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 Post subject: How do you talk about money with your significant other?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 5:42 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2007 5:14 pm
Posts: 2
Hi all,

I've read that the biggest thing married couples argue about is money. I'm not married, but I've been in the same relationship for about a year and a half, and I'm finding that our approach toward finance is very different.

I come from a not-so-rich background. I grew up having to answer creditors' phone calls while my parents would instruct me to tell them that they weren't home. My father continues to rack up debt into his late 70s--so I have a great aversion to living beyond one's means. I have student loans that are almost paid off, a high FICO, a healthy retirement account and a commitment to living frugally. I do like nice things, but I find smart ways to get them. For instance, I'll buy the $400 designer shoes on eBay for $50. And I'll spend $10 at a farmers' market and turn that into a string of amazing meals.

My boyfriend comes from a better-off background. His parents paid for his schooling, and they continue to give him generous cash gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I'm not positive about the amounts, but I think he usually gets $1,000 for his birthday and up to $10,000 for Christmas. He also makes about $20k more than I do, he owns a home (which his parents helped him buy) and while he's not in debt, he spends a lot of money on eating out, $300 shoes, etc. We live in different cities and when he recently came to visit, we ate out every meal but one. He's generous and he'll pay for most meals, but for me, picking up a $50 brunch tab (for two people!!) kills me. No exaggeration, we easily spent $125 a day on food. That's my food budget for two weeks!

The problem is that when I think about building a future with this man, I worry that I can't keep up with his lifestyle. Even when I get to the point of being able to spend $275 on a pair of shoes, I still won't do it. I'd rather save the money. I also see him making poor financial decisions (for instance, his mortgage is more than half of his take-home pay; a single man does not need a three-bedroom home, I think) but in the long run, he faces no risks because his family is able to pitch in and help him out. Simply put--and I hope this does not sound judgmental--he can afford to be reckless with his money because he's never had to deal with the consequences of doing so.

How do you talk about money in a rational, loving way? My boyfriend listens to me, but his solution is constantly, "Well, I'll just pay your way." It's generous and I appreciate the kindness, but we look at money--how much to spend, how much to save, etc.--in very different ways, and I can't imagine our relationship progressing without addressing this issue. It's not just that I can't keep up with his lifestyle; I honestly don't want to. I want to live a much simpler life! Have any of you been in similar situations? Did you make it work?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 8:42 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 9:50 pm
Posts: 752
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Is your boyfriend is debt? If you married or cohabitated, would he expect you to pay half?

His mortgage may be high, but does he have an emergency fund? (It sounds like his parents would bail him out.)

Is he really reckless with his money? Many young singles spend a few hundred dollars per month on eating out. If he doesn't have debt (other than a mortgage) and he's meeting his goals, he may not actually be acting in a reckless way.

If you're thinking of a future with this man, I urge you to talk about debt, retirement savings, emergency funds and so on. If he truly values the things on which he spends money AND he's meeting his goals, he's not being reckless.

That being said, I once had a relationship break up, mostly over money. My partner came from an affluent family. His education and car were paid for. He lived at home until he was about 25 -- and didn't save a penny. He went into debt to buy a giant TV and move across the country. I was astounded. I wasn't so much upset by the debt as by the fact that I only found out when we were doing a budget just after we got engaged. I convinced him to get a bank loan to pay off his credit cards. He saw me as irrational and controlling. I saw him as an out of control spender. However, he always had his parents to bail him out. He told me he was expecting $100k for a house downpayment and he assumed he'd one day inherit his parents' small fortune. When people come from a lot of wealth, I think they see those "givens" as their emergency funds. We broke up before getting married. I'm glad. We didn't see eye to eye. Now I'm with someone who has values more in line with mine.

But, that doesn't mean your relationship is doomed! I think you need to talk about where the relationship is headed and what goals you each have. Perhaps your boyfriend is putting aside ample money for retirement. He may feel that a house is worth his money, because he has no other debt and he expects to get married in a few years. He may think it makes more sense to spend a large amount on a mortgage in a rising market and lock in at a low rate than it does to buy a condo, pay $400 a month for strata fees and then have to pay $20k to sell in five years when he wants a house.

So, what you really need is more information. Perhaps you already have it. It is tempting for me to tell you your boyfriend spends way too much money. However, it's more about his goals and his debt load. He may actually be living it up while meeting his goals.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 9:46 pm 
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Location: Portland, OR
These are really valid concerns because, in my experience, couples with significantly different spending patterns don't have great longevity. That isn't to say it can't work because there are a lot of factors involved. But, money if one of the core issues (there are a few) that can make or break a relationship.

Where are you in your relationship? Have you talked about marriage and a future or do you see that happening soon? When I first met my ex he was horrible with money. Made a ton and didn't save a thing and had a pile of debt. Mostly it was because he just didn't think about it. He wasn't in that mind set. But, when we realized that we might have a longer future we sat down and talked to him about money. I explained what my values and ideas were and my concerns about his spending. We also read Smart Couples Finish Rich together. It was like a light clicked on. Within 3 months he'd paid off his debt, we were on a tighter budget, he was saving for retirement and working agressively to pay down the 2nd on his mortgage.

