Great Expectations With Your Finances



great expectations financesMy wife and I drove up to Lancaster, PA, for a wedding this past weekend.  Since my parents watched our son, we had some peace and quiet for the first time in a while.  Usually on road trips, I like to listen to a book on tape or a couple of podcasts.  This time, I didn’t get around to downloading anything, which in hindsight was a huge blessing.  


We ended up having a lot of fun conversations.  It felt like we were back in our early dating days all over again.  So needless to say, it was a fun wedding and an even better six-hour car ride.  


Panel Discussion

great expectations financesRecently, we were asked to participate in a panel discussion in a marriage conference at our church.  The topics involved will range from parenting to finances to everything in between.  The theme is “Great Expectations”.


I have to admit that I can’t wait.  Anytime that I can talk about finances, I am thrilled.  So naturally, I immediately responded, “Yes, count us in.”  My wife, on the other hand, was a bit apprehensive, as she was unsure of what she could add.  


great expectations financesEditor’s Note/Mrs. MSM: While I love encouraging and supporting Rob’s passion for personal finance, I am definitely not as passionate about it.  One day, if I’m invited to speak on a fashion panel, I’ll gladly have him pay back the favor by joining me and speaking on the latest fashion trends.  


Mr. MSM:  I did a project on Fast Fashion in Grad school.  Bring it on!!!


Panel Topics

My wife’s apprehension subsided once she read through the panel questions and knew that she could speak to the topics.  The questions are:


  1. Do you make and stick to a budget?
  2. What is your stance on debt?
  3. Are you planning for your financial future?


Based on the above questions, the audience would be polled and respond to the questions with an A, B, C format.


E.g.  For the first one, the response choices would be:

  1. Always
  2. Sometimes
  3.  Never.  


Anyway, based on the audience’s answers, we would then address the question and tie into the theme of the conference, “Great Expectations”.  


On our long car ride, my wife and I started to brainstorm how we would answer the questions.  I thought I’d share our responses with our readers and receive feedback from everyone ahead of the conference this weekend.  


Do you make and stick to a budget?

save money low incomeMy wife and I believe using a budget is extremely important.  We definitely would not be in the position that we are in today without really knowing our spending habits.    


When we were first married, a budget was a foreign concept for Mrs. MSM.  As a result, she had trepidation when I brought it up early in our marriage.  At face value, it seemed constricting and controlling.


Let me turn it over to Mrs. MSM, so you get her point of view on this.


Mrs. MSM:  I had never really been exposed to the concept of a budget.  My mother handled all the finances in my household.  As far as I know, she never used a budget.  All that I knew was that we had enough money to do all the fun things that I wanted to do growing up without really thinking about the money involved.


great expectations financesSo when Rob brought up a budget and living within our means, I thought, “What did I get myself into?”  I had never worried about spending before, and now all of a sudden every purchase would be monitored and categorized every month.


Once I gave it a chance, I realized how beneficial budgeting really was.  Over time, I came to understand the wisdom behind it and the peace of mind that came with it.


After I became more comfortable, I was able to help my Father figure out his financial situation as he had been overwhelmed with it since my Mother had passed away.  


It took some months to organize my Father’s finances.  But soon enough, he was all set up on Personal Capital, and everything has been smooth sailing since.  I don’t know how I would have done it without Rob’s help and guidance though.


great expectations financesMr. MSM:  Mrs. MSM is definitely selling herself short.  She did the majority of the work.  I built the roadmap in the beginning to get the ball rolling in some areas.  E.g. I dug through some paperwork to understand expenses and different accounts, but after that, Mrs. MSM took care of everything from there.  


One of the things that we uncovered was that my father-in-law was not receiving the value from his financial advisor that he should have been.  We quickly helped him make some changes, which included removing him from that advising firm and into low-cost passive index funds.  


great expectations finances roller-coaster salary negotiationsOn top of that, I noticed that my father-in-law had accumulated quite a bit of cash in his bank account that was doing nothing for him, based on the extremely low interest rates at the time.  We discussed different options for the excess cash, and he decided to extinguish his rather large mortgage with those funds.  


