The Childfree Wealth Podcast, hosted by Bri Conn and Dr. Jay Zigmont, CFP®, is a financial and lifestyle podcast that explores the unique perspectives and concerns of childfree individuals and couples. In this episode, Bri & Dr. Jay discuss money guilt.
Dr. Jay kicks off the conversation by discussing his upbringing and the notion of the "rent and ramen" phase, where you just have enough to cover your basic needs. However, even when you've achieved financial success, breaking free from the constant work ethic can be a daunting task. Bri, on the other hand, shares her journey from growing up with financial security to developing money guilt despite her privilege.
Together, they unravel the complex emotions tied to money guilt, from feeling unworthy of enjoying the fruits of your labor to the pressure of repaying the ones who supported you. They also shed light on how societal norms, like the Protestant work ethic, can make it difficult to transition into a more fulfilling life, even after achieving financial success.
Disclaimer: This podcast is for educational & entertainment purposes. Please consult your advisor before implementing any ideas heard on this podcast.
All right, Dr. Day, today we're going to talk about dealing with money, guilt. This is something we've seen a lot with people who have done all of the quote unquote right things over the years. They've gotten out of debt. They've saved an emergency fund, they've invested. And now they have money and they can do things, but they really struggle to get out of that constant work ethic and actually enjoy what they built for themselves.
Can you talk more about like how we work on overcoming that and some of the things we do with clients to help them feel more?
Let's start talking about our story first. I mean, I'll freely admit that I have money guilt. I mean, I grew up with very little. I always say we grew up broke. I have money for a week and then I'd be gone the next week, you know, the feast, famine. And that's kind of the way it is. The hard part is once you have money, it's almost like you have to, I don't know, like change your way of thinking, but change who you are from somebody being broke to somebody who has money.
I talk about this as the getting out of the rent and ramen phase. So the rise in ramen phase is, yeah, just enough money to pay your bills and pay for food. We've all been there. The problem is, people often get stuck there like they always feel like, hey, I'm not going to enough money to pay the kid the roof over my head or whatever.
And I get stuck there myself. And there are times where I'm like, Oh, this happened. And I don't know, the whole world is going to come to an end. And then I just, like, swipe my card for my emergency fund and it's all fixed and like, it's no big deal. And I think that's hard. I mean, do you struggle with that break?
Absolutely. I've openly said before what scholarships didn't cover in college, my parents paid for and I know I started school or I started life out with zero debt. I never had a car loan. I never had student loans. The only sort of debt that I had was I felt really bad that my parents were paying for everything.
And so I went to Best Buy and I got a Best Buy credit card for 0%. And I then went and got a laptop and I paid it off every month. And then later when I told my dad about it, he was like, You didn't need to do that. We would have paid for it. Going from that to then investing and saving money and being able to quit my job and have my own business and transition into finance and make those crew changes a lot of opportunities, but I still really struggle when it comes to being able to do things.
Great example. My wife wants to go to Panda Express, which sounds so silly, but I was like, No, we're not going out to eat. And we got this buy one, get one free thing in the mail because one just opened in our town. I was like, Okay, we can go out now because we don't have to pay full price for it, which is ridiculous.
Like we have the money we could afford to pay to go out because we don't really go out or do those things. But I feel like I can't actually enjoy where we're at or take time to do fun things ever.
So here's the fun part of that. When you and I came at the from two complete different worlds, but actually my parents weren't able to help like what your parents did. But yeah, we get to the same solution that we can't enjoy our spending money.
Yeah. I mean, I grew up. My grandma has Dave Ramsey's book in our house on the bookshelf, in the kitchen. And I have a lot of family who is like, it's you pay cash for everything, and that is the only way. And if you don't have the cash for it, well, you just shouldn't have it. And so I internalized a lot of those thoughts.
And whether or not I agree with those things, there are things I don't agree with from that. But there are, you know, some things that I still are part of me. And it has caused me a lot of guilt when it comes to money and struggling to accept that I'm in a good spot. It also it feels like I shouldn't be worthy of these things or like I shouldn't have them because not everybody got these opportunities.
I started on third base, just even like… when I got married my wife had student loans and a car loan. We've been working pills off, but it. It doesn't feel like I can do those things because like I said, on third base, you didn't. You started in the dugout. Still, I feel guilty for the privilege that I've been given.
And also I acknowledge, I mean, yeah, yeah, I'm a white male, so there's certain political with that. And I actually worked with inner city youth for quite a while and was a used come over to work programs, teaching and becoming mentees and work with these people that are have real barriers to learning and money. They are barely making ends meet.
