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In this episode, Chelsea sits down with longtime friend of TFD, Erin Lowry AKA Broke Millennial. Click here to reserve your spot at their FREE digital event about money & relationships, happening this Thursday, 2/25! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-money-relationship-hotline-tickets-135559436925?aff=TFC222

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Howdy, everyone.

And welcome back to another episode of The Financial Confessions. It's me, Chelsea Fagan, your host, founder, and CEO of The Financial Diet, and person who generally loves talking about money.

And today, we have a guest who I think is perhaps our most long overdue guest on TFC. She is probably the first person that Lauren, my co-founder and I, made friends with in the personal finance community when we first started dipping our toe into this community. Let's just say that we were not ideologically or spiritually aligned with most of the people that we met.

And Aaron was-- ooh, I spoiled it. Whatever, you guys, if you're clicking on this, you read the title of the podcast, so you know exactly who this is. Anyway, but she was one of the first people that we met that we felt like, wow, this person is interested in money as well, but is also a cool person, and generally has good views on things, and doesn't believe that the answer to all financial problems is to work yourself to an early grave.

She is also the founder and owner of Broke Millennial, which is a personal finance brand and media company that publishes books, articles, videos, podcasts basically everything around the topic of improving your relationship to money, obviously, by the title, geared toward the millennial generation of which I am a part. She is also a personal friend, newest resident of the Upper West Side, which is very exciting, and someone who I know you guys have been dying to see on the show. So without further ado, let's get right into it, and say hello to Erin Lowry, A.

K. A. Broke Millennial.

Hi, Erin. Hello. It's great to be here.

Oh my god. We're so overdue. How are you?

You know, mid move, as you mentioned, coming to the Upper West Side from a decade now in Astoria, Queens, so a little bit overwhelmed with things in life, but overall good. Very exciting. What sparked the move?

Well, prices are way down because of the pandemic, so that would be thing one. And somebody asked me about other day on Instagram. I guess for me, well, first a Astoria specifically is the longest I've lived anywhere in my entire life.

New York is such a big city, and it sort of feels like you're doing it wrong if you spend your entire tenure in just one neighborhood. So that was a big part of it is, we just sort of wanted to mix it up. So you are in the midst of promoting your brand new book of a life I know well and good, which is primarily centered on money and relationships.

Is that fair to say? Yes, completely centered on that very topic. Why?

What made you do it? Good question. And I need a better elevator pitch, because obviously, I keep getting asked this.

And book one is obviously the stop scraping by, get your financial life together 101 primer. Book two is exclusively about investing. And I didn't really start to notice the direction of questions I was getting.

After like, you got it together, you started investing, between reporters and then just people generally between my email inbox and Instagram, it was all emotional based questions, questions about anxiety with different financial situations with friends, or anxiety about supporting family members, or how to navigate conversations with a partner. And then I also included a section about work, just because negotiating, talking salaries, that's all super critical. And fundamentally, I've really come to believe that we can do all the quote unquote, right things for building our wealth building our own financial house, but if you can't set healthy boundaries and communicate about money, it will continue to be a very intense pain point in your life.

And that's really what I want out of this book, is for people to have-- there's actual scripts in it. But for people to have ways to have these very important healthy conversations about money, especially with folks who are like a little reluctant to engage with you in the first place. We all I feel like, even if we're not super versed in finance as a topic, pretty familiar with the idea that money is the primary stressor that leads to separation and divorce.

But I feel like for a lot of people it's not necessarily clear or intuitive what part of money tends to be that stressor. In your research for the book, did you come across sort of a more nuanced picture of why money is really bad for relationships? You know, it's going to sound kind of like woo-woo to people, but it's because of your personal emotional relationship with money, and then who you partner up with's emotional relationship with money.

And that is what causes so much tension in relationships. Yeah, obviously, it's stressful if you as a couple are struggling to make ends meet, and that is providing an entirely added layer of stress. But if you're also with somebody who you just can't align on your value sets on how you react to money, all of that, I mean, that's just going to continue to compound the problem.

And I feel like the very stereotypical misogynistic way that we communicate this is, the whole like, bitches be spending kind of rhetoric, which is obviously a very stupid trope. And it goes so far beyond like, I'm a saver. They're a spender.

It's not just about that when it comes to how we communicate with our partners about money. It's also very much like, how did you grow up with money? What were the messages that were being sent to you?

What as an adult are your triggers about money now? And does your partner continue to push that button and not respect the fact that even if you have-- let's say that you've come from a situation where money was a big stress point, and now you're in a really comfortable financial situation, you're still going to have lingering buttons from your childhood, that if your partner continues to be like, you're being, blah, blah, blah, that's not true. That's not real.

This is created in your head. It's more a communication issue than just purely an economic issue. When it comes to the emotional baggage that you bring to money, for example, I don't know, you probably know this research better than I do.

But I feel like there's often the fault lines of people who end up having serious issues because of money, separating because of money, et cetera, often, it is because they come from very different financial backgrounds. That's fair to say? It's either they came from, or they have significantly different value sets currently.

So even if you came from a similar socioeconomic background, if one of you wants a particular lifestyle that the other one just doesn't deem as valuable, that's also going to be causing a lot of the tension. Now, but do you feel like there is sort of a way that people-- because I feel like one of the biggest issues is that when people go into a relationship, usually, money is one of the last things that are talked about, and one of the last things that are really sort of analyzed. And for people who feel like they're already into a relationship pretty heavily where they clearly came from different backgrounds, they have different values, they have different priorities, what are the ways that people can specifically sort of overcome that emotional baggage, and that background?

I mean, it's kind of overly simplistic to put it this way, but how do you determine like who's right, who's better, who has the better values? Because yes, I know the PC answer is that all values are good, and everyone's equal, but I do feel like there's often in any relationship dispute like, you can't ever perfectly compromise. You're usually erring toward one side or the other.

How do you determine whose background, and baggage, and positioning is the one to sort of err toward? There is a topic that got brought up. I was speaking to a financial therapist, Brad Klontz.

And he brought up this idea of perpetual problems that all of us have in our relationships. And I mean, we're focusing obviously romantic here. This can extend beyond romantic relationships.

And a perpetual problem is something where like technically, neither party is right or wrong. And a classic example, not money related is, you have a flight that you have to catch. In you know, times when that was the more normal thing.

