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Getting Financially “Naked” with Your Significant Other — With Erin Lowry from Broke Millennial

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
56 min read
Getting Financially “Naked” with Your Significant Other — With Erin Lowry from Broke Millennial

Erin Lowry’s parents taught her about money from a very early age. She paid for half of everything she wanted, which helped her figure out financial prioritization. When it came time for college, she decided against her dream college to avoid significant student loan debt by attending a college based on scholarship.

Basically, Erin set herself up for a good financial future. But most people are not taught about money, and they do not make such sound financial choices.

Today Erin talks about getting financially “naked” with your significant other. She shares advice for bringing up the subject of financials, being gentle with the discussion, and how to separate deal breakers from those financial issues that are just unfortunate.

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

 Scott: Welcome to BiggerPockets Money Podcast, Show Number 24.

“That’s when you have to have a different conversation with yourself and with your partner and decide if you want to continue in this relationship because truthfully, money can easily break up and relationship and a marriage. It’s one of the number one factors in divorce. So, you want to be putting yourself in a scenario where you have open, honest communication. You have made every effort to have this healthy conversation. Maybe you brought in a CFP. Maybe you brought in a financial therapist. You wanted to identify underlying emotional baggage triggers. There is so much to think about when you’re thinking about unpacking money behaviors”.

It’s time for a new American dream, one that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have, or discover new paths for wealth’s creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

Scott: How’s it going, everybody? I’m Scott Trench and I’m here with my co-host, Miss Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I am doing fantastic as always. It is a beautiful day. We’ve had a lot of rain here in Denver in the last couple of days, last couple of weeks, really. Lots of hail. And today is a beautiful sunny day. I got to record a podcast today. I love today’s guest. Erin Lowry, who I have known for five years and just discovered 25 minutes ago that her last name is not pronounced Low-ry. It’s pronounced Lowry.

Erin Lowry is here today with us to talk about money and relationships. I think this is really important to talk about because money is the number one thing couples fight about. The number one cause of divorce. I actually shouldn’t say that, I don’t know if it’s the number one cause of divorce. I do know it’s the number one cause of fights in relationships.

Making sure you’re on the same page as your spouse or significant other financially is so important to your happiness, to your life, and when you’re sitting there fighting with your significant other, your whole life just kind of sucks. It kind of just drains on you. So I think this is a really, really, really great show today.

Scott: Awesome, yeah. And money seems to be the number two source of divorce, second to infidelity. However, I often wonder if infidelity is influenced by money problems, fights that maybe occur over finances may result in anger that leads to infidelity. There’s a lot of reasons for infidelity and that kind of stuff. Number two for sure cause of divorce and may influence number one, for sure.

Mindy: Oh yeah, I can totally see that. Oh, I’m not going to stay home because all he does is yell about money so I’m going to go out. And oh, I met somebody and they never yell at me about money. I could see that.

Scott: Or a constant source of stress in general. Speaking of rain, by the way, I got caught in the bike the other day. I wanted to mention that when you were talking about the weather here. It was not fun. I had to hang out under a bridge for like an hour. I was terrible. I did not prepare adequately for that rainstorm that very much surprised me.

Mindy: Did you get hit by hail?

Scott: No hail, fortunately.

Mindy: That’s good. Some of the hail this week has been like this big. It’s huge.

Scott: That would also not be fun to get caught on the bike with.

Mindy: No, that hurts a lot. It’s like paintball but worse.

Scott: Luckily, it only last like 10 minutes for the hail that you can sit out. But anyways. So this episode of the BiggerPockets Money Show is probably one that’s best targeted towards folks that are dating or considering kind of moving to the next level in a relationship and need to then broach the subject of money.

We also talk a little bit about how to broach the topic of money with a significant other that is maybe not on board with the concept of financial independence. We’ll really get into the meat on that. Hey, what’s the other person’s philosophy? How do you broach that subject respectfully and as Erin puts it, which I think is a very clever way to do it, getting financially naked with your significant other.

Mindy: Yeah, it’s so true because you are burying your soul. You’re burying your skin, your debts, your financial situation to your significant other. I can’t stress it enough. I think it’s so important to talk about it. I did not talk about it with my husband before we got married but we also had another thing Erin talks about is context clues about how your significant other relates to money, spends money, talks about gifts and does Christmas and things like that. We’re on the same page almost 100% which is really great, but I definitely wished we would have talk about it more just to say that we had talked about. Just to actually solidly be on the same page.

Scott: Yep. All right, should we break in Erin Lowry for today’s show?

Mindy: Yes we should but before we do that, let’s hear a word from today’s show sponsor.

Betterment is the world’s largest online financial advisor, designed to help customers build wealth, plan for retirement, and achieve their financial goals. They combine the low, transparent fee structure with advice that’s in your best interests. Remember, investing involves risk. But Betterment’s mission is to help customers make the most of their money by taking complex investing strategies and using technology to make them more efficient.

Betterment can help you strive for higher returns by providing access to unlimited personalized advice from licensed experts, because investing shouldn’t be confusing. And Betterment tools helps you know whether you’re on track to hit your investing goals or get the retirement you want. BiggerPockets Money podcast listeners can get up to one year managed free.

For more information, visit Betterment.com/BP. That’s Betterment.com/BP.

Okay, thank you so much to today’s sponsor. We are going to bring in Erin now. So without further ado, here is Erin Lowry from Broke Millennial. Erin, welcome to the podcast.

Erin: Thanks for having me.

Mindy: Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to join us today to talk about your story and in addition, we will also talk about relationships and talking with your partner about money in general.

Scott: Let’s get to the most important part first. Erin, what would you say your journey with money began?

Mindy: Well, since this is a very rehearsed story at this point, it all started on a hot summer day in North Carolina in 1996 when a Krispy Kreme donut changed my life forever. That’s actually true. That’s how the book story. It’s the beginning to my story but I won’t do my narrator voice for the rest of the time.

The condensed version of what happened is when I was a little kid, my parents were not big on handing us money, and when I say us, I am referring to my little sister as well. She’s three years younger. And that family policy started from I guess before I was born, they must have planned to do this or they either got on the same page quickly because I never remember a time where my parents were like, here you go. Go buy whatever you want.

So there are two rules of what would happen. One, if I wanted something, my parents would say, will you pay for 50% of it? And then that would help curb impulse control because I have many memories of me carrying a toy around a store deciding whether or not it was worth 50%. Or if my parents didn’t see value in it at all, they’d be like, no you have to pay for that in full.

Here’s the problem. When you’re five, six, seven, you don’t have a lot of earning opportunities. So I got industrious and I knew my mom was having a yard sale one summer so I asked my dad if he would buy Krispy Kreme donuts so I could sell them at my mom’s yard sale. And he agreed so he went and bought the donuts, brought them back. I set up my little Fisher-Price table.

My sister, who at the time was four, sort of helped me out a little bit. And at the end of it, I had about $20 in quarters stacked up on this table and I was really, really pumped to go to Toys R Us because that was a store at the time. And that’s super sad that that now has to be a part of my story. But it doesn’t exist anymore.

