Episode 48. “My husband needs a better job, but he hates the idea of earning more”

Kara and Sean

Date: June 21, 2022

Kara and Sean make $150k annually, with $100k of that coming from Kara’s salary in healthcare. They have a baby daughter, and Kara would like to take a step back in her career in order to spend more time with her. The problem is, Sean’s happily (and hopelessly) stuck in a dead-end job.

What do you do when one partner is passive when it comes to money? It’s so easy to make things personal, to escalate and unravel, but I steer this conversation to the numbers—where it’s illustrated, plain as day, what Sean needs to do. 

But will he see it? And if he does, will he actually make any changes? Let’s see if I can get Sean to start dreaming bigger.

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Episode Transcript

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Kara:  [00:00:00]  He just gave up and stopped believing in himself. I have to be the one to always dream and keep that going.

Sean:  [00:00:09]  I am on board with trying to make her happy as much as I possibly can. And admittedly, there are some times where I can probably take turns being leaders on certain decisions. But a lot of people I ran into use money as a weapon. And I didn’t love that.

Kara:  [00:00:25]  I’m a nurse, and I work full time. I feel like I’m at the point where I am making the most money. And then it’s just a really difficult profession. So I don’t burn out. I want to cut back on hours. And usually, people’s partners will continue to rise. And then they have a plan. And so I guess it would be nice if I could drop a little bit and have some pressure taken off and have him try and plan to move up or make changes. But I feel like he’s stuck unless he makes a career change, or, I don’t know. I get frustrated. That’s a lot of pressure on me for the rest of our marriage. I’ve tried to tell you that. I don’t know.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:01:19]  Kara and Sean make $150,000 together. She makes $100,000 and he makes 50,000. They’ve been married for five years. They’re new parents, and they are frustrated with money. Well, Kara she’s frustrated that Sean has been stuck at a job for the past five years with no path to a promotion. And when I asked Sean about it, he just sounds apathetic. He’s passive. And he doesn’t take ownership of his career. In fact, when Kara tries to talk to him about it, he avoids it.

Honestly, this was a frustrating episode for me. I don’t mind people who are in financial trouble. And I know that very few of us learn this stuff as we were growing up. But the one thing I can’t take is being passive with your life. And if you come on my show to talk to me, I expect you to have questions. I expect you to take ownership. So today at one point, I actually lost it with both of them. I really want to help Kara and  Sean, but I can’t do it for them. I want you to listen in to hear what happens. And of course, there will be a follow up at the end.

By the way, when we start talking about their numbers, you’re going to hear where their income is going. Before they came on the show, I had them fill out a conscious spending plan. You can get a copy of that conscious spending plan to fill out yourself at iwt.com/episode48. I’m Ramit Sethi. And this is I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:03:02]  Kara, what is the time in the last month or two where you did not feel on the same financial page as Sean?

Kara:  [00:03:11]  This week, actually. So we just bought a house in March. And we finally moved all our stuff over. And we have a little bit of extra space. And our front entry room is probably the best part of the house. The rest of the house need some work. So I want to make it look really nice. And I don’t expect to go to West Elm and buy a brand new couch, but what I will do is look on Facebook marketplace. And so I found one that is in good condition that will look perfect in our living room. It usually retails for $1,400. And so I talked the person down to 700. And Sean was like, wow, that’s a lot of money for a couch.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:04:06]  Sean, when you heard Kara suggesting getting a $700 couch, what was the first thing you said to her?

Sean:  [00:04:11]  Probably like, “Do we need that right this minute?” I think the biggest difference between us is not, though we both agree we want a couch, for Kara, the excitement is all of the detail that she just gave you about the couch, about how much she saved, about how it’s a bargain, about how she thinks it’ll save us money in the long term. And I’m on board for all of that. I just hear, oh, it’s $700. And we still have several other, in my opinion, more important things to pay for at this exact moment.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:04:44]  How do you both usually make a decision like this? What’s the pattern that emerges?

Kara:  [00:04:51]  Usually I’m the one who finds it and then I pitch it to him. And Sean usually actually goes with it. I’m mostly the one doing the research and whatnot.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:05:04]  If we had to name these two characters, what would you name them?

Kara:  [00:05:07]  Kara’s the spender, the one who is more high maintenance and wants nicer things. And Sean’s the laid-back guy who can roll with anything but well, I don’t know.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:05:29]  Interesting choice of words. Sean, what would you say if you’re going to name the two characters involved?

Sean:  [00:05:36]  Kara is definitely the one that wants to spend. Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:05:39]  Kara’s the spender and what are you?

Sean:  [00:05:42]  The saver, I guess or the skimpy one.

Kara:  [00:05:47]  You don’t really save though.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:05:51]  What does he do?

Sean:  [00:05:52]  Sir, status quo I guess is more me.

Kara:  [00:05:59]  Your check pretty much goes to our mortgage and you buy coffee and beer, and that’s about it. And then I figure out the rest of it.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:06:10]  Okay, hold on a second. We’re going to get to that. But I want to stick to this. So if Kara is the spender, then what are you?

Sean:  [00:06:15]  I don’t know. I’m not the final decision. I’m the safety valve, I guess. Mostly we’re going to agree. Mostly her ideas are good. But every once in a while, there’s one that we don’t need to pursue.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:06:33]  Have you ever thought about the roles that you and your partner play when it comes to money decisions? I hear this phrase a lot, for example, “I make day-to-day money decisions, but my husband makes the big decisions.” Or “I’m the spender. She’s the saver.” Or “We’re both just pretty laid back.” By the way, when people say this, they never actually are. Each of these has its own issues.

For example, if one person makes the big money decisions, what happens when that person dies? Will the other partner know how to handle the complexity of money? And I want you to think about this. What roles in your relationship did you just passively accept? Which roles mirror the roles your parents played? And even what would it look like if you reversed those roles? Have this discussion with your partner? And when you do, here’s the suggestion. Name the roles. Maybe you are the spender, the saver, the cautionary person, the warrior, whatever it is, name that. Be vivid. And then ask yourself, if we could change those roles, what would they be?

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:07:49]  Did you guys get that couch?

Kara:  [00:07:52]  I’m still messaging with the girl.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:07:54]  Okay, so that’s a no. So can I just play this out again? All right, let’s see if this sounds right. Kara comes up. She’s like, “We should get this thing and it has all these cool features. I want us to spend $700.” Kara is the spender as you put it. Do we agree?

Sean:  [00:08:12]  Yes.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:08:12]  And then Sean’s reaction is, “I don’t know about that. What about the plumbing?” How would you describe that?

Sean:  [00:08:24]  Palmer?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:08:25]  Yes, keep going.

