I could talk for hours about my ex-boyfriend and all of the terrible decisions he made, his bad habits, and his financial mistakes. Ahhh…..so where do I begin? In order to protect the financially irresponsible, let's call him “Jack.”
I was about 21 when I met Jack, and we started dating. He was a little older than I was, I think about 28 or 29. After being introduced to each other through my sister, we clicked and started spending a lot of time together. Of course, I had no idea what kind of nightmare I was walking into. Honestly, it took a while to figure it out.
The truth is that he was really fun to be around. Always the life of the party, he had tons of friends. He liked to go to cool places, see new things, and enjoy whatever his heart desired at the moment. He liked to dine at the finest restaurants, see amazing concerts, and do whatever seemed fun at the time.
Financial warning signs
Jack loved to spend money. Whenever he got paid, it felt like the paycheck was setting his pockets ablaze. It seemed as if he needed to part himself from his paycheck as quickly as possible.
Are you prepared to dodge a financial bullet?
While he loved spending money, Jack didn't actually like working to earn it. Over the course of our two-year relationship, he had at least five or six different jobs with long spells of unemployment in between. It wasn't that he couldn't “get” a job. He was an electrician by trade, so – at the time – he could get hired if he wanted. The problem was that if he had a bad day, he would just quit. I'm serious. At almost 30 years old, if he decided that he didn't like his job, he would go home and never return.
Jack was also unable to keep track of his money. He bounced checks all the time, sometimes just by putting a fast-food meal on his debit card. He just could not manage to balance his checkbook. After bouncing a check, he would get furious – as if it was someone else's fault. “The ATM said I had $58!!!” No matter how many times I tried, I couldn't get him to understand the concept that the bank doesn't know you've written a check on your account until someone actually cashes it.
He had terrible credit, and – of course – he didn't care or understand it very well. I later found out that his family had bailed him out of credit card debt many times. Each time he would improve his credit score enough to get another credit card, he would immediately run it back up again. By the time I started dating him, his family had stopped bailing him out and decided that he was going to have to live with the problems he created. Unfortunately, as we started co-habitating, his problems were now my problems.
Saving myself from financial ruin
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever gotten from anyone came to me during this time. Frustrated that Jack had quit another job, I went to talk to my mom about the situation. She listened quietly and tried not to be judgmental. Then she said something that was so obviously true that I could not ignore it. “If you stay with him, your whole life is going to be like this.” She was right. I was growing and changing, and he was staying exactly the same. I had matured a lot during the course of our relationship….and at age 30, he still hadn't. Jack was always going to be broke, living paycheck to paycheck. He would always party away everything he earned. We would always be poor and I would never be happy like this.
Fortunately, I took my mother's advice and broke it off with him. It was a huge relief knowing that I no longer had to deal with his irresponsibility and stupidity. I wanted the American Dream – a home, two kids, and money in the bank. I didn't want the worry and stress of never knowing when the next paycheck would come. I just didn't want to live that way. Luckily, I didn't have to.
It's been ten years now and I am friends with Jack on Facebook. I have to say that following his life online is pretty entertaining. Of course, everything my mother predicted came true. He is currently jobless and living off unemployment. He often posts photos of the concerts he is seeing or about the expensive restaurants he is eating dinner at. He's still living for today, and not saving anything for tomorrow. Recently, he even posted a picture of what must have been $1,000 worth of fireworks that he bought.
Now that I am only a spectator, I can sit back and laugh at Jack's antics. I can just shake my head and turn the computer off. I dodged that financial bullet, and I am so very happy that I did.
I did eventually find a man to marry. Not only is my husband the most amazing person I have ever met, but he also has dreams too. He is responsible and goes to work even when he doesn't really want to. I never have to worry about him frittering away our savings. We have a house, two kids, and money in the bank. Because I took my mom's advice and followed my own intuition, my dreams came true.
I learned a lot from that relationship. I realized that I wanted more out of life than a constant party everywhere I turned. I learned that you can't help people who have no intention of helping themselves. However, the most important thing I learned is that it is imperative for two people in a relationship to be on the same page about money. You have to be in agreement about saving and spending or it just doesn't work. Being in a relationship with someone who is financially irresponsible is a life sentence of stress, worry, and struggle. Who wants to live like that? I sure don't.
Author: Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar and writing for publications such as Bankrate, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and Travel Pulse, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.