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June 19, 2014 7:05 PM   Subscribe

How can I as a poor person make myself less scary to a potential partner who has gainful employment and a career?

So I’m going through the breakup of the longest relationship I’ve ever been in. I’m 38, I have a bachelor’s degree, probably going to go for a master’s. I’m an occasional copy editor and a transcriptionist with one of the best transcription companies out there, the latter of which is my main source of income. While I like my job and it’s great for now (which I’ll get into a bit), it’s not exactly gainful employment. I probably make only $10.00/hour at the end of the day after taxes. And did I mention that I’m 38?

The breakup…you know. We’d had problems for a long time, he went on a month long trip, broke up with me when he got back. We’d been together 4 years. He was significantly younger than me—he just turned 30. I’ll save the gory details for another day or question, perhaps. This happened a couple days ago.

I need to work on some things. One of those things is making a living. We didn’t break up for financial reasons, but because of my age I think it’s not as socially acceptable to be poor.
Going forward, I’m lucky in that I don’t have a too hard a time attracting men, but when it comes to being actual dating material or maybe someday marriage material, I’m not your gal. I’m poor. I’ve got a mountain of student loan debt. I prefer working for myself and I’m lucky that I’ve got the job I have, because I don’t know what else I’d be doing right now. I’m not one working under people or in groups. I have always been the type that works best alone. Since childhood. I learn best alone, I work best alone. I’m a rank introvert. This is why, despite my student loan debt, I’m going to go ahead and get a master’s—if I could do some manual labor work for the rest of my life, I’d seriously consider it, but most jobs that I’m best suited for require a bit more education. Just the way things are anymore.

I’m probably going to be poor for a while. My question is this: what can I do as a poor person to make myself more financially stable besides just keeping up with the bills and building a nest egg? Or is that it, really? I know you’re not really supposed to save money when you owe money, but it seems like a good idea to have at least a nest egg of some sort. Really could have used one now. Anyway, I get along best with people from a middle class background for a number of reasons (mostly education and interests), but I don’t have much to offer to the equation financially. I know that this will be a deal breaker to a lot of people and I’m okay with that. How can I as a poor person make myself less scary to a potential partner who has gainful employment and a career?

Thanks in advance, everyone.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (28 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Being poor doesn't doom a relationship. Debt and bad spending habits (especially combined) does. Gambling addiction does. Poor financial decision-making often does as well. It's not poverty that's scary to a partner; it's the possibility that anther person's poor decisions will drag them down as well. So long as you can pay your own bills and keep a roof over your head, and know how to have a good time without leaning too heavily on other people to foot the bill, you're probably fine.

You don't mention credit card debt. If you don't have any, you're already ahead of the game. If you do, pay that down before starting to save. If you can pay down your student loans, do that first as well, unless you can get a better interest rate on your savings than you're paying in loan interest. That's what smart financial decisions are about: doing the math so you know the difference between what's best in the long run vs. what's shiny now. Having a financial goal is also a good sign of financial maturity - even if it takes you 10 years to reach it, having a plan in place with regard to savings or loan payments each month that will get you to X place at Y date, and then sticking to that budget, shows that you can also be trusted with other people's money.

One thing you wrote that stood out for me is, "I’m lucky that I’ve got the job I have, because I don’t know what else I’d be doing right now." I don't know what field you are looking at for a Master's Degree, but if it isn't something that can lead to better employment, then I would be leery of it. Better can mean more fulfilling, not just more money, but knowingly taking on another mountain of debt without a plan of what you will be earning to pay that debt off is a poor financial decision, and one that it doesn't sound like you can afford, in a relationship or not. If you only want the Master's because the subject matter interests you and you don't know what else to do with yourself, without a likely job waiting at the end of it, then maybe audit online courses and really dig into the field's corresponding texts in your spare time. Assuming you're motivated and passionate about learning all you can, you'll get the same benefit without the costs.
posted by Mchelly at 7:28 PM on June 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Just to add: if by a "nest egg" you mean a couple of month's rainy-day money in case of emergency, then yes, that should definitely be something you try to achieve as soon as possible, without missing loan payments.
posted by Mchelly at 7:31 PM on June 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm not trying to be snarky, but I might rethink graduate school for several reasons, including your direct question. Getting more education and student debt will put off some potential partners; my sister in law continues to add on her student debt, which is 4 times as much as what my husband and I owe together; I would be freaked out about that level of debt, especially if I felt there was a question about the viability of the graduate program the person was doing. I know too many broke PhDs, too many people who went to for profit schools or programs that cost ridiculous amounts.