But you have a flight that you have to catch. And your partner wants to get to the airport two and a half hours early, and you want to roll up like 45 minutes early. And this is something that you're going to keep fighting about.

And neither one of you is wrong. And also, as long as you make your flight, everything is fine, but it's going to cause a fight. That is something that I see as an undercurrent for a lot of people when it comes to money disputes, is when there are times mathematically one person is correct.

That could be, hey, my partner doesn't want to invest. They have a very intense almost like hoarding mentality around money. All they want to do is put it into savings.

What do I do? Mathematically, in terms of wealth building, the one who wants to invest is technically correct. You cannot just be hoarding your way to good wealth.

Or if you do, it's going to take so much more work, and so much more money to amass the kind of wealth that you're trying to build. So that's an example, technically, one person is right, but you cannot discount what your partner is feeling. And part of it is figuring out how to have a healthy, productive conversation that acknowledges what are the anxieties that you are having.

Why are you having those anxieties? What can we do to kind of split the difference so maybe we have a bigger savings buffer than I, the investor would personally want, but that makes you feel more comfortable, but then we can also start investing. You also don't have to solve this by yourself.

There are times where it makes sense to bring in a certified financial planner, or a financial therapist, or just somebody else to navigate whatever the issue is. Because it can be about healing your partners previously existing code in the relationship with money. The other thing about the compromise, there's a piece of advice that I got that I loved about, sometimes, just let the person take the w.

Oftentimes, we talk about relationships and we're like, you have to compromise, communication and compromise. It's the bedrock of relationships. It's what we have to do.

And the example this person gave was, let's say you want to spend $3,000 on that room and board couch. Your partner only wants to spend $1,000 on a couch. So people would be like, just spend $2,000.

Find the middle ground. You know, sometimes, it's OK to spend the three or to spend the one. The danger though of this approach, is that you don't necessarily want to go tit for tat on every single decision that you're making.

So you have to figure out within your own ecosystem of your relationship how to honor that dynamic. But also acknowledging that sometimes, someone just gets to take the win. One of the things that I find incredibly complicated to navigate, just because you create a good dynamic with your actual partner or spouse, does not mean that everything around them that brought them to their money sort of personality is going to sort of follow suit.

And by that I mean, their family, their friends, their social group, everything around them. And I feel like a lot of people, especially as you get married and have children, and your decisions as a couple become to some extent, family decisions, and have way bigger implications beyond just the two of you, and a lot of that is financial. You know, where you travel for holidays, do you host, where you choose to make your home, to when you decide to have children, the extent to which you prioritize your career.

All of these plans, which are very financial in nature, also kind of get input pressure, coercion from the people around them. And I have to imagine that a lot of the reason that financial problems can be so difficult to solve is because of that sort of dynamic where just because it's OK between the two of you, doesn't mean that everyone else is kind of so healthy. So how do you recommend people deal with navigating the financial pressures, and influences, and baggage that are brought by their in-laws, and their own families, and the community around the couple?

I feel like for everybody watching on video, you can see my expression and reactions to all of this. Oh, I have a lot of feels about this. Because like everyone, it's something that I go through.

I am married. We've been married for about two and a half years now, but together for ten. And we have very different feelings, cause this is the one I like to go off about, weddings.

That is one area where we have very different emotional reactions to the situation. I personally see a wedding invitation generally as a bill. And my husband loves going to the weddings.

Listen, it's not that I have zero romance in my body. I have some. But in his mind, for the most part, weddings are an opportunity for us to either connect with family or friends that we don't see a lot, and he loves that side of it.

Where for me, I feel like this is not how I would choose to be hanging out with these people. And it's not always like the best food, and the best music, and the best time. Sometimes it surprises me.

Sometimes it's great. But sometimes I'm like, ugh. We also have big families.

Everybody we know is starting to get married. So it's like a constant perpetual problem in our relationship. One of the ways that we choose to navigate through those things is to-- and in addition, family travel, and obligations for family life events, we try to focus first on us as the couple.

What are our big goals? What are we trying to achieve in the short term, in the medium term. Long term is more stuff like retirement.

We're already planning for that. We already invest for that. But for the more short term demands of things, we're looking to in the next one or two years, what do we want to do?

What are the trips that we want to take? What are the purchases that we want to make? What are the experiences that we want to have?

And we plot those out, and we do kind of the basic formula of what time we want to achieve them, how much it's going to take, divide it by if it's going to be an a year, divide by 12. And then that's how much per month we would have to save. We do this because that way our bigger focus is what we want.

And then we figure out how to fit the other pieces of the puzzle in. So if we know that our families want to take a particular kind of trip one year, because they want to do a family reunion, and we have a good sense of how much that will cost. Well, then how does that fit into the larger pieces of what we're trying to achieve?

This is not a flawless system, mind you. Like, there are plenty of times that we have gotten into big old fights about, I don't value this. You value this.

By the way, don't use that language. Like, that's not the actual language we use. Do not tell somebody like, I don't value that.

Just because it sounds so condescending and so rude, and you're belittling what they actually value. But it's important for me to communicate like, hey, we have seven weddings that we're invited to this year. Did the people even know if they're going to be vaccinated at that time?

How are you planning for seven weddings in 2021? Because a few of them rolled over from 2020. For both health reasons for some of them, and also financial reasons, we're not going to all of them.

But this is not the first time we've had seven wedding invitations in a year. So a big part of it is figuring out who do we flat out say no to, and how do we properly say no. Who do maybe just one of us, instead of both of us having to go.

Because if both of us go, that's two plane tickets, plus food, plus having to put our dog in doggie day care. Expenses add up. So sometimes, we just deploy one of us instead of both of us going.

And then there are ones that obviously, it's really important for both of us to be there. We also get pretty harsh about all the lead up stuff. Like, we're not going to everybody's engagement party, bachelor/bachelorette party, bridal shower, and wedding.

I'm just using weddings, because they're such a low hanging fruit. But everybody has versions of this. So it could be you're the only one that doesn't live near all of your family members.

So every time there's a niece or nephew birthday party, mom and dad birthday, anniversary, you're getting pressure to come back, and that's just not realistic. It is so important within the ecosystem of your relationship that you figure out how to prioritize what is important to the two of you, and then how to work other things into that equation, and that you don't have to do all of the things, even though it might feel like you do. And give your parents, or your siblings, or your best friends the context about the why.

