Episode 75. “We 4x’d our salary as COVID nurses. The experience haunts us. So does the money”
Jenee and Dan are 31 and 34. They’ve been married for three years and they’re travel nurses, moving from city to city to alleviate workforce pressures. During the pandemic, they earned up to 4X their salaries, allowing them to pay off their debts—but at a huge emotional and mental cost.
Tools mentioned in this episode
Dan: [00:00:00] I feel pretty stupid, to be honest, about money. We paid off everything. We checked all the boxes that we had agreed we needed to check off. I don’t know what to do. It’s like a dog chasing a car, and I finally caught it. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I feel pretty shitty about that and embarrassed, to be honest.
Jenee: [00:00:15] He got hit with the IRS bill one month before we were supposed to be leaving for our wedding, which was international. So unless we paid that debt, I wasn’t going to have a groom at my own wedding. It was really tough. It was really tough.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:38] You still feel resentment from that?
Jenee: [00:00:42] I feel like it’s hard to not. I think I just struggle with how it started and feeling like if I don’t keep control over everything, that he’s going to make another bad decision. I still feel very alone in this.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:55] Jenee and Dan are 31 and 34 years old. They’ve been married for three years, and they are both nurses. During COVID, they became travel nurses and they were moving from city to city to help with COVID in very difficult circumstances. As travel nurses, their income skyrocketed and suddenly their financial situation has completely changed.
But they can’t seem to change the way they talk about money, and the way they feel about money. If you have the time to quietly listen to this episode, I would highly recommend it. And I want to remind you that we now feature this podcast on YouTube, so you can actually watch Dan and Jenee throughout today’s conversation.
Jenee: [00:01:38] We had set together a financial goal to be debt free, and Dan’s Rich Life is to own this, in my opinion, expensive car. And I’m not a car person, so I don’t get it. And that’s Dan’s Rich Life, not my Rich Life, but I’m here to support it. But it was always far off like, “Yeah, okay. When we get this goal, then we can talk about this.”
And we ended up reaching that goal, way faster than I even anticipated and had the money psychology built up for. So Dan and I started talking about, okay, so how do we transition now to your Rich Life? And I just lost it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:02:30] “Lost it” means what?
Jenee: [00:02:34] Borderline panic attack because we’ve been so focused on saving and getting ourselves in a really great financial situation that the thought of spending– Dan, if it’s okay to say like $150,000 on a car to me is just borderline nauseating.
Ramit Sethi: [00:02:56] Is it really? Did you feel it physically?
Jenee: [00:02:58] Yes. When I tell you I had almost a panic attack, like I’m actually being serious. We had to stop the conversation because I couldn’t handle going any further.
Ramit Sethi: [00:03:11] And so was that the night that you filled out the application to speak to me?
Jenee: [00:03:16] Yes. So I had seen the email earlier while I was at work that you were looking for couples. And I was like, “Wow, we’ll never qualify for that.” Like, whatever. And then that night we had the argument. And I had a glass of wine and I was like, “You know what? Fuck it, I’m going to fill this Ramit form.”
Ramit Sethi: [00:03:37] Wait a second. Hold on. Let’s just clarify. Most people do not apply drunk to my podcast. I had a lot of screaming.
Jenee: [00:03:42] I wasn’t drunk.
Ramit Sethi: [00:03:44] All right. Although that is pretty cool. People in the old days, they used to get wasted and go out to bars, and dah, dah. Now they get wasted and they apply to be on a podcast. Wow. We really live in the modern times. What was it like having that conversation? Walk me through what happened in that conversation from your perspective.
Dan: [00:04:05] Coming into it, I was super excited to talk about it because I felt like she said, it was this far off dream. We’d talk about it when we’re 55 or 60 years old when we’ve paid off everything and debt free. So I’m just super stoked to be talking about at this point in my life. I’m like, it’s coming way faster than I thought.
We’ve paid off everything. We’ve checked all the boxes that we had agreed we needed to check off before we could even talk about this car. So I was super excited going into it, but then when I saw how uneasy it was making her and–
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:38] Wait. Wait. Hold on. Don’t skip the important part. How did you bring up this car?
Dan: [00:04:44] Oh, man. I talk about it every day.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:46] What’s the car?
Jenee: [00:04:48] You don’t talk about it to me every day, to be fair.
Dan: [00:04:51] True. It’s an Audi R8.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:54] Audi R8?
Dan: [00:04:56] Yeah. 2017 or newer. You can pull it up.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:58] Audi R8. Let me just look at this thing.
Dan: [00:05:02] Look like a 2020.
Ramit Sethi: [00:05:03] Okay. Sports car.
Dan: [00:05:04] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:05:04] 7.5 out of 10 in car and driver. Okay, hold on price. What is the price? 150K? Is that what you said?
Dan: [00:05:14] Yeah, for a used one.
Ramit Sethi: [00:05:15] Okay. All right. [Inaudible].
Jenee: [00:05:16] For a used one for me, Ramit. For used.
Dan: [00:05:20] Lately.
Ramit Sethi: [00:05:21] What is it about this car that gets you excited, Dan?
Dan: [00:05:24] I love to drive and this car has been out since 2008 when I was stocking boxes at Walmart overnight and riding my bicycle to college before I came a nurse and I saw this one doctor roll up in it. I don’t know why he was at Walmart at 5:00 in the morning, but he rolled up in it. I was pushing carts and I was like, “Man, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” And I had just come out in America.
I’d been out in Europe for a while, and ever since then I’ve just been in love and infatuated with the car. And every time they make a new model, it gets better and better. And I’m like, “That’s the one I want and I’ll do anything to get it.” And I’ve been working towards it ever since, slowly but surely.
Ramit Sethi: [00:06:05] Cool. I like hearing that. So you go from stacking boxes at WalMart, you see this car, and then 12 years later or so, you’ve paid off your debt. You’ve accomplished a lot with your finances. So you come into this conversation. And what did you say to Jenee?
Dan: [00:06:25] I said, “How can we save for this car? I think we can afford it now.” I have the numbers crunched and I probably came out way too exciting, way too fast. But–
Ramit Sethi: [00:06:34] What do you remember happened next?
Dan: [00:06:37] Her face did a thing.
Ramit Sethi: [00:06:41] Can we see that thing right now? Here. Watch this, Jenee, I’ll be down for a second. Okay. It’s time for the car. Audi R8. I think we can afford it. Is that it, Dan?
Dan: [00:06:57] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:06:57] So how would you describe that face, Dan, that Jenee just did?
Dan: [00:07:05] Disgusted.
Jenee: [00:07:07] That’s not my disgusted face.
Dan: [00:07:09] Okay. Not on the same page. No way.
Ramit Sethi: [00:07:12] Not on the same page? I have something to say, but I’m not sure how to say it.
