.

[00:45:58] Taylor: We may as well do this accurately. Okay. 3,000, do you feel like that is what you earn every month?

[00:46:07] Steve: I don’t know, since it’s only been one and a half years so far.

[00:46:10] Taylor: Can you do this math? I don’t have a calculator.

[00:46:13] Steve: What do you need a calculator for? It’s years.

[00:46:16] Taylor: You’re being so not helpful.

[00:46:17] Steve: What are you talking about?

[00:46:19] Taylor: Okay.

[00:46:21] Steve: I’m sure we’ll bring this up, Ramit, if you’re watching this, but I feel like my parents are in long-term emergency fund.

[00:46:28] Taylor: Finish your sentence. What are you saying?

[00:46:30] Steve: We should look at getting a cheaper house, not a more expensive.

[00:46:33] Taylor: If we want to keep the apartment. If we don’t keep the apartment, since we never really go out, we can keep the apartment if you work. I don’t want to leave. I would love for you to just work. So the current monthly were negative. How is that possible? Is that right though? I’m so confused.

[00:46:53] Ramit: What was stressful about it?

[00:46:56] Steve: The fact that I’m not earning enough right now to really save or be able to contribute to a mortgage. So it was stressful just because we have all our money issues in general that got brought up during it.

[00:47:11] Ramit: Okay. So you guys are at 61% fixed cost. By the way, just look at these numbers here. Partner 1, that’s you, Taylor, you’re paying 42% of your income towards fixed costs. Partner 2, that’s you, Steve, you’re paying 138% of your income towards fixed costs. What do y’all make of that?

[00:47:31] Steve: It’s not been a good year for me, yeah.

[00:47:33] Ramit: Mm-hmm.

[00:47:35] Taylor: I don’t know where he’s getting 138% from.

[00:47:38] Ramit: I’ll tell you right now. We took all this stuff and divided it by his income. All this adds up to more than 3,000 bucks. Yeah, more than $2,000, his net.

[00:47:52] Taylor: Right.

[00:47:52] Steve: Okay, got it.

[00:47:52] Taylor: But how is he paying it? I guess from savings and–

[00:47:57] Ramit: Stocks.

[00:47:57] Taylor: Stocks, yeah. We have a split wise where he owes me money too.

[00:48:03] Ramit: Haven’t you guys been married for almost 10 years?

[00:48:05] Taylor: We’ve been together for almost 10 years, but I feel like I need to, for some reason, stay strict with that because if I just let this 22,000 go that he owes me, I feel like I’m just doing the cushion where he doesn’t really have to try and is just coasting.

[00:48:25] Ramit: What’s this 22,000 that he owes you? Why?

[00:48:27] Taylor: A lot of it was from our wedding because we opened up cards that we put points on.

[00:48:32] Ramit: What else?

[00:48:33] Taylor: Random stuff that just accumulates.

[00:48:35] Ramit: All right, so he owes you $22,000, owes. You said you’re “strict” about it? So I use quotes, but maybe you’re like no, I actually want that money. You tell me.

[00:48:46] Taylor: I do want it.

[00:48:47] Ramit: Okay.

[00:48:48] Taylor: Especially if I want to get a house, that would go towards things.

[00:48:51] Ramit: All right. What do you think about that, Steve?

[00:48:53] Steve: I think that’s totally fair.

[00:48:55] Ramit: Why don’t you just take some of that money out of your portfolio?

[00:48:57] Steve: I should. It’s so hard for me to sell.

[00:48:58] Taylor: We’ve talked about it. He should just give me some of the stocks.

[00:49:00] Ramit: And? What’s your answer?

[00:49:04] Steve: Leader. That’s probably generally the answer.

[00:49:07] Taylor: Do you think it’s smart for him to do that? I feel like–

[00:49:10] Ramit: I think it’s one of the worst decisions ever. Let’s continue moving along. Trading on margin, picking individual stocks, especially in a situation where you’re making $3,000 a month, it just makes no sense at all. But it all ties together. Phone subscriptions. I have no comments. Your investments are at 40%. Well, that can’t be right.

[00:49:33] Oh, I know. Okay, I know it’s not right. Because your investments say they’re at 40%. Your savings says it’s at 1%. But then when we go down to everything else, which is your guilt free spending, such as Taylor Swift, it says negative 2%. Meaning, according to this, you’re actually losing money every single month.

