All right. We have my good friend, Dr. Brent Lacy here. Dr. Brent Lacey is a gastroenterologist who is really passionate about helping physicians succeed with business and personal finances. He’s got this really awesome summit called marriage and money MD. And it is November 15th through 17th. Right?
Yeah. November 15th, 16th and 17th.
That’s fantastic. And as a physician, Dr. Lacey really understands how overwhelming it can be to really step out of clinical training and into career and being in private practice and being a leader, and all the nuances that comes with it. And also trying to have a relationship with people that surround you, your family, your spouse, your significant other, your kids, if you have kids, and also manage finances at the same time, it’s like a juggling act. I’m trying to juggle all this. And so I’m having Dr. Lacy on because I think this is such an important topic to talk about because it is the root structure of how we’re able to get our ourselves mentally prepared to succeed and to scale and doing the things that we want to do and to be fulfilled by it. And I think that fulfillment is not something we talk about as often when we think about doing a business and stuff like that, but it’s really about fulfillment and that really stems from the relationships. That’s really what we’re going to talk about today. So, hey, thanks for coming on! I appreciate it!
Oh yeah. I’m super excited. I’m really passionate about this topic. I feel like this is one of those things that we just don’t talk about enough. And I think, you know, not to stereotype us, but especially as men, I feel like it’s one of those things that it’s just not talked about enough and it’s something we all struggle with. So here we are, we should talk about it.
Yeah. And I might get a little uncomfortable talking about it, but hey, that’s what this summit’s for. So, let’s talk about the summit really quickly, in order for you to even put on a summit, you have to be passionate about that topic, because it is a lot of work. And so marriage and money MD is pretty specific. And it sounds like I know what it’s all about, but can you kind of describe it real quick?
Yeah. I mean, the name was chosen very specifically. It’s about marriage and it’s about money for physicians. And those are two topics that don’t get talked about enough and every physician couple struggles with, at some point, I mean the medical career, medical training, they’re just, they’re just hard. They’re hard on relationships, they’re hard, they’re stressful, they’re time consuming, and it can be very, very challenging to maintain a healthy relationship. Really have adequate time with your spouse, with your kids. And on top of that, you’ve got all the money stuff. You’re starting, on average, $300,000 in the hole. And you start your earning years, your primary earning years, a lot later than all your classmates who graduated high school and college with you.
So you’re starting later and starting farther behind. So, I mean, when we come out of training man, we are just, we’re stressed. A lot of people have had real, very serious relationship struggles and they’re just swimming in debt and not sure what to do. So the summit’s to help people just, get some tools, get some resources, get some encouragement from physicians and physician spouses who are really expert in their fields, talking about communication, setting expectations, setting up an investment plan, how to get out of debt, how to relate to your spouse, how to stop having fights about money or how to stop having fights generally, how to manage your time together. It’s going to be awesome. I’m so pumped. The speakers are phenomenal. It’s just going to be a great time.
I think that because this is not talked about and because there’s very little light really shining on this topic, it really leads to a lot of burnout within our careers. And it leads a lot of stress and it leads to a lot of negative thoughts, right? And that can have a subconscious effects on our brain, all of these negative thoughts of maybe not being good enough for the spouse or the significant other, or maybe not being good enough because I’m not making enough money. Maybe making more money will justify maybe working more and understanding that, hey, maybe I have to sacrifice this for that. So I think that balancing act is just extremely hard. And especially if you’re a two physician family, like me and my wife, we came out with a lot more than 300,000, double that, more than double that in debt. So that could be very challenging as well, right? So I’m so glad we’re talking about it. So let me start off by asking you this question. Why is it that whenever we step into our role as physicians, why is it that it’s so commonplace for relationships to suffer? And why is it that no one talks about it? Why do you think that is?
Well they’re great questions. Both of them. I think the reason that it happens is because medicine is an all consuming profession. Unless you’ve been through it, it’s very hard to explain to someone just how engaging, how engrossing, how encapsulating, a medical career is. I mean, it consumes every bit of you. So I mean, everyone listening to this summit, if you’re in medicine, you’ve experienced this, when you were in medical school and your buddies that weren’t from medicine are like, “Hey, listen, we’re all gonna go, float the river this weekend, hey, we’re all going to go road trip to Chicago this weekend,” whatever. And you’re like, I’m sorry, man. I got to spend like 25 hours in the library. And I only have 20 hours that I can even be awake this weekend.