I started a Masters in my thirties to switch jobs, but I could afford it without taking on a lot of debt. I also knew and worked with graduates of the program, read bona fide job openings, and saw many options of what to do next.

Alas, some of my former colleagues promote their department's degrees as being best bets for future jobs...because they need numbers, butts in seats. One prsentation I sat through was a bio professor claiming there arent enough STEM graduates. Bullshit. There are many unemployed and underemployed STEM grads. Thats a line used by companies pushing to import cheap labor under the H1B scheme. These professors often do not have a professional background in these fields though, they know how to ascend in higher ed but not in the private sector.

Ten years ago, everyone was pushing nursing. Surprise! Not every nursing grad is snapping up a job.

So please look deeply into the field you're training for...don't take a school's word or a magazine article's word that there are jobs. Read the US occupational outlook, and local job listings.

And yes, by your age and really any age, you should pay yourself first. I'm talking retirement.

Ladder your debt.
posted by mitschlag at 7:48 PM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know you’re not really supposed to save money when you owe money, but it seems like a good idea to have at least a nest egg of some sort.

At the very least you need a safety cushion, yes, so that (for example) when the car breaks and you need it for your job, you can take care of the situation and keep it together. This keeps you from spiraling into the poverty trap. If you debt includes credit card debt, then paying that off creates a kind of "safety cushion" (it frees up credit), so pay off CC debt first.

In the dating scene, whether you have your shit together is what matters far far above how much you make. Someone earning more than you who can't hold it together is a worse prospect despite their income. Once you've got it together (sounds like you're already on top of most stuff), you're doing well, and the problems you face will likely be more about "Can I afford this activity with my date and is that a problem?!", in which case the best course, as always, is communication.

Speaking of poverty trap, society is set up for the middle-class, things are cheaper for the middle-class, and it sounds like for you the middle-class is where you naturally feel at home. So, you can access middle-class privilege (eg you've got some income and you live alone, so you probably do middle-class things like save money by bulk-buying, etc.) Be as aware of those advantages as you can, so you can find new ways to go with society's flow, getting more for less, and wring it for your survival and security and betterment. At the same time, you will be cementing yourself as someone without the dating/relationship red flags of the poverty trap.

The answer in a nutshell is "Be middle-class, despite your income", and it sounds like that's what you're doing and where you're going. Well done.

You should have a job plan-B though - you cannot count on keeping a job these days. You don't need a job offer waiting in the wings, but you should have an idea or plan of action for how/where to find employment if you're laid off, and an idea of what you need to do it means you can have those ducks lined up while you have the luxury of not needing to have done it yesterday.
posted by anonymisc at 7:53 PM on June 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes, I'd be far more worried if all you did was intermittent retail for a living and usually were unemployed and had no interest in working. You at least sound like you DO things, so I would be less worried about you. But yeah, I don't know about graduate degrees at this point for anyone financially unless your job requires it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:58 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

To be honest, this is a far easier problem for a man than a woman. Old school or not, there's an expectation that men make money/be successful that isn't there in the same way for women.

You say you attract men easily? Good. Honestly, a bigger deal breaker for men is someone who is conventionally unattractive than someone who isn't a conventionally successful professional. I wouldn't worry about whether your poorer than them as long as you aren't completely falling apart (at the point of homelessness, struggling to eat) due to lack of money.
posted by superfille at 8:33 PM on June 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