And my dad comes over and looks at this pile of quarters and I proudly tell him that I’m going to go buy two Nerf gun super soakers, because those were all the rage in the late ‘90s during the summer. And he goes, okay, but I paid for the donuts and that cost me $8.00 and Kayla worked for you for a little bit, so how about you pay her $2.00. So actually, your net profit is $10.00. And then he took the money from me.

So that was really my first introduction to how money work. That, and candy tax, where at Halloween, my parents would take primo candy out of our loot as a candy tax for taking us out trick-or-treating, which I definitely will be doing myself in the future when I have kids.

Mindy: I already do it.

Erin: It’s a great strategy.

Mindy: It’s a great strategy and I would like to say that when I was a kid, I got a lot of crappy candy and my kids now get just amazing candy. It’s all Hershey bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups and I think people my age remember getting the Bit O’Honeys and those little peanut butter Kisses and all the crappy candy. And they go out of their way to get the good candy now and they give it out. So yeah, candy tax happens at our house, too.

Erin: Well, I wised up pretty quick on candy tax, though. Because my dad’s favorites were Snickers and Skittles and I used to hide them in my costume because I knew that’s what he would go for. So after like the first year of candy tax, I was like, all right. I know what’s coming. Let’s hide this.

So those were very early money memories for me. And then that 50% Rule actually went all the way through me going to college. So my senior year of high school, my parents told me, hey, you actually are responsible for 50% of your college education. Which I should say, is quite generous and wonderful that they could even afford to cover the other 50%. I, however, was in a position where I went to—I was in a very privileged environment.

I grew up overseas. All of my friends’ parents were paying for college without a second thought to it. So to me, being raised in that environment, I was a very spoiled 18-year-old at the time. There was a lot of door slamming, a lot of yelling about the fact that my parents were only paying for 50%. Now, in retrospect, I understand how much of a gift that was. So I ended up picking my college based on where I got my scholarship money so that I could graduate debt-free.

And I usually say at this point, I gave up going to my dream school so I could live my dream life because my parents had used all of these real-life examples so that by the time I was 18, I could actually make a financial decision based on understanding that if I set myself up to come out of college debt-free, it was going to give me way more choices in life and if I all of a sudden had to be paying back $80,000-$100,000 of debt, and I wanted to be a journalism and theater double major, so you know. Those careers come with big paychecks obviously.

Mindy: So I want to cover something again. I just want to reiterate something you just said. You said, I gave up going to my dream school so I could live my dream life. How long were you in college?

Erin: Four years.

Mindy: Four years. Okay. So there’s like a thousand things I want to reiterate. You gave up going to your dream school so you could live a dream life. You brought in credits from high school, so you started as a sophomore—these are things that anybody can do. These are things that doesn’t matter if you were privileged and lived in this really ritzy neighborhood. Or if you were poor, you can still take higher college level courses.

I actually started college before I graduated high school but I did not use it to my advantage at all. I completely blew that and totally wasted it. You did not. Great for you. But that’s bringing in college credits that counts double for high school and college is a great way to save money on college expenses because they’re super expensive. And college keeps going up. It’s been a while since I was in college and I can’t believe how expensive it is.

Erin: You can also use it as seed money in some cases, if your parents were going to be generous enough to pay for you college education. My freshman year roommate actually ended up doing this. She graduated a semester early because her parents told her they would give her the difference if she graduated early, whatever they would have paid for a second semester. Not the lifestyle expenses, just the cost of tuition. They would give it to her so she could use that as seed money to go start her life.

So just the thought if your parents are open to negotiation, you could have pulled a move like that. Just something to think about. So yeah, she actually graduated in December of our senior year instead of waiting until June. And also, the other advantage of that is you were beating all the hordes of people that are graduating in terms of getting yourself into the workforce. So your resume is getting on desks before everybody else’s. Just another perk.

Mindy: Bam. Okay. Wow. 27 tips and three minutes into the show. So thanks, Erin. See you later.

Scott: I love it.

Erin: I’ll just go ahead. I was going to say, I feel like I should provide a context for “dream life” and what that meant. Because for me, I knew at 18, I wanted to move to New York City after I graduated college, so one thing I wanted was to be debt-free because I knew New York was very expensive. And at the time, I thought I wanted to pursue acting and I thought if I am forced to take a certain type of job in order to pay those bills, I’m not going to be able to try my hand at acting.

And then the other side of it, I don’t know where this idea came from but at 18, I got it in my head that I needed $10,000 saved up as a nest egg in order to move to New York City when I graduated. Because I didn’t want to have to ask my parents for anything. I wanted to do it on my own. So I also became very focused on this idea of saving up $10,000 by the time I graduated. And I did it, but I was also an RA because nerd. That’s how I paid for it.

Scott: Let’s go onto, you graduated college debt-free and you get this job. What was that job and what was your experience kind of building wealth post-college?

Erin: I was a page for The Late Show with David Letterman when I graduated college. That was my first job. So as a page, for anybody who has watched 30 Rock, yes, that had some Kenneth-esque sensibilities to it, but our main job is actually to pump up the audience, which is very interesting. So we handled every element so the audience coming to the show, whether it was ticketing, getting them through the ticketing process—there are two coveted positions called podium page and speeching page and floor page. There are like three different levels.

And then I also got to do the speak speech—that was kind of the comedic speech you would do to get people excited and go in to pump them up to go in and see the show. And then during the show itself, I got to sit there or rather stand in the back and monitor and make sure that people were behaving. But really, I just got to sit there in real-time, seeing David do all his thing and all the guests come in, and the musical acts and it was really kind of a gap year, if we’re being honest with ourselves in terms of career prospects.

But that was my first gig. It did not pay very well so I was also a babysitter and a barista at Starbucks at the same time. So I was working three jobs my first year in New York, earning about $23,000. That was super fun.

Scott: How did you make that work from a living—was that more than your living expenses or did you start dipping into that $10,000.

Erin: No, I actually haven’t touched that. That ended up being my nest egg to build my current wealth. I touched it a little bit for the security deposit on the apartment that I still live in, seven years later. I’ve lived in the same apartment the whole seven years I’ve lived in New York, in just a few days, actually. And so how did I do it?

Well, I wasn’t very healthy. So it was a combination of scrounging for food. I spent very little money on groceries, so instead, I learned very quickly at Starbucks that when you cleaned out the case of food at the end of the night, anything that was past expiration date, hadn’t technically gone bad but you could no longer sell it, they would just throw it out.

I asked if I could take it home. I lived off those bistro boxes and paninis for many, many months. The fact that my heart did not explode from sodium intake is super surprising. So there was that. Babysitting, I also tended to get fed at dinner so that was another way that I was able to feed myself. And in terms of entertainment, there’s so many free things to do in New York. So it was a lot of free entertainment, especially during the summer times. And pretty much, my only big expense is again, I didn’t have student loan debt. I didn’t have any form of debt so the only major cost I had was rent.

So as long as I could make enough money for rent and my monthly Metro Card and had a little extra money to spend here and there, to go out or to do things, that was pretty much all I needed. So shockingly, $23,000 was sustainable. And it was just me. I didn’t have kids. I didn’t even have my dog at that point. I only had to take care of myself. A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of work, but I just kind of made it happen.

Mindy: And you had entertainment at work. You’re at the David Letterman Show.