Sean:  [00:08:28]  Practical.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:08:30]  Don’t give yourself undue credit. That’s not being practical.

Sean:  [00:08:33]  Fair enough.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:08:34]  Listen to my tone, “Eeeh, I don’t know.” You didn’t offer an alternative, did you? You didn’t say, “Well, you know what? That’s an interesting couch. But I really think that I’m going to look into three other couches and find something at 50% off of that price.” You didn’t do that? Did you?

Sean:  [00:08:48]  Definitely not, no.  

Ramit Sethi:  [00:08:49]  Yeah. So you’re not practical. And it’s not that. What is it? Kara, feel free to chime in here.

Kara:  [00:08:56]  He’s indecisive.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:08:58]  I think it’s just a wet blanket. You guys know what that is?

Sean:  [00:09:03]  Oh, yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:09:04]  Just eeeeh, some eyo type shit. Aghhh. I haven’t watched that eyo stuff in a long time. But I imagine that sound eyo makes. I don’t mind if you disagree on the couch. I don’t mind that at all. We haven’t even looked at your numbers to see if you can afford it.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:09:22]  Notice how patterns that appear in money also appear in other parts of relationships. I’ve noticed that a lot of people try to compartmentalize their feelings about money by saying oh, well, that’s just my finances. I just feel nervous around my finances. But the way you treat money often seeps into other areas of your life. And this is why changing the way you treat money can be really hard, because it often cuts to the very core of who you are, and how you look at the world. Kara, go ahead. Looks like you just had an idea.

Kara:  [00:09:59]  I feel like the leader, the one who creates the dreams. And then he just goes with it and has no input.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:10:13]  

Describe that in a word.

Kara:  [00:10:19]  Careless?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:10:21]  Careless, okay. What does that mean?

Sean:  [00:10:25]  For you or for me?

Kara:  [00:10:33]  It doesn’t really matter to you.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:10:37]  Is that fair?

Sean:  [00:10:39]  That nothing matters to me? No, no, that’s not fair.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:10:44]  What would you say instead? If she’s the leader, what would you describe yourself as?

Sean:  [00:10:52]  I’m definitely more of a one day to one week at a time kind of person. Just manage one week’s of worth of routine or challenges at a time. Happy go-lucky is probably too generous, but content to live out one week at a time. And if there are dreams that Kara has, let’s see if we can make them happen as long as they make sense with everything else we get going on. But definitely I am not good at long term things. That is a growth area for me, trying to get better at long term planning, which is something we talk about whether it’s finances or anything else.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:11:32]  Okay. That’s perceptive. Do you know why I just spent so much time on this?

Kara:  [00:11:41]  Why?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:11:42]  Because it’s not about the couch. I bet you, we could come up with five other examples where this exact same dynamic played out.

Sean:  [00:11:50]  I think that’s fair for some of our further in the past interactions. I think the recent vacation trip we took that you planned, I was excited for that. You found great deals. We jumped all over it. We made it happen. That was still definitely you leading, but it was less wet blankety.

Kara:  [00:12:11]  Yeah, but I don’t think it would have happened if I didn’t do it. That’s the thing. I was the one who pitched it. We’re so connected on those trips. And then we come home and you go back to work, and you get in the zone. And I feel like our relationship goes off to the side. I have to be the one to always dream and keep that going. And I guess that’s a lot of pressure on me for the rest of our marriage. So it would be nice, a few thoughts and dreams for our family would make me feel like desired and special. I’ve tried to tell you that.

I was actually frustrated. Say, if we were supposed to go to a wedding for my friend, she’s unfortunately sick, it has to be canceled, we had a babysitter and everything lined up. So Sean calls me and he’s like, oh, do you want to go on a date? And inside I’m like, oh my gosh, he’s doing it. He’s planning something for us. And he’s like, I want to go see Dr. Strange too. And I was like, okay, that’s definitely more of a him thing, but I like marvel, too. But he’s like, “Well, then we can make it home for bedtime.” And inside I got really upset. That’s all for him. We’re not even connecting when we go to the movie. And I’m really easy to please. I love most restaurants and stuff. So I feel like it’s not that hard to step up.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:13:56]  It must be frustrating.

Kara:  [00:13:58]  Yeah.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:14:00]  I’m having a little fun with them. But what I’m really trying to do is shake them out of their patterns. They’ve never even named their roles. They’ve never even thought about them actually. And when they do, you notice that they come up with the same predictable answers that almost everybody else does. “I’m practical.” “No, actually you’re not practical. If you were practical, you wouldn’t be talking to me.” So what I’m doing here is I’m intentionally painting an exaggerating picture with this idea of eyo and his weird dying sound also that it sticks in their head. And hopefully, it’s going to get them, especially Sean, thinking.

[Interview]

Sean:  [00:14:40]  I am on board with trying to make Kara happy as much as I possibly can. And admittedly there are some times where I can probably step into more of take turns being leaders on certain decisions.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:15:03]  But why here? Why not a couples’ therapist? Why not a group coaching? Why this? We’re talking about money. The name of the podcast is I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Why this?

Sean:  [00:15:14]  We’re trying to do a lot better with our investments, with setting our daughter up for future success. Once we had a kid, I think that changed both of our perspectives a lot on it’s not just, can we have fun this month? Can we stop renting a house? Can you buy a house instead? And now it’s okay, well, we need to make sure we can send her to college, if at all possible, if that’s what she wants to do.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:15:41]  How old is your daughter?

Sean:  [00:15:43]  10 months.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:15:44]  Did you catch that? That deep invisible script? “We had a kid. So now we have to start thinking about buying a house and paying for her college and not having fun anymore.” No wonder people hate money. It just sounds like such a downer.

[Interview]

Kara:  [00:16:01]  You’ve really helped me identify what my rich life would be. And I tried to have these conversations with Sean. And I asked him if he couldn’t come up with anything other than like, oh, well, I really like what I do for my job. But I was like, your rich life, you’re not with your family a lot. I’m like, what’s going on?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:26]  And I can see that you’re wiping away tears?

Kara:  [00:16:30]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:33]  Did you expect this call to be that emotional?

Kara:  [00:16:36]  No.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:38]  It’s okay that it is. It’s totally normal.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:44]  Here’s what I think is going on so far. Kara is well versed in the philosophy of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. She uses phrases like “rich life.” And she’s the one, of course, who asked to come on this podcast. I think she realizes that money is just a symptom of larger problems. So as they’re talking about that frustrating date night, seems like she realizes the enormity of the challenge they’re facing.

