“Money is one of the reasons a lot of couples break up”

Training and financial engineer by vocation. Natalia de Santiago (Madrid, 1977) has just published a book for people lost in day-to-day finance: ‘Invest in yourself’ (Planet). I, of course, am reading it cover to cover to see if I get rich at once. From Santiago, I don’t know, she must be one of those friends you call when you want to order a mortgage, hire a pension plan or do some financial filigree to avoid the Treasury, if it were for the work of crime, of course.

She lives in the Alps with her husband and five daughters. Indeed, all girls and, you know, they always say that we women are the ones who spend the most, but also the ones who command the most. “If I had done numbers, of course, I would have had to return to some of them, but it is no longer possible”, he confesses laughing.

When money goes out the door, does love jump out the window?

Ummm, good question! Yes, it is true that money is one of the reasons why a lot of couples break up, things as they are. Especially since it is very common for couples to be very different when it comes to managing money. I’m lucky because my husband doesn’t even ask me, he lets me do it. But, of course, we are completely different. I’m looking at everything, while he is looking at nothing, so in our case it works, although there are many cases in which it doesn’t.

There is less hassle when you don’t share a house, no expenses, or budgets.

The thing is that later there are very incredible cases such as, for example, that, suddenly, you find out that your husband has a debt there or a hidden account and he is making money! (Laughs) So, well, I don’t know which is worse …

We always say that one of the reasons we don’t have children is because they are too expensive. You have five girls, so cheap, cheap … It should not go away.

I always say that if I had done numbers, I really would have to give one of my daughters back. So what can I tell you, already lost to the river. But, yes, I confess that I have to do many accounts because if it were not like that … I would not be a joke!

You would have a long month and little money left.

Indeed, yes, I have a lot of month left at the end of the money.

In ‘Invest in yourself’ There is one thing that I have laughed at a lot. You advise monitoring expenses such as meditation applications that you do not use. Are there really meditation apps?

It hurts me a lot to tell you, really, but that’s the way it is. It’s one of those moments when I see my future self and think: come on, I’m going to be an aunt who gets up in the morning, has a smoothie and meditate a bit. That’s why I paid for the application, but as you can imagine I have never meditated.

Do we have a lot of nonsense around money?

Man, yeah. A few years ago, when I was one of those mothers who would go here and there with the cart and buy this, the other and the other, had a coffee there and another there, I decided to account for everything I was spending and I almost fainted! Then, look, I bought a very expensive coffee pot because I thought, “I’m going broke without knowing it!”

When I opened your book, I glanced at the table of contents and went directly to the heading: “Rent or buy?” This is a tricky topic at friends’ meetings, eh, almost like bulls yes or bulls no, but you gave me a joy because I live for rent.

Well, you are very modern! Actually, the obsession that we have had in Spain with the purchase of a house is because there was a real estate bubble. If there had not been that bubble, we would not have had that feeling that housing always goes up and is the panacea. It is not! The reality is that some houses can do very well for you, but not necessarily, so seeing the house as an investment is super dangerous because there are people who get into houses that they cannot afford, with exorbitant mortgages and then come the problems. For this reason, for example, in other countries houses are bought with older ages, not when you are going to become independent.

What is the ideal age to buy?

There is no ideal age. What happens is that, and this is so, when you pass a certain age, which is what is happening to me, the mortgages that you can ask for are very short and the installments become very dangerous. Then you have to try to get at least 20-year or 20-year mortgages. So, well, I think between 40 and 45 years old it starts to be fine, but there is no need to buy at 20 or 30 years. Let’s see, if the numbers come out, yes, but …

Does the Treasury want us good or does it want us bad?

Hacienda, as I say, is my promised princess and I always keep her in mind. It is very curious: the Treasury will never forget you, so it is better to always keep it in mind and to anticipate that it will appear. I do not understand those people who are always caught by surprise VAT return, but you already know what is going to come! You have to have a little foresight when, for example, you have investment or long-term savings products because taxation sometimes changes everything.

You live in the Alps, is the financial culture there and here very different?

Here we have a more culture of savings, but the reality is that the lack of financial education is everywhere. It is a universal problem, there is not a country that approves, they all suspend. It is not that we Spaniards are profiteers or anything like that, it is that everyone fails because there is little financial training.

What is saving like the rich? Do we poor people spend more happily?

The rich save as a priority, what happens is that they give it other cooler names, so that saving is not so stale. But they save in a planned and premeditated way! You have to save a realistic fixed amount at the beginning of the month, not save what is left over at the end of the month. That way you don’t see that money again and you don’t want to spend it.

And we do not trust that we have it in the account as the month ends.

That’s. That is the mistake. People have the ability to save, what happens is that when everything goes well we forget to save and we become optimistic. Come another house, a car, a me that I know! And we forget, then come the scares. We must have the option to throw away savings when it goes bad.

In your experience, how do you see the management of government budgets? Much leakage?

The point is that the accounts do not always balance them. It happens to governments like people, in good times we believe we are invincible and we believe that everything is going to be great and we only remember to save when they go bad. This is a problem because crises have a bad habit of always coming back.

Today I read that the Government of Sánchez has hired a makeup artist for 20,000 euros. But let’s see.

Well, if it is in the Budgets … That is, if at least we can see and know it, at least we can fail or discuss it, it would be bad if they gave it up under the sleeve.

Let’s go to retirement: Saving? Should I be worried?

You do very well to worry, yes. It is not that there will not be pensions, there will be pensions, but they will deteriorate and every day they will be a little worse in proportion to the salary you had before you retired.

And that’s when we go to private pension plans.

Phew! This is a complicated issue because the legislation is changing with the Toledo Pact, they are seeing that its taxation only benefited high income. Right now is the time to save, but in addition to pension plans there are other long-term savings products, life savings insurance, mutual funds or things like that.

What is wealth for you?

For me it is the ability to consume in the future. The interesting thing is not being able to go to the Maldives, but having the ability to go this year, next year and the next. That is, having a lifestyle that you can maintain in the long term and, of course, within that, you can allow yourself certain luxuries.

What is the greatest luxury that you have given yourself?

I confess that I am to throw numbers, but I am also very “forward”. In fact, I hope I can pay for a trip to the US next year, but think that there are seven of us at home and that, financially, is outrageous! I indulge myself from time to time, that’s the truth.

Is it not necessary to endorse God (or Peter)?

What a nice way to end a friendship! Let’s see, this is like everything, if a friend needs it, why not do it? In Spain, we are also very helpful and that is very good. Furthermore, I believe that in many crises the blood does not reach the river precisely because we support each other a lot. Maybe we are not very economical, but we are to give a hand to loved ones. But, well, you have to think very well about the people we endorse. We only have to guarantee with those savings that we have and are not needed.

It is better not to leave money, then I am ashamed to ask for it back.

Yes! Also, there are people who have the gift of making you feel bad and uncomfortable when you ask them, right? But if the money is mine!

I propose a spin-off for the next book: Finances for the Divorced. You screw it!

Finance for after the war! You’re right, I haven’t discussed that, but it’s a good idea because things get complicated when there are children, property, and pensions to discuss. You just gave me the saga, mind you.