Episode 82. “I’m in $20,000 of debt and she pays for everything. What’s the problem?”
Melody and David are 39 and 45. They manage a picturesque multi-unit property which creates a unique money dynamic. David works as the property manager and has his own side business, but doesn’t pay attention to whether or not he’s making money, leaving Melody with a heavy burden.
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David: [00:00:03] I’ve got $22,000 in credit card debt and I’m maxed out on all of them currently.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:10] Oh, are you paying it off?
David: [00:00:13] No, I’m just paying minimums. 1,300.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:17] And do you know the interest rate on your loan?
David: [00:00:19] Like 26, and all my– yeah. 26 and a half
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:23] 26%?
David: [00:00:25] Yeah. That’s what Melody said, too, when I told her.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:30] Holy shit.
David: [00:00:32] Yeah, it’s horrible. It’s hard to put into words. It feels suffocating. It’s not all I think about, but it’s suffocating.
Ramit Sethi: [00:00:47] If you are now making more money than you’ve ever made before, why is the debt still growing?
David: [00:00:55] Because I’m spending the money. Well, here’s the deal with my money. I either have $50 or I have $5,000. That’s how it is for me.
Melody: [00:01:10] I’ve chosen him as my life partner even knowing that. That feels different when you’re 25 than when you’re 35 than when you’re almost 40.
Ramit Sethi: [00:01:20] A few weeks ago, I was holding a money coaching session and I got a question from one of our students. I’d like to actually play the clip for you.
Next question. Melody. Melody says, “What do you do if your partner is self employed but overwhelmed, not booking work, has over $20,000 in credit card debt, and not open to money talk until he’s out of debt, but he has no plan for when that will be because we have time and he’s happy with where he’s at and you pay for everything?” Let’s just let the chat room speak. Let’s see what some folks say. First of all, everyone’s like, go on the podcast, definitely come on the podcast. That will allow us to get into more detail.
And today I get the chance to introduce you to Melody and David. They live on a large piece of land in Texas, and technically things should be going great since all of their expenses are covered by multiple tenants that they have. Unfortunately, they see money very differently. Melody wants stability. She wants a plan. David has a much more complicated history with money. He’s never had a lot of money. And earlier in life he decided to abandon the idea of ever making it. Now it’s really starting to cause conflict.
As you listen to today’s episode, I want you to ask yourself, how do you talk about money if you’re living together, spending together, but you see money completely differently? I’d like to encourage you to find this episode, either on audio or on video at YouTube. You can just search for my name Ramit Sethi. Make sure you follow me there and you can watch the body language and the facial expressions as we go through today’s episode. My name is Ramit Sethi. This is I Will Teach You to Be Rich.
Melody: [00:03:23] David and I have been together for 16 years and we have made some really big steps forward. David feels like we’ve talked about money a lot this year, and I feel like we’ve barely cracked the surface. I hold a lot back in the conversation, and some of that is because I don’t think I know how or have the tools to talk about money productively, especially given that we’re in different positions.
We talk about– to use your phrase– “a rich life” a lot, but I don’t think that we talk about how we’re going to get there. And that makes me really anxious because it’s cool to talk about renovating our house or building the dream that we have for our property. Right now I feel like if I don’t pay for it, it’s not going to happen. And so that feels really limiting to me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:23] Okay. You’re nervous saying that out loud?
Melody: [00:04:26] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:29] Okay. You wrote me a question in the money coaching group. Are you okay if I read the question off that you asked me?
Melody: [00:04:35] Yeah. I haven’t read it to David, and I was feeling really alone and isolated and unguarded, in my words. Let’s say that.
Ramit Sethi: [00:04:52] Okay. David, are you okay if I read this question that she asked me earlier?
David: [00:05:01] If it’s the real question today, just as it was when she wrote it, then I don’t have a problem with it. Melody?
Melody: [00:05:14] Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s parts of it that came out of frustration, but the theme of it is really I think the root of I feel sometimes.
David: [00:05:31] I’m okay with it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:05:33] Here’s the question. Melody asked, “What do you do if your partner is self employed but overwhelmed and not booking work, over $20,000 in credit card debt, and not open to money talk until he’s out of debt, but has no plan for when that will be because “we have time” and he’s happy with where he’s at and you pay for everything?”
David: [00:06:10] Melody doesn’t pay for everything, y’all. Not even close.
Ramit Sethi: [00:06:17] Okay. Let’s stipulate that melody does not pay for everything. I can see it in the conscious spending plan. David, you certainly pay for things. Want to make sure that we’re accurate about that. Putting that point aside, that’s a pretty direct language.
David: [00:06:35] I’ve heard all of those. I made some of those statements that I’ve heard those questions from Melody. But she asked you the question, so.
Ramit Sethi: [00:06:52] Melody, when you wrote that question, what was going through your head?
Melody: [00:06:59] I don’t know how to make this change.
Ramit Sethi: [00:07:02] How long have you felt that way?
Melody: [00:07:07] For as long as– I mean, I think– David’s always been David. And he’s always felt the way that he’s felt about money and I’ve chosen him as my life partner, even knowing that. But I think as– that feels different when you’re 25 than when you’re 35 than when you’re almost 40. And I see how hard we both work and how hard we physically work. And both of our parents, our parents are retiring and I think the urgency shifts.
So there’s always been themes of that for me. We’ve never aligned on money, but it’s becoming more and more relevant that we start to find some alignment, because I feel like our opportunity of creating this life is passing.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:19] David, when you think about the word money, what words come to mind for you?
David: [00:08:26] Melody, and freedom, and debt.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:38] Mm-hmm. Why those three?
David: [00:08:40] Well, because me and Melody have been talking a lot about money in the last year. Freedom because I have a newfound love for money. I want to make more. I want to have more. And debt because I think about debt every hour of every waking moment right now.
Ramit Sethi: [00:08:58] Is that true?
David: [00:08:59] It is true.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:00] Why?
David: [00:09:03] Because I’ve got $22,000 in credit card debt and I’m maxed out on all of them. It’s hard to put into words. It feels suffocating. It’s not all I think about, but it’s suffocating.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:25] How long have you had it?
David: [00:09:28] I’ve been between 15 and $22,000 in debt for three years.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:35] Melody, when you think of the word money, what words come to mind for you?
Melody: [00:09:45] A responsibility, sacrifice, and fun.
Ramit Sethi: [00:09:54] Fun? Tell me more about that one.