And we would have these conversations about money and life and expectations and art bar for them was picturing that you could actually have something different. And I with them we grew up in two completely different worlds. I grew up in, you know, more of a suburban area struggling. They grew up in a city struggling different cultures, different structures, both struggling.
And what I found is that there were actually some people that self-sabotage when they start seeing success because the struggle is I believe they've always known and it pulls them back. Growing up broke, there's always a drama, an intimacy or some other problem that comes up and it feels like you never get ahead. And when you do get ahead, it's like, when's the other shoe to drop?
But I don't have money now that it would need to be a damn big shoe before it caused me a problem. But I'm still living that way. And I, I don't know. I think the hard part is people say, well, I earn 100,000 now, or if I have $1,000,000 or if I get that, I'll change it. And it doesn't. It's not a magic number, but it was like, if I do this, then it'll then their guilt would go away.
I don't know. I don't see it. What do you think, Bri?
I agree with that. Like, I don't think that guilt just goes away. Once you get to a certain point, it is much deeper than that and much more embedded in you and learning how to get out of that guilt is a struggle. And so even doing small things can be difficult because it feels like a really big thing.
Like, No, you shouldn't be spending money on that, you should be saving it for this reason or this reason. And it takes a long time. I can only speak from like my background was. You just say lot to do a lot. And there was a very big belief that that my household was like, you help your kids, you get them started.
Even some of the most of the stuff in my house I did not buy, my parents bought it because that was their belief and it was like, Well, I have this, but I feel like I need to repay them for it now and I can't do the things I want, even though, you know, I've tried to pay them for certain things and that like, no, there is zero expectation of that.
It's almost like a backwards like you want to repay for what they gave you and even when they don't want or need it, it just it feels it's hard. It's hard to deal with it. And it then it also compounding on that is like, well, you shouldn't be feeling guilty about that because you had it so well life like think about people who did.
And then so there's the guilt of yes, I had it all off the people telling you you had it well off. So you shouldn't feel guilty about it. And the guilt of like feeling a responsibility to repay the people who helped you.
Well, in I'll give you an example. Yep. Our firm's name is Childfree Wealth and having just a name wealth in there sets people off. Yeah. And the reality check is being childfree does not make you rich automatically. Like, there's no, like, magic checks that come flying in when you become childfree. I recently I did something in the press I feel was and I shared it on Facebook and I'm out, you know, what is it like to live a life, of childfree wealth? And the way we say is you have time, money and freedom to do what you enjoy. Does it say you have a lot of money more than you would if you're a parent and be like, well, you know, that's not true of you're disabled and this is going on in this go. I'm like, you're right, it does not fix everything.
But that at the same time I start kind of getting wow, guilt or whatever I want to call it, of like, Hey, I want to help them too, but I can only help so many people. And I've got to pay the bills too, by the way, that's why we do the blog and the podcast. Those are all free, like people to learn the other enough to pay us.
But then it's like, Well, should I feel bad about having money? Because other people don't? I know. I think as a society we we need to do work on income disparity. That's a big issue, housing, big issue with food insecurity. We've got big systematic issues. Does that mean that I can't enjoy my money? I don't know. You know, and people start putting in their their own values around money and saying, well, if they're strong, then I have a struggle.
So they talk about the middle class work ethic or the price and work ethic or whatever you want to call a puritanical. Where's that get that you just got to you put your nose to the grindstone. You just got to always work, get to work hard. I got to people I know. Yeah, you've done that now. I got money now.
What do you wanna do with your life? So, like, I don't know what I would do if I wasn't working. Like, well, what would you enjoy? They. You give back to people, maybe you volunteer, maybe you travel. I don't care. It is the people like. But what do I tell people I do for a living? Who cares? But that's that kills.
That just keeps building up. And it's one of those problems, like when you hit your goals, then you really can't, like, take the victory lap because other people are struggling.
Yeah, and that's not right. Like, you should be able to celebrate what you've done and have it feel good, but there's a lot of people who are also very vocal about like, you shouldn't have that and you shouldn't feel good about it and walk. But if you were in the same position like you would want to feel good about it and celebrate it too.
Like so it only is worth something if it happened a certain way. That's not true. But there's a idea that that is how has to be in order to feel good about where you gone and how far you've gone.
Yeah. And I think the better way. Yeah. If it feels like Bree and I are doing a therapist session here for each other, we are. Well, I think this, you know, because it does have to do with where it came from. But the reality check is if you got money and you decided you bought a Ferrari and you crash a Ferrari, you're going to feel bad about it.