Within four years, my father-in-law’s net worth has doubled as we increased his investment contributions, paid off his mortgage, and watched his passive index funds soar.  This would not have happened if my wife and I hadn’t equipped him with budgeting tools.


What is your stance on debt?

great expectations financesWe hate debt.  


My parents instilled in me from an early age to have a disdain for debt.  It’s been something that I have tried to avoid all of my life.  I know there are people that use debt to leverage housing and make debt work for them.  I commend those people because it is definitely not something that I feel comfortable with.  


My mortgage would keep me up at night, as I constantly thought of ways that I could pay it down.  I obsessed over tinkering with my loan amortization spreadsheet to see what would happen if I received a raise or if I paid a bonus towards the mortgage.


Since we paid off all of our mortgage, it has transformed our lives.  My wife would not be able to stay at home with our son and take care of her autistic sister if we still had a mortgage.  Most likely, we would need her additional paycheck contribution if our mortgage still existed.  


So for us, we experience a heightened level of financial freedom by not having any debt.


Are you planning for your financial future?


resources 2017 great expectations financesAs most of you know, we are eagerly trying to reach FIRE and retire within the next five years.  While I have always been a good saver, it wasn’t until I paid off my mortgage that I started maxing out my 401k contributions.  At that point, I really began to see our investments sky rocket.  Within the past two years, our liquid assets have doubled in size.  I know because I use Personal Capital, which is by far the best tool out there in regards to financial analytics and planning tools.  Their investment section is INCREDIBLE.  If you haven’t signed up for Personal Capital, I definitely encourage you to read my review and sign up today.  Best of all, it’s completely free.


Separate Finances

debt free lifeThe stat is around 40% of couples maintain separate accounts.  One of the common things that I have heard from married couples that have separate accounts is that they are typically not on the same page when it comes to investing for the future or even retirement planning.


Most of the time, both individuals believe that they will be fine in terms of reaching retirement.  But what if the timing is many years apart?  I oftentimes wonder if one spouse might resent the other for not being able to retire around the same time.  Imagine one spouse who has saved up enough to travel and pursue some of their passions while the other is still slogging away at work trying to catch up to the other.  It would be hard to avoid bitterness in that situation. 


Financial Burden

great expectations financesI had one woman confess that she feels like the burden was completely on her to fund both her and her husband’s retirements since her husband recklessly spends.  She knows at the current rate that he will never be able to retire on his own.  Since she does not want to divorce him, she believes the most feasible option is to cover both retirement accounts.  I offered to meet with him, but he declined the offer.  I hate to leave this post on a low note, but I do want to emphasis how important it is for couples to really be on the same page, preferably before marriage, but even after marriage, it is possible to change habits and align goals.


So readers is there anything else that we should share around these three questions?  Have you ever served on a panel?  Share your thoughts below.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.


  1. I’m not sure what to think of budgets and I think their importance tracks income in many cases. A lower income will mean less margin for error.

    In my case, a budget — defined as setting a limit on certain expense categories — was a source of stress and not effective in changing our spending behavior. What has changed our spending behavior has been communication about priorities. When we openly talk about valuing travel, for example, over clothing, we start to spend less on clothing as a matter of family culture.

    I’d love to hear examples where people have set budget limits and those limits helped them achieve goals — it might help clarify my thinking on this point.
    Rich @ recently posted…Rich’s Financial Origin Story: From Farm Boy To Theology Student To High Income ProfessionalMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with budgets Rich!!! Sounds like the communication of priorities has really made a huge impact in your finances and defined what’s truly important.

    • My husband and I don’t have a budget either. We have never had a detailed budget about anything, even groceries. We’ve always been frugal people and try to limit our spending to the minimum where our basic needs are met. We splurge on Chinese hotpot and Korean BBQ every once in a while, but it’s probably 4-5 times a year.

      We cook most of our meals at home, wear free T-shirts, and mend old clothes. Sometimes the spending seems a bit higher than usual. That’s when we go back to our previous month to see why the spending increased so much. It doesn’t happen often, and there’s always a good reason for that (i.e. plane tickets to visit family, car insurance payment).