Melody: [00:09:57] I grew up in a home that was really restricted because of the money we didn’t have. And it also plays into my parents’ story. And that’s really scary for me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:10:10] Do you mind sharing their story?
Melody: [00:10:13] My parents had a business together, but he never paid the taxes. And when they split up, he left the state. And my mom was burdened with all of that. It dictated everything. We could only rent because she couldn’t get a loan because her credit was totally trashed. She worked. She cleaned houses. And a lot of the reason why is because she could work for cash and her income wouldn’t be deducted. Pretty serious stuff. It shaped the way that I grew up and the things that we had access to. So I see that money allows you access to experience, it allows you access to a life that you want to live.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:10] Yeah. And the other two words that you said, tell me about those.
Melody: [00:11:16] You have to be responsible and sometimes make sacrifices in order to have those things and money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:22] And why are we talking now?
Melody: [00:11:27] Because I know that it can’t make David feel very good and I don’t want to contribute to his feeling about where he is. I know that he works really hard and he has the best intentions and he wants to give me and our life everything. But I just feel like right now we don’t have the right tools put to use to do that for us.
Ramit Sethi: [00:11:56] David, when you hear Melody talking about money like that, how does it strike you?
David: [00:12:07] I hear her and I agree with her. I get defensive right off the bat. But I agree with her that money will help our dreams come true. I don’t know.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:36] Does it hurt to hear some of the things she said?
David: [00:12:39] No, it didn’t hurt. It didn’t hurt at all.
Ramit Sethi: [00:12:43] That’s interesting, isn’t it? Melody, it almost felt like you were tiptoeing, kind of walking on eggshells. And if David is to be believed, which I do, he says, “It didn’t hurt me.” What do you think about that melody?
Melody: [00:13:00] I’d ask, did it not hurt because of the rationalization of why it’s functioning that way? Right now our agreement is that I buy the goods, David builds what we need. And in some ways that works. But I think in the larger things that we have planned for the future, it’s not going to.
Ramit Sethi: [00:13:32] There are lots of clues, even in their introductions. Before I tell you which clues jumped out to me, hit pause, and try to think about which three clues you caught. Go ahead. All right. Welcome back. Here are my three clues that jumped out to me.
First, David says he thinks about debt every single day. Melody feels she has to tiptoe around David’s feelings, including the fact that she said, “You feel different at 25 than 35 than 40.” And there’s something about their earnings differences. Those are the ones that jumped out to me. How would you get to the bottom of their situation? If you were sitting in my chair, what would your next question be?
I want you to really pause and think about it before we go on, because if you’re listening or you’re watching this on YouTube, this is really an opportunity for you to hone your own skills. And you can use your skills hypothetically with some of the guests that I have here on the show. And then, of course, I want you to make sure you can take these skills and transfer them to your own relationship. Ultimately, I want you to get better with money in your relationship. All right. Here we go.
Take me back through the last year. Why did money start coming up now? And what’s the tenor of the type of conversations that you both have about it?
David: [00:14:52] I started my own business a couple of years ago.
Ramit Sethi: [00:14:57] What kind of business?
David: [00:15:00] Carpentry.
Ramit Sethi: [00:15:01] Cool.
David: [00:15:02] Carpentry. Building furniture. Building mostly decks and outdoor structures and then furniture as well. Tables–
Ramit Sethi: [00:15:08] Is that what the wood behind you is for?
David: [00:15:11] It is. I’m in my shop.
Ramit Sethi: [00:15:13] This is a very unique background. For most of the people I’ve talked to, they’ve got like a clock. This is cool.
David: [00:15:19] I’m glad you like it. This hurts to say, but I was actually at about 15 and a half thousand dollars in debt at the beginning of the year and I decided to get a loan to help– have only one payment. I was getting all these advertisements and I was reading them and going through them and doing research, and I thought, “This sounds pretty good.” I got the loan and I have proceeded to just– even though I’m more than halfway paid off of that loan, my debt went right back up. And that just pains me every time I look at my credit report or what I owe to know that even the opportunity wasn’t the best in the first place, that I really did waste an opportunity.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:15] What’s your current approach to getting rid of the debt?
David: [00:16:22] I don’t have one currently.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:24] Oh, are you paying it off?
David: [00:16:27] No, I’m just paying minimums.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:30] How much is that minimum every month?
David: [00:16:35] 1,300.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:37] And do you know the interest rate on your loan?
David: [00:16:41] On the loan it’s like 26 and all my– yeah. 26 and a half.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:48] 26%?
David: [00:16:51] Yeah. That’s what Melody said too when I told her.
Ramit Sethi: [00:16:56] Holy shit.
David: [00:16:58] Yeah, it’s horrible.
Ramit Sethi: [00:17:01] Sorry. Aside from my reaction, what does 26% mean to you?
Okay, that was a mistake. But I just couldn’t contain myself. Now, the problem with my reaction is you can tell I’m shocked, but most people don’t actually understand what that number even means. It’s like me sitting here saying, “Oh, my dear God, your car has 206 picometers of mold in it.” You’re like, “Oh, my God, that sounds really bad.” But also, what the hell is a picometer? I don’t even know what a picometer is. I just made that up.
Here’s a quick way to think about it. If we assume you can get a 7% return on your investments, which means your money doubles roughly every 10 years, can you guess what that means if you actually owe money to a credit card at 26% interest? That’s right. It means your debt doubles incredibly fast. So paying the minimum essentially means you’re going to be paying it forever. That is why I lost my composure, which again, was not good. And I apologize to David. So let me now ask David what he understands about that number.
What does 26% mean to you?
David: [00:18:16] I don’t know.
Ramit Sethi: [00:18:22] Yeah. If not for my facial horror, would you have known is 26 good or bad?
David: [00:18:35] No. I don’t think so.
Ramit Sethi: [00:18:40] Okay. That’s honest. I appreciate the candor. Melody, when you hear David say that he’s got this debt that he thinks about every day, but he doesn’t have a plan to pay it off, how does that make you feel?
Melody: [00:18:55] I just want to fix it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:00] Can you give me that again, though? Because I’m curious– I know what you want to do. I know that’s why you set up this call. But I want to know how it makes you feel.
Melody: [00:19:10] Yeah. Feelings. I’m really good at the action part. Feelings are where it gets a little tricky. It makes me feel really sad for him. I don’t think that I really realized that he thinks about it that much. I know how I feel. I have about 5,000 on credit cards, but at one point I had 10 and I wasn’t making as much as I’m making now. How terrible. And I hate that he feels that way, but it also makes me feel pretty panicked. I know he doesn’t have a plan and I don’t know how it’s going to change without one.
