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How to feel good about my financial independence?
January 16, 2013 7:37 AM   Subscribe

This could come across as a stupid question to many people but I'd like to know how I can "feel & think better" about my financial independence from my partner. Sometimes I get a nagging feeling inside that I'd be a happier person if my partner just took care of everything and I didn't have to work so damn hard. I know I should embrace the fact that I have financial independence, am debt-free, good with money, savings and so on and feel good about being able to take care of myself.

To date my partner & I have kept very separate our incomes, debts, costs, savings, with no shared assets and so on. He half owns and is positively gearing a leased apartment. I'm not involved in any property but manage my own investment funds that are all doing well. We would like to buy some property together at some point in the near future.

My partner is in a moderate but manageable amount of debt (in addition to his property mortgage which is positively geared), as he doesn't choose to work F/T (his idea of lifestyle balance) he takes alot longer to pay off his debts and the way he tends to cashflows things is that he's constantly scraping along on his last few pennies. I on the other hand tend to work like a horse to repay any debts and then just save save save for no reason inparticular with loads of reserve backup at any point in time. It often drives me bats that he is always on his last few dollars because it limits what we can and can't do together and leads to arguments about how we manage shared expenses. Im finding it hard to come to terms with our different views on all this, mostly in light of our expecting our first child in about 10 weeks.

Around the time of baby arriving we'll switch to mainly the one income (his) for probably 1 maybe 2 years. He won't be supporting the 3 of us fully but a pretty high percentage of his income will be supporting us. I'm not worried too much about cashflow while I'm off work as I think we'll be well-supported, I am worried about his level of acceptance and attitude towards his new role. I have also developed some mild anxiety that, whilst he has alot of qualifications that should enable him into better jobs, he has been unable to source better (more meaningful & better paid) work over the last 2 years. He is stuck in a lowly paid, semi-shitkicker (his words) job. This is due to his lack of industry work experience and his age. I am 11 years younger than he and have always had the higher paid job with better long-term job prospects, this is maybe skewing my view on reality a bit.

Basically, I just want to understand how to better respect his financial choices, feel good about my financial independence and also better support him with his long-term work pursuits, in view of our new family unit?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
"I ... save save save for no reason inparticular"

The answer is probably pretty complicated, but maybe the first step to understanding and respecting his financial choices is better understanding why you make the financial choices you do.
posted by 3FLryan at 7:43 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


If your financial life depends on his job and earning potential for the next few years, then the two of you have to sit down as a couple and discuss this before it happens. It sounds like you have very different views on how to approach finances, and while neither one may necessarily be "correct," you have to reach a level of comfort with each others' approaches in order to make this work.
posted by xingcat at 7:51 AM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the ways that worked for us was meeting with a (fee for service only) financial planner and getting their feedback.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:56 AM on January 16, 2013


I was getting prepared to give you some advice about being cool with his decisions, until I read further and saw that you are expecting a child.

This behavior is not okay for someone who is expecting a child in two months. If you both agree that you will stay home with the baby for the first 1-2 years, then he should be stepping up to fulltime work /now/, not waiting until the baby is actually born. I think you have some justifiable concerns about his level of engagement, and how well he'll handle that. He should be handling it now to show you how he will handle it in the future.

That said, one thing that can make you feel better about your financial independence is the idea that if this doesn't work out, you will be able to care for your child, whereas women who are dependent on their partners have difficulty if things go downhill.

But babies change the equation for everything. It's one thing to have different styles, but when it comes to babytime, you should have one style - the one the baby needs.
posted by corb at 8:04 AM on January 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


Basically, I just want to understand how to better respect his financial choices...

Why do you want to better respect his financial choices? His financial choices are bad. They don't deserve your respect. He needs to change them. Then he can get your respect.
posted by alms at 8:33 AM on January 16, 2013 [14 favorites]


If it's any comfort--once my husband became a father, something kicked in and he started earning like a house afire. Up until then, he'd been sort of diligent, but because I made more $$, he would relax and spend time on projects and hobbies. On the other hand, he stayed home with the baby after the first year, largely because I was chomping at the bit to go back to work, and because I could make far more money. If he'd like to be a SAHD, you might entertain the notion. I'm all for taking turns earning, but you have to have ground rules about saving and spending and make sure both parties understand exactly what's happening.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:44 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had never heard the term positively geared before - I've learned something new, thank you!

