Episode 55. “My top 5 lessons from one year of interviewing couples about money”

One Year Anniversary

Date: August 9, 2022

Personal finance can seem complicated, but most issues are linked back to two core influences—how people think and feel about money. Where they land on those scales has a wide range of possible manifestations (skimping on frozen berries, anyone?). 

One year into the podcast, and a handful of these themes have become very clear. Tune in to this special solo episode as Ramit breaks them down. Check out the free resources below if any of these scenarios sound familiar to you—or you’re just ready to deepen your understanding of money and what it can do for you.

Programs & Resources

Connect with Ramit

If you and your partner have a money issue and you want my help, I occasionally select a few couples to work with, free of charge. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified whenever I’m taking applications.

Episode Transcript

Download the full transcript PDF

Tami:  [00:00:04] When I told him how much I spent, he got really upset. For me to just go and drop $250 at Target was a big deal.

Mike:  [00:00:15] Honestly I felt a little bit taken advantage of. I initially didn’t immediately voice my displeasure. But I think it was really obvious that I was upset.

Tami:  [00:00:25] We just got in a huge fight. And Mike had basically said something along the lines of he makes more money than me, so if anybody’s going to be spending that money, basically it should be him. Well, I just remember just feeling small and–

Ramit Sethi:  [00:0:43] Okay. Tami, I noticed you’re crying. Can you tell me why?

Tami:  [00:00:57] I just think it’s really important to us to not recreate some of what we experienced as children.

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:01:13] Welcome to the I Will Teach You To Be Rich podcast. Today’s episode is going to be a little different because it’s been one year since we launched this podcast. In that time, I’ve spoken to over 50 couples and we’ve had over 3 million downloads. I want to thank you for your support. I want to thank you for listening. And I want to take you behind the scenes of some of my favorite episodes. In fact, today, I want to share with you the top five lessons I’ve learned from speaking to couples about money over the last year. And we’re going to do this countdown style.

My goal is to address some of the most common issues I’ve seen so that you can walk away with some techniques and some tools for talking about money in a healthier way. Now just to remind you, the reason that I started this podcast was that when my wife and I were talking about a prenup, we wished there was something we could listen to so we could hear how other couples did it. And it got difficult. And I figured if it’s hard for me, and I know money, it’s what I do for a living, wow, it must be hard for everyone to talk about money.

One of the things you learned over the last 50-plus episodes is that there’s a difference between how much you have in the bank and how you feel about money. We tend to overvalue math in personal finance and we undervalue psychology. That’s why it’s been a gift to be able to bring real couples onto the I Will Teach You To Be Rich podcast and talk to them about how they disagree about money. Some of them have hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, some of them have over $10 million in net worth, but all of them need a different way to think about money, to talk about money, even to feel about money. So let’s get into it, and as always, thank you for listening.

Lesson number five is stop saying you’re bad at money. This is what I call an invisible script. It’s a belief we have so deeply held and we don’t even realize it. It’s invisible to us. And this idea that “I’m bad with money. I’m just not good with numbers. it’s one of those phrases you hear people throw around casually. But I believe it’s actually extremely harmful. 

When you say you’re bad with money, it starts to become part of your identity, which makes it very hard to change. And the truth is, it’s not true. Managing your money is a skill that you can learn. And so the more we repeat that phrase, “I’m not good with money. I’m bad with money,” the more we actually start to believe it. Now Elizabeth from Episode 13 might have been the hardest on herself. Listen in.

[Interview]

[Audio playback]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:04:13] What were the words you used to describe yourself and money in the first five minutes of us talking?

Elizabeth:  [00:04:21] Horrible and dumb, stupid, disgusting.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:04:28] So how do you think you using those labels for yourself affects the way that you behave with money?

Elizabeth:  [00:04:36] It feels really bad. Those are strong words that I describe that, and I think that’s my problem too. I know that I have those characteristics about it, but I’ve tried to throw them in the closet and pretend they’re not there until it comes up.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:04:53] So how can you say you are stupid to yourself?