Ramit Sethi: [00:19:56] Who brings up money when the two of you talk about it?
Melody: [00:19:59] We don’t talk about it.
David: [00:20:01] I don’t ever bring up money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:20:03] Oh, why is that?
David: [00:20:04] Honestly, for the majority of my life is it had no interest to me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:20:13] Okay. What do you remember about money when you were a kid?
David: [00:20:16] My father worked 65 hours a week. I saw him in the mornings, but I never saw him in the evenings. My mom was always worried about money. Money, money, money, money, money, money, whether she wanted to buy something or she wasn’t able to buy something or the bills. I had a wonderful upbringing. But money, she would cry a couple of times a month about this or about that. And it was just always about money.
Another thing is keeping up with the Joneses. Just having it all or at least looking like you had it all was very, very, very, very, very important to her. Another thing that I know has shaped me in my adulthood. Honestly, when I was 17, I just was like, “Fuck money, man. I’m not even going to care about this at all.” I was proud of it. I’d go live in the woods for months with other people. And we’d camp and we’d– I’d travel.
I’d work for six months and then travel for six months. I’d farm for six months. And then I would go live in Tennessee for six months and and all over the country and picking cherries in Canada and growing avocados in California. And money was just– it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter if I had $7 or $70. And that’s really all I had until I was about 38. No joke.
Ramit Sethi: [00:21:52] Wow. What happened–
Melody: [00:21:52] It was that much I made. I wanted a little bit more. I was farming and I was tired of working so hard and not having any money in the bank. One year I added up all of my hours and how much I was bringing in, and I was making $4.70 because I was getting paid a salary. And it just was– so I tried to stop farming and it took me five years. I just kept on doing. I knew how to do it. I could do with my eyes closed.
I did a good job. I loved it too. I’m out in nature. I’m growing beautiful food. People are happy. I’m feeding families. But when I decided to be become a carpenter is when I said, “Okay, I can start making some changes now.” So Melody has helped me shift. Money didn’t really matter and now it has started to matter. And that is a brand new scary feeling for me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:22:59] I understand. I just got to say, what a fascinating life.
David: [00:23:03] It was an amazing life.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:05] And so when you saw your mom treating money that way, being stressed out by money that way, trying to keep up with the Joneses that way, you interpreted certain feelings about money. When you feel that today, that same feeling about money, what do you do?
David: [00:23:41] Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:45] Mm-hmm. Keep going.
David: [00:23:48] Make it unimportant. Yeah. Not really thinking about it in depth.
Ramit Sethi: [00:23:57] And how about when Melody brings it up with you? What do you do in that context?
David: [00:24:03] I usually just ask we talk about it later. I push it to the side. It makes me very uncomfortable.
Ramit Sethi: [00:24:10] David grew up hating money. He said his mom constantly worried about money, money, money. Notice his reaction. Some people in his situation become obsessed with the pursuit of money. Others simply absorb their parents lessons and carry on that generational habit of constantly worrying about money. But David did something different. He totally rejected it. He even transformed his rejection of money into a virtue. He said, “Fuck money, man,” and stopped caring about it entirely. He was proud of that.
That can work for a while. But it gets harder when you get older, and it becomes really hard when you get into a relationship with someone else who almost certainly expects you to care about money.
Melody, I’m curious about your perspective here. First of all, I just have to understand what’s going on in your background because it looks really cool. So can you tell me about this property? I’ve heard you mentioned land. Where do you both live? What is the scenario that you’re living in right now?
Melody: [00:25:12] Sure. About six years ago, we moved to the home that we bought about 18 months ago. We moved here as renters, and we fell in love with the property. It’s a 1920s farmhouse and it’s gorgeous. And it’s on 10 acres. I’m in agriculture. David was in agriculture. So having our own land is something for over a decade that we both had a goal of.
David: [00:25:38] We’re trying to create a natural swimming pool out of a stock bank that we have. And we’ve been really trimming back the trees and putting in certain elements that help with algae and fungus or plant life. Adding additional vegetation.
Melody: [00:25:59] And as we have been doing different things in the house, we found all of these really cool walls behind all the drywall. So that’s what the behind this is for. It’s the original walls that were built in the house in 1928. So they piece all of these different woods together that were repurposed in different colors. And it’s been really fun unveiling the real bones of the home and letting it return to its original glory.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:32] Wow. Well, it’s beautiful and it’s clear that you both enjoy it, the improvements you’re making to the land, to the property. Do you both plan to continue living here for the foreseeable future?
Melody: [00:26:45] Definitely. We purchased with that mindset. We’re close to Austin and this is our home. We love Central Texas.
Ramit Sethi: [00:26:56] Okay, got it. So on this property, I understand you have some people renting. You got an apartment upstairs. You got an Airstream outside. How many different renters do you have?
Melody: [00:27:09] Four.
Ramit Sethi: [00:27:10] Four, fantastic. First of all, that’s awesome. And I understand that they’re covering all the expenses plus utilities, is that correct?
Melody: [00:27:22] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:27:23] Okay. How do you both feel about that?
Melody: [00:27:27] Fantastic.
Ramit Sethi: [00:27:30] That’s cool. You got this big piece of land, multiple people can live there. You’ve got your financial win. It’s a win win-win for everybody. This is awesome. So big win. I’m going to take the win on that.
Melody: [00:27:45] For many, many years, we’ve convinced ourselves that financially we are separate.
Ramit Sethi: [00:27:54] Are you?
Melody: [00:27:55] But I don’t think that in reality there’s any way that we are.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:05] Wait a minute.
Melody: [00:28:06] It just it–
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:06] Are you financially separate or together?
Melody: [00:28:12] We don’t have any combined finances, but either I cover a lot of things or I feel like it’s really complicated. I mean, there’s just not a way that you can build a life with someone and actually have everything totally separate.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:30] Okay. Who owns the house?
Melody: [00:28:32] I do.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:33] Okay. Who pays the expenses for the house?
Melody: [00:28:41] Some are split, but mostly, David would probably have a different answer, but I feel like I do.
Ramit Sethi: [00:28:48] Okay. I’ll come to David too. David, I want to hear your perspective on this, absolutely. Who has a higher income?
Melody: [00:29:00] I do.
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:01] What are the other things where it’s complicated?
