In this episode, I interview Zia Hassan. Zia’s an educator, life coach, tech consultant, and systems enthusiast. In our conversation, we focus on how to handle difficult conversations about finances and career changes.
When Teaching is Getting in the Way of Your Relationships
DAPHNE (WILLIAMS) GOMEZ: Hello, Zia. How are you doing?
ZIA HASSAN: Hey, Daphne. I’m good. How are you doing?
DAPHNE: I am really excited to have you on just because I love chatting with you and we’re friends, and I feel like I always learn so much anytime I have you on the podcast.
For anyone who hasn’t heard from you before, who hasn’t checked out your last episode with me, do you mind introducing yourself to the Teacher Career Coach podcast?
ZIA HASSAN: I would love to. So, for those of you who didn’t hear the last episode, my name is Zia Hassan and I do a variety of things, but I am an educator, I am a consultant, and I’m also a coach.
All three of those tend to intersect occasionally, but being a coach has been what I’ve been focusing on most recently, and I know we’re going to talk more about that, but those are the three things that I do.
DAPHNE: Yes, so Zia and I work together as educational consultants but he’s always been someone I go to for more advice and so I wanted Zia to come on and talk to the audience today specifically about how to talk to your significant other about making a career change.
I have so many audience members who reach out all the time asking, how do you even start that conversation or how to get the significant other on board?
Zia, this is going to be a very special episode for me to do especially with you as my friend. As we’re airing this, this is coming out two days before Jonathan and I get married.
ZIA HASSAN: Two days? Wow, that really snuck up, didn’t it?
DAPHNE: Yes. Well, we’re not getting married in two days right now, but when this airs on November 11th, that was the surprise that I made you a very special guest for.
ZIA HASSAN: I get to be the episode that launches the week of your wedding?
ZIA HASSAN: And it’s about relationships-
DAPHNE: I did it on purpose.
ZIA HASSAN: Too good to be true. That’s fantastic.
DAPHNE: So, the reason why Zia is on here today is we’re going to talk about having difficult conversations with your significant other, getting them on board, and all the different things that can happen during a career change with relationships.
I wanted to start off and talk about something that Jonathan and I are reading a book, it’s called Eight Dates by John Gottman.
He says that arguments about finances are the single best predictor of divorce and it doesn’t mean that couples shouldn’t have talks about changing careers or difficult conversations about finances, but it just means that we have to start to create strategies to talk about work and finances. That’s really what I wanted to build the framework of this entire episode on and Zia is the best person that I could bring on for this, so I’m excited to talk to you about it.
What advice would you have for teachers when their significant others are starting to feel that work, just teaching in general, is getting in the way of their relationship? That’s really the first time that teaching really starts to build a gap between couples?
ZIA HASSAN: Yes. Well, for those of you who are listening, tell me if this story rings a bell or resonates at all, but when I taught in the classroom— and I taught third, fourth and fifth grade for a number of years here in D.C.— this was during a time of a lot of weddings in my life, and for those of you who teach many of you know that the weekend and holidays are the times where we spend actually doing a lot of our planning.
We’re actually catching up on a lot of the things that administratively we have to do because during the day we’re actually in front of students, so we can’t do those things. There were a lot of these weddings that came up.
Now, none of these were like my best friends or anything like that, a lot of them were people that I’m friends with because my wife knows them, my wife is friends with them. But still, they’re people that were important to me and I had to miss a lot of weddings in order to just keep afloat, in order to just do my job.
I couldn’t even miss one weekend. I had to be in front of a computer, I had to be in my apartment actually working because it was a very precious time to plan and to think.
I think the thing that I take from that is that became a huge issue in my relationship, that these are really important life events that you are now missing. It’s not as if I wanted to miss these things.
I really actually still regret not going and not being present at these events, but I realized that there’s this emotional, mental, physical toll that the work was taking on me. Things like, physically, when it was time for dinner and we would decide, what are we going to eat? We’d have that conversation, I couldn’t make another decision.
I was so physically and mentally exhausted and had been making decisions all day that I would just turn it on my wife, who’s my partner. It’s almost like you’re not emotionally absent from your relationship, but you are emotionally depleted.
It seems to your partner sometimes, or at least it seemed to mine, that I was emotionally absent, that my mind was elsewhere, but in reality I was spending all that emotional energy during the day. That also mentally it places a burden on your partner to then step in and make decisions where you might have had a conversation before and now that conversation is harder to have because you are mentally and emotionally depleted.
So, in terms of advice, we talked last time about this idea of core values, and it’s time to revisit that idea. Those of you who listened to this before, we talked about the core values in the context of deciding what work you want to do and what sorts of values your job represents.
Now I want you to think about it slightly differently. The thing that’s important here is not to come at it from the angle of, what is our core values as a couple- because many people think of themselves as two people in the same ship in a relationship- but I want to challenge you to think of it as you have your own ship and your partner has their own ship, and you are sailing in the same direction.