Elizabeth:  [00:04:57] I don’t know if that’s making me why I want to make myself feel that, to push through that I am maybe making horrible decisions with money. Maybe that’s a wake-up call.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:05:14] Does it work?

Elizabeth:  [00:05:15] No.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:05:16] No, it doesn’t. But I am curious, what do you get out of it? Because you do get something out of calling yourself dumb, stupid, and horrible. What is it?

Elizabeth:  [00:5:28] It’s definitely not gratification. I don’t even know why I do it.

Adam:  [00:5:31] I think you may get an excuse not to engage in money conversations with us.

Elizabeth:  [00:05:43] That is true. I guess when I am faced with that conversation, I do say I’m done. I don’t understand what you’re saying.

 [Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:05:51] Wow. Stupid, disgusting, horrible, dumb. These are strong words. I’m willing to bet she would never talk to a friend like this. So why does she talk to herself like this? Not, really, I’m not asking that rhetorically. If you have a pattern with money, I’m going to challenge you right now to put on your scientist’s glasses and ask yourself, what am I getting out of this? What am I getting out of avoiding money? What am I getting out of getting in a fight every time we talk about money?

In Elizabeth’s case, one thing she gets out of calling herself stupid is that she gets to escape having to actually learn about money. What if we reframed her frustration? Instead of saying, “I’m stupid with money?” what if she said, “I haven’t learned the skills of money yet, but I know I can.”? This is the kind of mindset you can change. You can become good with money. I know that for a fact. I have seen millions of people do it. You can become disciplined. You can even become a morning person.

Imagine if you could take the most frustrating part of your life and change the way you talk about yourself and actually get amazing results. We put together a little bonus that’s going to help you do that. It’s going to help you identify and rewrite those invisible scripts you have around money. And in less than an hour, you’re going to change the way that you think about money and the way you talk about money. You can get access to that free mini course at iwt.com/moneymindset.

Lesson number four is spend more guilt-free. This is a common pattern that you’ve heard with the couples on this podcast, which is couples that actually have plenty of money, but they are terrified to spend it. And they agonize over $3 questions instead of seeing the big picture. My question is, what’s the point of working hard to make all this money just to put it in an account and never spend it? 

The point of this is not to be Scrooge McDuck. And yet, so many people do that. They refuse to turn the page of their rich life and realize, “Okay, we set a goal. We were in the accumulation phase in our 20s, 30s, 40s, we made it, we invested, we did well, now we have to learn a new skill. We have to hone this skill of spending extravagantly on the things we love.” But almost nobody is talking about that. It’s one of the reasons that I wanted to start this podcast. Listen to this very peculiar example that rich people cannot seem to get over. First, we start with organic strawberries.

[Interview]

[Audio playback]

Unknown Speaker: [00:08:48] Some frozen organic strawberries that I remembered from whole foods are like 799. And they’re like $15. And I was just like, “I can’t do it. I cannot pay $15.”

Ramit Sethi:  [00:09:00] You can’t because what?

Unknown Speaker: [00:09:03] It’s crazy. That is $7. I can’t bring myself to pay two times the price for the exact same thing.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:09:12] What is your net worth?

Unknown Speaker: [00:09:14] About $8 million.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:09:14] And then it’s blueberries from the dollar store. You got a $10 million net worth. You walk into the dollar store. What are you getting at the dollar store by the way?

Unknown Speaker: [00:09:28] So the thing where I find a good value in the dollar store is light bulbs, batteries, and frozen fruit for my smoothie. When I compare, unless I shop that at Whole Foods, it’s almost 2x.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:09:40] I just have to make a guess. Is it blueberries that you’re buying at the dollar store? Man, what is it about rich people and blueberries? Do you know how many rich people I’ve talked to who will not pay more for blueberries? This is crazy. All right, we’re going to have to get into that another time, but there’s something going cosmic going on. And another one, what is it about berries? Listen to this.