Melody: [00:29:04] David doesn’t see the impact that me covering groceries has. Just that number alone really–
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:13] What is the impact?
Melody: [00:29:17] I mean, I don’t know, it feels so petty, honestly. But if we were 50/50 or even split, that would make up the difference that I’m paying for or not paying into an IRA. I’ve been like, I’m doing that because I know he doesn’t have it. So it feels really shitty of me to ask him to cover the food when I’ve got the income for it. So it’s not really about the groceries.
Ramit Sethi: [00:29:58] What is it about?
Melody: [00:30:01] That there’s no plan. There’s no unity. There is no–
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:14] Melody, look at me.
Melody: [00:30:16] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:18] Let’s try it again. It’s not about the groceries. I believe you and I hear you. What is it about for you? Why are we here?
Melody: [00:30:27] It’s so unstable. It is–
Ramit Sethi: [00:30:35] Unstable means what?
Melody: [00:30:41] There’s no security. There’s no savings. It’s always like, get something and then owe for it. And that’s something I’ve been on board for too. But I’m done. I’m done with that sense of owing. The stress of a car repair or our dog is getting surgery tomorrow. I believe that we have the math, that we have the numbers to make this work. I mean, we’re in a really amazing position. We have renters on this property and our mortgage is completely covered, plus our utilities. We have a very low cost of living and I have a decent salary. I’m not satisfied with it, but it’s not like– on paper this doesn’t work. But it’s not working.
Ramit Sethi: [00:31:49] All right. I hear you. David, let’s start with the expenses. Were there any expenses that you pay for that Melody didn’t mention?
David: [00:32:01] I buy the dog food. And we buy really good dog food. What else? Expenses. Expenses. I do a majority of the car repairs, which has in the past, saved us thousands of dollars. Now, expenses for the home minus– I think I spend 50 to $100 a month on general light bulbs, air filters, whatever, stuff that goes towards the house. But like she said, we don’t have a lot of expenses.
Ramit Sethi: [00:32:40] So from her comment about, it works on paper, do you agree that it works on paper, your finances?
David: [00:32:48] For me, I’m in this spot where I’m constantly thinking about my debt where I am in debt. But I also feel like I’m in the best position I’ve ever been in my entire life with money– this is going to sound crazy– and to make more money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:33:11] How are you in the best position you’ve ever been in with money?
David: [00:33:14] Well, I started working for myself. I’m a hard worker and a great learner. I see my potential, only recently. When I started the business, I didn’t see the potential that I see today. How am I in a better position? Well, I’m making more money than I’ve ever made. So that’s uplifting to me. We own our home. We both, but me a whole lot as well know how to make money from our land and our home. So I see that as a big opportunity that we’re taking and also adds to our financial freedom.
Ramit Sethi: [00:34:12] I mean, all that sounds pretty positive. You’re making more than you ever made. You are making money from renters, etc. Awesome. All that is great. If you are now making more money than you’ve ever made before, why is the debt still growing?
David: [00:34:30] Because I’m spending the money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:34:34] When does the debt get paid off?
David: [00:34:36] Well, here’s the deal with my money. I either have $50 or I have $5,000. And that’s how it is for me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:34:48] David is one of those guys who loves assigning himself an identity. He says, “I’m in a better financial position than I’ve ever been in before.” He also says, “Here’s the deal. I either have 50 bucks or 5,000. That’s how it is for me.” I think we’ve all met people like this. Previous guests have said things like, “Well, I’m just bad with math, or I’m just a blue collar guy or, well, I am an engineer.”
People who give themselves these labels really think they’re being clever. And usually they say these lines in a charming way. And you’ll notice they almost wait for the inevitable applause. But when I see phrases like this, these self assigned identities, I start to get suspicious. The people who have these charming, off the cuff answers almost always use them as a shield against their actual money issues. I’m going to call David on it.
You had this real cutesy phrase, “I’m either 50 or 5,000.” Nice phrase. But what I want to know is when does the debt get paid off?
David: [00:35:56] I don’t know.
Ramit Sethi: [00:35:59] Do you want to know?
David: [00:36:02] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:03] Really?
David: [00:36:03] Well, I do know. I can answer that question myself. When I make and implement a plan and stick with it to pay off my debt.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:19] What’s stopping you from that?
David: [00:36:22] I’m afraid of not doing it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:24] Do you mean that if you create a plan, you don’t trust yourself that you will follow through with it?
David: [00:36:32] That is 100% correct.
Ramit Sethi: [00:36:35] In your head, do you tell yourself like, I’ll just pay the minimum and I’ll deal with this at some point in the future? Okay. He’s nodding.
David: [00:36:50] My loan is set up to just automatically take out. And I actually have made 2,000 extra dollars worth of payments this year. It’s a three-year loan. And I had set a goal that it would be paid in two years and I am keeping that goal.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:12] Okay. That’s impressive. Did you know about that Melody?
Melody: [00:37:15] No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:17] What does it feel like to hear that?
Melody: [00:37:22] It feels like two years at 26% interest is a lot of money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:28] Yeah, that’s true. But what about the fact that he paid an extra 2,000 bucks?
Melody: [00:37:35] That’s awesome.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:37] Okay. Is it enough for you?
Melody: [00:37:52] I don’t really feel like I have a choice about whether it’s enough for me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:37:58] Well, you’re married.
Melody: [00:38:00] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:38:00] You, of all people, get to have a say.
Melody: [00:38:10] I mean, I guess that it’s not an emphatic yes. It’s a no. I want it to be more. I want that debt to be gone tomorrow, yesterday. I want to stop giving money to these credit card companies. It earns you just interest.
Ramit Sethi: [00:38:30] Okay. Can we just talk about the numbers for a minute?
Melody: [00:38:34] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:38:34] You have this big property. You have renters covering your basic expenses. The way it breaks out is David has his own business. He’s not paying rent. In fact, he’s getting paid. Melody, you pick up more of the expenses, things like groceries, things like that. Is that the facts or am I missing any key elements?
David: [00:39:00] I think one key element that you’re missing is that maintaining our 100-year old home and four rental properties on our 10 acres, the 10 acres itself takes up a lot of my time and energy and money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:39:24] Okay. You’re talking about maintaining this property. I can’t even begin to imagine how much time and effort it takes to maintain 1920s property, 100-year old property. How much would it cost, ballpark, if you were to pay others to do what you do, David?
David: [00:39:46] I’d say five to $10,000 a year minimum. That’s a good question.