Both of you are in charge of your own ships, both of you have an engine, an anchor, and different things that you have to consider as you go through your day to day life. Once you know what your core values are, what is important to each of you, and that takes a little bit of processing, and honestly, a little bit of coaching, it’s what I do with my clients.
We really dive deep into what is important to them and break apart words that had one meaning one minute and now means something completely different to them.
Once you understand the core values in your personal life and your partner understands their core values, now you can actually put them alongside each other, you can actually start to compare them and you can say, which of these dials, if you think of each of the values as a dial that you can turn up almost on an amplifier or a radio, which of these dials are low in our relationship? Which of these dials need to be turned up? Which of these do we want to turn up together?
It’s a starting place to figure out, where do we want to go? Rather than you come home at the end of day and you’re always tired, I feel like you don’t listen to me, I feel like your job is just taking this huge toll on you, you’re missing these events, now you’re coming at it from the angle of, what is important to both of us that is currently not being honored?
Dialing into Your Core Values
DAPHNE: I think rephrasing that really helps put it in perspective because one thing that I know that significant others struggle with is how teaching is not like other careers and the way that it’s our identity.
We get so obsessed with making sure we’re doing all of the right things as teachers, as educators because it’s such a high stakes profession to us that even though we, on paper, maybe say we dislike our career, we don’t feel like we have the option to pull back and do less because the stakes are so high, a child’s education is at stake if I don’t do this thing.
But making it very clear of, what is not being met in my relationship? Is that I am not present from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM and that’s our family time and I’m just not mentally or physically present?
Well, is creating that new assignment tomorrow- it’s an extension activity. It’s not regular work, I just wanted to create this thing- putting that next to, is that worth taking that time away from my significant other? You do have to start to balance because some days you’re going to have to pull back from one or the other. I love starting to have those conversations.
What would you say for teachers who just don’t feel like they can stop doing those things and they just don’t feel like they have the time for their significant others or their family members right now?
ZIA HASSAN: I think you have to make a decision. It’s all about posture. Many people, and I find many teachers, they value integrity in their jobs. For teachers, that really means going the extra mile, right.
We’ve all seen those posts on social media where they show a photo of the teacher’s classroom that’s just government funded and it’s just a row of desks and then the one that is funded by the teacher and it looks like a beautiful classroom. The one that you would want your child to actually go to.
But then you think about that, the fact that the teacher had to put their own money and time and energy into setting up that classroom. That is really important to a lot of teachers and I don’t want to downplay that by saying that we need to change our posture.
The problem is this. If you look at that value and if you are spending a lot of your time making those extension activities, and doing the extra mile, and doing all those extra things for children or students that are taking up your time, that means that that dial, that core value is dialed all the way up to 11.
Great. You’re honoring that value with all you’ve got. But there are other dials and those dials can’t be turned up to 11 because that one’s already jacked up all the way. Some of those dials for a lot of people that’s family time and friend time, a lot of teachers would say, mine is down at one or two.
Maybe one of your values is being creative freely without attachment to a particular job that you do and that’s turned down because you no longer have the time. Maybe one of your core values is your physical health, your nutrition, your fitness, and that’s turned down.
I know it was for me, I gained like 30 pounds as a teacher because that was turned down. I can certainly see someone saying, that is something that’s really important, making sure that I’m giving it my all, making sure I’m giving my students the best experience possible.
Then you have to accept that these other dials are not going to get turned up because you don’t have the energy. The posture shift is which of these dials do I want to start turning up even a little bit more? Maybe it’s not all the way to an 11, but if I can turn it up to a four or five, how will that change and enhance my life?
That question, when you start asking it, leads you to start changing your behavior in ways that maybe before weren’t available.
DAPHNE: I love seeing things from just small changes because especially our brain by nature has that fight or flight syndrome of any change.
If you told me you’re going to go from not working out at all to running five miles a day, my brain is going to say, “Absolutely not, that’s impossible.”
So saying, “You’re not going to answer emails after 4:00 PM, you are not going to do lesson grading on the weekends,” that’s going to signal that fight or flight even though we don’t want to do it anymore, but it’s going to say, that’s a change, that sounds scary, I don’t want to do it.
Starting to scale it back in small changes is something that probably could help. I do want to focus the majority of this conversation on how to have that really tricky conversation with a significant other about changing careers in general because so many of my audience members are thinking of changing careers and I know that this can bring a lot of tension and stress into our relationship.
Like I said at the beginning, money is one of the top five reasons that couples end up fighting and it’s important that you’re able to articulate why this is so necessary and work through it with your significant other and not just put it on the back burner and just never do it because even this conversation is too difficult to have.
So, the very first part of this is talking to a significant other that is just pushing back about the stress of losing the security of teaching as a position, which ends up adding to a teacher’s stress as well. What would you say to a significant other who’s very stressed about losing job security?