Greg:  [00:10:03] We literally cut out fresh berries because berries either you don’t eat them or they go bad or they’re expensive to start. Again, we’re going to buy organic berries, so you’re already paying a premium for it. So we try to look at it like that. It’s what are the big ticket items that we can get rid of?

Ramit Sethi:  [00:10:16] Greg, you make $270,000 a year and you drive to different stores to find cheaper blueberries?

Greg:  [00:10:24] Listen, I didn’t say those things. I don’t know why you’re shaking your head. No, it’s not true.

Ashley: [00:10:29] It’s annoying. How much money do you make an hour and how much time are you spending trying to save $2? Does it make sense? He’s cheap.

 [Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:10:30] It’s funny. But as you heard from Ashley and Greg in Episode 2, it can also turn personal very quickly. One solution is to create a worry-free number. What this means is it’s a number below which you simply are not going to worry about it. Like when you’re a teenager buying a pack of gum, no big deal. Or even in your 20s, getting a coffee, whatever it is, you didn’t really worry about it. It was three bucks here, four bucks there.

But as your income increases and your net worth increases, your worry-free number should increase too. If you have $300,000 a year and you’re still agonizing over a $10 purchase, that’s a problem. And the solution is not to beat yourself up and say, “Oh my gosh, I really need to get things in order. I need to do better.” no, it’s to just simply create some rules, “Here’s a number below which I’m not going to worry. It is my worry-free number.” And as your wealth grows, your worry-free number should grow as well.

Now a lot of people have this problem. They feel guilty spending and they have all these peculiar things about blueberries or all these weird things that they just cannot seem to get past. To fix this, you can use a conscious spending plan. It breaks your spending down into four categories. Listen to this, fixed costs, saving, investing, and guilt-free spending. Did you do that last part? Guilt-free spending. You can use the conscious spending plan to determine your guilt-free spending number. So it might be 200 bucks a month, it might be $10,000 a month. Depending on your income and your spending, you will have a number. And every month, you have to spend that money.

I said I have to because you’re already saving, you’re already investing. And you get to spend it every month on blueberries, eating out, cosmetics, coats, trips with your kids, whatever you want. Go to iwt.com/guiltfree to download your copy of the conscious spending plan. And you’re going to see exactly how much you can spend every month guilt-free. That’s iwt.com/guiltfree.

Okay, now on to lesson number three. Lesson number three, beware of money propaganda. There are many money myths and lies out there that you need to be aware of. For example, a lot of people say, “I don’t want to invest. It feels like gambling to me. It’s too risky.” You know what’s risky is that you’re definitely going to run out of money soon. You just don’t know yet. I don’t even want to get into that.

The number one most common myth about money– it’s almost religious, especially for Americans– is that if you rent, you are throwing money away. And accordingly, buying a house is always the best investment. That’s why lesson three is beware of money propaganda. Specifically, the propaganda around real estate can be extremely harmful because it tells people to make the biggest financial decision of their lives without even running the numbers. That’s what’s so crazy to me.

When I suggest that you should run the numbers before the biggest purchase of your life, people get angry. Go look at any social media posts where I’ve talked about it. Literally, go to my Instagram or my Twitter and look at any word where I talk about renting versus owning. There are hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, angrily protesting against me when in reality my message is simple, run the numbers. For me, living in cities like San Francisco, New York, or LA it actually makes no financial sense to buy. I make way more money renting. But this so counterculture, so against the propaganda messages that people get angry. Listen to this example from a recent two-part conversation with Eric and Elena who had bought into this idea that they had to buy.