[00:49:52] Now, maybe you are, but I know that this number is incorrect, this guilt-free spending number. It says negative 240 per month. So basically, that tells me you don’t ever eat out, you don’t ever travel, you don’t ever take a taxi, and on and on and on. Which we know is not true. What’s this $60,000 in debt? Student loans?

[00:50:14] Taylor: No.

[00:50:15] Steve: It’s 0% cards, where we’ve been putting it into CDs in the meantime.

[00:50:22] Ramit: What the fuck?

[00:50:23] Steve: I know.

[00:50:24] Ramit: What is this?

[00:50:25] Taylor: He likes to open a card, we meet the minimum spend, puts it into a CD, we make, what, $1,000 in six months? It’s just making it so messy.

[00:50:32] Ramit: Why are you doing this? It’s such a waste of time. The dreamer would rather dream about being a multi-millionaire than to start investing $1,000 a month. And we can see that by simply looking at your investments. Steve, how much do you invest per month?

[00:50:49] Steve: Zero, right now.

[00:50:50] Ramit: Zero, zero, zero.

[00:50:52] Narration: [Narration]

[00:50:53] Ramit: Steve is a dreamer. A dreamer is someone who believes success is right around the corner, they dream about it, and they typically follow gimmicks like opening up a bunch of credit cards on a 0% trial and investing it.

[00:51:06] You also see the same dynamic with people who day trade, who do MLMs, or otherwise pursue delusional schemes and hustles that they think will pay off big. They would rather do all of these things, even if they are losing money, than to pick a sensible long-term strategy that is boring and highly profitable.

[Interview]

[00:51:23] Ramit: Are you all really investing $4,000 a month?

[00:51:29] Taylor: It’s so hard to track this stuff because of all the credit cards that we’re constantly opening, but whatever I have left over at the end of the month just goes towards savings.

[00:51:37] Ramit: What? Why is it hard to track your investments when you’re opening up a bunch of credit cards?

[00:51:41] Steve: I don’t think it’s hard to track the investments. The expenses may be more difficult.

[00:51:44] Taylor: The savings. It’s hard to track the savings.

[00:51:46] Ramit: Why?

[00:51:47] Taylor: Because if I’m paying for rent on my card, and he owes me, it’s just really annoying.

[00:51:53] Ramit: Do you know that your financial system is more confusing than mine?

[00:51:57] Taylor: Yeah, I believe it. Trust me. You should see how many accounts on my QuickBooks for my business. It’s like I can’t even look at my QuickBooks because I’m so behind. It’s like, there’s so many cards with the points it’s just–

[00:52:10] Ramit: Here, get out of the weeds. Look at me. What’s really happening right now?

[00:52:15] Taylor: I don’t know how much I’m saving every month because it’s all over the place.

[00:52:20] Ramit: Why is that?

[00:52:22] Taylor: Because Steve isn’t bringing in an income. He’s complicating with all the points.

[00:52:28] Ramit: Do you want that?

[00:52:29] Taylor: I do reap a lot of benefits from it, I’m not going to lie.

[00:52:32] Ramit: I’m going to ask again. Do you want that?

[00:52:36] Taylor: I want it with more stability with cash income. I could do less of it. If I had to trade, there could be much more of a balance.

[Narration]

[00:52:47] Ramit: Taylor is incredibly frustrated that they have all of these accounts, all of these cards, she can’t even figure out how much money they’re saving and investing. But when I ask her if she wants that complexity, which, by the way, comes along with lots of free points that they use to travel the world, she suddenly can’t bring herself to say no.

[00:53:07] We heard the same exact thing in Episode 162, where Paul and Maddie couldn’t let their love of travel go, even when they were spending thousands and thousands of dollars every month on one income. See, people find it very difficult to cut back on something that has become part of their identity, which is why you have to be very, very careful of what you allow to be placed in fixed costs or what you allow to become part of your own personal identity.

[Interview]

[00:53:37] Steve: I think that’s totally fair. And I obviously should be spending much more time into increasing my income versus these side projects.

[00:53:48] Ramit: What do you guys think? It feels like you’re just retreading the same old conversation from the last.

[00:53:51] Taylor: Yeah. I don’t know if I believe it sometimes.

