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Episode 15 - Money & Debt

Episode 15 Overview

How do you agree on finances when one of you wants to save hardcore and the other wants to spend more?

This week I'm answering a listener question about how to manage differences of opinion between her and her husband when it comes to MONEY.

Money and debt are such hot-button issues in our marriages, and I want to share with you a few things to keep in mind to keep these conversations useful, productive, and connecting.

00:01 This is episode 15, Money and Debt.

00:16 Welcome to the First Year Married Podcast. Where we get real about building the marriage of your dreams. I'm marriage coach Kayla Levin and I take newly married and engaged women from anxious and insecure to confident and connected through practical tips, real life inspiration and more than a little self-awareness along the way.

00:38 Hey you guys, welcome back. I am so excited to have you here this week. I'm excited to talk to you about money and debt, is that crazy? I'm not always excited about money, I don't know about you and I'm definitely not always excited about debt, but when I'm able to share this work and how this work can affect your conversations about money and debt, I get so excited, because this is a place where we just go down a deep, dark rabbit hole. There are so many rules that we have and I am so excited to dive into this with you and to give you some solutions and some new thoughts and new ideas that I think are really going to take some of that negative charge if you're frustrated or you're having trouble with conversations or situations over money and debt in your marriage.

01:26 This episode came from a question I got from Instagram, which was, "How do you agree on finances when one wants to save hardcore and the other wants to spend more, mostly on takeout?" I'm not going to use the name just because I don't know if this person wants to be called out. I'm going to assume that she's the one who wants to save hardcore because she sounds a little frustrated about the takeout.

01:56 Let's back up. What are most of us dealing with when we're thinking about money? Where most of us come from when it comes to money, is we're really aware of what our style is. We're either a spender or we're a saver or we're responsible or we're super responsible. We have this whole story. It might even have chapters or volumes. We have a whole story about us and money. Maybe it's about how we've evolved over the years. We used to be less responsible and now we're more responsible or it might be tied in with our greater self-image. If I think I'm super disorganized and unmotivated I might tie that in with being bad with money. I have tons and tons of evidence of why this is true about me and money. I'm really organized and I'm really on top of my money and I can point to my budget and I can prove it to you. I know why my money is being saved or whatever it is.

02:48 Whatever it is that we believe, whatever thoughts we have about our identity when it comes to money, we have tons of evidence. Then the fun part is we get married. Then we add on this whole other story about our husband and money. We even have ... There's him and money. There's I'm this organized one and he's the super disorganized one or vice versa. Or I like to spend and he doesn't or I work hard for my money and he doesn't. Whatever it is, we add this other story on. Usually and hopefully it starts off more positive, but sometimes it can become one of those areas that turns into a little bit of a crack and we want to grab it before the crack gets too big.

03:27 Then the really fun part is when you can find you don't just have the story about you and money, and you don't just have the story about your husband and money, but you also have the story about the husband he's supposed to be. The fantasy husband that he sort of is, but he's not quite living up to and the way that guy handles money because it's not just that your husband is let's say spends too much. It's that he spends too much, but fantasy husband doesn't. Fantasy husband is way more responsible, right? Because if I didn't have anything to compare him to then I wouldn't care.

04:02 Let's say I like nice things, but I work hard and I consider myself responsible, but I'm also a spender. My husband is really careful with spending and he doesn't think that what I'm trying to buy is necessarily worth the money that we've worked for. That's the place where this can happen. What I want to do is I want to help you back up. We get to this place very naturally. We get into these identities and these stories and these beliefs, all about ourselves, all about money and our husbands and all of this. We launch ourselves there and I want to back you up so that we can reexamine this.

04:39 The first thing I want to look at is rules. You probably have a lot of rules. One great example for rules is debt. Some people who's names rhyme with Lave Bamsey say that debt is dumb all the time on their podcast and that's one rule you can have about debt. Debt is dumb. You shouldn't be in debt, you shouldn't have any debt. There is no good debt. Other people read books like Rich Dad Poor Dad and they think that debt is the unpaid employee that's working for you and that really intelligent people use debt to their advantage and they leverage interest rates. This is where the line between our opinion and fact can get really, really hazy because we get really quick to jump from what we think about debt or whatever the thing we're making a strong opinion about to what is the fact about it.

05:35 If you're really into Dave Ramsey, it feels true to you that debt is dumb. It doesn't feel like an opinion anymore, but it's just an opinion. It's just a thought in your head. When you're frustrated that other people don't see things your way, then that's a clue that you're treating your opinion like an objective fact. For instance, here's one. Not saving for your own retirement is irresponsible, that feels really true, right? That feels really true, capital T true, like objective truth. You can't possibly understand why other people don't see it that way. That feeling of why aren't you seeing the truth. We're all outside and everyone agrees the sky is blue. Then Pam comes along and she says it's purple. We're all like, "Pam stop it, it's blue." I don't know why her name is Pam. Right? It's that don't you see what's right in front of you? Don't you see the subjective truth.