Erin: It’s true. And then I will also say, this doesn’t sound great, but I am a woman so at bars, I tended to be able to drink without having to pay for things. So that also worked out in terms of entertainment and going out.

Scott: All right, so first of all, this is not the first time we’ve heard a story about someone who was living in New York City and able to do it on an extraordinarily low income, right? Mrs. Frugal Woods, Liz, was able to do this as well. We heard from her—what episode was that, Mindy?

Mindy: I think that was Episode 5? I’m going to have to look that up.

Scott: So first of all, we hear all the time about how hard it is to live off of a small income in New York City, but yet, time and again, we’re hearing stories from people who have built towards financial dependence and built their financial position by being able to do this with smart choices and taking advantage of the opportunities that were unique to their situation. So congrats to you for that. Now, moving past this kind of first year, what happened? How did you kind of expand your financial position going forward from there?

Erin: So the next thing I did was go to a job where I had health insurance, because that’s the other big part of that first year is I’m an able-bodied individual who has no chronic issues. I’m not even on any sort of regular medications. So the lack of health insurance wasn’t a big concern in year one, but in general, I’m a very risk-averse human being so I didn’t want to continue in a situation where I had that vulnerability.

And honestly, after living—I wouldn’t even consider it paycheck to paycheck necessarily because I did have that nest egg if something went wrong, but I constantly needed an influx of cash, obviously. So I wanted some sort of stability after living that way for a year. And that’s how I also knew that the acting schtick was not going to be for me, at least at that point in my life.

So I reached out to my network that I had gotten from college and a few people that I knew that were living in New York City, asked if any of their companies were hiring. And that’s how I ended up in my second job, which was working in public relations. Also turned out not to be a great fit long-term but we can get to that in a second.

But it had a starting salary of $37,500 which at that point in my life, I felt like I was flushed with cash because all of a sudden, I had a very steady paycheck. I didn’t have to work three jobs. I did continue to babysit during that time as my side hustle. And then the company actually had great perks so I did not have to pay a penny towards my health insurance. My health insurance was great. They also had an HSA.

You had paid vacation up to 21 days off as an entry-level employee, which is great. And the only issue was when you’re the bottom man on the totem pole in public relations, you had to have at least one member of your team there at any given time, so guess who was always last to have vacation approved. But in theory, I had 21 days of paid vacation. That was also when I first had access to a 401K and I had access to a ROTH 401K specifically. So that’s also when I started contributing to a retirement plan. Which before then, I had not started investing really at all.

I kind of knew what an IRA was at that point my life and I would have been 23 right now, at that point. I am now 29. So I didn’t have any investments. I just had a bunch of money. It wasn’t even in a savings account, it was just in a checking account. That’s what was also embarrassing. Another story. So I just had that money kind of sitting there. And I have always been a saver by nature and I think that had a lot to do with delayed gratification, just hard-wired that way.

Even as a kid, I wanted to wait until the night to open my birthday presents. I wanted to get to open the last present on Christmas. Yeah, Mindy, that face. A lot of people react when they hear this. So this is definitely a nature thing in terms of my love of savings has very much to do with how I’m wired in terms of liking delayed gratification.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the marshmallow test where they put the marshmallow in front of the kid, leave the room, say if you don’t eat it, you get another marshmallow. So I passed that test with flying colors when I was three and my mom did that on me. When she did it on my little sister, my little sister figured out the loophole that she would put it in her mouth and taste it but take it out and put it down. So she wasn’t technically eating it but she was also enjoying it in the moment. And it gives you some insight about our different personalities as well.

Mindy: So I think birth order has a very important role in how you are as a person. Because we have two daughters, and the older one totally did not touch the marshmallow when we did the marshmallow test. We actually did it with chocolate-covered pretzels. And the little one, my husband said, I will give you one now or I will give you two in ten minutes if you don’t eat it. And she’s like, I have to eat it. And so she ate it and then ten minutes later, she’s like, where’s my other pretzel? And he was like, no. I said, you can’t have a second one. She said, no, you said I could have a second one.

Scott: Well, it was because the older sibling will take whatever it is if they don’t pounce on it immediately.

Mindy: Oh, that’s a good—

Erin: Scarcity mentality.

Scott: The younger sibling cannot defend these types of things from the older, bigger one.

Mindy: That’s a good point. Are you the firstborn, Scott?

Scott: I am the firstborn.

Mindy: Oh, so then you know, we’ll absolutely take that from your poor baby brother.

Scott: And I can defend my marshmallow for ten minutes, no problem.

Erin: I also have a theory that other firstborns tend to be friends with firstborns. I know, in my group of friends, almost all my group of friends are the older sibling. If they’re not, they’re a middle child. I don’t think I have any close friends who are the youngest sibling, weirdly enough. So fun thing to run through in your own mind with your friend group.

Mindy: That is really interesting. I have not looked at that in regards to birth order as like friends. Interesting.

Scott: I guess that getting back to the story here, I mean you have this job at the PR firm, $37,500. You’re saving up and maxing out the 401K. You feel like you have all the money in the world now, even though you’re living in New York. What happens next? How did the next few years play out?

Mindy: We realized quickly that money is very relative and I felt rich for about three months and then realized, oh, more taxes. So it kind of leveled out. Not significantly more taxes but that’s definitely a little more that was coming out of my paycheck.

And I also started to recognize career-wise, this wasn’t going to have longevity. It just wasn’t clicking, not something I enjoyed. I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was definitely feeling a little of a drag, I think that’s a very common early twenties and all sorts of your life phenomenon that you’re not quite sure what you want to do next. Or in general.

Because around this time, I started writing Broke Millennial, which is really what shifted everything in my life. So I started the blog in January of 2013. So I was still 23. I would have turned 24 later that year. I had been working at the PR firm, I think for about six months.

And really the inception of it came from the fact that I was talking to a friend of mine, who had also been a page at Letterman. She was then working as an assistant to two executives at Viacom. And that was in the entertainment field and she wanted to be in entertainment. But it was a very soul-sucking job and she wasn’t enjoying it. And we were talking one night and I said, yeah, I’ve got to admit I’m a little confused because you really want to be an actress, specifically improv, so this seems like the time of your life to do it because you don’t have kids, you don’t have debt, you’re not married.

What is holding you back? You could waitress, nanny, do what you need to do to at least make ends meet but other than that, nothing else is really kind of weighing you down for lack of a better expression. And she goes, honestly, I just get really stressed about money. I don’t look at it and hope I have enough at the end of the month.

Erin: And this was a lightbulb moment for me. I understand how naïve that sounds but what you grow up around is normal to you. And I grew up in an environment where money was not a source of tension, not in my immediate family nor for the people that I was raised around. And in my own family, my parents never fought about money. They modeled a lot of frugalities. So there was not a lot of lavish spending. The only thing they really spent money on was travel, which is something that I model to this day.

And I guess it sounds so silly but I guess I didn’t think about it. I mean, I was only earning $23,000 that first year and I just made it work because I knew how to control my money. And her saying that to me was this lightbulb moment and I’m like, oh, maybe some of those weird stories I had from my childhood, I could use to help people. And I also tied in that I wasn’t filling very creatively fulfilled at work so the blog was just a way for me to have a creativity outlet. And then it kind of started to take off from there.

