Walk us through relationship and financial pitfalls?
July 16, 2017 3:56 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are looking for resources that can help us systematically address two things: 1) identifying and discussing potential relationship conflicts and 2) planning for legal/financial issues like retirement savings, wills, etc.

I'm asking more out of curiosity than immediate necessity, so our particular snow flurries may not matter that much. For reference, we are a couple of just under 10 years: me (USian male) and him (NZ/Dutch dual-citizen male). We're in our early-mid 30s, having met and lived in Canada, then in Japan, now in the Netherlands. We entered a common-law union seven-ish years ago in Canada, which currently allows me to live in the Netherlands as his legal, registered partner. We are not married and have no plans to be, but might as well be in practice. Our residency in the Netherlands is likely long-term due to his job.

Thanks to generally favorable finances and complicated, constantly changing ex-pat living situations, we've been ignoring addressing serious savings and retirement planning for the most part. We are both somewhat people-averse and prefer to research things before interacting with salespeople (oops, I mean financial planners), but are also somewhat illiterate when it comes to investment/retirement planning. We have enough money to buy a house where we live, but we have no idea what to do with that money without being idiots about it.

During the last 9 years, most of our conversations regarding what we want/need in our relationship have started and ended as "I feel like this. Oh, you too? OK." Of course, you never know what might crop up in the future and blind-side you, so having a checklist/worksheet to identify and discuss pressure points appeals to both of us.

I feel like I remember seeing a sort of pre-marriage checklist of common causes of conflict on the Green at some point in the distant past, but had no luck searching for it. Google returned reams of Christian pre-marital counseling worksheets, which is a no-go on every level for us. Something where you rank certain issues in terms of importance and then discuss them sounds useful.

So how do we adult better? Any kind of advice/resource is appreciated, particularly any that emphasizes concrete actions rather than abstract truisms (i.e., "Begin by collecting ABC documents and bringing them to an appointment with an XYZ licensed professional" is preferable to "It is helpful to save paperwork!"). Extra special gratitude for advice addressing the Netherlands or ex-pat issues specifically!
posted by wakannai to Human Relations (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Nine years into this relationship, I don't think a checklist would be of much help - either you have already dealt with it or it will be too generalized to know how you would really feel in the complex ways that life really happens.

However, I do wonder if maybe one or both of you are conflict averse in ways that mean that you go along instead of speaking up for your own preferences. It is good to value the relationship over the specifics of getting your way on the issue but it can also mean that one side (or sometimes both) are really heard because you are afraid that the conversation might be too distressing. It might be worth having an honest conversation about this question.

Since you are looking for self-help options, if it seems like it is an issue for you, Sue Johnson's book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love could give you a structure for working through that.
posted by metahawk at 5:46 PM on July 16

With your international backgrounds it seems worth deciding where you are likely to want to live when you retire and then work out what financial arrangements need to be made to allow you to most effectively save in the Netherlands and then use the money wherever you will live later, if it would be another country. I could give some advice for this for the US, but not for an international scenario, so hopefully others with more experience will chime in there.

If it is not a given in the Netherlands that you would be able speak for each other medically and to access each other's finances in cases of one of you becoming incapacitated (called healthcare and financial power of attorney in the US) that is something else you should put in place. You should also make sure you have discussed (or better, written down) what you would want to be done medically if needed (sometimes called a living will in the US). Again, unfortunately I don't have any idea how to do this in the Netherlands.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:13 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

On the narrow issue of retirement savings, the most important thing is to save something. In the US, where conventional company pensions have been replaced by 401Ks and IRAs and similar "qualified" plans, most planners will suggest something in the 10-15% range. Do the high end if you are starting late. Put it in a tax-deferred account if you can. Advice may vary outside the US depending on old age pensions and tax laws wherever you are.

Saving to buy a house can count toward retirement. It's certainly "estate building".
posted by SemiSalt at 6:15 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

You might read /r/personalfinance. There are some good interpersonal questions that should spark discussion.
posted by salvia at 10:29 PM on July 16

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