You know, I'm on the fence about saying this, because I'm not endorsing it and I realize it sounds straight out of the mouth of one of the less progressive characters on Mad Men, but - I'm not really convinced that a woman being underemployed is really a deal-breaker for many men, especially if you have the trappings of being middle-class (degree, job that sounds educated [like "editor"], accent, general middle-class cultural references, etc.). Surveys apparently show that a growing number of professional men want a partner who is in a similarly professional career situation. But I personally know multiple very educated/affluent men who have explicitly told me (their female friend) that their hypothetical future wife either will not need to have a job/career (if she doesn't want to), or even that they *don't want* their hypothetical future wife to have a full-time career. These men have tended to be educated professionals (engineers, doctors, etc.) and conservatives (often religious conservatives), and may not be representative of the majority of men. Still: several of my female friends, and I myself, have had the experience of men that we meet intimidated either by our education or by our income (the former for me, alas, not the latter). A woman I know who is a high-powered lawyer sometimes pretends to be a preschool teacher or a nurse when meeting men, as an experiment, and, according to her, she has far more success that way than when she reveals her true profession. What I'm saying is that anecdotal evidence suggests that high income/education can be a turn-off for some men, and even if other men value these things, they often are willing to overlook them for other qualities that they value more highly (beauty, charm, and what have you). Even in this day and age, beauty and charm will carry you pretty far if you are a woman. I am saying this not to advocate for this viewpoint, but merely to put it on the table as possibly representative of reality for a not insignificant slice of the male population.
posted by ClaireBear at 8:52 PM on June 19, 2014 [13 favorites]

Or, on preview, what superfille said!
posted by ClaireBear at 8:53 PM on June 19, 2014

Ok, I'm a romantic to be sure, but I don't think underemployment or being poor has to be an issue no matter who you are. I think the bigger thing is having your shit somewhat together. There's a huge difference between "I'm poor, so please take care of me" and "I'm poor so I can't run off to Hawaii with you next month, but I am saving money for retirement and have my debt under control."
posted by cabingirl at 10:35 PM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you could shoot to have a few months savings, make contributions to an IRA or other retirement vehicle, and have a good credit score (in the event of co-applying for an apartment or something).
posted by salvia at 10:42 PM on June 19, 2014

My SO is currently making poverty wages as an Americorps volunteer. It's never been an issue because she doesn't spend a bunch of money she doesn't have and never wants us to buy or do anything that costs a lot of money.

Whatever reason he broke up with you, I'm fairly sure it wasn't lack of income. It could be other sort-of-related issues like lack of ambition, no solid plans for the future, spending habits, etc, but not likely to be income per se.
posted by empath at 10:45 PM on June 19, 2014

I'm poor, 40, and have 3 kids. It doesn't seem to bother anyone but me. If it starts to get serious and the fellow is nervous about your debt, be certain to let him know that you have a plan of action in place for paying it off.

Cook meals for him in return for him taking you out to dinner. It helps.
posted by myselfasme at 10:51 PM on June 19, 2014

Love is blind.

If financial reasons were considered with any weight at all, most people would never get married. Much less have kids. You may be overthinking this.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 1:26 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

There is something extremely middle class about not working. Poor people work at Taco-Bell. Middle class people stay at home and paint or write or otherwise coast along serenely confident that the bills will be paid because the money will make itself available.

The difficulty here may stem from a sneaking suspicious that is sidling in the back door of your mind that you are at risk of becoming a poor person. You'll notice that a bunch of the answers up-thread are not talking about presentation, they are mostly giving you financial advice to try and keep you from becoming a poor person.

What you have to do is continue to appear middle class and espouse middle class values and make an effort to be indistinguishable from the quite comfortably well off. It's not the amount of money you make; it's how well you can carry off the bluff that you are middle class. So don't eat white bread, go to a liberal protestant church if you must go to church and make sure that your social life is spent with people who have a good income.

If you can't find a way to increase your income, then make sure you have something else you can talk about that you do that makes it clear that you have chosen occasional work and that you are under-employed by choice. Middle class people are generally quite happy to consider unpaid work real work. University is one type of unpaid work, so is painting, or political activism. If you are using your not-gainfully employed time productively you can pull off the bluff.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:25 AM on June 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

This is as tactful as my sleep-deprived brain can make it: You don't sound like the kind of scary poor that turns off potential friends and partners. You sound respectable poor. It may turn off the specific kind of people who judge the value of a person by the cost of their cell phone and the brand of their shoes, but I don't think it's going to be a dealbreaker with the average Joe or Josephine if there isn't some other big red flag flying over your head.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:55 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

It may or may not be helpful for context to note that I've been both kinds of poor myself.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:57 AM on June 20, 2014

You're all over the place here, and I'll just address the statements in your question that stand out to me as dodgy critical thinking.

You're returning to school so that you can mount up even more debt. That's just a bad plan all the way around. It's a stalling tactic. A graduate degree that you're funding with loans guarantees nothing except more debt. Most people I know are going to grad school to postpone the inevitable, that at some point one must get a job.

