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“My Boyfriend Doesn’t Make Enough Money”

My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over a year and a half. For the most part we have a good relationship. He gets me like no one else does and he is always there for me. However, we are at completely different places in our lives. I’m 30 and have a good job with the federal government, a masters degree and have traveled all over the world with my job. He is 31, divorced with two kids, and works more of a blue collar job as a Chef/Line Cook. He absolutely loves his job but it just doesn’t pay much and it’s more of a work-your-way-up job. Instead of finishing college, my boyfriend actually did a good thing and got married young when is girlfriend got pregnant. The two had another child throughout their 7-year marriage but eventually divorced.

The problem with us is that there is a big income discrepancy — I make more than double his salary. He also has lots of debt as result of being the sole provider of his past family (the wife didn’t work). So now here we are a couple and we are making plans for the future and it’s so obvious that financially we aren’t on the same page. He is in a financial rut: his wages were garnished because of student loans; his car was stolen (and he didn’t have full coverage) so he has no car; he has old medical bills and his child support is really high. All that with making under $40,000. He has had to work a second job off and on throughout our relationship but that also takes a toll on how much free time he has (he works most weekends).

To add to this, we are doing a long distance relationship and so there are plane tickets that need to be bought whenever we want to see each other (and of course I end up flying there much more often). So now, since the long distance is killing us and we want to start living life together, we are planning a move to Atlanta to live together. My issue is that we are just on completely different pages financially and I am scared that I won’t be able to maintain my same lifestyle or that he will be broke and we will not be able to do stuff, like travel and enjoy life. I know money should not end a relationship but I am so scared and don’t know what to do. He says that his financial situation will get better but I just don’t see it. I don’t know what to do. — Love vs. Money

You fears are valid. If you move in with your debt-ridden, broke-ass boyfriend, you won’t be able to maintain the lifestyle you’re accustomed to unless you pay for everything. You won’t be able to do things as a couple, like go out to nice restaurants or travel unless you foot the bill. You need to decide right now — before you up and move to be with this guy — if that’s something you’re uncomfortable with. Look, if it is, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re someone who wants to be with a person who is at least a financial equal. That’s fine. And that’s what you should look for. If money is important to you — and it’s important to most of us! — then why shouldn’t it be a reason to end a relationship if there isn’t a financial match?? If, on the other hand, you see more value in other things he can provide: companionship, emotional support, potential co-parenting, etc., then maybe you’ll decide that the money issue isn’t a deal-breaker. But that’s a decision you have to make and you need to be aware going into it what your boyfriend will and will not be able to provide you (and it doesn’t sound like financial stability is in the “pro” column).

You can love someone deeply and not be a right for each other. If you want something your boyfriend can’t provide — and you know that to be the case — why stay with him? Why invest more time in a relationship that doesn’t have strong potential for a happy future? This money issue is not going to go away. His debt isn’t going to miraculously disappear. He isn’t going to suddenly land a high-paying job with the limited education and skills he has. And his responsibility to his children isn’t going to disappear either (and if he’s moving away from them, as it sounds like he’d be doing, then he’s going to have to pay to visit them and vice versa). For all intents and purposes, the lifestyle he currently lives is likely going to be his lifestyle for a long time. If you’re not OK with sharing in that lifestyle or footing the bill on a lifestyle upgrade for him, then MOA. If you decide to stay with him, get used to spending your vacations entertaining his kids at the community pool, and dining at Applebees for special occasions. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of lifestyle, but if it’s not what you want, better think long and hard before you sign up for it…

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

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{ 237 comments… add one }

avatar justpeachy August 18, 2011, 3:13 pm

Have you talked to him about your concerns? Have you actually sat down together and had a conversation about your potential combined financial futures? There are A LOT of variables in this decision and you need to make sure that you both are on the same page. Will he need to find a new job once you move? What happens if he can’t find a job right away, or loses the one he has? Are you comfortable supporting both of you?

Honestly, from the tone of your letter, you aren’t ready for this amount of financial instability. I think if you two move in together, you will have to bear the majority of the burden when it comes to money and it sounds like the possibility of that has already made you a little resentful.

If you truly committed to this guy, maybe try the long distance thing a little longer. Talk to him about sitting down with a financial planner to get his debt under control. Once he starts making steps to his burdens, maybe then it will be enough reassurance for you. But if he can’t commit to getting his financial life under control, you probably need to MOA.

avatar MissDre August 18, 2011, 3:20 pm

Wendy, I think one of the reasons your advice is so good, is because you don’t tell people what to do, you tell people the smart things they should consider in order to come to their own decision.

avatar kerrycontrary August 18, 2011, 3:28 pm

wow this is a doozy! Wendy your advice on this one is really well thought-out and explores all options. I truly believe that love is only half the battle when considering a long-term partner, and there seems to be a lot working against these two (money, kids from another relationship, long distance, etc..). I hope that the LW isn’t just settling because she is 30 and rushing to find someone to settle down with.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 3:28 pm

This all seems kind of judgmental. It may be different depending on where the LW lives, but $40k isn’t anything to sneeze at. I can’t help but wonder what everyone would be saying if the roles were reversed, if it was a guy who was worried about staying with a girl who made $40k.

I agree that they need to have the same goals and “lifestyle,” but the last line just struck me as a little judgmental. What’s wrong with the community pool and Applebee’s? I’d be more worried if his debts were in areas like lavish credit card spending, rather than in student loans and child support.

Dear Wendy Wendy August 18, 2011, 3:31 pm

Actually, Anita, the last line said exactly that there isn’t anything wrong with the community pool and Applebees. But I got the feeling that wasn’t the kind of lifestyle the LW wanted, so I urged her to consider the scenario before signing on for something she wasn’t interested in.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 3:33 pm

Yeah, I noticed that was added in, but the “of course there’s nothing wrong with that….” didn’t seem cohesive with lines like “debt-ridden, broke-ass boyfriend.”

Dear Wendy Wendy August 18, 2011, 3:36 pm

I should have you edit my columns for cohesiveness.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 3:39 pm

Unnecessary.

avatar ele4phant August 18, 2011, 6:09 pm

Anita, I don’t think that was a dig. I think she was being geniune in that having someone else read a response to make sure the tone was consistent might be a good idea. But I could be wrong…

katie katie August 18, 2011, 8:02 pm

well, broke-ass and debt-ridden are both accurate adjectives to describe this guy’s situation. it doesnt mean that it is a positive or negative thing, but it is the truth. this guy makes a whole lot less then the LW, and she is concerned about moving in with him. while there isn’t anything wrong with only making 40,000 a year, broke-ass and debt-ridden people who do only make 40,000 a year will end up entertaining at a community pool and going to applebees- thats just life.

its just the truth, and wendy speaks it well, i think.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 8:57 pm

Broke-ass has a very negative connotation. That’s like calling someone a homewrecker and then being like, “Well, last I checked, you DID end up marrying a divorced man? How is it bad to call you a homewrecker? I just don’t understand what the problem is.”

katie katie August 18, 2011, 9:14 pm

eh- i think thats being nit-picky…

avatar rosa26 August 18, 2011, 11:26 pm

I agree with Anita, “Broke ass” has a negative connotation. I make 42K, I have a master’s degree. Thanks to the economy, my master’s degree is meaningless. I am planning on going back to school, incur some debt to better myself, which also means I won’t have a stable income until I finish school 3 more yrs. I don’t allow any man I date call me a “broke us”, one guy did because he made 75K with just an associate’s degree. Even though it was true, I don’t make much money I didn’t need to be ridiculed & left.

avatar A August 19, 2011, 10:38 am

agreed Anita, when i read broke ass my first thought was ” thats a bit harsh”, especially as 40k puts this guy right around the national average. We arent going to encourage people to become policemen, firemen, soldiers, teachers and on by telling them that their salary is gonna put them in the “broke -ass” category.

becboo84 BecBoo84 August 19, 2011, 11:53 am

YES! I couldn’t agree with you more! There are so many super important jobs out there that aren’t going to make you rich, but it doesn’t meant you’re going to be some type of dead beat person.

avatar ForeverYoung August 19, 2011, 12:25 pm

It’s not the amount of money he makes that makes him broke-ass and debt ridden. His take home pay is considerably less than what he needs to live on, proof being that he has his wages garnished.

I don’t really have an opinion on whether or not the tone was inappropriate or unnecessarily rude, but people need to quit saying, “well 40k is national average” yes it is, but i’m sure people that can survive on that aren’t divorced with two kids and student loans and medical bills.

avatar he_calls_me_goodman August 19, 2011, 2:43 pm

“‘well 40k is national average’ yes it is, but i’m sure people that can survive on that aren’t divorced with two kids and student loans and medical bills.”

Actually, I’d wager they are, aren’t, and are probably worse off than just divorced with two kids and unpaid school loans and medical bills. It runs the gamut. And you need only take a look at our current economic state to discern that — rising unemployment and college tuition fees, the growing number of unmarried couples who’ve chosen to have children out of wedlock, and the large number of Americans who are not only uninsured but can barely afford proper health coverage.

avatar Aaron November 29, 2011, 12:31 pm

With a median HOUSEHOLD income hovering around the low to mid 50′s, 40K is doing quite a bit better than average.

katie katie August 19, 2011, 10:40 pm

i disagree- broke ass doesn’t have a negative connotation to me. its an explanation of a finantial situation that you dont want to be in.

avatar ele4phant August 18, 2011, 9:22 pm

You wouldn’t call someone a homewrecker unless they broke up a marriage, not if they just married someone whose marriage had long since ended.

But you might call someone broke-ass and debt ridden if they…you know… are.

Heck, I call *myself* broke-ass and debt ridden, and I don’t feel as though I am insulting myself, just stating the facts about my financial situation. If anyone else calls me that, I don’t get offended, because at this moment in time (and probably for a good 10 years before those school loans get paid off), its the truth.

katie katie August 18, 2011, 9:41 pm

yep- i was actually going to say that too, the whole calling myself broke ass and debt ridden thing. me and my friends do it a lot. i mean i dunno i just see life as you should call a spade a spade. is he broke ass? yes. is he debt ridden? yes. does that mean he is a terrible person not worthy of love? no.

that was wendy’s entire response- call a spade a spade, but that doesn’t have to mean that spades are bad.

theattack theattack August 19, 2011, 8:47 am

Then next time I see someone overweight or someone who has bad breath I should just tell them that, right? Because it’s just the truth, so it doesn’t mean it’s a positive or negative thing.

avatar AnitaBath August 19, 2011, 9:01 am

Of course! Hell, sometimes I even tell people that *I* have bad breath! Nothin’ wrong with that.

katie katie August 19, 2011, 10:44 pm

im really trying to discern if that comment was supposed to be sarcastic, because yes if someone has bad breath your probably should let them know… and if you are in a situation about someone’s weight and they seem to not know that they are in fact overweight, yes i beleive you should tell them. doctors tell people they are overweight all the time.

the truth isn’t a bad thing- how it is handled is when it can become a bad thing. should you just go up to random fat people and let them know about it? no, thats rude. if a friend gains 100 pounds and you feel you should let them know they might be becoming unhealthy, you tell them in a kind way, that they have gained weight.

avatar AnitaBath August 19, 2011, 10:49 pm

“and if you are in a situation about someone’s weight and they seem to not know that they are in fact overweight, yes i beleive you should tell them. doctors tell people they are overweight all the time.”

“if a friend gains 100 pounds and you feel you should let them know they might be becoming unhealthy, you tell them in a kind way, that they have gained weight.”

HAHAHA. REALLY, no, you shouldn’t.

katie Katie August 20, 2011, 2:47 pm

im really sorry that you aren’t comfortable enough with yourself and with your friends/family to be able to have frank and honest conversations with them- but thats ok. lots of people live their lives lying to people they love.

avatar AnitaBath August 20, 2011, 2:56 pm

Patronizing? How refreshing.