You say he does not work FT because of "lifestyle balance" but at the same time he is in debt and has limited funds, no savings, struggles with paying his share of expenses, and knows that he has a major ongoing expense for the next two years (supporting you and the new baby). He could have been working more NOW in order to take time off/work less weekly hours to be with you and the baby, but instead is choosing to later either lower everyone's standard of living to what he is comfortable with (that you find limiting), or work more while you are alone with the baby and possibly feeling overwhelmed/needing a break from child-minding.

I see how your anxiety is rooted in him not being a "team player" - he is putting his own needs/deciosn of what is a good lifestyle balance at the expense of your (and the baby's) needs. You are good in being proactive because (assuming he is in his thirties) this is who he is and it will not change unless he recognises it is a problem for both of you - and you both need to work on it. You mention wanting to support his long-term work prospects but that seems incongruent with him not being able to support you in even paying for his half of shared expenses now.

Have you considered meeting with a couple's counsellor to set shared goals and a timeline for action? Maybe if someone external and neutral is part of the conversation he will feel more accountable and get a bit of a reality-check. Right now you have kept your finances separate (smart move!) but maybe if you design a shared budget with the help of a professional where you both compromise a bit he will become more responsible.

There are two kinds of financial troubles; one where you don't live within your budget (overspending) and one where you don't earn enough to afford your basic needs budget (which is where it sounds like he is with choosing to work PT, incurring debt he can't re-pay, and not being aggressive in pursuing more lucrative employment).

"I ... save save save for no reason in particular"
The answer is probably pretty complicated, but maybe the first step to understanding and respecting his financial choices is better understanding why you make the financial choices you do.

I think the OP just chose her words poorly - she means she does not have a concrete goal for the money at the moment beyond continuing her investments and purchasing property in the future, not that she is randomly saving money for no reason. After all, she has positive cash flow, easily covers her half of shared expenses, wants for nothing materially, and has no debts. Saving her money is the only logical choice in that situation.

posted by saucysault at 8:47 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


This behavior is not okay for someone who is expecting a child in two months.

Yeah, it is. Or rather, you cannot make a blanket statement that it is not. Different families roll different ways.

I'm not worried too much about cashflow while I'm off work as I think we'll be well-supported, I am worried about his level of acceptance and attitude towards his new role.

So it sounds like he is stepping up when you step off paid employment. That's great. You may find that his attitude and acceptance changes radically with the actual arrival of your child.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:27 AM on January 16, 2013


I'm panicking a bit reading this.. you have no idea how many women I know who have been financially and emotionally devastated by their dependence on their husband post-childbirth, and the stress of relying on someone who can't provide security is going to be tough. It's going to affect your child's security too.

Rethink your plan of staying home for so long; have other options in place, tour daycares now. With a backup plan in place you'll feel much better.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Your question confuses me. You say your question is "how do i feel good about the fact that my partner doesn't take care of me?" but your real question is "how do I address the fact that my partner has money habits that I think aren't in the best interests of the family?" These questions are on two different planets.

First, are you married? My advice entirely hinges on the legal status of your relationship.

I'm going to assume you aren't. I'm about to be all sorts of old fashioned but this is why I think the legal obligations of marriage are so so important (and why everyone should be able to marry if they so choose).

When you start a family together I firmly believe that everyone needs to be 100% all in. All parties need to operate for the good of the unit. That might mean that you take time off to raise a child while he works full time, or later in life you work full time so he can go back to school. You must both be on the same team. You save and splurge together. (You aren't on the same team if you can do activities that he can't afford.)

It means both parties communicate about shared financial goals. It doesn't mean that all money must be pooled, or that you can't have your own accounts, but it does mean you have to be transparent.

If you are unmarried this is difficult. While staying at home, you could drain out your savings. He could leave you and that would be it. No marital assets, what's his is his, and you haven't been working so you are left with squat (besides child support). It's not advisable to commingle finances when unmarried because you have 0 protection in the event of a breakup. If this is the case for you, I would continue to operate as independently as possible from your partner. I would only take two years off if I could manage without his money. If I couldn't I would go back to work ASAP. I would also make sure his name is on the birth certificate in case you need a child support order in the future.