ZIA HASSAN: Here is the place that I would start, if I was coaching somebody whose significant other felt stressed about a teacher, their partner, losing the security of their job.
The first thing I would say to the person who has that job, that teacher, is let’s put your partner’s feelings to the side for a moment. What do you really want? What is really important to you? How secure is your job to you? Because from your partner’s perspective, when we talk about job security, really that translates to financial security, right?
We think about it in the context of this as a certain amount of money I’m bringing in every year, I don’t really know how my skills are going to transfer. That’s something I know a lot of your audience deals with that feeling of, how is my skill going to transfer?
So, that’s how they’re thinking of job security, right? So it’s financially secure. It takes a lot to be fired in many teaching jobs. Here’s my question for them, how secure is it emotionally? How secure is your relationship as a result of the amount of tension in your life because of your job? And how important is that to you?
I’ve heard a lot of teachers describe being a teacher as hanging by a thread sometimes or I’m just trying to keep my head above water.
I don’t know that I would call that secure, personally, and that change in thinking about it is really, really important. Now, that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the idea of financial security or just throw caution to the wind. It all comes back to this.
If you are planning on switching jobs, usually, and if you’re not getting let go or fired, you will know your new income before you take that job, which means you have time to plan. But having a plan or a system in place isn’t enough, this is almost entirely a mental game. What good is a system that you don’t use?
That becomes a leaky system, that becomes an untrusted system, which isn’t much of a system at all. So, we talked about core values being one part of the puzzle.
That at least allow you to point your compass in the right direction when you head into the forest, but then the question is, once you’re in the forest, if you come across a wild animal, and that’s analogous to the type of self-talk, the type of sabotaging thoughts that we have, what do you do and how do you tame it?
That is a conversation that is much different than a significant other saying to you, “I’m really stressed about you losing the security of the job in our relationship. That that could really cause some financial distress.”
And you saying, “Yes, but I will be prepared, because I will understand and be able to plan and create systems around how this is going to work.”
Give you a quick example, when my wife and I have been doing this for years, we have a weekly meeting and I call this, the same page meeting, to get on the same page with your partner, as you might imagine based on the name. We’ve had it for years, and I’ll go into detail about what we do in this meeting later on because I think it’s pretty valuable.
But the result was this, when I became a teacher, when I left my consulting job, I was working for IBM at the time, I was going to take a gigantic pay cut, I was going to go from making, I forget how much, but down to $25,000 a year on an AmeriCorps budget to be a student teacher for a year.
I remember being really like, this isn’t going to work. $25,000, I mean, that’s way less than I’ve ever made, it’s just not going to work. And yet this was my calling, this is something I really wanted to do. And so I remember my wife saying to me, “It’s not about if you’re going to do this, it’s about how we’re going to make it work.”
She could say that to me because we already had those systems in place to actually figure out the plan for how it was going to work. Had we not had those systems in place, we would have gone back to this conversation of, okay, that’s making me really stressed about losing the security of your job.
So that’s the question that we have to dive into is, how do you set up those systems?
Changing the Frame
DAPHNE: So you think that potentially what people should be thinking about right now, whether or not you know matter of fact you are going to leave teaching for another position.
You should sit down and start to have a meeting with your significant other and potentially talk to them about how you don’t feel like teaching may be your forever career and you may want to start creating that system now, that backup plan. Potentially even an emergency fund financially for any potential unemployment gaps that you may have or if you need to take somewhat of a pay cut.
Start to articulate how teaching doesn’t feel like you’ve been 100% yourself in your relationship, you haven’t been able to give all you can give as a family member and remind them of what you were like back when you were happy, if you are listening to this and you are struggling and you are not happy.
Honestly, Jonathan and I can also very much say that we did not have a great relationship the very last year I was teaching. I think that if I stayed in the classroom for another year, we would have not been together anymore.
I was just turning down opportunities to see him so that I could sit home and flop around on the couch and cry or work and I was just very, very unhappy and not able to be there for him in the same capacity that I am now.
What about those significant others who may have a hard time understanding how stressful of an environment teaching may be to some people? So on paper, what do you mean it’s so stressful? You’re working with fifth graders. They’re cute, you get to send out stickers, how are you-
ZIA HASSAN: You get summer off.
DAPHNE: Yes, you get the summer off, how are you complaining so much? I’m not sure if you’ll ever find anything you like.
What would you say to someone who might be having that hard time?
ZIA HASSAN: The thing about teaching that we all know, if we’ve taught, is that it’s really hard to explain to a significant other how much energy is consumed over the course of a school day. It’s not their fault, they’ve never been there.
Before we went into teaching we all had this pie-in-the-sky vision of it, we saw it in the movies and we thought, okay, that’s really fun, that’s something I want to inspire, I want to do all this stuff. Then we get there and we realize it’s so much more than we thought it was.