The people will be like, Yeah, but you had a Ferrari. You're like, Yes, I did, but I still lost it. Really? Yeah, but other people can barely feed themselves. I'm like, Yes, that does not make my loss any better or worse. And that's you're you know, you're still feeling a loss. Where are the people who are, you know, going to bed hungry?
You're upset because you lost your $100,000 car.
Mm hmm. And it doesn't have to be over like something that big either. A silly example was this weekend we were camping and I went down to my in-laws camper to grab some stuff, and I was like, Oh, I'll just grab the breakfast stuff and move it up to our fridge. So that way it's out of the way.
Well, I set it down and I forgot to put it in the fridge and the next morning I realized it. It was $20 worth of groceries, but I felt so awful. And my wife texted me like to come get breakfast and I was like, Yeah, I know, I messed up. Like, we don't have anything. And she goes, No, no, no.
Like, we have stuff. It's fine, it's okay. But it can be little things like that. She's like, Oh, well, I just threw away what somebody else would love to have simply because I forgot.
Yeah. And I think the hard part is it's kind of only like it's almost like being comfortable in your own skin, acknowledging the mistakes, acknowledging the privilege, acknowledging what you are, acknowledging what you don't have, and then still caring for others. I've done this trick with some people. When they get to plan, they're trying to figure out kind of a balance and how to understand and money and maybe travel is their goal.
Say, okay, for every dollar you spend on travel, you spend an equal amount in giving. You spend ten grand. Travel has been ten grand. Get it? It's interesting because then people are like, I could do that. It's just like sue into the soul. Now, mind you, they probably more of money. They can give a whole lot more and travel more, but you can do that.
So other people, it's, hey, I'm going to get my time. I'm going to give whatever it is. And what happens is we need to like give ourselves a break when we do stupid stuff. That's the leaving the food out. I mean, it happens all of us. By way, I'm still, like, obsessing over stupid stuff I did a decade ago, you know?
I see those things like pop. I'll be like, Oh, I remember when I did this. And like, you're like, that was dumb, but we need to give ourselves a break so that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. Now, child free folks get to a point. We call them the child from midlife crisis. You get your personal, professional financial goals.
Then what? That's where the guilt really starts. Having some interesting spins because they're like, okay, I have money, I've done this career, I've done well. I don't want to do it still. Can I really like go in a completely different direction. Yeah, go right ahead. You got 40 years up your life. Go do what they want. Yeah, but I put so much time and effort and money into learning to be a nurse.
I'm like, yup. Do you enjoy it? No. What do you want to be? Oh, I want to be an artist. I want to be a librarian. I want to see year. I want to work at the Dodge Older. Go do that like well, but I can't do that because I'm giving up money that I could make it like the money that doesn't matter to you.
And this is where it gets stuck. And I had somebody recently this online also they posted some questions about this and I said they said, how do you get over it? I said, the answer is you probably can't do it alone. And this is one of those few times where I'm like, you need help. You know, the way I say is you need three people in your life.
You need a therapist, look back, a spiritual person to look up and a coach look forward. You probably need all three of those. Or whichever one of those you don't think you need, that's the one you need. Like if you love therapy, you need a coach, if you love coaching a therapist, whatever it is, and so that you can dove in and say, All right, what do I need to work through to be happy we're really talking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, of self-actualization, of like, what's the purpose of life?
Why am I here? What I want to do with myself? And those are tough questions. You probably aren't going to figure out on your own. You know, it's why we call it we do life and financial planning. People actually base for the financial planning, but they come back to life plan because like, how do I actually get comfortable with my money is much harder than how do I earn more money? What do they break?
All I agree with that, you know, the emotions are so much more difficult. It's easy to pick up extra hours and get more money in your bank account. But it's not so easy to be like, Oh, I worked for this and I've done a good job, but now I actually, you know, get to enjoy it and do the things I want to do.
That is much harder.
Yeah, I call the blueberry problem, you know, where they're still buying the frozen blueberries because they're dollar cheaper than the fresh blueberries. It takes a lot of work to get them to buy the fresh blueberries and actually spend money. It's actually harder to if you want to spend money that save money, you have people with millions of dollars that are still clipping coupons like, hey, if you enjoy clipping coupons, go right ahead.
Like, there's some people like they have an argument, the extreme couponing, you know, if you ever seen these little folks, but they go to the grocery store and like the cart costs like $0.36 for the whole cart. Small stuff because they if you if that's your hobby cool. If you're doing it to save $4 on coupons, you're spending 2 hours to do it.
I threw them at those work. And I think the hard part of that is that couponing habit might be been a habit for the past 40 years. And where I'm programing that people go, well, I mean, worst case, I die with more money. You're cool. We're giving that money to. I don't know. Well, then you're giving to the government.
