What can I do if my girlfriend isn’t serious about money?

In the Get Rich Slowly forums, DannyBoy has a question that I think many people face: “What can I do if my girlfriend isn't serious about money?” He writes:

I'm the sort of person who essentially looks into every area of his life to save, start investing, and be smart about money as much as possible. Do you think that somebody like myself, who cares so much about where his money goes, can be happy with a girlfriend who doesn't? Everything else between us is cool, fun, etc, But I don't want the money issue to turn me off her.

We're both young: I'm 19 and she's 23. She says she doesn't want to save for retirement because we could all die in a second, therefore it's a waste of time and money to save if the worst should come around. I don't really agree with this. I mean, chances are most of us will make it to retirement. (Unfortunately, some won't.) How do you think I should handle the situation?

Should I talk to her again about how I feel towards this? Should I let it bother me? I'm into her, and I want to remain to be into her, but I don't want something so simple as saving to get in the way of what could be. Should I grow out of it, get out of it, or just accept it?

It's relationship questions like this that make money so complicated. What do you do when you're in love with somebody, but you don't see eye-to-eye on money? (Or any other issue, for that matter.)

The standard reply to a situation like DannyBoy's is that this relationship probably won't work in the long-term. If both partners are not on the same page financially, there's trouble in the future.

On the other hand, Kris and I are proof that it's possible to have a fantastic relationship despite initial differences. When we were married, Kris did all the right things with money. I did all the wrong things. (This is one of the reasons we maintained separate finances.) Eventually, I came around. Not everybody does.

Obviously, DannyBoy and his girlfriend are young yet. Is it too early for him to worry about money differences? Should he worry about them at all? Is there anything he can (or should) do to open his girlfriend's eyes?

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Anon
Anon
12 years ago

Let her do as she pleases as long as your finances are separate.

Honestly, what are the chances of a relationship when you’re 19 progressing any further?

Chances are these two will be broken up in a year and this guys worries about this financial situation will be moot.

Stephen Martile
Stephen Martile
12 years ago

My wife and I attended the MMI seminar in 2006 and we are now both on the same page when it comes to money. It took some time but we have been better off financially this year than we have any other year. We started using the JARS Money Management System over 18 months ago and it has done wonders for us.

InvestEveryMonth.com
InvestEveryMonth.com
12 years ago

Another problem is when your lover expects gifts all the time.

Our consumer culture has us on a rotation of expected gift giving events. Peer pressure purchasing.

I’m not a materialistic person so I have always had trouble with someone who expects to be showered with nice gifts.

I try to focus on toughtful gifts more than shiny gifts. If that isn’t good enough for someone, then that someone isn’t good enough for me.

savvy
savvy
12 years ago

I say let it lie for now but if the relationship gets serious (as in he’s thinking about proposing) then he definitely needs to revisit the topic. Money is one of, if not the, top cause of marital strife. It does no (financial) good to be a saver when you’re married to a spender because their bad habits will only counteract your good ones.

ed
ed
12 years ago

I disagree. If he plans for the worst with his girlfriend then the worst will quite likely happen. He’ll be no different than her not planning for retirement because she’s scared the end will come any second. That being said I’ve been with the same person since I was 13, I’m 22. We’ve been in a relationship for 9 years. So it’s quite possible they could be together for a long time, depending on the type of people they are. I was irresponsible with our finances up until six months ago. Once I saw how much it really bothered my… Read more »

Little Miss Moneybags
Little Miss Moneybags
12 years ago

He needs to pay attention to this now. He doesn’t necessarly need to DO anything about it yet, but pay attention in order to keep a clear head in case the relationship does progress. I was in a relationship from the ages of 18-23 with someone who couldn’t manage his money, and at times it was terrifying. When we began talking marriage, I finally confessed that I could not consider marrying him because of his lack of money management skills. I was afraid (legitimately, I think) that if we got married and I got pregnant and had to quit working,… Read more »