It’s not really a simple budget change that they need here. What’s interesting to me is that people really cling to the idea of numbers. People hate numbers. And they usually don’t know their numbers. But funny enough, they believe the magical solution to their financial problems is found somewhere in the numbers, if somebody like me would just show them how to calculate things right. I’m going to start with their finances now. But you and I both know the answer probably isn’t in the numbers. It’s in the two of them.

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:17:48]  What is your household income combined?

Kara:  [00:17:53]  About 150,000.

Sean:  [00:17:55]  Yeah, around there.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:17:56]  And how do you feel about the money that you make?

Kara:  [00:18:00]  Pretty good. I mean, in this market we are probably pretty average.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:18:10]  So you feel pretty good. Okay, you don’t worry about money?

Kara:  [00:18:14]  I do, actually. I get frustrated. I’m a nurse and I work full time. I feel like I’m at the point where I am making the most money. And then it’s just a really difficult profession. So I don’t burn out. I want to cut back on hours. And usually, normally, partners will continue to rise, and then they have a plan. And so I guess it would be nice if I could drop a little bit and have some pressure taken off and have him try and plan to move off or make changes, but I feel like he’s stuck unless he makes a career change.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:19:05]  What’s the breakdown in incomes? Out of 150 who makes what?

Kara:  [00:19:10]  I make about $100,000. And he makes 50.

Sean:  [00:19:15]  A little over 50.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:19:17]  Okay, great. Sean, how do you feel about your financial situation?

Sean:  [00:19:28]  Now that we have a mortgage kicking in, a little less comfortable. But for the most part, it’s never bothered me that Kara was a bigger earner than I was. I don’t get any masculine pride out of that or or not. With my particular role, eight, nine years that I’ve been doing it, I am getting to a burnout point as well like Kara described. And so I have quietly applied for other positions pretty much annually, sometimes semi-annually, depending on what comes up, and I just haven’t gotten anything else.

So those are all applications to similar roles, just in different places that would pay a little bit more. So she’s right, short of total career shift. Unless some of those jobs start calling me back, I don’t have a huge potential for salary increase, so butting up against the glass ceiling. That is actually what I thought we might talk about a little bit today is just like, okay, well, I knew she was going to tell me I need to change jobs and get my shit together and move on.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:20:46]  But if I told you that, would it actually mean anything to you?

Sean:  [00:20:50]  I think so, yeah, because it means something to me when Kara says it too. I have been looking for new roles. I have applied to larger companies for similar positions, which even if it’s a lateral move, it’s still more salary.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:21:08]  Kara, you just rolled your eyes.

Kara:  [00:21:09]  I’m the one who is looking for these jobs for him, which makes me sound like a crazy person, like a crazy wife. But I’m just so desperate to know that there’s something more waiting for us and that I can finally relax.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:21:31]  Sean. Sean, you’re shaking your head there.

Sean:  [00:21:34]  I don’t agree with that totally. She has been great about being proactive and sharing things that she finds on little Glassdoor, recommendations or whatever. But I have my own alerts set up and I apply for those too. It’s just, I think, probably time for me to decide whether I want to commit to shifting careers entirely, or–

Kara:  [00:21:59]  Yeah, but I feel like I have to be the force to do it.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:22:04]  Because if you don’t, then what happens?

Kara:  [00:22:06]  We’re stagnant. We’re stuck. There’s no moving upward. He was making the federal minimum, but he was working 60 hours for the small university. And they didn’t even give him a 401k. And we were like, 24, 25 and I was like, “Babe, that’s kind of important.” He’s like, “Well, but my boss says that we can go to his cabin in Big Bear.” And I’m like–

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:22:36]  Let’s talk about that 401k cabin example. I can understand the frustration of Kara. She goes, “Hey, that’s important.” He responds with the cabin example, which is really code for, “I don’t want to think about that right now because deep down I know you’re probably right. And it makes me feel embarrassed not to know this.” Now, the wrong way to handle this is to point a finger and say, “Hey, a 401k is really important, seriously.”

I find that if you have to say the word seriously, you’ve already lost. And this is where a rich life vision can be very helpful. Instead of starting by talking about what the other person should do, you start by designing a vision of your rich lives together, you get crystal clear on it, you get excited about it, then, and only then do you start using the puzzle pieces of your money to match up with your rich life vision.

Years later, you can look back and laugh about that 401k conversation. And you can smile about the conversations you had that were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and you’ll never have to fight over a $700 couch again. This is the crux of how you use money to create a rich life. I’ll be talking more about this in my upcoming programs. So be sure that you’re following me on social media and my newsletter. Now back to Sean, I wanted to know where his apathy of money comes from. He tells me that he grew up poor in the rural Midwest, and then he moved to Southern California at the age of 10.

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:24:24]  What things surprised you about money culture in Southern California versus the Midwest?

Sean:  [00:24:32]  It’s a lot more talked about. It’s way more in your face. It’s status symbol.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:24:38]  Like what?

Sean:  [00:24:39]  I mean, growing up, for my first decade and a half it didn’t really matter. As long as you’re happy and content with what you got, no one’s really comparing too much. But you get to SoCal at that time, maybe it’s just the kids, maybe it is a coastal elitism thing, but I guess that at the time, I did not see a way to catch up. And rather than feel sad or depressed about that, I just decided I’m not going to be disappointed, but I also I’m going to just lower my expectations for now.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:25:11]  Thank you for that. Another way that I would look at it is, “I knew that I was never going to be able to catch up. So I opted out of the game altogether.” Would that be fair?

Sean:  [00:25:28]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:25:30]  Kara, what do you think about this?

Kara:  [00:25:33]  I feel like he just gave up and stopped believing in himself. He thinks of himself less than other people.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:25:44]  In social psychology, there’s a concept called cognitive dissonance. If you hold to different ideas, like, “I’m a hard worker, but I can’t ever catch up to these rich Southern California kids,” you have to find a way to reduce the dissonance. You could double down and work hard, studying harder to get into college with the belief that your hard work will eventually enable you to make more. Or you could opt out of the game altogether and say, “I can never catch up. And I don’t want to play that game anyway.”

To make that easier to swallow, you can add on a nice cherry on top saying something like, “Those people who drive nice cars are actually deeply unhappy inside anyway.” Once Sean realized he would never be able to catch up to the Southern California kids with their fancy cars and designer clothes, he decided to just opt out of the game altogether. And instead, he focused on sports. It’s not surprising then what he chose to do for a living later in life. Listen, as he describes the field of work that he chose.

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:26:56]  And what do we know about the field that you chose to work in, this college athletics field? What do we know about this field as it relates to money?