The thing is what happens is, at least in my experience, I would come home from work and either I would be complaining, most of the time I’d be complaining, and that would put my wife in the position to either give me advice, so help me brainstorm and solve the problem, or potentially just be a listener and just have empathy and just listen to my situation.
Problem solving is great, but again, because of the fact that your significant other doesn’t necessarily understand all the details of what you’re working with, that only goes so far. And empathy is great too, I think that’s a great way to go to just say, hey, what support do you need right now? If it’s just to listen, I’ll do that.
But if every day you are coming back with this cycle of negativity, the cycle of pain, that empathy is only going to go so far too. What’s the answer?
I think the answer is you change the frame. It comes back to core values, I know I harp on this a lot, but it really does as the centerpiece for everything.
You figure out what’s important to you, you establish those core values, and then you say to your partner, “Here are the things that are important to me in my ideal life.”
Knowing, of course, nothing is ever going to be perfect, here are the things that are going to be important to me. You can even use the analogy of the dials that I mentioned earlier, we can see what dials are turned up, what are not turned up.
Now you’re coming at it from an angle of, this is me in my dynamic range as a person. If you think of a musical instrument and the fact that it can be really low and really high, like you mentioned before, when we first met that vibrant person that you fell in love with that now is condensed and constricted, I want to be that full person again.
That full person had more of those dials turned up then I currently do. I want to turn those dials up again. So now it’s not like that person may go to their friends and say, my partner comes home every day and just complains about how bad school is and I don’t get it.
She gets off work at 3:00 or he gets off at work at 3:00, they get the summers off. Now you’re coming at it from the perspective of, who I am as a person is being constricted by what I do. This is not going to solve the problem immediately, but it changes the way that you present how this is affecting you.
There’s still more discussion needed, but it’s a start. If you present it like this and the person still wants to minimize your pain or disregard it after you’ve given it some effort into the conversation, then I wonder how long that relationship is sustainable because I think part of a healthy relationship is taking your partner’s problems seriously even when you don’t fully understand what they’re going through.
DAPHNE: I think that one thing that I’ve learned through working with therapists and reading a lot of self-help books is always having empathy even for your partner in the situation that you haven’t articulated and not to put any blame on one party versus the other.
Making sure that you’re articulating what you need from them and what you’re expecting from them when you come home and you say, “I really dislike my teaching job.” And then articulating, “I need empathy and support from you because I am very much struggling,” because they may not know that extra bit of context.
I know it seems so obvious. But saying, “I need you to be here and to understand how much I’m struggling, and I also am looking to you for maybe solutions to this situation because I don’t know how much longer I can do that.”
So there’s a difference between saying, “I hate my job every” single afternoon and saying, “I really do hate my job and I’m looking for you as my rock, as my person to walk me through how I’m going to navigate this storm.”
If your partner pushes back against that, then that’s a further conversation of, what is it about me leaving this position that is making you so hesitant to have this conversation with me?
That could be diving into their history asking them, what does having enough money mean to them? Or what does security mean to them? What did their parents’ work life balance look like when they were children? What did financial security mean to them growing up? Because all of that’s very different and it really impacts how everybody behaves.
Setting Yourself Up for Successful Conversations
ZIA HASSAN: Yes, exactly. It’s what you were saying. It’s either we can problem solve and that’s maybe something that I ask of you, or I just want you to listen to me, or I need to make a gigantic change in my life because I’m constricted as a person.
I’m not able to express myself in the way that I need to in order to be the most vibrant, best version of myself possible. I mean, that is a deeper problem than, I had a really bad day at school today, the kids were acting out, my principal is mad at me, whatever.
Those are really, and not to minimize those problems because that really is painful too, but when you come to the conclusion that there are certain needs, certain values of mine that I am not honoring that I need to start honoring, that is a much wider conversation.
DAPHNE: I think you have to have the clarity yourself before your partner’s going to buy into it. So for me, there was a very clear difference when I said, “Hey, babe”, to Jonathan, “hey, I’m having a really rough time at this school and I don’t know what’s going on.”
Then the day that I just snapped and said, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” There was a very clear difference and if you haven’t ever had that clear, “I can’t do this anymore” moment that you articulated with your loved one, they may think that just saying, “it’s not so bad” is being helpful and they don’t understand that it’s making you more confused.
So just making sure that you are very clear of, I really don’t think that I can do that anymore. If you aren’t sure that you want a change, then that’s a conversation to have as well, is just letting them know where you are mentally and what you’re weighing the pros and cons of.
Asking them, “Honestly, I know that this is scary because it’s scary to me too, what are your thoughts of the pros and cons? And I want your input, but I think I’m leaning one way or the other.”