And they’re like, what the heck are you talking about? And so it’s hard to understand, but it is just that consuming. And because we have such an ingrained sense of duty and sense of obligation to our craft and to our patients and the work we’re doing genuinely matters. I mean, it is legitimately life and death. And so if we choose to just not go to work, people could die and that’s just not okay. So it becomes the number one priority in our minds because it is so important. But the problem is that when that takes on that number one priority, something else is going to take a back seat and everything else takes a back seat to that.
Your health often takes a back seat to that, your family, your kids, your attention to your personal finances, your continuing education, all that. And I think the reason we don’t talk about it, frankly, is because we feel guilty. We feel ashamed. We feel like we’re the only ones that are going through that. We see all of our colleagues and everyone’s putting on a good front, everybody’s got a facade. And you’re like, man, I guess I’m the only one who doesn’t have this together. And you feel like you can’t talk about it because you’re like, well, no one else must be going through this. They all seem like they’re fine. No one else is talking about it. So I guess they’re good. And the truth is we’re all just bottled up in our little silos and no one’s talking to each other, and we all should be talking to each other. We need to be supporting each other.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. So I think there’s also a lot of distractions that we put on ourselves. So instead of talking about relationships, we talk about cars. We talk about, sports or stuff like that. And there’s a stigma. I think there as well is, it’s almost like a, hey, I’m a physician. I’m in my profession. I’m supposed to have a good relationship. The money’s supposed to be there. And so if I don’t meet that image, I fail. And I think that’s a very subconscious dwelling in our mind. Don’t you agree with that?
Yeah. A hundred percent. It’s very easy for us to want to try to fit a certain mold or try to live up to an idealized version of what we think we should be or what society thinks we should be, or to just be constantly striving to meet this impossible goal that frankly, nobody else is able to meet either. So we’re putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves and it’s very harmful in the long run. And if we would just sit back and give ourselves a little bit of grace and take that step of faith and say, hey, you know what, I’ll bet there’s someone else that’s struggling with this and I’m going to talk to them about it. And we’re going to figure this out.
I’m glad you said that because I do think that as a profession, you said earlier, it’s an all in type of profession, right? And all in means all in, we put our heart and our soul into it. And a lot of times when we put so much invested time and energy into something, and when something doesn’t work out, we take pride in what we have built, but the end result is not where we want to be. And naturally we just don’t want to talk about it and have distractions. And I’m guilty of this as well. And when distractions occur, all of a sudden you realize that you become this automatic robot and you just try to look for more distractions and it just doesn’t necessarily work, you know?
And unfortunately, very, oftentimes we start to see our family as a distraction. You know, when we come home and all we can think of is man, I’ve got like an hour’s worth of charting, I still haven’t done. I got six notes that I wasn’t able to get to.
I’ve got to I’ve got to think about what I’m going to do tomorrow. I got a call six people in court. So you’re thinking about all these things you need to do. And then your family’s there, and you’re like, well, they’re preventing me from getting this stuff done. And it’s this terrible push pull that we do with each other.
So, again, I think it comes back to that sense of duty, that sense of obligation. You know, we know that our work needs to be done. We know it’s important. And we go for it with full force. And I think this is where we can start to leverage some of those strengths, because I think our great strength in that area is that when we focus on something, we can really focus and we can knuckle down. We can go, okay, we’re going to get this done. I’m going to sit there and study for six hours. I’m going to sit here. I’m going to go on all my rounds. I’m going to sit here and I’m going to do this 10 hour surgery. We can do it. And so if we can start to separate work and home and say, okay, when I’m at work, I’m gonna be wholly focused on work. I’m gonna be completely 100% all in, on the work, not thinking about anything else. And then when I get home work turns off. I had an attending one time tell me that, I forget exactly how he said it, but it was something like, leave your mad hat at work, right.
Or leave your work hat at work. So when you go into work, put your work hat on, and now you’re at work and then take your work hat off, take the white coat off. And you go home, put on the husband hat, put on the wife hat, put on the dad hat. And that’s all you’re doing. You’re not thinking about stuff, that’s going on at work. You’re just focused on the family. So be focused wherever you are.
So I want to talk to you really from an immigrant perspective. So I’m Chinese. I actually, I was born in China, so I’m zero generation as I was born in China. And I came to the US. And the idea is that you work your ass off no matter what to achieve this supposed American dream. Right. And you put forth every effort to do it, even if it’s at the price of some relationships. And honestly, it’s a very cultural thing. You know, I know I’m Chinese but it’s not just a Chinese thing, but it’s even in American culture as well. So it’s really depending on our upbringing. So I have this almost like sense of guilt. I’m like, ah, you shouldn’t go on vacation now, you really should be going back to work and making some money, right? You know, have you come across that?