I’m really sorry that your family and friends apparently think it’s acceptable to pretend like you’re doing them a favor by telling them that they’ve gained 100 pounsds. You’re an idiot if you think they haven’t noticed the weight gain themselves. Furthermore, it would be incredibly rude to rub it in their face. If they’ve gained 100 pounds, they know it and are most likely bothered by it. Your little, “Hey, just wondered if you noticed you’re unhealthy!” chat with them won’t do shit.

avatar AnitaBath August 20, 2011, 3:06 pm

And I’m going to clarify and say that if you are addressing other issues related to the weight gain, like whether they’re depressed and whether they’re okay, that’s something entirely different than what you’re suggesting, which apparently is to focus solely on the weight gain and their mental image and put their physical appearance over their emotional and mental well being (which trying to do them a “favor” and inform them that they’ve gained 100 pounds would most likely wreck). But this isn’t related to the letter, so I’m going to stop talking about it now.

katie Katie August 21, 2011, 9:51 pm

i didnt mean to be patronizing. that was an honest comment that I believe about most people. if I ever gained a lot of weight I would be dissapointed in my family and friends if they showed no concern for me. just like i said earlier, the truth isn’t the bad thing- it is how the truth is handled that makes things go bad. “hey, just wondered if you noticed you’re unhealthy” is not a good way to go about that situation, obviously. but an honest heart to heart conversation with someone you love about underlying mental or health issues that is causing a large weight gain? you better believe i am concerned enough, and not afraid to hurt someone i love to get to those problems and help them through a hard time.

the entire reason that i read this website is because of the honest commentary from everyone- including (and mostly because of) wendy. honest, well written answers to letters, honest stories from readers, warnings from past experiences, ect, are the reason. if you are so easily offended, i just dont know why you read. i am not afraid to be honest with people, like i believe wendy is. her tagline says it all- “It’s about to get personal”. no sugarcoating, no lectures, just honest and frank information. the people that write into dear wendy NEED that! i cant understand why you would call that offensive. its the truth.

ill take this a little further and say that if we were all able to talk openly and honestly about any number of hot subjects in the news right now, we probably would be able to solve them. but, no. everyone cries “thats offensive!” and “thats not politically correct!” and then the whole rest of the world has to tip toe on eggshells just to make sure everyone is happy, rather then saying what needs to be said and just getting things done. what do you think would happen if all the crazies that dont believe that gays should be able to marry actually said WHY? (their real reasons, not the “hate the sin not the sinner” crap) im sure that a lot of them would reveal very scary, skewed, and generally wrong opinions they have about being gay. and then, maybe then, we could actually get through the problem, because we would then be at the root of the problem, and not discussing superficial schematics that tiptoe around the issue.

i just think that whole world could use a bit of wendy’s honesty, and many many fewer cries of others being offensive.

avatar AnitaBath August 21, 2011, 11:37 pm

I don’t recall saying it was offensive, I remember saying that a lot of the attitudes seemed judgmental. But I suppose I’m not to express those opinions? Because apparently you’re only supposed to be open and honest when it’s an opinion other people agree with.

I come here for the same reasons (although, honestly, I’ll probably stop soon because the comments have become too nasty lately for my taste), but I also come here to see DIFFERENT sides of each issue. Where’s the fun when all of the comments are just, “OMG WENDY I TOTALLY AGREE!” That’s boring. There are different sides to each issue, and I like it better when each side is expressed (in a non-personal-attacking manner).

avatar justpeachy August 18, 2011, 3:34 pm

I think that if a guy had written this letter, all the commentors would have jumped on his back and said that the financial concerns are just an excuse for a much deeper issue in the relationship (the two kids? the fact that they’ve only been long distance? not being ready for this level of commitment?). And maybe that’s the case with this LW as well, but I’m kind of glad that we’ve managed to stay on topic to her concerns. So far anyway…

avatar moonflowers August 18, 2011, 7:01 pm

I’m of the mindset that both partners should contribute to a relationship as equally as possible. Even if the genders were swapped, I’d understand if a man was balking at suddenly having to cover for someone burdened by lots of preexisting obligations and debts. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, after all.

avatar silver_dragon_girl August 18, 2011, 3:34 pm

I’m kind of with you on that, but I still feel that Wendy’s advice is good. I can see where there’s a bit of a double-standard here. Also, holy crap would I LOVE to make less than $40K a year, as opposed to less than $30K a year.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 3:38 pm

I agree the advice is still good, and that there are definitely more underlying issues surrounding the kids and divorce like justpeachy said, I just thought that a lot of the letter and advice kind of came across like they were basing the boyfriend’s worth and status solely on his net worth. Way too much emphasis put on money than on other more important matters, I guess.

avatar ForeverYoung August 18, 2011, 4:11 pm

“Way too much emphasis put on money than on other more important matters, I guess.” – I disagree with this because I think financial stability is just as important as any other quality you look for in a person. Looks, emotional connection, physical connection, money, goals, hobbies, sense of humor… they should all be given equal weight.

I really liked Wendy’s advice because the LW’s main concern was financial stability, and Wendy told her it was a valid concern. I don’t think for the purpose of her letter it is necessary to go into “how much money is enough for any given person” but I still think it’s important. **

When I got married I had student loans and my husband had a lot of savings. We have had to downgrade our lifestyle and I think he was a little caught off guard. We now do more free dates like hiking and watching sports and stuff that makes both of us happy while not spending any money. I am so thankful he was willing to take that financial risk, but I would not have judged him if my student loans were too overwhelming for him to get over.

I think especially in this economy it is even MORE important than usual to think about financial security. People are getting laid off all the time and jobs are hard to come by. Does the LW really want to be stuck supporting his kids if they get married and he gets laid off? It seems like he has no savings and is living pay check to pay check, and assuming the kids are under 7 (7 year marriage) he will be supporting them for another 11 years. That is a long time for her to have to wait to live the life she has worked really hard for.

I’m sure she had to make sacrifices going to grad school, and at one time in her life was also probably on a pretty tight budget. But she’s over that part of her life, and I don’t think she is selfish to not want to start from scratch again. I think this is mostly a case of having the right person at the wrong time.

** We have gotten on this topic so many times before on DW, but I just want to reiterate that 40k is not a lot of money everywhere, even for someone that is single with no family to support and no debt. Where I live apartments are minimum 1500 for a one bedroom. Without knowing where she lives we can’t assume that that is not actually not enough.

avatar Guy Friday August 20, 2011, 9:53 am

“I would not have judged him if my student loans were too overwhelming for him to get over”

Sorry, but I call BS. You ABSOLUTELY would have judged him if he walked away from you on that. You’d be upset/furious at him, and you wouldn’t really be wrong for that. It is a crappy reason to leave someone, and I honestly wonder how many commenters here have actually had someone break up with them for that reason. I truly believe in my heart that if one has, one wouldn’t advise others to just walk on the basis of finances.

If you took a current snapshot of my finances, I would look just as bad as this guy, albeit without child support and with the ability to sock away $50-100 a month in a Roth IRA. I have some medical bills and HUGE student loans, and some credit issues that are only now being resolved (long story short, I got screwed by an unethical doctor filing collections with the wrong address), and there have been months where I’ve had to borrow from what little savings I’ve had and/or asked my fiancee to cover a little more than her share of utilities and the mortgage. But you know why she hasn’t walked away? Well, even if you set aside all non-job related things (i.e., my winning smile :) ), she factors in:
-The fact that while she makes almost 50% more than I do now, my earning potential doubles hers over the long run. and it’s not speculative at all
-My job gives me the flexibility 90% of time to leave when I need to to run errands / pick up sick kids (when we have kids) / work from home to wait for repairs / etc.
-The fact — and this can’t be stated strongly enough — that in EVERY state (even in community property states like the one I live in) all of my debt incurred before our marriage is in no way her responsibility no matter what happens. She has ZERO liability for it, be it right now or 50 years from now, whether we stay together through death or divorce in a week.

Also, suggesting that you shouldn’t have to make sacrifices for the people you love is ridiculous. Everyone sacrifices in relationships; it’s a blending of two lives together into one big one, which means that you have to change behaviors and attitudes and perspectives. Sure, we can laugh it off as “making ourselves better”, but I never had to call if I was running late when I was single, nor did I have to pick certain brands/types of food based on whether someone other than me would eat it, nor did I need to fill up the DVR with reruns of Gossip Girl *shudder* Suggesting that you might have to work a little bit to get better deals than if you were single and didn’t have to worry about whether you’re paying $50 more than you needed to on something . .. well, c’est la vie.

I’m not suggesting that in this specific situation that the LW is discussing that staying is or isn’t the best approach, but saying in general that we should weigh finances so heavily is a recipe for an unhappy life more often than it is dodging a bullet.

avatar ForeverYoung August 20, 2011, 10:24 am

1. Yes, I believe you have to make sacrifices in every relationship, but you should do so willingly. If you don’t want to, that’s a sign that you aren’t meant to be. And I don’t think you need to “tough it out” until you’re married. The whole point of dating is to decide what you’re willing to live with and what you’re not. If this is her dealbreaker, who are we to judge? My dealbreaker is shady behavior, and shockingly my husband has never even once given me a reason not to trust him, and when you factor in my random paranoid girl behavior that creeps up once a month, that is impressive. So if her dealbreaker is having to take a step back financially after working really hard to get herself to where she is now, we don’t need to shame her into thinking she’s this terrible superficial person.

2. I actually would not have judged him at all for walking away. We went to pre-marital counseling to discuss it because I was worried he would eventually resent me, get bored of our simple life after a couple years, or just in general not enjoy our new cheap lifestyle. I knew it was a huge deal to him because he had never taken out a loan besides his mortgage in his entire life, doesn’t own a credit card, and puts money into a retirement account and savings every month. So the fact that I went to grad school went I didn’t already have the money to pay for it was baffling to him. But you know what? I will out earn him in 3-7 years (hard to judge in this economy) and we came up with a plan to pay my loans off in 2 years. All his income is going to both of our household bills – mortgage, cell phones, both our car insurances, everything. 100% of my income goes to paying off my student loans. So yeah we don’t have much “fun” money anymore. If you think that isn’t a huge sacrifice you’re kidding yourself. I knew that. We have to think about weekend vacations, and how often we go out to eat, and the interest on my loans, and things he never had to worry about before.

Before we got married we made sure he was completely aware of what he was signing up for I knew it would be a big deal. I didn’t think he would necessarily walk away, but if he wanted to put off getting married for a few years until I was on more stable ground I would have understood. I think even when you are the debt-ridden half of the equation, part of loving them is having a clear understanding of what they are giving up. If we hadn’t come up with a realistic plan on how we were going to take care of my debt I would have in no way been comfortable getting married and “hoping for the best”. That’s a huge recipe for disaster, and I think the LW needs to think long and hard about her decision to move across the country for him. If it was the love of her life i’m sure she woudln’t have even needed to write in this letter, it wouldn’t of been a question of if it would of been a question of how and when. But she did write in, which leads me to believe she is risking an awful lot for some random guy she kinda likes. Not her soulmate. Big difference.

avatar rosa26 August 18, 2011, 11:35 pm

The LW prioritizes money, fancy dinners, travel, etc. Of course most of us care about money, my concern with the LW is that she does not describe in more depth how her boyfriend is a supportive partner. How is he great? How is he supportive? I think the boyfriend needs to MOA and find a woman that won’t be as bothered by money. At work, we had this talk about income disparity between partners and the director said most men she dates make less than her and that it is not an issue for her. The LW definitely has an issue, it’s written all over the letter. I don’t see the ambivalence, there is more “cons” than “pros” about staying in the relationship that the LW reports.

avatar sweetleaf August 19, 2011, 7:27 am

Anita, i totally agree with you, but I just assume that the LW is kind of a selfish person who’s not interested is in someone’s self worth unless it involves lots of money.

avatar Maynard August 18, 2011, 4:19 pm

He’s not taking home 40k a year, though, after student loans, medical bills and child support. Realistically he’s probably making closer to 20k

avatar Riefer August 19, 2011, 11:45 am

This is exactly what I was going to say. And did you all miss the part where his wages are being garnished? After child support and debt, he’s probably got just enough left to live on.

landygirl Landygirl August 19, 2011, 1:19 pm

$40k a year for a single person would be ok, but when you have a full set of baggage that accompanies you, it makes it more difficult to brush off.

avatar MissDre August 18, 2011, 3:47 pm

“$40k isn’t anything to sneeze at”

Maybe if you have no responsibilities… but if he’s supporting himself, paying down student debt AND paying child support… he’s probably just barely making ends meet.

Don’t me wrong, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with where he’s at in life. If he’s happy, that’s all that matters.

avatar MissDre August 18, 2011, 4:08 pm

Also, he won’t be paying child support forever. Sounds like his oldest is probably around 10 years old? Well, by the time that kid is 18-21 he won’t be paying child support anymore. In 10 years, his debt will be paid off and child support will stop/be reduced. He’ll have a lot more freedoms.

What I’m saying is, I think finances can change, but people essentially stay who they are. So if he’s a wonderful man and companion and you truly think he’d make a good life partner… think about the LIFE part. Not just what’s in front of you right now.

Don’t go into this blindly thinking oh it’ll all get better someday… Definitely have a solid plan. But my own heart says, don’t give up on a good man just because of money.

avatar MJ August 18, 2011, 4:10 pm

Yeah, it’s shocking how much child support can be…like $600 a month, for example…and when you’re only making $40K a year, that’s a huge chunk of change. Add in all his other debts, and you’re definitely living paycheck to paycheck.

It’s so awful to think about leaving someone because they’re are not a “financial match”…and yet, it’s a big concern and can cause huge issues later. Gah.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 4:25 pm

Kids aren’t cheap, and just because ‘dad’ isn’t earning sufficiently to support them, doesn’t make it ok.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 4:29 pm

People always surprise me when they say things about child support payments being so high. They are a percentage of your earnings. In NY, it is 17% for one child. Does that really seem fair to a child? 17% of your income? I’m a single parent (receiving no child support). You know where about 100% of my income goes…to my child! She goes to a prestigious private school and I eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches every day for lunch. Priorities.

avatar PFG-SCR August 18, 2011, 4:34 pm

“She goes to a prestigious private school and I eat peanut butter & jelly sandwiches every day for lunch. Priorities.”