06:29 We feel that way about things that are actually just an opinion. Debt is bad. Debt is good. Retirement savings are responsible. Trust me by the way, I'm talking to myself here just as much as I'm talking to you because we all do this. We all get into places where we just see something as this objective truth and we want to wake up everyone around us to it. It's one thing to try and convince someone that they have to be responsible and save for retirement, but it's another thing to realize, "Oh, I have a thought that saving for familiar is the responsible choice. This person clearly has a different thought about saving for retirement." What's really cool about this is that now I get to choose how to handle the situation, because if I don't see this as a thought, then it's like Pam and the purple sky. There's nothing I can do about it, she's just wrong and I can just be frustrated or I can just give up on her.

07:25 Once I realize this is a thought, now I have a choice about how I want to handle the situation. I can't choose how to handle it when I think it's an objective fact. When I realize that we both have thoughts, then I might want to explore why they think what they do. I might be curious about it. I might want to share my thought, but not from a place of beating them over the head with it, but just understanding that we here have two different thoughts and now we can move somewhere from that place. It's a much more empowered place to be in a conversation or in a negotiation or in a relationship.

07:59 Now where do we go with this in our marriage? The first thing again is just to go back and remember that your opinions while they might be valid. I'm not saying your opinions are wrong, but I am saying that they are only opinions, which means you get to choose them, you also get to change them. You could keep them, you could question them, it's all up to you. Again if it was an objective fact you'd have no choice, but it's not a fact, it's an opinion and you can consciously pick what you really believe about money. I want to get back to this Instagrammer. Again she said, "How do you agree on finances when one wants to save hardcore and the other one wants to spend more, mostly on takeout.

08:38 Let's look what happens when she thinks, "I want to save hardcore." I'm just going to look at that as a model. Is that a helpful thought or not? Does it make her feel stressed or excited? I don't know, so I would want her to question that for herself. She's having this thought, "I'm the person that's trying to save hardcore." She should really question for herself, "What is that thought doing for her?" That's the place to start. I'd also ask her to consider what her goal is? Is the saving the goal or is it a specific financial goal?

09:06 There's a big difference if she's trying to save for a down payment versus let's say doing a zero spend month, because that's a challenge and something that she wants to do. Both are equally valid, but she wants to get clear on why. Once she's done that, there's the second piece which is to really talk through with each other, ideally with a sense of humor, call yourself out on the fact that this is going to be a struggle and just be as chilled as you can. You probably won't be chilled because you're probably going to be really frustrated, but you're also going to laugh at yourself. If you can get into that head space. You want to have this conversation with each other.

09:43 the Gottmans found this thing that I thought was so so helpful, which is that conversations that have a hard start. Conversations that start off on a negative ... Like in middle school, the girl would come over to you and she would be like, "We need to talk." Don't do that to your husband. Any conversation that starts at that harsh beginning, whether it's that or whether it's just negativity or it's a little bit too abrupt, any hard start, those conversation really couldn't get back on track. Even if they were trying to make up over the course of the conversation, they never really could.

10:22 What I learned from this is that if you are starting off a conversation and you realize that it just started off on the wrong foot, I would really recommend just try and get out of it as nicely as you can and then try again when you're in a better place. We all have bad moods sometimes. We're all sometimes not in the best place to have a conversation. Sometimes just acknowledging that being, "I'm being more negative than I really need to be in this conversation, could we just TO and come back to this later. It can be very valuable and I think having that research behind you on that is really, really helpful.

10:54 Again you want to start the conversation with humor or even you can totally start with a pathetic attempt at humor, it doesn't actually have to be funny. Just an ability to laugh at yourself, you'll be in much better shape. Now would you like to know what to talk about? Here's what to talk about. What do you get out of saving hardcore? What is that providing for you? What is the feeling or the sense or the head space that you feel like you can achieve when you're saving hardcore? This isn't about trying to convince him, this is about painting the whole picture because he's not in your shoes. He doesn't understand this whole picture for you and then he's just ignoring it or he's neglecting it or he's denying it. He doesn't know.

11:38 It's really important not to be doing this from a place of trying to convince him, but just saying, "I don't need you to make a decision right now. I just want to make sure you know why this matters to me. Can I just describe it to you? You don't have to say anything, you don't have to do anything. Could you just give me a couple minutes to just describe to you why this is important to me, the dream I have about this or the goal I have about this." You want to paint the whole picture. Maybe you never really felt on top of your money and you just want to get a huge savings account because you just never had it and that's a big goal for you. Or you think that it'll make you feel really confident and relaxed to just have 5K put away, or you're nervous about buying a home down the line and you want to see that every month you put away 1K, so you feel like you're making real progress towards your goal.

12:19 This conversation is a lot less about your specific goal, what it is you're trying to save or the way you're trying to save. It's much more about the overall experience and what it's going to offer you to get that experience. Then and this is really, really important. I want to challenge you and you can totally do this. I believe in you. I want to challenge you to stay open to the possibility that he might be able to solve for the feelings or for the experience that you want with a different method. This goes both ways. If the shoe was on the other foot and he was talking to you, I would want him to be open in the same way, but we can only control ourselves, all right?