[00:53:56] Ramit: One of the ways that you love is to help Steve. Is that right?

[00:54:03] Taylor: Sure, yeah.

[00:54:05] Ramit: Okay. You told me in your pre interview, Steve is a really smart guy. You said, I know he’s capable. You did a lot of apologizing for him. And then you said this repeatedly, “I know he’s capable, but there’s a block.” You kept describing it as a block. What’s a block?

[00:54:24] Taylor: Something that’s getting in the way.

[00:54:27] Ramit: What do you think that might be?

[00:54:30] Taylor: I don’t know.

[00:54:31] Ramit: How often did you answer questions for him in the pre interview?

[00:54:39] Taylor: Did I answer them a lot? Yeah, I think maybe part of the block is he doesn’t know what he wants.

[00:54:49] Steve: I do want more space and I do want a garden because I love growing stuff, but I think I really value the flexibility and freedom that we have in our lives right now, where we do have our place in New York, but it’s a rental, so we’re not tied to it. I’m not sure what my goals are in life outside of being financially stable and being able to snowboard and travel. So I think for me, flexibility and freedom is probably what I’m most interested in, which is unfortunately the opposite of a house.

[00:55:28] Ramit: It is the opposite. At least I think it is. Do you think it is?

[00:55:31] Taylor: I don’t know. I’ve never owned a house. It’s definitely not the same level of freedom and flexibility as renting. That’s for sure. There’s definitely an added layer of attachment and responsibility. Sometimes I’m like, if this is what you like to do, I’m just going to have to bump it up and care for us both. I resigned myself to, okay, I guess I’m the one that has to do it.

[00:56:01] Ramit: Did you hear what she said? What did she just say?

[00:56:05] Steve: She’s resigned herself to it.

[00:56:08] Ramit: What does it mean to you to hear that from your wife?

[00:56:10] Steve: I definitely don’t want to hear you say you’ve resigned yourself to anything with regards to me. I really want to bring more stuff to the table in our relationship.

[00:56:31] Ramit: And?

[00:56:37] Steve: I want us to be equal partners again.

[00:56:39] Taylor: Oh, I would love that. Oh my God, I would love that. I would love it. Oh my god, it would be amazing.

[00:56:46] Ramit: What would it look like if you were equal partners?

[00:56:51] Steve: I feel like we would have fewer fights. It would be so good for our relationship, both in terms of me bringing more to the table financially, but also me feeling a lot better about myself and where our future could go.

[00:57:13] Ramit: So you said, I want Steve to earn a 100k, right?

[00:57:18] Taylor: That’s the dream.

[00:57:19] Ramit: In this relationship, it may be the case that you will always be the higher earner. Would you be able to accept that?

[00:57:27] Taylor: Totally.

[00:57:28] Ramit: If he came to you and he said, okay, I got a job. I’m making 80k.

[00:57:32] Taylor: Amazing.

[00:57:33] Ramit: Okay. It’s not necessarily about the number per se, but about everything behind that.

[00:57:38] Taylor: Exactly. The effort.

[00:57:40] Ramit: The effort. Steve, finish the sentence. It’s not just the number. It’s what? It’s the effort. What else?

[00:57:46] Steve: It’s me showing I can pull myself up and that she doesn’t have to worry about taking care of everything herself.

[00:57:56] Ramit: How does that make you feel as you say it out loud?

[00:57:59] Steve: It’s something I really want to do, I think. But I’m stressed about how to do it. It just feels like now, eight years in, it’s like, how can I get myself out of this? I’ve been stuck for so long.

[Narration]

[00:58:15] Ramit: This was a really difficult conversation. It’s one thing to have mismatched expectations of money. That’s common. But if one partner is driving everything in the relationship, and the other is not even willing to talk about money constructively, that is a huge red flag.

[00:58:31] You can see that Steve is a combination of an avoider and a dreamer. He avoids conversations about money and participates in activities that are more about the dream of being financially successful than actually financially successful in the way that Taylor wants. She’s asking for a partner, but because of his behavior she’s been placed in the position of berating him and checking in on him. And it’s not fair.

[00:58:56] Of course, Taylor plays into that dynamic too. She provides for Steve. She also enjoys those trips, and she hasn’t yet set a firm boundary of what her financial expectations are and what will happen if those expectations aren’t met. That’s what makes these dynamics so frustrating and so difficult to unwind.