[Audio playback]

[Interview]

Elena:  [00:14:45] There were a few factors for us purchasing a condo. Honestly, my parents were not excited that we were renting, paying someone else’s mortgage. We lived in a place which is a bunch of young adults trying to pay rent and there’s always signs there of “new builds coming in this area, purchase now, low five hundred, low eight hundred.” It kind of gets to you.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:15:10]  What is the implication? When you see it, what do you think?

Elena:  [00:15:14] We think we can afford it. It’s so easy to look at the sign. If we’re the demographic that this sign is meant for, then why would we not look into the opportunity?

Erick:  [00:15:24] My best friend’s parents are real estate agents. They’re very big proponents of purchasing a place. And I agreed with them. I think I still agree with them.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:15:37] What did they say?

Erick:  [00:15:40] It’s impossible to pay someone’s mortgage. It’s ridiculous.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:15:43] It’s ridiculous. Outrageous. Who else?

Elena:  [00:15:47] We had friends that recently purchased a pre-construction. They said if you had the money for a down payment, you might as well purchase something instead of paying rent.

Erick:  [00:15:55] We thought it’d be a forced way to save money. Because we thought were going to take this and then we’re going to save because of this.

Elena:  [00:16:08] And we just felt like it was now or never. Condo prices were going up. And we found this one condo we were absolutely in love with for the right price. And we didn’t want to keep paying rent, paying somebody else’s mortgage. We figured if we had the down payment, the mortgage itself wouldn’t be that much different from our rent.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:27] I just have a question for you. Elena, when was the last time you ate at a restaurant?

Elena:  [00:16:34] Yesterday.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:35] Okay, don’t look guilty. I don’t mind that you ate at a restaurant. What restaurant was it? What type of food?

Elena:  [00:16:42] It was an all-you-can-eat sushi.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:44] So how much did this sushi meal cost you?

Elena:  [00:16:49] It cost me $60 after tip.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:52] You think that I’m going to come down on you for paying 60 bucks for sushi, don’t you, Elena?

Elena:  [00:16:57] Yes.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:16:58] I’m not. I don’t care how much you spend on your sushi. But I just have one question for you. Didn’t you feel terrible that you were paying the sushi owner’s mortgage?

Elena:  [00:17:12] Whoa. Wow.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:17:17] I want to describe what’s happening right now. Elena is literally rotating looking left and right. She looks completely in disbelief. Eric has his hand over his mouth. And he’s looking up at the sky and now he’s rubbing his forehead like, “Holy shit.” The two of you look completely bewildered right now. Elena, talk to me.

Elena:  [00:17:38] I never thought about it like that at all. But that’s crazy. It’s true. How are they paying for the rent for the restaurant if it’s not me coming with my five girlfriends to pay $60 as this price of sushi? I never thought about it like that.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:17:54] Don’t you feel guilty? Don’t you feel horrible that you paid their mortgage? No?

Elena:  [00:18:02] For them? No.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:18:04] No? Why is that?

Elena:  [00:18:05] So why would I feel guilty when renting and paying someone else’s mortgage if I’m more than willing to go to a sushi restaurant?

[Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:18:11] I encourage you to use this logic the next time you hear someone complaining about paying their landlord’s mortgage. Now for Eric and Elena, it wasn’t so much the mortgage payment that was the issue. What they weren’t prepared for was the maintenance, the repair, the HOA costs, and all of the other phantom costs associated with owning. 

Now when you watch realtors on Tick Tok dancing around in a field and telling you, “This is how you build equity.” they rarely acknowledge the actual numbers. I never saw a Tik Toker talk about an amortization schedule. But if you’re about to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on a purchase, you damn well better know what amortization is.

So here’s my guideline. When I travel and stay at a hotel, I add 50% to the sticker price of the hotel to account for taxes, dining, and any other fees I might incur. For example, a $500 a night hotel actually becomes $750 a night. And that turns out to be eerily accurate when you factor in all the phantom costs for just one night at a hotel. Guess what? I use that same calculation for mortgages to be conservative.