Dan: [00:07:18] I got a little disheartened, honestly. I thought we had talked about it and we were on the same page and we realized where we were at. And now this was a safe thing to talk about. And then I felt I’d checked all the boxes like I said, and we’re ready to do this now. And she’s not at all.
And she wasn’t really responding to what I was saying or in my enthusiasm at all. And I could tell right off the bat. So it was a little disheartening, but I felt I put in so much work and now I can finally save for what I want and, it’s like, “Wait, hold up. No.”
Ramit Sethi: [00:07:52] And Jenee, looking back, would you change anything about how that conversation went? Do you still feel the same way?
Jenee: [00:08:03] Yes, I still feel the same way.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:04] And can you describe that in a sentence? When Dan says he wants to get that $150,000 car, what do you say?
Jenee: [00:08:16] I think I’ve been carrying the financial burden for a really long time, and I feel I’m the one that got us out of debt. And it feels a little raw to finally have reached that goal and then to get hit with– if your dream car was not $150,000, maybe it would be a conversation. But it’s just really hard for me to ever understand wanting to spend that much on a car.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:48] Is there a number that would be okay for you?
Jenee: [00:08:53] Probably not.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:54] Yeah. You came to me because Dan wants to buy $150,000 car. But I think that you have a very interesting financial situation. Can you walk me through where you used to be a few years ago and your finances?
Dan: [00:09:09] A few years ago, we actually just got married. It’s going to be three years coming up. I was in debt. I had $30,000 worth of debt. It was a car loan, it was student loans from nursing, and then I owe the IRS some money from a stupid mistake that I made. And you’ll kick my ass when I tell you. But I pulled money out of my 401K early to pay the down payment on my first house. Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:35] What? Why did you do– wait, hold on. You pulled out 401K for the down payment on the house or the IRS debt?
Dan: [00:09:42] No, down payment on the house. And then I thought I had paid the penalty and I didn’t. And so then I got hit with $9,000 bill a few years later from the IRS saying you never paid the penalty.
Jenee: [00:09:53] Can I interject real quick? He got hit with the IRS bill one month before we were supposed to be leaving for our wedding, which was international. So unless we paid that debt, I wasn’t going to have a groom at my own wedding.
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:15] Oh. How did that make you feel?
Jenee: [00:10:18] Can you see my face?
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:20] I want to hear you say it, though.
Jenee: [00:10:22] This cost was incurred from his first marriage. And so me as this second marriage, feeling I had to bail out my husband so he could show up at the altar was really difficult, especially since I was walking into a relationship, having been hellbent on, having no debt and not needing to feel a burden. And then I got hit with, I need to pay off the IRS so my own husband could show up at our wedding. It was really tough. It was really tough.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:06] You still feel resentment from that?
Jenee: [00:11:10] I feel it’s hard than not.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:11] A lot of the couples I talk to have this scenario in common. One of them made a certain financial decision years ago, and now the other is still resentful about it. That decision might be having secret debt or needing a financial bailout for some irresponsible decision, whatever. But years later, even though the financial part of it might be solved, the emotional scars remain.
And you hear it in the way the other partner talks about it, very much like Jenee. She says, it’s hard not to feel resentment. I think we can all understand that. We can all understand what it’s like to have a partner do something that we can’t forget about.
And I wanted to reflect on the idea that one thing we are never taught is how to heal. Let’s say something bad happens financially speaking, like a partner hiding debt. Let’s even say that you decide to make it work. Your partner pays the money back. They apologize. They do everything right.
But who teaches us how to heal? Are we simply supposed to try to squash our feelings? Do we just try to ignore it? Is it just about time? I think this is where a great therapist can help. There are excellent strategies out there on how to heal, how to rewrite the way you think about a scenario, whether it’s months ago or even years ago. And I just wanted to highlight this because it’s a very common scenario that goes beyond money into the deeply emotional.
The real problem is that it started off the financial relationship in an unhealthy way. Would that be accurate to say?
Dan: [00:12:50] Absolutely.
Jenee: [00:12:52] 100%.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:52] And Jenee, what was your financial situation when you got married?
Jenee: [00:12:56] I don’t even remember. Dan, do you? I was 100% in the positive. I had no debts. I had paid off all of my car. I had traveled extensively and I had lived the life that I really wanted to before I got married. So we just came from very different backgrounds getting married, I guess.
Dan: [00:13:20] Yeah, she had a paid off card, $25,000 in the bank and was renting an apartment at the time.
Ramit Sethi: [00:13:26] Okay. Fast forward from there to here, what was the big thing that changed for the two of you?
Dan: [00:13:32] So everything and all elaborate. We have no debt. We have, I think, like $50,000 investments, $50,000 in savings. We’ve paid off our house in full and it’s worth $600,000 right now. And we both have high paying jobs, and very little month to month bills. We just have the basics that everybody has. So everything’s changed. We’ve paid everything off.
And it all changed when we read your book, to be honest. Not to just brag for you, but it really did. She was reading your book during the pandemic when we were separated. She was in Baltimore working really hard. I was working in California. It just put structure into our lives and it was a very attainable series of tasks that you could do, that I could complete.
And you walked us through everything. And so now everything’s automated and we don’t spend time looking at our bank account and balancing a checkbook and all that stuff. I just pays, it does it all for it. We just have to put money in and we can do that. Money’s not been our stressor since that happened. Other things outside of money have been our main stressors. And I love that, and we both are so grateful.
Jenee: [00:14:56] Yeah, super grateful. Money was very contentious in our relationship in the beginning. To elaborate on what Dan is saying, I used to feel very offended by how he would spend money and I would micromanage it because I was running the finances and I felt I was the only one that knew how to do finances since we came in the way that we did which has since changed.
But having the mutual guilt free and having his guilt free and my guilt free, where I don’t get a say on how he spends his money, that was huge for us and really, really helped our relationship a lot because he could spend his money even if I thought it was really stupid, but I didn’t get a say on it. And that was really important as far as moving us forward out of constantly fighting about finances.
Ramit Sethi: [00:15:51] That’s amazing. That’s one of my favorite things that I’ve heard from the two of you it’s, there are very good people who get into very bad fights and they think that it’s a personality issue. And they get mad at their partner, and they never realize that it’s a structural issue that’s invisible. It’s like somebody getting mad at themselves for not taking 10,000 steps. Well, you live right near a freeway overpass. It’s really hard to go walking without fear of getting run over by a truck.
It’s a structural issue. And so when you change the way that you set up your finances together, and you each have your own guilt free spending, the fighting just vanishes overnight on that topic. And you two, are living proof of that. So congratulations. That’s outstanding.
Jenee: [00:16:41] Thank you. 100%. We’re witnesses to that.
