Two People. Sharing.
March 18, 2012 7:22 AM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I are finally ending the long-distance part of our LDR. Hooray! She'll be moving in with me and will be financially dependent on me for some time. I am very comfortable with this, she is less so. Please give us some guidance regarding how to handle this.

Our circumstances are similar to the situation in this question, but I'm less concerned about the economics of it and more with the interpersonal issues.

My fiancee and I have been together for 3 years, and currently both of us work. She'll be moving to the U.S. in a few months, and won't be able to work for at least a couple months after that. She'll need to wait for employment authorization and wants to polish up her professional English, so she'll be taking classes. But she could be without work for longer, because (1) this economy and (2) she doesn't particularly want to work in her current profession any longer.

We're fortunate that my income can support us in this dynamic indefinitely, though we have a couple dreams/plans that would require significant savings, so we do need to be careful with money. I'm comfortable with this arrangement; I basically view my property as her property already, and in order for us to be together, one of us would have to be making the move and be jobless for some time. My fiancee, however, is very uncomfortable with depending on me. What can I/we do to make this easier for her?

Things I've been thinking about are giving her a set amount of money every month so that she doesn't need to ask me for money, or possibly just giving her access to my account. I'm kind of drawing a blank otherwise.

Long term, we're probably heading back to her country, and so this situation could be reversed within a couple years.
posted by benbenson to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
On the one hand giving her a set amount of money each month strikes me as awfully paternalistic, on the other hand the skeptic in me says hold off on giving her full access to everything until you are actually married.

Its not an easy answer - I'm sure you feel like she's the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, but you never know. When you are married its not the same sort of risk because legally its half hers anyway. Its terribly cynical, and when I was engaged I would never have arrived at this decision. I'm very happily married now and don't worry for a moment about my wife and money so its not driven by having been burned.

Maybe create a joint account and set up an auto replenishment from your personal checking at some pretty generous level - then if shit goes bad you are worst case out just that amount. Set up an alert so you get an email when ever the account auto-replenishes so if her spending is out of scale from what you expected you can have a conversation about it sooner rather than later?

Also obviously ask her what she prefers - she might want a lump sum - then its even easier.
posted by JPD at 7:37 AM on March 18, 2012

If in your mind, your property is her property, then you should give her access to your (y'all's) account. I would think that would make her feel better over the long term, because a monthly allowance brings it up every month. If you are waiting to get married, perhaps a cohabitation agreement of some sort would make you both feel like you are in this together (and just be practical, for both of you).
posted by Houstonian at 7:48 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I should've added: A cohabitation agreement would make her feel better, not just you. In this arrangement, both of you are taking potential risk. I'm sure this won't happen, but your risk is that she could wipe out your account and leave. Her risk is that she's ended her career and moved to a country where she cannot work and has no contacts -- so you could leave her entirely destitute. And what if she were to become pregnant -- that's another financial risk, and possible career hit. A cohabitation agreement would acknowledge the risk she's taken, and outline how it is mitigated should the worst happen.

Of course it won't happen, but these are the types of life-changing risks that keep people up at night, and keep them worried about money instead of enjoying their time with their loved ones.
posted by Houstonian at 8:02 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You need a budget! Specifically, I think you should draw up a joint budget that you agree to together, in which all the bills are paid and savings goals are met and each of you gets a certain amount of "fun money" to spend on whatever you want without having to justify it to the other. That way, it's not you "giving her a set amount of money every month," it's each one of you having a budget for your independent activities that fits in with your financial goals as a couple. There are lots of couples where one or both people work who have joint finances and each member of the family gets an "allowance" out of their joint money, so you should be able to find resources discussing how they deal with money if you want more detailed advice.
posted by decathecting at 8:07 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would suggest opening a joint account (if she can do do in your country) and direct-depositing whatever you both want to spend monthly into that account-- rent, utilities, grocery money, entertainment, etc. She has full access to that and full knowledge of the parameters, i.e. we need $2k for rent and utilities, but the other $800 is for groceries, incidentals, and fun.

The remainder goes into your existing account as savings and a cushion.