ZIA HASSAN: That sort of clarity I really recommend. I mean, I’m a coach so I recommend coaching to everybody. I have my own coach, that’s how much I believe in the power of it.
Therapy is also really useful, I can’t speak too much to therapy not being a therapist myself. I have one but I don’t know much about no therapy as it pertains to just psychology and all of that.
But I can say that if you don’t have clarity, then seeking out coaching and/or therapy, there are differences between the two, coaching is very goal oriented and therapy can be healing from trauma, emotional trauma. They have very much have overlap, for sure, but that’s a very rough distinction between the two, that can really be useful.
You might think to yourself, I can think about it in my head, I can maybe write it out or something like that. Maybe you can, I’m not going to say that that won’t work, but most of my clients really are surprised by the power of talking to someone who will challenge their thinking and break open and analyze and really dive into what the words they’re saying mean and the emotions behind them.
Coming to that conversation having done that work already, wow, you really have set yourself up for a much more successful conversation and you avoid many pitfalls.
DAPHNE: I can 100% agree with just having someone’s unique perspective opening up why you may be so stubborn in some areas or your significant other might be so stubborn in some areas is so eye opening.
If you can, if you’re struggling with this, if you could do couples therapy, that would be a great way. But if you’re just struggling with yourself, even small things about finances that may be impacting how you are making this decision or how you’re even talking about this decision.
Because for me, personally, I have a very extreme scarcity mindset where I am going to work myself to the bone to make sure that I can provide for myself, for my family and I don’t have to ask anything of anyone.
That comes from a lot of trauma when I was a child, I moved out when I was 17 years old, I put myself through college, and had to work multiple jobs just to pay my own bills. I always knew I did not have that family support system to hang back on financially.
Even as an adult, a successful adult, that can see it in a bank how much money is there, I keep thinking, “What can I do to cut costs to make sure that I never have nothing and no one to depend on?” And that can relay over to my significant other.
That type of mindset can stress someone out and you may not understand that about what your significant other is going through if you’re not having these types of deeper conversations about why something is so stressful to them if it’s also stressful to you.
ZIA HASSAN: Yes, exactly. Those things, what I like to describe as self-sabotage or sabotaging thoughts, they have a really good purpose.
I mean, you developed what you call the scarcity mindset, you developed that to maintain your money, to make sure that you were afloat, to make sure that you still had enough money to buy food and take care of your basic needs, that’s really important. We don’t want to minimize that.
Then those thought patterns start to wire and fire together and can lead to some self-sabotage later down the line when now you are healthily afloat but you’re still clutching on to as much as you can and you’re less willing to take some risks that might move you toward your goal because we know taking risks is how you move toward goals and actually doing things you’re not sure of how they’re going to turn out.
That can sabotage you from ever taking action if that’s how your brain is wired and fired. There’s always a light side and a dark side to these internal mindsets.
DAPHNE: Do you feel like off the top of your head you have any correlation of how you feel about career security and financial security that ties back to how you were raised?
ZIA HASSAN: I think for me, both of my parents had the same job growing up. My mom actually works in elementary school and she just retired, so she worked for about 30-35 years in an elementary school, not the one that I went to but one nearby. My dad also just retired and worked in the same company as an engineer for 30-40 years. So, when I started working, of course, I did things completely differently. I switched my career very often, whereas they were saying they were staying in their very steady jobs and continuing to do what they were doing. So, it’s interesting because you would think, based on my upbringing, that I would try and be with one company and just keep doing it for as long as I could. But I think that I started to see- and this is maybe generational- I started to see that the way that the world works and the way that the internet connects us allows us to make connections and find new industries and new ways of working that maybe weren’t possible for my parents to do when they were working.
Have Systems in Place to Rely on
DAPHNE: Yes, that’s really interesting perspective just to be able to constantly see careers evolving as an opportunity. I think some generations a little bit older than us just had those set possibilities, so that’s something I haven’t thought about.
I think having conversations even just that simple question of me asking you about your family’s job history, those are the types of conversations you need to be having at dinner time.
Those are the types of conversations, that deep understanding of all the ins and outs of your significant other’s relationship with their own parents, how their parents communicated to one another through stressful situations.
All of those conversations just need to happen on a regular basis and you’ll have a better understanding of where you both are, a better empathy for one another, and just more open communication.
I do want to talk a little bit more about having those tricky conversations like asking for a significant other to have to take over more financial responsibilities.
Have you ever had anyone that you had to coach through any of those types of conversations?
What would be your advice for someone having that conversation about asking your significant other to actually put more into the financial bank that you have?
ZIA HASSAN: Yes, this is really important because many of the people that are listening that are in relationships, I imagine many of you are married but then there are probably many of you who are not married, and then there’s going to be some variation in terms of how your money is managed.
Some of you, I imagine, have a shared bank account. Some of you, I imagine, have separate bank accounts. Some of you have separate bank accounts and perhaps you have no rules with your partner about how that money is spent.
