We're both young and rich -- but she throws money away

My girlfriend doesn't know the value of a hard-earned dollar

Published August 14, 2009 10:14AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I've been dating my girlfriend for around a year. She's my dream girl. She's gorgeous, smart and witty with a great sense of humor. We get along so well together and we are always laughing. Furthermore, I can see her being a great mother. It's still too early to be thinking about marriage with my girlfriend, but it's a quality that I appreciate in girls.

We go on adventures and travel together and have a blast, but we're also content just staying in on rainy days and watching movies and enjoying each other's company. We don't live together, but we see each other a lot and when we're apart she's always on my mind.

My issues are rooted to money. Her parents are very wealthy people, whose company I really enjoy. However, this brings up some problems. First thing is I am finding myself judging her lifestyle. Her parents pay for everything for her from school and her condo to clothes and food. She's never had a real job (she is still in college). My parents are also quite wealthy. However, from a young age they put me on allowance and then made me get summer jobs to gain an appreciation for the value of a dollar and gain experience budgeting. I know I'm putting my upbringing on a pedestal and I don't like thinking the way I was raised was the "best way," but I feel I have gained invaluable experience with money and appreciating what a dollar is worth. My girlfriend, on the other hand, is used to spending her parents' money; she doesn't abuse this privilege but it's still a concern to me.

I know it's not her "fault," for a lack of a better term, that her parents decided to take this route in raising her. Honestly, if the roles were reversed I would not be going out looking for jobs and trying to earn cash if I could relax during my summers. But I still judge her harshly for it. I worry that if we ended up getting very serious and moving in that financials would be a touchy subject with me. I feel she doesn't know the value of a hard-earned dollar and later in life might expect the same privileges she has had growing up. We are both going into professions that will provide financial security, but in all likelihood it wouldn't be comparable to what her parents could provide. Is there some way I can tell my brain to just put it behind me and get over it? How can I stop judging or caring about these materialistic concerns?

I find myself in a lot of internal battles whenever she brings up a property her parents own or how much this car of her parents cost. I normally just stay silent and actually act kind of jerkish hoping she'll get the point I don't like the topic. She isn't bragging, it's just an aspect of her life she sometimes shares. We once had a discussion before about materialism early in our relationship and it didn't go well. She got really offended and what came out of my mouth sounded more like an attack. Is there some subtle comment(s) I could make that she wouldn't take offense to? I want to avoid a huge breakout and serious discussion if I can, but if we have to have a sit-down, how can I approach it with sensitivity?

Muddled Mind

Dear Muddled,

You're young, rich, attractive and single. You're not even close to being married. You don't even know if you want to be married to her. You don't even know if she wants to be married to you.

So why not have some fun with this. Just pretend you're married. Say to her, "Let's pretend we're married."

Then, in your best censorious, penny-pinching-husband voice, say to her, "My dear, you spend way too much money. You are too extravagant. We are going to end up in the poorhouse!"

Will she get the joke? Will she participate? Play with it.

Get all puffed up with authority and self-importance and tell her what a spoiled little girl she is, how she can't go on, must not go on spending like this, how you're going to have to put a stop to it. Tell her you're putting your foot down! No more pretty dresses, no more fancy nights out, no more new cars, no more jetting about! Your families didn't get rich by frivolous, devil-may-care spending! Your families earned their money!

Ground her. Oh, that's a good idea. Tell her she's grounded.

Then, if she's willing to play along with you, she will burst into tears and run into the bedroom and lock the door.

It will be best if you are in a tux and she is in evening wear. But whatever.

While she is throwing a tantrum in the bedroom, vowing never to speak to you again, have your butler drive you to the bar, where you call your friend Harry and he comes to the bar and you drink martinis, and you tell him this long, sordid story how she's never learned the value of a hard-earned dollar, how she's going to drive you both to the poorhouse, and Harry says, "My friend, I'm not only your friend, I'm your accountant. So trust me. You're a long way from the poorhouse. She couldn't buy enough dresses fast enough. She couldn't make a dent in that fortune of hers. Relax. Have some fun. Besides, you're not even married yet."

That's what accountants are for -- to remind you about reality.

But you're getting drunk now, and maudlin.

Next morning you sober up. You have decisions to make: Do you even want to marry her?

If not, then what's this all about?

Of course, it's about relationship and money. It is only partly true to say that if you're not getting married then money is not an issue. Of course money is an issue because how you handle money is about who you feel yourself to be, and what qualities you want others to see in you and respect and admire, and it's about how you feel the world is supposed to be, what's right and wrong, what's a good way of life and a bad way of life, what is the right course of action, what are good habits. It is somewhat facile to suggest that because you are not married you don't need to have these feelings.

So have the feelings. But have some boundaries.

If you actually think you might want to get married to her, then tell her you might like to marry her one day but you're troubled by the way she handles money.

Ha ha ha. That should be a great conversation! I'd like to be there for that one! That'll take the air out of the room right quick.

But if you package it right, you may just bring it off. After all, you're talking about marrying her, so she's got to be a little flattered.

Just be careful. She might think you're proposing!

So, this is all good fun, but basically, my friend, my message to you is that you're way ahead of yourself. Lighten up. Have some fun.

And maybe, just maybe, in the course of fooling around, she'll reveal how she really feels about the money.

Write Your Truth.

What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

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