He just needed someone to flip that switch. It just took a couple conversations to make him realize that there was a different way. Your BF may be the same. So talk to him. Just sit him down and tell him that you see a future with him and you want to start talking about things that could impact it. Mention that money is a leading cause of divorce so it's important to you to talk about it, especially since you have different backgrounds. Explain to him that you grew up feeling insecure about money so it's important to you to be frugal and save for the future and you're interested in knowing how he's planning for his future and how he sees that changing if/when you merge. Just be honest with him. Don't accuse him of spending too much, just question is plans and ideas.

I'd highly recommend you read that book as well. Read it and do the activities separately and then get together and talk about the results. That way your answers are not influenced by eachother. See if you can come together and agree on ideas and goals. If not...that could signify a serious problem that you need to address before anything goes permanent.

Good luck!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 4:04 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
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My girlfriend and I are in a somewhat similar situation in that I earn amost six times what she does and yet she wants to split our expenses evenly. I'm not reckless with my money, but after watching my pennies and scrimping for most of my life, I resented having to live at her level at a time when I could finally stop feeling economically pinched. We talked about it and both of us made compromises. She allows me to treat her to supper out every now and then (we only eat out about three times a month now but before that it was more like three times a year), and I'm paying for our house (she pays the taxes and some miscellaneous expenses). It works: left to my own devices I'd probably spend a lot more than I do, but now I plow most of my money into retirement savings and paying down the mortgage. And she now allows herself to live larger than she could if she were on her own. Fortunately for us, though, we both like to live simply and don't want to complicate our lives with lots of possessions...I think it would be a lot harder if one of us was a materialist or had bought into consumer culture.

The key really is talking it over and making your boyfriend appreciate how important this is to you. And you have to listen to him and try to understand his perspective. If you love each other, you'll both be willing to make compromises.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:35 am 
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When you do have this conversation, come at it with a stated intent of, "gosh gee whillickers I'm thinking about seeing you old n gray and n diapers!"

And have a pencil, pen, calculator handy. Take him through your financial situation on paper, and have him write out his.

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 Post subject: Money summit
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:49 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:11 am
Posts: 1088
Location: Sunny Florida
Before my husband and I bought a house together (pre-marriage) we had a money summit in which we each came with our FICO/credit report, documentation of assets and debts, income, investments, etc. Our summit was very unromantic but provided a really good foundation for our future. Looking at my partner's credit history led to a very good discussion about his financial history, mistakes, successes, etc.

We have generally similar backgrounds but my parents paid for my college and helped me pay for professional/grad school, husband paid for college and grad school himself or with loans (we are currently working on paying off his grad school). Husband also makes less money than I do and I'm the spendthrift. There were/are times that he doesn't understand my spending (see money spent on wedding, honeymoon, and shoes/clothes) but later comes to enjoy/agree (see wedding/honeymoon) or we agree to disagree (shoes). I pay for the bulk of our living expenses 2/3 of the mort., utilities, etc. and I often pay for entertainment/dinners out. Husband pays for groceries/Home Depot expenses. We generally have the same financial goals and we've reached a happy agreement on division of expenses but it took a while to get there.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 5:55 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:13 am
Posts: 211
When I start up with a new wapce, I just assume that they are total money leeches hell-bent on sucking my lifeblood out through my pack pocket. So far, I haven't been proven very wrong, though I'm looking forward to it...someday.

I know it's my problem too, since I harbor this resentment towards them even though I never have a discussion about it or suggest they pay for their freeloading selves.

@OP: So, you're complaining because you have a potential sugar daddy? whiskey-tango-foxtrot, I'll never understand wapce.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 9:16 am 

Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 9:50 pm
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Location: Vancouver, Canada
If you refer to women as WAPCEs, you probably are left with the leeches at the bottom of the pond.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 9:48 am 
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Location: Portland, OR
144mph wrote:
When I start up with a new wapce, I just assume that they are total money leeches hell-bent on sucking my lifeblood out through my pack pocket. So far, I haven't been proven very wrong, though I'm looking forward to it...someday.

I know it's my problem too, since I harbor this resentment towards them even though I never have a discussion about it or suggest they pay for their freeloading selves.

@OP: So, you're complaining because you have a potential sugar daddy? whiskey-tango-foxtrot, I'll never understand wapce.


WTF is a wapce? Whatever it is, based on your other nasty opinions about women, I'll assume it's negative and vile.

My suggestion to you is that if you find yourself attracting the same kind of woman over and over then the problem is probably with YOU not with women. There are plenty of nice women out there who don't care about your money, and don't WANT a "sugar daddy" and in fact find the practice disgusting. I know they're out there because I'm one of them and my friends are all like me. In fact, I could give you the names today of a dozen or more great women who are nothing like you describe. My question to you is why aren't you attracting them? What is it about YOU that only attracts the dregs instead of quality?