So about, I would say that a year into me doing the PR gig, I had been writing Broke Millennial for about six months, was when I got my first freelance writing job. So I started writing for an outlet, now defunct, called Daily Finance. I believe it’s now merged under AOL Finance. And I started writing for them and realized I could make money on the side and then it just kind of started to snowball a little bit from there.

And the next move was going to work for the startup, MagnifyMoney.com. So I was employee number one for their startup and I helped build out the blog vertical specifically. So I got to pick my own title. I was Content Director since I was the only person there. So like, 25 or 26 years old with this very inflated title. I also just learned so much from the co-founders because it was just me and the two of them in the office every day.

So they had, between them, 30 years of experience in the banking industry. One had worked in investment banking for a while. The other was head of credit cards for Barclay’s in the UK so I just got this wealth of information about how the banking industry works from the inside as well as the investing industry.

So I was getting all of this exposure into all of these terms I had never heard of and policies that I had never been exposed to before or experienced myself. And that was really my awakening in terms of learning more about how money works. And in terms of how I got to ManifyMoney, I talked myself into that job which we can get into as well, if you’d like.

Scott: Well so to kind of summarize this, it sounds like your first job, $23,000 and then you moved onto $37,500, and then you started working at your side hustle and passion project. And from those types of work, income opportunities emerged, a chance at a startup, all this other kind of stuff which you steadily worked on and grew towards over the course of several years.

And during this whole time, I would imagine, assuming that your stockpile of cash and your comfort to be able to support yourself to take risks, maybe, was increasing because of your frugality. Was that a reasonable summary of those couple of years?

Erin: It was and I saved all of my side hustle money. I didn’t need it to live on so 100% of that money went into savings. For a while, I used it to build my travel fund specifically but then it started going, well, at different points in my life, it was used for different things.

For a while, it was travel and then just general savings, and then it was travel and investing. And well now, I’m self-employed so I don’t really have side hustle money anymore because it’s all I have, side hustle as a choice.

And then about six months before I knew I was planning to go self-employed, every single penny of that went towards building a nest egg so that if I didn’t earn income for a while, I was going to be set.

Mindy: How long did you work at MagnifyMoney?

Erin: About two and a half years before I went off on my own.

Scott: That seems, incidentally, like perfect experience to help you build out your own blog and your own money management site. And no coincidence there, right?

Erin: It was. Broke Millennial as a blog was already very well established before I went to work at MagnifyMoney. That was a lot of how I got hired and why I got hired. It was sort of my resume for what I was doing for them. And then there was a lot of crossover while I worked there but that was increasingly becoming—concerning is the wrong word but I knew I didn’t want to be a face at all of MagnifyMoney. I wanted to have Broke Millennial and be my own thing. I mean, my bosses there were so supportive.

When I put in my notice, it was after I had gotten my book deal, they kind of saw the writing on the wall a little bit, if you will. And when I put in my notice, they were like, yeah we kind of thought this was coming. We stayed in touch and we still talk. They were great. There was no ill-will at all about moving on. And at that point, the team had also expanded so it wasn’t like things were going to go awry if I left in the same way as if I had left a year earlier, and kind of left them in the forage a little bit.

Scott: That’s fantastic.

Mindy: That’s interesting, you said you talked your way into the MagnifyMoney job. So this is actually a story I have not heard yet. So I would really like to. When you say you talked your way into it, I’m assuming you meant you convinced them to hire you.

Erin: I pitched them the job. They didn’t have a job in existence yet. So what happened was, I was still in PR. I was working at that agency. I had started shopping around for different gigs. But at the time, the only ones I was really shopping for were other PR gigs because that’s just what I knew how to do. And I got an offer from another one that was going to be a promotion, about a $10,000 bump.

But they said, you have to shutter Broke Millennial if you come over here because one of the clients sort of bet in one of the big core banks. So they felt that that was a conflict of interest. And I said, does that mean no blog, no freelance writing, no nothing? They said no and I was like no, thank you. I will pass. So I turned down that job, thank God. Because my life would be very different had I not.

And my thought process at the time was okay, you’re offering me $10,000 raise but you’re making me shut down what I think has major profitability so you are costing me in the long-run, the opportunity cost here of shutting down the freelancing is huge. So what ended up happening is I was sort of desperate to get out. I knew I wanted to leave my job.

And Nick and Brian, the co-founders at MagnifyMoney, had e-mailed me about coming and beta-testing a first writing for the site that Brian had started called Mile Cards, and coming in and beta-testing the website. It hadn’t even launched yet. So I went in and I did a beta test on it and they had found me through BrokeMillennial.com. And I noticed there was a tab on the website for a blog. So I clicked on it in the beta-testing and nothing popped up.

And I said oh, what are you doing with this? And they said, we’re not really sure, it’s just kind of a placeholder for now. Do you have any ideas? I said, yeah, I can run this. I said it just like that. And they were like, really? I said yeah, I can build this up for you. So they were like all right, well write us up a proposal and we can talk about it.

So I went home and drafted up a job proposal and what I thought it would look like and what I wanted to earn and all of that, sent it over to them and within two weeks, I was working at MagnifyMoney.

Mindy: Wow. I did not realize that you started their whole entire blog.

Erin: Yeah. Built the contributor network, the whole thing.

Mindy: Nice. I thought millennials were lazy and didn’t do anything. Isn’t that how that works?

Erin: You know, that’s what I’ve been told and I haven’t met one of those.

Scott: Only broke millennials.

Erin: Yeah.

Mindy: I haven’t met one of those lazy millennial either.

Erin: Only millennial hustlers. Yeah, apparently just that 30-year-old who got evicted from his parent’s house. It just takes one rotten apple, guys.

Mindy: Yeah. You know, I am a parent and I have an 11-year-old as my oldest so I’m not going to evict her yet. I’m going to go a lot sooner than 30 years before I take her to court to evict her. That’s ridiculous.

Erin: Yeah, not to point fingers but my general feels about a lot of the stereotypes of millennials is that we didn’t develop these neuroses ourselves. Someone had to hold our hands along the way here so if your child is 30 years old and living at home, something else collapsed along the road here, guys.

Mindy: Yes.

Scott: It’s unfair. If you’re an unemployed 30-year-old, disadvantaged with the ability to compete in the workplace, you just have such a huge disadvantage. It’s going to be so much harder to have a relationship, get a job, support yourself. That’s just a crippling disadvantage by these parents not kicking him out earlier. Maybe eight years earlier, at least.

Mindy: You’re not doing your kids any favors to hold their hands and pick all their fights for them and, oh, that went off on a tangent.

Scott: Well, moving slightly in the direction of children, but maybe earlier in the process than that, one of the topics I know we want to talk to you today about was relationships and money. I know you have a lot of tips about that and I think that’s something that can be very difficult to bring up in the dating process and all that kind of stuff. Could you maybe like introduce us to your thoughts on relationships and money and some of the important concepts to keep in mind when it comes to that?

Erin: Yes. I would say, I call it getting financially naked. And this is if we’re talking specifically about romantic relationships, obviously. I wouldn’t call it getting financially naked when you’re talking to your friends and your parents. But we can go down that road as well because there’s different levels of relationships and money. It’s not just about romantic relationships.