So, for you to then say, okay, we need to talk about how much money you’re going to contribute to our emergency fund is a wider step than it is if you’re already having these conversations about how you’re spending your money.
Here’s what I would suggest. That conversation about, there’s an emergency fund, any potential unemployment gaps that we might incur together, we need to start putting money in then and I need you to contribute, that conversation could go really well in some relationships and also could go off the rails in other relationships.
The reason why I think it will go off the rails in most cases is because there were no rails to begin with. In other words, there was no consistent conversation about money happening to begin with. So, to jump into a conversation about funding potential unemployment gaps and contributing to an emergency fund, well that’s like out of this world.
Here’s my recommendation. Before you even get to that point, if you’re just in the process of thinking about it, meet with your partner weekly. There’s a weekly meeting template that I’m going to drop the address to that later on in the podcast.
You can use my actual meeting template that I use with my partner and have used for years, I’ve refined it over the years. It started off very simple and it’s gotten a lot more intense since then, but it’s a great one. Part of that template is actually talking about your finances.
Actually talking about what big expenses do you have coming up? How much do we want to save if we are saving as a couple? Maybe you aren’t doing a savings together, maybe it’s how much do I want to save and you hold me accountable to that? How much are you going to save this month and I’m going to hold you accountable to that?
Start with those small conversations so that you start getting comfortable talking about money. By the time you get to the point where you’re talking about an emergency fund and potential unemployment gaps, getting to that conversation, you’ve already got the rails and you can actually have that conversation much more functionally.
This works regardless of whether you’re sharing a bank account or whether you aren’t, it probably makes it easier if you’re sharing a bank account, if there’s one pool of money, but it certainly can be done if you have multiple bank accounts.
The kinds of things that you discuss every week … and it’s really important, I think, to set a day for this. My wife and I have Friday nights usually as our night to talk about this, because Saturdays can be busy and Sundays we’re thinking about the week.
So, Friday we actually sit down and have this conversation and we talk about a whole bunch of stuff but finances are always a part of it and have been since before we even shared a bank account.
DAPHNE: I will definitely make you email me your same page meeting template and Jonathan and I will start it as soon as humanly possible, because I’m really excited to see it.
One strategy that I have read up a little bit about because as we’re recording this getting into marriage, talking all about financial strategies for married couples is having separate bank accounts for your own personal needs just for your own.
I like to have some, I don’t know financial autonomy is the right way to say it, but I’m sure Jonathan doesn’t want me constantly looking and knowing what guitars he’s buying either.
ZIA HASSAN: We have a lot in common, Jonathan and I.
DAPHNE: I know you guys have talked about it a little bit when we’ve met online. With our finances, one strategy that I’ve seen is just 70% of your income going into a joint account, a family budget, and then 30% of it remains yours for personal needs.
If I’m the breadwinner or if my significant other is the breadwinner for five years it doesn’t matter who’s making more, 70% of whatever you’re making goes into this account and that account is for bills, for food, for mortgage payments or all of those types of things and to create that emergency savings fund.
Then if there’s a gap in employment or if there’s a dip, you have that set there and it doesn’t matter who is the one who has that gap in employment or has that dip because that is your joint central location for all the funds.
You still get to see funds in your own bank account come paycheck, after paycheck, after paycheck. I could see that being something that motivates us and helps keep things a little bit separate as well.
Do you and your wife have separate bank accounts in the same capacity?
ZIA HASSAN: So that is a really interesting system and I don’t think that I have … I’ve never heard that but I think it’s certainly an idea that could work for some couples.
The way that I thought about it is that we have a shared bank account and what we did do for many years before we figured out a system for it is we would just look at our monthly budget or monthly expenses through Mint or through whatever our bank or whatever it is.
Then what would result in that conversation was a bunch of accusations, a bunch of blame that you’re spending too much on Amazon, you’re spending too much on food, you spend too much on shoes. If you just didn’t spend this thing, then we’d have this much more money and that’s-
DAPHNE: Every time you’re at Guitar Center it’s like highlighter isle I’m coming for you.
Budgeting and Finances
ZIA HASSAN: Well, Daphne knows I have nine guitars that I bought in my early 20s, that was before I was committed to being financially cooperative with my partner. And honestly, I was young.
But what I realized is that there’s no app that does what I want to do, which is that I want to make sure that I’m looking at every single dollar that’s coming in every single month and then saying, what are my recurring monthly expenses in a spreadsheet, whatever it might be.
Then, the remainder of that becomes the money that we’re going to be spending on a regular just on a day-to-day basis. What I made on my phone, there’s an app called Shortcuts where you can design your own app. That’s on every iPhone, I don’t know about Android, unfortunately, but iPhone has this.
It’s an app where every time you make a purchase you put it into the app like you would any other budgeting app, but it reduces that number, that number of extra dollars that you haven’t allocated for a particular expense that month.
