Episode 5: Elle Martinez

August 19, 2018 | 43 minutes

Our guest, Elle, is a personal finance blogger, entrepreneur, mom, founder of CoupleMoney.com, and the host of a podcast by the same name. Elle and her husband had very different approaches to solving debt when they first met. Today, they live off one income and use the second to help them reach their goals faster. We're excited to have Elle on the show because she's one of the rare people dedicated to serving young couples, and she's a fantastic resource for those looking for help with their finances.

Living on One Income (Episode 5 with Elle Martinez)

"For us, money matters only because our family and our loved ones matter more. And so when you get your finances in a good spot, it does free up opportunities to explore options and try out different things." - Elle Martinez

Transcript

{INTRODUCTION}

{00:00:00.45}

Aditi: Hey guys you're listening to The Money Date podcast - a podcast that my husband and I launched to help young couples get real about their money.

Dalmar: That's right. We'll ask our friends and a few strangers all the uncomfortable and awkward questions about how they handle their money.

Aditi: All the gory details and hopefully a few tips and tricks along the way that you can pick up and use in your own relationship.

{MUSIC}

{00:00:23.94}

Aditi: Hi guys. I want to introduce you to Elle, a personal finance blogger, entrepreneur, and mom. Elle is the founder of Couple Money podcast and went into a relationship with thirty thousand dollars of debt. I'm excited to have her on here because she's one of the rare resources dedicated to serving young couples and she loves Donors Choose as much as I do. (P.S. I used to work there). Fun fact: Elle and husband live on one income and used the second one to help them reach their goals faster. We're going to dive into all of that today.

{MUSIC}

{00:00:54.19}

Dalmar: Hi Elle, welcome to our show.

Elle: Hey, how are you guys doing today?

Dalmar: We're doing fine. You're calling in from Raleigh, which is your old stomping grounds. So, thank you for joining us today.

Elle: Yeah, I mean it's changed so much and Chapel Hill is, like, its own little city community - it's thriving.

Aditi: It was this place that Dalmar and I fell in love. So it's got a near and dear place in our hearts.

Elle: It is great.

{00:01:23.97} Dalmar: Well, I thought we could start with your love story, Elle. So how did how did you and Rob meet?

Elle: It's funny. We actually had a lot of the same circles: going to school and our friends. But we didn't meet into a mutual friend had introduced us. And I want to laugh — I think it’s her one success story. She thinks she's a matchmaker. I mean, maybe she's gotten better, but we are so grateful for our friend Amber. Thank you, Amber.

Aditi: Thank you, Amber.

Elle: She was saying, I know this great guy that has your sense of humor. And I think you guys will hit it off. And I will tell you right now, we do not have the same sense of humor.

Aditi: Wow

Elle: But what was the case is that we had a different humor than hers and we had a lot of similar interest. We were both at that time computer science majors, sci-fi geeks. We love food: the social aspect of food, but also eating it, of course. We're also just busy people. We were working college students at the time. So we both kind of didn't think we'd have time to juggle the relationship, job, and college — and do it all successfully. But she was right. We did hit it off, but the timing was slightly off. So, I was just getting out of a relationship because, again, I thought it was a lot on my plate to handle everything. And in a relationship, you do want to be able to be there, be present, not feel like, “oh, this is something to check off.” So, we were friends first but we instantly — as cheesy as it sounds, when we first met, that day flew by. Like, it was some picnic, some friend — again, you know you're talking college, food, and students — so, when someone offers free food at a party, you're there. So we did and very quickly I felt like it was lunchtime and then all of a sudden it was 10 o'clock and it sounds early for a college student, but I had work at 6:00 in the morning. So, I had to cut off, but to me it felt like a blink of an eye. And he felt the same way. A few months later, we decided: you know what, let's connect. And we started dating and it was a good basis, I have to say, like, being friends first. There was none of that discomfort-awkwardness, and then slowly falling in love and as you say now, it's going to be 12 years in December. It was just awesome. It went by very quickly.