Please…let’s not play the martyr game.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 4:37 pm

Martyr? I guess if making my child’s education my number one priority = me being a martyr, then I am happy to be one. Wouldn’t you sacrafice for your children? My point was child support payments should be high. How can one disagree with kids being important?

avatar bluesunday August 18, 2011, 5:48 pm

no, but telling the world how much you’re sacrificing for your child so that they’ll say “she must be a great mother, she’s giving up so much for her child’s education!” is.

theattack theattack August 19, 2011, 8:50 am

I really don’t think that’s what lets be honest meant. I believe she just meant that raising kids is expensive, so it’s important to both the child and the custodial parent that adequate child support is provided by the non-custodial parent.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 4:57 pm

Curious what all the purple thumbs are for…not to sound like all the LWs that do follow-ups and say they didn’t tell their whole story, etc., but I realize it sounded snooty by saying prestigious. The public schools in my area are not very good. Had I just left out the word “prestigious” would I not have gotten purple thumbs? I hope that is the reason for them and not that everyone disagrees with the rest of my point.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 4:59 pm

The way you phrase it and added “Priorities” at the end made it sound like you were bragging about it, and that anyone who doesn’t eat PB&Js so that they can spend more money on their children aren’t as good of a parent as you.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:09 pm

So if one says something they deem to be a positive about themselves, its bragging? Come on!

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 5:11 pm

Not saying I agreed with it, I was just explaining the likely reason behind the thumbs down. Phrasing and tone count.

avatar Britannia August 18, 2011, 5:31 pm

Lets_be_honest, go over to http://www.stfuparentsblog.com and see what we’re talking about… the Mommy Martyrdom is not a good approach to take when discussing ANYTHING, because all it does is make people think that you believe you’re SO much better than everyone and every other parent out there.

avatar ForeverYoung August 18, 2011, 6:25 pm

So….I just wasted 45 minutes on that site and I can really say my life will never be the same…. I am so happy right now you would think I just had a sangria swirl margarita… good thing I have no plans this weekend.

avatar Lulu August 18, 2011, 10:05 pm

This site is awesome, thank you for introducing me to my new time killer.

avatar lets_be_honest August 22, 2011, 12:28 pm

not sure how parents talking about their kids poopy diapers apply, but nonetheless, a bizarre website. saying i think kids are important is not me negating anyone’s parenting skills or that i’m better than anyone. confused how one could draw that conclusion, but then again, i’m confused why a website about poopy diapers could be amusing. i’ll call it a draw.

avatar bluesunday August 18, 2011, 5:50 pm

the “priorities” part made it sound like everyone who doesn’t send their kids to prestigious private schools and eat PB&J because of it (I do that voluntarily) does not have their priorities in order.

avatar Maracuya August 18, 2011, 5:03 pm

I didn’t vote on the comment, but I’m thinking that it’s a little ridiculous to not eat well for your child’s education. I went to a pretty bad high school (the graduation rate was about 50%) and I busted my butt and got into a nice, prestigious private college. Even if I hadn’t, my friends who went to public university are just as successful. How you said “Priorities” makes it seems like because my mother didn’t eat PB&J everyday, she obviously wasn’t being a good enough mother.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:07 pm

OK, so I came across as snooty. Fair enough. Certainly wasn’t implying anyone’s mother who didn’t eat crappy lunches is a bad mother. But I think everyone must agree that kids are the priority. I really liked AKChic’s comment below about how she penny-pinches and sacrifices for her kids to make ends meet. That was my point.

avatar Maracuya August 18, 2011, 5:16 pm

Yeah, which is why I didn’t vote on the comment. Kids are important, and my mother is trying to penny-pinch to get my elementary-aged brother some tutoring (because he asked for it). My mother definitely made some sacrifices for me as well, working long hours. I do find it admirable that you want to send your kids to private school to give them a better chance at an education. :) Tone is a lot more wonky on the internet.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:25 pm

I will try to be more aware of my tone :)

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:11 pm

Also, I think its awesome you did that with your education. It reminds me of Colin Powell saying he grew up in Harlem and went to terrible schools, etc. and look how he turned out. Big congrats to anyone who overcomes less than stellar upbringings, schooling, etc. It certainly can be done, and you are a great example of that.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:11 pm

Also, I think its awesome you did that with your education. It reminds me of Colin Powell saying he grew up in Harlem and went to terrible schools, etc. and look how he turned out. Big congrats to anyone who overcomes less than stellar upbringings, schooling, etc. It certainly can be done, and you are a great example of that.

avatar AmitR August 18, 2011, 8:24 pm

Dr. Thomas Sowell says it was a completely different Harlem, before welfare payments destroyed the families in that community.

kaluu kate August 19, 2011, 9:52 pm

public schools arent as safe now as when you were growing up (location is also an issue) public university grads might not have the same luck in, say, 10 years as your friends had either. it bugs me when people say ‘i went to public school and im ok’ as a blanket statement about public school. like she said, the public schools arent an option where she lives. also its not like she is eating pbj 3 meals a day, just her lunch. more people should do this!

avatar lets_be_honest August 22, 2011, 12:33 pm

What a pleasure to read an intelligent comment. And thank you for clarifying that lunch means only lunch, not every meal I’ve ever eaten!

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 7:15 pm

17% of income is a lot for some people,depending on how much they make

theattack theattack August 18, 2011, 8:16 pm

I agree with you, lets_be_honest. Child support is figured out by an equation with variables such as the parent’s income and the amount of visitation time the non-custodial parent gets. And for most middle class families, the custodial parent still ends up sacrificing more than the one paying child support. The parents paying child support get off pretty easy.

avatar Jimbo August 19, 2011, 5:50 am

You are cracked. This is why the family law courts are seperate, so they can treat certain people unequal under the law, and women get to still complain they have it worse.

Custodials get all their child support TAX FREE.
They also get to claim the child for tax purposes.
They are not responisble for paying for medical insurance, thats on the non-custodial.
My child support is 20% after Federal taxes and the cost for the childs medical insurance.
Comes out to over 1300 a month.
Think how nice that would be to get 1300+ per month, tax free, and have your kid with you almost every night.
Then when you bust your butt and pay down debt, they come for you every three years for higher child support.
Keep in mind all that time you are buying the presents and vacations liek you always have, because the custodial is a financial idiot.

Men are probably 99% of non-custodial parents, and if you think men have a political voice even remotely equal to women as a group, you are intellectually bankrupt. To think poilitical power has no effect on family law would be silly, because it does, which is why the state beuracracies treat non-custodials as default criminals, even for just a child support review for raising your support.

And for all that we get to see our kids very little, because school and sports etcf cut into our limited time as well, its life.

But to say we get off the easiest is, well it pulled me out of lurking, and you have no idea what you are talking about. Tell you what, GIVE US OUR KIDS and make the women be the default non-custodials for a while, and lets see idiots like you say that then.

theattack theattack August 19, 2011, 7:22 am

I was going to take time out of my busy morning to reply intelligently to this until you called me an idiot. I have absolutely no time for fighting with someone who calls me names. Debating with someone who disagrees with me, yes. If you want to talk about it, why don’t you start over with civility, because I would be more than happy to talk about this.

avatar Princess Bananahammock August 19, 2011, 10:35 am

Yeah, Jimbo! It’s time that oppression by the “politically powerful” female overlords comes to an end! Bahahahaha. What a joke.

avatar MJ August 18, 2011, 4:30 pm

I have no idea what you’re talking about. I was just making the point that child support is a huge chunk of $40K. No moral judgments there.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 4:34 pm

I know, didn’t disagree with your general comment. I was really just commenting on the part where you said its shocking how much child support can be.

avatar honeybeenicki August 18, 2011, 4:58 pm

I have to agree that child support can be very expensive. I love my stepkids very much and I am happy their mother is getting child support (although she is putting it in a college fund so they can go to school with fewer loans! yay :) ), but that doesn’t make it less hard. Yeah, it sucks to not get support from the father (or in some cases mother) of a child, but that person also has to pay for food, rent, bills, etc which the children will also benefit from.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:05 pm

Good points, and smart of your stepkids’ mom. Granted, I benefit from my income too that is shared with her (food, home, etc.).

avatar Princess Bananahammock August 18, 2011, 5:16 pm

I feel you, “lets be honest.” Child support payments are high for a reason – kids are expensive. Both parents should be paying to meet the kids’ needs. I was particularly shocked that someone recommended that he try to get his child support payments reduced. So that he has more money to spend on his girlfriend? Oh hells no.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:25 pm

Thank you :)

avatar beans629 August 18, 2011, 6:21 pm

>>I was particularly shocked that someone recommended that he try to get his child support payments reduced. So that he has more money to spend on his girlfriend? Oh hells no.

You shouldn’t be particularly shocked that I said that. Honestly, he still has to still pay bills and eat as well. Kids are expensive but you know what…
It could be that when the child support arrangements were made he may have had more money and less debt (the student loans in arrears, no medical bill, etc).

Also, I kinda guess I need to say that he probably took the majority of the debt from the marriage with him as the ex didn’t work.

So he is well within his rights to go back and ask the child support payments be temporarily reduced until some of his other debt is paid off. Him paying less money for child support does NOT equal more money to spend on his gf or that he loves his kids any less.

avatar Princess Bananahammock August 18, 2011, 7:09 pm

I guess it just depends on the specifics of the situation, beans. I didn’t see anything in the letter to suggest that he wasn’t getting by or that the boyfriend himself even had a real problem with his financial situation. It’s the girlfriend that wants more money around to support a certain “lifestyle.” I agree that if someone is really struggling they shouldn’t have to pay child support payments that are going towards luxuries. But, I assumed that his kids aren’t living high on the hog. Their needs don’t disappear just because he is financially strapped.

avatar MsBorgia August 18, 2011, 4:51 pm

Yeah, I was always advised that $40k is the MINIMUM needed to live relatively comfortably while single, unattached, and childless (at least in my area of the country). It certainly doesn’t allow you to support children, and it doesn’t sound like he has very good health insurance if any.

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 6:48 pm

Yeah and I think 40K is the average that individuals in this country make.Might be slightly higher,I’m not sure.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 6:55 pm

No, about 50k is the median HOUSEHOLD income for the US (median is generally a more reliable estimate, since the average can be skewed by that <2% that make more than 250k a year). 20% of the households (again, this is households, not an individual person) earned less than 20k.

avatar rosa26 August 18, 2011, 11:42 pm

MY dad made 28K. I ate well, went to school, went to college. My parents taught me how to live on a budget. Is not just how much you earn, but how you spend it.

avatar SpyGlassez August 19, 2011, 10:22 pm

And what part of the country you live in.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 10:38 pm

I live in NYC. I grew up in Queens. I may not have had the latest fashion but my parents showed me how to live on a budget. Of course, I don’t want to earn 28K. I went to college to get a better income. I applied for scholarships, etc.

avatar DS August 18, 2011, 4:06 pm

I think the difference is the debt the boyfriend has. Making only 40k, it is going to be a LONG time until he is on financially stable ground, and then he will still have child support payments to make. Regardless of what the cause of the debt, it is still debt and will still affect their lifestyle together – including available credit. If his wages are being garnished, he has been having issues with paying off his debt as well. That is a looooong process that involves the courts, and is not done cavalierly. That would be a big red flag to me because if they were to get married, her income would also be going to service the debt.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 4:17 pm

[DELETED BY ADMIN]

avatar Maracuya August 18, 2011, 4:25 pm

Hey, none of that now.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 4:28 pm

His twelve children do take up a huge chunk of his income, but seeing as how I’m only the mistress I don’t require TOO much of his money.

No, but seriously, thanks for making this personal. ACTUALLY, he has no children (unless you count our cat, which does eat a lot of food). He doesn’t have much school debt (he went to undergrad part time in his twenties and paid it as he went, and the current school debt he does have is because he just graduated from PTA school, an additional two year program, on Monday).

And in case you were going to attack my parents next, no luck there ;) My family was pretty solidly middle class (maybe more like upper-middle class) in a small town in the Midwest, and my parents have lived the vast majority of their life with pretty much zero debt.

Gosh, why could I feel the way I do? Continue to speculate.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 4:45 pm

“The best advice givers are the ones that try and take an unbiased opinion….I equate when people let their biases affect their judgement/opinion to astronomy when the earth was thought to be the center of the universe.”
-Budger, earlier today

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 4:46 pm

….and that applies how?

avatar rosa26 August 18, 2011, 11:58 pm

Love your response Anita.

avatar honeybeenicki August 18, 2011, 4:17 pm

I agree that in a lot of areas 40k isn’t anything to sneeze at. Hell, I’m a public employee and I make WAY less than that.

avatar rosa26 August 18, 2011, 11:45 pm

Gosh, I feel like I am in the 40K oppressed group hahaha. I guess my 40K explains why I am single =).

avatar MiMi August 18, 2011, 4:59 pm

Funny, I don’t perceive the boyfriend so negatively. Working on his feet for long hours every day, doing the right thing by the pregnant girlfriend and then being the sole support of that family, now having child support to pay, having dratted student loans, and not being able to afford full car insurance because he’s paying child support and saving up to fly and see the girlfriend he really “gets” and is good to doesn’t add up to a big-ass loser in my eyes. He’s a guy doing the best he can right now, maybe a little behind the eight-ball, but so are a lot of people these days.
The LW, however, doesn’t seem to have much real sympathy or understanding for him and to paraphrase Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, has “come to rate the demands of [her] pocketbook above those of [her] heart.” My suggestion for you, LW, is to play a little financial game with yourself and spend the next month or two living on the equivalent of your boyfriend’s take home pay after his child support is taken out and see how easy it is and how far you get. An opportunity for a fresh perspective, shall we say? And don’t forget to put something aside from that money towards an airline ticket…

avatar Anna August 18, 2011, 5:47 pm

I completely agree with you Anita! I make far less than $40k/year and am paying on student loans so I do live a pretty simple life. If my boyfriend all of a sudden said he didn’t want to be with me anymore because I’m not rich enough to buy him expensive gifts and vacations down the road, I’d be pretty pissed. The point of being in a relationship is to be with that person. You’re not in a relationship with their checkbook.

avatar rosa26 August 18, 2011, 11:49 pm

You can share the benefits of the checkbook and be understanding. The LW does not seem understanding of his situation and does not want to share her paycheck. I wonder how much she makes???

avatar Riefer August 19, 2011, 12:01 pm

Well, to be fair, it’s a little different when it’s the woman making more than the man. At least that’s been the case in my experience. For example, I once was dating a guy who was in the less than $25k range, and I was in the more than $75k range (that’s the info I got off the internet dating site, so I never knew exactly how much he made). Anyway, I didn’t care that he made less. The trouble is, I was never allowed to pay for things. It made him feel bad that he couldn’t keep up with me financially. So even though I could afford it, and had no issues whatsoever with paying for a nice night out, I wasn’t able to because it made him unhappy.

