Are Your Financial Boundaries Strong Enough?

Podcast cover art for the If Money Were Easy Podcast

If Money Were Easy

Hosted by Mary Beth Storjohann and Neela Hummel

Are Your Financial Boundaries Strong Enough?

If Money Were Easy
If Money Were Easy
Are Your Financial Boundaries Strong Enough?
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Episode Summary

Today we’re diving into an important topic, one that’s often overlooked: the strength of your financial boundaries. We’ll discuss the benefits of separate health insurance and retirement plans for dual-income couples, the significance of aligning your spending with your personal values, and the influence of societal pressure on our financial decisions.  We’ll also delve into big costs, like housing, transportation, childcare, and health insurance. Additionally, we’ll address the complex task of planning for intergenerational care and financial responsibilities while highlighting the importance of setting boundaries. 

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Setting boundaries in a variety of areas of your life
  • The financial consequences that occur for women when neglecting self-care
  • One of the biggest challenges when setting boundaries
  • How to navigate priorities to mirror your boundaries
  • How a wealth divide among family members can make boundaries a challenge
  • The importance of having a financial planner to discuss finances with your partner
  • How to have healthy relationships and healthy boundaries with your partner
  • The balance dual income couples need to find with careers, family support, finances and household dynamics
  • Why you and your partner should examine and discuss spending habits
  • Society has a lot of expectations of us; are they always what we want?
  • The reason it is critical to choose yourself over what society tells you
  • The results that will come when you do the self-reflection and the work

Resources Mentioned on the Show:

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Transcript of the Episode

Mary Beth [00:00:14]:

Hey there. Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast, the show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money. We’re your hosts Mary Beth Storjohann 

Neela [00:00:23]:

and Neela Hummel,

Mary Beth [00:00:24]:

certified financial planners and co CEOs of Abacus Wealth Partners. Today on the show, we’re talking about are your financial boundaries strong enough? 

Neela [00:00:35]:

So boundaries. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. I feel like I’ve been reading a lot about boundaries and would love to turn it over to you on what are boundaries. 

Mary Beth [00:00:47]:

So boundaries, I was just saying, I think is the new B word. Instead of budget, we’ll talk about boundaries. 

Neela [00:00:52]:

Upgrade of the B word. 

Mary Beth [00:00:55]:

Right? Boundaries, I think, are up for interpretation for anybody, but it’s really about having expectations and needs and being really clear in those to make sure that we’re comfortable in our relationships. So the boundaries in general is personal, just like financial planning is personal. Boundaries are going to be personal to you and your situation. And the thing that’s come up lately for me that I’ll just jump right into why this is even a topic, I’ve been on my own journey probably for the past three to four months now. I had a sabbatical, was very much nervous about taking said sabbatical because it was actually going away from work for six weeks. And that was the longest time that I had ever taken off of work since I was 15 years old when I actually sat down to think about it. And being unplugged from work turned my attention to personal life. We joke that we’re moms with young kids and we juggle a lot and we almost have to crack jokes and be self-deprecating to survive it. And then when I shut down work, I looked at personal life and I realized, oh no, there’s so much going on. And my body actually kind of reacted for me. Since the sabbatical, I have gone down this journey of boundary setting. And so I found this book. I came across it, which a lot of people may already know about. It’s called “Set Boundaries, Find Peace” by Nedra Glover Tawwab. And she has an amazing Instagram presence online. But I bought her book and the workbook. And so for her, just straight from her book, it says her definition of boundaries. “Boundaries are expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships. Expectations and relationships help you to stay mentally and emotionally well. Learning when to say no and when to say yes is also an essential part of feeling comfortable when interacting with others.” So that’s boundaries.

Neela [00:02:34]:

So diving into that book and I got also just a plug for the Instagram post on Mary Beth’s profile. Please read it because it’s so profound and I’m always learning from Mary Beth. And this is another area where I was like, yes, we’re boundary-ing. Let’s do the boundaries.

Mary Beth [00:02:51]:

We’re doing it. 

Neela [00:02:52]:

We’re doing it. I’m going to buy the book and the workbook, but what’s come out of this process for you in the book, in recognizing where boundaries show up in your life?

Mary Beth [00:03:02]:

Yeah, I think it’s really interesting. And so we’re going to talk more today about actual financial boundaries, right, which we talk about as financial planners quite a bit in how do you give your kids an allowance or not overdo it, not spoil the kids, how do you make sure you’re not overhelping family and those sorts of things. And so we’ll talk about that. But what really came up for me is this people pleasing mentality that I have and that I’ve carried with me and integrated since I was young. And this overachieving aspect that I have of myself and having to dig into where that came from. I have been academically gifted of sorts. I was in GATE as a child. That’s where they put the quote unquote gifted children. Academics was always my thing. And so once school hit, that was where I overachieved. I am not a sports person. I bump into walls daily, just for the record. Academics is where I doubled down. That’s what I got. And so there and then I transferred that. I got my first job at 15, and I have worked ever since. And so this idea of overachieving in school, I then transferred that, paid my way through college to overachieving college, and then in career, this idea of continuing to over excel. And then at the same time, this idea of just being in service to others. Right. We are financial planners. We are in service to clients,

Neela [00:04:11]:

literally our job. 