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. That's exactly what you're doing though if you keep dating the same kind of girl yet expect her to not be like the last one. If you really want to attract someone who isn't going to suck your lifeblood out through your pocket then I'd suggest you reevaluate what you're offering to women. Quality women are attracted to quality men.

Finally, with your obviously negative (and honestly unbelievably offensive) view on women (which I'm 1000% sure comes through to anyone you talk to), anyone with self respect and a decent head on their shoulders will steer well clear of you.

ETA: To 144mph and the mods, it's offensive to me to see derogatory terms like this used on this forum. It's offensive to me as a woman and as a person. I hope, 144 that you can have just a *little* more respect for your fellow participants that you won't use words like this in the future. I'm certain (or at least I strongly hope) that you wouldn't write similar comments about people of other colors, religions, sexual orientations, etc so I'm not sure why you feel it's appropriate to degrade women in this way. Mods, I'd appreciate it if you could comment either on this thread or directly to 144mph that posts like this are unacceptable and won't be tolerated.

To those of you who have already contacted me about this post, thanks for your words of support and I urge you to make them public so 144 gets the point that more than one person was offended by his post.


Last edited by pf101 on Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:04 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:13 am
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My sister who is 2 years younger than myself has already been married, divorced, and remarried and finances have come into play heavily in the first marraige, and now the second. In both marraiges, she has been the financially responsible person, so I would be a huge advocate of Sam's money summit. One of the biggest problems in a marriage or serious relationships is discussions of finances and it's important to have transparency.

consultantjournal wrote:
If you refer to women as WAPCEs, you probably are left with the leeches at the bottom of the pond.


sadly, true.

A lot of my buddies have gf's who insist on paying their fair share, which I think is ultra-cool. Though I've shown an inclination to harbor stereotypes, I truly feel that I enter into each potential relationship with a sincere hope that I may break out of the pre-established pattern of aggregiously impecunious partners. Perhaps there is something about my technique or initial qualification criteria that predisposes my chosen wapce to be a money sponge. Is the welfare line not a good place to hit on chicks? lol.

Oh well, if the problem persists, I'll just stay single and childless for a very long time and my net worth will continue benefit as a result as long as I stay off the sauce while driving.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:09 am 

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JerichoHill wrote:
When you do have this conversation, come at it with a stated intent of, "gosh gee whillickers I'm thinking about seeing you old n gray and n diapers!"


They're in a relationship of 18 months, not married. That type of talk sends the message to the guy that she is thinking ultra-long term, which may not be the right approach.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:13 am 
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144mph wrote:
JerichoHill wrote:
When you do have this conversation, come at it with a stated intent of, "gosh gee whillickers I'm thinking about seeing you old n gray and n diapers!"


They're in a relationship of 18 months, not married. That type of talk sends the message to the guy that she is thinking ultra-long term, which may not be the right approach.


After 18 months if he hasn't thought about long term and is surprised that she has then he's an idiot. Pardon the term, but eventually you have to shit or get off the pot. The fact that she let it go for 18 months is impressive to me. I wouldn't spend 18 months of my life with someone if we hadn't talked about where it was going in the future.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:16 am 
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144mph wrote:
Perhaps there is something about my technique or initial qualification criteria that predisposes my chosen wapce to be a money sponge.


Please stop using this term. Are you purposely trying to be offensive or do you just not get it?


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 12:58 pm 
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First of all, I had to look up wapce in the urban dictionary because I hadn't heard the term before. I agree, 144mph -- it's not appropriate for these forums. Whatever your view of women (or men, for that matter), using inflammatory language totally derails the discussion. I know that wasn't your orginal intent, but it is the resulting effect, so please choose less provocative language. Thanks!

Second, to answer the original poster -- this is a tough one. It would be helpful to know more about your relationship. I've seen similar unbalanced relationships in the past, and they've each had a unique outcome, some good, some bad. I've seen men with bad financial habits go into a marriage and ruin the marriage. I've seen women do the same. On the other hand, I've seen women with bad habits change. And I'm living proof that a man with bad habits can change. The real problem is that a person has to change him or herself -- you cannot make them change.

When we were married, I was a spendthrift. I was in debt and had several more years of deeper debt to go before recovering. Kris was wary. In fact, at one point she refused to buy a house with me until I got rid of my debt. (That didn't happen because she eventually saw the advantages to owning a home.) Believe me, she tried to tell me what I was doing wrong, but I only saw her as nagging and controlling. It took a long time for me to understand how destructive my behavior was. I still do dumb things, but they're fewer and far between.

Your situation is tough. Your incomes and spending are unequal. In our relationship, the incomes were roughly equal. Because I was the spendaholic, we set up separate finances. This worked for well, and continues to work well, even though we're now both fiscally responsible. I'm not sure if separate finances is a good choice for a couple with unbalanced incomes, though.

This would be a great front-page "Ask the Readers" question, Annie. Let me know if you'd like me to post it there for more responses.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 11:53 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 8:13 am
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pf101 wrote:
Please stop using this term. Are you purposely trying to be offensive or do you just not get it?


Apologies to anyone I have offended.


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