Therefore for the three months I dated him, our dates consisted mainly of ordering pizza and watching a DVD. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it does get a bit boring. We couldn’t even go out to a movie! And I love going on vacations etc with my boyfriends, but there was no way that was going to happen. If I couldn’t even buy him dinner, what were the chances that I could take him on a trip?

Whereas if it’s flipped around, there are certainly women who are perfectly ok with men paying for everything if the man makes more, and men who are happy to do so. So let’s not judge too harshly. She’s worked her way up to a good salary, and most people would want to be able to enjoy the lifestyle that goes with that. I certainly wasn’t happy when I was with the guy described above, even though I liked him very much, because I wasn’t able to do the things I wanted to do with him. It’s a major decision to make.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 10:44 pm

I think the issue why it was burdensome for you may have been that he did not allow you to pay for things, I have some male friends at work and when their date earns more than they do, they actually stop dating them. I think it’s societal pressure. I dated a man that earn 75K, easy had the right connections. He had an associates degree. I earn 42K and he did not like that in the end. Yes, he paid for most dates and I offered to pay at least the tip. He needed someone that wanted that liked a more luxurious life. While, I do want the benefits of a better income, I am still fighting to advance in my career, I don’t think my income makes me any less as a romantic partner unless the person I date values materialism (not a bad thing just different priorities).

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 6:33 pm

Does it really matter why he’s in debt?The fact is,he is in debt and couples frequently fight over money issues.There’s nothing wrong with Applebees or community pools and we don’t judge people who are happy with them.So why judge the LW for wanting a more lavish lifestyle?

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 6:41 pm

Well, being in credit card debt suggests that he has a spending problem and doesn’t know when to stop purchasing and be financially responsible. While still debt, student loans, child support, and medical bills suggest something entirely different.

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 6:43 pm

Yeah,so I guess that tells us he isn’t an irresponsible money spender.But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s in debt.Some people are fine with that.The LW isn’t,she wants to be with someone who can match her finances.Nothing wrong with that.

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 6:41 pm

Nothing is wrong with Applebees or community pools and we don’t judge people who are happy with it.So why judge the LW for wanting a more lavish lifestyle?Look,a lot of couples end up breaking up over money because they don’t see eye to eye or they don’t have the same financial situation.It’s not necessarily someone’s “fault” they don’t have the same financial stability as their partner,but the fact is,they don’t.So why should the LW stay with her boyfriend just because his financial situation isn’t his fault?Sometimes couples break up because they’re in different circumstances or want different lifestyles.There’s nothing wrong with that.

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 6:41 pm

Didn’t mean to reply again…my first comment JUST posted…

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 6:42 pm

And, no offense, but where did I say they should stick together?

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 6:45 pm

I meant that I don’t see a problem with the LW moving on solely because of his financial situation.

avatar silver_dragon_girl August 18, 2011, 3:36 pm

I agree with Wendy’s advice, you’ve got some soul-searching to do.

LW, it sounds to me like you are ALREADY living the lifestyle you would be if you moved. You’re paying for plane tickets, and I’d say you’re probably paying for the majority of your dates/outings as a couple. How are you with that, now? Because if you’re not okay with the way things are now, you’re certainly not going to be okay with them after a move like the one you describe.

Also, please don’t feel guilty about letting this be an issue. It’s a very valid one. Wanting to enjoy a certain lifestyle, which you have worked for and earned, is not selfish of you.

avatar Maracuya August 18, 2011, 3:51 pm

I think there are several factors here. If you boyfriend got rid of his debt (which would obviously take a few years, would you be okay then?) Between 30k and 40k isn’t bad when you don’t have any sizeable debt, which is not the case. Since he does, it’s likely he makes just enough to pay the bills with little left over for saving, meaning if anything happened you’d be footing the bill.

If your lifestyle desires including continuing to travel the world and whatnot, you’ll likely to either be 1) disappointed 2) have very few and far between trips. I just think you need to sit down and have a serious discussion about finances.

avatar MissDre August 18, 2011, 3:53 pm

I’d say have a serious talk with your boyfriend about finances and how you would handle them as a couple. Don’t forget, if you are living together, your share of the rent (and his) will go down. You’ll also be splitting living expenses. His student loan won’t be around forever, eventually it’ll be paid off too. If you ended up marrying the guy, I think there are a lot of tax breaks for married couples (at least there are in Canada).

I’m just saying these things because, I think things COULD be ok with you two, if you have a serious heart to heart about expenses and how you plan to handle them.

But yes, please consider the things that Wendy mentioned and decide what sort of lifestyle you are searching for.

avatar Flake August 18, 2011, 4:19 pm

What tax breaks for married people?

avatar MissDre August 18, 2011, 4:45 pm

Where do you live? Where I love, for example, we got an HST tax credit to help ease us into the new tax. For single people, the credit was $100. For married people, it was $350.

avatar MissDre August 18, 2011, 4:45 pm

live*

avatar fallonthecity August 18, 2011, 6:29 pm

There are federal tax breaks for married people in the US, too.

avatar TECH August 18, 2011, 3:56 pm

Wendy’s advice is spot on. Bottom line, you have to decide what you’re willing to live with. If you want to take such a big step as moving to Atlanta and living together, I would recommend sitting down and making a budget plan you are both comfortable with. Spell out both of your finances in black and white. Who will pay for what in your household expenses? If you make 50% more money that he does, you should probably pay 50% more in expenses. Most important, you should come up with a savings plan you can both stick too. That way he can come up with a solid plan for paying off student loan debt and medical bills, keeping in mind that his child support won’t go away until the kids reach eighteen . . .
$40,000/year is really nothing to scoff at. And you are lucky to be with a man who is clearly willing to work very hard (especially since he has held down a second job.) Like Wendy said, I’m sure your boyfriend brings much more too the table than his finances. Look at him for the total person he is. You could date a guy who makes $100,000 a year and he would be the wrong match for you. So in that sense your boyfriend who makes $40,000 a year is looking pretty good. What I’m trying to say is we never get all of what we want in a relationship. Compromises must be made. And in your situation, if you stay with him, you’ll be compromising by being with a guy who doesn’t make a lot of money.
If this is a man you truly want a long term future with and want to invest your time in, I’d strongly suggest sitting down with him, making a budget plan, and make goals to pay down his debt. I think this will put you much more at ease. And like others have said, his debt is “good debt.” Student loans and medical bills are sometimes unavoidable parts of life. It’s not as if he’s a tax evader or overspent thousands on credit cards.

avatar David Jay August 18, 2011, 4:05 pm

I’d file this one under “Money Maturity”. It sounds like you have a VERY good guy based on what you told us. Plus, he works hard and takes care of his responsibilities. A guy like that will find real success in the private sector… just be patient. If you lost YOUR job tomorrow, would he be writing a letter like this on your behalf? Life is full of surprises, financial and otherwise, and each new low often catapults you to a new high. If you’re not ready to ride the “Rollercoaster of Life” with this guy… and enjoy the ups AND the downs… then just stay away from him. The last thing he needs is another ex-wife.

avatar VioletLover August 18, 2011, 4:27 pm

My purple thumb was for this line: “A guy like that will find real success in the private sector… just be patient.”

There’s no way of knowing that. There are plenty of wonderful, hardworking people who haven’t found ‘real success’. For instance,I love my dad. He joined the Marines, served his eight years, but then left to join the private sector so that he could be around more for his children and be a better father.

He’s worked several different security jobs since, and while they paid the bills they weren’t successful. He was unhappy in all of them, but stuck them all out, because he believes in being responsible, both for yourself and for those you take care of. He considers his family and personal life a success, sure. But his career? Nuh-uh.

To tell the LW to just be patient for something that has a decent likelihood of not happening isn’t very helpful.

avatar David Jay August 18, 2011, 5:05 pm

I don’t think you (Violet) or I can define ‘real success’. For your dad, ‘real success’ meant being able to spend more time with his family, which he did by virtue of taking jobs that enabled him to do so. Success does not equal money, and money does not equal success. The world is full of miserable rich people and grateful poor people, which begs the question: If money isn’t related to happiness, how can the LW think it will contribute to a happy marriage?
It sounds like the boyfriend likes his work as a cook, so to that degree, he is already successful. Does the LW want a boyfriend/husband who comes home every night from a job he hates, or a job he likes? If she truly loves him, there is only one answer. I sure as heck don’t love my day job, but hey, it pays well and allows me to work from home and be with my family. To me, that is success!

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 7:46 pm

Not to put words in Violet’s mouth but I think she was referring to financial success

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 12:04 am

SPOT ON!!

avatar emjay August 18, 2011, 4:05 pm

LW have you taken into consideration that if you move to a different state, you will probably be making a lot less money than you are now as well? I think you need to seriously look into this. NY pays a lot more for mechanics than Georgia (fianace is a mechanic) but a lot less for medical assistants (field I am going into). Point being that wages in different states vary according to cost of living, and you might not be making enough to support your current life style then either if you choose to move. I don’t want to sound motherly, but you can not just see a nice house you can afford with your current pay and then move and find out you won’t be able to afford it on your future pay. So even though I am not answering your question about the BF, and I do not know what state you live in, these are things that you need to consider for yourself.
Even though I would be making more $ moving down south, my fiance would be taking an extreme pay cut, and that just is not possible at this time for us. So I just wanted to point out other aspects you should be weighing beforee you move any where, with your cureent BF or not.

avatar fallonthecity August 18, 2011, 6:35 pm

Good point — most gov’t jobs are on a pay scale, and they have different amounts associated with each step, associated with different locations. If she’s working in DC, for instance, and moving to ATL it could change things

avatar kate August 19, 2011, 7:54 pm

I doubt she would take a pay cut for a federal job. They pay you more for expensive places, but it’s through a differential.

avatar AKchic August 18, 2011, 4:07 pm

Somehow, $40k/yr is not enough money to live on? When did that memo come out? I must have missed it. It’s about what I make and raise my four kids on. Oh wait, I’m sorry – I think what the LW is trying to say (without actually saying it to herself, us, or the guy she is LD Dating) is that she wants her guy to magically start making what she makes (which, if she is making double him as she says, is $80k/yr) overnight, wants him to be out of debt overnight, and be free of his responsibilities in order for them to both move to Atlanta (she didn’t say if she was moving there as well, or if this was a one-person move).

Honey, it’s fine for you to want a partner to be financially stable, but you need it to be for the right reasons (in my opinion). You can be desirous of a “comfortable” lifestyle, or even a “lavish” one. But if that is all you care about, then honey, let this guy go. He has proven that there are other qualities that many women would leapfrog over you to get. He is loyal, respectful, honorable, etc. He didn’t just ditch the girl who he impregnated – he married her. He helped raise his children (and is still helping). Yes, kids are expensive. If he starts making more money, guess what – more of that money is going to go to the ex to pay for those kids.

I think that it’s probably better for you to move on, since you are always going to play second fiddle to his kids (and his debts right now). You sound like someone who wants to be the first chair in the orchestra pit.

avatar MissDre August 18, 2011, 4:15 pm

Jeez how the hell do you raise 4 kids on $40K? I make around $33K, and with my rent, groceries for one person, student loan, car + insurance + gas payments, I’m just barely getting by. And I live in the cheapest apartment in the city and I don’t even have to pay utilities. Dunno how you do it, but props!

avatar silver_dragon_girl August 18, 2011, 4:22 pm

Seriously. I make around $28K, and by the time I pay rent, groceries, utilities, insurance (ouch), student loans, credit card payments (to be fair, once that’s done I’ll be in better shape), and the occasional new pair of pants so I don’t have to wear two sizes too big to work, there isn’t hardly anything left. And I live in the middle of nowhere where the cost of living is really, really low.

So kudos to you, AKchic!

avatar beans629 August 18, 2011, 4:51 pm

Because when you’ve got kids and only a little money, you somehow magically make it happen. When I was a single parent, I would plan, plan, plan-I could somehow magically account for every single penny that came in and where it went. That’s just how it is.