Sean:  [00:27:07]  People that know the right people are the best at networking, even if they’re not the best at the job, they advance and break through the glass ceiling. And everyone else, there’s plenty other people that are willing to do the job. It’s the opinion of higher ups, it seems like. So there’s a steady workforce of people from behind who are happy to take my job if I burn out or opt out. So you eat shit for as long as you can and hope that you meet the right people and climb the ladder a little bit.

And I guess part of it for me is I’ve done that for almost a decade. I know it’s a sunk cost fallacy in some ways, like I’ve put in all this time. I don’t want to give up now, but I really like what I do. It feels rewarding. And I feel like I’ve been in it long enough that I should hopefully be getting a couple of rungs up on the ladder soon enough.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:28:01]  Okay. And have you got promoted in the last couple of years?

Sean:  [00:28:07]  My specific position, there’s not really a promotion. You’re a director, but there’s no director of the directors. You get your admin status and you’re there.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:28:21]  It seems to me that there’s a clear connection between your moving to California and you’re choosing this job. Do you see a connection? Kara, you were nodding. Very quickly, go ahead. Tell me.

Kara:  [00:28:38]  Yeah, I think it parallels really well. You’re talking about your profession a similar way like, oh, only the top, top people like the lucky people make it to the top. And then I just hang out here and hope, but it’s like, what are you actually– I don’t know.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:28:59]  Let me stop you right there because you’re about to not do yourself any favors, the route you’re going down.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:29:06]  Kara was about to start re-litigating her problems with Sean and I just don’t want it. I don’t need it. This doesn’t mean Kara’s a bad person. It’s just a groove she’s gotten in when she talks about Sean and his career. But this is not the time. Sean is being super open. So I want to encourage him, and I want to hear more.

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:29:26]  The connection that I see is when you moved to California, you felt you could not catch up as you put it, and you chose a safe industry where you had some personal passion, yes, but you wouldn’t have to compete and it’s safe. You’re probably not going to be fired from your job, I’m guessing. It’s safe. It’s fine. It may not have the highest potential for advancement, but you like it and it’s a nice, good job. Do you care about making more money?

Sean:  [00:30:06]  In the sense that it will give Kara a peace of mind and provide for our family and long term, yes. In the sense that it gives me any extra happy feeling at the end of the day with a certain number attached to my name, no. I care more about providing for others than I do about like, I have this next to my name at the pay stub.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:30:26]  So you said, if it makes Kara happy, but Kara told us point blank, she wants you to advance and she’s frustrated that you’ve been at this job. So you’re not making her happy by staying at this job.

Sean:  [00:30:43]  Yes, we’ve definitely had that conversation.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:30:46]  So then make the connection for me, because you said, “I don’t care about it for myself. I don’t care about the status. But I want to provide and I’ll do if it makes Kara happy.” But Kara does not feel provided for and she’s not happy.

Sean:  [00:30:59]  I mean, a lot of implied questions in the end of that sentence for you.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:31:10]  Talk to me. Talk to me. Honestly, I’m not here to tell you you’re right or wrong. I just want to understand what’s going on.

Sean:  [00:31:16]  Fair enough. Kara is currently not as happy as she could be with this role. I’ve decided to make peace with being in it while I am still applying for other things. And the fact that I do get some emotional satisfaction or personal satisfaction from the kind of work that it is probably does cut down on the urgency a little bit as much as anything else.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:31:45]  So you like the job, you’re well respected, it’s a good job for you, right?

Sean:  [00:31:50]  Yeah, just the paycheck isn’t and the return on hours put in.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:31:56]  What is the return on hours if you break it out? Hold on. Before you go on, I just want to describe what just happened. I said, what is the return on hours, and you look to the side and you laughed. So I’m very much looking forward to what you’re about to tell me.

Sean:  [00:32:13]  I had a employee complain to me, student worker, they make minimum wage in the state that we live. And they were complaining jokingly that they had put in long hours over the weekend. We had a couple of things we had going on. And they’re like, “I deserve a raise after this. I was like, buddy, you divide my actual salary by the hours I put in, you still make more than I do.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:32:36]  So you make less than minimum wage.

Sean:  [00:32:39]  If you do salary divided by the actual hours the job requires, yeah, probably.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:32:44]  And how do you feel about that?

Sean:  [00:32:45]  Not thrilled. I’ve been trying to. I actually have a meeting set up with my current supervisor about an application I have out just to see if even if I’m not picked for the job, can I use this as leverage to get a little bit more where I’m currently at?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:03]  Let’s say it goes well, how much would you go from? You’re making roughly 50k. How much do you think that you might get an increase of?

Sean:  [00:33:11]  I think realistically, the most I could probably expect for an annual bump would probably be 10. So 50 to 60.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:17]  Okay, that’s not bad.

Sean:  [00:33:21]  It’s not nothing.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:24]  Kara is itching to say something here. Kara, go ahead.

Sean:  [00:33:27]  She wants more.

Kara:  [00:33:31]  Yeah, I find a crystal ball. I just know that or feel I don’t want to drop where we’re at. And so I won’t cut my hours back, and I’ll pick up overtime and all these things, so make sure the three of us have this good life.

Sean:  [00:33:52]  I think in some ways it’s just because I’m trying to juggle a bunch of other things that make our family happy and comfortable. There are other jobs that I see posted around the country that would be better opportunities for our family, but the place that we currently live, aside from my paycheck and my take home, is a really happy compromise of family around in the area, a climate that we enjoy, friends that we can lean on, a certain amount of free childcare that we can expect depending on who we’re asking.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:34:28]  So that’s a very logical answer.

Sean:  [00:34:31]  There’s other places I could take us to, but then Kara’s standard of treatment as a nurse might change. Where we are at, nursing is a very well respected profession and it’s well compensated. We could go somewhere where I become very well respected and well compensated and then really we just flip and now we’re not your family and now we’re not your friends, and we’re not happier that way either. I think it’s just that we’ve traded roles at that point. So anytime there’s anything that would even be like a two-hour commute, if it’s a bump for me, I apply for it. But our options feel limited by trying to balance as much of that was possible.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:35:20]  All of that was just words. Just conjecture. It sounded logical. But I think, really, it was just fear disguised as thoughtful concern. Here’s my question for you. How do you know?

Sean:  [00:35:37]  That I’m right?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:35:38]  Yeah.

Sean:  [00:35:39]  I don’t.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:35:39]  Well, it seems pretty important to me. You guys decided to come on this podcast and share everything. It seems like it would be a pretty interesting answer to find the answer too. Don’t you think?

Sean:  [00:35:50]  Yes, it would.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:35:52]   I mean, you came up with this long pre rehearsed answer, well, we got to childcare and the well respected nurse and da, da, da and go, maybe. Or maybe you’re just bullshitting yourself. How do you know you can’t get a different job? How do you know you can’t find a remote job? How do you know you can’t move? How do you know? Sean, how do you know?