Mary Beth [00:04:12]:

And it’s our job, right. And so it’s really interesting digging into this and then seeing how it folds into everyday life. Prior to my coming to Abacus, I had my own business working mom, young toddlers at home, you can scroll through history of my Instgram, you know, lots of humble posts about the comedy behind it, but you lose yourself, right? I found myself feeling so much guilt and shame as a mom. I really did. As I was running my business. And even still today as a mom, it was really hard for me to make those decisions of I’m not a birthday party person. So let me just say that here, I’m not a birthday party person. I’m not a park person either. For the kids. There’s a couple of things I just don’t enjoy, which is like more than like three to four kids screaming. Running around is not my cup of tea. So I’ll go with the parents and we can socialize. But that’s an example. My husband will take the kids to birthday parties sometimes if we don’t go together. And then I’ll opt out to give myself peace of mind. And I’m taking the time at home, but then I’ll feel bad. I’ll make myself feel bad about not going, that I should go. And so these ideas of even when I chose myself, I didn’t feel good about it. And I realized I had trained my brain into these things of, oh, I’m going to try and set a boundary, but I wouldn’t even give myself permission to feel good about that boundary. And then there was plenty of times where I just didn’t have the boundaries. I didn’t use my voice to say what I wanted or needed. It was all subconscious. I was trying to control and be in service of and almost like, fix other people’s problems before I could focus on my own. My whole life, I don’t think I’ve been very good about putting my own oxygen mask on first. Right? Very much have been focused on the clients, the service with Abacus, like, very much focused on our employees, making sure everybody is good. Family, you have kids, you have a spouse, like, you got family of origin dynamics. So there was so much going on. And work has been my distraction place where I overachieve, has been where I could control. And so it was really interesting to put the work down for six weeks like we talked about. I joked, I was like, I’m afraid the breakdown is going to come when I put work down. And you know what it did? It came two days before I came back to work, seriously. But it came that week and everybody was like, was it because you’re going back to work? And it wasn’t that. It was that all of the personal stuff basically had I turned to see and I realized there was so much that was kind of on autopilot that wasn’t working. Very easy to point fingers as to be like, okay, these external, husband needs to change or kids need to do things, or external, like all of these things. I can point fingers, but I also carry the weight of that blame. I carry that as well because I’m not advocating for myself. I have my own bad habits and patterns that I’ve been working off of. So I think it’s been a really interesting journey over the past three to four months. It’s funny, we’re talking about boundaries in the finance side, and so we’ll talk about the financial impact of those. But this lack of boundaries in our personal lives, especially as women, there’s so many messed up societal expectations of women, it is mind blowing. And we’ll reference some books in the follow up notes too, of some other great resources here. But societal expectations for moms and working moms, like, excel in your career. 

Mary Beth [00:07:13]:

Be of service to others, though. Look out for yourself because you’re in charge of that. But also, if you don’t play with the team well, then you’re in trouble. Fold yourself into a pretzel for the kids. Go to the party you’ve been invited to where it’s like potluck. And don’t bring something that store bought because people are going to look at you. And then also make sure you’re attractive for your spouse. But also if you’re the breadwinner, make sure that they’re not too emasculated, because you got to hold up those societal standards. 

Neela [00:07:36]:

layer upon layer upon layer.

Mary Beth [00:07:38]:

Layer. And then you’re like, oh, crap, it’s crazy. And so wrapping up this midlife crisis before 40, but I’m really not a midlife crisis. It’s a midlife transformation, but kind of like blowing up those expectations and thinking like, what do I want from me? Recognizing all these systems that I am a part of, right. That society puts these expectations. It doesn’t mean I have to play the game. There’s ways that by choosing to put myself first and putting boundaries up, that is radical self-acceptance and radical self-care. And that sets change in motion for my kids, for my family, for Abacans, for our employees that are modeling. And so that’s where it’s at right now. But when we don’t choose ourselves first, the financial impact is there more women, like 50% more women. I don’t know if that stat is totally accurate, but more women than men are diagnosed with anxiety and depression. That’s just a stat right there. So we end up on medication. You end up having to pay for therapy, you end up out of the workforce for burnout. And so the financial impacts of having a lack of boundaries that add up over time or you end up giving away more money or supporting your family in ways that aren’t sustainable for you. And so the financial impact is not just, oh, you’re loaning too much money or you’re giving too much money. It adds up over time in terms of self-care, mental health, and those costs to support yourself over the long run. So that’s the true financial boundaries and financial components like boundaries are not just saying yes or no to spending and giving. It’s also making sure you’re saying yes or no for self-care components and putting yourself first in those ways that you’re able to. Because when you don’t, the trail continues. 