If you are married, you need to have a big, huge talk and you need to get on the same financial page, pronto. You need a family budget, and collective goals and priorities (even if you have separate accounts). Document your budget and goals and keep track together.

Do not frame this as "you need to take care of me." That aspect of your question is troubling. At the end of the day, partners need to rely on each other, and while one might carry a load for awhile, it's really on both of you to figure this out. For example, if you normally make more money, maybe you need to be kicking more money towards your mutual financial goals (that downpayment, for example).

But this is why I think it is troubling to have kids before marriage. You can ask for his financial cooperation but neither of you can go "all in" without risking your financial future. Good luck.
posted by murfed13 at 11:40 AM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think his financial choices deserve respect. You're not doing anything wrong other than hitching your financial wagon to someone who sounds really unreliable and immature.

You definitely need to see a counselor.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:41 AM on January 16, 2013


Different families roll different ways.

And some of these ways to "roll" are less ideal than other ways. When I read that the OP was in her third trimester, my jaw dropped.

If the man is always on his last few dollars so that he cannot afford basic entertainment with the OP, how does he have enough money to support an infant? "Constantly scraping along on his last few pennies" is not my definition of "sole bread winner". "He won't be supporting the 3 of us fully"? Red flag to me.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:43 AM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Again, I am trying to work with what the OP has said and not project my own baggage into the thread:

I'm not worried too much about cashflow while I'm off work as I think we'll be well-supported, I am worried about his level of acceptance and attitude towards his new role.

She's not asking about the money, which they appear to have a 1 - 2 year plan for; she's asking how to reconcile their different approaches to money overall.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2013


She's not asking about the money, which they appear to have a 1 - 2 year plan for; she's asking how to reconcile their different approaches to money overall.

I'm not so sure. It seems like she wants him to make more money so she can work less, even though she is couching her question as reconciling money habits:

Sometimes I get a nagging feeling inside that I'd be a happier person if my partner just took care of everything and I didn't have to work so damn hard.

I have also developed some mild anxiety that, whilst he has alot of qualifications that should enable him into better jobs, he has been unable to source better (more meaningful & better paid) work over the last 2 years.
posted by murfed13 at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2013


You can embrace your financial independence while still taking issue with the way he handles his finances. It is okay to be angry at him for being an adult who is barely scraping by because he is choosing to work part time, especially in light of the fact that you're about to become parents.

There's a lot of things I think we don't know from your question--are you living together? How are your currently splitting joint expenses? If he isn't going to be fully supporting you and the baby while you stay at home, does this mean you will be partially living off your savings?

It seems like you feel that this is your responsibility to adjust your feelings about this situation, instead of addressing this with your partner. You need to sit down and address this and come up with a financial plan.

as he doesn't choose to work F/T (his idea of lifestyle balance)
The lifestyle he should be preparing for is parent, how has he been doing that so far?

If the role of sole financial support for the family is not one that he is comfortable with, are the two of you open to other arrangements?
posted by inertia at 12:50 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thanks everyone for your answers so far. A quick update:

1. We are not married, we have plans down the track for that but are in no rush. I was previously in a disastrous marriage and only got my divorce papers last January. I met my current partner during my previous separation in 2010. My partner was more or less living a solitude lifestyle for a few years dealing with his dads passing (he hadn’t been in any major relationship for a while). We we’re probably coming in from completely different backgrounds in that way. My ex-husband lived an opulent lifestyle (money like water) and while he paid for most things he had zero savings.
2. This pregnancy wasn’t planned, (we conceived while on the pill). After much discussion together and close family we decided it was in our best interests to keep the baby. Despite whatever relationship hiccups we have since faced we are both still really happy about our decision on this.
3. My partner has made some significant changes to adjust for our impending parenthood (he’s not all bad!!). He was working nightshift on a good wage for many years before we met and during our relationship. About a month after I fell pregnant he switched to day shift, taking almost a third of his earnings pay cut, this was in order to be at home each night with me and help out. He has long service accrued and will take almost 3 months paid leave when the baby is born to be at home together as a family. He will go back to F/T work hours in his not so flash job after the leave.
4. Yes our cashflow should be fine for 1-2 years and I’m not worried about that. Since the pregnancy began all of my last 6 month savings have been put away to support us during the next 1-2 years, I don’t mind spending this saved money on family expenses and its certainly not the entirety of my assets. I also have 3 months employer paid maternity leave, 18 weeks government paid leave, plus government assistance beyond that, all to top up whatever my partner’s income struggles with (lucky us!).
5. My partner does struggle with cashflow and we do have arguments on this although we’re getting better. For big expenses (appliances or whatever) there is no issue whatsoever. For groceries, entertainment, fuel expenses, we are often at odds. It would all be worth it if I knew he was making headway against his debt. Ideally I want my partner out of debt altogether so money isn’t such a drag for him (which I have offered to pay off for him on a no interest loan, although we both debated this and agreed it was probably a bad move, i.e. let him manage his affairs).