We love you, but we're currently trying to save up to do a six week tour through Asia in two years, so we are really focusing our money there, instead, could we-- and then give them a counteroffer. I agree. And I feel like also both with this situation in particular, because so much of how we spend money specifically as a couple, not we, my husband or myself, but just any couple generally, is about that social pressure, and about that sort of impetus to please everyone, accommodate everyone, et cetera.

And so I feel like a big thing that we all kind of have to come to terms with is that well, A, we have to have a very firm, clear, empathetic, but unassailable no. Just like, it's a no. And there's not going to be a whole lot of back and forth about it.

But I love you, and the no is not personal. The no is not an attack or a judgment. It's just has to be a no for me.

And there's just not a whole lot of emotion about it. And then beyond that, I think there's such a freedom that comes with understanding that sometimes people are going to be disappointed with you, or frustrated with you, or annoyed with you, especially when it comes to choices like this. And you just have to fundamentally be OK with that, and know that that's not the end of the world, and that's not the same thing as a real problem that needs to be addressed.

Like, your mother-in-law might be annoyed with you that you guys didn't fly across the country to go see them during COVID. That's OK. You have to be OK with your mother-in-law being annoyed with you, and not give it the same weight that you would give an actual financial priority, or an actual problem that needs to be solved.

And I think there is that feeling of eventually, people will only kind of cross your boundaries and disrespect your choices to the extent that they feel that they can, to the extent that they feel like it gets them somewhere, or that it can possibly be wiggled with. So I do feel also that by having that strong no, you can start to create a situation where people aren't going to be guilting you, or passive aggressively commenting toward you, or making these sort of digs, because they know that it doesn't get them anywhere, and that it's not going to have an impact on that initial no. But I think especially for women, that can be very hard.

Oh, it's very hard. I also don't see any problem with giving like full financial context of certain things. I know a lot of people don't want to talk in real numbers.

But there are times when that's a really helpful tool. I say that because people really only know their lived experience, right. So if you've never had to consistently rent a car to go visit a family member, your family member doesn't necessarily know how expensive that can be.

For us, that is something that we had to share with my in-laws at one point in time, because they all live in the same area. We actually own a car now, but for many, many years we didn't. And every time we were coming to see them, we would either fly, or if we brought our dog, we would have to rent a car.

And we didn't have car insurance, then we had to pay for the car insurance, but it just got very expensive. So just the act of renting the car to come up to see them for Thanksgiving, especially holidays, would cost like $650 or $800. And that's on top of whatever expenses are when we get there.

And I know in their mind, they all own cars, so to come to New York City is not that expensive. So I feel it's not that expensive to come up here. So at one point, I did sit them down, just so you know, and I'm not trying to make anybody feel bad, but it is about $650 for us to come up for these weekend trips.

And I just want you to know that. So that when we do sometimes push back on costs of things, you have context of how much it is actually costing us. I do think that that is sometimes an important thing to do.

Or if you're doing a group family trip, or a group trip with friends, setting your budget. I would love to come, but I can only afford to spend $500 on it all in on this thing, very important with bachelorette parties. So being able to set a maximum amount that you have, and yeah, sometimes that's going to anchor people to a certain price point, or it's going to mean that they have to assume a little bit more cost, or it's going to mean that maybe you reconfigured the original plan.

But whenever you do that, whenever you do set those kind of firm boundaries, if you still want to participate, make sure you do it early. This is not something that you're doing the week before the trip is supposed to be happening. My husband is so aspirational in this regard.

Because that man truly does not give a you know what about anyone else's opinion with his decisions. Like, if we opt out of doing something, and I'm like, but my aunt is so upset with us. He's like, this is not my problem.

I am not responsible for your aunt's emotions. And the thing is that, he'll always be polite, and he'll always give that context, whatever it might be. But beyond that, he's like, I can only do that.

And if they're pissed at me after that, that's really not my issue. Which I do feel I want to get more toward that place, because I do think otherwise, you may still yet make the decisions that are right for you financially, but then you're also burdened down with other people's judgments of it, which is so extra and unnecessary. However, I do want to give a shout out to anybody listening who either has anxiety, or is partnered with somebody who has anxiety, because that is also where you can see people start to loop is the idea of letting someone down, or if somebody is making those passive aggressive digs, you might be able to stand really firm in your feelings, but your partner might not feel that same way.

And it might send them into a bit of an anxiety spiral, which then you're going to have to-- I don't want to say deal with, but you're going to have to be part of that journey. So it also is figuring out how to set those boundaries for both of you, and for the one who does have anxiety, having them learn healthy coping techniques for both managing it, but learning how to set those boundaries. And I would also say in some cases, again, communicating that, hey, when you talk to me like that, mom, dad, sibling, friend, it makes me feel really upset and anxious.

And I just want to express to you what this does when you make those kind of snide comments. Totally. Now, to move on a bit to a subject that I think is probably perhaps the most sort of controversial in the space of money and relationships, and one in which I fall to an extreme of the spectrum.

So I'm always curious about other people's, is the extent to which finances should be separate or combined, especially in the cases of relationships where you live together or are married. I'm very much of the opinion that if you don't even live together, like, it should be basically all separate. That's just way too dangerous to be mixing at that stage.

But once people live together, they're domestic partners, they're married, et cetera, to what extent it is best financial practices, because of course, again, you can be politically correct, and say that it's all good. Everyone's fine, just find the system that works for you. But I do think especially given specific circumstances, like, there are usually more sort of best financial practices.

My husband and I have finances that are separate to an extreme extent. Like, we're probably in the 99th percentile of separate finances. We actually don't even have joint accounts of any kind.

But I know there are other people-- I think it's actually the most common, but you could probably fact check me on that. It's most common for people to have exclusively joint accounts when they're married. So where do you fall on the spectrum yourself?

Where do you think people should fall? Is there one way or another that tends to create more or less problems? Like give us the 411, Erin Lowry.

Well, the traditional rhetoric is totally joint when you're married, because you turn into an amorphous blob after you get married, then you're basically just one human. And if you can't tell from my tone, I think that that's stupid. So if you want to bank jointly and that works for you, great.