      But I can see how a budget can help someone who’s not used to living under their means to save up.
      Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…Food Expense Report – Apr 2017 – $80.39My Profile

      • Thanks for sharing Ms. Frugal Asian Finance!!! It sounds like you have your finances in control and clearly don’t need a budget. I wish more people adopted your lifestyle as they would be much better off and reach retirement much quicker 🙂

  2. I personally love budgeting strictly when trying to meet an agressive financial goal, but setting my financial plan on autopilot when I’m more in maintenance mode. That for me means automating my savings and investments, and living in an “artificial environment of economic scarcity” as they call it in The Millionaire Next Door. Perhaps you could talk about both methods, as they can both be successful. Some people won’t stick to a budget but would have no problem keeping within a certain spending limit if their savings were automated, so it could be a good option.
    Liz@ChiefMomOfficer recently posted…Smart Couples Finish Rich – David BachMy Profile

  3. Definitely on the combined finance side of things. While I know there are couple with his and her money that make it work, I think it does have the potential to become a breeding ground for resentment.
    Daniel Palmer recently posted…How Much Home Can I Afford?My Profile

  4. Hi MSM,

    Budget? I admit I don’t but I do track my expenses.
    Debt? I’ve done well with housing here in London using debt but I do want to clear it – it’s the item that will stop me from retiring
    Retirement? Of course 🙂

    The last part was fascinating to read about couples, and I am sorry your friend is in the position that her husband doesn’t want to listen – it is very difficult. For us, it is very tricky – we have a couple of joint accounts (current account for bills and one for savings). I utilise my other half’s ISA (Tax free savings) for tax efficiency, but savings wise we are very different. I am basically saving for both of us – she will have her work pension but not until 60, and isn’t saving. It is made even harder due to the disparity in our difference in earnings. It’s been slow going (in my opinion!) but she is slowly getting into the why we need to save, give it time! 🙂
    FIREin’ London recently posted…April Income and ExpensesMy Profile

  5. Having a nice long chat and debate some financial topics on a long drive works miracles! We just did the same during our holidays in Belgium this last week, got a lot of new and exciting ideas. Also came to the conclusion we are looking just a bit too far ahead, need to focus more on the here and now and remain flexible. Life will change, we got to be ready when it does.
    Team CF recently posted…Real Estate Report – April 2017My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Team CF!!! It’s definitely fun to talk about the future but equally important to focus on the here and now. It’s definitely something I’ve been working on 🙂

  6. We used to do a budget and I was pretty hardcore about it. That was while we paid off debt. Now I keep it really simple everytime our account is over 2000 and all bills and credit cards are paid, I dump all the excess into investments. It’s super easy and we are both on the same page when it comes to spending. We combine our accounts it blows my mind when married couples dont. It’s so much easier combined. (Like u said) congrats on helping your father in law sounds like you changed his life! You will do great this weekend. Your good at it and it’s your passion.
    Passivecanadianincome recently posted…April 2017 Dividend IncomeMy Profile

    • Thank you for the kind words and I’m really excited about the opportunity. Plus I think Mrs. MSM is secretly excited even if she doesn’t always show it 🙂

  7. I’ve never been much of a fan of budgets – they’re incredibly valuable when you need one, but when you don’t, they’re just more work.

    I’ve never been on a panel and imagine they’d be incredibly interesting – I’m sure there is a wide spread of answers to even those simple questions, which is, I’m sure, the point. Looking forward to hearing how yours goes!
    Paul recently posted…A Swimming Pool Is A Terrible InvestmentMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Paul!!! I’ve never done a panel so I’m sure I’ll have some butterflies to start. But I’m really looking forward to it 🙂

  8. A budget is something that took me a LONG time to get used to, and I started and stopped too many times to count. But it’s worth getting to a place where you are comfortable with it. Never been on a panel, but is a podcast close enough? 🙂 Sounds like a nice weekend!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…April Rewind: The Not Frugal MonthMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Tonya!!! A podcast definitely counts 🙂 My wife and I did one a couple of months ago but we need to follow up whatever happened with the episode!!!