Neela [00:09:05]:

What comes up for me as you’re talking about this is that the more yeses you say and the more yeses you say to things that are not in accordance with your boundaries, your values, your financial values, whatever it is, is a no for something that maybe is because it’s kind of a zero sum game. You only have a finite amount of energy. And if you’re giving all of your yeses to things that aren’t in service of you and what you truly want, there’s nothing left. To your point there’s the financial piece in terms of what happens when you don’t set those good boundaries, but then it compounds over time in the way you interact with friends, in family, with your peer groups, with your friends. So I often think about boundaries as a form of respect. Self-respect. 

Mary Beth [00:09:51]:

Self respect. Yes. 

Neela [00:09:53]:

Self respect. And then also that clarity should make stronger relationships. 

Mary Beth [00:09:59]:

Yes. 

Neela [00:10:01]:

It has to. Right? 

Mary Beth [00:10:03]:

Right. It should. The thing that people avoid you avoid drawing boundaries out of fear of the response, out of fear of rejection, out of fear of making somebody angry. And especially as women, we grow up to be people, pleasers. We’re raised in this way, and it’s become such a pattern that we’re like, don’t shake that up, which is interesting, career wise, super easy if you and I come in, we take things by the horns. Like, we are ready to go have those boundaries. And then personal life, our family of origin dynamics, like when you rock the boat of drawing boundaries with parents or siblings or even friends who might take too much of your time, those are the ones that are kind of a little bit harder because they’re out of the context of those things. And if it wasn’t modeled for you growing up, then it’s harder. And that’s the interesting thing for me that as I’ve done this work is it is a matter of self-respect. But people avoid it because they’re afraid to rock the boat. And there’s a fear of rejection because when you draw boundaries, there’s a fear that you’re going to get rejected, kind of shunned from the family. You’re not included anymore. And what does that mean for you? And it shakes a lot of that foundation that’s kept you afloat.So it’s self-respect. And the more you do the work and inch towards it, though, the better. It might not go the way that you plan. It might go the way that you fear. And then if it goes the way that you fear, you’re prepared for that, right? Because you’ve thought it through and you’ve prepped in advance. Right. You’re not going in like just pick fights. You’re going in to self-preserve and protect yourself. And that’s the thing you have to keep in mind, because by staying in a toxic situation, that’s not great either. It’s not great for your long-term mental health. So keeping status quo versus drawing the boundaries the boundaries are the self-care. The status quo is what causes and leads to burnout. 

Neela [00:11:36]:

You said this before, but it’s easy to put issues on other people and blame a spouse or a family member. But at the end of the day, none of us has any control what anybody else can do. 

Mary Beth [00:11:47]:

Exactly. 

Neela [00:11:47]:

And so how can we make sure that our side of the street is clean? How can we self-advocate? And you’re right, it might not go the way we hope. It might go the way we fear. But at the end of the day, you put yourself first because you’ve at least advocated for what you need. No is a complete sentence. 

Mary Beth [00:12:04]:

Yeah. One of the things I’ve learned is drawing the boundaries, like, some have gone the way that I’ve expected and feared and others, other ways that I’ve expressed my needs and saying what I want have gone better than I could have imagined. Because as you alluded to the healthier relationships. When you say what you want and you allow people to meet your needs and fulfill those needs, it’s a healthier relationship all around because it’s give and take. It’s not just somebody that you just giving and somebody taking. You’re able to assert and share what you’re needing and you’re putting yourself as an active participant in that relationship, right? You’re not just passive and you’re not just actively pushing stuff down from yourself to the other person. Having two people at the table automatically typically results in that fulfilling relationship. 

Neela [00:12:44]:

So I feel like we should dig immediately into the meatiest topic related to boundaries, financial boundaries. And that’s financial boundaries as they relate to family because I feel like those are some of the trickiest ones and I think they also can be very different based on cultural expectations. Different communities have different expectations. And so we all carry different shoulds I should do this, I should do that. So when you think about it and this can go both personal as well as clients that you’ve worked with, what are some of the financial boundaries that you’ve seen people either struggle with and or successfully implement when it comes to the people that are closest to them?