My issue with it is that the rhetoric around it assumes that if that's not what you do, it's because you don't love and trust your partner enough, or you're hiding something. And I just want to clear up real quick, there's plenty of financial abuse that can happen with joint accounts. Having a joint account does not preclude you from having somebody have a ton of control over your life.

In fact, I would argue it enables them to have more control over your life, because they can easily drain an account without your consent. And I also say that because I fully believe you should not at all merge your financial life with somebody else until you are legally connected to them, i.e. marriage. And I say that just because again, let's say you put all of your money in a joint account, but you are not legally married.

They can drain that account. If something goes wrong, and let's say you break up, let's say that you did something to cause the breakup and they're mad. If their name is on the account, they can go to the bank and drain the money.

They legally are allowed to do that. You can take them to small claims court to duke it out. But having to go through a divorce is a very different situation than having to prove all of these things about your relationship, and take them to small claims court over the fact that they drained a joint bank account.

If you are living together, and logistically it is easier to have one joint account to pay your shared bills, that's the only area where I'll kind of acquiesce and be like, all right. You can have a joint account that you only put in the amount of money for the bills, and the rest of your money remains separate until you're married, or have otherwise signed paperwork committing to each other in a legal sense. Once you get married, my personal preference in terms of what we use and what I think is really easy, is to do what I would consider a hybrid model between joint and totally separate.

And that is to be joint for the things that you share together, your bills, investing goals, savings goals, and then each have your own checking account with just your name on it that you get your allowance, spending money, discretionary spend, whatever you want to call it. But the money that you have every month that you get to spend completely autonomous of your partner. I think that that is a very easy, healthy way to reduce money fights in your relationship is that, you each get money that you get to spend without the other person's say so, or without the other person seeing the bill, or nit picking at the item that you purchased.

Because coming back to values, you're still not going to value everything the exact same way. If you go the totally separate route, my only thing is just to make sure that there is complete understanding and communication about who pays what bills, what priorities are, and figuring out how to-- there still should be some set goals that you have together as a couple. So how are you funding and working towards those goals?

And the last thing, no matter what version you do, please have some level of estate planning. Please have a will. Please have beneficiaries on everything.

Make sure that's updated. But if you are totally separate, making sure that the other person knows where accounts are, knows how in the case of something happening to you they can get access, having all of that information handled is really important no matter how you bank. Yes, to clarify, my husband I do have shared goals and objectives in life.

But our approach to things I think is definitely much more about the individual operating as a little cell, and then we come together. We sort of treat our marriage as a little mini corporation. And we have biannual meetings where we like do little quadratic, you know, what are they called?

Like matrices with what we want to achieve this year, and what we want to do jointly. But I do like personally the idea that whatever the goal, or objective, or next step is that we're taking, we always approach it from a zero point. We don't take for granted that we will do anything.

We sort of have to come to it as two parties, analyze it sort of as its own standalone decision, and decide whether or not we reach that conclusion. An example right now, being home buying. My husband and I are in the early processes of pursuing pre-approval for a mortgage here in New York City, which is obviously, heavily complicated by the fact that he's currently living abroad.

But even in the decision of whether or not we want to buy a home, we don't at all approach it with the sort of feeling of like, well, we're definitely going to become homeowners because you can't rent forever, because that's what adults do, or that should be the next step, or what have you. And we actually feel very differently about what a home buying should mean, what kind of home we should buy, what it represents in terms of value. And we really sort of have to argue it out.

And we've had many phone calls that are very sort of matter of fact. And I don't think that would work for everyone necessarily. But what I do think has been helpful, is the idea that nothing is taken for granted in the sense of what we should be doing.

And I do feel also that when you think about a decision like for example, having children as a couple, most people don't think of that as a financial decision. But first and foremost, it is the most substantial financial decision most couples will make in their lifetime, except maybe home buying. But I bet actually it's probably much more expensive to have children in the long run.

I think like a million bucks to raise a kid over the course of through college. So like, that is a massive financial choice. And I think way too many of these life choices that are deeply financial in nature, I think people start from an assumption that they will happen, or that they must happen, or that they should happen.

And occasionally, maybe would work backwards from there. But they're not starting from a neutral point of like, is this what we want? Is this something we can balance with our other goals?

How do we both think we should go about it, et cetera. Yeah, I mean wanted to snap on a lot of those points. First, I do want to touch on the kid thing.

Because that can be used I feel like is a metaphor for a lot of people's big financial choices, home-ownership being another one. One of the things that I like for people to consider that I don't think happens enough, is you can start to save for a goal that maybe ends up not happening, and then you just redirect that money elsewhere. And for me, kids are a perfect example.

I am still unsure on my decision about whether or not we are going to have a child. And I say my, because yes, it's a we thing, and it's a couple thing. He's definitely team baby.

I am team, I'm not entirely sure yet what I want. But what I like is the option to financially be prepared to make the choice. So we have a sinking fund that we have created that is specifically for a kid.

And every month, we put a little money in there, and that fund exists because it's based on in many years time line from now, and it exists because, hey, if we decide to have a kid, then great, financially, we will be good to go for the pregnancy portion, not the entire life of the kid that point level money. But we'll be ready financially to get pregnant. And then if we decide not to have a kid, or if we have trouble getting pregnant and pivot to adoption or another route, that money can get applied elsewhere.

But to me, part of financial planning should be thinking about these medium term goals, and how to start setting money aside to just give you the option to have them happen. As opposed to like, getting there, potentially changing your mind, and wanting something, and then having to recalibrate your entire financial life. You're going to evolve.

Money goals are going to evolve. That is an important and healthy part of the overall financial planning process. And also, when it comes to things like buying a house for instance, I think a big part of that too, yeah, of course you're not always going to be 100% aligned on every element of that journey.

And then it does have to come down to like, again, going back to like sometimes, somebody gets to take the w. At what point does one person just get to take the win on the type of house you're going to buy? If your partner wants to buy a foreclosure fix me up, and you're like, that sounds absolutely abhorrent and I don't want to do that, there's not a whole lot of middle ground.

Like, someone just gets to win that scenario. And you have to have a conversation about how that's going to work out. I think I'm going to win on the house front.

That's what I'm thinking. I'm ready to take that w. Although, ironically, I'm the person who would love to get the total like rip it down to the studs.