Dan: [00:16:45] It’s exciting. It’s really exciting and designing our Rich Life together, it just felt like this would never come. And being able to do it together, it’s made us stronger as a couple. Just aligning ourselves and being on the same page with working towards something it’s great.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:03] That’s awesome. Well, I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled. And congratulations for paying off that debt, and getting in such an enviable financial position at such a young age. I see, Jenee, 31 and Dan, you’re 34. Gosh, you’re set up right. How do you both feel about your finances today if you had to describe it in a word?
Dan: [00:17:23] Unsure.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:24] Unsure. Okay.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:26] And Jenee?
Jenee: [00:17:27] I was going to say proud.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:30] It’s interesting, isn’t it?
Dan: [00:17:31] We only got one word. I’m very proud too. I don’t know what to do. It’s like a dog chasing a car, and I finally caught it. I don’t know what I’m doing. Where do I go from here?
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:42] So is that the question today, is we’ve accomplished more than we ever thought, but now we’re not sure what the next chapter should be?
Jenee: [00:17:52] Yeah, absolutely.
Dan: [00:17:54] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:55] Well this is one of the reasons that I do what I do. That I’m so excited to be able to help you design your Rich Life, and then to use money to live it. Very few people teach money in a way that connects with people, that excites them. And so when I looked around at all the books out there, most of it was somebody older telling me all the things I couldn’t do with money.
So the journal that I recently created helps you and maybe your partner sit down and dream about money. I call it the No Numbers journal because there’s not a bunch of compound interest charts in there. It’s really questions like, who do we admire about money? What do we want to spend more money on? What would make us feel amazing if we could never have to worry about it financially speaking again?
So the journal is an amazing way whether you do it solo or whether you do it with a partner, to really dream and create a vision around your Rich Life. Then of course, it’s not just about dreaming. Otherwise this would be a life coach show.
It’s about actually putting it into practice. And that means you need to use money, and understand the language of money in order to live your Rich Life. Automate your finances, get your investments set up, spend less than one hour per month on all of your money, and even understand these intricate questions like, if I’ve got $5,000, should I invest it at once or should I dollar cost average it? How do I buy a car? Should I buy a house?
These questions are` all answered in I Will Teach You to Be Rich, my book. I’m going to link both of these in the show notes. But if you’ve been waiting for the right time to take control of your money, get the books, start using them, and in six weeks you will see a massive transformation.
Dan: [00:19:43] I wasn’t even sure I wanted to come on here, to be honest. I didn’t even know she applied. I found out that she applied–
Jenee: [00:19:51] Which caused a lot of fights, to be honest.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:53] What fights?
Dan: [00:19:55] She applied after talking about the car, but hadn’t told me and had told me one morning that we had qualified for an interview with your associate. And that’s when I found out, and then a week later, we’re here and I was not even sure I wanted to come on because I’m super nervous. I didn’t know that–.
Ramit Sethi: [00:20:16] Nervous about what?
Dan: [00:20:16] Just putting all my business out there, and I feel pretty stupid, to be honest, about money. And I feel I’m going to get my ass handed to me by Ramit. I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
Ramit Sethi: [00:20:28] Why do you feel stupid about money? You make a very good income. You have paid off house. You used to push carts at WalMart, and now you’re taking home six figures. Why do you feel stupid about money?
Dan: [00:20:43] Growing up, I didn’t get taught a whole lot about what to do. I was shown what not to do, and I didn’t even have a credit card until Jenee and I got together. I was told credit cards are bad. You’re going to go in debt. And that’s what my parents did. They were in a whole lot of credit card debt. They were always in debt. Money was always a really sore spot.
And it was something we didn’t talk about growing up. It was once a month, my dad laid out all the bills and receipts on the kitchen table, and you didn’t go in the kitchen that whole night. You didn’t talk to him. You went to your room or you went to your friend’s house.
Ramit Sethi: [00:21:22] Why is that?
Dan: [00:21:23] Because there’s going to be a fight. My dad was never in a good mood.
Ramit Sethi: [00:21:27] And when did you start feeling good about money? Do you feel good today about it?
Dan: [00:21:33] I feel good with how much I have. I don’t feel I have as much knowledge as I should or know enough. I don’t feel like I know what I should know at this age of my life, and I feel pretty shitty about that and embarrassed, to be honest.
Ramit Sethi: [00:21:47] How would you have known?
Dan: [00:21:50] Google. This day and age, I could have read a book. I could have done something–
Ramit Sethi: [00:21:54] You did read a book.
Dan: [00:21:55] I did. You’re right. But until this point, I can only blame my parents so much, but I didn’t do anything about it either. And I feel pretty embarrassed about that. And pulling out of my 401K, looking back, I’m like, “How stupid are you? Why would you do that?”
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:12] Look, the kitchen example was a really telling example. When everybody in a family knows you avoid dad and you avoid this room on this specific night of the month, you know that that’s real. You know that money is a very sore subject. The fact that you worked at WalMart, the fact that you didn’t have a credit card until you got together, it all paints a picture. You were not raised learning about money. You were not raised with healthy financial models.
Okay. Sure, you could have gone on Google. You could have done a lot of things. I agree. You could have. And I do think we should take personal responsibility. But the story gets interesting because you actually did read a book. You actually did go to nursing school and improve your career, which is a huge part of finance, is improving your earning ability.
Now, did you read the technical mambo jambo about 401K withdrawals? No. Was that a mistake? Probably. In the grand scheme, is it a killer? No. You make enough in a month to make up for that 401K penalty. And you’re young. So, in my opinion, the fact that you have come as far as you’ve come, the fact that you had the courage to come on this show, to me, that is more than enough to make up for not having parents who taught you about money and not having reached out on Google.
Sometimes I think it helps to have somebody give you an outside perspective. And my outside perspective, Dan, is that you’re doing pretty well with your money.
Jenee: [00:23:51] Absolutely. And if I can brag on him, he is not painting the full picture. He was going to nursing school all during the day and then working all night at WalMart to pay for nursing school.
Ramit Sethi: [00:24:05] It’s amazing.
Jenee: [00:24:07] This guy, when he puts his mind to something, it’s incredible.
Ramit Sethi: [00:24:11] How did you go from three years ago having debt to paying off the house and having a bunch of money in savings and investments? What happened?
Dan: [00:24:21] To be honest, COVID. We’re both critical care nurses. I’ve been a nurse for 10 years, and she’s been a nurse for just about that amount of time. And we do travel nursing and it’s a little bit more lucrative than just normal nursing. It comes with a cost.
Ramit Sethi: [00:24:37] What’s the difference? What’s the difference in how much you make?
Dan: [00:24:41] It just depends on where you work. But here in Southern California, I was taking home on a staff job, a permanent staff job, I did take home about $1,200 a week and then travel nursing before COVID, you can take home about $2,000 to $2,500 a week.
Ramit Sethi: [00:24:58] So you doubled your income during COVID? And that was–
Jenee: [00:25:03] During COVID, we tripled, quadrupled because of the demand and supply.