[00:59:16] Let’s hear their follow-ups. First, Steve.

[00:59:20] Steve: For me, the biggest surprise was definitely finding out that I had a significant number of ingrained gender roles and ideas. I don’t really feel like I’m someone that necessarily ascribes to traditional gender roles. I really realized how much I like couching things, both language wise and action wise.

[00:59:49] And for next steps, getting on a margin, stopping the points game for at least a few months, at least until I get a job or improve my business, and really focusing on action instead of words. But obviously having agency is possible, so I am going to use my agency and make things happen, get a job, improve my business, really make our life more sustainable. So those are my action steps.

[01:00:29] Ramit: And now Taylor’s follow-up. Hers is lengthy, but I want to include it because it is so revealing.

[01:00:35] Taylor: The biggest surprise for me from the conversation was how validated I felt by the whole thing. I think I’ve spent a lot of time really looking on the bright side of our situation and focusing on the positive, at least we get to travel and do all these great things.

[01:00:54] I think I’ve been denying for a long time the fact that this is just a crazy situation that my husband hasn’t been working for basically eight years. I loved that, Ramit. It seemed to me like he was really focusing on Steve for the conversation instead of me, which I appreciate because I don’t really feel like this is my issue. It’s his.

[01:01:16] The biggest takeaway for me, I think, was all around my boundaries. I just haven’t been setting effective boundaries. I think for me, I’ve been focusing more on this money that Steve owes me and just reminding him about it. But that’s not what motivates him. And so I have switched up the way that I am setting boundaries.

[01:01:38] No more cards for me until Steve is earning a normal income, especially for someone with his intelligence level and his education level. The other boundary I decided to put in place is we have a trip already booked to Japan in January, and I told him I’m not going to be going unless those income parameters are met.

[01:01:58] Because I would love to go, but I can sacrifice that for myself. I don’t think it makes sense. I can’t control what he’s doing. I did request that he not open any cards for himself either. We met in the middle, and he said he’d only open one until things change, and I’m like, whatever, one is fine.

[01:02:18] I can’t help him, and I feel validated in that. I know I can’t help him. I don’t want to be like his parents, just nagging him in one ear, out the other. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I don’t care how he does it, but he needs to do it. He needs to check in with me every Friday. I’m not going to mention it.

[01:02:35] I’m not going to ask him anything. It’s all in his court now. He did miss this past Friday, and so I ended up sending him an email to get in his inbox 4:00 AM because I didn’t want to talk about it. I just said, you missed the reassurance check in. It’s okay. But if you miss it again, on vacation, if he misses it this Friday, Saturday, I’m spending the day by myself.

[01:02:58] I don’t want to be around him. And I’m going to start to immediately request $5,000 of what he owes me into my account. I don’t care. This feels like I’m parenting, but I– the other thing, which I’m just now realizing as I’m talking about it, is when we spoke right after the conversation, I requested that he, I think it was a Wednesday that we spoke, by Friday, he gets out of margin, and he needs to let me know.

[01:03:27] And he did not. I feel very uncomfortable with margin. He needs to get out of it. I’ve been too lenient for too long, and I’m just– yeah, we’re on vacation, so I don’t want this trip to be ruined. I feel like I’ve been a little bit more quiet than usual on this trip. I have a lot on my mind about everything we spoke about, and when we get back, the margin stuff, it’s still in the back of my head.

[01:03:52] Ramit: My crew also had a chance to ask them what they thought of right after speaking to me. Let’s hear what they said.

[01:04:00] Taylor: Working with Ramit was really interesting. I really enjoyed talking with him because I felt so validated. I feel like for the past eight years I just wasn’t sure what to think or what to do about the situation, but I think the severity of my concern is valid, and I’m really, really hoping that there are going to be some positive changes soon.

[01:05:00] Steve: I really enjoyed working with Ramit. It was definitely uncomfortable and probing, but I really feel like I needed him to be like that, to access stuff that I really didn’t really want to talk about. I expected it to be tough and challenging, and it really was. We have a tough issue, and I feel like he really helped get to the roots of it.

[01:05:40] Taylor: It was just so great to meet him in person. I feel really honored, and it was a special experience. I’m really, really grateful.