So maybe that gives me a little bit more leverage. So I'm willing to put more sweat equity into this decision. Now, not to get dark here for a second, but I must ask this, so I feel like a lot of people would approach relationships, and specifically marriage differently, and I think better, if they were lucid about the fact from day one that 50% of marriages end in divorce.

I feel like, listen, you and I are what, we're both 30. What are you, 31? I'm 31.

I'm five months younger. Woo hoo. Well, as your elder, I can tell you from the other side of 32.

But when you start to know people who are getting married, when you're in that age bracket, and again, not to be dark, but you can usually look around and be like, OK, some of you guys aren't going the distance. Like, you already even know from the get go. But nobody is that way about their own relationship.

Nobody goes into a marriage thinking they're going to get divorced. And I think I stole that quote from the divorce lawyer that we interviewed on this show, but it's very true. Like, nobody goes into that process with that thought.

And obviously, prenups, which I want to hear you talk about, is a big part of that. But another part of it is making decisions that set you up both as a couple, but also are not catastrophic if you are suddenly not a couple. And also, keep in mind, someone can die, and that's part of estate planning.

But I do think that part of the reason that divorce is as contentious and as devastating, and as sort of-- what's the word. I mean, catastrophic, again, for a lot of family units. I think first of all, is because we have that sort of legal default of an at fault divorce, which I think is really toxic.

But also, because we have this situation where we operate in a marriage as if it will last forever, when half of them don't. And then when it breaks down, people are entirely unprepared to decouple their finances in any conceivable way. So what are your thoughts on a healthy view of marriage that includes the possible specter of separation?

One, just saying it out loud and acknowledging that that can happen. Prenups, in my opinion, I want to do a whole different rant on those, a positive rant mind you in a second. Getting and having a prenup and talking through it, does I think help change your mindset to talk about the realistic possibility that you might go your separate ways at some point.

Just the act of talking through and getting a prenup, or if you don't even get it, just talking through the process, even if you decide not to sign for whatever reason, having those conversations are critical. I do want to address first and foremost, the idea that yes, financially, divorce is often catastrophic to families. And partly because retirement funds so often get raided, and separately split up in the case of a divorce.

That, to me, is one of the first and foremost things that you need to make sure are getting funded, and are completely separate. Like, your retirement fund at no point merges when you get married. I have had people ask me that.

Like, your 401(k) and your husband's 401(k) are not going to be combined in the case of a marriage. Now, where it can get really tricky and dangerous, unfortunately, often for women, is that still statistically, we would be the ones that would step out of the workforce in the case of having children, and choosing to rear them at home without any childcare supplemented in there. If that's the route that you elect to go, at any point, even if it's for two years, even if you just do a step out for a period of time and go back to work, please look into something called a spousal IRA.

So this is a way that even if you are not earning taxable income, which is normally what you need in order to have an IRA, if your spouse is working, you can have something called a spousal IRA, so money is still getting contributed to you for your retirement. You both, at every point of your marriage, I firmly believe need to have money going towards your retirement accounts. Big soap box number one.

Two, I feel it is so critical to acknowledge the fact that we as humans grow and change throughout our lives. I am not the same person at 31 that I was a 21. I am a very different human being.

And my husband and I have been together since I was 21. And it is through a lot of communication, and talking, and acknowledging that we have evolved, that we are still together at this point. But there could become a day that we look at each other like, I do love and respect you, but we're just so different now.

We're not growing together anymore. I will say, I had in my wedding vows, I hope that we always grow together and never apart. That was actually something I put into my vows.

But I am also very realistic about the fact that I don't consider it a failure if people get divorced simply because they have grown and evolved as human beings in different directions. It really bothers me that we always position divorce as a fail, as opposed to, you could have had a very successful happy loving marriage for a long period of time, but you reach a point where maybe you're just such different people decades down the road, and you want to go in different directions. And I personally don't see that as a failure.

Now, on the flip side, we jokingly engraved an acronym for the only way out is in a body bag into our wedding bands. So we really do have totally different opinions on this. Like, I think we thought it was a really funny joke, and we just always want to say that at cocktail parties.

But two, you can be both committed and realistic when it comes to your relationship, and when it comes to marriage. And that is such a mentally healthy place for people to be, as opposed to whether it's social pressure, religious pressure, self-imposed pressure, to make a relationship work at any cost. I also feel like when you don't acknowledge the reality that separation is a possibility, it becomes this sort of a taboo, sort of ghost in the cupboard.

You know, whereas, I think that if you're open and sort of unemotional about the fact that that is a reality and a possibility from the get go, it's not a taboo subject. It's not something that's scary. My husband owns 5% of The Financial Diet.

And I've been asked many times, why. Because as a married couple, you know, our finances are largely shared, and would be divided in the case of a divorce. But for me, it's important that even separate from what would be divvied up in a divorce, that he owns something, because he did do in the initial stages work that helped TFD make money initially.

And that should be represented completely separately from our relationship. And in part, because as long as we're together, it doesn't really matter, right. But if we were to separate, you know, that 5% is totally his.

And then from there, we'd separate out the assets accordingly. But by just acknowledging it upfront, I think what it does is show respect for the person as an individual with or without you. And it says, even if I'm not in your life, I want you to live the life and have the things, and have the security that you deserve, and that I would want you to have if you were with me.

But I do think-- and not to be cynical here, but I do think that a lot of people don't feel that way. I think a lot of people have a feeling of like, as long as they're with me, I want them to be doing good. But if they're not with me, they can rot.

They can starve basically. And I think people have a hard time once you are a married couple, really conceptualizing the other person as an individual, and being able to empathize with them outside of the context of that marriage. Well, that's one of the reasons I like a prenup.

It's because you are making a plan for a potential division of your assets at a point in time where you are cocooned in your little engagement love bubble, and are going to be generous, and kind, and loving, and also splitting things in a way that is equitable. And not in a way that you're now in a contested divorce, and somebody is being vengeful about something that has happened at some point in the relationship. I think there is also this delusion that people have where, well, if we were to split up, like, I know us.

We'd go to mediation. And we would be really kind and loving to each other. OK.

Like, it depends on the circumstances of why you're getting divorced, A. B, I say this somewhat jokingly, but when it comes to a prenup, part of the reason I wanted to do it was to protect my husband from a potential vengeful version of myself. I don't think I would be super chill in a divorce.

Oh, hell no. I'm pretty self aware in that way. So hey, let's make these decisions now.