But if we’re looking at that because that’s the more fun one because you have all of the fun and delightful metaphors, which the chapter about it in my book is—I wasn’t comfortable with my dad reading that chapter of the book. We’ll just put that out there. After it went to press, I was like oh God, that’s so awkward.

Mindy: Send him his own copy with that blacked out.

Erin: Redacted. Yeah. And I look at it as two big phases and I mean, there’s a lot of nuance to this conversation but in very simple terms, there’s two big phases of getting financially naked. There’s the 101 level, which is really, when you’re just starting to date someone and you’re having to navigate, often subtle conversations about money and it could be who is paying for the dates.

If you get a little bit further along in the relationship, what type of lifestyle are you leading? What kind of dates do you go on? And looking at birthdays, Christmas, other holidays, how much money do we spend on each other? Those are all context clues about how your partner relates to money that you can be picking up along the way. And it’s also just those small conversations you do have to start having earlier on in a relationship.

But I consider it the 201 level or as I like to say, full frontal financial nudity, needs to be achieved when you realize that this is someone you could marry. And for people who don’t want to get married, then this is somebody who you are likely to cohabitate with and be in a relationship with for a very long time. And at that point, it all has to get bared.

You’re talking your debt, exactly how much there is, where it is, credit scores, credit reports. I would also say unpacking your emotional baggage when it comes to money. That’s a very helpful thing for your partner to know about you and for you to know about yourselves, as well as your income, your overall net worth, and your financial goals that you have coming up. Those are all conversations that need to be had.

Not all in one go. I think that’s a common misconception about getting financially naked, is people feel they have to lay all of this out in the first conversation. No, no. This could be an evolving process. You don’t have to do it all at once. But there’s also how you do it, is the next question I always get asked.

How do you get financially naked? How do you start that conversation? Well first, I would say you need to reflect on what you want to talk to your partner about. What are you comfortable saying on this rare first go-around at this conversation. What are you comfortable sharing and what you need to know or want to know from your partner.

Then we need to tell your partner that this conversation is coming because from personal experience, I can tell you starting it by saying hey, how much student loan debt do you have? It’s not going to yield the greatest results. Give them some time to get them into a mental headspace that this is what we’re going to talk about.

And pick a time and a date to have the conversation, preferably at home, preferably no roommates around. Definitely no parents around. You don’t want to be doing this out at a restaurant because it can get tense but also do you really want to be talking about this when the people next to you could easily be eavesdropping. So just have it in a very intimate environment.

And then once you start, the actual way to start the conversation, you can go a few different routes—one is to acknowledge that it’s awkward and uncomfortable and say something like hey, I think this is a very important part of the next step in our relationship but I feel a little awkward about it. How do you feel? They can share and then you can jump off onto whatever question you have first.

Or my personal favorite, to backdoor into the conversation, is to go with the positives and say, what’s a financial goal that you have in the next five years? Your partner tells you and then you say, and what’s standing in your way of achieving that goal? A really subtle, easy way to get into the debt conversation.

Because that’s how your partner can either acknowledge, I have student loan debt, I have credit card debt, whatever it is. And whether or not you share numbers on the very first go-around is your choice but eventually you do need to have that information.

Especially if you think this is somebody you’re going to get married to. I’m not saying that debt is a deal-breaker. My fiancé has a not insignificant amount of student loan debt. So it’s just something that you need to have a conversation about and be completely aware of the situation going in.

Mindy: Okay, so when do you bring it up? You told us how but when? Are you talking about money on your first date? Are you talking about money on the fifth date? It’s been a while. I’ve been married forever. And we never talked about money.

And I think I picked up on those context clues you were talking about. He used a coupon on our first date. I was like oh wow, that’s cool. And we did cheap things because we were young but also because we were both kind of cheap. So when do you bring up money? When did you bring up money with Pete?

Erin: The very, very first time I got financially naked, we had probably been together for about a year and a half or two years. So we met in college. We dated my senior year, his junior year, and then I graduated and then we went into a long-distance relationship that we were in for over four years.

So once the long-distance relationship was going well and I saw longevity here, I didn’t think right at that moment, this is someone I’m going to marry, but I thought this has potential so I need to have this conversation because it’s important for us to be on the same page about finances.

We don’t have to be the same person. He’s still more of a spender and I’m still more of a saver but we have to have open and honest communication about it. And that’s when I say I didn’t do it tactfully. I just randomly brought it up one day and said, hey, how much student loan debt do you have? Because I knew he had some and at some point, that had come out.

Probably honestly, when we were still in college because a lot of people would talk about it. That wasn’t really so much of a taboo conversation of whether or not people had student loans because honestly the assumption generally was, everyone had them. So people didn’t necessarily share the number but just acknowledged the fact that they had them.

So when I wanted to know the actual amount, I just asked out of the blue, which do as I say, not as I did sort of situation.

Mindy: So was he able to just come out with it?

Erin: Interestingly enough, he didn’t know the answer to that question. So he told me a number but he was guessing. And there are a variety of reasons. Partly, it was that his parents had some of the student loan debt and that he was going to take that back from them so he didn’t know how much they had and he hadn’t checked in a while so he knew what a balance had been at one point in time but not since interest had been accruing.

So yeah, he told me a number and then we came back to the conversation maybe five months down the road and the number had significantly inflated. And I was like, hold on. That’s not what I was told last time. He was like yeah I honestly didn’t really know. So that was also a whole other conversation.

Scott: No, I think that’s a really good point and I think that’s probably much more common than people think because I’ve met many of my friends and colleagues that I meet with through various clubs and sports that I’m associated with, know that I’m good with money and all that kind of stuff. And sometimes, they’ll ask me for advice on these things. And literally this comes up quite a bit where people actually do not know how much money they have, where it is, where it’s spread out.

They’ll know how much they make, but they don’t know how much their debts are, where they’ve piled up, and this is kind of actually a fairly common thing, particularly with student loans where they can be scattered in various different collections places. I think it’s a fascinating discussion when you think hey, you’re listening to the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

You probably know these things if you’ve gotten through this many episodes and are listening to our conversation with Erin here. But many people really don’t know this stuff and honestly, they don’t. So you have to bring it up and give them time, I think, maybe to actually get these answers prior to these conversations.

Mindy: Yeah, and if you’re listening right now and you don’t know how much debt you have, do yourself a favor and go and look at it because not knowing doesn’t make it go away. Not knowing doesn’t make it get smaller. It just makes you not know. You have to know how much there is so you can start formulating a plan to get rid of it, if that’s your goal, which I’m assuming it is because you’re listening to this show.

Erin: Yeah, that’s actually my number one money mantra is that you have two choices in life when it comes to money. Either you control money or money controls you. It’s really that simple. And so, I always say, because people ask what’s the first step for you to control your money, so you have to face the numbers. You cannot make any informed decisions in your financial life if you do not have all of the information. And a huge part of that information is how much debt do I have? Where is it? What are the interest rates?

Scott: Yeah, I think part of—I think that’s a great quote. Either you control your money or your money controls you and correlated to that is eventually if your money controls you, you’re going to be embarrassed. I would imagine that Pete is a little embarrassed when he was unable to tell you the numbers behind this and had to go look them up and change that later. That’s a tough situation from a mental perspective.