Aditi: And you have babies.

Elle: Yes. We have two little girls. A seven year old and a three year old, and it is the most fun and the most responsibility you'll ever have, being a parent. And we love, love the idea now that we have the ability…I work from home, and then my husband works from home twice a week. So, we like having this option — seeing them grow up. It's a fun age. You know, we like to do trips together. My husband and my oldest are Lego fanatics. And I'm a little disappointed, but he's brought her over to the Star Wars side. They’re building ships together and I'm like: ok, look, listen, you're going to know Star Trek, but ok I'll let you have it.

Aditi: That's fantastic. That flexibility is so key. I feel like our generation is really, you know, benefiting and is eager and hungry for that flexibility at work. And the fact that you and your husband have nailed that down is honestly awesome.

Elle: Thank you. And I think it ties together with money because for us, money matters only because our family and our loved ones matter more. And so when you get your finances in a good spot, it does free up opportunities to explore options and try out different things because it's hard. I'm very grateful my husband has a company that he enjoys working for. He appreciates a company that also understands work-life balance and offers this ability to work from home. But if you don't have your finances squared away, it really does limit your options. It adds stress — not only to the financial side, but also with your relationships, we noticed.

{00:05:55.62}

Aditi: Yep, yep. And before we talk about the future, let's rewind and talk a little bit about the past. Tell us about, you know, your first or some of your early conversations about money with Rob. How did that go? What was that like?

Elle: So, one thing I'm proud of is when we got engaged, we did talk about money. Just saying “I'm kind of embarrassed” and I cringe, is how we approached it. So, it came from a great spot so we're going to cheer that on.

Aditi: Amen.

Elle: We talked to our friends that were happily married - older friends, you know. We were in college, one’s that were, like, 40’s, 50’s - older, that had been married for years. They, they felt like they found the perfect person for them and they've done a lot of things together. Like, what was the key, what were some things we needed to have kind of have a heads up on. And it was funny because I would never associate money as something to talk about, but that was what they mentioned. They said, “have you guys talked about how you're going to do the budget, what you guys are working towards?” It was always more presented to us like, what are your values? How are you going to spend money, or what do you want to do and how are you going to make your money works towards that? And so it kind of made us think, “ok, maybe we should talk about money.” Because up until that point, we didn't. Not that we were avoiding it, but I think, again, we were both working, college kids. I didn’t think there would be much to talk about, quite frankly. We're both kind of broke. Yes, we knew all the happy hour specials. We both drove used cars. I was making payments. He had this ugly, white car — I can't even remember what the model was. So, you know, we thought: this, this should be really simple. We said, ok why don’t we do one night, we sit down and we talk about what we have, what we don't have, all that stuff. So, it was the Money Talk, which, now I tell people “please don't do that.” That's a stressful way to approach things. But it was fantastic in a sense — it opened our eyes to the fact that we saw not just money — because money is like a tool or it's a reflection of what you value, what you prioritize — but we were on the same page with a lot of things we thought we were.

{00:08:55.87}

Aditi: You were not?

Elle: We were not. Like, we had very high level “yeah, we want to travel.” Very general. Yeah, we want to take care of friends. We want to work in these careers. But we hadn't had anything concrete that we talked about together. And so I came with what I affectionately call the trifecta of debt. I had the credit cards, I had the car loan, and I had some student loans — and that totaled to about $30,000. And as embarrassing as it sounds now, the truth was: I couldn't even give him the exact number. Like, I had a pretty good idea of the ballpark figure. But I had gotten to the point where I just wanted to see what the payment was for the month and send that off. I don't want to see that big number, that balance. And for him, he was… let's see, he had one semester's worth of a student loan. So, you're talking about five or six thousand, because this was an in-state college. And he had some savings, but he was uncomfortable and wasn't knowledgeable about investing. Since I was working at an office already, they had an option for retirement. So, I was already certain that's for retirement. And so, how we approached money and how we were dealing with things was different. And I wouldn't call it like this big chasm, but it definitely was, “wait, before we say I do, we have to kind of square away some things.”