You claim that you do best when you're alone. I'll buy that, but that's a shitty reason not to enter the actual workforce full-time. It may take you longer to find a job that will suit your work style, but we all make compromises in daily life, and it's sort of privilaged of you to state, "I'm best alone" and to expect that to be a reason to avoid a traditonal job.

If you were supporting yourself with your current jobs, I wouldn't have an issue, but you're not. You're scraping by. If you were happy scraping by, I wouldn't have an issue, but you're not.

So, I'm going to challenge you to think beyond your comfort zone, and rather than go back to school, where no one demands anything of you that you can't give, that you, instead, try to find a well-paying, steady job, that pays you a wage that will make you middle-class, all on your own.

While you're not old, you're too old to be dicking around with racking up debt when you should be thinking about saving for the future. You can't afford it. And THAT'S the poverty of your thinking. That something in the future will take care of the shitty financial decisions you're making in the present.

As for a new relationship. If that's your plan for getting out of debt, that's just fucked up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:17 AM on June 20, 2014 [25 favorites]

Having a college degree and pursuing a literate profession like being a freelance editor and transcriptionist places you in the same social milieu as other educated literate people. Presumably you pay your rent every month, have a reliable means of transportation (does not have to be a car, and probably shouldn't be), and manage to cover your bills.

The flip side is if you take on more education debt at your age without clear plans to pay it off. That starts to mark a transition from "responsible genteel poverty" to "not very smart about living independently and will drag a partner down with her."

The difference with age is that your perceived potential falls over time, settling where it is at the present. Someone in their 20s with debt and a low-paid freelance gig is perceived as a person with wide open opportunities. Someone still doing the same thing in their late 30s is making it clear that this is the lifestyle they're comfortable with. Piling on more debt on top of that without some plan to get a highly lucrative job with it is taking a big step down and makes it look like, "this person didn't get her life together, and now she's just doubling down on her problems."

Ultimately your question is this:
what can I do as a poor person to make myself more financially stable besides just keeping up with the bills and building a nest egg?

And the answer is, "Move outside your comfort zone into a job which pays more money."
posted by deanc at 6:29 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

As noted upthread, the scenario where woman earns less than man, sometimes substantially less than man or nothing at all, is still more culturally acceptable in our society and there is a subset of men who won't be bothered by it at all. So you've got that working to your advantage.

That said, here's where I might get a slight hesitation about being in a relationship with someone in your situation--not so much about the money, per se, but the way the element of choice is involved. You've only given a short description of your situation, so forgive me if I'm reading too much between the lines, but the statement that despite having an undergraduate degree you're doing the low-paid, precarious work you do not because the job market sucks (we all know it does) or you got laid off from your previous job (happens to the best of us) but because you prefer working by yourself, always have, always will, and don't know what you would do if you lost your current gig.

To me, that signals that you rank your personal comfort as far, far more important than financial security, and possibly as more important than self-sufficiency (if you were partially dependent on your former partner and the breakup is bringing this "I need to make a living" thing to a head because you're currently not). I'm not saying anyone should have to work at a job they hate just so they can make six figures, drive around in a big-ass SUV, and vacation in Europe. But if someone feels like their dislike of working in groups or under the supervision of others is so much more important than money that they struggle to pay their bills, live independently, afford health care, etc. -- well, FOR ME that would present a significant issue in forging a long-term relationship.
posted by drlith at 6:45 AM on June 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Speaking as one poor, middle class, over educated and underemployed introvert to another: you will never be anything but poor unless you find ways to manage your introversion and work alongside other people.

I don't mean you need to be a social animal, you don't have to be a salesman, nor do you have to even the slightest bit extroverted. But, you need to be able to communicate with others to make progress in your job. Nearly all better-than-minimum paying jobs require working with other people, be it through managing staff, working in partnerships, communicating with clients or customers, providing support for your colleagues, applying for funding, etc.

If you do go to grad school, you will need to communicate and disseminate your work among your peers and your superiors with confidence. Seriously, IMO (as a socially anxious PhD candidate) the biggest myth about postgraduate education is that it is the natural occupation of the shy or introverted. I manage it, but manage is the operative word - I have to put a lot of energy and work into making connections and working in collaboration with my supervisors, with the people providing my research materials, with editors and publishers, and with fellow researchers. Writing may be a solitary pursuit, but actually doing something with that writing is anything but solitary.