And it wasn’t even like I had some big pimpin’ job where I made 40K a year(or even 20K). I drove a school bus part time so I could go to school and work another part time job in between my morning and afternoon bus routes and then be home in the evenings with my child to cook dinner and put her to bed.

To this day, I am still AMAZED that I did all that. :-)

avatar kerrycontrary August 18, 2011, 4:20 pm

40k is barely enough to live on in a major city, especially if you have debts. 40k may be fine in a suburban or rural community, but if you are living in a major metropolis area rent, food, utilities, and gas are always more expensive. There are couples with 2 kids in Washington,DC who are barely surviving with 80k a year combined income. If you want to live in a safe area in a major city, pay off student loans, and go out every once in a while you need to be making a fair amount of money. location location location.

avatar Quakergirl August 18, 2011, 4:56 pm

“If you want to live in a safe area” — this is the big one. Quakerboy and I share what in NYC terms is called a “jr. one bedroom” (essentially a studio with some sort of alcove as the bedroom, but no real separation and no door) and our rent is more than either of our parents pay on their mortgages in the suburbs in the midwest. Like, way, way more. And it isn’t as though we live in a luxury building or an expensive neighborhood. Sure, we could live in a terrible neighborhood and pay less in rent, but given the hours we work, it’s just not a good idea. I don’t really feel like coming home at midnight constantly watching my back as I walk 20 minutes from the subway to my building on a deserted, unlit street.

40k per person is barely enough in a city like New York between the exorbitantly high city taxes, rent, utilities, transportation (even the subway gets expensive when you make that little in take-home pay!), groceries, household items like laundry detergent, etc. It isn’t just rent– it’s everything else that’s 2-2.5 times more expensive in a major city. That box of cereal that’s 3.50 in the burbs is 7 dollars in a NYC grocery store (thank goodness for Trader Joe’s…) Then you factor in student loans, emergencies like a broken AC unit, and the ultimate twenty-something luxury– healthcare– and your paycheck is gone before you know it. I (and most of my early to mid-twenties friends) make significantly less than that and it’s definitely a struggle. I’m lucky in that Quakerboy makes more than that, and I managed to accumulate some savings during college, so we usually do okay for ourselves, but we still have a 15-year-old couch with a hole in it and a scratched up Ikea coffee table that is one step above an odyssey of the mind project because we can’t afford to buy new ones.

I think the real problem here though isn’t that he may not make enough, but that he doesn’t seem to be willing/able to live within his means and pay off his debts (wage garnishment is a biiiig red flag! Usually student loans can be worked out before it gets to that point, but if he let it get that bad, I’d be very concerned). Income disparities are one thing– you can work that out– but for me, financial irresponsibility would be a deal-breaker. If LW really thinks he’s doing his best with what he makes, then they can talk about the lifestyle issues, but if the problem is that he can’t get his shit together, then I’d cut the guy loose.

avatar Kate August 18, 2011, 4:58 pm

I saw the garnishment thing as an issue, too.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 5:01 pm

Where are you getting that he’s living out of his means? We don’t know where he lives, but I assumed that he was living within his means since most of his debt is from student loans, child support, and medical bills.

avatar lets_be_honest August 18, 2011, 5:30 pm

His wages being garnished would be my first guess.

avatar fallonthecity August 18, 2011, 6:37 pm

Yeah.

avatar Quakergirl August 18, 2011, 6:40 pm

Those are all reasonable debts, but how he handled them isn’t reasonable. He knows those payments need to be made, and yet he didn’t a) budget appropriately for them and is thus not living within his means or b) take steps to reduce the payments. Legitimate credit counseling services exist, loan consolidation exists, family courts to reassess child support exist. Wage garnishment is a last resort for all parties involved. Not taking those relatively simple steps of either rebudgeting or readjusting payments to the extent possible and letting it get to the point where your wages are garnished sounds like he’s pretty financially irresponsible.

avatar Kerrycontrary August 18, 2011, 11:13 pm

Yeh anyone who has student loans knows that you should always call your lender as soon as you find out you won’t be able to make a payment on time. Having wages garnished…last resort because it’s time consuming and expensive for the lender as well as you.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 12:13 am

they can only give you some delays in payments. Student loans have deadline’s & limits. He could have briefly been laid off and started working again and therefore the lender wants to make sure they get some money in,,,thus garnished.

avatar kate August 19, 2011, 2:29 pm

If they are federal loans, they can delay for a long time or reduce payments a lot. Garnishment is a last ditch effort.

avatar GingerLaine August 18, 2011, 4:11 pm

I started writing a response, but something caught my eye as I scrolled back through the letter and made me think.

YOU’RE PLANNING TO MOVE TO A NEW CITY WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS NO MARKETABLE SKILLS OTHER THAN WORKING AS A LINE COOK?!

How is that a responsible thing to do? He has a job where he is now in a time when people are taking whatever job they can get. He has children there. What happens if the two of you move to Atlanta, and he spends months or YEARS looking for work to cover his loans, child support, living expenses, travel for him or his children, paying expenses for those children when they’re visiting him. Will you be willing to very gracefully foot the bill for all of these things? Or will you be writing back in a year explaining how he promised you and you know it’s not his fault because he’s honestly looking, but you’re feeling like a sugar mama and are starting to resent him? Or that you feel trapped in this relationship because you support him, he doesn’t know anyone in the new city, he has no way to get back to his hometown unless you pay for it, etc, etc, etc.

Look, Atlanta is not a cheap city to live in. It sounds like you’re very financially capable, but you need to approach this from the perspective of what you’ll do if things don’t go as planned. And quite honestly, it doesn’t sound like there’s much of a plan anyway. It sounds like the two of you are so happy to be getting together again, that neither of you is being very logical about the very real challenges you’ll face by doing this, and what will happen to your relationship if you can’t overcome them.

If you want this to work out, wait until the two of you can make realistic arrangements before meshing your lives together. It’ll already be difficult. Don’t start out with worst-case scenario and hope it gets better.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 4:20 pm

Yeah, I did a double take at that too. All of the stuff you mentioned, his children, the cost of living in Georgia, and their lack of plans seemed like way more of a red flag than his annual salary.

avatar El August 18, 2011, 4:38 pm

Don’t knock him for being a line cook. They don’t get nearly as much credit (or pay) as they should. I spent many years working in restaurants, and “line cook” is an extremely demanding job that requires a great deal of skill and speed.

A good line cook is expected to follow direction, be on constant alert, be intelligent enough to improvise as needed, and execute flawlessly both independently and as part of a team. I would never write-off a former line cook in an employment decision because I know that they’re fast, hard-working, and disciplined.

Also, I know a number of sous and executive chefs who make six-figure salaries. Who’s to say he’s not working toward that?

avatar GingerLaine August 18, 2011, 4:47 pm

I’m not knocking him for being a line cook. I worked in a restaurant and I know they work harder than most everyone else there.

But former line cooks don’t usually get jobs as anything but a line cook. It’s not as if he’s going to be hired on at a new restaurant as their executive chef. Nor is it likely that he’ll be hired in a corporate position, having only worked as a line cook in the past. Complicating his career path should he give up the job he CURRENTLY has, is that people who are desperate for work in a recession usually turn to restaurant work because there’s a lot of turnover, and it’s easy to train for.

And although he may be working toward being the sous or executive chef, he’s not there now, and won’t be progressing toward that nearly as fast if he moves to a new city. If he does get a new line cook job at a restaurant in Atlanta, he’ll be right back to the bottom of the pile because they already have 3 line cooks who’ve been there for years working toward 1 sous chef job.

Being a line cook is fine. Being a line cook with no line on which to cook poses a very serious problem.

avatar GingerLaine August 18, 2011, 8:12 pm

(Obviously, chefs and their assistants and such were likely former line cooks. I should have said “don’t get *brand new* jobs…” instead. A restaurant isn’t likely to trust an executive chef position to a brand new former line cook. Just wanted to be perfectly clear.)

katie katie August 18, 2011, 8:33 pm

i have to disagree with a lot of this. one of first chefs told me that the quickest way up is out. when you spend a lot of time in a restaurant being a line cook, you get stuck in a rut. you get really really good at your job, and then thats it. you just are a line cook. now, if you do that, and then get out and go to a new restaurant, possesing the right skill set, you will be promoted. everytime you leave a restaurant it should be to pursue a “promotion” – better money, more responsibilities, higher cover count, heightened type of cuisine, whatever. the best chefs are the ones who have done everything everywhere and know 800 ways to cook anything.

i totally agree that he shouldnt just up and move to atlanta without HAVING a job- but it is a very very good thing to take new and different jobs in the culinary arts. also, atlanta is a big city, and there are bound to be tons of restaurants and hotels there. honestly, if he now living in a more rural area, atlanta might be his best option- big cities have the best food, and the most people willing to spend their money on it.

avatar beans629 August 18, 2011, 4:20 pm

As MissDre pointed out earlier, 40K isn’t a lot when you have financial responsibilities like kids, debt from a marriage, and student loans.

So now I have to ask the LW…

If you really like this guy and want a future with him, what’s wrong with sitting down with him and establishing some financial goals?

For instance, how much does he have in student loans? You can set a goal of getting that paid off in X years by paying Y amount of money. Even if it’s only 60 bucks a month. That’s like 1 dinner at Applebee’s with the kids.

If child support is too high because of his other financial obligations, why can’t he go back to the court and ask to lower the payments until the other obligations are taken care of?

Child support payments are based on your income/debt ratio. So if his debt ratio is way high to his income most courts will adjust that as long as he continues to pay. Also if he doesn’t have a court ordered agreement, I highly suggest you get one in the event you two get married and his ‘income’ increases due to your salary.

I’m not sure how much baby mama drama you’ve ever dealt with but you ain’t seen shit until the ex-wife perceives that you and him are living the high life and she’s barely making ends meet.

I’ve seen it way too many times. The ex starts crabbin’ that she wants/needs more money to take care of the kids and she knows you have it ’cause you’re living in that big fancy house and driving those really nice cars.

If you want to take vacations, how about deciding where you want to go and how much it will cost. Then saving towards that, it might take 2 years but so what. It’s not like you will die if you don’t absolutely go on that absolutely fantastic vacation with your man. Seriously.

I’m just sayin…if you want to work this out with him then it’s possible. It’s just a matter of reorganizing priorities and setting goals to get things taken care of. If on the other hand, you really don’t want to work this out with him and are using ‘he doesn’t make enough money’ as an excuse to break up with him (’cause lets face it, being a step mom is really really hard). Then just be honest with yourself and him and MOA.

avatar meaghan August 18, 2011, 4:21 pm

As a person married to someone with financial issues, as well as knowing several people with student debts, I can understand the stress of being with someone who’s finances are shaky at best. You need a concrete plan on budgets and a time line of when debts will be paid. Since child support obviously just can’t be paid off, focus on the student debt so as to cut down on interest costs and free up monthly income.

If you choose to move, especially to the city, save up big time. It always costs more than you think it will and you don’t need more stress at that time. Try online classes so he can get a degree while still working. You can do an Associates in BA online and pending his schedule it can be done within two years. Have you considered giving him a loan or just paying a portion of his debt to ease the strain? If you are comfortable with such an investment in the relationship then this is something you should discuss.

In the end if your gut says its wrong then its wrong. Be honest and find someone who fulfills all your needs.

avatar AKchic August 18, 2011, 4:30 pm

I am one cheap person! *laugh*

I was partially raised by my grandparents who grew up during and after the Depression. My grandpa grew up as the oldest of 8 children on a poor farm in WY. I was taught to buy in bulk, buy on sale/clearance, buy used, save save save (everything, including junk), and fix things yourself.

I have a ’92 suburban and I work on it myself. If there is something I can’t do myself, I have my mechanic brother help me.
Same with my house. I fix my own stuff around the house. If I can’t figure it out (and I have plenty of books on home repair to help), then I call on my brother or a friend who knows.
I buy food in bulk, grow my own, and pay for my brother’s hunting license. My brother shares his kill with me for fresh meat (moose is great). I have a few friends with fishing boats that take tourists out and the tourists don’t take back all of their catch (weight limits, or just general disinterest), so I end up with at least 100lbs of halibut every year and 50lbs of salmon and trout. I get fresh crab for $1/lb from Nome thanks to a friend I met online. He sends it live and I just have to cook ‘em when they get to town.
We go berry picking in the fall and freeze some, make jams, jellies, etc. I home brew, etc.
I shop used as much as possible. Amazon.com’s sales, etc.
I don’t rely on child support. Never know if I’ll get any thanks to this economy. I know one ex-husband WON’T pay anything and the other needs his money to live too (he makes less than I do in an expensive state). What I do get from him does go towards kids stuff, or in our joint savings account for travel.

katie katie August 18, 2011, 9:19 pm

oh my god- where do you live?!?! fresh moose, halibut/salmon (do you have any idea how expensive those are inland????) and crab? dude sign me up. seriously. i will pay you double what you pay if you ship me some of that stuff

avatar Mary August 18, 2011, 4:43 pm

The LW said, “He is in a financial rut: his wages were garnished because of student loans; his car was stolen (and he didn’t have full coverage) so he has no car; he has old medical bills and his child support is really high. All that with making under $40,000. He has had to work a second job off and on throughout our relationship but that also takes a toll on how much free time he has (he works most weekends).”