LJ
LJ
12 years ago

Yes, it can work out. My Hubby and I are proof. 9 years and 4 kids later, we still don’t always see eye to eye in terms of money, but we always make it work. That is part of a real relationship, if you truly love someone, you will become partners and learn how to compromise and make your finances work for you. I used to be a spendaholic, and never saved any money when I was a newlywed. My Hubby convinced me to max out my 401k and it was the best thing I did to start my finances… Read more »

drhands
drhands
12 years ago

First, when your girlfriend argues that it could all end any second, you need to acknowledge that she’s right. Because she is. If you acknowledge this, I think she’d have a hard time denying that it’s a good idea to prepare for the future just in case you get there. Remember, she’s just 19. It’s hard to blame her for tuning out talk of “retirement,” which no doubt conjures images of the gray old men on the TV commercials. Maybe if you frame it more in terms of how much future buying power you could have, or how many fewer… Read more »

Mister E
Mister E
12 years ago

It can work. I was in much the same situation with my girlfriend when we started out, she would spend every cent she earned usually several days or even a week before she could expect another paycheque. I just tried to lead by example and as things got more serious we had some discussions, at first she resisted heavily but she slowly caught on and now she creates a written budget and saves from every paycheque. That said, she’s still not particularily INTERESTED in money management and I handle the bill paying and give her investment advice but she realizes… Read more »

Frugal Dad
Frugal Dad
12 years ago

Like J.D. and his wife, my wife and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on money when we got married, but we’ve met each other in the middle and made it work for 10 years. My wife became more frugal, and I became less of a tightwad (her words, not mine!). I think all relationships require some compromise by both parties. If we were all perfectly compatible relationships wouldn’t be much fun.

Funny about Money
Funny about Money
12 years ago

Nineteen is too young for a man to marry. And if he’s having doubts now, while love’s still blind at the garden gate, he’d be best advised to put the brakes on this relationship. Unless she’s in the habit of drinking or doing dope and driving, her philosophy that there’s no point in planning for tomorrow because tomorrow may not come suggests she’s not the brightest light in the proverbial marquee. And if her point of view is realistic because she’s self-destructive, then she’s not marrying material. Our hero will have to take over all the money management and see… Read more »

Dave
Dave
12 years ago

DannyBoy — I’m almost 36 years old, and one thing I can understand now is the cyclic nature of things, the fact that things take time. I mean, you guys are *kids*, your girlfriend is *young.* Try to use that understanding to your advantage. If I look back at myself at 19 years of age, it feels as if I’m looking at somebody else’s life. Your girlfriend will probably “shape up” w/ money in a very natural way, in a very natural progression given time. In other words, she’ll probably start to worry about this stuff on her own given… Read more »

Shauna
Shauna
12 years ago

My boyfriend and I are around the same ages (I’m 25, he’s 21) I’m very interested in finances and have a pretty aggressive debt-reduction and retirement savings plan. He gets his tax refund and sees Playstation 3 dancing in front of him. Over time, simply by talking about my interest in finance and sharing my successes with him, he’s started to come around. The other day he actually complained about how going out to dinner is a financial waste! Then he asked me to help him come up with a plan to lower his interest rates on his credit cards… Read more »

Courtney I
Courtney I
12 years ago

Control is the key here. You’ll notice for people above who say “it can work”, someone takes CONTROL of the finances and the other person relinquishes it. That way you can still have different views on money, but the actions taken are controlled by one person in the couple. If you’re fighting tooth and nail on what ACTIONS to take with the money, you’ll be miserable and a marriage will not be successful. For example, my husband does not see the point of saving for retirement. He thinks he will NOT live to retirement age (still not sure why this… Read more »

Tana
Tana
12 years ago

Some differences are okay, but drastic differences – like this guy seems to have – are far more difficult. I just watched my BIL go through a divorce over this issue, and he could have written the same letter back when they were dating. His wife just got worse and worse and worse and drove them further and further into debt. He got extra jobs, was very thrifty, and so forth, but now he has a divorce and half of her debt to show for all that effort. My husband and I weren’t exactly on the same page, but we… Read more »

Danquixote
Danquixote
12 years ago

Money is a huge issue in a long term relationship. I’ve been told it’s one of the leading causes of divorce – although I can’t point you to any real statistics to back that up. Even at 19, he should be aware of the problems that can arise if you’re not on the same page, financially.