  9. How often you communicate about money/budget etc. I’m not sure couples who are not on the same page with their money understand the communication aspect of their finances, and how getting on the same page here may also strengthen their overall relationship.
    Brian recently posted…Financial Literacy Interview: Super Saving TipsMy Profile

    • I think you bring up a great point Brian about the potential lack of communication. I think this may be the root cause of some of their issues.

  10. I served on a financial math panel at my Alma Mater in early April. It was a fun time and definitely can establish you as an expert and go to person.

    Being financially aware is one thing I’m looking for in a potential partner. It’s interesting, I go out to various bars/coffee shops etc and I usually will talk to the people who are NOT balling out. At the same time though, it’s a double-edged sword, usually the people with the most energy are noticed and are thought of as FUN.

    Oh well. Thanks for sharing MSM. You have some great stories and are doing well sharing the personal finance word!
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…My Goal to Read 75 Books – April 2017 Check-inMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Erik!!! That’s really neat that you served on a panel at your alma mater. I would love to do that given the opportunity. Although I have a feeling I have a better chance with my grad school. For whatever reason, my undergrad is not as welcoming to alumni which is unfortunate.

  11. Great post! Your wife sounds a lot like my wife. Budgets were foreign to her as well, but we both agree now that they are extremely important in helping one reach their financial goals. Also a big fan of personal capital. Thanks for the post MSM.
    The Magic Bean Counter recently posted…April’s Spilled BeansMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Magic Bean Counter!!! Sounds like our wives have a similar background. It’s neat to hear how others lived parallel lives at times 🙂

  12. Interesting point with the separate views married couples can have on retirement. In addition to an attitude gap, there could also be an age gap. Depending on who is older (and how much) they could have a very different take on retirement altogether!
    Jack Catchem recently posted…Chapter 10: The Power of Rip It!My Profile

    • That’s a great point Jack!!! In the case of my friends there isn’t an age gap but I can definitely see how an age gap would make a difference.

  13. I’ve never served on a financial panel but you could possibly add that the second best thing besides budgeting is to pay yourself first. You could encourage the audience to set aside what they want for future savings, retirement, etc first thing and then live off the leftover. It is effectively another way to budget but maybe seen as less rigid by the participants. Just a thought.
    Getting away for the weekend is tough to do with kids, but every time my wife and I get the opportunity it makes the spark in our marriage a bit brighter. 🙂 Glad you had a wonderful time.

    • Thanks for stopping by High Income Parents!!! That’s a great point!!! We will definitely have to point out paying yourself first. It was definitely a foreign concept to me at first and something that took awhile for me to fully comprehend 🙂

    • That’s an awesome thought Dave!!! I definitely need to share the concept of FIRE with the audience. I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of it before I started blogging. So I’m not sure how many outside the community know.

  14. I haven’t served on any sort of panel but I think a discussion of this sort would help a lot of people. I really agree on the importance of aligning goals as spouses. My wife and I are planning on a quarterly “sit down” so we can visit about budgets, finances, and our goals. Plus it was even her idea which made me quite happy!
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Guest Post: 4 Assets That You Should Not Invest InMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Mr. Definied Sight!!! That’s awesome that the Mrs. had the idea. Too often spouses like to stick their head and the sand and not think about finances. Definitely something that doesn’t work long term.

  15. My family has a budget and we stick to it to the best of our ability. With a child and new house, we’ve had to pivot and adjust our budget slightly. What does work is my wife and I have a weekly budget check in where we review every transaction we’ve made.

    We hate debt too! We are down to just our mortgage. I’m constantly battling paying off the mortgage vs. investing. Right now, I implement a balance where 50% of excess cash goes to mortgage and the other 50% goes into investments.

    My wife and I plan together for our financial future. We both have long-term goals that ultimately get us out of our day jobs and into something that we are passionate about. So we are working like crazy to save and achieve FI as soon as possible!!
    The Grounded Engineer recently posted…You can become a millionaire with an average salary and 2017 goal check inMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Grounded Engineer!!! I definitely know how hard it is with a new kiddo and house. Things always seem to pop up that you don’t expect.