If I buy a Starbucks or if I go and buy some piece of audio equipment or whatever it is I’m doing, I put it into this tracker and not only does it reduce the number, but it actually quietly writes to a spreadsheet in the background with that expense, so we can check and see what the flow of expenses have been.
Then, if that number gets below a certain amount, it starts to text each one of us because this is something you can build into the Shortcuts app.
What I’ve started to realize is that at the end of the month, if there is leftover money- and this is, of course, after all of like savings, and investments, and all these things that we are planning for have already been accounted for- if there is extra money, that can go toward say some expense like,
I need a new Mac, for instance. The current Mac that I use is on its last legs and I’m going to need a new one. So, I take that extra money and I put it into a little account where I can say, okay, once I reach a threshold of however much this Mac costs, I can buy it guilt free because I have budgeted for every other thing.
I budgeted for the savings that we said we were going to budget for, all of our shared financial goals. Then again, that is something that we as a couple agreed upon that this would be our system, it’s not like I just went and did this rogue, right. You have to have an understanding.
My system is just one that we found works brilliantly for us. I mean, absolutely brilliantly, we’re always on the same page. And if we ever have a big expense, we know we can afford it. That idea of 30-70 may work perfectly for a different couple in a different situation.
DAPHNE: Did it take a lot of trial and error to figure out what worked for weekly meetings, your same page meetings, and then also for your budgeting?
ZIA HASSAN: The budgeting, once I figured that out, it was instantly relief, because before that we were just looking at old bills and being like, we overspent, we ate out too much, et cetera. With the meeting, that really was something that we refined.
That is why I offer this free PDF of the meeting template because it’s years and years of trial and error of trying to get this meeting to work in a way that is effective. When I say effective, listen to this, this is amazing to think about.
Everybody I think in their relationship, if you’ve had a relationship for a while, has had a blowout fight. A full out screaming fight where you get really, really angry and there’s this bubbling up and this tension that gets released in this huge fight.
Ever since we have refined this meeting, we’ve made it- at a certain point it got refined to a particular degree- we haven’t had blowout fights.
Yes, we still have disagreements, yes, we still have things that we need to talk about and we need to hash out, but we don’t have any … unless there are times where we are prevented from having our meeting, if we are somehow are in a position where we just are in a special situation like we’re traveling or whatever it might be and we just haven’t had time for a meeting, then that’s when those fights start to happen.
But because we nip everything in the bud in these meetings, part of the template is actually, no item is too small to talk about. Things that are so, so small that could result eventually in a bubbling up and could cause a huge issue, we address even those tiny, tiny, tiny things, so that we can actually have a plan for them before they become big things.
It’s not always perfect, I don’t mean to give the impression that ever since I started doing this meeting, my relationship and marriage is perfectly harmonious. Like anybody’s relationship, that’s not always the case, but dramatic decrease, almost I would say a 99% decrease in the amount of actual aggressive blowout fights.
Don’t Make Promises. Build Systems
DAPHNE: To summarize everything that I think we’ve talked about for this entire podcast is I feel like everyone’s takeaway should be that relationships take a lot of work and if you are listening to this entire thing, you’re probably going through a really stressful time, and so your relationship might be in a stressful situation together.
Being proactive, communicating and articulating what your needs are in this situation, and staying organized and on top of it, is going to help you push past it with that person that you love to be able to talk about how you’re going to get through this together because that’s why you chose that person to begin with and why they chose you to begin with and making sure that everybody keeps a cool head and continues to articulate what their needs are.
Think of the other person and ask a lot of questions about why they feel so strongly one way or the other. Ignoring it and avoiding the situation is only going to make things worse on everybody mentally for the long run.
Do you think I summarize that okay?
ZIA HASSAN: Yes, I would add to it by saying that a good way to have those conversations, to talk about, you mentioned talking about childhood and that sort of thing, even better is to get to the emotion straight.
If you ask your partner, and I’ve had clients that their homework for me was to go do this with their partner, what scares you about topic X? What scares you about me leaving this position? What scares you about having a child? What scares you about combining our bank accounts? Those types of conversations.
That leads to a non-accusatory conversation about where this deep fear is rooted in the other person. Then those stories about childhood will come up. It’s a lot different than saying, well tell me about your childhood, and what was your financial upbringing like?
That definitely helps and that definitely will tell part of the story. But what scares you about it? That brings it right to the heart. I will say this, if I had to sum up my whole position on this in a phrase, I recently had to write this for someone whose mom said, “We’re putting together a wedding advice thing for this friend of mine, can you give some advice?”
So my advice was, “Don’t make promises, build systems.” If you think back to our entire conversation, everything that we’ve talked about is a system.
This is of course one of my core values in how I think about things, but I do think it’s actually the most effective way. Honoring core values, that’s a system. Talking about your finances every week, having the same page weekly meeting, that is a system.