Because even if we got divorced, so much of what I have and built even before we were married, which technically, I built myself. But let's also be honest, that so much of what I built is contingent on both the emotional support that he provided, the like actual labor that he would pick up around the house and do that I didn't have to think about, other ways that he contributed to the building of what I was able to do. And yeah, he deserves some of that.

So I wanted to create a situation that one, did protect me in the future financially, but also was kind, and loving, and generous to him. And you're right, most people kind of go into this being like, as long as you're with me, great. We can split things, and things are great.

But if you're not, I'm cutting you off. And you know what, you're sort of right in the sense that like, I like to imagine myself as being super-- what's the word, altruistic, and really about my husband's best interests. But if he comes up to me one day and he's like, I'm leaving you for my coworker.

I don't know how I'm going to be in that corner. Honestly, we're going to have to just like-- if it's not at murder, we're doing good. It's just complete break with reality at that point.

And so it is for the best that you make these decisions when you're in the honeymoon, and you're like, you should have a castle. I want you to have everything, you know. Versus, when you are at that place of like, something is being taken from you, and plus, you've got lawyers, and lawyers make their money by you guys fighting each other.

You really want to make decisions in as clear headed away as possible, but again, sort of be open to the fact that this may not work out. And I can't remember where I heard it, but I remember once some therapist or someone said, one thing that's very healthy to do in a relationship on a regular basis, and a marriage on a regular basis, is to truly talk about, do we want to re-up? Are we still feeling as good about each other, or better as a team, as a partnership, as we did when we got married?

Like, how are we feeling, checking in with are still all in. Or is there something that might otherwise go unsaid? And I think especially with financial things, there are often not a ton of natural opportunities to have these conversations.

So with the point of your scripts that you provide in the book, actually taking the time to check in and give space to these conversations, and allowing someone to say, well actually, the way you spend on x makes me nervous. Or I think we should be doing more of y with our money. Because otherwise, these conversations likely will not naturally arise for years and years when the problem has had an opportunity to snowball.

Yeah, they usually happen when somebody reaches an actual breaking point, as opposed to addressing it when it's becoming just a general friction point. There is something about thinking of parts of your relationship as having terms and conditions, and you signed up for one version of the terms and conditions, but as life changes, do those still make sense? Or do we perhaps need to adjust accordingly?

You can also get a post-nup, just throwing that out there. For anybody who either didn't get a prenup, or even for those-- I have a prenup. We have one.

And there is a couple of different clauses in the prenup that even says, if certain things change, we need to come back and readdress this, and have a post-nup. An example being, if somebody steps out of the workforce to be a primary caregiver to children, the part of our prenup that says we both waive alimony in the case of the divorce, needs to get readdressed. Because that's no longer fair.

It was fair in the ecosystem we were in when we signed it. But as things changed, that no longer becomes a fair term. And it is really important that you consider the version of events that we agreed to at this point in our life, still relevant, and fair, and equitable.

And one of also my favorite lines that an expert gave me in the book, is this idea that going 50-50 is not always what is fair. And that is something I do think is really important for people to consider when it comes to their finances, especially for people who one partner perhaps out earns them, anything like that, it is not necessarily fair is a 50-50 split. And that does need to always be considered at different points of your relationship.

I really like the concept of certain elements of your marriage, and the marriage itself having those terms and conditions. Because I think part of the reason that it can be toxic to not consider that this may not be permanent is because it allows you to take for granted that the person will always be there, and that they'll always feel the same about you as they did when you were married, and that everything will always kind of remain on the same terms inherently. And I think it's really important to consider that if you change in substantial ways, that the other person maybe didn't sign up for those changes, or maybe you made decisions on certain pretenses that are not being held up.

And you kind of want to never take for granted that a relationship is forever. And you always want to be looking at it from a perspective of, how am I living up to the sort of agreement that we made. In my relationship, my husband and I, part of the reason why we have such separate finances is because we have I mean, just the most radically opposed approach to finances.

Like, he would be fire if he could. He would love to just live like a monk at a monastery, just like drinking his green tea and eating his nuts, his like unroasted, unsalted nuts that he eats by the kilo every day. And I am like a complete hedonist in the sort of Greek sense of the word.

Like, I love travel and restaurants, and nice things, and throw pillows, and all of these things that he's completely uninterested in. And sometimes, I think you can't reconcile those things. You just can't.

You're just going to have to have much more separate finances, and kind of be responsible for your own backyards in that regard. But you have to go into the relationship in total honesty about that, and in total transparency about that. And I think a lot of people, often with money, but other things in relationships, they go into a relationship pretending to be a version of themselves that they're not, or pretending that they can live ways that they cannot live.

And my husband knows that if he wants to be fire, that is entirely his responsibility. I will not be saving with that in mind. That is just not how I work.

But if we entered the marriage with even a slight insinuation that we could be saving in that way, or working toward that goal, like, we would probably end in divorce. Well, that's so true in how many different parts of relationships. Coming back to the kid thing, that's a huge reason why people at certain points break up.

And I always say, I was never dishonest about the fact that I am an unknown when it comes to kids. I remember like the month before we got married reiterating, like, just so we're clear, I am not 100% on board with having kids. You can not be entering this marriage assuming that I'm going to just 100% change my mind.

Now, I might. I might end up deciding like, yep, this is the journey that I want to take. But you can't be marrying me under the assumption that that is a foregone conclusion.

And those were hard conversations to have, but if you come into it with the assumption of well, I'll just get them on board at some point with whatever the big life change decision is, yikes. Like, that is just not the way to have a healthy relationship with each other. And the thing, especially with fire, whether it's fire specifically, or if you change your relationship with money in a significant way, or with anything really in your life in a significant way, like, let's say you get religious, or you choose not to be religious anymore, like whatever the version is, you can't just assume your partner is signing up for that same ride.

And it is always frustrating to me when I get messages from people like, I am just I'm trying to get my partner to figure out how to save more, and they just won't join me on this journey. That's OK. They don't they don't have to join you on that version of that journey.

If you knew from the jump that wasn't what they were interested in, they are allowed to still want what they originally wanted. They don't have to change because you did. Now, obviously, the challenge is, where do you meet in the middle, or if not exactly the middle, how do you create a new ecosystem.

But you have to have the tough conversations. And it can't just be about trying to drag them into your vortex. This may be a personal question, but you've talked about it, so I'm going to go there.