Ramit Sethi: [00:25:10] Would you travel to different cities?
Dan: [00:25:12] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:25:13] I ended up going to Baltimore by myself for about six months to work out on the East Coast while they were overwhelmed. And–
Ramit Sethi: [00:25:25] What was like to you?
Jenee: [00:25:26] Ironically, it was awful. It was awful. I can’t describe the mindfuck that happened because I would walk past a truck full– literally, we had a semi truck that was turned into a cooler and all the dead bodies were just piled in it. And that’s where you would walk past in the morning walking in, and then we had over 80 people on ventilators, which in a normal world would be like five.
And then you had the mindfuck of people not believing COVID is real. And I got my life threatened. I had people tell me they were going to kill and rape me on my way back to my car because their loved one was in the ICU and and it wasn’t safe for them to leave. And people didn’t believe that. I don’t even know how to explain it. I go to the gas station and just try and fill up gas in my car and I had someone spit on me at the gas station.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:44] What?
Jenee: [00:26:44] Yeah, because I was in scrubs and they felt it was a conspiracy. You got told on the social media and on news that you are a health care hero and then your reality was just so different. And then you were also terrified because you were constantly in contact with something that you didn’t understand and you just were trying so hard to to keep people alive because that’s my job and that’s all I am trained to do.
And you feel like a failure when someone doesn’t stay alive, and to be that person that has to call the family and face time with them because we couldn’t let families in. I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of hands I held as they died because their family couldn’t be there.
I know that we made a really amazing financial decision through the pandemic, but I genuinely believe people will never understand what it cost. And I’m not even being dramatic. I’m sorry. Two, three years later, it’s still really, really, really hard to talk about.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:00] Yeah. I can see that. We on the outside, we saw videos of the trailers outside the New York hospitals, but that was it. We never saw inside the COVID ward. And Dan, I can see even your reaction as Jenee is talking, and I’m sure that it hit you as hard. I’m sorry you both had to go through that. I’m sorry every nurse and every doctor and everyone in the medical field had to go through that. We will never understand it from out here.
Jenee: [00:28:37] Yeah, I think a majority of the critical care nurses now are on meds to help them.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:47] Really?
Jenee: [00:28:48] I would say 80% is the research that’s been done. I developed PTSD. I developed panic attacks, which I’d never had before in my life. And that was something Dan really had to help me through.
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:06] You’re getting help for that now?
Jenee: [00:29:07] Yeah. Yeah. I have an amazing counselor. I have a phenomenal PTSD certified counselor.
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:14] Good, Good.
Jenee: [00:29:17] Which I think I heard in a podcast you had brought up cognitive therapy.
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:23] Yeah, CBT.
Jenee: [00:29:25] Yes. I’m actually doing that for–
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:27] That’s good. That’s really good. I’m really happy to hear that. And Dan, how are you doing?
Dan: [00:29:36] It hit me pretty hard. COVID was killing people left and right. I would say it just wasn’t. I don’t have PTSD and I’ll never understand some of the stuff she went through. I’m just angry and I feel guilty sometimes that it wasn’t me out there instead of her. I didn’t know what cost it was going to come with. Otherwise, I don’t think we would have sent her out there. And I just feel guilty half the time that she’s dealing with this and struggling with this every day. I’m doing okay. I really am. It’s it’s harder for me to see her struggle more than anything.
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:14] All right. Let’s take just a 60 second break and then we’ll come right back. Just stand by.
Dan: [00:30:23] Come give me a hug.
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:26] I still find it hard to listen to that clip. At the end of it, I felt like we all needed to take a minute, me included. And so I suggested that we take a break and come back. And we did. And a week later, one of my colleagues reviewed the video and she said, “Do you know what happened during that break?” I said, “No, I was out of the room.” She said, they both got up and hugged each other. If you had the chance to watch it, I would encourage you to.
One of the things that this show has done in a way that even I did not expect was to go far beyond the numbers on a page and to really remind us that a Rich Life is about more than what’s in Excel, more than what’s in your bank. It’s deeply emotional. Money touches every part of what we do and who we are. And so when I’m talking to Dan and Jenee, I’m not just looking at what’s in their conscious spending plan. We have to understand how they got to this situation and in their case, how they made this money.
So in my conversation with them, I wanted to acknowledge how difficult that must have been, even though I can never fully understand it. And then I wanted to gently bring us back to their financial situation.
The numbers that we’re going to talk about are not just numbers that came out of thin air. They came in a context and I need to understand how that happened so that I can understand what your feelings are about money. So while you were COVID nurses and traveling nurses during COVID, your pay went way up. How much did you say it changed from your normal standard rate?
Jenee: [00:32:25] Triple to quadruple.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:26] Okay. And how did you feel about making quadruple what you used to make?
Dan: [00:32:33] It didn’t feel real.
Jenee: [00:32:35] Yeah. It didn’t feel like enough sometimes for–
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:38] What you were doing?
Jenee: [00:32:39] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:40] Okay, so you started making all this money. And what did you do with the money?
Dan: [00:32:48] We put it all up to house, paid off any debts. We paid off both our cars.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:54] You paid off your house? How fast?
Dan: [00:32:55] We bought it. Well, we bought it in June of 2019, and we paid it off two months ago, so three years.
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:04] Why did you do that?
Jenee: [00:33:09] Ironically, we use your psychology, which this wouldn’t be your advice, but we used your psychology. What is your Rich Life? For us with how uncertain everything was and how it just felt like the world was crumbling underneath us and we didn’t even live together for the first year of our marriage, I’ll say I wanted to feel like that we had something concrete that if the whole world crumbled beneath us, that we had someplace to go to that we could be safe at and financially safe at.
And so Dan, very graciously agreed to work with me on that because he would have preferred to have put it into investments and savings. But given our background and the fact I think at this point I was in Texas, so we still weren’t living together and we just decided to put all of our extra funds into the house. So that way, if the day comes that we both are burned out and we both can’t fathom going to work, we have a safe place to do that. And we have a place with very minimal overhead, like we could both work at Subway and still make our payments because all we have is our electric and our gas.
So it was very unconventional. But when we sat down and looked at what is our Rich Life right now look like, that was our Rich Life is just to feel safe and to feel we could transition out of our field if we both felt it was better for our mental health.
Ramit Sethi: [00:35:07] Yeah, well, I think you made the right decision. Rich Life isn’t always about the numbers. It’s really not. And I really applaud you. You did use my psychology. You just adapted it for your situation. And that is the highest use of creating a Rich Life, is adapting advice from people you trust for your own situation. I can’t fathom what it’s like to be talking to my partner and say we might be burned out and never work at this income level again. We need to plan for that.
Dan: [00:35:42] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:35:42] So well done.