{00:09:54.26}

Aditi: Yeah. And so let's dig into that a little bit more. So, you know, being on the same page can be hard, right? Like, so many couples struggle with that. And what's fascinating is that the research actually shows that couples’ money personalities — like, you're attracted to your opposite money personality very often. So learning how to get on the same page or find common ground is tricky. Any strategies? Because you're an expert in this — over the years you've built up, you know, an understanding of not only how to do it for yourself and Rob, but how to help other couples tackle their debt. Any strategies you'd recommend on how couples can find that common ground?

Elle: You know those successful couples I talked to? They were opposites. They approach things differently and so I think it starts off with, let's take finances off the table, you know, when you're trying to get on the same page, and let's start talking about what do you want to do. And this is great whether, you know, you're married or if you're just getting into relationships. Start talking about your goals and seeing where do things overlap, what do you want to do, and understanding the reasons why behind it. Because in a relationship there's basically three types of goals. There's our goals, and then yours, and their goals. And you want to be supportive to all of them. And you can't do that unless you know everything on the table, like what's going on. I knew that I wanted to go to the route of an entrepreneur. I just don't know how that was gonna get done. But that's something we talked about. How do we pivot or how do we at least get our situation, which does include finances but like big picture view, so that if the opportunity arises, I can go here. And for my husband, he is an engineer through and through. He does not want to be an entrepreneur. He has no interest in wearing, like, 20 different hats. He loves problem solving, he loves leading his team, and that's what he wants to do. So, we also knew that we had to have enough of a buffer. So, you know, when he's looking for a job, that we're not stressing out that he takes any job. It's a situation, and we'll get more into this later, where, you know, learning to live on one income, that was, like, a game changer for us. But the idea, first of all, like, what goals are we working towards. Because it's an easier idea of creating your game plan for your relationship. And I kind of joke about this in my book, because I think a lot of couples approach it, “Well, how much you want to have save for retirement” or “how much do we need to have save for the baby?” And it's more like, “what does your family life look like when you imagine it? What does your career look like? How do you imagine it, ideally?” Of course, life throws you some curves. Come up with that and you should be excited about these things as much as if you were planning an epic trip, like, the trip of a lifetime. And then when you know what your destination is, then you work backwards. Okay, this is where we are now. But if you don't have a destination, it is practically impossible to come up with a game plan together. And I think I was reading somewhere, I want to say Ellen from the Smart Couple. She's a psychotherapist that specializes with couples finding that common ground. She was saying, like, these successful relationships, they take collaboration and creativity with a couple. And you can't collaborate unless you kind of define what you want and then find these ways where we can make both of these things happen. It might not be the traditional way, but this is a way that's going to work for us.

{00:13:43.71}

Dalmar: Where is your creativity coming to it? You talk about collaboration. You talk about some of the ways that you and Rob have collaborated to both identify your goals and work toward them together. How you’ve been creative?

Elle: We're a great case study in opposites. I love travel. I grew up, up and down the east coast moving. I'm comfortable with that. I love doing getaways trips. It doesn't have to be anything huge. I'm comfortable with that. When we got married, I mean, he had been growing up in the same house since he was five. Like he was very rooted.

Aditi: That is amazing.

Elle: And so when we're planning - yeah - and for me it was foreign. So we're sitting have these conversations of what we imagine. And we realized, ok, obviously he likes to have roots. I like to travel. And what we did as part of buying this house that we're in, it's kind of a hub. And so that also made us think, we're buying a house so we can have a, you know, like hometown for our girls, but we're gonna be doing more traveling as a family. So, what does that mean? Well, let's be smart with the amount of house we built. You know, when we we buy it. What neighborhoods we're going to be in. Affordability comes in play. Like, whenever you go get a mortgage, I love the number they give you because it makes you feel rich sometimes with a bank.

Aditi: You're right. So true.