Well, I’ve come across it in my own life. Really. I mean, just in the last year I got out of the military last summer and then joined a private practice in Dallas last fall. And then in May, I started looking, I was looking around, I was like, oh, this is awesome. The kids are out of school. And I wonder – we haven’t planned anything, we should do is trip or something in the summer. And I looked back and I realized I’ve taken zero days off since I started this job. Like, that’s not good. That’s poor planning. So, I mean, we were all guilty of that, I mean, I’ve done it in the last six months. So it’s one of those things that, you know, sometimes it’s easier to say things than it is to do things, but once I recognize that I talked to my wife I was like, look, we gotta take some time off. And so we got together with some friends from med school and just had a staycation. It was awesome. It was a great time. But if you don’t make that time, if you don’t deliberately plan for that, it won’t happen.
Yeah. So I think the other thing is this communication. Because there are some times where I think I’m dedicating my time to my family, and then I set a sort of borders to myself. Okay, well, it’s 8:00 PM, I gotta do from 8:00 to 8:45, or I got to do this now. And so I have to like switch it back again. And then what I find is, especially with my kids, is that there’s a lot of resentment towards that limitation as well. And I think it’s maybe, perhaps I didn’t really set up the expectations to begin with. And so I think that really put a damper on the communication. Is that right?
Well, I think you’ve actually hit on something that’s probably at the core of every marital challenge. And that is a sense of unmet expectations. And so that almost always arises from one of a few things, either the other person’s expectations are too high or the expectations weren’t clearly stated, or the expectations were out of sync. And so your expectations and theirs were different. And so that unmet expectation, that’s what tends to lead to disappointment. And so what I always encourage people to do, and as you start thinking about communicating with your spouse, is be in the habit of continually revisiting and updating and reassessing what your expectations for each other are. So I’ll give you an example.
So when my wife and I were in residency together, every rotation, every time we would switch rotation, we would sit down and say, okay, this is your rotation. This is my rotation. Here’s the nights I’m on call. Here’s the nights you’re on call. Here’s what we’re going to be able to do. And so like on a month where I’m in the ICU and she’s on night float, we’re pretty much not seeing each other very much that month, but we knew that going into it. So when we’ve got our 13th day in a row where it’s literally, I’m leaving just as she’s arriving and vice-versa, we get to see each other for 20 minutes a day.
It’s sad, but it’s not devastating. It’s not unexpected. It’s one of those things that we’re in this together. And we’ve had the communication, we’ve had the conversation to say, okay, look, this is what it’s going to be this month. It’s just going to be rough. We just got to fight through it. Next month is going to be great. We’re both on outpatient rotations and we’re going to make up for lost time. We’re going to go on date night every week. We’re going to take a weekend trip to go visit someone’s parents, you know, whatever, but we can set those expectations. And then we’re not disappointed because we didn’t meet up with some standard. And so being in the business of continually updating those expectations is just so important.
And it may be month to month when you’re in training, when you’re in residency and fellowship, and maybe it’s quarter to quarter, or maybe it’s at the beginning of a school year, or maybe it’s the beginning of a major season change, you know, or Christmas time, or when the call schedules come out or whatever. But constantly be in the business of updating each other and setting those expectations. And if you find that you’re experiencing disappointment, either you or your spouse, it’s probably because you’re just missing each other on expectations. So it’s time to sit down and go, okay, honey, I understand that you’re disappointed. I think that we didn’t do a good job of figuring out each other’s expectations. So let’s sit down and you tell me what you were trying to achieve, what you wanted out of this situation, and then I’ll understand how I didn’t measure up. And then let’s see how we can figure out whether that’s meetable. And if so, then let me work towards that. But have that deliberate conversation, is very important.
I think it takes a level of authenticity and humility to do that as well, which I think is a lot of things that are lacking because of this sort of this nagging self-worth feeling. I think the other thing is if you have great relationships outside of work, actually I think it actually makes you a better doctor, your sense of connection and empathy with the patients is just dramatically higher. The communication is higher with your staff, with the other doctors, with other practitioners in the practice, and it makes you become a really good leader and really good communicator as well. And so I stumbled upon that a little bit accidentally because I took a lot of training over the last two and a half years and spit up tons of money on just understanding leaderships and team building and working together and company culture and stuff like that. And I realized that I’m working so hard on this business, I can sort of make the same structure at home.