      Sounds like you have a great balance for the future and taking care of the debt you have today. I have no doubt that you’ll crush that in no time at all 🙂

  16. It’s so important to be on the same page about finances! Even if you keep some account separate (we each have one for fun stuff), you plan for life should be moving in the same direction. Because sooner or later that conflict will come to a head, and maybe after it’s too late to fix.
    Ms. Montana recently posted…Lessons from My First Year BloggingMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Ms. Montana!!! I definitely agree that the conversation is going to be had at some point. So might as well have it early on before things get too far down the road.

  17. That’s great that you have the chance to speak about this topic and help other couples. It can be a difficult topic, even when you’re both generally on the same page about money–and not everyone is. It’s such an emotional topic, and truly a foundational one. I think that’s a huge part of the reason Jesus said, “You cannot trust both God and money.” It’s just so emotional and complicated if we don’t have a clear perspective on it.

  18. I think that’s important for spouses to talk about their money philosophy. I do hear that for some couples, they money philosophies are totally different where one spouse would spend recklessly, while another spouse has no control over what the other spouse. Even though I don’t have a family budget, I always consult with my wife when I purchase anything more than a couple of hundred dollars. The good news is, I rarely make big purchases.
    Leo T. Ly @ recently posted…The Benefits Of Investing With A PartnerMy Profile

    • Hahhaha!!! I don’t take you for a big spender Leo 🙂 Especially with your net worth so high!!! My wife and I also have spending limits before we buy something. I’ll admit she talks me out of purchases way more often than I do of her 🙂

  19. I have to admit I am not a big fan of budgeting. Perhaps it’s because I believe in zero based budgeting, where every single expense each month needs to be justified. I always viewed budgets as spending budgets, and these aren’t nearly extreme enough for me.

    • Thanks for sharing FinancePatriot!!! Hopefully we can get the audience to be more cognizant of their spending decisions and track where every dollar is going. After that I wouldn’t mind sharing with them some more ways to be frugal 🙂

  20. i’m always amazed at couples who keep things separate and also then refer to what i would consider as shared bills as either his or hers. very strange to me and yet so common. My wife enjoy a 3 checking account set up where we pay most bills out of a joint account but have our own smaller little stash of cash. But we are equally shared into the joint account regardless of our salary differences.
    My wife is less into finances as me, but is willing to come along for the crazy ride when i mention huge savings goals and keeping expenses small. She gets the big picture but doesn’t want to live every detail along the way.
    ReachingTheCrest recently posted…How Much Will You Leave Behind? Do You Plan on Leaving an Inheritance?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Reaching The Crest!!! I definitely think it’s healthy to have a stash of cash for your own purchases 🙂 But overall I think it’s important to have shared goals for the future 🙂

  21. This is SUCH a cool idea. 🙂 Hopefully lots of young people can attend the panel and learn what it takes to make a marriage work early on. Unfortunately love isn’t the only thing you need for a good marriage–you often need to be on the same page when it comes to money, too. I have married friends who prefer to keep separate finances. It’s definitely different, but hey! Whatever works for people. 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…What A Frugal Weekend! April 30My Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Picky Pincher!!! I definitely have seen it work with SOME people. Although that is definitely not the norm. Unfortunately I see more fights than anything else. But at the end of the day it’s their decision 🙂

  22. Mrs MSM and my wife sound like they would get along. My wife definitely does not share my passion for nerding out about personal finance. But she does appreciate it when other people talk about the financial troubles they are in and she knows we are no where close to it.

    I do think the last part you said about being on the same page is absoutely vital. Though we just proved that you don’t necessarily both have to love knowing everything there is to know about money, you can’t have one person being totally reckless while the other one is always picking up the slack. Like other things in marriage where that happens, it will get old really fast. And eventually the one doing all the heavy lifting won’t stand for it anymore.
    MyMoneyDesign recently posted…Why Do More People Invest In Actively Managed Funds vs Passive Index Funds?My Profile

    • Thanks for sharing MyMoneyDesign!!! Sounds like Mrs. MSM has some good company 🙂

      I definitely agree that there are definitely going to be some issues down the road when it comes to being on a different page with retirement. There is definitely going to be some resentment.