Ramit Sethi: [00:39:55] How much would it cost to just get somebody to come out there to mow the lawns?
David: [00:40:01] I don’t think–
Melody: [00:40:05] I’d say 300 a visit.
Ramit Sethi: [00:40:08] 300. And you do that, what, once every?
David: [00:40:10] About once a week.
Ramit Sethi: [00:40:12] Once a week? And you like this?
David: [00:40:15] I’d say three times a month.
Ramit Sethi: [00:40:17] This sounds like hell. Well, this is why we all have our own rich life. You’re out there, I assume you got one of those riding mowers, and you’re just in your own world.
David: [00:40:28] Listen to this for me. My favorite thing to say to people is that I spend five times more money on my mower than I did on any car I’ve ever owned.
Ramit Sethi: [00:40:40] That’s good. That’s good. So you’re out there roughly three times a month. Melody, if you think that it would cost roughly 300 bucks each time to have someone come and do it, that’s 900 bucks a month just for mowing the lawn. If we’re just doing dollars for labor, he’s probably doing at least $2,000 a month worth of labor. Would that be fair?
Melody: [00:41:07] Sure.
Ramit Sethi: [00:41:09] All right. Look, I’m not going to hold anybody to these numbers. I actually hate when couples try to assign dollar values to every single thing they, “Oh, well, I empty the dishwasher. Well, I do this. What’s the dollar value?” I go, “We’ve taken a real wrong turn somewhere if we’re calculating how much it costs to wash the dishes at night.”
But I’m just trying to understand really general, because David doesn’t pay any money towards the mortgage. That’s a big red flag for me, and I’m trying to understand why. Now I understand. David is effectively property manager.
Melody: [00:41:44] Yeah, he puts a lot of sweat, labor, equity into the whole equation.
Ramit Sethi: [00:41:49] Cool. Well, then my question is answered. Perfect. And Melody, you feel good about that, is that accurate to say?
Melody: [00:41:57] Yeah. I think his schedule allows for it, his skill set, his enjoyment level. All of those things kind of align for that to work out.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:05] Cool.
Melody: [00:42:05] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:07] David. Have you looked at this conscious spending plan?
David: [00:42:15] I have.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:15] Really? Did you do it together?
David: [00:42:20] We did. We did it together.
Ramit Sethi: [00:42:22] Oh, my God. This is amazing. I am pleasantly surprised. I am extremely pleasantly surprised. This is amazing. You know how many people don’t do it together when the only instructions are, do it together? This is awesome.
Melody: [00:42:37] Well, I’ve done one by myself prior. This is the first time I’ve seen David’s expenses kind of one itemed. And it was surprising. I think, something that I’m still really confused about is we talk a lot about how much less David makes than me. And I still don’t know if that’s accurate. I still think that there’s not a lot of clarity on how much David makes. But he makes closer to what I do than I expected. So I was really shocked.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:17] What’s the implication?
Melody: [00:43:19] I thought he made half as much as I do, or less. I thought that we had much more disparaging incomes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:26] Okay. And it turns out your incomes are closer than you thought. Therefore, what was the end of that sentence?
Melody: [00:43:34] Where’s all the money going?
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:36] Well, let’s take a look.
Melody: [00:43:37] Okay.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:38] Your assets are $490,000. Your investments are $95,000. Those are yours, Melody. David, do you have any investments?
David: [00:43:50] No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:43:51] All right. Your savings are $1,600 and your debt is 398,000, although that includes, to break that number down, 365k of the mortgage. Melody, you’ve got 5k of credit card debt. David, 22,000 of credit card debt. And then David, you’ve got a personal loan of $6,000. What’s that 6k loan?
David: [00:44:14] That’s the loan that I took out at the beginning of the year.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:20] Is that in addition to your 22k credit card debt?
David: [00:44:24] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:25] Okay. All right. And in your case, you have multiple renters. Therefore, you are breaking even or potentially profiting modestly every single month. Right?
David: [00:44:41] Correct.
Ramit Sethi: [00:44:42] All right. David, I don’t think anybody’s expecting you to double your income overnight. But I guess the question is, what’s your plan? Tell her what you know and tell her what you don’t know. It’s totally okay not to know everything about money.
David: [00:45:05] Well, what I don’t know is really how much money I make. What I do know is that I’m confident in my business growing and me getting there. And then I’ll go back to what I don’t know is the best way for me to go about doing it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:45:52] Are you one of those guys who doesn’t even invoice his customers and they don’t even end up paying you for nine months at a time?
David: [00:46:00] No, not at all. I actually pay $6 a month for a badass invoice app and I send them professional apps and my clients are amazing and they all pay me right on time.
Ramit Sethi: [00:46:13] So when you say I’m not good with money or I don’t pay attention to money in my business, what do you mean by that?
David: [00:46:20] Well, so when I when I give a bid to my clients, I’m real good at looking and deciding how much woods it’s going to take, how much time it’s going to take, how many days is it going to take. And I give them a quote and I add 10%. But I always end up going to the store at the end of the job to get a few more boards or another box of screws or it’s taken me four or five days longer.
Now, I get paid by the job, not by the day or hour. So it doesn’t affect the client, but at the end of it, honestly, I’m just so tired and over it and also excited to have the project done that I don’t go back and look at the finer details and see, okay, if this job cost the client $ 7,000, how much did I make here?
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:20] Well, do you want to do that right now?
David: [00:47:24] Yeah.
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:25] It’s kind of important.
David: [00:47:26] Yes.
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:27] Otherwise, why are you in business? If you’re in business to lose money–
David: [00:47:30] I agree.
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:30] That sounds like a bad business to me.
David: [00:47:32] I’m not in the business to lose money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:47:35] All right. So how do we figure out how much you made on your last job?
David: [00:47:42] I would go and look at all my receipts, and then add them up then look at how much was left over.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:03] All right, so let’s say you build a client $10,000, that’s how much they paid. You would go and look at all your receipts. What do you think it’s going to tell you?
David: [00:48:17] How much I spent on supplies in order to build the deck.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:21] Yeah. So let’s say you spent$ 8,000. How much did you make?
David: [00:48:32] Mm-hmm. $2,000.
Ramit Sethi: [00:48:37] Uh-huh. What about the gas to get to the project? What about the insurance that you already have to pay divided by 365 days multiplied by the number of days for your client. What about the returns? What about this? What about that? What about all that?