(With regards to dating, I've found guys in their 30s are fine with low-earning women. However, if you haven't already done so, you might consider what your stance on having children is, because obviously the question of kids and the cost of kids is a deal breaker for a lot of people.)
posted by dumdidumdum at 7:02 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
I'd like to thank everyone for all your thoughtful answers. I found it all useful. Ruthless Bunny, as hard as it was to read your answer, it's mostly exactly what I needed to hear, though no, I have no plans of getting out of debt by "dating up" or "marrying up" or what have you. Yes, that is fucked up. Ruthless Bunny, deanc, drlith, I'd like to thank you for opening my eyes to the idea of getting there myself. I don't go into a big sob story in my post and none of you know anything of my background. No, the break up wasn't over finances and I work a lot so I can stay afloat. I was born extremely poor, I'm likely a 'highly sensitive' type and yeah, I've got a lot of poor thinking to overcome and I think the content of my question is proof of that.

After reading all the answers and knowing my own situation, I think the answer for me is somewhere between the sort of "get a real job" answers and the more "eh, you're fine" answers. Closer to "get a real job" though. anonymisc--I found your answer helpful in a here and now way, particularly the reminder to live within my means. Just doing that alone is pretty classy, in my humble opinion. But yeah, I need to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone and do better than simply scraping by, agreed. One foot in front of the other. Anyway, thanks again, everyone.
posted by mathowie at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in a town, and work in an industry, where wives who stay at home with the kids, or who earn nominal pay working part time or for non profits, are very common -- and even so, the wives almost always either had, or were on the way to have, very serious careers, when they chose to change tracks.

I guess I would put it that it's not that being poor is unattractive, it's that the qualities that make you not-poor are very attractive. The days when you would sweep your ditzy secretary off to a life of pampered housewifedom are pretty much over. So in that sense the advice to act the part is sensible.

Also, there is no family income so high or low that improvident spending can't waste it. I think that many men, of all social and economic stripes, would be extremely hesitant to hitch their wagon to someone who has incurred a large amount of student loan debt for imprudent reasons. A good rule of thumb is that student debt which exceeds 1x the income you should be able to earn on graduation is questionable, and 2x or more is the definition of insanity.
posted by MattD at 7:58 AM on June 20, 2014

"Going forward, I’m lucky in that I don’t have a too hard a time attracting men, but when it comes to being actual dating material or maybe someday marriage material, I’m not your gal. I’m poor."

No! I have seen many friends settle down with great guys even though they weren't well off.

I am currently living in genteel poverty myself with a very similar situation... so I prefer to date older men that don't care whether or not I have any money. They are unaffected by it (they already own their own homes etc.) and are stable enough financially to pay for dinners etc and I don't have to feel bad.

If I was dating someone in my age bracket I can see it being an issue if they weren't making a lot of money yet but wanted to buy a house and their partner was unable to contribute to a down payment.

I also think something like a huge credit card debt would be a turn off to most men.

But my experience has been similar to what Clairbear described.

You may be poor, but you don't want to look poor- so you should take very good care of your clothes etc. so that you keep feeling good about yourself. Presentation is really important. Make sure your nails are neat, no chips.
posted by misspony at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Side stepping the relationship bits...
I know you’re not really supposed to save money when you owe money, but it seems like a good idea to have at least a nest egg of some sort.
1. Is this secured, or unsecured debt? Student loans and CC are unsecured debt. Car loans and mortgages are secured. Secured debt is generally "good" debt because you can discharge it by selling the house or car. (google being "underwater" on a loan for the cases where that doesn't work).

2. You need to compare what the interest rate on your loan is, to what the expected return on that investment is. I'm betting you're just parking your savings in a bank account. Which is good! But you're probably getting about 0.25% return on it. Or less.

Hypothetically, lets say your student loans have interest rates of around 6%. You've essentially borrowed money at 6% interest, to invest it at ~0% return.

If you were to pay the money into your loan, you'd get an instant return on that money equal to the interest you save.

Dave Ramsey (who is kinda weird and paternalistic and preachy, but none the less is pretty spot on with this advice), recommends first building up $1000. Then aggressively pay off all debt, then save up an "Emergency Fund" of 3-6 months of living expenses. Then save for retirement.

Ramsey advocates the psychological boosting "snowball" method of paying off the smallest loan first, then snowballing the former payment into the next highest balance, and so on. This method will have you paying more interest.