I guess my question is a bit convoluted and sorry for that, basically:

Yes, I am trying to reconcile our different approaches towards money so we are on the same page. How can I (and we) best do this? Is it simply a matter to see a FP, counselor and or make a strict budget together that we actively manage? I don’t want to be an overbearing taskmaster on him when it comes to earning money for our family (which I sometimes feel I am), and I wonder if my attitude is skewing my approach to our discussions (that is, work until you drop). Perhaps all of this will change once baby arrives, but for now yes I am worried that he doesn’t have the same level of mental “engagement” to the task ahead because his changes have been slow so far (we had quite a few arguments over the last 6 months about his going F/T before baby arrived).
posted by cortex at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2013


I'm glad to hear your partner has stepped up to the plate, that's great.

How can I (and we) best do this? Is it simply a matter to see a FP, counselor and or make a strict budget together that we actively manage?

Yes and yes. You don't want the task master to be you, but rather to be a 3rd party. Now is the perfect time to do this because you are about to add an arseload of expenses that have never occurred to you to your household budget. You also have an urgent, urgent need for insurance and for wills. A financial and legal review with the appropriate professionals is more than appropriate right now.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:22 PM on January 16, 2013


It's one thing for you to see this as an issue (and I certainly agree that his handling of money is one) but unless he views it as an issue too and one that needs to change, nothing is going to happen. The penny may only really drop for him when the baby arrives, you're down an income and the bills start rolling in. I would pre-empt this, start acting like you only have the one income now, and see how you manage, to jolt him into the reality of the situation and make him realise his financial habits need to change. Yes to all the other suggestions of financial planning and counselling to navigate your way through this. You don't want to be down the track dealing with sleep deprivation, an infant and arguing about bills and money with a pigheaded partner. That's where hell lies.
posted by Jubey at 3:28 PM on January 16, 2013


Thanks for the update. You aren't married. I'm sorry, but you really don't have any control or say in how he manages his money or how much money he makes. Now that you will have a baby, you can get a child support order if you wanted, but you really can't make him invest in your mutual future unless he's interested in doing so.
posted by murfed13 at 6:19 PM on January 16, 2013


You aren't married. I'm sorry, but you really don't have any control or say in how he manages his money or how much money he makes.

Even if you were married, you could not dictate these things. There isn't a right to this that comes with marriage. You do have other issues regarding pensions, inheritance and next of kin that can be dealt with via proper legal planning but become pressing with the arrival of a child.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:02 AM on January 17, 2013


I am trying to reconcile our different approaches towards money so we are on the same page. How can I (and we) best do this? Is it simply a matter to see a FP, counselor...

Yes to this.

and or make a strict budget together that we actively manage?

But not necessarily to this.

You are assuming the financial counselor will tell your partner to be more like you, that your way is the right way, and that the goal of the meetings with the counselor will be to get your partner to do it your way. That doesn't count as "reconciling our different approaches".

There are financial counselors who specialize in working with couples. They have specific techniques that they teach which allow each person in the couple to maintain some independence while also creating a responsible shared money framework. This isn't the same as "strict budget", although it could achieve some of the same goals.

You should find a financial couple's therapist like this to work with, make sure it's a good one, and go with an open mind. Oh, and don't wait until the baby comes. You'll have your hands full at that point.

Good luck!
posted by alms at 6:26 AM on January 17, 2013


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