Dan: [00:35:44] It was an exit strategy, to be honest, if we needed it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:35:48] There are not a lot of people who consider an exit strategy at the age of 29, but really, because of your extraordinary circumstances, you had to. And so you took that quadrupled income and you paid off the house. Okay, great. So you have a paid off house, which is worth, what? 600,000, did you say?
Dan: [00:36:07] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:07] And how much are you making now compared to what you used to make pre-COVID?
Dan: [00:36:15] She’s making a good amount. She works in cath lab. I think she’s averaging about $4,000 to $4,500 a week take home.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:23] Wait, what’s up at this week thing? Why do you guys talk on a weekly basis?
Jenee: [00:36:27] It’s the travel nursing lingo. So we’re both still travel nurses.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:31] 100 times $50 to $234,000 take home. All right. That’s pretty good. Really good. And Dan, what about you?
Dan: [00:36:41] Up until this week, I was taking home about $5,300 a week. But it’s dip and down. I work at ICU still, so it’s going to dip down to about $2,000, $2,500 a week.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:51] Well, that’s a big jump. So it’s going to cut–
Jenee: [00:36:53] Yeah. So it was really ironic, the timing of this podcast because we definitely found out this news this past weekend and–
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:02] Oh, no, that’s good. I think it’s great. Look, times are going to change. Finances are going to change. We’ll take it when we can get it. So the two of you take home around $340,000 a year. Okay, Is that fair to say?
Dan: [00:37:16] Yes.
Jenee: [00:37:17] Yeah. I think that’s pretty stable.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:19] What other expenses do you have? Anything big? The cars are paid off. What?
Dan: [00:37:24] Yeah. Everything’s paid off.
Jenee: [00:37:25] Yeah. Everything’s paid off.
Dan: [00:37:26] We also rent a house close to the hospital because she has to be close enough if she gets called in. She does get heart attacks and strokes. So that rent costs a lot.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:35] How much?
Dan: [00:37:35] $5,000 a month.
Jenee: [00:37:37] It’s actually more. It’s $5,200, not including utilities. So we’re in the LA area. I know that you can understand that.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:48] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s recap on the numbers very quickly. Jenee brings home $234,000 after tax. Dan’s income is about to be cut in half. He’s going to make $106,000 after tax. That’s about $340,000 a year household income post tax. Their cars are paid off. They paid off their $600,000 house and they rent another one closer to the hospital for about $5,000 a month. Okay, now what?
So the question is what? What do you do with this money now?
Dan: [00:38:24] I’m very happy. I’m super thankful. And I know how fortunate I am to be in this position. I just don’t feel I’m allowed to spend it and I don’t feel like I’m– I won’t say worthy, but I just don’t feel I deserve it and I don’t deserve to spend it. And I know some of that comes out of probably guilt for the way we got here and what Jenee went through and her bailing me out our first year in marriage.
And I feel like I owe her still and I don’t feel I deserve my Rich Life. Sometimes I feel she should get hers first if we have to decide. And I see how uneasy it makes her, the face she makes when I talk about the car. And that makes me want to not get it and not go for it because I don’t want to make her feel unsafe.
Jenee: [00:39:17] I struggle with feeling safe only because we both are still travel nurses and we won’t do this forever. I think the average travel nurse career is two years. And the fact that we’re on six years, we’re way above the average. So if we both were today to decide we’re done, we want to take a staff job at a local hospital and just go on salaries, our money would be drastically different.
And so there’s a part of me that,as long as we’re travel nurses, I guess I just never feel safe because it’s not the real numbers, if that makes sense. It’s just this temporary thing. And so for me, I just feel like it’s not realistic that we’ll do this forever. So this money is not forever. And so it’s hard to build an expectation for your life when you don’t have your real numbers.
Ramit Sethi: [00:40:17] Yeah. Dan, do you agree that the money you’re making now is pretty much the top that you will make together?
Dan: [00:40:25] Absolutely. As nurses, unless we went back to school and did something else. But in our field, yeah, I don’t see it going above what it did.
Ramit Sethi: [00:40:32] That’s a really interesting situation to be in, isn’t it? Most people, especially if they’re in their 30s, they’re at the beginning of their career and they’re looking up. And in your case, you’ve reached the peak and there are real costs associated with being at where you are. So what do you do for the future?
Jenee and Dan remind me of another group of people whose income peaks early in life. Can you think of who? They have a limited window of time. They’re earning a tremendous amount of money and then suddenly it all goes away. Who is it?
The answer, professional athletes. Athletes work demanding jobs. It’s unsustainable on their body, and the savviest ones plan ahead for the next chapter of their lives. Now, just a quick note on some of the common things you hear about athletes. There are a bunch of stats about how 80% of NFL players go broke, etc. Here’s my question to you. Wouldn’t you? Think about it. Imagine you get into the NFL, NBA, whatever sport. Where would you have learned about a Roth IRA?
90% of the people who come on this podcast haven’t even read my book. Then you have very high expenses, very high. And I think this is where people on the outside look at athletes and they scoff. They take on this very superior, “Oh, if I did that, I would be saving 90% of my income. Look, there’s this guy in the NFL who only stays at a cheap hotel while all of his other people, they spend all kinds of money.” What a luxury to be able to judge other people about their money.
There’s a New York Times article called The $25,000 Rookie Dinner. This dinner is expected of NFL rookies. You’ve got to pay for the more experienced players on the team. Well, it’s easy to sit here across your arms saying, “I would never do that.” Oh, really? How many of you have bought a house because society told you to? How many of you wear the same exact clothes as everybody around you at work, in your neighborhood? You think that’s just an accident? No. It’s because we are social animals. We respond to the expectations around us.
To me, it makes perfect sense that athletes spend all their money. Nobody taught them about money. Their expenses suddenly skyrocket beyond mere mortals. And of course, they have a limited window of peak earnings, which, sitting back here, we can all sit here and say, “Oh, well, of course, I would compound it and I would invest heavily, dah, dah, dah.
But when you’re in it, the human mind finds it very comforting to imagine that high earnings will go on forever, just the same way that you imagine your great health will go on forever. It’s very difficult for us to imagine that our future might involve worse outcomes. Again, with athletes, I’m not saying it’s right, but I understand it.
Now to Jenee and Dan’s numbers. I’m going to walk through their conscious spending plan with them as we go line by line, and you can actually get a copy of that same conscious spending plan for your finances right from my show notes.
So if you were to take the athlete analogy, the two of you are currently professional athletes, you can’t do it forever, but you’re doing it for now, what advice would you give to an athlete in your situation?
Jenee: [00:44:07] More in saving, not savings, but more– I’m going to try and say this again. Investments. Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:15] So basically, you haven’t really thought strategically about your investments until this point because you’ve been paying off the house. Is that correct?