J.D.
J.D.
12 years ago

You know what? I have to say it again: Get Rich Slowly commenters are the best I have ever seen. I’m always amazed at the level of thought you folks put into what you write. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Tam
Tam
12 years ago

People can change! When I was her age I had $7,000 in credit cards, $20,000 in student loans, had the same feelings about retirement as she currently does and came from a family that always lived hand-to-mouth. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) was great with money and really inspired me with his financial behaviors and I started reading about personal finance and got myself educated. We now live debt-free, frugally and I’m usually the one who takes the initiative to review our budget, get the best deals on things, cut out expenses, etc. You might just inspire her… Read more »

Bonnie
Bonnie
12 years ago

Thank you for this post, J.D. I’m 31 and my boyfriend is 39, and we’ve been dating for almost two years. I’m concerned because he has no money saved for retirement (his job doesn’t offer a 401K). He also has just a few thousand in savings and at least 5K in credit-card debt. For the past year or so I have been working harder and harder to eliminate my own CC debt. It’s difficult, though, because his view is, “People are always going to have a little debt.” I don’t see things that way, and it’s hard when he wants… Read more »

Jon
Jon
12 years ago

Since the girlfriend seems to be focused on the risk of saving, maybe you could talk about the risk of not saving? It would definitely suck to die before you spend your savings. But it would also definitely suck to get old, retire, then live in poverty because you never saved anything. The question is, which is more likely? Most people live until retirement age, so the latter is more likely! Or you could talk about the middle ground. You don’t have to choose between living like a prince and living like a miser. Even a small amount of saving… Read more »

Maggie
Maggie
12 years ago

I’d just like to say kudoes to a guy who is 19 and is already paying attention to his finances, and thinking about how things will work with his girlfriend having different financial values! I think that alone is a sign that whatever happens, he’ll be able to work it out one way or another.

Wesley
Wesley
12 years ago

When I was DannyBoy’s age, I dated a girl with very similar values. She was extremely fun to be around, go to parties with, etc. Boy am I glad I didn’t stay with her! I went to my HS reunion to find that she’s still the exact same way many years later…no money, lives with 20 cats…still fun, but a bit scary. My wife and I have always been penny-pinchers, and I can’t imagine being in a relationship where money could be a huge issue. My advice is to have fun for now, keep an eye on your money, but… Read more »

MossySF
MossySF
12 years ago

This is a hard question. Half the anecdotes here will demonstrate people can change. And half the anecdotes here say people often get worse. (Experienced the 2nd myself.)

So DannyBoy, sounds like a trip to Vegas. 50/50 odds whether it’ll work out for you. 🙂

TosaJen
TosaJen
12 years ago

I agree with what the pps said. While there are the rare cases where people marry someone they met at 14, I’d say more of us are really glad we are no longer in contact with anyone we dated before the age of 24! 19 and 23 are indeed very young ages — most folks at that age can’t picture the next 10 years, much less the next 45. I think most people start thinking about savings more when some parts of their lives settle down a bit — career, job, friends, marriage, house, kids, etc. I totally agree that… Read more »

Rev. Orv
Rev. Orv
12 years ago

As a pastor I have done hundreds of hours of counseling with married couples and / or premarital counseling over the last 15 years. The 2 biggest reasons I have seen for marriage trouble revolve around money and sex. You don’t have to be on the exact same page, but you certainly need to be in at least the same chapter to maintain a relationship that is not constantly in conflict.

Trent (Not that one)
Trent (Not that one)
12 years ago

Hey. Another thing to remember is balance. Financial planning is not all about long term pain for even longer term gain. It is about balancing what you need right now with what you need for the future. If you’re living in a cardboard box, showering once a year and eating rice every meal, perhaps you’re being a little bit too austere. On the other hand, if you live life with no plan, you’re going to find that your finances go down the tubes pretty fast. You don’t need to win her 100% to your way of thinking. It is a… Read more »

Michael
Michael
12 years ago

I think the key here is to recognize the differences and respect that you two have come from different places.

However, I also think there has to be an effort made by both parties to work out the problem together and come up with a plan together. Then, implement it. As one’s life improves the other will benefit.

Over a short-to-medium period of time if one doesn’t “rub off” on the other for a positive, then the answer is lying in front of you.