Elle: The number they gave us, I said, like, “Rob, if you see this — sure, in theory, we could buy this house. But we could never travel, you know, if we went for the max. We could never really save for retirement that we would like. Like to retire sooner rather than later. We would never have flexibility with our daughters, say if wanted to cut back on work or if he wanted to one day try to do contract work or so forth. We would never have any of these options if we go for the house that the bank tells us we should go for.

Dalmar: That's fascinating.

Elle: And so yeah, I encourage couples. I said “yes, There are so many experts tools out there, but at the end of the day, make sure you run the numbers yourself and you talk it over about what you value. So the house we got is perfect for both of our goals. We're rooted, it's great, it’s very affordable. And then when we want to travel, I mean, we have room in our budget for traveling, for going places.

Aditi: And that's really interesting, because I talk to a lot of couples are trying to buy their first house, right? And you're, what you're describing is exactly right. They go to a mortgage broker and they try to talk to them about how much money they can borrow, and the mortgage broker says, “yes, we'll approve you up to x.” And they define that as their budget. And I love your, your approach of saying: don't take that number as necessarily the number you want to go after. Really try to understand what you know you can afford.

{00:16:41.11}

Aditi: How did you guys break that number down? How did you take the number that the bank gave you and said, “nope, we're going to do something else.” How do you come up with that other number?

Elle: I guess we should backtrack to something out of necessity that became kind of our philosophy for finances. When we were first married, I had just gotten this great internship, but I didn't know how long it was going to last. My husband had his first job out of college and the pay wasn't great. And so we said, why don’t we do this crazy thing. Let's just live off his income at the time, because it was stable and I didn't know how my income was going to last with the internship. But that mindset really freed up so many options. We realized even if it's just a mental game, keeping our essential expenses — you know taking care of the rent, the food, and the basic minimum payments for debts — taking care of that and then using that second income to save for a house or if we're doing date night, you know — like our date night fund or our trip fund — like, that mentally gave us so much freedom to just see what we wanted to do and then find ways to afford it.

Aditi: That's awesome.

Elle: I know, I know it's like a mental...Yeah, it felt like, I knew. And with some couples maybe one makes more than the other and then it shifts in the marriage. You know, one might take a step back temporarily so you’re going back and forth, but with this model we're like: we are both contributing and we can see where we're contributing. And it also mentally told us we have multiple goals, like, from the beginning. There's many things we wanted to do and to make it possible for us to afford this all, let's go with this financial model - which is, keep the essentials under one income — our hopes, our goals, our dreams, with that second income to get there faster.

{00:18:42.44}

Dalmar: Do you think it's possible to have these conversations in a fruitful way without having your goals defined?

Elle: I always think it's possible if you guys want it bad enough. I think it will take a lot more time because it's almost like you're building a house. And if you don't have a blueprint of what you want, then it is very hard to define where you want your money to go. For example, buying the house. We knew that we still wanted to travel. We want to do trips. We want to have the ability of saying, hey, I just found this great deal, we can take it next week, let's do it. So that meant we were basically saying no to certain houses because it wasn't lining up with our vision and our numbers. And so, I think just talking about this. And it's not going to happen in one conversation. Like, this sounds like this was easy for us, but it took several months of what do we want, why do we want it, and negotiating and tweaking it. And then like kids change everything.

Aditi: Right.

Elle: Like, how that comes. Then you're like, oh yeah we finally got it. Here comes the baby! But that's life. And I think it's so important to nail down your goals. And it's gonna change and it's gonna tweak. I think that's a fear sometimes with a lot of couples as well. What if it changes? What if an opportunity comes? Like a startup, like a baby. Something maybe we didn't think we wanted to do, but this one was, it was the perfect opportunity. The point is: when you have a goal that you're working towards, it is so much easier to take that momentum that you guys have towards goal x and redirect it to the new goal that you guys have.

Aditi: Yeah.

Elle: It's so much harder to like, okay, we're waiting for the perfect opportunity and you're not really committing to something, to then try to, you know, turn around this big ship towards this direction because you don't have any momentum.

Aditi: Right.