So when I started making the same structure at home, there’s almost like this is light bulb that kind of went off. I was like, why the hell didn’t I do this before? And that comes from communication, setting expectations, stating the expectations, not assuming the other person knows what you’re thinking, which is always a big deal for me, for most of my relationships through my adult life. And then once we were able to state it and then we planned things out, I was like, okay, well, this is what’s expected, it’s done. And after it was done, I was like, oh, that’s not a big deal. Whereas previously I’m like, ah, you know, am I spending too much time at work? Am I suppose to my home? I’m like, why not just ask for permission and then ask for guidance on what target are we trying to hit as a family of spending time together, or with your friends with spending time together, or your parents and what are we going to do the next month? I still need to do a better job with that.
Me and my family, but I think what we’re trying to head to towards that direction. So how do we do, I mean. Private practice is hard and not just private practice, medicine is hard in general. So there’s this resentment that I see, honestly, in a lot of the physician forums like Facebook, is that there’s perseverating thoughts on things that we can’t control, especially during like coronavirus, right? And these perseverating thoughts become these sort of negative triggers. And I see a lot of my friends, a lot of people almost bring it to their personal life and bring it home. How do you shut that off? I mean, that’s a sort of hard thing to do. Like, is there a way?
So I would say that you don’t necessarily have to shut it off because I think that your spouse can be your greatest advocate and your greatest cheerleader. I know one of my wife’s spiritual gifts is encouragement. I mean, she’s the greatest encourager I’ve ever seen. She wasn’t a cheerleader, but I mean, that’s kind of who she is at heart. I mean, she’s my biggest cheerleader and she’s everyone’s biggest cheerleader that I’ve met. And so I don’t think you have to completely shut it off. I think you can bring some of that home, but that needs to be another conversation with your spouse because your spouse may only be able to handle so much.
I mean, as a physician, you know, we deal with life and death stuff. And so if you’re dealing with death every day, your spouse may not be able to handle that, there may be too much sadness for them. And so it may be a requirement that you cultivate additional relationships where you can start to have some of those conversations with people you know, so friends at work, or friends at church, or whatever, that you can have some of those conversations with. And so it’s a way that you can love your spouse by not placing that burden solely on them, but your spouse can also show you love by accepting some of that burden so that you can have that way to let off steam and to kind of vent some of your feelings about that. And maybe even come up with some ideas that you haven’t thought of for how to fix things. But again, I think it comes back to that conversation about setting expectations and say, listen, I want to be able to talk about this stuff, but how much can how much of this can I bring home? You know, how much of this is too much for you to be able to handle? And just being very intentional about that.
Yeah. So that’s behavioral communication and teamwork. And so let’s of jump into the second part of this talk which is money. Because I do think relationships and money, actually go hand in hand, but there’s this concept that I’ve heard before, is that if you’re hiding your finances or whatever, you’re spending money on, from your relationships, your spouse, whoever it is, and there’s no transparency in there, that also creates a level of resentment and trauma within a relationship. You agree with that?
Yeah, we call that financial infidelity. It’s instead of an affair of the heart, it’s an affair of the wallet, is how I think of that. And so it has the exact force and effect as having an actual affair. And so if you’re hiding something from someone on either a one-time basis or a regular basis, it’s a breach of trust. It’s something that you have sequestered that you have said, I don’t trust you with this. Or I don’t think this is something I should share with you. I think I need to keep this to myself. And that is incredibly damaging to relationships. And this is definitely a problem. We’ve seen the rise in this, in the last about 10 or 15 years. You’ll see folks that are struggling with online gambling addictions, or actual gambling addictions.
We’re going to see people that have secret credit cards they don’t tell their spouse about, or they have an Amazon account that they don’t have connected to the family account. And they always deliver those packages at work for whatever they’re buying or they’re buying upgrades of different things or different hobbies or different toys and just not telling the other person. And it’s problematic from a financial standpoint, in a lot of cases, because it’ll impede your ability to make progress on your other financial goals. But the big problem is that breach of trust that it represents. And so when your spouse finds out about it, it’s incredibly harmful. It’s incredibly hurtful to the relationship. And I have seen relationships really crumble from that. It’s devastating. It’s hard to walk that back, but it is an incredibly damaging thing. And so what I find is, that usually stems from one of a few things. It’s either lack of communication, where the spouses are just not talking about things. And so that often happens where one spouse is kind of managing all the finances, the other one’s kind of hands-off. And so the one spouse is handling all the money, just kind of does everything. And then they just kind of get used to making all the decisions on their own. And then six years later, they’ve opened up 10 credit cards and they’re $70,000 in debt, and their spouse is like, well, how did that happen?