Sean:  [00:36:13]  I don’t know that we can’t move. I just know that Kara would prefer not to. I feel like I only have so many moves that could make on the chess board that would end with everyone feeling successful and happy and satisfied. I know I’m mixing metaphors here. But I’m trying to thread the needle and like, okay, well, you bingo and now everyone wins.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:36:29]  And how do you think that she’s perceiving your internal chess game? Does she see you making all these moves in your head?

Sean:  [00:36:39]  I am not a great sharer.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:36:43]  I’m shocked. Yeah, I’m shocked. Can I just tell you what she thinks and then I’ll just confirm if I’m right? She doesn’t see you making any movement at all. Sometimes horrible chess players– I’m getting on my mixed metaphor now because you made me talk about chess. And it doesn’t even make sense, but I’m going with it. Sometimes chess players can play themselves into a circle. All right, well, I could do this. But then I can’t do that. And if I did that, then she’d be mad, and then this and then no child care. I’m just going to do exactly what I’ve been doing for the last five years. That’s not playing chess. That’s just being stuck.

Kara:  [00:37:19]  Yeah, that’s really accurate. We’ll get to a breaking point or I’m like, I’m so frustrated. I feel like you’re not listening to me, because he’s not communicating with me.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:37:29]  I’ve found that people are very, very willing to financially support their partners, to emotionally support their partners, if they see their partners proactively making moves. Now, a lot of us think we only need to move upward in order for our partners to be happy. And we get so overwhelmed. We get so focused on perfection that we get paralyzed. But life doesn’t only go up. Life goes down. Things happen. You get laid off. You have a sick child or ill parent or something happens. In reality, you do not only have to be making upward moves. Instead, taking a small step, even if you get it wrong, is often better than staying stuck. Momentum really matters.

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:38:24]  It seems like the two of you have different visions on what your life is. Would that be fair to say?

Kara:  [00:38:31]  Yes, I remember actually describing. So my aunt and uncle they are probably upper middle class and he’s like–

Sean:  [00:38:43]  Upper middle class, okay.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:38:44]  [interposing voices 00:38:46] Just to describe what just happened, she goes, they’re upper middle class, and Sean rolls his eyes and he smiles, “Upper middle class, okay.” So Sean, I’m guessing that they are more than upper middle class according to you?

Sean:  [00:39:00]  Yeah, they’re straight just upper class. There’s no middle as part of it.

Kara:  [00:39:06]  They’ve got a couple of million dollars, I’m sure.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:39:08]  What a shock! Oh, wow. What’s the point you’re trying to make, Kara?

Kara:  [00:39:13]  I was like, “Well, I like their house.” And he was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” He basically told me not to ever have those expectations in life. And it made me feel selfish for even wanting that.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:39:29]  Can I tell you something?

Kara:  [00:39:30]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:39:31]  I hate how that conversation went, the one between you two. Sean, do you see why I don’t like how that went?

Sean:  [00:39:41]  I don’t think. For me, on my end, that’s probably too limiting and I’m not giving myself any credit or room to grow. And then on Kara’s end I do still feel like that was big homerun swing.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:40:00]  But what about how your response made Kara feel? How do you think it came out?

Sean:  [00:40:05]  That’s not positive. So there’s no reason for me to be that wet of a blanket.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:40:09]  Wet blanket, that’s exactly what you were. And that’s why, from the first couple of minutes, I want to just point this tendency out that I’m sure manifests in a million different ways. Kara coming to you and saying, I’m excited about something, and what is she really saying when she talks to you about the couch or this couple? What is she really saying to you beneath it all?

Sean:  [00:40:09]  I think this is a good idea. I think this is a fun dream. Let’s do it together.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:40:18]  Yes, it’s not even that she wants that couch. It’s not that. It’s that she wants to engage with you. She’s basically crying out for some type of engagement. “Talk to me, engage with me. Get excited with me.” And your response instead is what?

Sean:  [00:41:01]  Usually practical, which is not fun.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:41:04]  It’s worse than practical. What did you tell her when she said, “I like that couple. They’re really nice. I’d like to live like that.” What was your response?

Sean:  [00:41:15]  I think we should lower our expectations.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:41:17]  Literally, it’s the most toxic answer you could give. Not only are you saying, “I don’t want to engage with you,” you’re actually telling her, “Your dreams are foolish.” The worst thing a partner wants to feel is embarrassed or ashamed around the one person in life they’re supposed to be able to talk to, honestly.

I’m not here to berate you. I want to show you a different way of thinking about money between the two of you, even if you don’t see it the same way. So Sean, how do you think you could do things differently than how you’ve done it in the past, the wet blanket approach?

Sean:  [00:41:52]  It’s always a work in progress as well. So sometimes I’m better at catching it. And sometimes–

Ramit Sethi:  [00:41:57]  Anything that is deeply part of us probably take the rest of our lives to work on. The fact that I picked up on it in the first two minutes is a problem. It’s a real problem. That’s just the candid outside opinion. It’s affecting your relationship. The way you talk about your career is like someone just hoping that they’re going to win the lottery. It’s like, I hope my boss is going to give me a raise because I really deserve it. You’re playing by the wrong rules, and you don’t even know it. And I think that’s what Kara’s frustration is about. You can learn the rules. You’re a savvy guy.

But you have to want to. You have to have a reason to. Right now I don’t hear the reason for the two of you to change. Both of you need to start making some decisions now if you want things to change by the time your daughter’s 4, 5, and 10.

Kara:  [00:42:51]  We are really good at rationalizing, then we end up in the same spot.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:42:59]  What do you think this whole conversation has been about?

Sean:  [00:43:02]  Yeah, that.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:43:03]  Since you’re also good at admitting the problems less, so as actually wanting to make a change.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:43:10]  It’s really hard for people to make a change with their money if there’s not a pressing reason. Usually, it’s one of about 10 reasons: we get married, we have a baby, we bought a house, etc. In this case, with Kara and Sean, it doesn’t seem like that you really have a reason to make a change. And so they haven’t. In many ways, it’s as simple as that. I decided that the route I was going on was a dead end. So I wanted to move on to their conscious spending plan. And candidly, I don’t have a lot of confidence right now because without a reason to change, this is just a bunch of random numbers. But who knows, let’s see where this takes us. I asked them to pull up the conscious spending plan that they’d filled out before the call. You can get your own copy at iwt.com/episode48. Listen to what happens.

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:44:08]  Let’s look at the numbers. So how do you feel about your spending?