I think a lot of people can probably relate-- a lot of women, our audience is basically all women. I think a lot of women could probably relate to your anecdote about you being more of a question mark with children, and your husband really wanting them. Maybe sometimes it's the reverse.

But I think it's pretty common for people to go into marriages where one party really wants a child, and the other one is ambivalent to no. I know several people in that situation just myself. Now to be fair, I am a godless New Yorker.

So I'm surrounded by grizzled urbanite women, but nonetheless, I do know that situation quite a bit. And I'm sure a lot of people listening have some experience with it as well. My question is two parts.

One, when you got married, did you have a very explicit conversation with your husband that was like, we may never have children. And if that is not absolutely OK, we can't get married. And B, do you feel that that fully assuage is a kind of feeling that that could at some point still end up being a deal breaker.

Or that one, or that one party in this case, you, would end up sort of by dint of not wanting to lose your partner, sort of quasi coerced into that decision. Oh, I think it works both ways. So A, yes, we had a very explicit conversation about that, where it really kind of went along the lines of, right now, you're choosing that I am more important than having children, because I am not guaranteeing you children.

And the second part of that for us personally, is that I have already for my own self made the decision that I will go through no extreme measures to create a life. So if we choose to have children, and if we cannot naturally conceive of children, I am not going through harvesting and freezing my eggs. I'm not doing IVF.

I may have a conversation with a doctor about one round of hormone boosters, but nothing more than that. And so my other part of it is, if we choose to have a family, are you fine with adoption? Because that is something I have personally always felt called to create a family in that way more so than in a biological way.

I have for my whole life kind of gone back and forth on the kid conversation. So I never have been a definitive no, which was always important for me to communicate as well. I am not at no, I don't want this.

I am at a, there are a lot of factors here. And I haven't 100% figured out what feels good to me, and what I think will be best for me and my life, and also for a child. So point one, yes, it was a very explicit conversation that was not at all shades of gray, which I think is incredibly important.

There can be no shades of gray in that conversation. You need to be very direct about what you're feeling. And if you are at a hard no, you need to be very direct at, you cannot assume, especially if you're the woman, you can't assume that just because I'm a woman, I'm going to change my mind.

That is the annoying rhetoric that also exists is like, well, when you hit your 30s, I don't know, some switch will just flip, and you'll be like, oh my god, babies. That's not a foregone conclusion either for women. So like please not make the assumption.

Two, yeah, we've also always been very realistic that I personally know of myself that I would not have a child to keep a partner. Because I know that long term that would lead to resentment all the way around, and would also split up the family. So either way, you would lose, in my opinion, because you're then going to be resentful, and that's still probably going to lead to a fracture of your family unit.

I will have a child if I choose to want to have a child. But on the flip side, we have also always been pretty honest about the fact that, yeah, we also grow and change. And if it reaches a point in let's say ten years, where at that point, pretty much done-zo the whole kid thing for me, at least definitely biologically, and also much harder to adopt as you age.

And if it became a thing where he thinks, you know, I have to be honest with you, this is something I have to have in my life. I love you very much, but this has to be part of my life, then yeah, that could lead to an end of our relationship. But that comes back to the terms and conditions, right.

Like, you are allowed to change and want to modify the terms and conditions. And you have to communicate through that, because I also don't want to be a 60-year-old child free couple with one person resenting the other about it either. I would want to know at some point that if this is something you truly want, and if it's something that I've decided I truly don't, I love you very much, but we need to go find the people that are comfortable with those decisions then.

Totally. And don't worry. If you guys end up having to separate in your 40s, we're going on the French Riviera.

We're getting Erin's groove back. We're going to have all kinds of fun. Just kidding.

I love Joe. I'll be leaving with him. Anyway, so as a last thought, one of the things that I think often leads to a sort quiet accumulation of resentments in the finances of couple, of a marriage, et cetera.

And you were talking earlier about people reaching out to you and saying like, how can I get my partner to save more? Like, they're not doing what I want them to financially. I think that one of the dangers of having largely joint accounts is that once the money goes into it, it's no longer very easy to tell who brought what to the account.

And there's no longer as much kind of autonomy over being able to set your personal boundaries. Because for example, if two people in a couple are contributing to a joint account, and let's say, every month there's $6,000 going into that account. And maybe they're both bringing half, or what have you.

Any person can go into that account and do what they want with that money. And it becomes much more difficult to put boundaries around like, we should be saving this much. Because you really should only be ultimately-- because everyone has a right to set their own boundaries, and you should be able to say for example, we need to be saving this amount.

But if your money is totally amalgamated with the other person's money, you may not even be able to do that if the other person is spending up to a certain amount in their living costs. So I use the example of, for example, when we're coming to a home buying, my husband has been very firm about, I will put this amount toward a mortgage. I could afford more, but I don't want to.

And I will not put any more toward it. If you want to more mortgage than that, have to make up the difference. How do people set boundaries for themselves that are healthy with saving, with spending, with these decisions, when their money is already amalgamated that way?

Can they extract some of it? Can they separate? How do they have that conversation.

Well, one, that's one reason I like the hybrid model is so that you do have some money that is autonomously yours, and you can choose what to do with it. You can be saving it. You can be spending it.

It is nice to have that buffer. Whether you're totally joint, or dominantly joint, I personally really like the multiple accounts version, where for instance, we have one bank account that is just for our bills, and we have a different savings account. We have a couple different savings accounts that are for specific goals.

So one, you can see if somebody is going in and skimming out in a very specific way about certain goals. But we also very much prioritize our savings and investing goals. I mean, obviously, not above paying our bills, but kind of above all else.

And then with the money that remains after that, is how we kind of figure out what's going where. It is a certain form of financial infidelity if you have a partner who just keeps skimming out of accounts, and spending in a way that isn't in alignment with what you two agreed to. Financial infidelity can be a bit of a tricky situation, because there's not really one set version of events.

And I say that only because I always kind of thought about it as if somebody is overspending, that's financial infidelity. And a financial therapist actually pointed out to me one time in interviewing for book three, well, technically no. Financial infidelity is about a breach of the trust in the dynamic you've created.

So if you two have had a conversation that goes along the lines of, you can spend within this amount of money without talking to me. But if you spend more than let's say $400 on a purchase, we have to have a check in with each other before you make that purchase. If you have that agreement and your partner goes out and drops $600 on something without talking to you, technically, that's a form of financial infidelity.