Jenee: [00:44:24] We’ve been so tunnel visioned. Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:26] This is a great opportunity. We get to take a deep breath and zoom out. We get to really honestly analyze where you are. You’re professional athletes. You’re performing at a high level. It’s not going to last forever. So therefore, what is the strategy? And then once you have that strategy, you can start figuring out, do you have access to this account or that account? You can go down the rabbit hole. How does that sound?
Dan: [00:44:54] It sounds great.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:55] Let’s look at the conscious spending plan. So if each of you can pull that up. Jenee, will you walk us through your net worth? So your assets are currently what?
Jenee: [00:45:04] Our assets are about $650,000. We have about $52,000 in our actual investments. We have $50,000 in savings and then we have our house value and then both of our cars are paid off.
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:19] Okay, great. Your house is how much again?
Jenee: [00:45:22] It fluctuates between $6 to $650 depending on the market.
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:25] All right. Your gross monthly income is what? Let’s go. Each person.
Jenee: [00:45:37] So mine is about $22,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:41] Mh-hmm. And Dan?
Dan: [00:45:44] Mine was about $24 until this week.
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:46] And what is it now?
Dan: [00:45:49] It’s going to go to $2,600 a week. And the reason we give you the net is because a lot of our money isn’t taxed. So our gross and net are very close.
Ramit Sethi: [00:46:05] I need to pause here and point out the peculiar way that Dan and Jenee talk about money. They describe their earnings on a weekly basis. When I ask how much they make, Dan says it was $24 until this week. Are you catching those oddities? When we talk about money, we don’t talk about weekly earnings. Weekly is too variable. We talk about annual gross income.
It’s like if I ask how big someone’s house is. They’re not going to say 430,000 inches. That’s just fucking weird. You tell me how many square feet it is. If you want to get confident with money, you have to get competent with it. And part of that competence is learning the basic language of money. So if we talk about income, we talk about annual gross income.
Now, next up, when I ask how much they make, if I were in Dan’s position, I would say going forward, I’ll make X dollars per year. What he made in the past isn’t really relevant. And I have to admit, I missed this when I was talking to them. I really wish that I’d dug in to why he insists on telling me what he used to earn. As I was listening to this conversation again, I was thinking to myself, is it ego? The idea that he has to point out how much he used to make, even though what he now makes is a lot less.
Or is it a mistake in understanding that his new earnings will somehow skew our calculations? I don’t know. I’m fascinated with it. I wish I had caught this when it happened, but I missed it.
Jenee: [00:47:42] So gross Dan, you’re probably, what? $3,200 a week, so whatever that makes that. Does that sound about right?
Dan: [00:47:50] That’s what it’s going to be. It was $6,700 a week gross, is what I was making. But that’s changing.
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:57] As you to calculate this, I want to share something. For everybody listening, the reason it’s important to get these numbers all standardized is that you want to be working with the same numbers. Everybody. So if it’s weekly, if it’s take home, you need it all standardized. Just use the conscious spending plan and then everything flows from there. So any analysis you have to do to standardize it is worth it because everything else can be so much simpler after that. All right. What’s the number?
Dan: [00:48:22] So now it’s going to be $3,600 gross.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:23] How much do you invest per month right now? Is the answer is zero?
Jenee: [00:48:27] Nothing. The answer is no.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:28] Sometimes I like to work with nothing because then we can get it right from the beginning. And how much do you save? Of course, you save more than you invest. Of course you save $1,000 a month for vacations. Is that accurate?
Dan: [00:48:42] It is.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:43] You have $1,000 a month for an emergency fund. Is that accurate? I bet it is. People are always accurate about their savings, and yet it is actually totally inconsequential compared to their investments. So right now, you basically have a lot of money left over. Would you agree?
Jenee: [00:49:06] Yes, that’s always been how it’s been for the last year, which is all that money went to the house.
Ramit Sethi: [00:49:12] Got it. So you’ve got a ton of money now and you’re like, what do we do with this stuff? Is that right?
Jenee: [00:49:18] How do we get back on track for our long term success? Long term success.
Ramit Sethi: [00:49:24] Yeah. How do you take that athlete approach and use your money to set yourself up today for tomorrow? So just looking at this, what do you think the correct answer is? Where should you put more cash than is currently allocated?
Jenee: [00:49:43] 100% investments. Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:49:44] Yeah. Good. I agree. So do you recall my guidelines for how much most people should be investing?
Jenee: [00:49:54] It was 10 to 15%.
Ramit Sethi: [00:49:55] Yeah, 10 to 15%. What do you think your numbers should be? Should it be higher or lower than that?
Jenee: [00:50:02] I would like it to be higher.
Dan: [00:50:04] Higher.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:05] Yeah, I agree. I agree for two reasons. One. You’re athletes and you’re not going to be making this forever. So therefore, the more you invest now, the easier it’s going to be for you later because that money compounds. And two, you actually have a lot of cash. And when you have a lot of cash, you probably should be investing it aggressively, especially if you are early, young like you two are.
So those two reasons tell me your investments should probably be higher than 10 to 15%. So let’s ballpark it. We don’t need get specific, but what do you think that number should be? If the average person is doing 10%, what should the two of you be doing?
Dan: [00:50:44] 25, 30 maybe?
Jenee: [00:50:46] Yeah, I was thinking 30.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:47] Okay. I agree. Ballpark, without getting into ultra specifics. 30. I bet you could make it work. Maybe even 35 for the next year or two years while you’re doing it. Why? Because you also are way underspending on your fixed costs on a monthly basis. So remember what that number typically is for people? 50 to 60%. And yours is 34, maybe 37 if you factor in some forgotten expenses you didn’t include.
That money right there, if it were me, I would take every cent. I would take 50 minus 37. I would take 13%, throw that directly into investments and then I would add on 10 to 15% of investments. That takes you right around to 28 or 30%.
Just a quick note here. If you’re listening and you want to DIY this, you want to do it yourself, you can get my book and download the free conscious spending plan and plug in your numbers. A lot of people make huge changes doing exactly that. If you are the kind of person who wants a little help, you want to ask me a question, get my answer directly and have some help working through the numbers, you can also get that help.
You can join my money coaching program. Every month I share a specific lesson on money. Like this month, I taught my money coaching students how to do an end of the year annual review, where you plan out what you want to do next year, where you want to travel, how you want to spend your money. And also you take a look at what happened this year and decide on what worked and what changes you want to make.
I also do Q&A on these calls so you can get your specific questions answered. You can join at iwt.com/moneycoaching. And yes, you can get recordings of all the past sessions, including the one I just did on how to plan your annual review. That’s iwt.com/moneycoaching.
It all starts to make sense, right?
Jenee: [00:52:53] I think there’s a part of me that wants to keep everything, not everything, but in cash that I feel I have control over. And I feel like when I hand it off to investments, even though it’s a stable investment, I still can’t access that money. And that makes me feel nervous.
Ramit Sethi: [00:53:14] Because?