In my calculations, when I factor in all phantom costs, as well as somebody to come and clean outside and somebody to come and do X,Y,Z, and a roof repair that’s going to cost $18,000 eight years from now, I find essentially the same numbers. In other words, if a mortgage is $3,000 a month, I actually calculate it to cost roughly $4,500 per month. Now you can run your own numbers, you can make your own assumptions. You’re probably not going to hire as many staff members as I might, but the amount you pay is going to be dramatically higher than the sticker price and you better factor that in.

So this is all about money myths, and how to overcome them. Money myths can be hard to identify because they’re so ingrained in us. But there are ways to make sure that you are not making the biggest decision of your financial life based on propaganda. I put together a three-step guide to help you determine if buying a house is right for you. And if it is, to run the numbers. Remember, it’s the biggest decision you will ever make financially. So use this guide to make sure you get it right. You can get it from iwt.com/house, that’s iwt.com/house.

Lesson number two is for everyone who has a partner that just does not want to talk about money. They don’t want to participate and if you try to bring it up, it always ends in a fight. Look, in order to be successful, both of you have to be involved with your money. Managing your money is not like taking out the trash or doing the dishes. That you can delegate to one person. But money cuts across everything. It’s like parenting, it affects everything. If there are two partners involved, they’ve got to be talking about it constantly.

And with money, it affects everything from where you live, what kind of food you eat, how you live, who’s involved in your life, it’s everything. So both people must be involved. And in the 50-plus couples that I’ve talked to, I see this pattern over and over again. One person is the money person and the other person tends to be completely involved. This causes huge problems. Let me give you an example of Jeff and Lisa from Episode 52. They recently came into a $1.2 million settlement. And he still doesn’t want to talk about money whatsoever.

 [Audio Playback]

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:22:04] Lisa, how would you describe the way that Jeff interacts with your personal finances?

Lisa:  [00:22:15] He is mostly hands-off. Day to day, he often just says it’s my money and he hands his paycheck over to me. And he seems legitimately fine with that unless there is something that he wants to purchase, and then he will make comments that I control the money and he doesn’t want to ask permission for large purchases.

Jeff:  [00:22:49] This is tough to admit, but let’s be honest. I hide purchases from her, and it’s for the sole purpose that I don’t really have to discuss the purchase with her.

Lisa:  [00:22:59] I will try to bring something up and he will aggressively tell me no. And he will shut me down and turn away and I will be like, okay–

Jeff:  [00:23:09] I don’t know if I agree with that.

Lisa:  [00:23:10] That is totally true.

Jeff:  [00:23:12] I usually make jokes. I usually tell you, hey, whatever you want goes. I get out of that conversation as fast as I can. She feels a sense of loneliness, aloneness. She made a comment a couple of weeks ago that if she screws up with any of this, she’s afraid I’m going to give her all of the blame. And I can’t say that she’s wrong. I would love to say she’s absolutely wrong, but I have absolved myself of any responsibility of making a mistake.

Lisa:  [00:23:41] It’s somewhat disheartening and kills the dream of– it leaves me like, “Well, what should I do? I think this is going to be great for us.” and he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Jeff:  [00:23:55] I’ve always counted her money is her money and my money is her money.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:23:59] I think that’s a cute phrase, but I actually don’t think that’s doing you any favors.

Jeff:  [00:24:02] It’s not doing me any favors, but it’s also true.

Lisa:  [00:24:03] And it’s the same with the settlement and I find– it really grates on me that he’s like, “That’s your money. That’s your money. That’s your money.” And I’m like, “No, it isn’t. It’s ours.”