Kara:  [00:44:17]  A little bit ashamed. Well, I feel like I’ll go back and forth where I’ll get really excited about something and then buy it. And then I feel shame like oh, I went too hard and treated myself or us and then just ruminate on numbers and like, when am I actually going to get to a place where I could do this and not feel stressed.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:44:48]  And what is the answer to that?

Kara:  [00:44:50]  I paid off my car. I paid off a good amount of student loans. I would log in every day. And I love seeing the progress and it made me feel really good. So I now have just $22,000 of student loans versus 100k.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:45:21]  Hold on. Why are you sad or depressed? It’s pretty amazing. Did you ever celebrate that?

Kara:  [00:45:26]  No, because I haven’t finished.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:45:28]  So what? Hold on a second. How old is your daughter again? Eight months?

Kara:  [00:45:33]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:45:35]  And when she turns one, you probably shouldn’t have a birthday celebration because she’s not dead yet. What kind of logic is that? You know what? I’m going to celebrate for you and we’re all going to do it right now. You paid off $78,000 of debt? Round of applause, please. Can we give her a round of applause? Yes. That’s awesome. Take the win.

Kara:  [00:46:00]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:46:01]  Listen, one of my philosophies is to take the win. The fact that you’ve paid off $78,000 and you haven’t even taken a breath and given yourself a pat on the back tells me it’s not actually about the numbers on this spreadsheet. It’s about you. It’s about how you feel about money.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:46:21]  For most of us, money is a source of guilt and shame and insecurity. And even when we’re winning, we still operate with the mentality that we’re losing. And you know what we tell ourselves? When I finally do x, then I’ll feel better about money. The truth is, the way you feel about money is highly uncorrelated with how much you have in the bank. You’ve heard millionaires on this podcast who still agonize over a $300 hotel stay. And now here you hear Kara, she’s done an amazing job paying off $78,000. And she feels ashamed. Personally, I think she’s done an awesome job. So I want you to get in the habit of taking the win. Money should feel good along the way. Otherwise, it won’t feel good at the end.

[Interview]

Kara:  [00:47:19]  With the market climbing, I was like, we need to do something. So we–

Ramit Sethi:  [00:47:25]  What was your conclusion?

Kara:  [00:47:26]  Bought a house.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:47:28]  And what made you decide to buy?

Sean:  [00:47:31]  Looking at other properties that we would have liked to rent and recognizing that those were going to be pretty close to what a mortgage would be based on what we’re hoping to continue renting, not wanting to downsize back to  a one-bedroom apartment.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:47:48]  And your mortgage is how much?

Sean:  [00:47:51]  3200.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:47:53]  3200, plus you got your 400 bucks of utilities, insurance, etc. How do you feel about the amount that you spend on your fixed costs?

Kara:  [00:48:05]  Stressed. It was good before and now it’s not.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:48:13]  So just so everybody knows, we’re looking at their conscious spending plan. You guys did the conscious spending plan before. And in this conscious spending plan, I have some recommendations on general parameters, how much you should be spending. And in general, speaking generally here, 50 to 60% of your take home pay would be a good amount for fixed costs. That would be things like your housing, cars, groceries, things like that. What’s your number?

Kara:  [00:48:47]  78.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:48:47]  That’s pretty high. The conscious spending plan has my specific recommendations for how much you should be spending in each of the four major categories, including guilt-free spending. You’ll quickly learn that most people get into trouble because their fixed costs are too high. Instead of the 28/36 rule, which is 28% for housing and 36% for total debt, you’re more like 30 to 42. That starts to feel really tight, doesn’t it?

Kara:  [00:49:18]  Yeah.

Sean:  [00:49:20]  We’ve been sitting down with an investment advisor through a local church that we started to work with, and then trying to get more with this guy going.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:49:29]  How much does this guy charge you? Please don’t tell me a percentage. God, look at the look on their faces. What is it? 1%? Maybe even 1.5%? Tell me.

Sean:  [00:49:44]  I think there’s a ladder based on performance of the actual accounts.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:49:49]  No, it’s not on performance. I can tell you that. They don’t like to get measured on performance because they fucking suck. But there’s a ladder I’m sure based on the number of assets you have. That’s one of the reasons I started what I do. I don’t think everyday people should have to become financial experts to avoid getting ripped off. And I wish you didn’t have to go through this. But you did. Luckily, we caught it early, we can make some changes. So this investment advisor sat you both down and let me guess their first question. What are your financial goals?

Kara:  [00:50:24]  Yes.

Sean:  [00:50:25]  Yeah, that sounded right.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:50:26]  I’m going to assume that your advisor is charging you 1%. That’s a typical scammy amount that an investment advisor would charge you. So let me ask you this, Sean. Does 1% sound like a lot to you?

Sean:  [00:50:45]  I mean, at face value, no.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:50:47]  That’s a great answer. So how come when you were mowing lawns you didn’t charge Mr. Johnson down the road 1% of his net worth to mow his loans every week?

Sean:  [00:50:58]  At the time because I had no concept of 1% of Mr. Johnson’s worth.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:51:03]  But would he have paid you that?

Sean:  [00:51:04]  No.

Kara:  [00:51:05]  It was something that Sean and I felt like it was seamless. We were on the same page, like, yes, do we want to feel secure about our finances and have this little let’s save for our daughter, whatever if something were to happen to us.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:51:23]  It’s sweet the way you put it. It was something we did together. I like that. Unfortunately, you made the wrong decision. But the intention was good. That part was good. So why don’t we just take the intention and make a better decision?

Kara:  [00:51:43]  Okay.

Sean:  [00:51:44]  Sounds good to me.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:51:44]  I like the intention of the two of you talking about money. You know what I like even better?

Kara:  [00:51:48]  What?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:51:48]  Is the two of you keeping tens of thousands or hundreds of thousand dollars for yourself. How about that? Look, they got scammed by some church advisor, fine, it happens. You’re going to make mistakes with your money. Better to make them early on and fix them now rather than to wait later in life when those $1,000 mistakes will be much more costly. I don’t mind money mistakes, life happens. Just trust yourself to notice them and to fix them. And so because you’re spending all this money on your fixed costs, what are you not able to do?

Kara:  [00:52:26]  Fun things.

Sean:  [00:52:28]  On trip.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:52:29]  Tell me, like what? What are you not able to do? Think about yourself and think about yourself as a couple.

Sean:  [00:52:37]  Together it limits how often we can see my family because they’re pretty far removed from us. And they’re in an area where there’s no direct flight at all. So then your option is like three-day road trip or nothing. It affects how generous we can be for holidays, or weddings or anything else. We’re going to have to start counting the pennies a little bit more.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:53:03]  What about the future for the two of you? Do you both want to be doing the same thing you’re doing 10 years from now?