Jenee: [00:53:14] Because I don’t want to go back to where we once were. I just don’t ever want to be caught off guard again. Obviously, the way our relationship started, Dan was not transparent with me about his finances until we were getting married. And then the discussions came to like, okay, are we going to combine finances? How are we going to do this? And then I felt completely accosted with the amount of debt that he was in, especially since it had been such a goal of mine to walk into a marriage not like that. And so I think I just never want to be shocked again. I want to be able to handle everything and not feel I’m going to vomit my brains out.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:05] This is a great example of Jenee not psychologically turning the page on her concerns. She’s worried about money, and rightfully so. But their financial situation has dramatically changed. She is still assigning worry and blame to the numbers part of it, but they both agree they should ramp up their investments. They both have way more money than they used to. In my opinion, it would be a tragedy to let those concerns from years ago limit her Rich Life and actually limit their rich lives together.
What would it take for you to feel safe that you could handle anything coming your financial way?
Jenee: [00:54:55] I don’t know.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:57] Let’s try.
Jenee: [00:54:57] I think I’m– yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:01] Do you think it’s a number?
Jenee: [00:55:07] No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:08] Why do you ask that with a question mark at the end?
Jenee: [00:55:12] Because I don’t feel secure in our numbers because they’re not real numbers. And so I guess I feel I don’t know how to develop real expectations then real. Does that make sense?
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:31] Why is it not real?
Jenee: [00:55:33] Because it’s going to change one day and it’s going to be a lot less one day. And the life that we’re living right now is not those numbers. The life that we’re living right now is the inflated numbers. And so I feel insecure in the fact we’re not living a realistic life, maybe.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:52] Hold on a second. You ever go to the gym?
Jenee: [00:55:54] Oh, yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:55] You ever squat or see people squatting?
Jenee: [00:55:59] Mh-hmm.
Ramit Sethi: [00:55:59] So my squat right now is probably higher than it’s going to be when I’m 75 years old. Is my squat not real?
Jenee: [00:56:09] Now? Yes. Your squat is real.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:12] It’s real. Will it be real when I’m 75 and I can’t squat as much?
Jenee: [00:56:18] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:18] What’s the difference?
Jenee: [00:56:20] It’s proportionate.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:22] Yeah, it’s proportionate. It’s the season of life I am in. Right now, the amount you make is very high. I think it’s great. I agree. Is it real?
Jenee: [00:56:38] It’s real for now.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:41] The money you’re making today is real. But the money you’re making tomorrow not as flex worthy, but it will also be real. Would we agree?
Jenee: [00:56:49] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:50] I want to run this past you. You know people have the DNR.
Jenee: [00:56:53] Yeah. Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:54] So I’ve talked about this with my wife. I was like, “If I can’t squat two plates, just end it. Just end.” And she was like, no. She does not find that funny at all. I find it absolutely hilarious. I was like, “Babe, come on. I don’t want to live on a planet where I can’t do two plates.” Is that wrong to say? Is that wrong to tell my wife that?
Dan: [00:57:18] No. No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:19] Thank you. All right. I heard correctly from two nurses giving me their number. I’m, like–
Dan: [00:57:24] [inaudible] tattooed on your chest.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:26] Exactly.
Jenee: [00:57:26] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:26] DNR225. Yeah. Wait, what were we talking about? So to me, it would be a tragedy to go through the next two years, five years, 10 years, always worrying about what’s going to happen in the next season and not actually taking stock of where I am today. How hard you worked, the decisions both of you made, you’ve certainly taken on a lot in order to be able to make this kind of money. And to not see it as real feels to me like you’re doing yourself a disservice.
If this amount that you’re making, which is for the next two, three, four years, what if that looked and felt real to you? What if you acknowledged it as real? How would you change the way you treat money?
Jenee: [00:58:34] Well, as unlike the money that we’ve made, the goals feel real. We accomplish them, it’s very black and white, like our house is paid off. That was our goal. Our savings account. That was our goal. All of that’s very black and white to me. Now that all of that’s done, I guess I’m entering into the gray area.
Ramit Sethi: [00:58:53] Can I just point something out?
Jenee: [00:58:55] Sure.
Ramit Sethi: [00:58:55] When you were going through each of those check boxes, did any of them feel really good to you?
Jenee: [00:59:05] No, they felt like things I needed to accomplish.
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:11] So you checked off the house, you checked off paying off the cars, you checked off building 50K in savings, and here you are now. And it’s all about what’s the next check? But none of those felt good and none of them are going to feel good because this isn’t about checking a box you already won. It’s about actually changing the way you look at money and the way you feel about money.
So I’m going to ask you again. Let’s go through. We’ll take as much time as we need. If you looked at the money you are making now, the extraordinary amount of money you are making, which is higher than you’re going to make in the future, and you really acknowledged it as real, it’s real, even for a time period, but it’s real, how would that change the way you look at money and feel about money?
Jenee: [01:00:11] I’m going to answer with an example of sorts. We’re all nurses, and in our profession there’s a divide. There’s the travel nurses and there’s the staff nurses. And the staff nurses do the same work that we do, maybe less comfortably, they live at home. They have all their stability, yada, yada, yada. But they make a lot less than we do.
And we get resented a lot. Before the pandemic, we were the cool kids that traveled and showed up and knew what we were doing and were accepted as like, “Oh, we want to be your friend.” Since the pandemic, there’s been this really huge divide of people being angry at us in our own profession. Ignore the outside world like in your own profession and in your own nurse community, people hate you because you’re doing the same job as them and you’re making X amount more.
So I think there’s a lot of that that has built up into how I feel about the money that we’ve made and the fact that I’m proud of us and I know what we went through to get here, but there’s that part of you that just feels you didn’t deserve it. You’re screwing the system, you’re taking advantage, all these negative things that people come at you with. And I think that after two years of hearing it, that’s the only thing that I hear when I look at what we accomplished.
I want to stop feeling so disconnected because I know my worth as a career professional, and I know that I make a huge difference in people’s lives. And I know that with my expertise, people have had good outcomes because I was the person there in that room.
So it’s hard because on an altruistic level, I know myself and I’m so proud of myself, but then you just constantly have been hearing these other messages about you and about yourself and about the way people view you for the past couple of years and that’s something me and my counselor have been working on, but it’s just for two, almost three years, it’s you almost feel like you’re living this bipolar life where, you’re a hero. You’re not a hero.
You’re a good nurse. All the nurses hate you because of the money you’re making. And it’s just this constant, and I haven’t personally figured out how to make all of that blend together into something my brain can even start to handle.
Ramit Sethi: [01:03:06] This explains a lot, doesn’t it? If you feel bad about the way you earned money, it’s going to be very hard to feel good about the way you spend it. And some people really need to hear this. You crypto charlatans who promoted bullshit and then rug pulled when you made money off unsuspecting people. I hope you have trouble sleeping and spending any of your money for the rest of your life.
