It’s now been two months since I made the move and I am very stressed about the financial situation I’ve placed myself in. I am watching my savings go down and my debt go up (I pay for all my personal and some household items with my credit card). Moreover, I am an attorney, a career that requires licensure in each state. Because I moved out of state, I have to take another licensure exam which is both time-consuming and expensive; the exam costs about $1,300 and will require 2-3 months of studying. Studying for the exam is a “full-time job” and I will have little time or energy to work even part-time during this process. After the exam I will have to wait months for the results. It will likely take at least seven months to get an attorney position, perhaps longer given the state of the legal market.
I am beginning to think it is unfair for me to pay all my bills from my savings indefinitely. After all, the sacrifices I am making — essentially putting my career in the slow lane by taking another licensure exam and leaving my old job, are “for the relationship.” Further, my partner makes around $90,000 a year and could afford to pay for my expenses and his.
Am I wrong to feel this way? He is already paying for so much, but I also feel it is unfair to be in a position where I am going into the red every month, especially when I am contributing to the relationship in other ways by cooking and cleaning. This is a relationship I am confident is heading towards marriage, so it seems to me that we should be thinking of our finances as “ours” and not “his and hers.”
I’m unsure how how to approach the subject given he is already paying for so much. I already feel uncomfortable being in a situation where I am financially reliant on another person, but I am more uncomfortable losing money every month. Further, while I am confident in our commitment to each other, I recognize that, if the relationship fails, I will be kind of screwed. While my boyfriend has not pressured me “to find a job” or been anything but supportive with my job hunt and career development, this concern is beginning to affect my self-confidence and I am beginning to question whether the relationship “is worth it.”
Advice on the how to navigate this matter is welcomed. — Going into Debt for this Relationship
I’m a little confused. Before you moved, weren’t you aware that you’d have to take a licensure exam in your new state of residence? Didn’t you know how much it would cost, how time-intensive the studying for it would be, and how long you’d have to wait for results? I can’t imagine a professional attorney would be surprised by any of this, so I have to wonder: Why didn’t you plan better? If you knew you’d essentially be out of work for close to a year, why do you now seem surprised that your savings are dwindling? You were only in your LDR for a year before you moved. You could have continued for another six months, kept the job you had, and continued putting money aside to have once you moved.
It just seems to me that you were unhappy where you were and were a little over-eager to escape. You didn’t like your job, you were living in an undesirable city, and your boyfriend lived far away. Fair enough. I totally appreciate that. I, myself, was once in that position (well, except for the undesirable city part; I really liked where I lived). I had a job I didn’t like and a boyfriend who lived on the other side of the country. So, you know what I did? I got a better-paying job in my city, upped my freelance side work, and saved as much as I could over the course of another year so that I would have a little safety net when I moved to NYC. And I communicated extensively with my boyfriend (now husband) about the game plan if it took longer for me to find a job than I anticipated.
It doesn’t sound like you took those steps, or, if you did, you didn’t prepare enough or you weren’t honest with yourself (and your boyfriend) about what your expenses would be and how much savings you’d need to get by for many months. So, here you are: unable to work for at least the next few months and watching your savings shrink in the meantime. Obviously, it’s (past) time to communicate with your boyfriend. Here’s what you say: “I am so appreciative for all the support you’re giving me as I get settled here. My moving here was a big step for me — for us — to make and I am so excited about our future together. But right now the present is stressing me out. I have a lot of work ahead of me to get my career going here. The licensure exam is just the first step, and for the next 2-3 months I need to focus on it like it’s my full-time job. And until that first step is over, I can’t even work a part-time or temporary position. I underestimated how much money I would need to get me through this period and, while I watch savings dwindle, I am feeling more and more overwhelmed and stressed out. I know it’s a lot to ask of a boyfriend, but, given that we are on the track to sharing the rest of our lives together, I’m hopeful you’ll consider being an even bigger financial support to me during the next few months as I study for this exam and try to secure a stable career for myself here.”
That’s how you should start the conversation, and from there you both need to discuss what your expectations are for your future. Would your boyfriend expect you to pay him back at some point (especially if you break up)? Are you willing to be a breadwinner and support him like he’s supported you if something ever happened to his job? What are your financial goals as a couple?
As I said earlier, I was in a similar position as you once. When I moved to New York in the fall of 2007, I expected to find a job pretty quickly. I’d already been flown out for interviews that went well (and only lost out on the jobs mostly because I lived in another city and couldn’t start immediately). I figured that, once I actually lived in New York, it would be a matter of weeks — a month or two tops — before I landed a good job. But I wasn’t counting on the economy crashing and extensive hiring freezes throughout my industry (media). As a result, it took nearly eight months for me to find steady employment. In that time, I did some temping, a little freelance work, and served up lattes in a coffee shop once or twice a week. I felt like you’re beginning to feel: My self-confidence was shattered and I, too, wondered whether it was all “worth it.” But I hung in there and I’m so glad I did. What amounted to a little rough patch eventually led to where I am now: happily married, a mother, doing work I enjoy, and living in an exciting city. Oh, and debt-free.
It took nearly eight hard months, but, after I secured steady employment, I was able to pay off all my credit card debt (and I’d racked up about 12 grand) while my then-boyfriend continued paying our living expenses (because we had talked extensively about our financial future together and agreed that getting debt paid off would behoove us both). A year after that we were married, and, right before we tied the knot, my now-husband paid off all my remaining student loan debt with a chunk of his savings. I was floored by that gesture and it really took me months to accept that it was something he did for “us” and not just for “me,” because when you tie your life to someone else’s — especially legally — it ISN’T just one person’s debt or one person’s savings. All of that stuff — the assets and the deficits — belong to you both. So if you think you and your boyfriend may be together forever — and I hope you would think that before picking up your life and moving for him — then discussing your financial plan together is essential. It’s something that probably should have been communicated more before you actually moved, but it’s not too late now. Just sit down and do it. Do it before the growing resentment starts to poison the promising future you believe you have together, because that won’t just hurt you; it will hurt him, too.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.