The way it happened is nobody was talking to each other. Sometimes it happens from lack of knowledge, where one spouse just doesn’t know what’s going on. And they feel in the dark, they feel like they’re rudderless. And they just feel like they’re twisting in the wind and they don’t know which way they’re going. They don’t know if we’re meeting our goals. They don’t know if we’re failing to live up to our expectations. And sometimes frankly it’s just lack of money. And almost always, that means that people were just spending more than we make. And it adds a layer of stress and layer of tension. And then that can generate people’s need for release. It’s like squeezing a water balloon, right? If you squeeze a water balloon, then wherever you squeeze in one place is going to bulge out on another place. And so if you put tension on one part of your relationship, it’s going to squeeze out and leak over into other areas of your relationship.
So, speaking of squeezing the balloon. I think that if you’re trying to juggle a medicine thing, and I think this is one of the assumptions, is that okay, if my role in our relationship is that I control the finances, I should be able to do whatever I want without telling you. And then the other side of this is, I’m helping with this and these are the things I’m doing. I spent bunch of time on taxes and paperwork and stuff like that. And therefore, because of that, I deserve to have expenditures on this and this, and that creates a lot of resentment. And so can you comment on that a little bit?
Yeah. And so the way to combat that, because you’re right, it’s incredibly harmful. The only way for this to work is for you to be united. You gotta be united about everything in marriage. You gotta be united about your parenting style. You gotta be united about how you want to just spend time with your in-laws. You gotta be united about money. You gotta be united about intimacy. All these things are important that you have a united front. Money’s no exception. And in fact, money is arguably the most important aspect of that. Mainly because money just touches everything. Not because money is the most important thing in our lives, but because it intersects with everything in our life. And so one of the ways that you can combat that, that I’ve found is very helpful, is to have one person in the house be designated as I call them the household CFO.
The household chief financial officer. So in the relationship, there’s usually going to be one person who is more interested, more adept at handling the actual technical aspects of the money, at balancing the checkbook and submitting the investments, thinking about how to do taxes and things like that. That person is the household CFO and their job is simply to manage the books, deal with the details, but then both spouses have to come together to actually agree on financial decisions. So it’s very important that the household CFO not become also the household CEO or, dictator and chief or whatever. And so both spouses are responsible for making decisions, but one of them handles just the mechanics of it. And I think that’s how you can start to bridge that gap.
Yeah. So it’s almost like someone is collecting the data. You make decisions from a united front on what to do with that data, right?
Yeah, exactly. And so if you’re making a budget, let’s say you’re setting up a plan for what you’re going to spend your money on. Then one person is going to make the budget and then present that to the other person. And the other person needs to adjust it and make some changes and have some input. And then you both agree on it. So neither a person’s input is more important than the other. It’s got to be two people moving together, because if you’re moving in parallel lines, you’re moving towards your own goals, then you’re not moving towards each other. If you’re moving towards each other, then you’ll end up merging in the same goal. That’s the only way this can work. And so that means that you have to be coming together to make those decisions in a shared way.
Well, that’s powerful. So parallel line versus merging together. That’s pretty good. So, I think that when we start thinking about these behavioral patterns and things, and how it affects us, it really relates to business as well because in business there’s an office manager that sort of manages the finances, but then he or she presents that to the practice owner, and then there’s decisions that are really made out of that. And there’s a lot of communication between that to make a business successful. But business is the same thing as a relationship, it’s a different type of relationship than you and your spouse or you and your significant other, but it’s still a relationship. And so if you bring that sort of the structure into the home, and that’s why I realized a lot later after I got a lot of training on business, it becomes this layer of certainty. Like you have this feeling that there’s certainty here. I feel significant as a spouse and I want you to feel significant as my significant other. And that drives passion, I believe.
