My wife asked me to share ideas about our marriage.
I’m better in writing, so I figured I’d leave this for my kids, and you.
16 years – it went by in a flash.
My inability to feel duration, can make me a little sad. I have a hunch that soon I’ll be an old guy wondering what just happened!
Acknowledging the reality of the fleeting nature of time… it is useful at helping me stay focused.
No time to waste.
VP Pence took heat for his rules of marriage. To me, they were OBVIOUS and reflect how I act.
I met my wife at the pool. As a result, I don’t train with attractive, athletic females (other than her – she’s very attractive).
I don’t consume alcohol with females, or anybody else.
I don’t find myself 1-on-1 with females, especially other people’s spouses.
The above is a simple risk mitigation strategy. Applied across domains, over 50+ years, it works.
I keep myself away from situations where a poor decision results in ruin.
I pointed this out with regard to Andy’s accident and it applies everywhere. The decision is best made before you have to make a decision.
How do you stack up?
So many have conflicts over money.
Since the late-1990s, I’ve paid the living expenses of everyone (male/female) who’s lived with me. By the time, our youngest graduates high school the bill will be over $6 million.
My favorite wife-quote about family finances is when she said to me, “What do you know about money?”
I just smiled.
I know how to make it, when to stop reaching for it, and what’s more important than money.
My financial knowledge has enabled our family to live a good life AND I have been able to educate my kids.
Most parents want to see their kids grow up. I made a choice to go one step further. I’m educating our children in how I see the world. These lessons will endure into the next century.
Invert => how much of your family’s financial wealth from 1950 do you have right now?
My ancestors legacy is good ideas, memories of what didn’t work, a debt-free education and a life-changing introduction to my first boss in finance.
To finance our life, I need one good idea per decade. The rest of the time I avoid mistakes, and manage spending.
It takes a lot of effort to avoid mistakes. I write this blog to help my kids identify their inevitable mistakes.
Mistakes are effective teachers, I “manage” by:
letting things go wrong
letting other people be wrong
surfacing, considering and fixing my own mistakes
Across 50-100 year time horizons, wealth habits add up. A simple annuity calculation (laid out many times in previous blogs) will show that my choice to avoid financial conflict will end up “costing” my heirs millions.
The human capital I am building will more than cover this amount.
Ruin Not Experienced (divorce, substance abuse, spending, investment)
There is deep, multigenerational wisdom when we act with long time horizons. In my current life, I try to be the parent I’d like my grandkids to experience.
What are the choices that caused your family tree to lose capital, lose members and lose productivity?
Be as open as possible about errors, they tend to repeat.
Two years ago, my son decided to hold up his finger and yell, “BOOGER!”
Yes, there was a nasty one hanging there!
As I sorted his booger, I decided to fire every staff member in my life.
An unimpeachable moral authority stemming from out-working everyone around me
Relentless attention to detail (in myself) – no days off, no exceptions
A schedule that enables me to follow up on the above, especially when it’s inconvenient
Before talking to others… How do I measure up?
Confidence comes from knowing you can outwork your competition over long time horizons. My kids are very confident, with good reason.
Tough to beat.
Let’s talk about staff.
We got through the highest stress period of our marriage (babies and preschoolers) because I had the courage to make a poor financial decision. I spent money so we could maintain some sort of life between the two of us.
Our recent trip to Death Valley let me price opting out (of living in the real world).
160 student contact days ($50)
Leaves 205 non-student contact days ($200)
365 overnights ($50)
Multiply that out, gross it up for payroll taxes => $80,000 per annum and I can watch someone else deal with my kids boogers… 😉
I’m sure many professional people cut that number in half when calculating the exit cost from an unhappy marriage, or when feeling overwhelmed (as we all do) with a young family.
But is that winning? Before blowing up a marriage, look two generations out, consider your unborn grandkids.
I don’t serve anyone by having my family see me opt out.
Queen Elizabeth comes to mind. Still grinding!
The goal of life is not to opt out of the obligations of citizenship, or be worshipped for position. To build a successful organization, requires a long term commitment to service.
Even then, there’s going to be scandals, setbacks, challenges and very good reasons to quit.
Keep moving forward and be comfortable with what you control (your actions).
Goodness, in action, inoculates one from the options of others.
Finding => Be the person you want to marry => you’ll have a positive influence on everyone around you and, when things don’t work out, you’ll be well placed to keep moving towards better.
Retaining => Be clear about your minimums => cleaning, sex, financial contributions, social engagements => table everything you hear your friends complaining about.
Optimizing => Take care of yourself => knowing it is better being married to an athletic spouse… I need to be an athletic spouse.
Being Effective => Do not manage from the couch => If you don’t care enough to stand up then let it go.
Willful Blindness Is The Seed of Bitterness => Be clear about what you don’t want => very few people want to be left alone and, even the kindest partner, is likely to grow bitter when the “division of inconvenience” is out of whack.
Knowing actions matter, I watch => in myself, and everyone around me…
What is done first?
Ruthlessly honest inventory of time allocation. Do not fool myself by saying something is important, when I allocate little time to it.
What am I doing when I am willing to inconvenience myself? My core values live here.
