The Psychology of Money and Wealth with Ramit Sethi
Pat Flynn: So I like to mix things up here on the Smart Passive Income Podcast. This is a very different kind of episode, you’re going to be transported to the city of New York. I actually conducted a walking interview, through the city of New York, with a good friend of mine, Ramit Sethi. I was in New York for some interviews and to meet some people and some retailers, related to the SwitchPod. And I was there with Caleb and he said, why don’t we just try this thing? And so we did it, it’s a learning process. You’ll hear at the beginning of the episode, my mic was a little bit hot because I was holding it close to me. You’ll also probably hear how cold I was. I was losing my breath a little bit, because it was twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Which for me, being from San Diego is just not an okay situation, but I wanted to try something different. We’ll see if it works out. And I’d love to hear what your thoughts are at the end of this. But for now, just know that you’re going to be listening to Ramit Sethi, a good friend of mine. We’ve been friends for years and I got onto his stuff because he really taught me about the psychology of money and wealth, and what that really means. And why certain people are really good with money, why certain people aren’t really good with money. And this will be a very helpful episode for you, getting into the psychology of money and wealth and wealth building. But also selling, and why people buy things. So this will be helpful for you, but also for understanding more about your customers for your business, too. So this is a very deep episode. You’ll actually hear some things that actually happened while we were walking through the streets of New York that actually pertain to money and psychology. We even visit some of the stores on Madison Avenue and he starts talking about like, why the windows are set up the way they are, and all this kind of stuff. So I hope you’re transported, you’re going to hear the sights and sounds with your ears. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think. So, here is my good friend Ramit Sethi, from IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. Here we go.
Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host, it takes him twenty minutes to enter a jacuzzi, Pat Flynn.
Pat: Guess what guys, I’m here in New York, you might hear some background sounds. And I’m not alone, I’m here with Ramit Sethi, who’s been on the show before. We did decide to do something different. We’re going to walk around the city and explore his hometown, and just chat. What we’re going to chat about is money and psychology of it. Ramit, welcome back to SPI.
Ramit: Thanks for having me. This is awesome. I’ve never done this before.
Pat: Yeah, neither have I. So we’ll see how it goes, and I’m freezing. Because, it’s like thirty degrees.
Ramit: This is cold to you?
Pat: How do you survive in this weather?
Ramit: When I moved here from California, I’m actually a California guy. I thought that I had a warm coat and my friends who lived here were like, where’s your coat? I’m like, this is my coat. It was from Gap. They’re like, that’s not a coat. And about two days later, I realized they were right. So the answer is get a warm coat.
Pat: I had to literally buy a coat for this trip, and for those of you listening, I’m in New York right now with Caleb, who was filming some of this stuff and we’re going to share clips from some of the interview on YouTube, and on Instagram, and Facebook and whatever. But we’re here to talk about the SwitchPod, with some retailers and some other companies. But knowing that Ramit was in town, we wanted to get together and do a podcast interview and just hang out a little bit. So, where are we walking right now to give people some context?
Ramit: Okay, we’re on 42nd street right by Grand Central. We’re going to walk past this iconic old building. You hear the beautiful audio of horns and angry pedestrians in the morning. People. They do not look happy. They’re not happy, I’m telling you right now. They’re also all wearing black. It’s basically a bunch of depressed people walking around. Meanwhile, we’re just smiling, we have no bag, people are looking at us like we’re absolutely nuts. Welcome to New York.
Pat: I can confirm everything Ramit is saying right now. But when you say, like, people aren’t happy, are you serious about that?
Ramit: No, actually, people are very nice. There’s this old stereotype that people are mean. If you stop and ask someone for something, they’re really friendly. But, they’re not friendly if you just stop in the middle of the road and start looking up at these tall buildings. So don’t do that.
Pat: Okay, we’re not going to stop, we’re going to keep going, mainly because I need to keep moving, or else I’m going to freeze. But we’re also going to be walking around some stores and unpacking what we see. We’re going to be walking by, you mentioned an area earlier.
Ramit: Yeah, I want to take you to some stores on Madison Ave. These are the super luxury stores. I want to talk a little bit about the psychology of luxury, and the psychology of money. I think a lot of people have certain ideas about money, like, “Oh, it’s so shallow to buy an expensive coat,” or, “Why would anyone stay in this type of hotel or eat at this restaurant?” What I want to do is talk about looking at these experiences through a different lens, because there are very valid reasons for somebody to spend money on business class flights, or a really nice restaurant. I think rather than mocking it, we can actually try to understand it, and then we can decide if it makes sense for us or not. So we’ll do that. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Pat: Cool, and I think money is really important, especially for business owners as well, especially for a lot of the audience listening right now, who are just starting out.
Pat: And they have to make decisions about where their money is going to be spent.
Pat: Are they going to save it all, and do all the work themselves? Are they going to hire VAs and start to grow their business and, those are all big money decisions that have to be made. But I want to start with you. You started with a personal finance blog, which still exists, IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com. One of the first financial blogs that I read. I read all of them back in the day when, who was it?
Ramit: JD Roth.
Pat: JD Roth.
Ramit: All these guys.
Pat: Trend Jasmine, Simple Dollar, and Get Rich Slowly. Adam Baker from Man vs Debt, all those guys. What stood out to me about you was you had the most unique approach. You had a very different philosophy with money. They were all talking about saving every penny. Were you just, against that? Or . . . where did your money psychology come from, of, go get your expensive latte but go for big wins, instead of just saving it, every penny?
Ramit: Well, I’ll tell you what, I think that having a point of view is one of the most rare things on earth. Let me try that again. These guys are trying to ruin our day. Let me give a little color commentary here. Here we are at Grand Central, absolutely amazing building. When you go inside, you see absolutely incredible views. It’s an incredible experience to see this building which has been around for so long and serves as one of the transportation hubs in New York City. If you have the chance, definitely go there. There’s an Apple Store in there. Funny enough. There’s also a beautiful market. Check it out.
