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How lawyers worth $2.3 million tackled their biggest money fight

Rachel and Brian are married lawyers with a joint net worth of $2.3 million.

For them, “money has been representative of fun and freedom,” Rachel, 51, told bestselling author and Netflix star Ramit Sethi on a recent episode of his “I Will Teach You to be Rich” podcast. Their last names were not used.

But recently, Brian, 56, revealed he wants to retire in the next year or two.

“That completely paralyzed me,” Rachel said on the podcast.

The revelation led to a major fight. Rachel is anxious that Brian is underestimating how much money he will need to actually stop working and they would become dependent on her income to make ends meet. Brian wants Rachel to feel secure, but he’s confident that he’s well-positioned to retire soon.

The couple earns a combined $270,000 a year. Their only debt is around $96,000 on a mortgage on one of their homes — they own the other one outright. Between their retirement and brokerage accounts, they have over $1 million invested.

Here’s why they asked Sethi for help.

Separate finances, separate relationships with money

Part of the reason for Rachel’s shock when Brian told her he wanted to retire early is that she didn’t know how much money he had already saved. The couple has kept their finances separate for the entirety of their eight-year marriage.

“What separate accounts usually reveal is that the couple never had a series of specific conversations about money,” Sethi said on the podcast. “Almost always, separate accounts reveal that they don’t have a joint rich life vision together.”

That felt true for Rachel. “It was like we were from two different universes and we weren’t even speaking the same language,” she said.

While Sethi emphasized it’s OK if a couple wants to keep their money separate, he wanted to get to the bottom of Rachel and Brian’s differing attitudes toward money.

They both grew up comfortably, with parents who paid for college and grad school. But Rachel’s parents were a teacher and a librarian, whereas one of Brian’s was a bank CEO. This led to varying comfort levels and different money lessons.

“You worked as hard as you could in order to bring in money. You saved it for some indeterminate period,” Rachel said, characterizing her parents’ mindsets. Some of the major financial help from her parents came with a condition, like helping her buy a house so they could get a tax write-off. She was later laid off and struggled to pay her mortgage.

Brian, on the other hand, admitted he was spoiled growing up. And as a young adult, his parents gave him the down payment for his first house.

“I was a little bit more sheltered with money,” he said. “I probably didn’t have the appreciation for it.”

It’s not about the number

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