Yeah, well and you have these discussions. So right now the estate tax is about 12 and some odd million is what you can give away to like family before he attacks on it. But above that the government takes 40%. By the way, that's crazy. In 2025. Currently, if you just earn a whole lot more money, literally, you're giving it to the government.
I don't know anyone that truly wants to give it to the government. They'd like to give it to their causes or give it things. But what about if you spent it throughout your life and made other people's lives better, make your life better and you know, go take that trip, go by those blueberries. You know, my wife and I went out to dinner last night, were celebrating and we went to a restaurant, very nice steak and fish type place.
And she goes, well, this is, you know, more expensive. So what we normally do, mind you buy about $12. Entire bill was 73 bucks for a fancy restaurant. Now 73 bucks.
That’s cheap for a nice dinner.
We're cheaper than that. Okay.
Yeah, I like I guess.
Okay, but here's the thing. We're still going. Yeah, but. And I'm like, we're good, we're fine. And it's just that mentality and shifting that it's hard.
You know about it was good restaurant. We liked it. We can spend the extra bucks and go there ideally. So I mean it's the barriers though, you know, so you're doing fine and then your friends or family are struggling. Now, I have a rule. Nobody. I don't get my money. I'll pay their medical bill or pay for the groceries.
But I don't give cash anybody. Why? Because it's going to drive me crazy when they spend it on an iPad instead of on what they really, you know, on their groceries or whatever. That's part of the challenge is this guilt. You've now done good things. You can't, like, embrace that, but then you like low key judge other people for not doing good things.
Micallef Maria, we all do it anyway. They don't judges why? Okay, I'm saying you may not see it. It's there. And I think that it's one of those things where like you want to help people, but you don't want to enable bad behaviors either. And with money, it's very easy to enable bad behaviors, including your own. And by the way, this is where it gets really weird.
Saving money just to save money as a childfree person might be a bad behavior points there. Yeah people go way way back here be like no again because we have a different goal at the end.
Yeah. And it's hard for people to understand that their goals are different because that is so countercultural to to spend money and not be building up large sums to give away when you pass away.
Yeah, I'm all for giving. Let's do a day, a lifetime. Let's change somebody's life. You want to give somebody's life, grab $1,000 in cash, find somebody struggling and give it to them. Now, I just said I don't give cash a family. I'm talking to a random stranger who's struggling. You could completely change your life. But here's the problem.
You have no guarantee they're going to spend it the way you want.
I think part of that, too, when it comes to giving is you also need to be okay with however they spend it. That was one thing my parents always told me was regardless of whether or not they use it the way you want them to, like, if you see somebody who is sitting there and has like a sign saying, my parents were very much like, it is not on you to judge whether or not they need the help.
It is on you to give and just be a cheerful giver, then that's hard.
And here's the thing. All that stuff our parents have taught us, all that stuff, our cultures ties all this up that religion has taught us is going against our own money mindsets and what makes us happy. Yeah, I often with clients I'll pull out this one and I pull out rarely because it hurts, but I pull it out and I'll have some who's voices in your head telling you you need to do that.
And they'll usually pause and go, Oh, my dad, my church, my way. I was raised my like, Oh, cool, not you. Yeah. I was taught in high school. I had a teacher I love. She said gift is guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. Only if you allow it to, will allow it to. And I'll fly. I'll ask people who's buying you the tickets to the guilt trip, by the way?
They know they'll be like this person or that or this situation sometimes. Well, I was cool. That's in the past. We acknowledge it now. How do we look forward and that's hard. You we're talking about like I'm not know generally something like hey I can meet with a client in 20 minutes, change your mind their mental model on this.
This is not usually how this works. I only have clients on a monthly basis. The first two or three months we'll work through all the numbers and I'll be like, You're good? And they're like, Yeah, what about this? And ask me 100 questions like, you're good and I get the rational because I'm like, Listen, you're paying me for my advice.
I say, You're good. I got to be usually an MBA to see if me I say You're good. Okay. And then the though. But now what? Like. Yeah, I don't know. Oh, it's up to you. You know, we don't know, baby step four, which is save towards your goals. What are your goals? I don't know. I've already hit them.
Well, they'll lead a new set. Now there are those people go, well, you know, maybe you live a life without goals. I don't know, maybe you can. I just can't. I just see people you need something to think towards. It doesn't have to be a goal. It just. I want to, like, spend more my time hiking in the mountains.
