Moving in brings money fears

Living together makes financial sense but I'm afraid of relying on someone else

By Cary Tennis

Published May 14, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

My problem is about moving in. I love my boyfriend of two years. We should live together; he's already at my place six nights a week. If we move in together, we could take awesome vacations and save more money at the same time! It just makes sense. We both agree it's a good idea. We're even looking at places (two bedrooms, so friends and family can visit us). (And because we love closets, let's be honest.)

But it freaks me out: The idea of relying on anyone else to pay half my rent (and other bills) makes me horribly uncomfortable. He is responsible, and will pretty much always be able to handle his half. Why can't I accept it? I mean, he makes nearly twice as much as I do. But he doesn't contribute to his 401K.

Secretly, I blame my dad for making me such a worrywart about savings and money in general. And by "secretly," I mean I tell everyone it's my dad's fault I'm such a tightwad. (Bless his heart, I know he'd agree.) Cary, please advise. I read your advice all the time because it's both unexpected and spot-on.


I Hope This Isn't the Most Boring Letter You Get

Dear Hoping It's Not Boring,

The first thing to do, says well-respected financial site Kiplinger's, is talk about money.

"Make a date to specifically discuss your finances," says the article "Five Money Rules for Moving in Together," by Erin Burk. "You should share your attitudes toward money, your financial priorities, your spending and saving habits, and your short- and long-term goals," she writes.

Burk,  incidentally, also wrote a sweet piece about how she and her husband deal with money, which is worth reading if you're starting out. She also mentions a couple of books, "Shacking up: The Smart Girl's Guide to Living in Sin Without Getting Burned," and "Money Without Matrimony," both of which would be worth looking at. The general point here is to expose yourself to as much writing on the subject as you can, in order to get a grasp of the important points to cover in your conversation.

Then make a date to have this conversation. Set aside at least an hour. Listen to each other. Out of your conversation should come a detailed financial agreement that you stick to for as long as you live together.

Is making such a plan a buzz-kill? Well, as the Kiplinger article says, "What's more romantic than committing to the well-being of your partner and your relationship?"

And this is a far better time to do it than when you are in a sudden crisis. You are starting out. You can make any choices you like!

The Kiplinger's piece, and a few good books and other sites, will give you the practical information you need. The hidden pitfalls are psychological, and that's where I can perhaps be of use to you. When money is discussed, the psyche speaks up; unexpected emotions surface. So prepare for surprises. And note that, psychologically speaking, when you talk to your boyfriend about money, your father will be in the room. That is, unconsciously speaking, your father is his rival for your affections and respect. He may therefore resist any idea that seems to come from your father, without realizing that's what he's doing, which can lead to bafflement and upset. So, in talking about money with your boyfriend, it may help to keep your father out of it, and voice all your concerns about money as yours alone.

But mainly, just have the conversation, and make a plan, and do it all with love. You can make this work.

Cary Tennis

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