Yeah. And like you were saying, there’s really just no substitute for communication. And that structure works everywhere. I mean, it works in business relationships. It works with your neighbors. It works with your family. It works with your extended family. You know, it works with your kids. That constant communication of just talking about things, not being afraid to have difficult conversations, it gives you a level of confidence and a level of security that can really overcome a lot of shortcomings. So for example, when you have tremendous trust and tremendous confidence in your spouse, or in someone at work, then when something happens that makes you go, oh, this was really bad for me. Your thoughts don’t immediately run to, they’re trying to sabotage me. They’re trying to destroy me. They don’t care about me. They’re not interested in me. It’s oh, this is probably an oversight. I wonder if they’re okay. I wonder if they got distracted or something, this isn’t what they’re usually like. It completely changes the dynamic. And so having that bedrock of just confidence, that security, of having all that trust in that person and building that relationship over time, through that shared communication is just so crucial. It really allows you to bridge some of those gaps when they happen.
So are there other sort of guides or books, or some sort of outline to create the structure within a relationship?
Yeah, probably about 5,000 or so, but I’ll tell you a book that I really love for marriage. For marriage specifically, a really great book is called “The Five Love Languages” by a guy named Gary Chapman. It’s a book that my wife and I read when we were doing our premarital counseling almost 15 years ago now. And it’s fantastic. And so the book posits that every person has five different love languages. And so words of affirmation, gift giving, acts of service, et cetera. And we hear and we express love through those different languages. And so it’s important for us to learn how to recognize and how to express love in a way that our spouse can understand. So, for example, if I express love through acts of service, so doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, you know, help them with the kids, things like that. But my spouse, her love language is words of affirmation. Then me doing those acts of service is not as important as me just constantly being very encouraging and supportive.
You look so nice today, you’re so good at helping with the kids. I love the way that you are so encouraging to everybody that you meet, you do such a great job keeping our house in order, you know, things like that. And so learning how to express our love in ways that our spouse can understand is really important. And that is a huge, huge help for communication. So that book’s called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It’s actually so important, we actually dedicated an entire video to it in the online course that we created, because it is just so helpful. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve walked people through that and they just go and the light just goes on. They’re like, oh, that’s why she doesn’t care if I bring her flowers, because gift giving is her number five. And so I need to be doing something else instead. It is just so helpful to know how to express love in a way that our spouse can understand.
Yeah, no, absolutely. So me and my wife, we have completely different love languages. That’s a fabulous book by the way. But the other thing is to really identify the language of love. And so if someone’s number one is acts of service, but my number one, maybe it’s touch or something like that, when that someone does things around the house and clean or laundry, whatever it is, I have to receive that as a love language. It’s like, oh wow, this is actually how they’re expressing love to me. And so it makes me more appreciative of the acts of service.
Yeah, I mean think of it like having a foreign exchange student at your house. So if someone’s visiting from, say Romania, or something, and you don’t speak Romanian, but you see them going around and trying to be a helper and trying to do different things. You can appreciate what they’re trying to do, even though they can’t really tell you what it is they’re trying to do. So learning to appreciate that, learning to recognize that is just as important. Absolutely.
Yeah. And that’s all relationships that all humans have. The love language is not just for the spouse. And so when we see in the workplace too, we have to recognize that as well, and then we combine that with the disc personality profile for a winner there. So you know, more on the topic of money a little bit, because it’s nice to see money grow. And it’s nice to see money grow in a way where there’s also communication around it with your spouse or with your loved one. And so earlier you said that you want to be on the same page. You want to like, row the boat together in the same direction and come together to do it. How do you have that conversation with a significant other, if maybe one of you is more number savvy than the other one? Like what do you do?
So I think one of the places where it’s helpful to start is to just talk, not about specifics in terms of the practical, you know, 401k and Roth IRA and tax this and things like that. I think it’s more helpful to talk initially when you’re having these conversations in broad concepts. And so I call this first conversation, you can call it whatever you want to call it, the dream conversation or the goals conversation, but it’s just, what do you want? What do we want? So what do we want out of life? What are our goals? And so let’s say you’re a couple that you’re in your residency, or you’re early in your career. You’re five years in and you’ve got hopefully 30, 40, 50 years ahead of you. And so where do you want to be at age 50? Where do you want to be at age 60? Where do you want to be at age 70? What do you want your life to look like? What are your kids doing? What schools did they go to? What kind of traveling are you doing? Are you working? When did you stop working? If you’re not, what kind of lifestyle do you have?
Start having some of those conversations and just start talking, just start to dream together and just start to build that shared vision for your family. You know, what is it that you guys want out of life? Those are things that people can really get behind. You start talking about money and taxes and Roth IRAs and the person who’s not the money person, their eyes are just going to glaze over and you’re going to lose them. So just talk about something that is enjoyable.