Erin: Which ties into one of my other key themes of getting financially naked. You have to have an excellent poker face. And I saw this because think about it in the context of if you got physically naked in front of another human being and that person laughed at you, what are the odds that you’re going to get naked in front of them again? Probably slim to none.

So it’s the same with your money. If your partner is sharing something with you, this is a previous choice that your partner made. It might have been a mistake. It might not have been. It could have been circumstantial but please do not have a reaction on your face or scoff or make a snarky comment or anything.

Have a complete poker face about it because you want your partner to be able to continue to be open and honest money conversations with you and vice versa. So you have to remain neutral in this context of getting everything out into the open because otherwise they may start hiding things from you and that is also of course problematic in the future.

Scott: Really good advice.

Mindy: That’s excellent advice.

Scott: Okay, so what I’m hearing here is you have to have these open conversations, have a poker face, get the information. And then what do you do once you have that information? What if your partner has a financial position that reflects past behavior or choices that are not in line with your values? How do you approach that situation?

Erin: So there’s a few different strategies here. If your partner made prior mistakes but clearly has exhibited behaviors that those have been rectified, then that’s what matters. What matters is the now. So if your partner had medical debt that went to collections or had credit card debt that there’s a payment plan and they have not gotten into credit card debt since, then everything is as it should be. That’s really what you need to focus on, is the current behaviors.

Now, if there continue to be red flags for years and your partner isn’t making an effort to change, that’s when you have to have a very different conversation with yourself and with your partner and decide if you want to continue in this relationship. Because truthfully, money can easily break up a relationship and a marriage. It’s one of the number one factors in divorce.

So you want to be putting yourself in a scenario where you have open, honest communication. You have made every efforts to have this healthy conversation. Maybe you brought in a CFP. Maybe you brought in a financial therapist. You wanted to identify underlying emotional baggage triggers. There’s so much to think about when you’re talking about unpacking money behaviors.

But if you have made every in good faith effort to correct your own issues and your partner just isn’t coming on board, you do have to make a tough decision. But like I said, debt should not necessarily be a deal breaker. It could be symptomatic of something your partner has already handled or your partner just might be on the path to get it done.

I graduated debt-free. It was hugely important to me. But I’m marrying somebody who has student loan debt so it’s still going to be a contender in my life. It was not a reason to throw away our relationship. Because he brings so much value to the relationship and is so much more than just his debt number and frankly, it’s something we can easily take care of as a team.

Now, I haven’t put a penny towards it now. I won’t until after we get married. That’s a conversation, different strokes for different folks. I know some people once they get engaged, start helping a fiancé pay it down. To me, until we are legally bound to one another, I’m not going to do that. I think we’ll get married but you just never know.

People think that I am way too cynical and he thinks I’m way too cynical at times, but things happen. You just don’t know until you’re actually in the situation. So yeah, I would say don’t throw away a relationship just because of past behaviors, especially if current behaviors are good.

The other thing, too, is the next step is to create a game plan. You have fared your numbers. You have it all out there. If you are not married or don’t intend to be married or don’t intend to do joint financing, those can be individual goals but you can be each other’s accountability buddies. You could still have monthly money meetings, check in on how the other one is doing.

That’s pretty much how Pete and I have functioned up until this point. Because we’re getting married in four months, we have started to change our language to “our”, even  in terms of student loan debt. I usually say ours instead of his or yours. And that’s just a way for us to think about it as a team because that’s how we plan to attack finances after we’re married. And we have a game plan in place for how we’re going to handle our student loan debt, how we’re going to handle our investments for short, medium, and long-term goals.

And it’s also an evolving conversation. The goals that we had three years ago are not the same as the goals we have today because now we know we want to live in New York City for at least the next ten years. Now we know how many kids we’re interested in probably having. Now we know when we want to start a family and those factors have very much changed how we’re approaching our finances.

Scott: I think that this is all really good advice and really good perspective. I think that when it comes to money, like financial freedom or building wealth is something you can do in a few years of hard work, making the hard choices, right? The relationship is for life, right? The goal of these relationships, when you’re looking to get married, is a lifetime commitment, which is far more important than financial considerations, unless the financial philosophy is so different that that’s going to threaten the relationship.

Like if one person has a philosophy of building wealth and moving toward financial freedom at any rate and the other person’s philosophy is to spend more than they make. That’s when I think you start having these diversions and it sounds like that’s what you’re saying. Get on the same page. Understand the goals. If a behavior is moving in a positive direction, you can work with that and the relationship can be strong. But if that’s not happening, that’s when you’d have to have the conversation about, is this a relationship deal breaker?

Erin: Yeah, so true. I actually just shared on social media the other day with permission from Pete, because every time I share information about him, I ask for his permission since he didn’t ask to be a “public figure”. You know, this is a great example in terms of work ethic that that is what I’ve always admired about him. He has his student loan debt from undergrad.

He cash flowed his master’s. So he figured out how to get a job that would pay enough to cash flow a master’s degree. He lived at home during that time so that he could pay it all off and that small decision, which was three or four years ago, is one of the ways I knew this is someone I can definitely marry. Like, student loan debt be damned.

He figured it out, how to cash flow his master’s and then now, he’s a teacher. He has opportunities, they call it procession, but essentially, overtime work. So that could be coaching, grading regions test, prepping kids for different tests, where you still make overtime. He has picked up so much of that this year that he has met all of his short-term financial goals and shaved an extra $2,000 off one of the principal balances of one of his student loans in three months.

So that, to me, is an example of yes, past financial behaviors are not always indicative of future and it does come down to other things like work ethic. He was not in a position to be able to go to the same college. We went to the same college. He wasn’t in a position to be able to go there and come out debt-free. His family comes from different socioeconomic situation as my family. So why is that going to be a reason that we don’t get married?

And I’ve had a very interesting conversation with a woman one time who said, is it okay to date someone with student loan debt? I was like, girlfriend, if you don’t, you’re drastically limiting your dating pool options, first of all. But second of all, I think you have to consider why is the student loan debt there? How much is there? What is the earning potential? How are the loans being handled? There are so many factors at play but to write off anyone who has student loan debt is quite short-sighted and narrow-minded in my opinion.

Mindy: Yeah, that’s not something I would even consider. I mean like if I met somebody—I’m married so I’m not going to meet anybody but if I had met somebody who had significant crippling credit card debt, that would be something that would give me pause. But student loan debt, you get for a different reason.

I mean, if you have $200,000 in student loan debt and you’re working as a barista at Starbucks, why do you have $200,000 in student loan debt? Did you not finish your schooling? There’s some issues at play but just to blanketly write it off, that’s kind of ugly.

So let’s look at a slightly different way to look at this relationship and money thing. Let’s go to past the point of no return. Let’s get somebody who has maybe recently discovered this concept of financial independence but they’re already partnered up. They want to pursue financial independence. How do they broach this subject with their partner who may not have discovered it yet, may not be anywhere close to the same page? How do you start that conversation?

Erin: I would say you can just, first, express your interest in what has gotten you jazzed about it but don’t assume that’s going to translate to your partner. So share what you’re liking and why you’re liking it, just like you would with anything. Pete loves the Buffalo Bills. I could give many expletives don’t care about football. But I will watch a game with him because he cares about it. So I think to a degree, you can just indulge your partner in that sense.