Jeff:  [00:24:17] I get out of that conversation as fast as I can. I hide behind this kind of crap sometimes. But the reality is, one of the things about Lisa here is she will endure worse than I can dish out. She has endured worse than I can dish out. I don’t take advantage of it. But at the same time it’s a fact of our life, that I can make some jokes and I can have some fun with the fact that she’s running our finances, and even if it’s a big problem for her, for the most part, I know she’s not coming at me about it. So I’m definitely taking advantage of that. But I wouldn’t say I do it intentionally, it’s just convenient if that makes sense. I’m not purposely trying to take advantage of her, but it is certainly convenient that I don’t have to worry about her coming at me about it.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:25:10] Well, that’s interesting. You said, “I don’t take advantage of her.” and then five seconds later, you say, “I’m taking advantage of her.”

 [Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:25:17] Jeff tried to laugh off his responsibility, but that contradiction was something that we spent the rest of the conversation discussing. In another episode, Episode 51, Cal left the family finances up to his wife, Katie, who felt alone and therefore turned to her mom, a third party, for help.

 [Audio playback]

 [Interview]

Katie:  [00:25:41] Well, Cal is not involved at all. So it’s all up to me and I just feel overwhelmed. I’m the one dealing with it. It’s on this side of the relationship and he’s very not involved.

Cal:  [00:25:53] Out of sight, out of mind, I guess, in a sense. I have a basic understanding of how much we are owed, but I don’t know any of the numbers truly. I tuned it out, zone it out, don’t care, don’t want to have a part of it.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:25:55] And what are the consequences of you not knowing?

Cal:  [00:26:19] Not being able to effectively plan and coordinate and talk with my wife about it.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:26:28] And how does she feel right now?

Cal:  [00:26:31] Abandoned, alone.

Katie:  [00:26:33] We started to realize that it was becoming really unmanageable, and that’s when my mom got involved and basically was like, “Add up all your debt. What is it?” And it was like $60,000.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:26:47] Did you two look at each other? Did you say anything?

Katie:  [00:26:53] I really don’t remember him being involved in that at all. It was more like my mom, and then she just took over.

Cal:  [00:27:00] It was something that I decided it would just be easier to do it if Katie’s mom was going to offer to assist us and make a nice, easy way out of our situation.

Katie:  [00:27:13] It’s like, he doesn’t want to be involved. And he’s so hands-off that I feel like I need to take control. And then I don’t feel equipped, so I involve my family.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:27:23] And does it work?

Katie:  [00:27:24] No.

Cal:  [00:27:25] No.

 [Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:27:26] Money shouldn’t be a burden to be passed around for either party. In Episode 46, Carolyn didn’t have access to their financial accounts. And she didn’t actually really care to learn about them. Listen to how hands-off she was. And as you listen, ask yourself, does this dynamic sound familiar at all?

 [Audio playback]

 [Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:27:47] Gavin, can you tell me about the last time that you tried to have a monthly money meeting with Carolyn?

Gavin:  [00:27:54] The first time it was horrid.

Carolyn:  [00:27:56] I thought, oh, God, here we go again because he does like to talk about money. He just try. It was not the first time he’s ever tried to, or we’ve ever tried to talk about money.

Gavin:  [00:28:04] It’s like I was talking to a brick wall. She pulled out her phone. She was looking at something on her phone, looking off into the middle distance, not at me. It wasn’t a conversation.

Carolyn:  [00:28:14] So here he comes in with all this information and he pulls it right up. There was never any warm feelings that it was going to be good. So he comes in annoyed with me already that I’m not interested, that when he said we have a meeting, I rolled my eyes.

Gavin:  [00:28:33] Yeah, it’s spot on. I am definitely condescending.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:28:38] You are?

Gavin:  [00:28:39] Yeah, I think so. And I can be a bit of an asshole. So I’m okay with that. I mean, I’m not okay with it, but I’m okay admitting to it.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:28:51] So he comes in hot, he starts talking about numbers, and then?

Carlyn:  [00:28:57] And then I just shut down.