That’s exciting, that’s something you can both get behind and then started start to say, okay, well, if that’s where we want to be, what do we need to do in order to make that happen? And this is where the person who’s better with money can start to say, okay, you know what, let me sit down, let me run some numbers, let me figure out how much we would need to save, and how much we would need to invest in order to achieve that goal. And then bring that back to the other person and say, okay, here’s the setup that I have. And if we want to have this at age 70, then we need to save this much per month until then, which means that we’re going to have to set aside this amount, which means we have this much left each month for spending on other stuff. Is that something we can live with? And then start to break that down. But start with that initial conversation being just about what do you want out of life, setting some reachable financial goals.
Right. And then there’s another portion to that, which is risk tolerance. Because I think that usually, one person in the relationship has a very different level of risk tolerance. So the other person may want to take risks with money. You know, one may be very entrepreneurial. One may be very not. And so how do you have that conversation as well?
So I think it depends on to what extent each person is knowledgeable about money. So if you’ve got one person who’s really knowledgeable and the other person’s really not, and the one who’s not knowledgeable really trust the other one, then they can just kind of let them run with it, potentially. That’s an example, but let’s say as a more common example, let’s say you have two people that one person kind of knows a little bit and the other person really doesn’t know very much, but neither person has just a super high level of financial literacy. This is where starting to read some books, listen to podcasts, maybe even talking to a financial planner or a financial coach of some kind can really be very helpful. And sometimes that takes the pressure off the situation. So you’re not trying to be the one with all the answers and be the one that comes up with the perfect plan. You’re depending on someone who’s got some expertise and has got some knowledge in this area, who’s a third party who’s dispassionate, who can help coach you through and guide you through some of those conversations. I think that’s an area where that kind of thing can be very helpful for folks.
When in doubt goes through a third party to be the mediator. Someone who’s smarter than you. So that’s a great topic. Whenever we’re trying to sort of synchronize our finances and synchronize our relationships, there’s really another factor that a lot of men don’t necessarily talk about. And it’s the, when I say men, I meant like if in a relationship, I feel like a lot of men hold a lot of things in. And the woman is really trying to dig and pull and stuff like that. But part of the holding things in is because there’s sort of this perceived masculine energy that’s there. So how do you, not overcome I shouldn’t say overcome, how do you adapt to that and just have more humility, be more open and do stuff like that?
The thing that’s great about marriage is that it is a process of two continuously becoming one. And that doesn’t mean that either person has to give up who they are. It doesn’t mean that both people in the relationship have to adapt to one person’s exclusive style. It means that you’re coming closer to a center point. And so for women it’s helpful to understand that sometimes when you say, what are you thinking about? And he says nothing. Sometimes he actually means nothing, but sometimes he’s saying that, and he’s thinking so many things and he’s just not sure what to say. And so he says, well nothing and hoping the conversation will end. And so I think it’s a trial and error process. I think that there’s a continual learning aspect to it. And it’s just starting to ask probing questions.
You know, you say you’re not thinking about anything, but you’ve got this look on your face or you’ve got that pensive sort of mood. You look like you’re really lost in thought, I’d love to be a sounding board. Tell me what you’re thinking about. But doing it in love and doing it in a way of saying, I would like to be there for you. I would like to support you. How can I help you? That kind of thing, as opposed to, how come you never talk about anything? How come you don’t want to say things to me? If you approach any conversation that way, and it’s not going to be helpful. And so the same holds true from the other side. So for guys, women tend, like you said, it’s very true. Women tend to pull out feelings more, they tend to talk about feelings more. This is just a reality of biology. This is absolutely true. And so it is a very important adaptation for men, I think in a relationship to start to recognize, it’s very important to my wife, and this again is a generalization, but say in any relationship, if it is important to your spouse, that you talk about stuff to start to adapt to that and say, sometimes I’m going to need to step outside of my comfort zone because this is something that he or she needs. And this is a way that I can show them love, by allowing myself to be vulnerable. And that’s really what love is, love is allowing yourself to be vulnerable to the point of being hurt and having the confidence to know that you won’t be. It is a very, very delicate balance to walk. And so it’s one of those things that very often, it’s a matter of both partners trying to come together. And a lot of times that just involves stepping out of their comfort zone, even if it’s just a little bit.