However, in terms of getting someone on board, that’s a whole different conversation. I would say, your starting point is you know your partner. You know how your partner ticks, how your partner learns. Find someone or something within that niche community that you think will appeal to your partner.

So if you’re reading one blog or digesting one podcast that might be really far on the extreme frugality spectrum and you know that’s never going to speak to my partner, find somebody who is a little more moderate, maybe has more of a similar vibe that your partner does and introduce your partner that way. Be like hey, it would really mean a lot to me if you listened to this particular episode of this podcast or read this particular blog post. And see if that’s just a way you can get him or her to buy in on the concept.

I would also say, if you get really dogmatic about something, you cannot assume that your partner is just going to jump on board with you right away. So don’t try to shove them in. Bring up subtle reasons about why it’s important, why it matters to you. And like, it’s a slow boil.

You can bring people over for tea eventually and honestly, maybe they never will. Maybe they’re never just going to whatever version of FIRE you are and whatever version of trying to achieve financial independence. Maybe they want to be on the “slow track” and just work their job until retirement. But I’m willing to bet that you can bring up a few case studies that will change their mind. You just have to find the right ones. And I think that’s key.

And also, this is another example of your inner relationship with people change over the course of decades in a marriage or in a long-term relationship. And if you’re changing in one direction and your partner is changing in another and you’re not meeting in the middle and you’re not finding common ground, that’s going to be problematic in the future.

So you do need to find a way that you can be growing together. You don’t have to be the same person by any means but you need to find a way to be growing together and have a unified goal that you’re trying to achieve, especially when it comes to your money. So maybe you need to compromise a little bit and your partner needs to compromise a little and find somewhere in the middle that you can be pushing towards that same dream.

Mindy: And now, it’s time for the Famous Four questions. These are the same four questions that we ask every guest. There’s actually five because Scott doesn’t know how to count. But I’d like to get these answers. I really like the first one. What is your favorite finance book? And I like this question because there’s so many that I’ve never heard of before and I like to think that I’m really well-informed. I guess, I know—Scott, do you have a copy of Erin’s favorite finance book?

Scott: I do have a copy of the book. I don’t have it with me but I have read it and I particularly like Chapter 13, I believe.

Mindy: Is that the financially frontal nudity or whatever?

Erin: Financially naked?

Scott: No, I think that’s one of the chapters that has a story from me in it. So I was plugging myself very indiscreetly. This is a fantastic, well-written book that is an incredible intro to personal finance and a masterpiece by Erin. So you want to talk a little bit about that real quick?

Mindy: Yeah, I’m going to talk about it real quick because what I like about this book so much, and Erin can’t really be like, oh this is such a well-written book. But I can say that because I didn’t write it. It’s a really well-written book. It’s interesting. It is not preachy at all. None of it comes over holier than thou or you’re such a bad person because you don’t know enough about money and I know everything. It’s really entertaining to read. You’re an excellent writer, Erin. I’m sorry, what is the name of your favorite finance book, Erin?

Erin: Thank you for all of your praise. It’s Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together. But I will also give you my two other answers that I would say, since I shouldn’t share my own book as my favorite personal finance book.

The two that I really like, and I’ve gifted to people a la Tim Ferriss style, is the first one is The Thin Green Line by Paul Sullivan which is a book about how the wealthy stay wealthy, which is very interesting and it’s a lot of—he was a reporter for the New York Times so it’s a very kind of gets behind the door and in the room of a couple of big deal groups and people and it’s a very interesting look into wealth.

And one of my other favorite ones is by Farnoosh Tarabi, When She Makes More because it’s very specifically written towards breadwinning women, which I am, and I think it’s just a very helpful guide in terms of how to navigate that in talking about relationships and money. It’s another one of my favorite topics, especially when you’re looking at traditional heteronormative and heterosexual relationships.

There’s a lot of conversation about what that means and unfortunately, a lot of statistics right now that exist that say that if the woman out-earns the man, it’s a higher indicator for divorce now. I think a big part of that can easily be handled by having open and honest conversation about it early. I think it also depends about your dynamic going into the marriage.

So going into my marriage, I already am the breadwinner so it’s not like there is going to be a flip, necessarily, if I ever started out-earning him. But I can understand where at certain points in a relationship, it can be really tough if one partner all of a sudden starts to eclipse the other, if you’re used to one certain type of dynamic. So it’s just an interesting look at that.

Scott: Those are great two books that we don’t hear very frequently and I am particularly interested in this Thin Green Line because I’ve never heard of that and it sounds like a fascinating study. So I’m going to have to personally check that one out.

Mindy: Yeah, I was thinking of you.

Erin: It’s a really good one.

Scott: After I reread Broke Millennial, of course.

Erin: Of course. Yeah he actually mentions a group called the Tiger 21 Club in there and that has been one of my new financial life goals, is you have to have a minimum net worth of $10 million dollars in order to be eligible to join the Tiger 21 Club. So now I really want to hit that metric. And most people in it did not inherit their wealth, which I think is another interesting factoid about that group.

And without too many spoilers, one of the things they do is a portfolio defense, so you have to lay bare all of your information to your fellow members and they pick and slash you apart based primarily on are you doing what you say you do and you say that you give to charity but your portfolio doesn’t reflect that, and things like that. So it’s kind of an interesting thought in terms of how the wealthy stay wealthy and how they defend their wealth.

Scott: That is very fascinating and this is a whole topic of discussion that I like to philosophize about sometimes is America has this big problem with this fictional character that we’ve created where they are spoiled inheritor of tens of millions of dollars in wealth. Yet this person doesn’t exist in mass. 80% of millionaires are self-made.

This stat has held true for generations, since Millionaire Next Door and I assume is backed up in this Green Line book from what you’re talking about, is most people are self-made. Yet, everyone seems to hate this fictitious super minority person that’s inherited an incredible amount of wealth. I think it’s fascinating. I think it’s a fascinating scapegoat for a lot of things. I can go on this one all day. We’ll have to have another podcast where we go into depth about this philosophy.

What was your biggest money mistake?

Erin: I said I love talking about wealth. So along the lines of wealth and biggest money mistake, I unfortunately don’t have like a super fun one for everybody. I think it’s probably no surprise given the stories I’ve been sharing about how I handled my money as a kid and how my parents taught me about money.

I would say one of my biggest mistakes was not investing sooner because I’ve had the flexibility to do so and my parents, especially my dad, tried his damndest to get me to invest at an early age to a point where I believe I was a junior in high school, so my sister would have been in eighth grade and she decided to invest some of her money in China Mobile because we were living in China at the time and she thought that that stock would take off and spoiler, it did.

And so my sister, as an eighth grader, was doing a better job at investing. And I was like, I’ll deal about this in the future and I felt way more comfortable with my money in savings, well really, in a checking account. So I really do wish I had started getting on the investing train sooner.

Mindy: This is—when you say, oh I don’t really have a big story, this is actually a really big one, is not investing sooner. You can’t really go back and change the past. You can’t. There’s no really about it. You can’t go back and change the past. So I want to share with people who are listening, start investing. You don’t have to pick stocks and choose bonds and you know, do all of this stuff.

