Discussing how youâll split the bills is a vital conversation if youâre merging lives. Some couples choose to keep their finances completely separate, and thatâs OK.
Itâs been a wonderful two years. Youâre talking about growing old together. Then the conversation turns to how little money you make and how you might be a burden to your boyfriend later on.
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Life can also change. What if the two of you married and he got sick, so you had to become his caregiver? Would you think of him as a burden then?
He makes significantly more than I do (between four to five times as much), and he worries that my low income means Iâll be a burden on him when we get older if we decide to marry. The way I see it, I am very responsible with the money I do make. I donât have any debt, and I pay all my own bills.Â
This may be a painful discussion. You may not like the answer you hear. But I suspect a likelier outcome is no answer at all â just a bunch of hemming and hawing. If thatâs what you get, then you have your answer.
Do you have any advice for us? This is one neither of us knows how to navigate.
One thing I have to wonder about based on what you told me is whether this is about money at all. Imagine your salary were to quadruple tomorrow. Do you think your boyfriend would be enthusiastic about your future together? Or do you think heâd find another hang-up?
Iâm a 35-year-old female whoâs divorced, and my boyfriend is 38 and never married. Weâve been dating for two years, and itâs been wonderful. Recently, weâve been having talks about our future, but money is a bit of a hang-up for him.Â
That doesnât sound wonderful to me. That sounds cruel.
Your value goes way beyond your salary. Please donât waste your time trying to build a future with anyone who doesnât recognize that.
Paychecks change. Thereâs no guarantee your boyfriend will always be a high earner. And just because you have a low income at 35 in the midst of a pandemic doesnât mean youâll always have a low income. Thatâs not to say that thereâs anything wrong with not having a high salary. But I donât want you defining your potential by what you earn right now.
Most couples encounter this situation to at least a degree. Few people will marry someone whose salary is identical to theirs for their entire careers. Youâre marrying a person, not a paycheck.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.
It sounds like this is a topic the two of you have been dancing around for some time. This is going to require a brutally honest conversation. Your boyfriend needs to decide whether heÂ can treat someone who makes way less than he does as an equal partner and back it up with action. Until then, any discussions about how to handle finances are premature.
Iâm not asking him for anything, although I do understand that at this rate my retirement savings will be meager while his will be substantial. That could lead to problems if he wants to travel and not feel bitter about having to pay for me for everything later on.Â
Ultimately, this is your boyfriendâs hang-up. Youâre living within your means. Thereâs nothing wrong with you just because you canât afford to live within his means.
But youâre not ready to have that conversation yet. Thatâs because of a problem that, at least as youâve described to me, exists entirely in your boyfriendâs head. It doesnât sound like thereâs a concern about whether you can afford a life together. He has no reason to worry that youâll run up debt or drain his bank account. Is he seriously worried that the bitterness heâd feel over money would overshadow his happiness should he build a life with you? You really need to establish that now so that you can move on if the answer is yes.
Is he willing to shoulder a greater share of the bills for the privilege of building a life with you? Or is he willing to adapt to your more frugal lifestyle so he can have the peace of mind of knowing he never contributed an extra cent? His call.
For some people, money is very much a dealbreaker. But other people get really antsy when they start talking about the future. So they look for a dealbreaker â any dealbreaker â to make you think that youâre the one with the problem, not them. Iâm not saying thatâs necessarily the case here, but itâs fodder for you to consider. You need to know if youâre dealing with a cheapskate or a commitment-phobe dressed in a cheapskateâs clothes.
But the control factor also worries me here. If you got married and he paid most of the bills, could he still approach this as a true partnership of equals? Or would he make you feel like a child asking a parent for allowance money?