Elle: And I think, like don't be fearful. Say, like, you guys are saving for house cause that's what you think you want and then you guys decide that you want to be nomadic. Like, you want to travel. Maybe you have a charity, mission work, something that matters to you. Well, the money that you're you saved for that can definitely be used and redirected and reinvested. So, I feel like even if you think it's going to change in a few years — and yes it will — it's better to have something that you're working towards together. Because it's not just the finances, but it's also your relationship.

{00:21:23.36}

Aditi: And Elle, very practically, you know let's say you have all these goals, or you have a few goals that you've laid out for yourselves together. How do you track these goals? Is it one savings account? Do you break it up? Do you put it in a bunch of different tools? Like how, how do you guys do it, because you and Rob are, in some ways, a really informed and educated couple.

Elle: That's because we made all these mistakes!

Aditi: Great! So our listeners can learn from that.

Elle: So what we started off, and I think what's helpful for us, we don't need it now, is: we had and we do online banking for our main account, was sub accounts for each of our goals. So, we had a travel fund, we had the “buy a house” fund. We also had a car replacement fund. Once we paid off the Jetta car loan, we decided from now on out, we never want to have a car payment again if possible. And so, having that separate allowed us to focus. Now, years down the line, you'll find that these conversations about money — I wouldn't say they get easier, per se, but the tone of the conversation now is high-level, big picture and it's just simpler for us to just, on a spreadsheet, keep them separate and just one big pool of money.

{00:22:40.40}

Aditi: Yeah, we did the exact same thing. So, I was curious, you know, how you guys approached it. And it's worked really well for us because it's also really easy to answer the question: can we do this yet or do we have to hold off?

Elle: Yeah, and when we do our monthly money dates, it's kind of also fun to see the numbers. I mean, I wouldn't say the numbers themselves are exciting, but to see that there's progress towards things we care about absolutely, kind of, keeps us motivated to stick with the plan that we have. Or if we have to adjust, then that's what we'll do.

{00:23:12.88}

Aditi: Yeah. And Elle, you know you've worked with so many people who — so many couples specifically — who are thinking about money and who are thinking about debt in particular. And I wanted to just get a sense of, you know, my experience has been that sometimes when couples have debt or even individuals have debt, they feel a lot of shame about that debt and they don't, they don't always know how to face that debt directly. It was sort of what you were describing: I didn't want to look at the balance, I just looked at the minimum payment. Any recommendations or advice on how to get couples, how couples can focus each other on tackling that part of the advice. Or even, frankly, starting the conversation about what the debt is?

Elle: Yeah, that was incredibly, I will say: I was embarrassed. Like, when we shared our numbers, for me to have this significant amount of debt compared to, at that time, my fiance, and I, it's like: what is wrong with me in my head now. He never said anything to me. This is my internal dialogue that I had and I felt, I felt like, come on. I'm smarter than this. I know I could be better with money. And something that helped me, and I think couples have to appreciate this: People aren't born with money skills. It is a skill that can be taught. It is a skill that you need to practice. And sometimes we grow up with some awesome examples. Sometimes we grow up with it like, in my case, my mom did the best she could to pass on and instill what she had, but she had a bad money model. And so hers was a better version, and then hopefully, you know, mine's a better version that I'm going to pass on to my kids. But until you recognize, ok, well, you know, why am I doing what I'm doing? Let go of that shame. And then start with the small stuff — appreciate the good things that are happening with your finances. So I was juggling debt because I thought in my head I could afford a payment. But I was really good to keep with like a project. If I have a goal, a very concrete goal, I can achieve it. So, the funny thing was that conversation about debt unlocked the competitive side of me. So, I said before the wedding ..

Aditi: really cleared the way, tell me what I gotta do! Yeah.

Elle: I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to pay off the credit cards. I am going to do this. And it actually was a great opportunity. I'm glad I told him about the debt because he was my number one cheerleader. He was saying, “this is fantastic.” I mean, he gave his tips and I took some of it. Some of it didn't apply to me. But it was nice knowing that I had him in my corner. And then, like, when we were doing date night, we would cut back and try to find creative ways to save money. So, then I could make sure. And I signed the last check was the day of the wedding.