Sean:  [00:53:07]  No.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:53:08]  Your daughter will be about 10 years old.

Sean:  [00:53:09]  Absolutely not.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:53:10]  No. Wow, that was a resounding no. Tell me more, Sean. Just want to point out that is the first time I heard Sean speak up that authoritatively on this entire call.

Sean:  [00:53:24]  Well, I mean, she’s only going to want to do more and more things. I want to be able to put her in whatever she wants. She wants to do ballet. She wants to play T ball. She wants to go to summer camp, whatever. I can start taking water sandwiches for lunch. It’s only going to save us so much money. So there’s got to be some changes.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:53:46]  So what are those changes?

Sean:  [00:53:49]  There’s things that we can trim down, some subscriptions that we don’t need, for example, there’s–

Ramit Sethi:  [00:53:54]  Like what?

Sean:  [00:53:54]  We were paying for YouTube TV, but–

Ramit Sethi:  [00:53:55]  That’s like five bucks.

Kara:  [00:54:02]  No, it’s 55.

Sean:  [00:54:03]  It’s like 60 a month.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:54:05]  $60 a month for YouTube TV? All right, I’m out of touch. Who the hell would pay 60 bucks a month for YouTube TV? YouTube is going to kill me if they hear this, whatever. $60 is not going to change your life, honestly. Yes, you should probably cancel the $60 a month thing because I don’t know what the hell you get for that. But that’s not going to change your life.

Sean:  [00:54:25]  Yeah.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:54:27]  They’re spending nearly 80% of their take home on fixed costs. But Sean’s first response is about some YouTube subscription. I have to tell you guys, I lost it here. They’re both playing small. And what’s worse, they’re both being passive, especially Sean. Have you noticed that they’ve barely asked me a single thing? It seems like they’re just waiting for me to magically solve their problems. But when I asked them what they can do, the answer I get back is about a $60 subscription. I’ve tried talking about the numbers. I’ve tried talking about their childhood. I’ve tried talking about the relationship. I’ve even tried talking about the couch. And this is where I got pissed off. There’s no vision here.

[Interview]

Kara:  [00:55:14]  Yeah, we need a vision.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:55:18]  Do you guys want help creating a vision?

Kara:  [00:55:20]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:55:20]  Do you know how to ask for help?

Kara:  [00:55:22]  Can you help us?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:55:24]  No, you don’t? Sean, tell me about that.

Sean:  [00:55:26]  I’m terrible at asking for help.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:55:28]  I’ve been wondering for the last two hours, what am I doing here? Am I going to get asked any questions at all? You know that this is your time, right? If I were you, how would I have come on this call? If I were in your position and I had the chance to talk to somebody, what would I have done specifically?

Sean:  [00:55:45]  Honestly, you strike me as the kind of person who would have four or five bullet points, an action plan, how can we put together, deliverables, how do we get out of this.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:55:55]  I would have come in surgical. I would have been like, this guy, I hardly ever get the chance to talk to somebody like this. I’m going to milk him for every last thing he can tell me until he finally says, “Hey, man, enough free questions.” It’s confusing to me. We’re over time. I don’t mind. I’ll stay as long as we need to stay. But my goal is to help you guys. But I can’t help you two if you don’t want to be helped. And right now, it seems like both of you just want to be led along some path. And that’s not the way this works. That’s the entire theme of this conversation is do you have enough pain to want to make a change? It’s still unclear to me. I think we need to fundamentally reconceptualize this dynamic right now.

Kara:  [00:56:40]  Okay.

Sean:  [00:56:40]  Right.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:56:42]  You tell me what you need, and I will assist you.

Sean:  [00:56:45]  Okay.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:56:47]  All right. I got pretty mad at them. This was also me taking the burden of solving their problems and handing it back to them. Well, I guess I basically threw it back at them. What I really wanted to tell them was, Kara and Sean, your problems are yours to solve. I truly hope you solve them and I’ll be here to help. But I’m not going to do it for you. Take ownership or not, it’s up to you. Just as I think about it, I wish I had said it that way. You know what else I wish? I wish you could have seen their body language. After I lit them up, they literally sat up straighter. Sean finally leaned forward. And finally, they started being honest with me.

[Interview]

Sean:  [00:57:36]  We have spent a large part of our relationship trying to realize some of Kara’s dreams. We really wanted to get all that debt paid down. We thought, okay, like, well, surely, if we pay off all this debt, we’ll have all this extra money later for different things. When it comes to our finances, the biggest hurdle for us has been that I don’t know what I don’t know. I can’t even start the learning process because I don’t really know what questions I should be asking. I’m hoping that some of this conversation can help me figure out what the heck we’re supposed to do instead of like, okay, well, that was clearly not the right answer or not a right answer.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:58:18]  Okay, I appreciate that. So you’re looking for help?

Sean:  [00:58:20]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:58:22]  Sean, you’re 30 years old. You mentioned, five years ago you probably should have started investing. Yeah, probably you should have, but you didn’t, that’s fine. We’re here. But five years from now, your daughter’s going to be five years old, almost six. What’s going to be different?

Sean:  [00:58:39]  I will definitely have a different job by then. I don’t know what it is yet, but it will not be this.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:58:44]  What’s going to be different about the job? Tell me about the income.

Sean:  [00:58:51]  I’d like to see myself in like at least a 30 to 40% increase on what I’ve got, because I have the tools.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:58:57]  How much are you going to be making?

Sean:  [00:59:01]  I would love to see myself between 75 and 90.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:59:05]  Took a lot to get you to say that number. What’s that?

Sean:  [00:59:13]  I don’t know. Growing up with a family that made nowhere near that and still seemed happy, I guess.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:59:24]  This is a big moment. Sean is designing his own rich life right in front of us. Nobody can get him to do it. Kara couldn’t. I couldn’t. It has to be Sean.

Sean:  [00:59:36]  A lot of those people that I ran into, not that all Angelenos are this way, but a lot of people I ran into use money as a weapon. And I didn’t love that.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:59:48]  I don’t want you to think that if you make more money that you’re going to weaponize it or turn into an asshole. One of the reasons that I talk about money and I share real numbers and other couples, is I want people to see that you can make a lot of money and you can be incredibly generous. Sean is working off of a common invisible script, that rich people are evil. So if I make a lot of money, I’ll be evil, probably an asshole too. Deep down this is one of the things that I think has been holding Sean back from taking ownership over his career. It’s not the only thing. But it’s a big one.

So Kara, you’re deeply affected by your anxiety around money, and you want somebody to give you permission to know that you are making the right decision. That’s one of the reasons you ask, Sean, can we get this couch? I’m going to try to convince you because deep down, you’re putting yourself in the position of needing somebody’s blessing, or needing somebody’s permission, even though you don’t really need it. In fact, you’re the higher earner in this relationship. That’s number one.