Mary Beth [00:13:28]:

Yeah, so it’s a couple of different things. One of the things that’s come up for me a lot in working with clients, especially in working with those in their 20s, 30s, 40s like this middle, we call them builders here at Abacus. And working with that demographic is tithing, is one of them giving. And so when there’s a fixed percentage in mind or a fixed kind of obligation and mindset of how to do that, that can really impact a person’s financial success depending on where they’re at in their personal lives. And so that’s, actually through the book, when Neela and I have talked about this offline, there’s something called rigid boundaries, inflexible, and then there’s porous ones where they don’t actually exist and everything just flows right through you. We call those the Swiss cheese boundaries. And so tithing is a rigid one for many folks. And so that one is one of the ones that’s been interesting to kind of navigate around of, if that’s the priority and that’s the value these other things have to shift. So that’s one that’s interesting. The other one is this idea culturally helping parents, having to care for your parents or having to be financially responsible for parents or siblings as well. And what does that look like? And so one of the things that that’s come up quite often throughout my career and how do you put a boundary around that? How do you prepare in advance for that and how do you have those conversations? And so sometimes there’s such overwhelm around it and it’s really uncomfortable. But what I have found, especially the value in having a planner is I’m able to say here’s what you can afford to do. This is what you can afford to do based on a professional’s recommendation and opinion. If they need somebody else has to help contribute or something else needs to come to the table in order to make whatever this full number is to work. But in order for you to put your own oxygen mask on first, you first and then this is what you can allocate as surplus. And so that clarity for clients has been really empowering for them because it’s really about anticipation of care as well of what’s coming. Some are helping already currently but so what we’ve done in the past is actually had a separate savings account set up for those clients. They know it’s coming down the pipeline or it might be here and there. We have them do that fixed amount each month going forward just like you do for any other bucket. That’s the bucket they have for family care. They’re not pulling from their 401k or other things to do that. That’s the hardest part is like planning for the intergenerational care and how do you navigate around that and that is so personal. But it also can blow up your own financial plan if you don’t have the appropriate boundaries and if you’re shouldering it all yourself without the support of siblings. 

Neela [00:15:47]:

And a big nod to the communication around that. We did a session on questions you should be asking your parents in terms of what is the expectation in terms of the help that you may or may not need and just getting it out there. We talked about porous boundaries and rigid boundaries and if you put those on a spectrum, the porous boundaries are anytime anybody wants money, you give it to them, right? 100%. Whatever they need, you give it to them. And a rigid boundary is I never give or lend money ever. No matter what. And oftentimes there’s probably something in between depending on the circumstance, right? When does this make sense? And maybe I don’t lend in this capacity, but I lend in this capacity. And maybe I’m willing to help you put a down payment on a car or something like that, but I expect to be paid back, and I want to make sure that those expectations are communicated instead of it being this fuzzy agreement where people have different expectations of how this is going to go. Is this a gift? Is this a loan? 

Mary Beth [00:16:46]:

Yeah, exactly. One of the things just personally that I’ve gone through over the years is this idea of loaning family money and what that can do to somebody and the power dynamics that come into play there and the emotions around that. And so one of the commitments I made to myself about four years ago was that I do not loan family money, I do not loan money. I will gift money. I will gift money. And so if I do share it all it’s a gift form. I don’t expect to be paid back. And that gives me control and that keeps that boundary is up there for me. And then the other thing, as you just mentioned, it’s interesting when there’s a wealth divide, right? Especially when there’s one person in families who maybe their career goes on a different trajectory than what the environment they were raised in. There’s a little bit of excitement, there’s probably some guilt, there’s some responsibility, different mixed feelings that you carry with you. And so it’s really easy to feel compelled to buy all the things, pay for all the things, do all of the things. I’ve experienced it myself and then I’ve also seen it with clients as well. How do you put a boundary on that? Right? Because it can easily get out of control when you are that person who does all those things. And so being clear on what you’re willing to pay for, what you’re not willing to pay for, who in your family would you like to delight and spoil and treat, if anybody? Otherwise, what feels good? Do you feel good just saying no? Every time family goes out, I’m paying for that because I can do it, I can afford it. It feels great to me. No problems. Not going to even consider it. But hey, there’s a water heater that broke or something happened or a car broke down. Do I gift for that for those life expenses that pop up? Or do I say, this is the fixed bucket I have, this is what I’m doing? When you make those commitments though of having that boundary of what you will or will not do, it makes it a lot clearer for you. It’s hard to say no in those moments. The more that you repeat the boundary of what you are willing to do the more everybody kind of gets on that same page. You can’t go down the path of being an ATM either. And so being clear on what you’re willing to do and what feels good to you, right, feels good because you feel happy about it, not because you feel guilty and that you should do it. 

Neela [00:18:43]:

I want to really highlight something that you just hit on is instead of lending money ever, you are always in the driver’s seat. And so you’re getting rid of any expectations that anybody else might have of what you need to do. You maintain the control, you maintain the ultimate deciding factor. And that point, while subtle, is so important because we’ve seen it professionally, we’ve seen it go south with so many clients and people in our lives where there was money that was gifted. How many times have you sat down with a prospective client or a client and they talk about, well, I lent this friend. 

Mary Beth [00:19:19]:

The line item, the line item that may come back.

Neela [00:19:23]:

Outstanding personal loan to cousin Bob or friend loan to Sally Stevens. And you’re just like okay, how did that happen and what do we think about that? And you can’t talk about it without hearing resentment. 