I don't get I thought perfectly fine goal. But what'll happen is once I show people they're fine financially, their brain kind of explodes because they've been struggling for ever. And I'm like, You're no longer struggling. They're like, Well, what if I had more money? I'd try the less. I'm like, Now you're fly because I'll let you run their money out till like the time they're 90 and show me they die with.
I'm like, You're dying with $10 billion now. Like, how is that possible? Wash all the math. Like out and then the brain explodes because they can't figure it out. And then what will happen is they'll come up with something they want to do and I'll try it and but usually not the right thing. It'll usually be something else after that.
But all of a sudden they start realizing, Huh, no, I don't have to get up and go, right. It's okay to enjoy your life and enjoy your money. It's okay not to struggle. But here's the problem. In the U.S. right now, rich people are not looked at very well. Let's be real on that. They're judged. And to say you don't have to struggle for money is like that's the countercultural breeze talking about.
Feels really weird. And you're right, you have to be comfortable in your own skin. Let's not easy.
Yeah I mean you wouldn't scroll on any social media and people want you to essentially be uncomfortable with being in a good spot. And yet they'll be some of my favorite ones. Not really favorite, but like ones that really just hit you. And the guilt is when they talk about, Oh, well, we've come this far and you're supposed to celebrate them.
Great. I'm happy for you. And like, that is good. But why can't we celebrate where we're at to even?
And we need to find the respectful balance. So like there's a few of like the, the dig sing groups and a few others where it's just like all bragging about your, like, cars and toys. All right, you're low. Be respectful.
At the same time, you shouldn't still be able to celebrate whatever you want. It's be mindful of others, but also being comfortable with you. And by the way, maybe the answer is you just don't show it. There was an interesting study I was reading this week or last week on Ultrahigh Net Worth. People buy a 10 to 50 million or better and they did a study on fashion.
And here's what they found. Ultrahigh net worth. People do not wear things with logos or names or coach or whatever, you know, Louis Vuitton or whatever the heck it is. They'll buy the for pilot T-shirt with no logo that is good on material that only somebody else who has bought that for a T-shirt would know they're not going to show it off.
Yeah, they're just enjoying it.
That is true. Like, I think there is a big a big thing there. The more you have, the less you want to show it off because you don't necessarily want to put that quote unquote target on your back.
They call it quiet wealth. Yeah. You're enjoying it. Do you think now the opposite of this is if you go on a trip and you don't post on Instagram, did you even go like Steve thought? It's like, Yeah. You know what I'm talking about?
Yeah. I went to the chiropractor recently and and he was like, Oh, you haven't, like, posted anything in a few months. He's like, You have nothing to brag about. And I was like, Actually, I've done a lot of stuff, but I just don't feel the need to share with you or anybody.
Why your chiropractor is creeping on your Instagram in disgust.
His daughter and I are like best friends. That's why. It’s just small town stuff.
But my point is, that's the dichotomy of our culture, is you got to brave us. That's why by people like Rent a Private Jet, just for Instagram photos, they don't go anywhere with it. Like this pile of people lying just you can have that care. We actually freeze the Graham don't post a whole lot of that stuff because it doesn't really help we post information and like, how do you actually improve your finances?
And by the way, we get more followers if we're posting random crap that we're buying and like, bragging about.
Yeah, but that's not.
I think Bri's in charge of this, not me. You know, we are after they were. But I think the bottom line is, if you deal with money, guilt, get help, we can help you. Other people can help you as well. So you're not going to get through yourself. And part of that is that second set of eyes look like you're fine.
00;25;10;24 - 00;25;31;29
You're okay. You're not struggling. You're fine. You're okay. You're out of the rent and ramen phase. And I've actually tracked it. So somewhere, Maya Somewhere around about a third of the intro means I do. So I do an hour introduction with people, about a third of them. There'll be either tears running down their face or like really close.
Yeah. And you can tell when they're real close, like, and then we and camera goes off in that, probably in tears.
And my theory on it is two things. One, they're being heard. So they feel like, you know, we're saying you're okay, you're fine. We got you. Here's the future. And I've done this with people and I'll literally use those words, You're good, you're fine. And all of a sudden, like, just the tears come flying. And it's just that relief of, like, I've been struggling for decades.
I'm okay. And then the horror goes, Well, now what? But like, there's that moment. We're like, All right, it's a catharsis of just saying, I'm okay now. Let's keep going. By the way, if you do me with me and I cause tears. I can't hand you a tissue to through via zoom. I don't apologize. It is what it is, but it's really to me saying, all right, we hit the right tone and you know, you can improve and you know where you're at, you know you're safe.
We go from that. You deal with money, guilt, reach out, talk to somebody. You don't have to have a little analytical. Analytical.