And number two, Sean, you’re playing a different game, which is learned helplessness. I don’t know. I listened to the thing a little bit, but I don’t know. And that’s it. Now, I will commend the two of you for getting together and getting that advisor even though the advisor was not the right decision. Luckily, we caught it. And the two of you came together today. That’s awesome, too. I commend you for that.

So I suggest that you consider making a few changes. The last thing you want to do is to squelch the other partner’s dreams. If anything, the answer is to first engage with them. Get curious, “Tell me about that. Oh my God, tell me about this couch. So where do you find it?” And you clear up, put your phone away. Visibly set yourself up to be an engaged partner. “Tell me about this. But I don’t know, our daughter is going to spill stuff on it. What do you think about that?” Not “Our daughter is going to spill stuff. It’ll suck. No, our daughter is going to spill. She’s a klutz. So what are we going to do when she spills that milk on the couch?” And then, of course, Kara smiles. Look at that smile. Kara’s smiling right now. She’s grinning. Kara, how would you react if he said something like that?

Kara:  [01:02:13]  It won’t be a problem because it’s stain resistant.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:02:16]  Exactly. She’s like, got that. She pulls out like a papyrus scroll. She’s ready to break down all the features.

Sean:  [01:02:21]  And it’s white. So of course, the milk won’t show.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:02:25]  There you go. Look at this. Okay, see, we can make it fun. Now, I’m not saying you have to get the couch. I am saying there’s a way to talk about these things so that you two are partners, not adversaries, and not one person dragging the other by their teeth. Sean, are you on board with this so far?

Sean:  [01:02:48]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:02:51]  And I hope Sean is lighting a fire under you to start making more money. Because if you make a lot more, that’s going to automatically make the 74% go down because your denominator will be bigger.

Sean:  [01:03:07]  Yeah, right. You did it again. Yeah, I get that.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:03:09]  What are you going to do with that money?

Sean:  [01:03:13]  It sounds like it would be a better idea to sock it away for long term investment.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:03:17]  Agreed. I’m going to share something on my screen. I’m going to calculate out something for you here. So this is how much you currently have. You two have $52,000 invested. That’s what he told me. Right now you’re going to add $400 a month. That’s your baseline for investments, correct?

Sean:  [01:03:20]  Yeah.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:03:21]  All right. So I’m adding $4,800 a year. I’m going to give you 35 years to grow it just to show you what would happen by the time you approximately retire. And I’m going to assume a 7% interest rate. I know you don’t understand where that comes from. Chapter 7 of my book will tell you, chapter 6 and 7. So if you just do that, you have $1.2 million.

Kara:  [01:04:04]  What is it with calculator?

Ramit Sethi:  [01:04:06]  What’s that face you just made, Kara? She look like I just put some Hemlock in her coffee. What’s that look on your face?

Kara:  [01:04:13]  Disbelief.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:04:14]  Why is that?

Kara:  [01:04:15]  I don’t know. That’s crazy how it can just sit there and then grow that much. I know it’s like compounding and that’s what we’re trying to understand.

Sean:  [01:04:29]  I like that. I would like to make that even higher.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:04:33]  Oh, you would?

Kara:  [01:04:34]  Really?

Ramit Sethi:  [01:04:35]  Wow. She’s just clapping right now. What do you notice about the dynamic between the two of you right now?

Sean:  [01:04:44]  We’re both smiling. So that’s good.

Kara:  [01:04:49]  Dreaming.

Ramit Sethi:  [01:04:50]  Yeah, it seems like you guys are a team. I have to say it’s funny. Most of the time, by the time we’re in this, it’s like very nuts and bolts. But I actually love watching the two. Look at these smiles. And the two of you are really collaborating together. I really admire it.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [01:05:04]  I was loving their teamwork at this point in the call. You could see it in their smiles. You could see it in their body language. You could hear it in their voices. This is how money should sound when you talk about it. Of course, to get to this point, you have to understand the fundamentals of money. And you have to have some basic numbers in place. If you don’t have that, it’s no surprise that people fight for their entire lives over $3 questions.

Ultimately, I wanted Kara and Sean to realize that they have to find their solution. There’s no magic trick I can pull out to fix this. The answer is in changing the way they both treat money, especially Sean. Between the two of you, you can tweak a couple of things. The changes you made actually already made you a million dollars. It’s just going to take you a long time to have it. But I don’t think you want to wait until you’re 65 years old to have money.

In your application Kara, you said like, I want to live. I want to travel. Ultimately, the biggest driver here is your income. And that is exactly what I wanted us to get to. If I came in here and I tell you, “Sean, you got to make more money.” You’re like, basically fuck off. “I know, but I like my job. And my co-workers are nice.” But if you have a vision that you created together, then it becomes very clear what to do. How do you both feel right now?

Sean:  [01:06:36]  At least we’re pointed in the right direction.

Kara:  [01:06:39]  Hopeful that this momentum will continue and that we’ll be united. And I just feel the urgency and I want him to feel that with me.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [01:06:55]  I found three layers to Kara and Sean’s problems. First, the mechanical answer is that they’re spending too much on their fixed costs. Second, a more detailed answer is that Sean needs to get a better paying job. And third, the real answer is that they both have to change the way they treat money. And Sean has to take on the bigger part of this. Now they have a lot of work to do, but they realize they have to do it together.

After speaking to Sean and Kara, I asked them to follow up with me in a few days with what had surprised them, and what specific actions they were taking based on our call. Kara did exactly that. She had already gotten rid of their expensive financial advisor, and she had re-invested their money using my system. To read the rest of the changes that Kara made, you can go to iwt.com/followups.

But I want to tell you what I heard from Sean. Now in these follow ups, I often get pages of details. I got a lot of details from Kara. But Sean didn’t follow up with me in a few days like I asked. My team actually had to reach out to him and ask him to follow up. He replied with the following single sentence, “I think the biggest takeaways for me were the importance of communicating more frequently so Kara feels like we’re on the same page. And it just further underscored a need for a career shift on my part.”

What do you think? What do you think happens over 5 or 10 or 15 years when in a relationship one person, the leader, becomes increasingly frustrated that the other person is not being proactive, is not making changes? If you go to iwt.com/followups, you’ll be able to see future updates from Sean and Kara and my other podcast guests.

Thanks for listening to I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I’m Ramit Sethi. Please follow the show on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you haven’t read I Will Teach You To Be Rich, my book, pick up a copy. You can get it at any bookstore or any library and it will show you these specific tactics for how to build the I Will Teach You To Be Rich system into your personal finances.