David: [00:48:55] Well, I forgot all about that. I’ve basically just been paying my bills, putting my head down, trying to get jobs, going to work, doing an awesome job, paying for a couple of things here and there, maintaining the property. And I haven’t dedicated time and effort to growing my business in the side that helps you make money just as much as the physicalness of it all.
Ramit Sethi: [00:49:30] Yeah. So if you were to now zoom out and look at all those answers you just gave me, almost as a scientist, what do you think’s going on?
David: [00:49:41] Maybe I’m avoiding the reality of my money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:04] That’s for sure. Yes, I can tell you, yes, right now. That’s one. What else?
David: [00:50:15] Oh, I’m probably avoiding having to do something different.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:20] Okay. Like what?
David: [00:50:21] Like make the changes that we’ve been talking about and that I want to make. Yeah. I’ve wanted to make the changes for a while.
Ramit Sethi: [00:50:38] Yeah. Feels disempowering. You have no urgency. It feels helpless. And the confusing part is, why can’t I do this? If I’m you, I’m saying, I can fix engines, I can build decks, I build furniture, I can mow a 10-acre lawn, I could do all this crazy stuff, which by the way, I can’t even do. I don’t know how to do any of that stuff. Why can’t I seem to do this?
David: [00:51:10] What the heck?
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:13] Here’s my guess. So just back of the napkin without even looking at your books, my guess is you’re probably breaking even or losing money. If that is true, what does it mean to you?
David: [00:51:34] If that is true, it means I need to make a change.
Ramit Sethi: [00:51:41] Why? Why do you need to make a change, though?
David: [00:51:47] Because I think with having that knowledge, with understanding it better, I’d be able to make the changes that I need to make in order to make more money.
Ramit Sethi: [00:52:00] Melody. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind right now?
Melody: [00:52:09] There’s still no plan on that. David, the comparison that I would make is like I have a goal of how much I want to make this year. And so I asked for a raise, and that’s going to be part of it. And I have some steps that I can take to increase my income outside of what I can make for my employer. I have a plan to get to my goal.
And I think– and I don’t want to tell you what your plan should be, but I think potentially it starts with I’m going to figure out what the cost of my jobs are, and I’m going to seek out clients to secure the highest netting jobs. And I’m going to get six of those in the first x amount of months in order to do that. Yeah, that puts your neck on the line, but it tells you what you need to work for in order to be able to accomplish the goal of paying off the debt.
Ramit Sethi: [00:53:15] David.
David: [00:53:20] I’ll be honest. I just got big feelings of anxiety just listening to Melody say that it. And it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. If I make– I think there’s something about me where I struggle with making long distance plans because I’m afraid of not completing the task. And it all– yeah, absolutely I agree with exactly what you said. It sounds like a great plan, but honestly, I can’t even say it out loud. I’ll be honest. I can’t say that out loud.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:04] You couldn’t say it out loud because what?
David: [00:54:13] Because I don’t know if I can do it.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:16] And if you can’t?
David: [00:54:25] Then I’d feel like a liar.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:36] How do you feel right now?
David: [00:54:40] Sick to my stomach.
Melody: [00:54:42] Avoidance really scares me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:46] It scares me too. Do you remember what I told you on that money coaching call?
Melody: [00:54:51] That I needed to really think about what I needed in a relationship.
Ramit Sethi: [00:54:55] Yeah. Because I don’t mind someone having debt, a partner. People have debt and they have it for different reasons. What matters to me is that they’re open about it, that they can acknowledge why they have the debt. Might be a very good reason. Hey, I’m getting my medical degree or something. But if somebody’s not willing to talk about it, really talk about it, that is a very big issue.
David: [00:55:33] I can’t wait for us to be in a position to have an account together where it’s an emergency fund, and then there’s a vacation fund, and there’s a home renovation fund. And I can’t wait to be adding into that. As far as our money goes though, it hasn’t been something really big on my mind until just lately. This is all a little new to me. I definitely don’t think about it as much as Melody. And we have different approaches towards it as well.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:30] Talk to her, don’t talk to me.
David: [00:56:34] Melody, babe, I’m really just not exactly sure what to say about that. Sorry.
Ramit Sethi: [00:56:53] What do you want with that?
David: [00:56:59] What do I want with money? Well, obviously, I want to be debt free. I want Melody to feel taken care of and safe. That is for myself. If I could have money in the bank and Melody could see it, that is for me.
Ramit Sethi: [00:57:30] There’s this thing that men do, where after a while of being married, you ask them, what do you like to do? They go, “Whatever my wife likes.” Ha ha ha ha ha. It’s a funny husband joke. But it’s actually not that funny because a lot of men just lose themselves in their marriage. And that’s why the only thing they do for fun is they have a man cave where they go and hide out. That’s literally all America teaches us that exists as pleasure for men, is go hide from your family. Ha ha ha ha ha and joke about it. So when you say all I want is for Melody to be happy, that’s actually not a great answer for it.
David: [00:58:14] No.
Ramit Sethi: [00:58:14] What is it about men who give me this answer? At what age does the life get beaten out of you? And when I ask you the question, “What do you want for yourself?” The answer invariably becomes, “I just want my wife to be happy.” What the fuck happens to almost every man to make him answer my question this way? I love that you love your wife, but I’m asking about you. I didn’t even mention your wife.
I’m a little alarmed because when I see lots of guys doing something, I’m humble enough to know that I might end up doing this too. God, if someone interviews me when I’m 65 and they ask what I want with my life, and my answer is I just want my wife to be happy. That should be the end of me. No more interviews, DNR, it’s over. As I say this, I’m having a haunting realization about my own future. All right. Back to David, I guess.
David: [00:59:02] It’s hard for me to understand Melody’s fear being so heightened by where I am right now.
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:13] Can I tell you something, David?
David: [00:59:14] It’s a hard thing for me to understand. Sure.
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:17] If I were your partner, I would be extremely worried, financially speaking.
David: [00:59:28] Why?
Ramit Sethi: [00:59:28] Because you have over $20,000 of debt and you don’t have a plan to pay it off. You’re paying the minimum. The amount itself is one thing. But the lack of urgency and of a plan really tells me that this is a deep issue, that we’re not aligned. How can we get ahead if we’re spending most of our time looking backwards?
Next, the business. For you to grow, it is amazing. For you to start a business alone is amazing. To grow it, incredible. But to not know the basic financial part of it, it’s incredibly concerning. You’re all 40, 45. The amount you have in investments is small. Your savings is less than $2,000. You live in a place with heavy maintenance requirements. I would be extremely concerned. Does that help you understand Melody’s fears?
