Hi, Helaine: I’m a reasonably well-educated 40-year-old making below his earning potential (though a bit higher than average). The reason is laziness. I do not like working, so I work in a fairly high-paid sector, where I don’t need to work full-time. I could probably get a better job if I wanted to, but I really don’t. I value a stress-free life.
My girlfriend is similarly educated. As we want to start a family soon, she’s been on my case to get more serious about work. We’ve had the talk about income and expenses. It turned out I am earning almost twice as much as she is, and though I don’t have a ton of assets, I have more than she does too. I am now wondering if it is fair for her to pressure me to work more. I like my current lifestyle, and if she would match my income, we could live an upper-middle-class life. Even now, it’s enough for a middle-class life.
I am not advocating we need more. She is. I should also tell you she lives a more extravagant lifestyle than I do. Her car costs more than mine, and she travels internationally. She lives with her dad. Her family is also quite wealthy, while I support my mother.
What do you suggest? -- Job Slacker
Dear Job Slacker: Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You are exactly where you want to be economically and professionally. You’ve found a girlfriend you like enough to make permanent, but her dad is subsidizing her high-end lifestyle. She’s not suggesting she be the one to work harder, longer hours so she can continue to travel internationally, drive a nice car, and otherwise enjoy the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. She’s quite openly saying she would like you to do that instead.
In other words, she’d like to replace her dad’s financial support with your financial support. And it gets better! You say the two of you plan to have a child together. Children are wonderful, and they add much to our lives. They are also, unfortunately, a notorious financial drain. So even if she cuts back, someone in this relationship is almost certainly going to need to up their financial contributions. And, again, she expects that person to be you.
This situation is a guarantee of future resentment unless you confront it head-on. It’s way past time for the two of you to sit down and have a complete and honest talk about money. You should ask her how she would feel if someone asked her to upend her professional life to support their high-flying lifestyle. (My guess? Not well!) At the same time, you should both ask each other how you see altering your lifestyle and finances to accommodate parenthood. Hopefully, you can come to an agreement. But if you can’t, it might be time -- sadly -- to move on with your lives without each other.
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