Maybe it’s just me, but I do not see him as a financially irresponsible person. Has he had some bad luck? Most definitely. But he is doing what he can – even taking on a second job – to honestly pay back his debts (school, medical bills) and care for his children. Sounds like a good guy to me. If his debts were due to high credit card bills, owning a car he can’t afford, and other irresponsible spending, then those red flags are clear reasons to hesitate. But this guy? This guy is making a real effort to make things right and, at the same time, pursuing a job he loves. I find that admirable.

But, LW, just because he’s a good guy, that doesn’t make him the right guy for you. Frankly, I suspect your lifestyles are incompatible. Since you two are in an LDR, I get the feeling that you don’t understand the time demands of a job like his. The people I know who genuinely love the restaurant business spend a LOT of nights and weekends at work. And, no, they usually don’t earn 6 figure salaries for doing so. But they do it because they genuinely love their craft. If you don’t accept this truth about him – actually, if you don’t SUPPORT and RESPECT this truth about him – then you really should MOA.

avatar AnitaBath August 18, 2011, 4:45 pm

I think this is perfect. They may not be right for each other (and I, too, suspect that they aren’t), but just because he doesn’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean that he’s irresponsible with it. Seems like he was dealt a bad hand, more than anything.

katie katie August 18, 2011, 9:19 pm

i totally agree with this!

avatar Turtledove August 18, 2011, 4:48 pm

To me, this sounds like a lifestyle conflict– it’s just that the money is the issue that the LW can point to as a concrete example of what’s going on. I think the LW is questioning whether the lifestyles can mesh as much as the finances. The LW is a regular 9-5 office worker, but her boyfriend is a chef– meaning he works a lot of nights and weekends and will for the forseeable future. They’re not going to have a lot of time together. Perhaps taking financial responsibility for him might be feasible for the LW, but taking financial responsibility for his children is also a possibility. There’s also visitation to work out as well as the possibility of college expenses, wedding expenses, etc. Children don’t go away just because they turn 18.

The LW has some soul searching to do. They’re long distance, and it seems that both would need to move and find new jobs in order to be together. Given their respective financial situations, the bulk of the moving expenses would fall to the LW. Then there’s the children; and custody, child support, and visitation would have to be worked out. The LW mentions them as something of a sideline, but it’s a gigantic red flag for me– I don’t trust any person who would walk away from their children without a solid parenting plan in place. How involved is the LW going to be and who is going to bankroll all the travel that will entail? Frankly, this situation sounds like a logistical nightmare. If the LW doesn’t want to take it on, I think that’s fair. If the boyfriend doesn’t have a solid plan in place to deal with these issues, then I would think long and hard before taking any of it on. The outstanding debt can be dealt with by temporarily downgrading lifestyles, but the time issues and children issues are forever.

For myself, I’m happy that my husband took on my financially unstable, debt-riddled self. He didn’t have to do that. But he also did it because my lifestyle complements and supports his. His career is more stable and pays better than mine, but it also involves moving every 3-5 years. For a lot of careers, that would be a problem– having to find work in a new place, if there even is work. I’m a free-lancer, which makes me portable if nothing else. DH figured that the debt and instability was a small price to pay for the flexibility of my career path. The LW should look for the trade-offs in her situation too– she knows what she would give to the relationship, what does she get out of it?

avatar Robin August 18, 2011, 4:49 pm

Be careful about making decisions based on financial position, because you never know when that will change. Five years ago, I was unemployed and looking for a job and my boyfriend was paying for all our dinners out. Two years later, I had a fantastic job and he was unemployed and I helped him out. A friend of mine was working as a director of finance for an international company, got laid off, and took two years to find a new job. A relative was a successful lawyer, lost his license, and had to find a whole new career. It’s unlikely that your boyfriend will suddenly become a millionaire, but your next investment banker may lose his job and become in the same spot as your current boyfriend.

That said, it is hard. Right now, I make a lot more money than my boyfriend (more than 3x what he makes) and it does mean we don’t go on fancy vacations like my coworkers with high-paid partners do. But I can go on vacations with my family or my friends and we still get to do a lot. But I think we’re also able to make it work because we were dating for a while before dramatic differences in our income appeared. It also helps that the difference isn’t about ambition – my boyfriend wants to do great things, but he’s not there yet. A friend of mine is dating a construction work in his 40s who knows he needs to find another line of work but won’t really do anything to find it and they get in fights about it all the time – but I think it’s really about the ambition there, not about the paycheck. (And I’m not saying all construction workers are unambitious – just this particular one.) If he were a successful musician making $30k, I think she’d have way less problems with him. I wonder if the same is the case with the LW. If he were a lawyer working for a nonprofit for $40k (as many lawyers who work for nonprofits make), would she be okay with his income then?

BriarRose BriarRose August 18, 2011, 4:53 pm

It’s definitely something worth discussing with him. I’ll agree that $40,000 might seem like a lot, but him paying child support alone (not to mention all the other financial obligations you mentioned) is enough to significantly reduce his take home income. I’m sure this is something he’s thought about before. My boyfriend makes significantly more money than I do, and while I have a college degree, the crappy job market combined with a few years out of work while I stayed at home with my daughter has landed me in a less than stellar job with flat-out awful pay. So I often think to myself (and have actually voiced to my boyfriend) that I have nothing to offer financially, and feel like I will be a drain on him if we ever get married. But he has expressed to me that he is happy to “combine our resources” (haha) and adjust his lifestyle as needed if we get married. So that’s a choice he made….I didn’t force it on him, so I know he’s okay with it. Like Wendy said, if you’re not okay with it, you’re not. Don’t let people telling you how much $40,000 a year really is, or that you’re an awful person if you don’t want nice things for working hard. Be true to yourself.

One cavaet though: When I was married, I had a pretty nice lifestyle, basically what I had always dreamed of….I thought for sure adjusting my lifestyle after my divorce would be the worst thing ever. Surprisingly, I’m doing ok ;) Happier than I ever have been before, actually. And I legit have no money. But that’s me.

avatar Princess Bananahammock August 18, 2011, 5:05 pm

Here’s the line that sticks out to me, LW: “He says that his financial situation will get better but I just don’t see it.”

It sounds like you are not only unhappy with your boyfriend’s current situation, but you also don’t believe that he is going to be able to meet your expectations in the future. I make double what my fiance makes, but he’s smart, determined, and following his passion. I trust that he will be a stable contributor to our household. If you don’t have that trust, I’d recommend slowing things down before you move with this guy.

avatar parrt August 18, 2011, 5:25 pm

Nice double standard.

Women can be stay at home mothers, but a cannot dare make less money than his wife.
LW has a complex. If she lost her federal tax payer funded job, would she break up with her boyfriend, so as to not be a burden to him?

Unlikely.

avatar David Jay August 18, 2011, 5:31 pm

Just had to give a thumbs up for the phrase “federal tax payer funded job”. I’m glad someone mentioned it, and doubly-glad it wasn’t me! :-)

avatar Britannia August 18, 2011, 5:35 pm

I am seriously just sitting here, refreshing every few minutes or so, waiting for Neo-Feminist wave of indignation to descend upon you.

avatar Rachel August 18, 2011, 5:51 pm

Hopefully we all know better than to feed the trolls…

avatar Britannia August 18, 2011, 5:55 pm

I think that this thread has been pretty good about equality and respecting that someone might contribute equally but differently to a relationship despite having different wages. However, if you switch the relationship up a bit and make it about a man receiving alimony after a divorce so that he can continue living the lifestyle he is accustomed to, on the woman’s dollar, there is usually a feminist uproar. I’m glad that it seems like this thread is really advocating equality and the value a person can bring to a relationship beyond salary, but parrt does have a valid point that we would probably rip a guy a new one if he came in saying that the only reason he’s unsure about being in a relationship with a girl is that she doesn’t make enough money to support the kind of lifestyle the guy wants to live, and he doesn’t really want to pay her way.

avatar MJ August 18, 2011, 5:42 pm

Ugh, I get so sick of the misogyny sometimes. Dude, she isn’t asking that the man take care of her. Nor is she saying that he needs to make more than she does. She’s just pointing out that IN HER CASE she and her bf are in very different places, financially, and wondering if it will be an issue.

Stay-at-home parents are completely different. Taking care of kids and a house is a job and something that’s worked out between a couple. Men can be stay-at-home dads; I know several.

There is no double standard here.

avatar parrt August 18, 2011, 5:44 pm

but a *man* cannot dare make less money than his wife.

This whole thread stinks. Of greed.
There is no way in hell 99% of these women here would be “supportive and understanding” if a guy wrote in asking about his broke ass girlfriend with student loans and child support.

Stinks to high heaven

avatar MJ August 18, 2011, 5:47 pm

You presume an awful lot. I don’t know who you’re arguing with, but it appears to be hypotheticals that only exist in your head.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 18, 2011, 10:28 pm

Actually, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of different posts here if just the sexes of those involved were simply flipped… Seriously… It would be very different….

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 7:04 pm

actually,i remember a specific letter where a man wrote in saying his girlfriend wasn’t financially responsible with money and didn’t make much(something like that) and everyone,including wendy,told him how important finances were in a situation and if he and his girlfriend couldn’t see eye to eye or get things cleared up,it was time for him to move on.

avatar Turtledove August 18, 2011, 5:46 pm

I don’t think that’s fair. Everyone needs to contribute to a relationship equally or it eventually falls apart. In some instances, one partner puts in more money and the other gives in other areas– like child care, housework, etc. It’s up to each individual couple to find a balance that works for them. The LW feels that the financial situation here is unbalanced, and it is. So, if her boyfriend doesn’t give in other areas to even things out, then the relationship isn’t going to work for her.

It’s not just finances that make a relationship work or not, but it’s a big factor. It would be naive to pretend that it’s not, or that it shouldn’t influence our decisions.

avatar AKchic August 18, 2011, 5:53 pm

I get thumbs down enough – I didn’t want to be the one to say it (since I’ve been labeled the group “Republican” around here).

avatar Britannia August 18, 2011, 5:58 pm

There’s nothing wrong with Republicans, damn it! You and I are logical, responsible, and believe in liberalism (the Darwinist type). It doesn’t mean we’re coo-coo crazy or that we’re elitist assholes if we happen to be Republicans. I hate that the very people who are all about, “Oh, don’t judge people! Everyone is equal!” tend to label, ostracize, and spit upon anyone whose opinion might differ from theirs.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 18, 2011, 6:12 pm

If you guys really believe in liberalism then you are both seriously in the wrong party. I mean, come on! ALL of your presidential candidates strongly all support doing absolutely everything they can to muck up my life and strip me of rights…

avatar Britannia August 18, 2011, 6:19 pm

I know that gay marriage should be legal. But I’m a firm believer in getting our economical/financial stability in order first, and to worry about civil rights after that. You can’t have a nation of wonderfully forward-minded human rights standards if that nation doesn’t even have a pot to piss in… and so far, I haven’t voted Democratic (though I’ve only been old enough for one election so far, and I didn’t vote for McCain OR Obama) because Democrats don’t seem to understand that countries have to behave like a business — we have to earn more money than we spend, otherwise we’re just bleeding ourselves dry.

I really hope that whoever ends up being our next president is able to take care of our economy, our debt, AND the gross inequalities some of our laws still enforce, including the prohibition of gay marriage.

avatar Britannia August 18, 2011, 6:29 pm

I have to go to work now, but I seriously wish you’d add me on facebook or something, BGM. I love talking to you, and I bet you’d add a lot of spice and intellectual thought to my daily routine if we were friends.

http://www.facebook.com/britannia

Anyone who adds me from being on here, please just put in the request that you’re from DW!

avatar parrt August 19, 2011, 6:52 am

Republicans had some great presidencies like Eisenhower.
Regan, and Reagan worshippers like Bush are the idiots who fucked the party.

Now, no educated person can take republican idiots seriously. That Bachmann bimbo will ensure that educated people will be turned off from the republican candidates.

avatar Britannia August 19, 2011, 3:56 pm

I really, really hate Bachmann. I really think that the only reason she has risen to such high ranks is that the Old White Men that dominate the Right Wing just decided, “Oh, okay, we really need to start making women feel like they’re equals. Let’s find some really dumb bimbo who we can easily manipulate to be our talking head.”

I think that both Sarah Palin AND Bachmann are the result of our OWM conceding to let a woman be president but not wanting a head-strong and truly leadership-worthy woman to be in office. So that they can maintain the true power. It’s sexism at its worst and it pisses me off; I really wish we could find a female Republican who isn’t a Bible-thumping, uneducated hypocrite.

Or perhaps it’s all an elaborate ruse to deliberately place horribly unfit women on the road to presidency to sway our nation away from the idea of a woman being in the White House.

I don’t know what the real reasons are for having such crackpot females being our only presidential contenders, but I’m not voting for them or ANYONE so obviously unfit, even if they are Republican.