Is there something small I can do, daily, to support the people who are essential to me? Have I asked?
I try to stay humble by remembering how each chapter of my family’s story will end.
Iterate towards better. Document, then share what works.
We decided to take advantage of the second-to-last week of daytime childcare (i.e. school) and do a quick couples trip.
Post-pandemic, I’m aiming for one adventure each month.
Tuesday morning we caught a 7:30am flight out of Denver. Gaining an hour, we rolled out of Vegas by 10am and were hiking by 3pm.
The idea was PM/AM hikes to get some overload in preparation for a September trip to the Grand Canyon.
Wildrose Peak, 2,200 vert, ~8 miles, trailhead (at ~7K) was 20F cooler than Stovepipe Wells, which was 102F.
After the Wildrose Peak hike, it was time to get to the campsite.
From the 2WD lower trailhead, it is ~2 miles to the 4WD upper trailhead. I’d rented a Jeep and was grateful we didn’t have to haul our camping stuff up the road, or camp lower down.
In Colorado terms, it’s a good dirt. I would have felt OK giving it a shot in a Honda CR-V or a Subaru.
That said, the consequences of a double-flat, or torn oil pan are high… 60 miles to the nearest mechanic.
Arriving at the trailhead, we were surprised to see a couple sedans up there. I was grateful for 4Lo in the Jeep, a smooth drive up for us.
One guy managed to tear open his gas tank, while backing up close to our campsite. It was 7pm. He declined an offer to get a message out via satellite communicator and decided to deal with the salvage operation the following day.
We had periodic cell reception on the high ridges – not enough for the web but good enough to send a couple pics/texts to our kids.
Telescope Peak is the highest point in the Park. The first two miles of the trail had a little exposure and the last mile to the summit is exposed to rockfall if parties are above you.
The prior day’s hike (Wildrose Peak) was mellow. Great trail with no exposure, or rockfall.
Fun fact, if you start from the Death Valley side then you can climb >10,000 vertical to the summit of Telescope. However, the route wasn’t clear and the valley is a reminder that, sometimes, nature wants to kill us.
Looking down, I could see water in the canyons, no idea on salt content.
We left the stranded motorist a spare gallon of water and crossed paths with a Ranger on our drive out.
Over the last six years, our discretionary budget has been simplified to vehicles, skiing and vacations.
Let’s start with vacations.
Most families with kids, place their vacations before considering Childcare and the size of their mortgage/rent payment. I recommend you reconsider your priorities. Earlier I explained why, I sold assets so the grown ups could maintain their health and relationship.
When I was living with a 4, 2 and 1 year old – my favorite kind of discretionary spending wasn’t a vacation, it was “more childcare”.
Always, more childcare.
To be a good investor, you need to know your opportunity cost.
Same deal for being a good spouse!
The Bora Bora vacation (above, still on my fridge) is the equivalent of 150 date nights.
When I was working through a decade of bedtime dramas… I priced my life in date nights (time with my wife, time without a kid melting down).
Date nights where someone else can put the little ones to sleep, and you can alternate the following morning with your spouse.
Alternate the routine so each spouse gets a slot where they are “off” from 5pm to 10am.
“Sweetie, I just need two nights a week where nobody is yelling at me.“
I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve a nervous system reset 2x per week.
Still want to head out of town? These were my rules for luxury spending:
make it “fridge-worthy” (re-live the vibe over-and-over)
book it way in advance (create anticipation)
take a lot of pictures
The trips were a good bang for the buck, we spread them out, got stuff done and had something to look forward to.
We found shorter trips were better – if we left for more than a few days, our Alpha Pup would try to take over the household!
We left the kids at home, in their normal routine – never risk the sleep schedule!
Take a look at your budget, are you making time to enjoy each other?
An observation that I am trying to pass along to my kids.
My never ending desires are rooted in a false idea of what will make me happy. I have a clear idea about the structure of the days that are “better.” Achieving better is easier, and more rewarding, than chasing pleasure from purchases.
To help me achieve “better”, I have a series of principles.
1/ Visible spending for wife, first // This works on a number of levels.
Don’t buy something for yourself that you wouldn’t buy for your entire family.
It easier to be value conscious when I remove myself from the purchase equation.
It’s just good policy.
2/ The minimum outlay to meet the underlying need
Strangely, I got this via Joe Friel on coaching masters athletes => the minimum, and the most specific, training to get the desired physiological adaption.
Capital takes time to acquire and is easily squandered (spendthrift heirs and lottery winners are common examples).
A default to the minimum reduces the scale of my (inevitable) errors and increases the ability to change my mind later.
How do you deal with the risk that your body lasts longer than your mind?
Serve the young.
A pregnant wife is the start of an outstanding opportunity to de-risk the back end of your life. The skills required to take advantage of this offering are likely to be very different from what you’ve been using so far.
You don’t need to be a father to take advantage of these posts – young spouse, young students, other people’s kids, grandkids, neighbors… the key element is consistent service to others.
Now, in my own case, it wasn’t a desire to “get” future help.
Rather I had a strong desire to “avoid”.
Avoid another divorce.
Avoid the pain of future regret.
Still not sure? Listen quietly while grandparents talk about their life decisions.