One of the best money moves Farnoosh Torabi ever made is a recent one: ditching her NYC apartment and moving to the suburbs in March. It’s one way the “So Money” podcast host has adapted her financial plan to the pandemic and economic downturn. She spoke to Easy Money about her advice on how to adjust a 10-year financial plan to the economic circumstances and the best money she’s ever saved.
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This interview has been lightly edited for style and clarity.
How has the pandemic affected your financial goals?
The pandemic reaffirmed our plans to ditch our New York City apartment for a house in the suburbs. We did it mostly for the sake and sanity of our young children. When the lockdown started in March, we accelerated our plans and made an offer on a home that very month. So we’ve taken on some new financial responsibilities with a new mortgage and some house and yard maintenance costs. But in other ways, we are saving intensely. Our food and dining costs have fallen sharply, as we mostly cook at home now. We aren’t traveling, obviously, and I’ve almost entirely stopped buying “nice to have” items like new clothes, makeup and $8 green smoothies — and I don’t miss those things, to be honest.
How should people adjust their 10-year financial plan to the pandemic and economic downturn?
It’s always important to check in with yourself when life takes a turn — and now could constitute a life-changing period for many people. Some good questions to ask yourself are: What are my immediate and long-term goals, and am I (still) on track to afford them?
If this pandemic has set you back financially, as it has for so many people, it may be time to reassess things like your career path, budget, income goals, savings strategy and retirement planning. You want to examine your financial life holistically by looking at all these foundational areas, and re-strategize if need be. Trade-offs may be necessary. You may realize that you need to work an extra few years to save up and purchase the home of your dreams. Or, you can’t wait to buy and want the home now, so that could mean relocating to a new state where the cost of living is more affordable.
In your book 'When She Makes More,' you discuss earning more than your husband. How do you make it work?
We make it work by first communicating regularly about our finances — how we save, how we spend and our goals for the future. I think it also works because we aren’t attached to any specific gender role expectations in the relationship. We take on the duties in the relationship that we like to do and are good at. For example, I prefer to cook and enjoy making meals. It’s not because I’m the female that I prepare that I take on this domain. My husband is more inclined to work around the house, in the yard and on maintenance.
Most importantly, we recognize that money is just one way to provide in the relationship. It’s not the end all. The fact that my husband makes less by no means diminishes the value and contributions he brings to our family.
What’s your advice for couples with the same dynamic?
Respect is really at the center of it all. If you respect each other’s values and needs, you are better able to negotiate and navigate through the financial complexities in your relationship. Along the way, communication is vital, as is flexibility and having a shared vision for what “success” is for you in the relationship.
The couples that I’ve interviewed who are thriving in their relationships with a female breadwinner all say that the key to their marriage is that each person is willing to do what it takes to make the partnership successful. It’s not about me versus you. Nobody’s in a competition. Rather, the thinking is, “how can my actions support us?”
What’s the biggest money mistake you see couples make & how can they avoid it?
Not talking about money earlier is a huge mistake. Couples tend to avoid the topic until well into the marriage. I’ve met a number of individuals who don’t even know how much money their partner earns! But it’s important to have transparency and get on the same page before you tie the knot to understand each of your financial goals and obligations. How can you build a life together if you’re afraid to talk about money? Goals carry price tags, as I say. So, it’s better to understand your goals and how to afford them early on.
Do you have any money regrets?
I think we can all regret not saving more when we were younger. While I did get an early start on my 401(k) at work, I wish someone had told me to save 15% or 20% of my income back then, as opposed to 10%. Saving for retirement is such a big lift. Every extra dollar helps.
What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
I can’t recall where I first learned it. It may have been in an article or a book, but there is a famous quote: “You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.” In the context of financial success, this advice has really served me well. It reminds me to be my biggest advocate and to ask for what I want whether that’s more money, a discount or more favorable terms in a deal.
What are you most proud of financially?
I’m proud of the fact that I’m financially curious. It’s my nature to ask a lot of questions and that has worked out well for me in terms of managing my financial life. I’m always exploring and learning. I believe having an innate curiosity has led to more literacy and ultimately, the ability to make money moves without fear or anxiety.
What’s the best money you’ve ever spent?
My first apartment purchase in New York City at the age of 24 proved to be one of the best money moves. When I sold it 10 years later I was able to use the equity to purchase my next apartment for me and my new family.
What’s the best money you’ve ever saved?
Saving a good chunk of the proceeds of our recent home sale — rather than spending all of it on the next home that we bought — was a saving grace, especially because it was right before the pandemic. Living in all of this uncertainty with cash in the bank, knowing that it can afford us options if we need to make a shift, it buys us a lot of peace.
Image: Nastia Kobzarenko