So thank you for saying that about personal finance. I think that so many other people talk about how to cut back on everything with money. Don’t spend money on lattes, don’t spend money on clothes, don’t spend money on anything. Just go in a cave and hide for the next thirty years. And I never wanted to live like that. I always wanted to spend extravagantly on the things I loved, as long as I cut costs mercilessly on the things I didn’t. I tried to take a pretty strong point of view. I think having a strong point of view is one of the rarest things on earth. And I think everyone actually has a strong point of view about something, whether it be sewing, or how to stay warm, or how to clean your apartment. But the world kind of smooths those rough edges off of us. They don’t want you to have too strong of a view because it makes people uncomfortable. But I had nothing to lose. I was a cocky college kid. I just started writing my blog like you and I would be sitting here talking. And over time, I got better at learning how to do the messaging. I discovered that there’s some people who actually do want to spend money extravagantly on the things they love. So when I started talking about that, I found a group of people who were like my tribe, and then I could really go deep into it; whether it be about careers, negotiating your salary, earning more instead of worrying about penny pinching, that changed everything for me.
Pat: I think this is a really important lesson to learn related to building a brand online. I don’t know if you agree if it stems back to just our survival mechanisms as humans to want to fit in with everybody else, and not want to stir things up. Because, back in the day, you stir things up, you’re not in the tribe anymore. You don’t get fed you die. Right?
Pat: And I think a lot of that stems from that, where, really to make some noise, you have to you have to be different. You have to be hated by some people. I know that, when I first started following you, people either loved you, or they hated you.
Ramit: They did, is that true? What?! No, I don’t think you have to be hated. I do think that some people really push it and they almost become sensationalistic for the sake of it. I don’t try to do that. I don’t want to be hated. That’s not my goal. My goal is to spread my message to the people who it might help. And so, just think about it. Think about the sites that you read. Think about the books that you read and the movies you watch. Are they the ones that say “Yeah, do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and like, that’s fine.” No, we want to find the fitness person who resonates with us. We want to find the food person who resonates with us. And typically those people have a really strong point of view. So, it’s ironic that we follow people who are so strong in their opinions. But when it comes to us, we just become average, like everybody else. Nobody wants to follow that, find your message, tune it, and then people will come.
Pat: Love that. Now, when people hear me talk about you, I tell them your website, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” they go, “God, are you serious?”
Pat: “I know exactly the kind of guy Ramit is.” What would you say to those people who don’t know you yet? What does it really mean to be rich?
Ramit: Well, I think we all define what rich means and I think that’s key. First of all, I know that the site sounds like a scam, I get it. I made the name when I was a college kid. I don’t know that I would choose that name again. But I own it. What I try to do is, you come to the site, you’re kind of like “uhhh,” and then you look and you say, “Oh, wait a minute, Stanford Graduate, New York Times bestselling author.” Then, most importantly, hundreds of thousands of people who have changed their lives. I think the rich question is a really good one. So for some people, rich can be buying a beautiful Cashmere sweater, perfectly fine. For other people, it can be saving money and retiring in their thirties, also fine. I have a couple of readers, they retired at thirty-five and they travel around in a Winnebago. That’s not my rich life, but it is for them and I respect that. So, I think so much of the world tells you that rich has to be the following things. You have to buy a house. No, you don’t, in fact, real estate’s often not that great of an investment. You need to live in these kind of places and do these kind of things. No, you don’t what if you want to live in two cities or travel six months of the year? Rich can be what you define. So it’s up to you to decide that and then I’ll show you how to get there. You want to go and get some coffee?
Pat: Yeah, let’s get some coffee. Thanks. So we’re going right now into what is this place? Blue Bottle Coffee.
Ramit: I was too scared of going to Starbucks. Getting made fun of by all your viewers.
Pat: No, we’re getting some good coffee here. Ramit’s looking out for me, what did you just offer me, what was that?
Ramit: This is for your ears of you ears.
Pat: For my ears?
Ramit: I can tell why you’re freezing dude.
Pat: I have four layers on.
Ramit: This what my friends told me, that’s not a coat.
Pat: No this is okay.
Ramit: You need a vest too?
Pat: I got a like a Canadian brand thing that somebody recommended, anyway. Okay, so the coffee here.
Ramit: Small house, please.
Pat: I’ll take the same. Thanks for the coffee Ramit. Coffee here is like over four dollars a cup. Some people would think we’re crazy for getting coffee when we could get one at a cafe for a dollar.
Pat: Tell me about the psychology that’s going on there?
Ramit: Well, I think for me, I love coffee. I found the coffee that I love and I get it delivered to my house every week. To me it’s funny, because you get the advice of don’t spend money on latte’s, save that money and invest it. The truth of the matter is, nobody follows that advice. The very people who give that advice are actually buying coffee every day. Second, if you actually save that money, which you won’t, you’re just going to spend it, three dollars a day doesn’t really add up to that much anyway, I would rather you automate your investments, you negotiate your salary, maybe start a business. And you can do that, there’s three or four decisions in life. I call them big wins. If you get those right, you could buy as many coffees and as many appetizers as you want. People fixate on the wrong things—they fixate on tiny wins. When if you get three to five wins right in life, marry the right person, if you’re going to get married, think about where you’re going to live. Get those things right. You don’t have to worry about coffee and all.
Pat: When it comes to saving, though, you know a penny saved is a penny earned.
Ramit: You know what’s better? Ten dollars earned. This is true.
Pat: But, for a person starting out who doesn’t have a lot of money coming in. Where can they start thinking about those big wins? Should they start saving twenty dollars a month, and there’s math there. This is the case for those people who say, save on lattes, because there’s math and they show the math, and it checks out. Because after thirty years, you now have with a certain number of investments made with that money, over a hundred thousand dollars, that you didn’t have before.