David: [01:00:36] Yes, it does.
Ramit Sethi: [01:00:38] Well, let me ask you this. If you did not make a change, you kept going the way you’ve been going, what do you think would happen?
David: [01:00:49] I would give up on my business and I would go work for somebody else.
Ramit Sethi: [01:00:56] How long would it take?
David: [01:00:57] And get a paycheck every two weeks. One year.
Ramit Sethi: [01:01:03] Okay. What about in your relationship, what would happen?
Melody: [01:01:06] I think that it would create a lot of distance between us. The position that you’re in is one that you already don’t like talking about very much, which means that a lot of other things we can’t talk about that are even closely related to that. And the bigger that becomes, the bigger that divide comes, the bigger the separation between us. It’s not us growing closer together.
Ramit Sethi: [01:01:34] What are the things that we can’t talk about? The money stuff, what about it?
Melody: [01:01:40] Ideas for ways David could make more money or pay off this debt. I talk about my money but we don’t talk about our money.
Ramit Sethi: [01:01:58] Do you have “our money” together?
Melody: [01:02:02] No. I think that’s part of the problem, is that we have this life together, but we don’t have the vehicle to move forward.
Ramit Sethi: [01:02:17] Okay. What surprises you out of the things that I just said?
David: [01:02:21] Nothing. Nothing surprises. It’s just not the way I look at the world and the things and the way I walk through my life. And it’s a challenge for me to see it in other people’s perspectives.
Ramit Sethi: [01:02:33] Life, I think that’s cool. Reinvention is always amazing. I can see why it’s difficult. I can see why it’s difficult for you and I can see why it’s difficult for Melody. Because those habits you picked up, even the offhand phrases you say, “I didn’t care if I had $7 or $70.” And you lived that for decades. And so to now live in one place with expenses that are both fixed and variable, and then to have a partner who has a different perspective on money, that’s just a lot of stuff coming at you in a different way.
David: [01:03:13] Mm-hmm.
Melody: [01:03:14] I think I compare it a lot to ways that I’ve dealt with things in my own life. They’re not money related, but comparing my parents’ relationship and some rules that I made for myself about relying on other people and being wildly independent. And at one point I realized that by trying not to relive my mom’s experience and her relationships, that I was actually creating that in mine and how hurtful that was for David.
And I compare this issue a lot to that. So I had to really wet down a lot of walls, and it’s still work that I do constantly to recognize like, oh, I’m refusing to let David in and not emotionally being present or those different types of things because I don’t want David to have a partner like that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:18] Okay. And when it relates to money specifically, if you were to tell me on the conscious spending plan, this is what I want to change, what would you tell me?
Melody: [01:04:31] I want us to make more money, invest more money, and save more money.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:38] Cool. Okay. David laughs. David, your thoughts?
David: [01:04:43] I mean, I knew the answer. I knew what her answer was going to be, that it was going to be all across the board, which is what we want to do.
Ramit Sethi: [01:04:51] She shuts him out to avoid her parents dynamic and then immediately repeats his parents dynamic without even knowing it. It’s pretty fascinating. And as I was going through this part of the conversation with them, they told me something that totally caught me by surprise.
Melody: [01:05:10] We’ve also talked about wanting to get legally married, which is something–
Ramit Sethi: [01:05:20] You’re not married?
Melody: [01:05:22] Well, we had a wedding and we forgot to get our officiant to sign the paperwork, and he does not live near us. And so–
David: [01:05:32] Correction.
Melody: [01:05:37] What?
David: [01:05:37] The officiant did sign the paperwork. We never turned in the paperwork. We still have it here.
Melody: [01:05:44] I didn’t know that. Well, either way, our paperwork didn’t get filed. And so while we had a wedding and went through all of that we didn’t submit any of that paperwork and we’re not legally married.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:01] Oh, okay. First of all, that’s very interesting. But how does that fit into our conversation today?
Melody: [01:06:09] Well, I mean, it’s something that we’d like to do. And I haven’t felt comfortable doing with the financial position that we’re in. And if we got married, I would take on the debt and I worked really hard.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:29] I see.
Melody: [01:06:29] I don’t think I knew this then. But now I’m more aware. And without being able to talk about money, without being able to have collaboration and with the avoidance around money that we have in our relationship, I don’t feel like we should be legally binding ourselves to each other because there’s no agreement.
Ramit Sethi: [01:06:58] David.
David: [01:07:02] Well, that just breaks my heart. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:07:09] You hear stories about people not proposing to their partner or not getting married because deep down they know it would be the wrong decision. I’ve heard it, but I’ve never actually talked to someone in one of these situations.
To me, hearing Melody admit that’s what’s happening here is totally blowing my mind. And I’ll tell you, for me, I don’t mind a partner having debt. The amount matters, though, and the type of debt matters and the reason they have debt matters. Most of all, what they’ve done to pay off the debt matters.
Is she right to be worried?
David: [01:07:46] Yeah, sure. Of course. But I’m starting a business. It’s not perfect. I’ve doubled my jobs every year. I see that as a success. Melody has helped me. She’s helped me shift. Money didn’t really matter, and now it has started to matter. And that is a brand new scary feeling for me.
Ramit Sethi: [01:08:21] I have a couple of things I would point out. My wife is an entrepreneur as well. I’m an entrepreneur. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur. It’s stressful and it’s tumultuous and you can’t do anything but just go through it. That’s what you got to do as an entrepreneur and as the partner of an entrepreneur. Gosh, it just feels like you have this amazing opportunity with this land you’ve got and the renters and all this stuff that I honestly rarely hear the situation you’ve got.
It just feels like a waste to go through the next 10 years of life arguing over $300 expenses here and there. It just feels like it doesn’t make sense to me. It feels like there’s so much more that is possible. I think that the two of you lack a common language with money, but you’ve got something now that you didn’t have then, and that is a partner. And a partnership is about more than just doing it your way.
Melody: [01:09:20] David, and I might not have filed paperwork, but we are married. He’s my partner in life, and I’ve chosen him no matter what the outcome of this is. So there’s no our relationship is on the line conversation happening here. For me, in my mind, it almost shifts from what I need to what I want. And I want more for us.
Ramit Sethi: [01:10:05] More?
Melody: [01:10:08] Yeah, I want more closeness, and alignment, and fun, and joy, and celebration and, creativity, and passion. Why waste it? Why should we wait to have any of those things? And that’s what I want in this relationship and in this life. But I think as long as we keep avoiding what’s right in front of us, that time is running out.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:00] Do you agree with that, David, that time is running out?