Budj Budjer August 19, 2011, 4:03 pm

It could be that…or the fact that the nut jobs control both parties so nut jobs keep getting the premier placement…I’m sick of horrible candidates. I just want someone fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

avatar Britannia August 19, 2011, 4:07 pm

Me too, Budjer, me too.

avatar David Jay August 18, 2011, 7:09 pm

Not to chastise or anything… I’m honestly wondering what specific rights are being stripped away, BGM?

avatar Maracuya August 18, 2011, 7:10 pm

The right to…marry? Not much stripped as not allowed to exist.

avatar David Jay August 18, 2011, 8:39 pm

It’s not just that the “right to marry” is not allowed to exist, it DOESN’T exist in the Constitution. Hence under the 10th Amendment, it becomes a states rights matter, meaning that the Federal Govt. — including the president– has no control over it and can pass no law. The states are free to choose their own definition of marriage, and last I checked, people are free to live in whatever state they want, so I never understood the “losing our rights” argument.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 18, 2011, 10:34 pm

Actually, right now in certain states domestic partner benefits are being stripped away. I personally know of a gay guy tossed onto the street when his partner was killed in a car crash at the ripe old age of 27, so they didn’t have the best of wills. (Were together four and a half years and were on a waiting list to adopt.) The deceased owned the house, but almost all of the furnishing were bought by the boyfriend and the wackjob religious relatives had him forcibly evicted. Then donated everything in it to a charity just to spite my friend… And trust me, it was expensive furniture. Iconic mid century pieces such as Knoll and the like… Moreover, Bachmann and all these likeminded fuckheads would LOVE to change the laws involving adoption… And the fact that NONE of my “married” gay friends get the tax breaks is really fucked up. But no, Dave . You are so right. Things are just fucking great….

avatar David Jay August 19, 2011, 1:54 am

States have that right, per design. I never said things were “f*ing great”, so don’t put those words in my mouth! Your bitterness is your cross to bear, not mine. There is no constitunial protection for marriage, gay or otherwise, so we’re all in the same boat there. Cut the victim-shit and thank God you live in a country where you have the freedom to live the lifestyle you choose. Your fredomes may be VERY short-lived if things continue the way they have been these past few years… in which case, those Repubs you despise may well become your best friends.

avatar Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich August 19, 2011, 3:53 am

That’s right. Suck it up. If you don’t like it, leave, right? Be happy with what you’ve got. Never make waves. Don’t rock the boat, because at least you’ll be tolerated, right? Be a good girl. Don’t expect Us to be OK with your difference, it’s enough that we tolerate you, right? We’re all in the same boat, so why do you think you get to complain?

Can’t marry the person you love? Tough shit. Can’t make more than 78% per dollar of what the average man makes? Tough shit. Can’t get protection when you are beaten to the point (or past it) of death because you are homosexual/bisexual/transgendered/thought to be? Tough shit. Face discrimination because of the color of your skin? Tough shit.

Yeah, real good attitude there.

I’ll thank GOD for all of the “freedoms” of this country when he fixes anthropogenic global warming, child poverty and obesity, rape culture, the recession, persistent and endemic racism, etc. But he’d have to exist first.

In the meant-time, I for one am not going to sit down, shut up and demurely thank god and country for the rights that republicans and the conservative right are only too willing to roll back at the least sign of compromise. It is passion that drives us to fight to keep and expand the rights that undergird a just society.

avatar David Jay August 19, 2011, 9:19 am

Sorry grilled cheese… I assumed you were an American or at least living in America. My bad.

avatar Maracuya August 19, 2011, 9:31 am

I just find it amusing (and sad) that gay marriage is supposedly a whole ‘nother thing, when the same arguments were applied earlier to interracial marriage when the Supreme Court overturned Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws and called marriage one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’ and the Constitution says that, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Specifically, the only way gay civil unions are prevented is by Defense of Marriage Acts, either in statutes of by state Constitutions. It seems to me that the situation is not equal.

avatar Maracuya August 19, 2011, 9:40 am

And I think the Establishment Clause, which is written to prohibit the preference of one religion over another also applies here. But states are smart enough not to write it as a religious issue while their reasons are clearly as such.

Though I don’t despise Republicans. I would vote for one if he or she were socially moderate, but that’s never the case as of late. Yet I want someone fiscally conservative. What to do?

avatar David Jay August 19, 2011, 9:53 am

Maracuya… do what I did. Detach from the parties and support only the candidates that strictly adhere to the Constitution, which contains all of the social protections we are supposed to have.

avatar LTC039 August 19, 2011, 10:25 am

@GrilledCheese…It is NOT God’s fault that there are issues in this country & the world. Humans have FREE WILL & therefore make decisions on their own. Humans also have error by nature, no one human is perfect. Don’t ever use that “GOD ISN’T REAL BC THE WORLD SUCKS” argument. It’s quite ignorant. Especially if you actually read the Bible in a contextual way (not literal as most mistakingly do). God helps if you ask, but yes, I guess it’s most certainly convenient to sit there & blame God for all your problems…

Caris Caris August 19, 2011, 11:14 pm

@LTC039 I think he mentioned god in there because David Jay said we should thank god for what we have or something of the sort. It is hard to thank god if you do not believe in god. I also do not think he (grilledcheese) was blaming god for all the problems that exist in the world, since he says “But he’d have to exist first.” which I take as he does not believe in god.
As for ask god and he will help, I don’t know about that… might work for you but it does not work for everyone. Sometimes you have to DO something besides asking god

avatar Christy August 20, 2011, 12:08 am

Do you have a defense for DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act)? Because that law is patently unconstitutional.

Budj budjer August 18, 2011, 5:43 pm

Plain and simple I think it seems you place a lot of value on your partners income and right or wrong you will probably resent your boyfriend in the future. MOA.

avatar demoiselle August 18, 2011, 5:56 pm

This sounds like a poor lifestyle/priorities match. Many of the most damaging fights in long term relationships and marriages stem from money and finances. If you are already uncomfortable, that’s a bad sign. If you feel like you have to take charge of his finances to get him into shape, that’s a very bad sign. And since you are LONG DISTANCE you don’t really know how you will work together when you are spending more time in the same city.

I strongly advise you not to move anywhere with this man, who may be very decent, but probably is not going to make you happy long term. Widely divergent ideas of finances lead to all kinds of tension, and you have a chance now to spare you both.

landygirl Landygirl August 18, 2011, 5:59 pm

MOA, there are other fish in the sea. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but he isn’t the guy for you and you already know this or you wouldn’t be asking Wendy.

avatar fallonthecity August 18, 2011, 6:55 pm

I’ll be honest — it would take A LOT of love for me to be in a relationship like the LW is in. Someone having his wages garnished? Owing child support, working crazy hours… and his take home pay is next to nothing? It sounds like a really stressful life. The LW is not a bad person for wanting to keep her current lifestyle, but she can’t go into this expecting that her boyfriend will, someday down the road, magically be in a comfortable financial position. Being with this guy in the long term will probably mean a lot of sacrifices for the LW.

avatar WatersEdge August 18, 2011, 7:00 pm

I’ve found that the “financially unlucky” are typically poor planners. Student loans with no degree to speak of? Unpaid bills that got to the point of wages being garnished? Debt from the general task of supporting his family (living outside of his means)? The belief that his child support payments are unreasonably high? Having two kids is not enough to ruin the average person financially who pulls in 40k.

If you want to stay with this guy, get him some financial help. Buy him Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and see if it helps. Don’t commit to him until he changes the fundamental way that he looks at money. Bad luck seems to stick to people who can’t manage their money.

katie katie August 18, 2011, 8:18 pm

he most likely has a culinary degree- my culinary degree cost well over 60,000

avatar Quakergirl August 18, 2011, 10:27 pm

Culinary degrees can definitely be really expensive, but I don’t think that’s the case here. LW said that rather than finishing college he got married, which is why I’m guessing the student loans are from an unfinished college degree, rather than a culinary degree.

katie katie August 18, 2011, 10:54 pm

that definitely could be true… re-reading the letter, i totally get that.

avatar Kate August 18, 2011, 10:32 pm

This is one of the best comments on here. A lot of people say he’s been dealt a bad hand, but most of the things that “happened” to him were likely the result of poor decisions.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 12:31 am

“Bad luck seems to stick to people who can’t manage their money.” There are a lot of people who are unemployed due to their corporation not making profits, not because they themselves cannot manage their money. Look at the Finance industry, teachers, etc.

avatar kate August 19, 2011, 2:24 pm

True, but he is he working. I still say he has money management issues, and for some people, that’s a deal breaker.

avatar WatersEdge August 19, 2011, 5:12 pm

This guy is not unemployed or underemployed for his degree level. He makes 40k.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 10:48 pm

Yes, but because he makes 40K does not mean “bad luck” is following him, geezes I make 42K. He might have money management problems, but we don’t know that for sure. What we do know is that the LW is unhappy with his situation and should therefore MOA.

avatar Kate August 19, 2011, 10:50 pm

I don’t think the issue is his income, but his debt and management of it. We do know his wages were garnished.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 11:02 pm

Yes, and she should MOA. I read more on garnishment so now I see the problem with his money management. It could have been due to back up in child support, who knows. I am astonished that many of the commentators keep pointing out that 40K is a poor salary. I wish I earned better with my degree but their is so much competition in the social work field and high turn over.

avatar WatersEdge August 20, 2011, 6:27 pm

Sorry, but everyone knows that social workers make about 40k. Your salary shouldn’t be a surprise to you…

And I’m not saying that 40k isn’t much money. In fact, I’m saying that he should be fine on 40k and he’s not, which to me means that he has money management issues…

avatar rosa26 August 21, 2011, 10:04 pm

First, I went to grad school to be a therapist not a social worker. I have a master’s in clinical psychology, I got a full scholarship in OH. Due to extenuating circumstances (brother was sick & I had to fly back & forth between states), I could not stay for the PHd. Life happens. I don’t think bad luck was following me because I was poorly managing my money. I wasn’t suppose to return to NYC but my parents needed me after my brother passed away. My master’s in clinical psych is worth nothing here, 5 years ago I could have gotten a therapy position. Now therapy jobs require a PhD or an LCSW (I don’t have). So, I settled for the field of social work because I needed a job. I am applying to grad school again to complete the doctoral. Anyways, the point is not everyone that is earning a moderate salary 40K is a victim of poor managing skills. I agree, the LW’s bf is bad at managing money but the LW is bad at dating. It took her 1.5 yrs to realize the guy has money problems. Let’s not forget she is in a serious relationship. She has to find a better match (financially), its so clear that she needs to MOA.

avatar rosa26 August 21, 2011, 10:07 pm

Also, on 42K I don’t do that bad. There are people that earn 60K, 70k and have poor money management skills. The LW needs to watch out for these candidates.

avatar Marie August 18, 2011, 7:28 pm

Look,LW,you want a particular lifestyle that your boyfriend can’t afford for himself.That doesn’t make you a bad person or selfish or greedy and it doesn’t make him a bad person for not being able to match you financially.Just because he’s a great guy in other aspects doesn’t mean he is the right guy for you.As Wendy said,if you’re happy to pay for most everything,then stay with him.

If this doesn’t sit well with you(and it doesn’t sound like it does),you should move on.Finances play a big role in relationships.The fact is,it doesn’t really matter why your boyfriend is in debt.He IS in debt and it can’t be said that he’ll clear up his finances in the future.Because that could take years,if it even happens at all.

I want to emphasize again that it doesn’t make you “too judgemental” worrying about his financial stability.It would be naive to say that money doesn’t matter.Of course it does.How someone manages their finances and what their situation says a lot about what kind of future you can expect with your SO.Maybe not when you’re in your late teens or even at my age(I’m 21),but in your late 20s and early 30s?It’s HUGE.Nobody could fault you for wanting to move on to someone who is just as great as your boyfriend and doesn’t have a lot of debt to worry about.

katie katie August 18, 2011, 8:17 pm

ah, the joys of being with a chef. haha! yes, chefs make very little money compared to the work they do, and they will always work weird hours, always work holidays, and will never cook at home.

i went to school to be one, and i met my boyfriend there, i know. i have also since gone in a little bit of a different career direction, and make a lot more money then i did as a pastry chef, so i know.

the only advice i would give to you is to be very realistic about your situation. right now, my boyfriend works nights, usually has like a tuesday/weds off, and also works a second job for some extra money to pay off his student loans. I also work nights, which is good, but i have a regular mon-fri work week, and i dont have a second job. if i worked normal business hours, i would never see him. i also make more money then he does. you really need to accept that if you move with him, there will be a lot of time that you spend by yourself. also, you will be footing the bill if you guys go out and have fun- i usually do, but i dont mind it. if you mind it, thats not a bad thing- but you have to be honest with yourself about it.

now, my boyfriend is up for a promotion soon- he is currently training for it, so he sort of has gotten a promotion. has your boyfriend ever tried to advance his career? i know the type of line cook that just stays in his ways for years and years and years- make sure your boyfriend is not one of those guys. i have met line cooks, still making nothing in terms of money, who are getting older, their bodies are giving out, and they have never even tried to better their careers. i dont know why they never try for anything more, but i just know that there are those types of men out there (and a woman i met, to). maybe, if you guys move to atlanta, he will be able to “start fresh” at a restaurant or a hotel, and will actually be able to work his way up. i would suggest getting into a corporate structure- hilton, four seasons, marriotts, or a number of restaurant ‘groups’- they will be much more able to give him the tools he needs to advance as a chef and get promotions. its hard to become successful as a chef, but its possible. maybe he just needs a little nudge in the right direction!

the bottom line is, if his lifestyle doesnt work for you, it just doesn’t. you need to be honest with yourself, and hoenst with him, and figure that out.

avatar Quakergirl August 18, 2011, 10:36 pm

I’d second the corporate restaurant group suggestion, career-wise, even if he stays in the city where he currently lives. They’re structured to advance people who show promise, as you mentioned, plus many of them offer better pay and/or benefits.

avatar Jubietta August 19, 2011, 2:07 am

Mr. J and I have had this situation from both directions; in the beginning I was the breadwinner and insurance provider, and then it flipped on us through an unexpected gift from the Universe. The thing I learned was to make sure we were both getting our needs met and getting a balancing quality/quantity of our wants met.
I used to be a very ambitious career-minded person and could pretty much provide for my own material needs. What I needed, and couldn’t provide for myself, were the intangibles that he brings…solid companionship, someone who put me ahead of others, a great love life, and a sense of security. He wasn’t making enough to meet his financial/material needs, and I enjoyed shring my resources with him. I liked helping him get his needs met.
Now that the shoe is on the other foot, so to say, we focus more on keeping a balance of fulfilled wants…and it’s work.
LW, if your guy started making more money than you, that wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem, and it might create others to boot. Figure out what you need, what things you can’t do for yourself, and how he fulfills those needs in your life. Then figure out if you together can meet his needs and still have something left over so that you both get some of what you want.
If those equations don’t balance out now it’s unlikely time alone will change things.
Good luck.

katie katie August 19, 2011, 7:54 pm

i really like this way of looking at it- money definitely is not the only thing that people bring to the table

avatar Jay August 19, 2011, 3:04 am

I have only one word to describe this situation: superficial.

avatar Jena August 19, 2011, 11:10 am

Given that money breaks up a TON of couples, I don’t. That said, it sucks. $40k isnt chump change.