Ramit: Who do you know, that takes three dollars a day and invested in the stock market? If you are now saving three dollars a day, I can guarantee you, you’re not putting it in a diversified portfolio. Now, should people save? Yes, definitely. Most Americans, including all the people listening to this, you need to save more money, for sure. And you should use something I call the CEO strategy: Cut costs, Earn more and Optimize your existing spending. So cut costs means, take a look at your spending. There’s probably two areas you’re overspending at. They tend to be big, for me it’s clothes and travel. So those are the only things I keep an eye on every month I look at them and say, okay, I gotta dial back on it. But day to day, my rent is pretty much the same, eating out is basically the same for a lot of people that might be variable, earning more something almost nobody does. Why? Why don’t personal finance experts talk about earning more? Because they don’t know how. So earn more. That’s another thing. And then optimize spending. So, a lot of us are spending money on things and we actually could negotiate and get better deals on. That’s a good use of time. So take your cable or cell phone bill, you will call those guys up and say, hey, I’d like to stick with you, but I’m getting a different offer from a different company. What can you do? A lot of things they knock three, four hundred bucks off your annual bill right there.
Pat: You know that’s how I discovered you?
Ramit: What happened?
Pat: It was your blog post about saving on your cable bill, you literally wrote a script on how to do that. And I was like, fifteen minutes, really? And I called and I ended up saving twenty percent annually on my bill. And I was like, this guy knows what he’s saying. He gave me a win and I actually use you as an example all the time. Because, when I teach people to get people in your brand to become fans, it has to start with a small quick win.
Ramit: I love that. And so you saved a little bit of money. A couple hundred bucks, maybe, but from there you realize, “Oh my god, this is possible. I can take control as opposed to the world changing me. So, I can control my finances.” Once you get that sense of control, everything changes.
Pat: Why do you think we don’t know that we can negotiate things like that?
Ramit: Well, Americans are horrible at negotiating. We’re taught that it’s bad and you look cheap. Whereas, the fact of the matter is, it’s just business. Especially for these large companies, they spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to acquire you. They don’t want to lose you for ten dollars a month. So, they’re going to negotiate a lot of times. Not always, and that’s something that’s very important for you to emphasize. Negotiation is a game, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, it’s not personal. But, give it a shot. I think one of the key things I found about personal finance is how important the psychology of it is. Think about this, virtually every single book on money, you open it up the first chapter, you know what it says? “Let’s figure out how much you’re spending.” And you know what people do? They’re like, no thanks, they put it right back on the shelf. Because, who wants to think about how much they spend?
Pat: Thank you so much, thank you. That feels good. Okay, we’re outside again. We had a coffee.
Ramit: Okay, look at this. This is great. So they have these rats that they have, now you might be wondering, why is there a gigantic rat there. Come on over here.
Pat: Yeah, we’re outside of a building and there’s gigantic rats, like inflatables.
Ramit: They are inflating these rats, what is going on here, I’m going to tell you. They hire these rats because basically, oftentimes the employees are fighting against the management here. Oftentimes it’s a union protest, so they hire these rats and the building owner or the restaurant owner does not want a gigantic rat in front of their building. So they’ll negotiate. This is a negotiating tactic right here. “If you don’t come to our terms, we’re going to bring a rat and protest in front of your restaurant,” and people don’t want it and so that’s what happens. Now you would never know. You know, you might think this is just art, but the people who live here know, “I don’t know if I want to go in this place because the rat is there.”
Ramit: So you see this in all different neighborhoods all the time, killer.
Pat: They’re tearing it down now, though, looks like it. There’s a cat and a rat.
Ramit: I’ve never seen this one, times are changing. Alright, let’s let’s keep walking. We were talking about . . .
Ramit: Yeah. So, you open up almost any personal finance book. I think for business owners, this is a really important example. How many of you are concerned that your brand doesn’t stand out? Maybe you’re in fitness or maybe you’re in how to teach people to start a business. And you look around, there’s like a million YouTube videos, a million courses, people way bigger than you. Well, guess what? That was exactly where I was. I started writing about money. There’s a gazillion books on personal finance, okay. But I opened them and I read them and I could just tell they didn’t resonate with me. Why? The first thing they say is, “Let’s figure out how much you spent over the last five years.” People just look at that and they say, no, thanks, they put it back on the shelf. Because nobody wants to feel bad about themselves. They already know they’re overspending. They just don’t know by how much, and second, who wants to do the work? It sucks! So goodbye. They put the book away.
I knew, because I studied psychology, that people want a quick win. If you can give people a quick win, you can show them you’re credible, you can also empower them to know that they can take control. What’s something that we all have? Credit Cards. What’s something we suck at? Credit Card. What’s something you can easily beat? Credit Cards. So, I showed people exactly how to do it. I tested thousands of times with thousands of readers, different scripts, different approaches, I boil it down to the one that absolutely works. Chapter one of my book, go check it out, it’s free online, use the script, you’ll get a thirty-five dollar late fee waived instantly. And those people become, what I call, students for life.
Pat: Alright, well, let’s make some students for life. Can you tell us in a couple minutes how to do that?
Ramit: Okay, so a lot of people, you get a late fee. Why? It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, maybe you just misplaced the bill, you didn’t automate it, et cetera. So, what do people do? They go, “Uh, that sucks. I feel bad, I really should get in control of my money.” I don’t like these depressed type of phrases people use. “I need to figure it out.” It’s like, dude, take control your life. It takes like one weekend. What you do is, you call up the credit card. I know, millennials you’re afraid of using the phone. Just shut up, just pick up the phone. And you say, listen, you call them up, you’re very polite, you say, “First of all like to confirm the balance on my card.”