Mary Beth [00:19:39]:

Exactly. The resentment you want to believe the best and whatever. I know lots of parents do loans for children for down payments and there’s ways to work it out, but really making sure that trust is there and that you’re in it for hey, if it doesn’t come back to you that you are okay. Right. I think that’s like the most advice I could have for a loan is if it doesn’t come back, you’re okay. Because when you go in with the expectation that it comes back, there’s a lot of feelings and dynamics involved there and there’s control. There’s control and power dynamics that come into play and it’s uncomfortable for all parties, really. So being mindful of that when you are doing those personal loans in any way, how would it feel if you were not paid back? Cosigning is almost the same thing depending if you’re cosigning for something hugely. 

Neela [00:20:20]:

Hugely, and I was going to bring that up. One of my personal boundaries is I don’t cosign for anything ever. 

Mary Beth [00:20:27]:

Now. Is that including the kids? Would you do the kids? 

Neela [00:20:29]:

Well, I mean, hopefully they’re not taking on credit yet because they’re seven and four and three. 

Mary Beth [00:20:36]:

You might your youngest, I think she might have some credit somewhere. 

Neela [00:20:40]:

She might. I think TBD on that. But I think at the end of the day, we know how expensive it can be to live with a bad credit score. You pay more for everything from car loans to mortgages to credit card interest, you name it. And so I guard my credit score like it is the Holy Grail. 

Mary Beth [00:21:01]:

You want to talk about like the A plus, the credit score? 

Neela [00:21:07]:

Absolutely. Because a poor credit score will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. Even if there was, you bring up kids like, let’s just say fast forward ten years from now and we decide to get a car for my oldest. Rather than cosign, I would rather take the whole loan on, know that I have the ability to pay that bill every single month whether I get paid or not, and have that person pay me. I would rather do that right. Any day of the week because I know what it takes to get a good credit score and I know what it takes to keep it. And one missed payment can throw the whole thing in the trash. 

Mary Beth [00:21:43]:

Yeah, you just reminded me. My 19 year old nephew just sent me a screenshot of his credit score this past week. It was so great to see and he was so excited about it and just like he’s learning how to look at it and understand how making payments impacts it and it was such a great, like, I’m so proud of you moment.

Neela [00:21:58]:

Oh, good. 

Mary Beth [00:21:59]:

But it’s true. Understanding and looking at it from an early age. And because you’re right, it can cost you and the long-term financial impact of those boundaries in terms of cosigning, especially when credit is involved, not just talking about cash out of your bank account. If your credit is on the line… 

Neela [00:22:14]:

Tread carefully.

Mary Beth [00:22:15]:

Yes. 

Neela [00:22:15]:

So there’s other ways that we can hit financial boundaries. I think shared finances with partners is a really spicy one too. Especially if you have two people who have different savings and spending habits. You might have one person in a couple who is an avid saver, one who’s a spender. How do those people work it out? I’m sure you’ve worked with those. 

Mary Beth [00:22:38]:

Oh my gosh, please get a financial planner because I will tell you. The interesting thing, this is just disclaimer on social media and I know they are just reels and meant to get the likes, but it’s always this idea that the man controls the money and the woman’s in her car heading to Target spacing out when the man’s trying to talk to her about the budgeting. It’s crazy. 

Neela [00:22:57]:

Punch me in the face.

Mary Beth [00:22:57]:

Oh my gosh. Probably one of my triggers. But having a neutral third party one because the power dynamics so even if there is one that’s more of a saver and one is more of a spender, you don’t want to walk around feeling like that saver is controlling you, and you don’t want to feel less than and you don’t want to feel guilty necessarily for everything and that you have to hide it. There’s jokes about that. Women are painted in this picture as like being like these spenders and hiding things from their husband. But I think this idea of having a neutral third party is the best thing that you can do unless you have a partner who is willing to meet in the middle. Right. You have to have really healthy relationship communication. If you don’t have a financial planner, you probably have a couple’s therapist, right? Like who is that neutral third party that’s willing to help you both see where you’re at and come to a middle ground conclusion or to facilitate those conversations because it’s likely that neither of you is right. There’s going to be some sort of long-term path that needs to be laid out. And a lot of times the saver mentality is save, save, but in service of what? What are you sacrificing to do those things? I have seen it with clients and it is really about this middle ground of making sure that both couples are identifying their goals in terms of long term. So it’s not just what do you want to buy this week? It’s where do you see yourself and your family in the next 3 to 5 to 10 years? And you each answer that question individually. It’s not a joint response of yes, what they said and so it’s getting those individual answers documented and then you can. Talk about how do you work towards those things? And there’s compromise. That’s where you can’t have rigid boundaries and you don’t want to have porous ones either. You want to be able to both articulate what you need and be willing to meet in the middle. But if one person is controlling and it’s typically the saver that controls it and holds a lot of the power, you don’t look at it as power, but it actually is. This is why we see women who go through divorces feeling a little bit uncomfortable and kind of shaky. I shouldn’t say typically is, but this is societal pictures here, but when one person holds that power, it doesn’t feel good for anybody. So this is about, again, being able to assert your needs and come to the relationship. You don’t want to find yourself asking for an allowance, I guess.