Aditi: That’s amazing.

Elle: So, I didn't technically get it off until like right after, but actually on the honeymoon.

{00:26:24.36}

Dalmar: And that's, that's great advice. You've given us an example of how, how you and Rob worked through that conversation. You've also decided to mention you had an opportunity to talk with plenty of couples about their money and their finances and how they approached these kinds of conversations. Are there any couples that come to mind who are super smart about how they got out of their debt together, and if so, would you mind sharing one of their stories with us?

Elle: I've been fortunate enough on the podcast to like interview couples and then also in the community. But there's two that do stood out to me because on paper, like, when you get to the beginning and you introduce where they were: there, it was a 99.99% chance that that story would have ended in divorce. And yet, when I met them, these couples were so engaged. They were so, like, on the same page. I would call them, like, high school sweethearts, even though they weren't, but like, that intensity and passion and everything. I would never have associated them with the original story. The first one was Toni and Colin. They're from Chicago. Awesome couple. They had gotten into over a hundred thousand dollars of debt and they knew, okay, we have got to stop this. And they both make good income. He was... she was in I.T. and I think he was in the tech field, but I'm not sure what it was exactly. But they sat down and they're like we have to come up with something. So she started digging around, he started digging around, and she discovered Dave Ramsey, which I'm sure it's like some people are familiar with. Like, he is all about getting, he’s so intense once you're at a certain stage with your finances. Like, he calls it rice and beans. So, she drank that Kool-Aid and she's like, I am off of this. We're going to do this. And her husband said, “No, this, no, this is not possible.” Because he was coming from a perspective of: they had two little kids both under five.

Aditi: Wow.

Elle: And even if they were going gazelle-intense, this was a multi-year project and I think sometimes...I'd love hearing the stories of couples who do pay it off in two to four years. That's great. But realistically, a lot in my community, they also value the time they have with their friends, their family, if they have kids, and so forth. And so they needed to come up with a plan that reflected both of them and they were both happy with. And I loved their approach. What they did is, instead of fight and argue, they came up two prongs. The first one was: where do we agree with our spending, our changes, with our habits — and let's get that implemented. And then there were certain portions of the budget that Toni was responsible for, that she went ahead and she said you know what, I'm going to lead by example. You know I'm not going to keep poking at this. I'm going to show you: We can still go out as a family, we can still do events. I mean, she basically became this connoisseur of all the free and cheap things you can do in Chicago.

Aditi: Side business.

Elle: Yeah, she became this, like genius at this, you know, these activities. She found creative ways for work, making her a lunch. So, with this combination, her husband saw: hey, we're actually making progress. Because I think that was part of it. Like there's no way we can still have a life and pay down debt reasonably. And they were having these wins. And then a couple of years afterwards, he got really gung ho and they came — I wouldn't say on the same line, but they came much more aligned with how fast they were going to pay off the debt. And they knocked it out. So, I thought that was amazing because that's really realistic. A lot of couples might agree on the goal, but they don't agree on the approach, at least not initially.

{00:30:25.45}

Aditi: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a really helpful story. And what about the flip of it? I mean, I'm sure you've heard horror stories as well. Any, any specific stories that you want to share with us of couples who have maybe done it all wrong?

Elle: So actually the second story is kind of like that because their system was not working for them in a huge way. And it was Travis and Bonnie and I had interviewed him and they had also gotten off over $100,000 of debt. If I remember correctly, it was credit card debt, which you, you know, that like, that is crazy interest rate.

Aditi: Yeah.