Ramit: “Second, I’d like to confirm how long I’ve been a customer. I show that I’ve been for four years, is that correct? Is that what you show on your end?” Yes. Okay, we’re building credibility. And then you say, “I noticed that there was a late fee incurred on April 23rd. I’d like to have that fee refunded. And they’ll say “Why?” You say “Well, I’ve been a customer for over four years and it was a mistake. I’d like to have it refunded.” Notice that I am not saying, can you, maybe, perhaps, somehow, someday, refund it? No, because the answer is no, if you say it that way. But I’m saying, I’d like to have it refunded. If they say yes, fifty percent of the time they’re going to say yes. If they say no, you just say, “You know what, I would hate to have to change my credit card, just because of a late fee and I would really appreciate it if you could make an exception and waive this fee.” You have about an eighty percent chance of getting that fee refunded right there on the spot. That is power. And you start to see that as a consumer you have power. Not only that, once you win, you get this tiny one with a thirty-five dollar fee, which in the grand scheme is nothing. But it shows you that you can take control of your finances, then you can go on to your savings. Are you saving the right amount? Are you at the right bank? Most of you are banking at these horrible banks, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo? Those places suck. Why are you banking there, they’re going to screw you, they already—
Ramit: They already hate me by the way. Talking about who hates me. I’m on a Bank of America influencer list. I know because one of my friends works there. She goes, “Dude, did you know you’re on an influencer list?” I’m like, “What? Little old me, Really?” She goes, “Yeah, but it’s a negative influencer list.” I was like, “I’m so proud.” They’re bad because they’re predatory. They will get you with fees one way or another. A lot of times they add fees unscrupulously. They use overdraft fees to generate billions of dollars. I don’t like how they treat my readers. There’s so many better banks, and I talked about specific ones on my side. I talk about the ones I use. And then finally, what about your investments? A lot of people, they think that saving is enough. Saving money is not enough. If you’re just saving money, you’re actually losing money every day because of inflation. The real way to generate serious wealth is through investing. And it’s typically, people think that investing is about picking stocks, it’s not. I spend less than sixty minutes a month on my investments. It’s all automatic.
I’m trying to spread this message to people, you choose your rich life, okay? And it can be buying awesome restaurant experiences and going there, taking your family to travel. It could be donating massive amounts to charity, it’s up to you. But money is an important part of that. It’s not everything, but it’s an important part. And you need to get your money in order, you could do it pretty much over the course of two weeks. And you don’t have to think about it very much at all after that. So basically, take control, you can start with a simple credit card example and you can go from there.
Pat: Thank you. Why do most people struggle with money?
Ramit: Think about the messages we grew up with, with money. When we talk about it, which is almost never, it’s negative. Mom and dad would be sweating over the dinner table talking about how we’re going to pay these bills. Or you hear phrases like, “We don’t talk about money in our family,” or, “that’s not something that we talk about outside this household.” Or, “we can’t afford to . . . ” These are phrases that people hear. Think about the people who you learn money from, oftentimes, it’s your parents. Your parents were never formally trained in money. Your high school teacher was never formally trained. So we absorb these messages. All the messages are basically telling you, you’re doing something wrong. You don’t even know what, but you’re doing something wrong. We think of money as almost a painful place. It’s like putting your hand on the stove.
Every time you think about money. It’s bad. It’s, “I overspent, I know I should be doing something. There’s this weird thing called a Roth IRA or SEP IRA or 401k.” And so we’d rather just put our head in the sand and ignore it. If we do a couple of things, we save a little money, which is great. We don’t know what to do from there. I would like to flip that and tell people, instead of money being something to avoid and to ignore and to feel guilty and shameful and embarrassed about, you can actually use money for amazing things. You can start by saying yes, like, for example, you can take an incredible life-changing trip using money. You can fund incredible experiences for your kids or your business. I take my money and I use it for what I called my money dial. My money dial is something that I really love to spend money on and I spend it on convenience. That’s my money dial. So I have a personal assistant, I have a personal trainer, et cetera. That’s not everyone’s, other people use it for travel, or experiences, and relationships. You can use money for something good. You don’t have to worry about it always being about saying no.
Pat: But how do you address the person who doesn’t yet have that money for those conveniences and things that they might want, that in their eyes would be a rich life to them.
Pat: Whatever that definition would be for them. They’re not there yet?
Ramit: Well, we’re all starting at a different level, right? I started at a level where I didn’t have a lot of money. So let’s talk about that. I grew up in a family of six. My mom stayed home with us, my dad worked and we basically would take—we would eat out maybe once every five or six weeks. We’d go to a pizza place when we had a coupon, and we would basically split two diet cokes, or cokes and no appetizers. Right? It’s a pretty frugal life. My parents are immigrants from India. But they taught us a lot, they taught us that frugality is important. I want to correct the record, a lot of people think that I think frugality is stupid and pointless. It’s not, I think it’s important. But I also think there’s another lens of life, which is, to create your rich life and to earn more.
I think if you’re just starting off, then you need to take an honest look at where your finances are and where you want them to be. There are a lot of people who say, “I can’t afford that. I can’t afford that book. I can’t afford that course. I can’t afford traveling for that conference.” I can’t afford that is a very politically correct statement to make, because no one’s going to disagree with you. But in reality, is that true? Have you actually sat down and said, “What is important to me this year? Do I want to invest in myself through a course or a book? Or do I want to take a trip? Or do I want to actually save ten to twenty percent of my income?” If you haven’t sat down and done any of those things, then it’s no surprise that you’re not making any progress with your money.
For example, if somebody says, I want to lose twenty pounds, you’re going to say, “Okay. What have you done it in the last seven days to get towards that goal?” If the answer is “Nothing, I just think I should lose twenty pounds.” It’s like, we all kind of intuitively get that. It’s no surprise you’re not making progress. So if you’re just starting out, I would say, follow the program. I got a whole program in the book. But start off by saying, “Let’s get my Credit Cards and bank accounts in order. Let’s choose the right accounts. At a bare minimum, I’m not paying all these unnecessary fees,” then I want you to automate your savings. You can save more than you think. I’ll tell you a quick story. I had a reader. She followed my program, she set up automatic savings to a savings account. And she forgot about the account. Okay. A few years later, she found the account, she logged in, twelve thousand dollars saved. That’s just savings. Now imagine what happens when you invest that money. Had she invested that money, in the same time period, she would have had roughly probably like twenty thousand dollars.