Mary Beth [00:24:51]:

Yeah. It creates a strange dynamic. And I think we should also recognize that, I’ve been doing this 14 years and I’ve worked with hundreds of people. I have yet to find a couple who are 100% on the same page about everything financially, full stop. It just doesn’t exist. You’ve got two different people, and so you might even have two savers who are at different levels of save. 

Mary Beth [00:25:13]:

Yes.

Neela [00:25:13]:

And so there has to be compromise no matter what it is. And maybe it’s figuring out what is the family baseline save-rate, and anything above that is fair game or hey, I’m the one who likes to track things and I need to be able to plan around things. So if there’s an expense over X amount, let’s talk about that. Just so it’s not a surprise, not so that you’re asking for permission, but it’s essentially like, what are the things that we’re going to check in on and what are the commitments that we’re both willing to make knowing that it’s going to be a compromise every single time.

Mary Beth [00:25:46]:

Exactly. We do one account in our house because we do have pretty healthy communication around money in terms of there’s an expense over this, make sure that we talk about it and we’re on the same page. And I probably have more impulse purchases if we’re being honest, and I control the money. But there are times when separate accounts make sense. So if you’re feeling like it’s too rigid or you’re feeling like it’s controlling, it’s okay to have those separate accounts and then having one that you both put into for joint bills. You each get your paychecks into individual accounts, you make your transfers into the joint account for payments, or you each divvy up bills however you do that. But that does make sense in terms of boundaries. If that feels good to you and it feels too controlling or too transparent, maybe you don’t want somebody looking over your shoulder for everything that you’re spending. So if you want your free money to do what you want with those are things that are important for you to talk about as a couple. Right. Your boundaries as a couple will look different than my boundaries as a couple. And that’s totally okay because it’s based on your personal background, your personal preferences and what will empower you.

Neela [00:26:42]:

Yes. If you have separate finances, that is a really important time to talk to a financial planner. Because you might also think if you’re in, say, a community property state like California, and you decide to keep everything separate and you do not have a prenuptial agreement, you will still be on the hook for all the debt that your partner takes on, and you still are entitled to half of each other’s assets. So if you are keeping things separate, thinking that they are going to be treated differently for most assets, if you’re in a community property state, you should be talking to financial planner and probably an attorney. 

Mary Beth [00:27:17]:

Yeah. And I think one of the things that also comes up with this that you reminded me of is not just the separate accounts but also the boundaries are important in terms of dual income couples is, are you both ramping up your career at the same time? Is one ramping back? And how does that flow in your household based on family needs, based on dynamics. And that’s really important for boundaries. If you both want to go full force, what kind of support do you need at home because you’re not going to be able to maybe carry that full load. And so what does that mean for your finances? Is one of you willing to ramp down and what does that mean in terms of finances for the household? Does that keep you on equal footing though still? Is there going to be some resentment potentially. So all of those things in terms of boundaries and being clear on what’s going to be needed for the role that you are playing in your household is important to bring up to the table for discussion. 

Neela [00:28:01]:

You bet. Yeah. Because oftentimes if you do have two income couples, there are different benefits that each spouse might have. And so you might want to get on one spouse’s health insurance versus the other spouse’s health insurance. Somebody might have a better retirement plan than the other. And so the more you are on the same page and the healthier your communication is and the more you can really talk through gender dynamics, if you are the female and you are the higher earner, how does it land when the paychecks hit and somebody’s paycheck is higher than the other? But the more on the same page you are, oftentimes the more optimizations that you can make from a finance standpoint. And yet if you’re not keeping things separate can really save you a lot of marital strife.

Mary Beth [00:28:44]:

That’s true. 

Neela [00:28:45]:

Hugely. So you’re kind of like your money or your life. You got to figure out what makes sense for you and your relationship.

Mary Beth [00:28:50]:

One of the things that just popped into my mind that we can also talk about here is personal financial boundaries and how you keep yourself on track. And so I know we can take a minute to rest in peace Mint. I know that is breaking your heart. Was it December 31, It’s done? 

Neela [00:29:08]:

December 31. So 12 or 13 years of pristine data. 

Mary Beth [00:29:11]:

We’ll light a candle. So tell us about some ways in terms of personal boundaries and holding yourself accountable. I know we’ve talked in the past about our boundaries are we save what we save, and kind of the rest is up for spend, but that might not work for everybody. And also, if you have goals, other things that you’re trying to work towards, how do you make sure that you’re prioritizing the things that you value? 

Neela [00:29:33]:

Yeah, anchoring to the savings rate that we want to hit is probably the most important one. And then the second piece, as I do track things aggressively and have already explored some Mint alternatives, maybe we’ll do a whole session on what I’ve learned and what we could do. 

Mary Beth [00:29:48]:

That’s a great podcast episode. Yes. 