Since it's a joint account, you'll both have online access and accountability, and it will be easy to initiate a conversation about finances without it seeming like anyone is checking up on the other.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:24 AM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

This question is a slightly different situation, but mainly asks about and addresses the interpersonal issues.
posted by Brittanie at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2012

Best answer: When he moved in with me, I made my husband an authorized user on my credit card. Note that this is different from him being a joint account holder--I'm responsible for all charges, credit-wise--but it also means that if I ever needed to end the arrangement, it would have been easier to do so. Each month, all shared expenses (including groceries) go on the card. If you did the same for your fiance, I might tell her that she can put expenses up to say--$200? $300? whatever you're comfortable with--onto the card and you'll pay them until she gets a job. This makes it less paternalistic--she gets the freedom of having a card she can use like normal money without asking permission or for a check--but also lets you check expenses when you pay each month so that you can discuss things if it becomes problematic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:02 AM on March 18, 2012

Best answer: Nthing the idea of opening a joint account. When I first moved abroad to live with my then-fiance, it was one of our first moves. You sound very similar to him in your attitude, which I think is really admirable; provided you go into this situation with open eyes about the real possibility that she won't find work for awhile, and can keep lines of communication open, I think you're on your way to a good process for working through it.

I was not allowed to work and then was unable to find a job for over a year after I moved to the UK, and it sucked a lot. I came into the relationship with a good chunk of savings, so knew that if push came to shove, I could live on that for awhile, but my partner was really adamant that he considered our finances to be a joint enterprise. This has not always been an easy thing to come to terms with; money can often be a really emotional grey area, and I fully admit that there were times when I struggled with guilt and fear and resentment when I thought about being dependent on him.

Besides a joint account, I think the idea of a budget is a good one, but you both need to sit down and be honest about expenses and needs, and reserve judgment about how the other chooses to spend their money. If you're already a proponent of 'what's mine is yours, etc.' then I think y'all should make sure you're equal partners as far as spending decisions go, even if she's not bringing in much/any income. My partner has always put a certain amount of money into the joint account, and after I started working again, I put a similar percentage of my paycheck in too. Until she's in a position to contribute income to the running of your household, she can still be a part of the decision making process.

As far as the actual spending of money, the most important thing my partner did to make me feel better about the situation was a complete lack of judgment or nitpicking about how I spent any joint account money. He wasn't encouraging me to go on a shoe shopping spree with his money or whatever, but there was no "Oh, you bought chocolate ice cream that I'm never going to eat, that should've come from your personal money," etc. And I didn't take advantage of that sense of trust.

Maybe our situation isn't the norm, but we've managed to make it work, and it's definitely come down to communicating A LOT about finances without fear or awkwardness. If you can come up with a spending plan for the future that you're both comfortable with, then hopefully that will make the transition an easier one for her.
posted by catch as catch can at 9:16 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I first moved to the US to be with my husband I was in a similar position.

Things that helped me feel not so dependent where

Sitting down together and working out a together budget is good she can see where all the money is going and will feel part of the process. You know her better than we do if she is likely to be offended by you giving her "pocket money", instead of giving her a set amount of money then you could say something along the lines of we have x amount left for spending as we like why don't we split that 50/50.

I had my own savings when I first moved to the US as I still had expenses back in Australia but once that money had been used up and my expenses finalized I felt completely trapped as I had no way to get back home if there had been a family emergency or I just needed to see my family again. My husband opened a savings account in both our names and put enough money in it to cover airfare and expenses to and from Australia, that is my going home emergency fund. Now that I have it and can go home whenever I want it makes the homesickness a lot less overwhelming and made me feel a lot less trapped.

Get her cheques with her name on and a debit card with he name on for joint accounts. It was a stupid thing but paying for things with cards/cheques that had just my husbands name on made me feel more like some helpless kept woman than having a debit card to the same account with my name on.
posted by wwax at 9:36 AM on March 18, 2012

I'm staying at home with a little one and have no income. My partner has an autopay transfer of x amount of money to my account every time he gets a paycheck. It's enough for my bills and some spending money. This is ideal because I never have to ask him for money and we can both easily budget for a set amount every month. We almost never have to talk about it, which is great.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:42 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

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