13:01 Meaning maybe he's anticipating a raise in six months and he was planning on saving all that extra income. I know this is not literally your situation. I'm just trying to offer you suggestions to the fact that he might come in from left field with a solution that's not what you are suing. You're trying to get him to agree to a solution, right? But really what you have is a problem. If the two of you are coming at the problem together, he might have a different solution to it or whatever. He has some house tucked away somewhere, a castle in Europe, he's going to sell it. I don't know. The point is, your problem, it probably has more than one solution. When you present it as a problem, just be open to the possibility of a different solution.

13:41 This is the amazing thing about being married by the way. You have this inside consultant that is also part of the picture, and you guys get to bring your brains together, and collaborate together, and two heads are often better than one. But I also want you Instagram friend to do some research into takeout. Exactly like I said, I want you to paint for him. I want u to get him to paint the picture for you. I want you to do some hunting. What is the takeout providing? You probably have a story in your head like, "It's the lazy way to get the yummy food, that's not even healthy." Or whatever it is, that might be mine. Whatever yours is about takeout. But find out from him, what is it providing for him when he gets takeout? When is it that he wants it? Why does he want it? What's the value? Emotionally, physically, why and when? When does he need it most?

14:34 Try and stay open to the fact that the things that matter a lot to him might be different than the things that matter a lot to you. Here's the thing and this has come up with a lot of my clients. I definitely saw it with myself and I have definitely seen this with my clients. I'm probably going to get someone upset with me. Some women are going to be upset with me about this and I'm going to be okay with that. But I have found that a man's relationship to food is just different than a woman's. How many times do you remember if you grew up in a traditional home with a mother and a father, how many times do you remember your father forgetting to eat versus your mother. Women often just forget basic bodily functions that need to happen, but for a man, it's a matter of fuel.

15:20 Alison Armstrong describes this so beautifully. She quotes someone as saying, one of the men she interviewed as saying, "I'm no good to anyone until," and he filled in there "I sleep or I eat reach out whatever it is he needed to do to fuel himself." Meaning he's trying to provide for the people that he cares for. He's trying to take care of his tribe. He's very, very aware on a really fundamental, visceral level, that if he misses a meal, he won't be as capable of providing. Most women that I know try to burn through the hunger versus, "Stop everything, let me stop and eat because I need to make sure this is taken care of." It's just two different approaches, I think it's very basically physiological, I think it's built in. Either one is correct or incorrect. But just understanding that difference between the way the men and women are operating can be so so helpful.

16:18 Unless your guy learned to cook for himself along the way and menu plan and shop for himself, which maybe he did. But if he didn't, which depending on how old you are, I hadn't. He might feel that takeout is is the best way to do this. Meaning he's trying to provide specifically so he can be worthwhile to you. He might feel that takeout if he's gotten to the point where he's that hungry, and he needs something that tastes good that's going to fill him up, that is reliable so that he can have fuel, he might have decided that takeout is the way to do it.

16:52 Now again, that doesn't mean that you're trying to save and you just have to be okay with the takeout. What it means is that once you've painted your picture of what saving means to you and he's painted his picture of takeout and you're really understanding, you're really trying to stand in the other person's shoes and feel and experience and understand how different you are fundamentally, gender is one part, but just being two different human beings is going to be even more profound. Then just experiencing that and presenting the problem again. "Okay, you like takeout and I like saving. Now that I understand your need for takeout, I might actually be more flexible on the saving, or now that you understand the saving thing for me, you might be more flexible on takeout or we might find option C that neither of us thought of before, but now that we're really open and having this conversation, so now option C presents itself."

17:52 Here's the deal, there's no one right way to deal with money. But you can use it to create conflict or you can use it as an opportunity to understand each other better in so many ways and connect. You totally can do this. I want to just encourage you, that even if this has been a charged conversation in the past, you totally can do this, it's totally worth it. Every time we have a conflict like this, it's actually really an opportunity in disguise. I know that sounds really corny and second grade teacher of me, but it really is. You have a conflict and all that means is here you have a person who's so different from you and an opportunity to understand what makes them so different and how they think differently. When you have that levels of curiosity marriage is really interesting, really fun.

18:42 You spend a lot of time in your marriage, you might as well be interested in it. I hope that's been helpful to you. Please never hesitate to reach out to all of you. I would love to hear from you. I love hearing from you. I hope everyone has a fantastic week. If anyone wants to take this coaching work any further, I have a free video on my website, All you have to put is your name and email and you'll get a walk-through on how to use the self-coaching model that you can apply to any situation in your marriage to make it better instantly. I say, be happier before you go to bed tonight. I want to invite you to come check it out, I'd love to have you over there. I'd love to hear from you about it. Again you can check me out on Instagram at Have a fantastic week. Bye-bye.

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