Just kidding. Most of you crypto bros are broke anyway. With Dan and Jenee, it’s clear that Jenee is very conflicted about the money she earned during COVID, and this is one of the real issues here. Notice that on the surface, most of the things we worry about have nothing to do with the actual root cause, but it takes a lot of work to make the connection between worrying about the price of a car or creating endless checklists about money and never feeling good.
Jenee, do you think that there’s a way for you to feel good about money?
Jenee: [01:04:07] I don’t know, Ramit.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:10] I feel pretty good about money. Do you want to ask me any questions? I sell digital programs to people. Now you could say, well, Ramit, why don’t you just give it away for free? Knowledge wants to be free. You’re you’re only focusing on people who can afford $2,000 or money coaching, etc.
How do you think that I came to the comfort level of saying, no, I’m actually happy to charge what I charge, and I’m happy to make the profits that I make for the customers I’m helping. How do you think I came to that?
Jenee: [01:04:51] You know your value.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:53] Yeah. How did I come to that, though?
Jenee: [01:04:59] A lot of hard work, a lot of expertise, a lot of guidance, I’m sure.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:05] Guidance. The expertise part is true. That takes a long time to develop. But I will tell you that the first time I started selling something for $4.95 online, a lot of people told me, you’re ripping everybody off. You’re just in it to make money, all the same things that you heard just for digital format. And it felt awful. For three years, I felt awful. And get this, every day I would write about earning more money, people would unsubscribe.
Back then I used Aweber and you could leave a reason you unsubscribed. So imagine this, every morning I wake up and there’s people like, fuck you. You’re just trying to make money, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. And I was like, I hadn’t even opened my eyes. And I’m like, looking at this through my blurry glasses and I’m like, oh–
Jenee: [01:05:51] God. That’s so relatable.
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:53] Yeah. And there were a lot of people who were like, I loved your $5 e-book. When are you coming out with something else? And the way they wrote to me, the way they talked, the things they said they were the people that inspired me. So I had a choice and it was brutal. Three years of money psychology, where basically 50,000 people from my business, my email list, unsubscribed, and I had to refresh it with all new people. That was brutal ground war every day.
But I knew that for the rest of my life, I did not want to serve some frugalista who just didn’t connect with me and I didn’t connect with them. That wasn’t my place on this earth. So how might you be able to adapt that for your own situation?
Jenee: [01:06:43] Oh, everything you just said felt like a light bulb.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:47] Tell me.
Jenee: [01:06:48] No, I spent years building myself up as a critical care nurse. I always had a passion for it. In nursing school, I had my head professor tell me I’d never be a critical care nurse. She said I didn’t have the personality for it. And I found my own path to it. And I was determined. And I loved what I did. And I walked into a pandemic having equipped myself with all the knowledge that I could have to be the best nurse for that situation as possible.
And I watched a lot of other nurses in similar situations to me when we got laid off. They chose unemployment and they stayed at home and I couldn’t do that. On my own level, I was like, “This is what I trained for. And my nation, they need me. And that’s why would I sit at home when I have this level of expertise and I can do this?”
And I don’t think I’ve taken time to acknowledge that about myself and I appreciate you putting it in terms that I can understand because I did earn this money and I did walk in with an expertise that nobody else had and no one else could do what I did. And for as long as I did, I do deserve to feel proud of myself for that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:08:19] You do. I agree. Dan, I love seeing your smile as you hear Jenee as well. What are you taking away from this?
Dan: [01:08:29] I’m so proud of her. She’s come such a long way and everything she said. I’ve been telling her, but she has that mental block. She can’t hear it. And hearing her say to herself, I’m so proud of her, man. She does deserve this. She’s a rock star nurse. She’s the best nurse she’ll ever have. She deserves everything she got, and I’m just so happy for her that she’s connecting the dots. It’s amazing.
Ramit Sethi: [01:09:03] I really love watching the two of you connect the dots together. I really love it. To me, it’s the most powerful thing in creating a Rich Life. I can’t do it for you. I can look at a couple of numbers and make a couple of jokes, but it’s got to be you taking the lead. And in your relationship, it’s got to be each of you connecting your own dots and then the two of you connecting your dots together.
Nobody can do it for you. So I love seeing– can you see it almost how it’s all coming together? Change the way Jenee, you feel about your expertise, change the way you feel about money, change the way you feel about talking about it together and it flows from there into the most minute things like what percentage should we put in investments or how do we talk about this car?
This doesn’t change overnight. You already made it. What a tragedy if you don’t actually internalize that and then use the rewards of everything you’ve both worked for. Do you think it’s possible for you to feel safe about money?
Jenee: [01:10:17] Yeah, I do. I do.
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:18] That’s a good answer. I think it is absolutely possible. Dan, do you feel safe with money?
Dan: [01:10:24] Now I do, yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:26] Now, meaning when?
Dan: [01:10:28] For me, it was checking the boxes and paying off the house and having no debt and knowing that no matter what I can outwork whatever comes my way. And I have Jenee, really good team and we’ve always problem solved all together. I feel really safe about it.
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:48] I like that.
Dan: [01:10:49] I wouldn’t want the car if I didn’t feel safe. I would not even bring it up. I think if we do it right, and we go about it the right way and we can be set up for the rest of our lives and go on all the trips that she wants, could have the car I want, and have excess and not ever worry about money. I think we’re in a position where if we play our cards right, we’re going to be good for the rest of our life.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:16] What a fascinating conversation with Dan and Jenee. One of the things that I introduced them to was this idea of chapters in their life. Chapter one, particularly in Dan’s life, was WalMart and mistakes with his 401K. Chapter two for both of them was working through the pandemic quadrupling their income, but at a very high cost.
And chapter three, which they are now turning the page into, will be all about combining those lessons, accepting what happened in the past, and then designing a Rich Life that emotionally connects with both of them.
Dan and Jenee sent me follow up letters, and I’d like to read you an excerpt from both of them. Dan said, “I learned that I need to work on my approach when talking to Jenee, especially when it’s something that I am passionate about, but she may not be. I also learned that going on a podcast and admitting to the world my most embarrassing financial mistakes is freeing and empowering. I just want to be better for myself and Jenee.”
Jenee wrote, “I learned how to view my financial life stages as chapters, viewing things in our past as a chapter that is now closed gives me the opportunity to believe in a different future. Dan and I have built trust with each other in so many areas, but not finances. I learned I need to let go and I know and trust he is a drastically different person than when we first got married.”
Here’s what they decided about the car. “We agreed with your suggestion. So we will mutually pay for $50,000 of the Audi and Dan will use his guilt free money and any additional work above his normal hours to save up the remaining $100,000. We also decided to set aside 5% of our pay towards a car fund in perpetuity with the understanding that Jenee may need a new car since hers is older and starting to have some issues. Thanks a million for helping teach us how to be rich.”