Heather
Heather
12 years ago

I think the problem is that even though they are both young, they are on totally different wavelengths. Marriage is enough work without worrying about constantly battling over money. Dump her. Cut your losses now.

Shirtless
Shirtless
12 years ago

My wife and I got married when we were 21 and have progressively been working on our finances. I have to say we’ve both been on a similar page since the beginning. When I was 19 I had an unfortunate crush on someone who was destructive with most areas of her life. No savings, always partying, ‘could die tomorrow’ attitude. I can tell you right now I’m glad I never pursued it the relationship. Since that time I’ve seen incredible growth in my family. I’ve owned a company from 19, got married at 21, bought a house at 22, had… Read more »

Minimal.Mammal
Minimal.Mammal
12 years ago

Learn from the experience in all the ways you can. We know eventually, if you don’t watch your money, you’ll find yourself in situations where you will wish you did. When that time comes for her, you’ll be there to help her out and show her how to do better.

katie
katie
12 years ago

i recently got married and my now husband wasn’t always so great with money. a couple of year ago he sold his 1973 BMW CSI and he had two car loans, paid one off but let the other one hang around and blew the rest of the money on “stuff” – he has changed SO MUCH since then though… we bought a home together last december and we have been aggressively working our way out of debt. I think sometimes, it can help for people who aren’t that great with finances to be coupled with someone who is a better… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
12 years ago

Counseling is the way to go. Find a good financial counselor and a good couples therapist! That’s what my spouse and I did. It’s really helpful to have experienced people providing objective guidance on such an emotionally charged issue.

Lisa

FYI, it is the 52nd Day Anniversary of my new Blog. I just needed to tell someone! Thank you , thank you. 🙂

That Guy
That Guy
12 years ago

All I can say is that choosing your spouse is probably the single most important financial decision you will ever make, period.

Ross
Ross
12 years ago

Bringing it up will most likely just cause her to be uncomfortable and feel threatened. Just let it go until marriage, then offer to take the burden off her and handle all the finances.

Ro
Ro
12 years ago

Wow, I wish I had been thinking like DannyBoy when I was 19! I can tell you that my life today would be lot different, with no need to try to play catch up. I was thinking more like the girlfriend in this scenario.

Lots of good advice about strking a balance and finding middle ground in the comments, and I agree. I would defintely take it into consideration before becoming more serious with her.

Brooke
Brooke
12 years ago

I used to be a serious spender/ money waster. Then I read Smart Women Finish Rich (David Bach) and my whole outlook changed. It made me passionate about my cashflow and I started reading whatever books I could get my hands on to learn about how to fix the problem. Now I have no credit card debt, I have an emergency fund, I’m on a snowball to quickly pay off my (huge) student loan, and I have a substantial start on retirement savings. I recommended to my fiance that he read Smart Couples Finish Rich, and now we’re both on… Read more »

Mary Sue
Mary Sue
12 years ago

Seperate. Bank. Accounts.

Do not let her anywhere near your money. Do not put her as a beneficiary, do not cosign anything for her.

I am speaking from painful, horrifying experience. As in next week I will finally be done paying off the bills my girlfriend rang up on ‘our’ credit card in 2002. Including our engagement rings.

Aaron Kulbe
Aaron Kulbe
12 years ago

I was going to say the same thing as Mary Sue. And then I read her words.

Don’t cosign, don’t do any credit, don’t ruin your future for her present.

Credit is easy to get when you’re young, and very difficult to rebuild if you make poor choices.

This is a huge issue. The differences you have in how each of you look at the future reflect a significant difference in your values.

This isn’t something you should ignore. If you proceed, I would do it with much caution… and protect yourself.

Lincoln
Lincoln
12 years ago

Change the terminology. Put it to your significant other this way: a dollar is a unit of choice. Being rich is a combination of the things you are able to do and the person you are able to be – not the the stuff you have. It costs money for Spanish lessons or your kid’s education fund. Everyone knows that but for some reason do not think they are choosing new pumps or a superman comic over private school or being fluent in Spanish. Try to change their outlook to “if I save I get to do or be X!”… Read more »

Dennis
Dennis
12 years ago

From my experience Its all about wether you can accept her money issues or not. She may change them, she may not. You have to be ok with it either way. My fiance spends a lot of extra money and I’ve tried to get her to slow down. She does well for a while but always slips back. I’m decided I’m ok with it. I will just have to be extra good with my money, which I am ok with. You have to decided if the positives out weigh the negatives.