Go to an index fund. Like JL Collins said in Episode 20—we will have links to all of these episodes that we’ve mentioned in the Show Notes for this show, which is BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow24. But throw some money at an index fund. There are several index funds to choose from. I don’t even know how many. Somebody sent me an email the other day and he was like, I’ve got 20 different index funds. I was like, I didn’t realize there were so many indexes. But pick one.

Erin: I have mine in three.

Mindy: Pick one general one. There’s a tech fund index fund. Pick something and start investing and then do some research on what you want to invest in later on but starting sooner—the sooner you start, the more time you have for your wealth. Not that you did a bad thing.

Erin: Oh, it’s true. I will also plug right now that Broke Millennial Takes on Investing in Beginner’s Guide to Leveling Up Your Money is my next book that will be on shelves April 2019. Just throwing that out there. Because investing is the next part of this conversation and that’s why I wanted my second book to be about it and specifically about as a true rookie, a true beginner, how do I get started. And looking at it millennial issues like hey, I have student loans. Should I be investing? Can I be investing? And really looking at it from a millennial perspective.

I will also say I think the other issue is looking at things like retirement savings. So many people open that up, look at all of the options, and get so overwhelmed, it’s kind of paradox of choice. They just don’t make a decision and click out and don’t go back to looking at investing and into a retirement plan until way later. So bare minimum, all in one fund, target date fund, or whatever you want to call it.

There is varied opinions in our industry about whether or not you should use one but if you can’t figure out what to do, at least start and at least be putting your money in the market and not just having it sit in cash. That’s a good way to get started. You can always go back in later and reallocate it and rediversify your portfolio.

Mindy: Perfect. Great advice. Excellent. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out? So I guess we kind of just covered that.

Erin: I would say definitely take advantage of an employer-matched 401K if you have the option. But my piece of advice is so simple. I said earlier, you control money or money controls you. So the only way that you can control it is to start by facing your numbers and the best way to do that is run your cash flow. How much money is coming in? How much money is going out? So you have a true understanding, month to month, of how much money you have to spend and where it’s going.

But I would also say try on a few different styles of budgeting. There are so many options out there. So if you try on one that doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. Quit it and do something else. So keep tweaking that until you find one that works for you and your lifestyle and your value systems. And honestly, it’s going to evolve over time. The way I budget now is very different from how I budgeted at 21, 22, 23. So be flexible and open about how you’re going to be living your financial life.

Scott: Awesome. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Erin: Okay, so if you have children in the car, it doesn’t use a dirty word but I will say, context of my life right now, Pete and I are both Catholic so we both had to go through Pre-Cana in order to get married in a Catholic church. For anyone who doesn’t know, that is essentially pre-marital counseling in order to potentially get married in the church.

Some of which is valuable. They talk about money, they talk about issues that might arise in your relationship, but they really focus on this thing called natural family planning. Which means you don’t use contraception and you just understand the woman’s fertility cycles.

So my current favorite joke is, do you know what you call a woman who practices natural family planning? A mom.

Mindy: I have heard that one before many times because I grew up in a very Catholic area. And lots of my friends had lots and lots of siblings.

Scott: Are you saying it doesn’t work?

Erin: I’m saying my mom is seventh of nine and my dad is sixth of six. That is all I’m saying about it. Although apparently that was deliberate. But I don’t know.

Scott: It’s good advice. It makes more Catholics.

Erin: That’s their point.

Scott: I am also a Catholic but I have not gone through this advice training. One day.

Erin: Pre-Cana is an interesting experience. I do appreciate that they try to pinpoint issues and you have to take the compatibility test and finances is actually a big part of that, which I think is very helpful. But yeah, there were definitely parts of it that were like, okay, that’s cute. I’m not listening to this.

Mindy: That’s cute. Okay. Erin, where can people find out more about you?

Erin: You can find me online, BrokeMillennial.com is my website. I am on Twitter. @BrokeMillennial. Instagram, @BrokeMillennialBlog. Facebook, too, but I’ll be honest, my Facebook is not as active as my Twitter and my Instagram. I also have a YouTube Show called The Three-Minute Guide, which is on the Financial Diet YouTube Channel. It’s every Thursday. It’s a financial topic in three minutes or less. It’s always three minutes, just so you know. It’s never less.

And then also my book. My book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s if you’re in Portland. A lot of indie book stores. Pretty much wherever your books are sold, you should be able to find it. And if it’s not there, you should request that they get it in. Or your library. A lot of libraries have it and if yours doesn’t, you should definitely ask them to order it.

Mindy: I’m going to go check my library and see if they’ve got it and ask them.

Erin: You should. I really get excited when people share pictures with it being in their library. I’m like, ahh. Obviously, I’d like the royalty but yay that you have it.

Mindy: Awesome. Well, Erin, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to us about money and relationships. I think it’s really important to talk about money and it could be a difficult discussion to start but if you’re already in love with this person, there’s a lot of incentives to keep the love going.

Erin: Absolutely. And thank you guys so much for having me. This was fun.

Scott: Thank you, Erin. This was great.

Mindy: Okay, we’ll talk to you later.

Scott: All right, that was Erin Lowry from Broke Millennial. Author, blogger extraordinaire, and expert on finance and all things millennial and money-related, including relationships and getting financially naked. That was a very fun podcast. I liked that one.

Mindy: That is fun. Did you see Erin smile like the entire time? When she walks into a room, she just lights it up. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met and she’s just a genuinely caring soul.

Scott: Yeah, and she nailed it when it came to talking about financial terms. And somebody above her, in the apartment above was doing some nailing of their own from a construction project.

Mindy: Yes, I’m sorry for the whompy sound in the last 15 minutes or so of the show. She had made arrangements with the landlord to stop working on the apartment above her for an hour and then they started right up on the dot, they started back up again.

Scott: Yep. I think we could still hear very clearly, the information she is providing. So hopefully that was not too much of a distraction but we’re sorry about that and we try to avoid those sound issues.

Mindy: Yes. So I’m sorry about that, too. But yeah, her information is so helpful and so spot on and you know, I think it’s really important, it comes from someone in a relationship right now who does have a different perspective on money than her significant other. So here’s how we did it and this is how it worked for us. And that’s really helpful.

Scott: I thought it was great and I thought it was a great perspective and great way to phrase it. Obviously, she knows what she’s talking about.

Mindy: Yes, she’s very, very knowledgeable. Okay, Scott, shall we say goodbye to our listeners today?

Scott: Sounds good. Goodbye, listeners.

Mindy: Goodbye. Okay, from Episode 24 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, this is Mindy Jensen, over and out.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Erin’s early money memories
  • Her college journey
  • Saving up $10, 000 after she graduated
  • Her life in New York after she graduated from college
  • The way birth order affected her
  • Doing freelance writing jobs
  • How she found MagnifyMoney
  • On building her own blog
  • Her mindset on relationships and money
  • How to get financially naked with your partner
  • Key aspects of getting financially naked
  • Approaching a financial position with your partner that’s not congruent with your values
  • How to pursue financial independence if you are already married
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “I gave up going to my dream school so I could live my dream life.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Do as I say, not as I did.” (Tweet This!)
  • “You have two choices in life when it comes to money, either you control money or money controls you.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Past financial behaviors are not always indicative of future.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Erin

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.