 [Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:29:01] In my own relationship, it would be easy for me to be the money guy. I know money, this is what I do, I actually find it to be very joyful. But when my wife and I got married, we talked about it. And I insisted that we both be involved, even though it was hard. It took us a while to get on the same page. And I told her why. There are three main reasons. The first, one day I’m going to be dead. It’s not morbid, it’s reality. I’m going to be dead and I want you to be prepared for what happens after that. I can’t think of a worse fate than to leave a grieving partner defenseless.

Next, I want us to both be good stewards of our money. To be good stewards, that means we need to understand it. We need to understand cash flow, we need to understand compound interest. We need to be able to talk about decisions together and think short term and long term and buy luxuries if we want and all kinds of stuff. And number three, honestly, it’s just more fun. It’s more fun to be in a rowboat with two people rowing rather than one person just sitting there. It’s more fun to be able to talk about, what do we want to do this year with our money? Who do we want to bring with us? What kind of experiences do we want to create?

So that was the vision that I set out for my wife and for me. And it took us time, but we’ve gotten there. We talk about money. And we dream about money. And we do a rich life review. And we travel and we talk. And it’s not a loaded topic all the time. Sometimes it is. But we’ve developed a way to talk about it. If you or your partner don’t want to talk about money, my suggestion to you is that you’ve got to change your approach. 

Often you find yourself getting stuck in a certain dynamic. Usually, it’s one person being the pursuer, the other person avoiding it. I would suggest you just flip that entire dynamic. Try making money conversations fun. This is something that is mind-boggling to people. They go, “How can money be fun?” Oh, it can be fun. You got to learn how. So use the free guide I put together for having a conversation with your partner about money. Go to iwt.com/nomorefights to get it, that’s iwt.com/nomorefights.

Whenever I do an interview these days, one of the most common questions I get is what’s the number one problem couples have with money? And it’s not simply a lack of communication or one person overspending. In my opinion, the number one problem is a lack of a shared rich life vision. This is the number one lesson I want you to take away from the first year of this podcast. And that is you must have a shared rich life vision with your partner. Let me give you an example from Episode 25 where I spoke to Jack and Gemma. Gemma wanted to pay for convenience, but Jack was not on board at all. Listen in.

 [Audio playback]

[Interview]

Gemma:  [00:32:04] I’m also a little bit of a rebel where I’m just like, I don’t want to do those household things because I saw my mom do them and she wasn’t happy about it. I’d rather pay someone to do it. I don’t want to do it. In the last couple of years, everything has changed. We had our daughter. We moved to a different location. I got a different job where I’m getting paid significantly more. But when it becomes this duty, it just doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. It’s just like we have such limited time. We have different work schedules.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:32:39] So when Gemma asks to be able to hire somebody to deliver groceries or clean the place, how does that strike you?

Jack:  [00:32:52] I’d rather die than pay somebody for her to move three blocks.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:32:57] Okay. Would you pay for somebody to do your laundry?

Jack:  [00:33:01] No.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:03] Would you pay for somebody to clean your apartment?

Jack:  [00:33:06] No.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:08] Why would somebody pay somebody else to clean their house?

Jack:  [00:33:10] Why pay someone to do that? It doesn’t make sense. It baffles my mind when people want to pay other people to clean their house for them. I think it’s lazy. If you don’t clean the house, if you don’t do your laundry, if you don’t take care of the kids, then what is your use? And it feels so utilitarian idea.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:33] I agree.

Jack:  [00:33:34] I abhor that to my core. We can’t afford that. So it makes almost she’s been very cavalier with the money.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:46] What if I told you you could afford it?

Jack:  [00:33:48] Oh, no, I know we can. That’s a huge disconnect. It creates a lot of stress.

 [Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:33:54] Jack was raised in Ghana. In the full episode, he admits there are lots of cultural and gender assumptions that he realizes he makes now. You should hear his wife Gemma’s thoughts too. She was raised in the Dominican Republic. The irony of this conversation where Jack says he can’t imagine paying for those convenience items is that he is a doorman. He works in the service industry, but he can’t see it. For another couple, Tami and Mike, in Episode 27, things were a little different. This one started with a fight about Target. 