  23. You and Mrs. MSM have great points here, I’m glad she jumped on board with the Panel. I don’t budget per se but I do track all of our spendings. Love Personal Capital! Dislike debt, and planning for FIRE, and we’ve always combined finances. Communication is not optional 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing Amy!!! I definitely agree that communication is not optional 🙂 How couples can avoid talking about money is beyond me!!!

  24. Growing up my parents rarely argued, but when they did – it was about money. In particular, my father using credit cards too much and racking up needless debt. That helped shape my ideas about money early on and has kept me out of trouble.

    Luckily I found a great partner (I’m looking at you Mrs. Need2Save!) and we have the same goals with our finances. It’s never been my money or your money; it’s always been our money.
    Mr. Need2Save recently posted…Book Review: You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think by Wes MossMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Mr. Need2Save!!! That’s awesome to hear that you and Mrs. Need2Save are on the same page when it comes to your finances. I know that is definitely not the norm!!!

  25. Wow – sad for the couple with the reckless spender husband. I’ve gotten that question before too. 🙁 I think the topics you are discussing are great. I wish we would’ve had that training early on in our marriage. Our goal after we get rid of our consumer debt is to teach at our church too. So many are struggling financially these days.

    • Thanks for sharing Laurie!!! I definitely would love to teach a financial class specifically for young marrieds/engaged. I think it’s so important to get on the same financial footing early on in your marriage 🙂

  26. It’s tricky to talk about money issues with your spouse. What’s worked for us is to set up some ground rules on spending limits for certain expenses like gifts and shopping. Sometimes we go over, but sometimes we stay under. It’s about communicating, but not communicating in the sense that you start annoying each other :-), which is the part we are continuously working to make better.

    • Thanks for sharing SMM!!! I definitely agree that you need to communicate with your spouse. Putting your head in the sand is ignoring the problem and talking about it every minute of every day is definitely annoying. Finding the right balance is definitely key 🙂

  27. My husband and I use a hybrid approach with our finances. For example, all of our accounts are joint, but we tend to use and be responsible for different accounts. This is a carry over from dating for 6 years before getting married and then living apart for 6 months to a year or more in the 9 years we have been married. While this isn’t the setup I thought I would want once I was married, it works for us because we both have access to all of our accounts, but we also have a certain level of independence that suits both of us.

    At the end of the day, everyone has their own preferred way of doing things. But the key is to make sure that there is open communication about finances (including understanding the other person’s perspective even if you don’t agree – this makes compromising much easier!).

    • Thanks for stopping by!!! I definitely agree that communication is the most important thing to do!!! It amazes me when couples who are married don’t communicate in this area.

  28. We don’t use a standard budget. Our setup is more of a forced total budget but not broken down by category. What I mean is we draft out all of our money we plan to save (401k,IRA, 529, etc) at the beginning of every month. The money left over is what we have to live off for the month. Maybe we spent $200 on clothes one month and $200 eating out. Next month we might spend $0 on clothes and $400 eating out. Net result is the same and we are meeting our total spending goal.

    This might sound a little strange but I think it works best if the finances are combined but managed by only one person. I’m definitely the money person and my wife kind of goes with the flow and gets the highlights of what is going on every now and then. Two people who wanted to manage the money with two different styles and ways of thinking would create a challenge I believe.

    Never been on a panel but I love discussing money so I probably would have jumped at it too.

    • Thanks for sharing Grant!!! Sounds like you all have found the right formula for you 🙂 I’ll definitely have to share your methodology of monthly spending as it might resonate with someone else.

  29. While I love budgeting and crunching numbers, it seems like for the past couple of years, I’m only using it to have an overall view of what we’re able to spend & invest and not to be specifically dedicated to monitoring our expenses. I’m not sure about other people, but it seems like it really depends on the kind of people you are! I get some friends who simply can’t make any important decision without referring to their spreadsheet first, while others have never used one and feel perfectly fine!
    Never been on a panel before but it sure seems like a great idea where you get to learn so many different answers from different people.

    • Thanks for stopping by Finance For Geek!!! Thanks for sharing your perspective on how you use your spending plan. Sounds like you have a great system set up and that’s the great thing about personal finance. You can tailor it to best fit your needs 🙂

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