Asking someone, what scares you? Starting with an “I feel” statement or “I feel stressed by.” Being curious instead of defensive. These are all systems, they’re not promises that you’re making. These are ways of saying, we as a couple are going to look at this as a partnership and a collaboration.
We want to make this succeed so that, for instance, when last night was trash night, I had to take out the trash, I had a really busy workday and we had a date night because my mother-in-law is in town and so we were going out. So, I took out some of the trash, but not all of the trash.
When my wife and I talked about it, it wasn’t accusatory like, “You didn’t take out the trash,” it was, “There’s a leak in our system.” That thing that we set up to make this trash thing happen, didn’t work. Where’s the leak?
It’s not Zia’s problem and it’s not my wife’s problem, it’s our system that we need to fix the leak in. And maybe it means that, we were going out for this date night, but no matter what happens before that happens, before eight o’clock, that trash has to be taken out even if it means we eat at 10:00 PM, because how long it takes or whatever it might be. That would be how I’d sum it up.
DAPHNE: I could not say it any better myself. I know that there are so many listeners right now that probably have so many other conversations or struggles that they’re having with their significant other, maybe it’s potentially talking about parenting, parenting strategies, even more types of templates or resources that you have, like you’re same page meeting, where can they find you and learn more?
ZIA HASSAN: All right, so that meeting template, you can find that by going to ziahassan.coach/samepage. When you go there, there is a free PDF that is comprehensive. It’s the thing that I’ve refined over the last decade or more to make a meeting that’s really effective.
This meeting you will talk about your finances. If you have children, there’s a section where you’ll actually talk about responsibilities because that can be really tricky if you’re doing it, planning it in the moment. You talk about emotions, you talk about what’s going well and what isn’t going well and there’s specific language that you use.
It’s weird to stick to a template when you’re talking to your partner. I know it sounds weird to use these words and these terms, but it makes such a difference because now you’re speaking in the same language and you’re coming at it from a perspective of we as a couple have shared values and shared goals, and here’s how we’re going to achieve them.
If we don’t do it perfectly, then it’s about our relationship and about changing how we operate rather than blaming each other for it.
So if you go there, you just put in your email address and you’ll get emails from me about things like the finances, how I do that, even ideas that Daphne has suggested like the 70-30 thing, maybe you can be a guest author on the email list to talk about that because it sounds like a great idea.
If you are trying to figure out, trying to get clarity around what your core values are, one of the things I do with every single client I work with, we start with this, is we talk about core values. It’s a very scientifically, almost a procedural thing that I walk someone through, and you end up with a list of things that are really important to you.
Sometimes that list will be really obvious to you, you’ll look at the list and you’ll say, that totally makes sense, that’s me. Sometimes things will really surprise you and I can give you an example of that if it’s okay with you.
DAPHNE: Of course.
ZIA HASSAN: I recently was working with somebody who said, “Before we talked I listened to your episode on Teacher Career podcast, and I made a list of my core values.”
Now this is before I go through my coaching with them, right. One of the things they had written down was the word autonomy. And when we actually started to do my process, that word turned into power. And I asked this person, “What is the difference between power and autonomy?”
They said, “Well, I guess, autonomy is something that you’re given and power is something that you take.” I don’t know if that’s the official definition, but that was such a switch for this person in such a way that it changed decisions that they make and lead to a more fulfilling life for that person. I think they would agree with that.
So, that’s something that I do. The second time I meet with someone I usually do the self-talk and the sabotaging thinking, and we learn how it feels when those sabotaging thoughts come up and how to tame those thoughts with structures that we develop together. Extremely powerful stuff.
Even just those two things alone are really powerful. When you go on the site, you can get that free PDF, but you’ll also see a link to book a free call with me.
You can tell me what your goals are, what you’re looking to do, how you’re looking to understand yourself better, and then we can come up with a plan to coach you into a life that is fulfilling and is fully enhanced and fully dynamic.
DAPHNE: Zia, thank you so much for being here. I learned so much, I feel like I got so much out of it and I’m excited to start using some of these in my new marriage as Daphne Gomez.
ZIA HASSAN: Congrats.
DAPHNE: Thank you so much. Thanks so much for being here. Anyone looking for those resources, we will have them linked in today’s show notes. Just really appreciate you, Zia, for coming on and just giving us so much information.
ZIA HASSAN: My pleasure, as always. Thank you, Daphne.
Huge thank you to Zia for returning on the podcast. If you want to check out his past episode, it’s episode 22 where we talk all about choosing a career focused on your core values. I also highly recommend the book Eight Dates by John Gottman, which I’m going to have linked at teachercareercoach.com/eightdates (the word eight, not the number) just for you if you want to purchase it. An easy way to use the affiliate link and help out the podcast. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you on the very next episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast.
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