Elle: Again, income wise, on paper, they were making really good money. But he did all the finances. And I see that with so many couples. Naturally, there is going to be someone who does go to, like the day-to-day stuff. Like that's what they enjoy and they kind of have fun with it. I’m that person in our relationship. But they didn't have any kind of check in. His wife didn't really have any idea of what was going on with the finances, which is very dangerous — not just financially, but in a relationship, just not being in the blue. I mean, obviously, you see one hundred and nine thousand dollars in debt. Yes. That's not going really well. But what he was doing on his side, and we kind of don't talk about this enough, was he was feeling so much pressure. Being the one to do the budget, being the, he felt like the provider. And so he felt like if he said ‘no’ to his kids and his wife, that that was somehow disappointing them. It was a failure on his part. And so he would shuffle around, he was shuffling money around. He would make it work. And it went on for years and then when the financial system hit that huge recession and the loss changed with the minimum payments. Their minimum payments, I kid you not, just the minimums, now jumped to $2,500 a month.

Aditi: Oh my gosh.

Elle: For this, just the credit card payment. I'm not talking about mortgage. And so he had to go to his wife and say, “Bonnie we're going to be bankrupt in two weeks.”

Aditi: Wow.

Elle: So, that, obviously, was a lot of hurt feelings there. We talk about financial infidelity. That was an eye-opener for me. Just listening to their story and hearing that. Because sometimes when you associate with someone being intentionally sneaky, like they have bad intentions or moments, but sometimes it is good intentions, bad execution, and no way to check in. So, immediately to this, we have to change how we're doing this with money. And they basically did, 12-week check-ins with their spending. They decided, you know, 15 minutes or whatever, they were going to sit down and they were going to talk about money. And it was extremely difficult at first. I mean there was a lot of hurt feelings. He felt like the trust had been, had been broken on his side. He did say he felt unconsciously resentful that he had all this pressure, and so they had to tackle not just the finances, but their issues together. And they come up with a system now that even technically, he still does the day-to-day and weekly check-ins. I think it's down now to once a week. I mean, their 10-15 minutes but they're both in the loop. They both feel empowered and both have a say. Until it was a long slog. This wasn't one of those, oh it's 15 months, they paid it off. It took them years. This was something that put them through the ringer. But when I first met them, I would never associate with them. Their relationship is so strong. They're not only aligned financially but their values, priorities and it's, it's a fantastic thing to see that you can get through it, but you have to have a financial system that works and includes both of you.

{00:34:40.09}

Dalmar: So, that, I mean, that's great advice and couples sometimes are lucky to find it at a good stage in their relationship, such that they can actually address these questions and then sort of address these issues in a timely way before they really do damage to their relationship. So, obviously your book is a good place to turn, jumpstart your marriage and your money, your podcast as a resource. But are there any other any other tools or books that you'd recommend to couples who are at the stage where they're trying to figure out their debt or trying to have a conversation around these issues?

Elle: One thing I'm really excited about in the FinTech space, is that they're there are definitely a lot of options out there now for you to get a handle of your money. And I know there's so many money management tools and some people like, oh, is there, like, one perfect solution? And I sa, no, because every couple has to find, like, what reflects them. Are you more a visual couple? Are you a couple that, like, is concrete? Find that solution that works for you with the money management tools that are out there. I also think, take advantage of options like, I thought with credit cards...really helpful is deputize. A lot of couples want to get the rewards, but they don't want to be on the hook with that debt. You know, you don't want to get hit with that interest rate because as soon as you do, it knocks out whatever rewards you got. And if you're also trying to keep your credit score looking good, you know, you, you want to avoid utilizing too much of your credit cards there. So that makes it easy. It's basically use your credit card, but financially, it treats it like a debit card and schedules those payments. There's some great options out there. For me, I would say, you know, I'm excited about spreadsheets. We use Google Sheets. There's options like Tiller, Personal Capital, Mint. I was talking with you — I was really excited what you had sent me with Zeta because I think that's, that is really the biggest hangup with couples is: how I do finances as a couple is different than some people in my community. You know, like we do the whole, I would say 90 percent of our money is joint and then we have our fun accounts. But there's some couples where it is 100 percent separate or it's some kind of you know 50-50. It's a mix and I love that, that flexibility. And I think that's incredibly important. I will say no matter how you do your finances — whether you know, I prefer pulling it all together as much as possible while still respecting each other's fun money — on paper, at least, have a way to know what's going on with your finances — big picture view — because I think that is crucial. I have some friends there in their second marriage. There are certain parts of their finances that is separate. You know, the child support that, you know, goes to their kids. But their spouses and them are still on the same page because on paper they see everything.