David: [01:11:04] No. Melody, you’re talking like we’re 90 years old or that– I mean, you brought up time is running out. I feel like it’s just beginning is how I feel. That’s the struggle, when I hear you say time is running out, I think, what? It has just begun. Now. I’m just–
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:31] Are you curious or are you explaining your perspective right now?
David: [01:11:35] Oh, I’m definitely explaining my perspective.
Ramit Sethi: [01:11:42] Maybe part of restarting the way you talk about money is for both of you to get curious, especially you, David. How often do you ask Melody questions about money?
David: [01:11:59] Zero.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:01] Yeah. I haven’t heard you ask once.
David: [01:12:04] I don’t.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:06] Did you ever see your dad asking your mom questions about money?
David: [01:12:10] No.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:12] I wonder. That’s interesting. Have you ever seen a man ask a woman questions about money?
David: [01:12:18] I haven’t paid attention if they were.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:21] Now, that’s an honest answer. This is simply not a figment of your reality. It’s just not something you have ever encountered. And yet Melody is crying out for it. She wants to have a conversation. What was that word she said, it starts with a C, that she wants the two of you to do together? What was that word? C-O–
David: [01:12:42] Collaborate.
Ramit Sethi: [01:12:44] Collaborate. You can’t collaborate if one person is just explaining. So do you notice the dynamic here? Melody comes, brings up the topic, chases. David avoids, runs away. Then when Melody corners you, David, what do you do when your back is against the wall?
David: [01:13:10] Defend myself.
Ramit Sethi: [01:13:11] Yeah. Defend, explain, deflect. But you never do one thing that could actually bring the walls down and allow you to connect. What would that thing be?
David: [01:13:29] Ask Melody why she feels like it’s the end because it’s just as hard and emotional for her to talk about it as it is for me.
Ramit Sethi: [01:13:43] Melody, what would it feel like if he asked you questions about money?
Melody: [01:13:48] I mean, it would be a complete change from where we currently are. I would feel like he was engaging with me. I would feel like we were both present.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:02] What else do you want to feel? What do you want to feel in your relationship with money?
Melody: [01:14:08] United.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:10] How does it feel right now?
Melody: [01:14:15] Isolated.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:17] What else do you want to feel in your relationship?
Melody: [01:14:24] Collaborative.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:27] What does it feel right now?
Melody: [01:14:30] Independent.
Ramit Sethi: [01:14:31] Right. So she’s actually telling you what she wants. But you have to be listening and you have to do what I’m doing, which is to say, “Oh, what do you mean by that?” Collaborate means what? You can share your stories. I’m sure there’s a million stories she’s never even heard about you. That’s the cool part about being together.
David: [01:14:49] I can change. I do change. I have changed, big time. I have confidence that I can do those things, but saying them is even harder than doing them sometimes. If I can actually say it and write it down and look at it and put it on a big board outside of my shop or– I feel like I could hit closer to the goal. I don’t know.
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:22] But David, you said you wanted to pay off your debt, but you’re currently paying the minimum.
David: [01:15:28] Yeah, I know.
Ramit Sethi: [01:15:31] So I don’t think saying is the hard thing.
David: [01:15:38] Well, so this year once I went through all my records and found out that I actually brought in– that clients gave me a large sum of money, and I thought to myself, well, where the heck did it go? Why am I at zero every month? Why am I struggling? Why haven’t I been able to pay off any of this debt? Why did I accrue more debt this year?
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:09] And what is the answer?
David: [01:16:10] That one, I’m not making any money, or two, I’m spending more money than I make.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:18] Well, which one is it?
David: [01:16:20] Well, I don’t know. I wish I did. It’s probably both. Our relationship with money as a team is just a few months old.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:37] And I think what Melody is saying is, this is a serious priority.
David: [01:16:44] Yeah, I know.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:45] It’s great how far we’ve come, but she needs more.
David: [01:16:51] Yeah, well, I already knew that.
Ramit Sethi: [01:16:53] Today’s episode was messy. There is no clear rainbow at the end of the tunnel, and to me that just represents life. That’s reality. There’s not always a perfect bow that we can tie at the end of a conversation about money. Sometimes it’s just the beginning. What I really took away from this episode is that the way we think and feel about money profoundly affects our ability to enjoy it with a partner.
Think about it. Melody and David are in a relatively enviable position. They have a big piece of land. Their expenses are covered by their tenants. He makes more than she initially thought. Technically, they should be thrilled. But all those deep held beliefs about money are coming up. And the higher the stakes, meaning the older they get, the more surprise expenses they have, the more those feelings are coming from deep, deep inside, in fact, from their childhood.
I asked Melody and David to follow up with me, and here’s what they told me. Melody said, “My biggest takeaway from the call was that in order to move forward, we have to identify where our values align. It seems so obvious. David purchased a journal and we’ve been meeting every Sunday morning since taping. The journal has been a great tool for finding areas we overlap and it has prompted discussions and action about ways we can make improvements and work together.
“I actually laugh cried after our first meeting and have physically felt so much lighter. David has been reading IWT and making extra payments on his debt by automatically sending 10% of everything as it comes in. He’s been tracking expenses and time he spends on projects. Thankfully, David and I have a long history of successfully facing challenges and this is no different.” Fantastic. Really thrilled to hear that Melody.
Now let’s hear from David. “I think my biggest takeaway was that I had no plan to get my credit down in a meaningful, healthy and immediate way. I felt like I was doing all I could do, but after filling out my spending plan, it became clearer I was able to make payments to get my balances down.
“After our meeting, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and knew I had to make a change. I came up with sending 10% of every payment I receive immediately towards my debt. Feels like a good plan. It’s already working.
“What surprised me the most was how scared, frustrated and hurt Melody had been feeling. I realized that Melody had been trying to talk to me and help me with my debt for years, and I had basically been ignoring her. I wasn’t doing it on purpose, at least not consciously, but I was doing it and I didn’t realize how much pain that was causing. Now I do. And now I will be a better and more open communicator when it comes to money. It’s exciting. Well, that’s about as good as it gets.”
To hear that David took responsibility for the way that he had been behaving, and thinking, and feeling about money is quite amazing. I want to thank Melody and David for coming on the podcast. I want to thank all of you for listening and watching, and I will see you next week.
Questions about your personal finances
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