Dear Helaine: My boyfriend of four years wants to get married and I'm hesitant. Part of it is that I'm in my late 40s, been married before and got taken in my divorce.
My ex had wealthy parents, and we were going to inherit one day, so we used my money for extra expenses like the down payment on our home and travel. I also took out the max in student loans because we figured we could pay them off when we inherited. Instead, we got divorced, and I ended up with my original down payment and all the student debt. Of course, this soured me on marriage.
So, my boyfriend. I earn $30,000 a year more than him, and I save diligently. He spends without thinking, doesn't plan for the future, and has no retirement or other savings. Neither of us has any debt, but I worry about combining money when our approach to finances differs so, and, of course, I worry about the financial impact of another divorce. So I've said no to marriage, but I know he still really wants to.
I would love some advice on how to approach our differences. Does it make any sense to be in a relationship with someone whose values around money are so different? -- Once Burned
Dear Once Burned: You learned the hard lesson that funds are not your funds until they are in your bank account. You've now taken that lesson to heart -- maybe too much to heart. So here is my two cents: No two people are ever going to agree in full about how to approach their finances. Your wannabe husband isn't so much irresponsible with money -- as you point out, he doesn't have debt -- as he's not fully an adult about how to approach it. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one. It means there is hope you can work this out.
You are most certainly not out of line to say you would not marry him without evidence he can save money, and do so for a period of time. Perhaps give him some guidelines, such as, "I would like to see you contribute 5 percent of your salary for a year to a 401(k) before I consider marriage."
But that's IF you want to marry again. There's no reason to do so simply because he would prefer it. You need to want it as well. And there I can't help you. Only you can answer that question.
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