Aditi: Right.

Elle: And so that they don't feel like there's anything like a trust issue.

Aditi: Hidden

Elle: Yeah, there's nothing hidden, nothing secret. And then you know, when relationships evolve and change, when it needs to change and adjust you might find, ok this was working for us. We just need to tweak it here, more, you know, go back and forth for whatever season of life you're in. I think that's most important.

Aditi: That makes, that makes complete sense, Elle, and I totally agree with you. You know I'm a big believer in: you have to pick your own model. And one of the things that we try to do in Zeta is, not enforce any one model for anybody, but let them really select the one that works for them and then adapt and make the platform flexible for them.

{00:38:28.69}

Aditi: I have one last question for you, and I can't, I can’t not ask this because I think it's such a fascinating approach. You know, you and Rob follow this one income strategy and I'm just really curious: how has it worked? What, what part of it hasn't worked, if anything at all?

Elle: I say overall, we've been really happy with this strategy because...and also we were fortunate when we got together, I mean basically from the beginning, right out of college, was this idea of let's not spend all the income we have, per se, you know with the essentials. I think sometimes having some kind of boundary whether you know, in our case it's artificial, you know. And sometimes, unfortunately, like you have a real boundary. You only have X amount of money. It forces you to prioritize. Really, this, the win with this was it gave us a way to prioritize. Like, does this really make sense for us? Where would this fall in expense wise? Like, if we get this apartment and you know eventually got a house and then moved in this house. Like where does that fit in? What part is the essential part? How does it fit in with what else we're doing? And I would say, like, there's a lot of people that are rooting for you with finances, but no one will know at your exact financial situation except for the two of you and what matters to you. And some stuff you know, we share a lot on the site, like, what we want to do with our money. There's some things that we don't care, like personal, maybe, some of our giving and everything. So, when we make a decision sometimes in the community they’re like: why did you spend it on this? You could have been, you know X amount here. Well, you know, we wanted to set aside some money for charity or given this capacity. And so know what's important to you with your finances and that living on one income I think is the easiest way we found to handle our finances. I mean, there's so many different approaches to that. But psychologically, it was just the right amount for us to be like, ok, we're gonna live on one income. We're going to keep it simple here and then we have dreams and this is the income we have for this. So, which ones are most important this year we're going to knock out? Which ones are we going to knock out in three years? And so it's a good way to help have a focus because — I don't know about you, but I, my, like to-do list is always having something added to it, because I enjoy discovering new things and exploring options and so forth and this kind of keeps us in check.

Aditi: That's awesome. I love, I love that approach because we don't get to talk to a lot of couples who've mastered the one-income approach yet. So, hearing your stories and hearing how you guys have mastered it is really, really fun. So thank you Elle. Thank you for your time, your honesty, and frankly, some of the stories you told us because I know it's going to inspire our listeners and frankly, it's already inspired us. I think I'm going to have a conversation with Dalmar right after this about how we do this one income approach.

Elle: Well, have a glass of wine or some beer. I encourage make it a date, make it fun. You guys know how it is, right? Money dates. You gotta, have to make it fun.

Aditi: Absolutely.

Dalmar: That's well said. Thank you, Elle. Any, any parting words of wisdom, advice, or tips for our listeners?

Elle: I would say just make it part of your routine. Monthly, weekly, just to check in with each other. Yes, of course finances are important, but kind of circling back in the beginning. You know, money matters because your relationship, your marriage, your kids, your family, whatever that is matters more. And so just make sure you have that squared away

Aditi: A beautiful ending to the podcast The Money Date.

Dalmar: Thank you so much, Elle.

Elle: Welcome. Take care.

{END}

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