Well, I can’t wait to listen to this a lot more on the marriage and money MD summit you got going on. I think that we’re going to come towards the end here, and I’m going to ask you this one question to really end it. What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your marriage? You can only pick one.
This is an easy one. It’s a super easy one. And I think I understood this to a certain extent when we were first married, but I’ve learned this more over the years, and that is this axiom that love is an action verb. And it’s a very important concept for us to recognize it’s not passive. And so to just feel love for someone is simply not enough. You have to be willing to demonstrate love. You have to figure out what the other person’s love language is. How can you show them love? How can you express love in ways that are meaningful to them, that show them how much you care, that make them then make them feel loved and appreciated and cherished. And so I’m reminded of one of my all time favorite quotes by Augustine. He said, we become brave by doing brave things. So bravery is not something that we feel. It’s something that we become because we have overcome that fear. It’s not the absence of fear.
It’s overcoming fear and love is the same way. I think we become loving by doing loving things. And so, as you’re going through your day or as you’re going through your week, I would encourage you to do a simple exercise just right now, just go to your phone. So if you guys are listening to summit, if you’re watching, pull out your phone right now. Pull your phone and look at the text string to your wife, your husband, your significant other, and just start scrolling through and take a mental catalog of what percentage of the texts that you sent are something that you need them to do, or something that you’re telling them, factual knowledge or that you’re making some kind of a plan, something that is if you’ll call it sterile, versus something where you just sent them a text to say, it’s 2:33 on Tuesday, and I was thinking about you. Or you looked really pretty when I left this morning, I love that color shirt on you. Or, I’m so excited that you’re doing so great with your new job. So what percentage of your texts are those really loving things and what percentage are just those factual things. And if the answer, which it is for most people, is less than 10%, maybe start punching that up.
That’s a very simple thing you can do just once a day for no reason at all. Just send a text to tell them, you know what I was thinking about you. I’m really glad I have you in my life or start to talk about your spouse when you’re at work, because I see this, this drives me crazy. I see this all the time where you’ll be in the, or you’ll be in the doctor’s lounge or whatever. And people are like, oh, my wife did this. And my husband did this and she’s always nagging me. And he’s always, bringing his friends over. And it’s like, anytime that kind of thing happens, just say that must be really frustrating for all you guys. My wife’s amazing. I love her so much. She’s fantastic. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it lets the air out of the balloon, it’s so hilarious to watch, you know, when you just say, I’m not going to engage in that. I’m going to choose to show love. I’m going to choose to talk positively about my spouse. So just remember love is an action verb. And so the more of those actions that you take, the more your spouse will start to feel that.
Wow, that’s a very powerful thing. And we actually do that in our medical practice for patients as well. So we don’t really have crazy labels, like crazy patient labels and stuff like that. We’re like, wow, this patient has received a lot of trauma, a lot of traumatic experiences. And you know, it must not feel very good to be in this particular situation. Let’s just focus on that for a second. How can we over deliver value to this patient? And so that one thing leads to my employees also saying, you’re in a situation, your father died and I want to be able to reach out to you, let’s communicate that as well. So it’s a very addictive thing. Once you let the air out, once you put it out there, that there are languages of love that we’re permitted to say and permitted to have that effect on people. And I think some people just need a little bit of permission, once they have that permission, they’re like now let’s be positive about this and we can talk about this as well. So it’s a very powerful thing. And my gosh, that one thing dramatically reduces burnout because there is a sense of purpose with human connection, even between our staff and our patients and everything like that. Especially at home as well, you know? So it’s such a powerful thing.
Yeah, absolutely. And it gives you that bedrock of confidence and security that we were talking about, it’s huge. There’s no substitute.
Absolutely. Well, thanks for coming on, man. This is such an important topic. So once again, marriage and money MD November 15th through 17th, and this is an online summit, right?
Yeah. It’s entirely free. So yeah, definitely sign up. The website is marriageandmoneyMD.com and it’s free to sign up. There’s going to be 18 physician and physician spouse speakers. Some big names are coming. It’s going to be awesome. We’ve got nine subjects of money, nine on marriage, and we’re just going to ping pong back and forth for three nights. It’s going to be absolutely fantastic. It’s free to sign up. So everyone definitely needs to sign up. Even if you can’t catch the thing live, you’ll be able to get the replays for the rest of the week. And it’s gonna be awesome. marriageandmoneyMD.com and you can sign up for free.
Awesome. Well, thank you, Dr. Lacey for hopping on. We will be signing off now. Have a good one.