Pat: How much was she putting aside?
Ramit: I don’t recall the exact number. It was a period over about eight years. The key is automating, you should not be struggling to save money every month. It’s automatic, it doesn’t take any work. Same with investments. Once you do that, then you have something called guilt-free spending. That’s where you can take it and you can buy whatever you want and feel great, because you already know, you’re saving, investing, paying off debt, automatically. That’s how you do it.
Pat: I think it’s important to know what’s going on and where you want to go. I think that’s another big issue is trying to understand, well, what are my goals? Because when I talked to a lot of people about their business goals . . .
Pat: They go, “I want to be a millionaire.” And I don’t know why but that’s what everybody says.
Pat: And then I go, “Well, why?” And they have no idea how to answer that question. It’s just because that’s the sexy number that everybody wants to hit, seven figures and seven-figure launches. When really, we come down to it. It’s like, well, do you need that? The funny thing is, they don’t even know how to begin to think about what they need. How do we start to know the goals that we should have related to money?
Ramit: Well, I don’t know. I think that most people are not goal oriented, including me. I don’t wake up and say, “This is my goal for the year!” I want to do cool stuff. I have a lot of ideas. Yes, I have a certain percentage that I want to save. I actually sat down with my wife and we talked about it, and I said, “Look, I’m super flexible on spending. But there’s one basic rule that I have for myself and I would like to talk about it for us. That is that, I want to save and invest twenty to thirty percent of our income. If we’re doing that, everything else is good, financially speaking. We can spend on this, we can cut back on that, but twenty to thirty percent of our income, I want to save and invest.” Good. I think having a few simple rules in life, super helpful. When it comes to goals, though. I don’t know many people, except for a few entrepreneurs, who wake up and say, like, “These are my goals!” I think most people honestly just want to get through the day, maybe have a positive experience, maybe eat something they like, talk to a loved one, and that’s good. That’s the basic, okay. But I think that as you get older, and maybe as you surround yourself with more successful people, you start to dream a little bigger. You say, “You know what, I don’t want to just take a little vacation this year for four days, I want to go for two weeks.” Or, “I don’t want to just go to X place, I want to go to Y place. I want to take my family with me.” And so then, it’s not like they’re sitting there in Excel plotting goals. I don’t think goals are made from Excel.
Look at this, by the way, love that. We just saw somebody picking up a penny on the street. It’s great. You can tell they’re tourists. I love it. Most people don’t pick up pennies in New York. That’s awesome. I don’t think most people sit in Excel and plan their goals. That’s the sort of delusion that everybody has. They’re sitting around, tweaking cell formulas. No, most people just want to have a couple of cool experiences per month or per year. So okay, if that’s what you want, then get real. You say you want to be a millionaire. The irony of so many entrepreneurs is that they are—they want to be different. But then they end up doing the same thing as everyone else. “Oh, I want to be a millionaire. I know what I’ll do. I’ll do an automated webinar. And then I’ll do Facebook ads and blah, blah, blah,” and they sound like everybody else. If you want to be a millionaire, just go one step further. What are you going to do once you have a million bucks? Let’s talk about it. Tim Ferriss did this very, very memorably in his book, The Four Hour Work Week. He pointed out that many people, they have this dream of a rich life, but they could effectively be living that rich life today. Okay, you want to have a Lamborghini, you could rent a Lamborghini for fifteen hundred bucks. Go do it, try it out. Or you want to take a vacation, “Okay, you want to travel six months a year? Let’s try it for a week. Here’s how you do it.” All of a sudden, it takes this dream from the clouds to the street. And you start to realize, maybe I actually don’t want that or maybe I do want that. So I think getting real is important. I think that surrounding yourself with people who actually do that is important too. If you want to be a millionaire, go hang around some millionaires, see how they actually live and see if that’s something you enjoy. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Pat: I love that. It reminds me of when I was a kid, I wanted to be a lawyer. And an attorney and then I went in, I had these big dreams and, this is very traditional. I was raised traditionally, Asian parents as well. Be a doctor, be a lawyer, be an architect, that kind of thing. I went in for a job shadow one day because they ran this program for my high school. I was like, “Nope, no, I do not want to do this.”
Ramit: Dude, that’s an amazing story. Because you basically—you change the trajectory of your life in an afternoon. There are so many of us who truly believe that we want something, and in just an afternoon we could get a taste of it and discover if we actually want it or not. You want to live on the beach? Go do it. Take a laptop and see if you actually enjoy it. Maybe you do. Maybe not. You want to be a millionaire, go hang out with a few millionaires. And don’t tell me you don’t know any. There’s plenty of them around. Half the people in your neighborhood might be millionaires depending on where you live. There’s a book called The Millionaire Next Door. There’s also a lot of conferences, like the ones you throw, Pat. And the events that we do together sometimes. There’s a lot of very successful people in those rooms. Get in those rooms. “Oh, I don’t have money. I can’t afford a $2,000 ticket.” Well, why don’t you volunteer? I did that when I was in college. I couldn’t afford to go to this conference, I wrote them, I got them to sponsor me as a volunteer at this conference in Hawaii. People let money, they let it be an excuse to them, because it’s convenient. “I don’t have money.” So what? Go get some, make it earn it. Go walk dogs, tutor. There’s a lot of ways to make money. It’s not that hard. But if you use it as an excuse, then guess what? You win the argument, okay. You can’t make money but ultimately you lose because you’re just in the same place you were. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
Pat: Okay, so you had mentioned earlier, Ramit, that you not only save your money but you invest it. I’m curious if you’d be willing to share, what are you investing in these days?
