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Podcast 311: Find a Manifestation of Your One-Word Theme, an Easy Hack to Spark Happy Memories, and a Conversation with Ron Lieber about the Price You Pay for College


Try This at Home: Find a manifestation for your one-word theme. In episode 306, most recently, we talked about choosing a one-word theme, and now we’re suggesting that we each find a way to make it physical and visible.

Elizabeth has her hoodie with a "butterfly" on it.

I copied a listener, and ordered a necklace with my one-word theme of "Open" printed on it from MyIntent. Other ideas from listeners:

  • find the Pokemon character who corresponds to your theme—one listener's word is "Gratitude," and Shaymin is the gratitude Pokemon
  • choose a signature color and signature smell to correspond with your one-word theme, and use for items like notebooks, pens, nail polish, or dishes
  • create a playlist on your theme
  • use LED candles as a reminder of "Light"
  • use Canva to create desktop wallpaper, and create a custom background in Trello
  • use it as the name of your vacation cabin
  • cut your hair a few inches shorter as a reminder of the one-word theme "Shorter"

Happiness Hack: To spark memories, look up significant homes from your past on real-estate sites, or if they aren't pictured there, on Google Street View. I had so much fun revisiting my grandparents' house and the apartment where Jamie and I lived when we were first married, and Elizabeth and I scrolled through photos of our old house over the phone together.

Happiness Stumbling Block: Paying for college.

We talk to Ron Lieber. He's been the “Your Money” columnist for the New York Times since 2008, and before that, he wrote the “Green Thumb” personal finance column for the Wall Street Journal.

He’s the author of The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money (Amazon, Bookshop).

He has a new book that just hit the shelves: The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Roadmap for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make (Amazon, Bookshop).

We asked Ron for the most important piece of advice he’d give to people in three different times of their lives:

  • Adults with no children who think they may have children, or people with young children: Ron suggests: Start early, make a plan, and stick to it. You’ll feel less anxious, and if you start early and save consistently, you’ll save a significant amount of money. Ron’s recommendation is to siphon off a certain amount every week from your checking account into a 529 plan. As always, action is the antidote to anxiety.
  • People with high-school kids: Ron suggests: Educate yourself by the end of middle school! It’s important to understand how the system works—before it’s too late. The process is confusing. One very helpful resource is an article Ron Lieber recently wrote for the New York Times: “Good grades could fetch $100,000.” Ron notes that it's important that we're emotionally honest with ourselves about our values, our desires, and the reality of our circumstances.
  • Grandparents: Ron suggests: Think about the challenges facing parents today. If you can help out financially, by saving consistently over the years--if you can do so without sacrificing your own well-being--that’s a huge help. And if you can’t do that, maybe you have time to spare, and you could help provide childcare so that the parents can earn more, or provide them with the opportunity to rest.

Ron’s Tendency: He’s an Obliger. (Don’t know if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel? Take the free, quick quiz here.)

Ron’s Try This at Home: “Do the ‘I’m Wrong’ Dance.”

Gretchen's Demerit: I forgot that my mother-in-law's milestone birthday is coming up! It had been on my mind earlier in the year, but with pandemic, time lost all meaning, and I lost track.

Elizabeth's Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to her Apple Watch.


  • If you’ve recently discovered my Four Tendencies framework and want to learn more, you can read my book, The Four Tendencies, or if you prefer video learning, join my video course. You can do it in 5 weeks, or go at your own pace.
  • If you listen to Happier (or most other podcasts), you hear the hosts ask listeners to rate and review the show. Why? Listeners respect the views of other listeners, so by rating and reviewing—assuming you have good things to say!—you make other people get interested. Rates and reviews also build buzz around the show. It's easy to rate and review—once you know what to do. Click here to find step-by-step instructions. Give yourself a gold star if you've subscribed, rated, reviewed, or recommended the show. It really is a tremendous help to Elizabeth and me.

What we’re reading:

  • Elizabeth: Lost Horizon by James Hilton (Amazon, Bookshop)
  • Gretchen: How to Feel: The Science and Meaning of Touch by Sushma Subramanian (Amazon, Bookshop)

Quote From the Podcast

“We need to tell our child what we have, what we think we’ll be able to do, what the gap might be between what we’re able to do and what the kid might want, and the strategies that might need to be brought into place to meet that gap.”
Ron Lieber

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