[Playback]

[Interview]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:34:32] Tami, can you tell me what happened recently when you went to Target?

Tami:  [00:34:35] I found the household things that we needed like cleaning supplies and I got snacks. All in all, it ended up being to probably around $250. And so when I got home he asked how much I spent. And so when I told him how much I spent, he got really upset because it was a decent chunk have money for me to just randomly spend. Anytime we spend more than I would say 50 ish dollars, we usually check in with each other like, “Hey, is it cool if I spend this much money?” So for me to just go and drop $250 at Target was a big deal.

Mike:  [00:35:18] I honestly felt a little bit taken advantage of. And I initially didn’t immediately voice my displeasure or whatever. I just sat on it, but I think it was really obvious that I was upset.

Tami:  [00:35:33] We just gotten a huge fight. And honestly, I’m terrible when we get into fights like that, because I tend to just almost blackout. I can’t even tell you details of any of the argument. I just remember that I was getting more and more upset and Mike had basically said something along the lines of the fact that he makes more money than me, so it’s not fair for me to go and spend that amount of money, at least, that he sacrifice to stay at his job and to make the amount of money that he does. So if anybody’s going to be spending that money, basically, it should be him. So I got super upset and then I left. I just said, I’m leaving, and I said other things and then I just got in the car and I drove off. I just remember just feeling small.

Ramit Sethi:  [00:36:35] Tami, I noticed you’re crying. Can you tell me why?

Tami:  [00:36:47] I just think that it’s really important to us to not recreate some of what we experienced as children.

 [Narration]

Ramit Sethi:  [00:37:01] If we don’t have a shared vision, then it’s very likely that we’ll spend the rest of our lives fighting over pointless expenses like Target or how many lemons you bought from the grocery store. And it’s hard to get ahead, to start living a rich life, when you spend so much time looking backwards and pointing fingers at each other. You can see how quickly not being on the same page with money can go from arguments at Target to something as toxic as, “I make all the money in this house.” These things compound, they grow, and then these arguments one day explode.

I believe it’s important to constantly be trying to calibrate and align to get on the same page. And the way you do that is to start with a rich life vision, what’s your rich life, what’s my rich life, what’s our rich life? And when you start there, you can start with the things you want to do rather than the things you don’t want your partner to do. If my wife and I know that we want to travel once a year for this long, suddenly we can orient our finances around that.

In Jack and Gemma’s case, when they talked about their rich life, the perfect week, in that vision, they never once described doing laundry for hours at a time. So suddenly, it becomes clear where to spend your time, where to spend your money, where to spend your attention. But first, you’ve got to have a rich life vision. And the beautiful part about that is that allows you to elevate to think bigger than these $3 questions. Now, if you want to get on the same page with your partner about money, I would recommend you work through my rich life mini course. It’s free. It’s going to allow you to create a shared vision of your life. Go to iwt.com/therichlife, that’s iwt.com/therichlife.

Now, to zoom out, first of all, thank you for listening to those top five lessons from the last year. Thank you for listening to the podcast. If you have questions about one of the links I’ve mentioned, you can go to the show notes. But most of all, what I love to do is this principle we have inside my company, it’s called show, don’t tell. We all want to know how to make money work for us and in a relationship with our partners. And for so many years there was lots of generic advice. I just wanted to actually hear couples talking about it, hear them arguing, fighting, loving, crying, all of the emotions around money because money is emotional.

And through this podcast, it has been a joy to be able to share these stories, very diverse stories from all over the world, all over the socio-economic spectrum, and all kinds of different challenges people face. My hope after listening to this episode and some of the previous episodes is that you start to develop your own philosophy for your rich life. 

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 the specific tactics for how to build the I Will Teach You To Be Rich system into your personal finances.