Ramit: The same thing I’ve been investing in for the last fifteen, twenty years.
Pat: Which is?
Ramit: Diversified portfolio, mostly index funds, and just my portfolio is roughly eighty percent equities. I’ve picked a nice asset allocation, which is my portfolio for my needs. I don’t think about it, I just automatically contribute money every single month. I don’t invest in hot stocks. I have done a little angel investing, most of them did not work out. But almost all of my portfolio is just a boring diversified portfolio. And that is the way that I’ve generated substantial returns in my investment portfolio.
Pat: But Ramit, you went to Stanford and you know this stuff, you’re smart dude, what about for the rest of us?
Ramit: That has nothing to do with it. Me going to Stanford has nothing to do with my investments. In fact, the same person who went to community college or didn’t have a college education, has access to the exact same investments. In fact, there’s a lot of times where you can be too smart for your own good. A lot of people think that “Oh, if you’re a millionaire, you have access to all these hedge funds and all these things.” Those things actually typically get worse returns than a low-cost, Vanguard target-date fund. People try to outsmart the market. It’s really hard to accept, you don’t need to, this is one area of life where spending more time on it will not help you, it’ll actually hurt you.
Pat: Another investment opportunity that a lot of people are attracted to is real estate. I’m curious to know your thoughts on that. I know you’ve discussed a lot about renting versus owning, and those kinds of things. There’s pros and cons to each side. I’d love to know, kind of your stance on it?
Ramit: I think that everybody should run the numbers on real estate and I think you’d be surprised to discover that real estate is often not the best investment, and it’s often a bad investment. So this flies in the face of a lot of messages, money messages that we get from the world. Almost everybody in the world tells us real estate’s the best investment, you need to buy instead of renting. Why do I rent on purpose? I could buy a place right now, why do I rent? Because, I ran the numbers and it does not make financial sense to buy in New York City for me. What’s going on there? This is what happens, somebody buys a house in 1970 for two hundred grand. And thirty years later, they sell it for eight hundred grand, they say, “I made six hundred grand.” But they forget about just a few tiny things, like transaction fees, taxes, maintenance, the extra furniture they bought, the repair to the roof which cost twenty-five thousand dollars, and on and on. When you factor those things in, oftentimes, you’re making one, two percent. Guess what you can make in the stock market over the long term?
Pat: Much more.
Ramit: Seven to eight percent. If you want to buy a house because you want to live in a school district for your kids, okay? If you want to buy it because you just love it. Okay. But if you buy it without actually running the numbers, and I show you how in my book and you can Google “Ramit Sethi real estate,” then you might just be persuaded by the world. I want to challenge everyone to really look deeply into this stuff. It’s the biggest purchase of your life, you should get smart about it. I think you can tell the pattern of what I’m talking about. The pattern is don’t let the world tell you what to do. You can take control. Don’t let the world tell you that you have to buy real estate, you don’t. Don’t let the world tell you that you have to cut back on lattes, you don’t. You can create your own rich life. I love renting because I can go anywhere I want. If I want to move, I can move tomorrow, easy. If I want to buy, I’ve built up the financial wherewithal to buy. So, I give myself options. That’s what I encourage for people. If your dream is to buy a house, raise a family there, God bless. I love it. I support it. Just make sure you run the numbers, and don’t let the world tell you what to do. Your rich life is yours. It’s not somebody else’s.
Pat: Love that. Cool. So Ramit, you recently got married. Congratulations.
Ramit: Thank you very much.
Pat: And I know you went on this amazing honeymoon, you came back and I’ve met Cassandra before. She’s amazing.
Pat: She also has a really good Instagram about fashion in case you’re interested, we’ll put that in the show notes. Marriage and money. I know that’s an interesting topic, I remember when I grew up, money was a hot topic of heated discussions in the family. I know that it’s a big thing that a lot of couples have to make decisions about, and often they don’t.
Pat: What tips do you have for soon to be married couples and married couples who just need some help with the finances?
Ramit: Wow. Well, I’ll tell you that talking about money with my wife has been very eye-opening for both of us, and it’s been, probably, one of the most challenging areas of personal finance that I’ve tackled in the last fifteen years. When I think about money, I’ve thought about money every day for the last twenty years, it’s my business. So I feel like I have a pretty strong philosophy of it. When I started talking to my then-fiancé, I realized that she had a totally different view on money. She felt differently about it, it meant different things to her. I’ll give you an example. You know, she used to work a job here in New York, good job. But it was important to her to be able to track every last expense. And it makes sense. I used to do that too. At a certain point, I stopped tracking every single expense because I knew that my patterns are basically pretty stable. And also, if I need to pull money here or there, I can do it. I sort of became more relaxed about it, because I became a little bit more financially comfortable.
So here we are, and I’m saying, as long as we’re in the ballpark of fifteen, twenty percent, it’s fine. And then she’s like, pushing for us to get more specific. And so we had conflict. I had to basically realize that my way of looking at money is one way. But it’s not the only way. That’s one thing. Then spending on things that are important to us. When we travel, I like to stay in nice hotels, she doesn’t really care about that. Who pays for that? How do we put our finances together? This is something we’ve been talking about a lot. And in general, some of the conclusions we’ve come to are, we have a joint account. Then, of course, we have our individual savings accounts, where we can spend on the things that we want to. That has been a topic of discussion for a long time.
Pat: Was it comfortable to talk about that?