You should also consider the "avalanche" method, where you pay off the highest interest rate first. This saves you the most money.

This calculator helps you see those factors: Unbury.me.
posted by fontophilic at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2014

This is why, despite my student loan debt, I’m going to go ahead and get a master’s—if I could do some manual labor work for the rest of my life, I’d seriously consider it, but most jobs that I’m best suited for require a bit more education. Just the way things are anymore.
What is your area of study? I'm confused by your saying that you'd be content to do manual labor, but yet you need more education for what you're "best suited for"? In any case, if you already have student loan debt at age 38, I don't think it's in any way advisable to go into further debt to get a Master's degree with no particular chosen career path and/or job prospects. I mean, put the shoe on the other foot for a moment - if you met a guy tomorrow who seemed like Mr. Right, and you two started dating...he's physically attractive to you, he treats you with respect and likes the same movies/food/hobbies as you....but he doesn't take you out anywhere pricey (a night at the movies is An Occasion, due to ticket and concession prices) because he currently earns $10 an hour working at a job that is not in any way connected with his Bachelor's Degree, and he is currently adding on to his already substantial student loan debt by pursuing a Master's Degree. If you continue the relationship and eventually decide to marry, you'll be taking on his debt, as well as having to pay off your own.

Relationship potential aside, it doesn't seem logical to burden yourself with further debt at this point in your life.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:01 PM on June 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Might be echoing above but...

1. Being poor isn't a barrier to a healthy, happy relationship. Being a bad or dishonest communicator might be, so we need to talk openly about money. Poor people fall in love, have relationships, and get married every day.

2. Don't get a grad degree right now, unless it's free and you can still work enough to cover expenses. You cite student debt as your primary barrier to leaving poverty, so how's that working for you? Your bachelor's degree is enough to earn you a higher income. If there is something between you and a higher-paying job, it is NOT education. When you're making $60k a year, we can re-visit that one.

3. Dave Ramsey has a radio show (and podcast) and a book called Total money Makeover. The steps in it are for you. And remember the number one piece if advice: it feels uncomfortable and maybe weird to handle money responsibly because no one else seems to be doing it. "Live like no one else, so you can LIVE like no one else."
posted by jander03 at 3:51 PM on June 20, 2014

I will offer a brief recommendation which will contribute a partial answer to your question: Study finances. Do independent research on the subject, especially by reading financial guidance books. Take a finance course. It is especially important to learn how to plan financially and budget. It's really surprising how much control we can exert over our money to build wealth.

Personally, I wouldn't be worried about marrying someone who was poor if I knew she understood and practiced responsible financial management.
posted by halp at 4:13 PM on June 20, 2014

1. I'm also an introvert. I work at a job with a team. On some days, that taps out most of my socializing, even though I'm sitting at a computer typing by myself. Some days, I eat lunch by myself in a quiet corner just to have some alone time. And that's okay. I don't think introversion is a deal-breaker in all work situations. I do think having social skills and managing your introversion are important and best learned sooner rather than later.

And I think that's kind of the point: Working with people is a skill, and it's an important skill to develop. If you haven't had to work with people, you probably haven't developed it, and it's always slightly painful/embarrassing to be learning something so much later than everyone else, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't learn it.

2. Yes, save up on the nest egg. That way if you can't have an income for a few months, you're not immediately in panic mode. Then work on paying off the debt.

3. If you need to pay for grad school, don't do it. It's a luxury that you can't afford. (And if you go for it, it's not just "an honest mistake", it's "willfully making a bad decision." The first is forgivable, the second says something about your priorities--something someone solvent might not want to deal with.)

4. There are lots of things people can contribute to relationships that are not money. Couples with disparate incomes pair up all the time. I make more money than my partner and already owned my own home/car/savings when I met him, but he helps me save money by: cooking, grocery shopping effectively, introducing me to cheap hobbies such as hiking, fixing things for me around the house, giving me good suggestions for construction/remodeling. When he was unemployed, he took over all the cleaning as well (when we are both working, we have a housecleaner come by regularly). He did the majority of our recent DIY remodeling project. He helps me handle our rental property. He does all the yard work. Obviously, if you have children, you would be the default stay-at-home parent.

He also, you know, makes me happy.
posted by ethidda at 4:25 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

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