Neela [00:29:52]:

It’ll be part confessional and part informative. 

Mary Beth [00:29:55]:

So I would just say aside, Neela’s blog post from, like, eight years ago on tackling the top Five Problems with Mint is actually our best performing blog on the Abacus website. And so I wonder what’s going to happen to our website traffic after this. 

Neela [00:30:09]:

I got to say, after that one came out, Michael Kitces reached out. And Michael Kitces is, like, one of like the top guy in our industry. 

Mary Beth [00:30:12]:

He’s the top guy in our industry. 

Neela [00:30:13]:

And he’s like, this was really helpful. I learned a few things, and I’m like, 

Mary Beth [00:30:19]:

See, there’s a gold star. Those are things. 

Neela [00:30:21]:

That was a gold star. I needed that. But to your point, I think as a society, we focus on the wrong things when it comes to money and budgets, is we focus on the little things and we don’t look at the big things. And the big things that really actually lead to the best financial outcomes are where you live, your transportation, childcare health insurance. Those are the big ones. 

Mary Beth [00:30:49]:

It’s not my avocado toast. It’s not the avocado. 

Neela [00:30:51]:

Not the avocado toast. Turns out it’s not the latte that’s going to ruin your life. Spoiler alert. But I always think about, what are the things that we can control? And we have put a lot of effort into controlling for the big costs. We drive our cars until the wheels fall off. We have renovated the house that we’ve been in for eight years and plan on staying there forever. We focus on the biggest items that drive the spending needle, optimize those, and then give ourselves a little bit more latitude on the other stuff. And so when it comes to eating out or travel, trying to optimize on those experiences that we feel really drive the value in our lives is where we focus it. And yet those things, it’s kind of easy for those to get out of whack. 

Mary Beth [00:31:37]:

Right. 

Neela [00:31:37]:

So the thing that I always kind of anchor back to is how much are we spending eating out? And is that on incredible dinner date nights with my husband, or is that lazy Door Dashing? Because what do you get the most benefit from? And making sure that I’m kind of keeping that in a reasonable range. 

Mary Beth [00:31:54]:

Yeah, I think it’s interesting, too, like, what you’re talking about values and almost like this line item that women have. I was standing in Ulta the other day doing a return, and I looked at Ulta, and I’m like, this business was built on women needing to make themselves look better. And look at all of these and this idea of self-care. The self-care line item, like the things for value. So you’re talking about travel and food and making sure that your money is in line with your values. Then there’s this whole other thing of we should get massages and acupuncture and facials and cover our faces up and use all these hair products. And so it’s interesting when you’re looking at your spending, is this in line with what you truly want and value? Or is it kind of what society is telling you, you should value? 

Neela [00:32:36]:

More shoulds. 

Mary Beth [00:32:37]:

More should. We almost do it automatic, though. It’s automatic in so many ways that if you don’t step back to actually examine, to think, like, is this what I truly want? Or have I been conditioned to want this? If you’re going through life at such a pace that you can’t pause to look at that. Is the massage really the self-care or is the self-care me saying no to this, going to dinner with this toxic friend who chats my ear off once a month, but I feel obligated to? And I don’t want to end the relationship because we’ve been friends for years. What’s going to make me feel better? Is it spending $100 a month on the massage or actually having the tough conversation? 

Neela [00:33:05]:

You bet. 

Mary Beth [00:33:05]:

So we end up covering up these other areas that don’t cost us money. So I think we end up compensating for areas where we should have boundaries by spending dollars and allocating money to things that we are told will make us feel better but do not. 

Neela [00:33:21]:

And so then you end up spending more money on things that you don’t actually value that turns out might even make you feel worse. 

Mary Beth [00:33:28]:

Yes. 

Neela [00:33:29]:

So it’s like, is that like, a triple negative? 

Mary Beth [00:33:31]:

Exactly. 

Neela [00:33:32]:

And as a side, can we also stop calling a trip to the grocery store by yourself self-care? 

Mary Beth [00:33:37]:

I don’t know why Target has to be the place where I have I love Target, but why is it the place where I have to get my peace of mind? 

Neela [00:33:43]:

Yeah, to your point is, like, does Target bring you the self-care that you need? Or does having a boundary setting conversation with your spouse about equitably dividing up household responsibilities, which one is better?

Mary Beth [00:33:55]: 

Exactly. And there’s another book that I started reading. I’m only a couple chapters into it. I know Neela has it on her docket, too, so I’m not sure if you’ve read it, but it’s called “Real Self Care” by Pooja Lakshmin, MD. I don’t know if you started it, Nee, but 

Neela [00:34:05]:

Not yet. 