Derek
Derek
12 years ago

First off, you’re 19? You shouldn’t have a girlfriend. Especially one who is 3 years older than you. Since that is beside the point, lets talk about the issue of finances. You girlfriend is irresponsible. Since she does not care about her future, and assumes she is going to die tomorrow, this is definitely not her only problem. She almost certainly does not pay her bills on time, carries a large credit card debt, is a terrible driver, is generally selfish, etc, etc etc. At some point in your relationship, probably most days, in some way or another, she will… Read more »

Pippin
Pippin
12 years ago

This isn’t even really about DannyBoy’s girlfriend, but about Danny himself. We’ve all jumped onto the ‘financial prudence is good’ bandwagon, but really, in the interests of self-development, Danny should give himself a little leeway to experience life before getting quite so stuck into planning for a retirement which is probably around 50 years off.

He sounds like a sensible chap, so isn’t likely to end up mired in debt, but to hold back on life experiences (he’s wondering about dropping someone he may love- what other pleasures he’s forgoing I hate to think) is just, well, wrong!

Hydes Like Us
Hydes Like Us
12 years ago

First of all, congratulations to you DannyBoy, for being such an enlightened and obviously intelligent young man. I’m impressed with the maturity you’ve displayed with this question. I have to agree with the readers who encouraged you to keep your finances seperate and continue living responsibly. As a wife to a husband who does not respect money- I can atest to the strain it can have on a relationship– but you’re still dating, and marriage is a whole other can of worms. Am I right? I think that you should enjoy your relationship on the level it’s at now– there… Read more »

Ryan Whiteside
Ryan Whiteside
12 years ago

Dannyboy,
I would recommend that both you and your wife read “Smart Couples Finish Rich” by David Bach. It’s a great book that could possibly change your girlfriend’s views.

Rick Francis
Rick Francis
12 years ago

Danny, As others have mentioned it’s great that you are thinking about these things at a young age. It means time is on your side and that makes a huge difference. That being said, you should first look at your self- are you saving too much and enjoying life too little? I would suggest that you both try to find a happy compromise. If neither of you are willing to do that it spells trouble for your future togeather! She values living well in the present while you value living well in the future. Both are important so this is… Read more »

Sherry
Sherry
12 years ago

Danny…run…run while u can…and please, please don’t try to “rescue” her from financial difficulties…nuff said.

leigh
leigh
12 years ago

i didn’t read all the comments, but Courtney I’s story is very much like mine. my husband was big spender/big debt-holder prior to the time we merged our finances. he ended up not wanting anything to do with the money, because he saw how well we lived on what we had when i managed our accounts. all our money went into the accounts and i took it from there. he was happy to get a few bucks a week to play with, and to not have to worry about it. i do discuss with him things that i think are… Read more »

Luis
Luis
12 years ago

It all depends on her adaptability. Some people rub off from each other. This was evident with my girlfriend. She is a frugal person and I was not. Everytime we would dine out, she was conscious about the prices unlike me. Its been about a year and I value and respect what she has taught me, but then again, I’m the type of person that loves to learn and have an open mind. “Dannyboy”, you have to perform a personality-assessment and see if there is a spark of possible change. Keep in mind, some people will not change. None of… Read more »

dathan
dathan
12 years ago

Honestly, if she’s 23 and hasn’t learned that saving (at least) some of her money is important, then she’s not mature enough to handle yours. You have to understand, our world today is one of the first to deal with women having a pronounced impact in the working world. Women no longer need that much support from men. Women are as independent as men and they can be just as successful, if not more so. Our parents and grandparents didn’t really grow up with this experience. If the new woman of today cannot manage her funds well, then there’s a… Read more »

riley
riley
12 years ago

To directly answer Dannyboy’s question.

“Do you think that somebody like myself, who cares so much about where his money goes, can be happy with a girlfriend who doesn’t?”

NO.

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