Ramit: Hell no. At first, it was because I was like, alright, here’s the system, let’s do it. But what happened was, she asked me a long time ago, hey, can you help me with this 401k question at work. I said sure. I gave her my book. I was like, “Read this first.” She reads it and then she had some more questions so I say, “no problem.” I looked at some of her pay stubs and things and we rearrange things. After I proposed to her, after, she one day says, “I have to tell you, I feel a little uncomfortable.” I said, “Why?” She said, “I feel like I was very vulnerable with you about money. I showed you everything. And I don’t even know how much you make.” The personal finance guy forgot his own advice. And I felt horrible. So that same day, I told her, okay, let’s open up the books, let’s talk about numbers. That actually felt very freeing to me, because I never really told anyone, except for a couple of financial people in my life, to be able to tell her. Then to be able to sit down and talk about what kind of life we want to lead. That, to me was one of the most magical discussions ever, which is like, “Okay, so what’s important to us.” For us, again, this is when we were engaged. We knew that our family was really important to us. It’s one of our core things that both of us love our parents, our parents love each other.
So, we said for our wedding, we have three core values for our wedding. And the first core value was, we want our friends and family to feel warm and welcome. And so, for example, when they came to the wedding, we had written handwritten notes to them and left it in the room with photos of us together. They told us that was one of the most memorable things at the wedding. Same with our honeymoon, we brought them on our honeymoon for the first part of it. Most people were like, “Wait, you’re bringing your parents on your honeymoon, what the hell?” But we actually loved it. It was a chance to travel and experience things together and create those memories. That was a great place for us to spend our money. And so that’s something we both love, we’re totally aligned. We will spend a huge amount of money and time with our families because it’s meaningful to us.
Pat: When would you recommend couples discuss these kinds of things?
Ramit: Earlier than I did. My delay caused a lot of conflict. I would say that when you’re serious in a relationship—you know you’re working towards maybe being together forever, or for some people being married—it probably makes sense to sit down and have a real formal conversation. And I talked about this in chapter nine of my book, like, how do you actually have the conversation. Basically, ask them and tell them, and I should have done this earlier. I did it, but I should have done it earlier. Which is sit down and say, “Okay, I’d love to get on the same page. I know, we’re moving towards being more serious. I think it’s important for us, money is an important part of a relationship. Let’s get on the same page. Here’s what I have. If you have debt, it’s okay to have debt. A lot of people have tremendous student loan debt, that’s okay. But here’s my plan for paying it off. Here’s the lifestyle I want to lead. It’s important to me to take a trip with my family every year, or it’s important for me to do XYZ. What do you think about that?” Then having those discussions. Oh, that was tough for me. It was tough for me because I was not used to compromising. And so, I had to kind of learn, there’s other ways of looking at it.
Pat: Right, Ramit. So, we’re on Madison Avenue right now.
Pat: And we’re seeing some stores that look pretty fancy. And I’d love to get a little insight from your perspective on what’s going on here and the psychology of selling?
Ramit: Yes. So we’re starting to walk towards the more luxury area of Madison Avenue. I’m really glad we’re doing this because I’ve heard enough podcasts where people tell you all the things you shouldn’t spend money on. Let’s talk about why people actually do spend money on these things. So, first off, as we’re walking through these stores, I’m going to point something out. I want to start with a concept I call “money dials.” There are ten money dials that I’ve identified, and a money dial, imagine it like a stereo dial on your radio, okay? A money dial is a part of your life that you naturally spend money on. Every one of us has at least one money dial. Just think about the thing, which when you spend money on it, you are happy, you love it. What would that be? What is it for you Pat?
Pat: For me, it’s experiences.
Ramit: Experiences. Great. Some of the common money dials are relationships, that would be like, you throw parties all the time, like one of my friends, Nick. It would be on travel, that’s a super common one. Mine is convenience. I love everything in my life to be super convenient. Frugality is one, money dial that most Americans have, which is the only thing that they do with their money is that they hoard it. And they feel frugal about it and they feel good when they do that. That’s a money dial, not my favorite, but it is one. There’s a variety of others, you can Google, “Ramit Sethi money dials.” Typically, when people think about luxury spending, whether it be a first class flight, or eating at a very nice restaurant, the most common thing that we think of, is we scoff and we say, “That’s so stupid, and that’s so shallow.” It’s important to me to show people that there’s a different way to think about this. I call it the D-to-C effect. D-to-C, Disparagement to Curiosity. When you see somebody getting off the first class flight, I used to actually say to myself, that’s so stupid, we both get to the same place. Why would they spend four times the money? But what might be some reasons, Pat, that you think somebody might spend four times the money on a first class seat, what do you think?
Pat: Well, I’d say for some people, it’s leg room. The convenience of getting on the plane first, and then off the plane first, I think another part of it is just being present as somebody who has more money than others.
Ramit: What’s the last one?
Pat: Just showing off the fact that you can afford such things.
Ramit: That’s very interesting. How about just, they just want to? How about that? Are there some things in life that you spend money in that you just want to?
Ramit: And so yet, so many of us, we feel like we have to justify scientifically that, “Oh, I’m buying organic apples, and it’s better for the environment.” No, you just want the apple, it’s okay to just want it. Status is a money dial that almost nobody admits to but many of us pursue. So, if you think about the clothes you wear, or if you think about the places you go, you could go to one gym, but you go to another gym, they basically have the same workout machines—why? And it’s okay to want a certain type of status. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re shallow. With many of these clothes that we’re going to start looking at now, some of them have better fabric, they are actually a better fabric, they might last longer. But sometimes, you just feel good wearing them. What we’re going to see as we walk past these stores, you’re going to notice a couple of things. One, is that the amount of merchandise in these stores is very small.
So, compare a Walmart to this Fendi store we’re going about to walk past. Walmart packs its store with merchandise, packs it, that’s what those customers want there. If I go to Walmart, I want to find every single thing there is, and just buy my item. If I go to a store like these stores right here . . . they hand-select five or six items, and each of those are the best. I’m paying for curation, not for volume. That’s a really different experience, brings me to the idea that I used to get my haircut at Super Cuts, fifteen bucks. Okay, I go in there, they say, “What do you want?” And I tell them. When you start paying for different things at different levels, you actually pay to go in and they tell you what to do. How many times have you gone to a sushi restaurant where they say, okay, it’s chef special tonight, we’ll just pick and choose. How does that make you feel when you order that?