Mary Beth [00:34:06]:

Three chapters in, and it’s blowing my mind. It’s basically the stuff that I’ve been referencing. We are told to spend all of our money on these things, and there’s big businesses built around all of this self-care for women. And what the real disruptors are, is like no, just using our voices, choosing ourselves first, not bending to societal expectations and recognizing that we’re the systems that we are a part of and how the systems work against us. Right? And so we can either do nothing and we’re a part of the systems, or we can try and get angry and rage against them, and that also burns us out. But how do we authentically begin to choose ourselves one step at a time. But I think it’s interesting just looking at this self-care component and realizing where we’re told to relax is on a massage table or with a facial when you still come home to the same to do list. So you get like, that hour. That hour is not going to change your life, but it can escape. But it’s not a fix. 

Neela [00:34:58]:

It’s a Band Aid versus addressing the root cause of the wound. And so it buys you some time. You’re not having the ability to actually rebuild. It’s like survival mode versus growth mode. 

Mary Beth [00:35:10]:

I’m not shaming any of that because I get the massages and do the facials with the best of them. But I do think it’s interesting when you have that lens of, like, what is the goal here? And by doing this, what societal standards am I upkeeping? Is this truly for me, or is it because I’ve been told by society this is for me? And Brian and I had a conversation this past weekend of these ideas of women’s self-care and where we’re focused on all this beauty stuff. And he talked about it. I was like I was like, there’s not stores built for men around you looking better for us. And he’s like, there’s not but it’s the car dealerships. It’s the boats. He’s like, It’s the possessions for men is where…

Neela [00:35:45]:

It’s the man cave. 

Mary Beth [00:35:46]:

It’s the man cave, the sports side. So all of those other things that are geared towards, like, if you’re a true man, you’ll own this Harley or you’ll have this big truck. So it was really interesting us having that conversation of like, okay, this is the other side. And it does hit both in different ways from societal expectations. 

Neela [00:36:02]:

So good. I feel like we could go… 

Mary Beth [00:36:04]:

I was like, we’ve gone over our typical 

Neela [00:36:07]:

over our typical time. 

Mary Beth [00:36:08]:

Over our typical. 

Neela [00:36:09]:

Yeah. If you could leave our listeners with one great boundary takeaway in terms of setting strong financial boundaries, what would that one thing be? 

Mary Beth [00:36:21]:

I think it would be to do the work, and the work is day by day and taking time to learn about your patterns and the things that might be in your way. So it might be like grabbing that workbook. There’s a boundaries workbook that came with Nedra Tawwab’s book, but it’s actually doing the self-reflection. The best thing you can do for setting boundaries financially or just independently, personally, is doing self-reflection. And it’s uncomfortable and it’s brutal sometimes, but it is ultimately what leads you to a path of peace because you can go strong and bold and set all these boundaries, but if you’re not doing the self-work to truly understand where you want to be, same thing with a financial plan. You can get in the car and drive somewhere, but if you don’t know where you’re going so I think doing the self-reflection and the work is the biggest thing. Yeah. How about you? 

Neela [00:37:15]:

I would say be liberal with your no’s so you can protect your yeses. And as part of doing the work, check in with how your body feels anytime a decision comes up, because your body will tell you. 

Mary Beth [00:37:30]:

The body will tell you. 

Neela [00:37:32]:

The body will tell you, oh, this isn’t something I’m excited about. Listen to your body. Feel it. Act on it.

Mary Beth [00:37:39]:

Yeah, that’s a huge one. I love that one. All right. 

Neela [00:37:44]:

So good.

Mary Beth [00:37:45]:

Thanks, y’all. 

Neela [00:37:46]:

Thank you for listening. 

Neela [00:37:47]:

Thank you for listening to today’s episode of If Money Were Easy. If you’re looking for more information on how you can expand what’s possible with your money, head to Abacuswealth.com. That’s abacuswealth.com for more analysis and resources created by our team. 

Mary Beth [00:38:29]:

Abacus Wealth Partners is an SEC registered investment advisor. SEC registration does not constitute an endorsement of Abacus Wealth Partners by the SEC, nor does it indicate that Abacus Wealth Partners has attained a particular level of skill or ability. This material prepared by Abacus Wealth Partners is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for personalized investment advice or as a recommendation or solicitation of any particular security strategy or investment product. Opinions expressed by Abacus Wealth Partners are based on economic or market conditions at the time this material was written. Facts presented have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Abacus Wealth Partners, however, cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Abacus Wealth Partners does not provide tax or legal advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as tax or legal advice. Economies and markets fluctuate. Actual economic or market events may turn out differently than anticipated no investor should assume that future performance will be profitable or equal either the previous reflected performance or that of the reference benchmarks. The historical performance results of the comparative benchmark do not reflect the deduction of transaction and custodial charges or the deduction of an investment management fee, the incurrence of which would decrease indicated historical performance. The S&P index includes 500 leading companies in the US and is widely regarded as the best single gauge of large cap US equities. The holdings and performance of Abacus Wealth Partners client accounts may vary widely from those of the presented indices. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Abacus Wealth Partners and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. No advice may be rendered by Abacus Wealth Partners unless a client service agreement is in place.

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