I broke up with a boyfriend because I was pulling $30k a year, he was 2 years older than me, and was makine 7.75 an hour and only working 30hrs/wk. That had more to do with his lack of ambition, though, although we were unfairly splitting rent (I paid a lot more than he did and became resentful).

avatar sleepy August 19, 2011, 9:59 am

Wow, this is a hot debate. But the simple answer is this (speaking from my own experience with my husband, whom I love dearly, but makes less money than me) – Yes, you will be broke because of his money issues. You will be dragged into his debt. No, you won’t be able to do the things you are used to, like eating out a lot and shopping. Yes, you will get resentful at times. No, it won’t change overnight, but it could in like 10 years.

avatar Jena August 19, 2011, 11:06 am

Yikes. I’m 25 and I make $30k, I’d hate to see someone looking at me as “You’re too poor for me to love.”

Budj Budjer August 19, 2011, 11:18 am

I felt the same way reading this yesterday. I make more than the LW’s bf, but I also have a butt load of school loan debt and…my debt isn’t going away anytime soon so I would hope it is not a universal problem for people to have to budget things in life…

At the same time income is never stagnant as others have suggested so it could be better and worse in the future – that’s why I try not to let finances affect relationship decisions…pending extenuating circumstances that you would have to be masochistic to be involved in.

avatar savannah August 19, 2011, 2:21 pm

To give you a different perspective: I’m 23 and I’ve been very very fortunate to get through both my undergrad and masters degrees with no student loans. Not because I have a trust fund but because I was lucky enough to get full scholarships twice that even helped to pay a portion of my living expenses. I don’t own a single credit card either, so I have absolutely no debt. When I date and things turn serious with a guy, debt is something I think about. Not because I want to be provided for but because I know my situation is rare. I don’t make a ton at my current job, about 35k, but I do get to keep a lot of it and instead of paying off school loans or credit card debt, i’m investing and saving (small amounts). It’s by no means a deal breaker because like you said financial situations change all the time and I don’t live lavishly because I have no debt, I simply live differently than a lot of my friends and I do think its important to be aware of that going into a serious relationship.

Budj Budjer August 19, 2011, 2:28 pm

I wouldn’t say my loans are debilitating…I can’t afford trip(s) to Europe like it sounds like the LW wants to be / can be doing… they just make things tighter than I want as I’m only a few years out of college. A couple promotions at work and it won’t be an issue…I guess that’s more of the important thing to stress to the LW…if he gets himself in a promotable situation this could be a non-issue in the future…however…her boy friend doesn’t seem to have himself in that situation at the current moment.

avatar ForeverYoung August 19, 2011, 1:05 pm

Yeah but there is no reason to take it personally. You’re not going to be a right match for everyone. People make those criteria in their heads all the time. For example people will subconsciously think, “that person is too ugly to date me” and then classify it as, “we don’t have a physical connection”. I.E. I can’t get off because their fugly. Have you ever seen a super hott guy holding hands in public with a less attractive girl. It looks off. You can’t deny that.

I don’t think people need an excuse to not want to date someone. Either way their not a match. However you want to look at this situation they are probably not right for eachother. You can say, she’s selfish and high maintenance – or – he’s debt ridden and unstable, either way her needs aren’t being met, so she should move on.

avatar Jena August 19, 2011, 1:29 pm

Except he’s not unstable or “debt-ridden” — she will be hardpressed to find someone who *doesn’t* have school or credit card debt, and honestly, $40k isn’t that bad! She even points out that he “did a good thing” by quitting school and taking care of his kids — and now she wants to villainize his choices?

Dear Wendy Wendy August 19, 2011, 1:43 pm

He IS debt-ridden. He has outstanding medical bills and student loans for which his wages have been garnished. Wages are not garnished unless someone is seriously debt-ridden. On top of that, he can’t afford a car, and even with a second job, he’s making under 40K, which isn’t a lot when you have two children to support, and most of it is garnished — meaning, you don’t even see it.

Garnishment of wages is serious. It’s a court-ordered last-ditch effort to get money from someone who is very behind on paying off debts (or child support or back taxes, etc.). That people have read this letter and still say this man is financially responsible and isn’t debt-ridden boggles my mind. We aren’t talking about his character or personality or all the things of value he may have. We’re talking about his financial picture, and from all the information we’ve been given, it does not look like a good one. Does that mean he doesn’t deserve to be loved? Of course not. But he may not be the best match for a woman who values the kind of comfortable lifestyle financial stability can provide…

avatar WatersEdge August 19, 2011, 5:18 pm

Agreed!

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 10:56 pm

I actually decide it to read more on garnishment on wages, so yes he was irresponsible with money management. However, if she was dating for a long time, she was aware of the situation. Why did she date him to begin with if she saw such a problem? Again, I don’t see the problem in the letter it is clear the situation would be unhealthy for her to stay with him. She has different future goals, different perspective on what it is to have fun. I think why the commentators talk about the man’s personality is because the LW is actually discussing this as the “pro” characteristic in him that she likes.

http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/wage-garnishment-for-credit-card-debt-1282.php

avatar Kate August 19, 2011, 11:07 pm

Maybe she didn’t know the extent of his debt. That’s not something you usually mention on a first date.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 11:23 pm

She has been dating him for a while, their dates were not fancy dinners. She is thinking of moving with him to another state, so at some point she was aware. Not on the first date, but if they were in a relationship she had to notice early on.

avatar rosa26 August 19, 2011, 11:23 pm

She has been dating him for a while, their dates were not fancy dinners. She is thinking of moving with him to another state, so at some point she was aware. Not on the first date, but if they were in a relationship she had to notice early on.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 20, 2011, 5:44 pm

Actually, the responsible thing would have been to make sure there WASN’T an unwanted baby to begin with….

avatar Amber August 19, 2011, 11:26 am

Have you actually sat down and talked finances with him? That is a definite must before you move in with someone. If you didn’t talk about it and you both were earning the same amount of money and didn’t have debt you would still be in trouble if you didn’t talk finances before move in together. And the move to Atlanta is there a reason for it? Is one of you following a job? Would it make more fiscal sense to move to where one of your currently lives?

Also do you know what his plans for his debt are? Has he talked to the people who are garnishing his wages about a payment plan that maybe involves ACH instead of garnishment so that it looks better for his credit rating? How much longer will he owe on his car that was stolen? Will he be closer or farther away from his kids when you guys move?

I feel like there are so many questions left from reading your letter and the main issue I see is that you two need to talk. If you don’t talk and have a plan before you move money will end the relationship. It’s better to figure out now if you are compatible rather than after you have moved and uprooted your life. Talking about money isn’t always fun or easy but if you want things to last it’s something you have to talk about.

avatar AndreaMarie August 19, 2011, 11:30 am

Ok, I think the big issue here is BOTH of your lack of real thought and planning around your financial realities.

Let’s start with his 40K salary. Yes, that’s a decent amount of money in some places of the country but NOT in major cities. I make 65K and live in the NYC metro area. Let me tell you, between the enormously high cost of city living (from rent payments the size of 3br home mortgages to $9 sandwhiches and $15 glasses of wine) and add in student loans, utilites, and credit card payments (from when I was covering expenses when I was only making 40K), I’m still only living paycheck to paycheck. And I don’t have children to support. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the costs of living in Atlanta are pretty comparable to NYC. In the financial situation you 2 find yourself in now, why chose to start your life together in a place over your budget? Why set yourself up for even more debt?

Like someone else had mentioned, what’s to say he will be able to find work in the new city? What happens then?

On top of that, it doesn’t seem like he has been responsible in planning his finances in the past. Wage garnishment? His inability to handle his debt payments responsibly has only caused him to have bigger money problems.

avatar savannah August 19, 2011, 11:51 am

While I agree with what you are saying in general the cost of living in Atlanta is much less than in New York City on average, her boyfriend actually makes just a bit less than the average median income and hers is well over the median. All I’m saying is that they could definitely afford to live in Atlanta if he got a job with a comparable salary. The question is I think the LW is looking for more that just being able to afford where she lives.

avatar Debbie August 19, 2011, 12:43 pm

I know it sounds superficial to have this come down to money, but it’s not, and I really think Wendy’s advice is spot-on and you have to evaluate whether you’re a financial fit long-term. One big thing to consider is whether you want kids. I always wanted kids and I figured I’d be fine being a working mother, but I realized I really wanted to be home with them. Setting up our life so I could downsize my income to be a part-time work-at-home mom has been hard, but I’m so glad we could do it and that with sacrifices my husband could be in a position to be the major breadwinner. Working moms can absolutely raise great kids (I know many!), but it’s very hard to balance and I’m so happy to be home.

Now, the other option is that maybe he could be a stay-at-home dad (and I think Wendy implied this), but statistically, that rarely works out well for a marriage. Not always, but most often, both parents end up resentful.

Anyway, kids may not even be in your plan, but if they are, it’s something you have to consider in your long-term financial goals. If I had realized this when my hubby and I were first married, it would have made things so much easier for us.

avatar oldie August 19, 2011, 4:04 pm

Money is a big issue in many relationships, who earns it, is there enough to happily get by, who gets to decide how to spend it. It is important for financial styles to match and for the couple to discuss and agree a basic financial strategy and plan. This is especially true when one partner is saddled with debt and earns significantly less. His debts will become LW’s debts and can limit their life together.

I’m not going to go with the ‘love conquers all’ approach, especially when this love is in a one-and-a-half year old LDR, and money issues have already arisen but not been deeply discussed. LW seems too much in doubt for them to move to Atlanta together.

I won’t say MOA, but definitely need to understand each other’s approach to money and what sort of life they expect together, before undertaking as drastic a change as moving to a new city together. That isn’t something smart people in LDRs do, when they already hav serious doubts.

avatar caffeinatrix August 19, 2011, 8:09 pm

Hoo boy this is a hot debate…
I’d say this is probably not going to work out. It might seem superficial to be concerned about money, but it’s really not. It broke up my parent’s marriage and my sister’s most recent relationship when they realized their partners couldn’t be trusted to handle money responsibly. Often it’s an indicator of other problems, especially when one of them is dismissive of the other’s concerns.
That said, I’ve been on the other end of it too. I’ve had boyfriends that ended up dumping me because we didn’t match well financially. I couldn’t afford to do a lot of the activities they wanted to do, and they’d end up resenting me when they had to cover for me. I’m currently stuck in a seriously low-paying job and make about $22K. I have no debt and no big financial obligations, but I barely make enough to cover my living expenses and can’t even save much. I’ve been job hunting for months, but I’ve had only two interviews, and it’s hard just staying motivated. Point is… the LW is right to be concerned, and Wendy’s advice is right on. If the LW’s boyfriend doesn’t have a clear path to getting out of debt and an ambition to get on a better-paying career track, she probably needs to move on.

avatar Christy August 20, 2011, 12:03 am

Anger! Money! Politics! Social Issues! Feminism!

This is the most intense DW thread that I can ever recall seeing.

FWIW, I think the LW is smart for recognizing that this may be a deal-breaker for her.

fast eddie fast eddie August 20, 2011, 9:36 am

1. It’s socially acceptable for a woman to be financially dependent on her partner but not the other way around yet that’s not uncommon. The romantic idea that there are more important things then money is fine if both parties are OK with the arrangement. Obviously the LW isn’t but if there’s enough to do and have all the things she wants, what’s the problem.

2. For the first 5 years my wife and I were together I only had a job about half the time in a bad economy, deep in debt and broke. She paid for literally everything because all my earning went to pay my bills. Time passed, we kept at it and after 23 years together we are very comfortably retired. My financial efforts resulted in our equality on the balance sheet. We just got her a $50K luxury hybrid SUV for the road trips that we now have time to do.

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