If your partner is hiding money in accounts and not telling you, that's a form of financial infidelity. It is important that if you are commingling your assets, there is a level of one, trust in how things are doing, and that you're also checking in on things. So often, one party defers all the financial planning to another person, often times, it tends to be women deferring to men.

You both need to be able to operate as the chief financial officer of your home. You need to know how to get into all the accounts. You need to check them on occasion.

Even if you're not the one that technically logistically handles paying all the bills, and actually putting the money into the investment accounts, you still need to know how to be able to do all of it. And so yeah, I want you to be having at least-- I would prefer monthly conversations. If you want to do it once every couple of months, great.

And you need to be checking in on where the money is actually flowing. Because if something is happening, and you agreed to another-- I'm just going to keep saying terms and conditions. It feels right.

If you agree to one set of terms and conditions, and it's clear that the money isn't aligning to that, that needs to be a big sit down conversation. Well, Erin, the time has come. Time for our rapid fire questions.

As I always state on the show, everyone has a different definition of rapid fire. We've had some guests go kind of long. But it doesn't have to be a word, just whatever comes to mind.

What is the big financial secret of your industry? That it's not really that hard. It's just all emotional.

None of it is really very rational. Which industry are we talking about here? Personal finance, in general.

Yeah, there's not that much math. No, it's all emotion. What do you invest in versus what are you cheap about?

Oh, I invest in good dairy, good meat. When it comes to my food, I'm all about buying high quality there. And I know that sounds really silly.

I also like to invest in comfortability when I travel. I like to invest in travel, and I like to be comfortable when I do it. I don't cheap out on things there.

What I get cheap about, a lot of things around my house. Chelsea can also attest. I am a bit miserly about my heat situation, because we have to pay for it in the current apartment I live in.

So it's very cold in my apartment a lot of the time. Oh my god. But I will say, I cannot relate to that at all.

I have never been team put on a sweater. It's plenty hot in here, like every father in the world. But as my fellow 30 something woman who loves to just kick back with a glass of whole milk, I totally relate.

I love a glass of milk. And I feel like it's gone way out of fashion, but I love it. It's delicious.

And it tastes so much better when you buy quality. That Stony Brook Farms in that glass bottle, wow. Hard to do wrong.

What has been your best investment and why? Man, I am going to sound so hokey when I say this, but honestly, my relationship, not even specifically marriage, like, picking the person that I picked. And it has been the best investment because I do genuinely believe he has made me a better version of myself.

And that I am achieving things I don't know that I would have with a different partner. I so agree. Mark is like my little prized sow.

Like he's just such a trophy winning man, like an elite livestock. OK. It's just funny to think of men as an investment.

Like, you bought in low on Joe, and you're riding him high. Can I just say, I'm going to make the lightning round a bit long for a second, but one time I was at a wedding, and he was in it. So he was a groomsmen.

And I was funnily put at the singles table, because there was a head table, and I guess they didn't know where else to put me. And I'm chatting with the gentleman next to me. And my husband comes over, gives a little kiss, goes to get his food.

And the guy next me goes, is that your husband? I'm like, yeah. And he goes, wow, he's a piece.

I was like, I have never felt like I had a trophy husband more than in that moment, and it felt really good. Aw, we all stand Joe over here, anyone who knows Erin's husband is a big, big fan. What has been your biggest money mistake and why?

Oh, I would say not investing financially into getting help and building my business earlier. I'm still not good at it. That's also another area that I'm cheap, because I also get stressed and overwhelmed about hiring well.

And I think investing in yourself and into your business in an tactful strategic ways is one of the best investments you can make. And I get very stressed about it, and I'm not good at it, and it definitely has hurt me. Interesting.

What is your biggest current money insecurity? That it will all go away. I actually have a pretty intense scarcity mindset in a lot of ways.

And earning a variable income as somebody who is generally kind of risk averse, is hard at times. And 2020 really tested that feeling. It ended up being actually a pretty good year, but for that middle section, I was very stressed, and very worried about the direction of my career.

And yes, so it also is hard not being on a ladder. Like, there is no set trajectory for the kind of work that I am doing, so not being sure what the next step is for me can lead then to a spiral about financial insecurity. And also, because I'm the breadwinner in my household, so I feel a lot of self-imposed pressure.

What has been the financial habit that has helped you the most? Delayed gratification, which is not necessarily a financial habit. But the fact that my innate inclination is to save and to invest has been one of the only ways I have very, very much been able to build some wealth.

I didn't really start earning good money until a couple of years ago. My early career was not earning very much money. But being very strategic, and investing, and saving even then, even just with IRA 401(k), is a big part of how I was able to get started.

So I think for me, delayed gratification, and not giving into necessarily all the temptations of New York City early was helpful. When did you first feel successful, and what does that word mean to you? It's a moving target.

The first time that I saw Broke Millennial on an actual bookshelf in a real bookstore in New York, so that was May of 2017, was one of the first times I felt like I had achieved something that I had set out to do in my youth, and I wasn't sure was ever going to happen. But before that, my first year in New York, there was definitely a level of me feeling successful simply because I was not earning much money. I earned about $23,000.

I worked three different jobs. But not having to ask for help from my family to me was feeling successful, like I was able to figure it out, make it on my own, move to a new to a completely new city, and a big city at that. And that was one of my biggest dreams for myself, was being able to do something like that, and to be able to do it on my own.

I felt really successful and powerful. Well Erin, as predicted, it's been a joy. It has been wonderful getting to hang out with you here for the past hour or so.

Where can people find you and buy your wonderful book? You can find me. I'm most active on Instagram, which is at brokemillenialblog, Twitter at brokemillenial, website is brokemillenial.com.

And all three of the Broke Millennial books are available wherever books are sold. But please, always like to do a plug to shop local, support your local booksellers. And if it's not in your budget right now to buy a book, please check your library.

I agree. Come back to Twitter. We're all miserable.

We need more company. I need to get better. All right, guys, thank you so much for tuning in, as always.

Please go check out Erin, and follow everything she does. Broke Millennial is the best. And we will see you guys next week here, next Monday, on another episode of The Financial Confessions.

Stay safe, guys. [MUSIC PLAYING]