Pat: That you’re with the best and you don’t have to think and you can just enjoy the most amazing sushi in the world.
Ramit: And someone who you trust is choosing for you. That’s why when people read my book, and I tell them, get the Schwab Investor Checking Account, I don’t have a relationship with them, I’m not making money off that. But, they trust me they see this guy knows, he has spent the time, I trust him, I feel good. Let’s walk this way. Now we’re going to walk pass a variety of stores here on a very expensive street. We have Fendi, Dior, Chanel. I mean, I don’t shop at most of these stores, but it’s absolutely fascinating to look inside. Here we see a suit, this suit is absolutely crazy. I don’t know who the hell would wear this.
Pat: Yeah, I’m looking at it right now. It’s a black suit with like a weird button shirt behind it. I don’t know if this is for men or women, honestly. And there’s sandals with straps that look like they’re for a backpack.
Ramit: Fashion is a very odd industry. I’ve learned a lot about it. Basically, part of it is just simply saying, “We’re different. We want you to step inside, we want you to be amazed, and not necessarily by this thing on display, but just come inside.” I asked my wife who used to work in fashion, before she became a personal stylist. And she said, “If I know that I can sell three hundred units. I want to sell two hundred within a couple of days and sell out. I looked at her like she was crazy, I said, “But you’re leaving a hundred units on the table? Why would you not want to maximize revenue?” She goes, “Fashion is not about maximizing revenue, it’s about increasing return.” In other words, it’s about making people come back for what’s fresh, and what’s new.
Why do I tell you this? Because there are so many different ways to look at business. For me, I want to build the best products, and basically spend all the time up front and then leave those products there to generate revenue forever. But now I’ve learned, people also want fresh and new and that’s important. So, ask yourself in your business, are you creating things that are new that are attracting new people? That’s critical. It’s not just about milking your old products, it’s about creating new ones, too.
Pat: Cool, we’ll finish off on this block here. We’re passing by a Louis Vuitton and I’m looking inside the display window and there’s these incredible displays with some projections on these models that are. . . these mannequins that are in the storefront and it’s just—
Ramit: Louie Vuitton. The window displays are absolutely world class. I love them. They’re very inspirational. I mean, look how creative they are. What’s going on here? Part of what’s going on here is, they’re not just selling the product. They’re also selling the image and the lifestyle. Don’t think that it’s shallow, it’s not. Pat, when somebody comes to your website, and they see you wearing the clothes you wear. And they see you doing these videos in New York City, what do they think?
Pat: They think that I have the ability to connect with people and do something that they can’t.
Ramit: Yeah, that’s powerful. You can teach them how to generate more income, which you’re really good at. You can teach them how to buy your new product, which looks amazing, but you can also show them a different way of living. You post photos of your family. So, you’re really communicating that you are a family guy, successful entrepreneur. I think that’s amazing. I think it stands out from a lot of people.
Pat: It is purposeful.
Ramit: Exactly. And there’s nothing shallow about that. Just as you could see some person who’s posting photos on the beach. Not really my style. Like, I don’t want to have a laptop on a beach, but it makes sense for them. I think for every business owner listening, a question of what are you communicating with what you wear, with your website, with the photos you post, with the type of copy you write. Look at Jay Abraham’s copy versus anybody else’s. He uses the biggest words on earth, he’s communicating something. That’s just something that I think is very important for people to see.
Pat: And we are ending this podcast right now, right in front of The Plaza, in New York, and it’s a beautiful place. It reminds me of Home Alone, actually, which I just saw because Christmas just happened. But Ramit, any final words for us, as we’re ending in this beautiful location? It’s actually very sunny right now.
Ramit: So, I think that everybody deserves to have one day of amazing experience. And whether you come to New York and you have tea at the Plaza, or whether you go to Sacramento, and you go to Loaves and Fishes and serve the homeless. Whatever a rich life is for you, I would encourage you to go all in on that. And just do it for one day and see what it means, get someone who’s been there to take you there and walk you through it. I think that so many of us walk past these places like the Plaza, or wherever. And we just say, like, “Oh, that’s for different types of people, I would never go there.” I did that for so much of my life. And I’m not saying that you have to eat or drink at the Plaza everyday, that’s not my point. My point is, that there’s so many amazing experiences, and you can use money to live them. Try it once, see if you enjoy it, if you don’t, perfectly fine. But, there’s a lot of curiosity that we can all use to live a rich life.
Pat: Thank you Ramit, I appreciate you coming on the podcast and looking forward to connecting with you again.
Ramit: Thanks man.
All right, so what do you think? I hope you enjoyed that episode, if you want to let me know what you thought about this, just hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @PatFlynn. You can also add, tag Ramit at R-A-M-I-T, @Ramit, as well. If you want to say hello to him too. I just would love to know what you thought about the content, obviously, but also the format of the show. Is there something I should attempt to do again. Obviously, we were learning and doing this for the first time. I’d love to do it again and do it even better, if you guys think it’s cool. Most importantly, I just want to make sure it’s useful and valuable for you and also transports you. That’s what I want to do with these podcast episodes it’s not just teach you, but do it in a way that gets you to respond and gets you to take action and gets you inspired. I just really wanted you to feel like you were in the middle of the city with us and hopefully just not as cold as we were. I was literally wearing seven layers or something like that. But anyway, I’d love to know what you thought. And also, if you want to check out the links and all the things mentioned in this episode, go to SmartPassiveIncome.com/session 374. One more time, SmartPassiveIncome.com/session 374.
Thank you so much, I appreciate you all for listening in, make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t already. And make sure to check out Ramit, he’s got some amazing things going on. IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com and also a book of the same name, that is extremely helpful and valuable, and I’d recommend it to anybody. So, Ramit, thank you so much for your time. All of you listening right now, you’re amazing. Team Flynn for the win.
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