It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Love vs. Money” who wrote in last week about her concern about moving in with her boyfriend who makes significantly less than she does and has quite a bit more debt. She worries that with him, she will not be able to continue living the lifestyle she’s worked hard for and grown accustomed to. After the jump, she explains more about her situation.
Ok, first, thank you ALL for your comments… I really appreciate them. I really needed to hear from unbiased people who didn’t know me. I’ve read them all and have a couple of answers/points of clarification.
First, of course my boyfriend and I have talked about finances. We talk about it all the time; it’s to the point that we are tired of talking about it. He takes the approach that “things will get better — they have too, hard work always pays off.” And I am like “show me the plan.” Someone in the comments hit it on the nail. The difference in us is planning. I don’t think he isn’t going to get better financially. I just can’t take someone’s word; I know he is trying but I need to see the plan. Different planning styles is the key difference between us and I believe the reason for our different financial situation.
The boyfriend is just starting to face his debt reality and starting to get a handle on things. He got a financial adviser on his own and is beginning to look at the full picture. But the reality is, that it’s a little late and the issues have escalated. I think a poster mentioned “money maturity” and that hit it on the nail. His ex-wife handled all the money and he just gave her the check so he didn’t know how to do stuff like that. He is the sole provider so in terms of the hierarchy of bills, providing food, electricity for his family was a lot higher than student loans. (So that’s how the student loan garnishment came into play).
In terms of moving to Atlanta. We both would be transferring jobs through our same company. I would be doing a lateral transfer with the same pay and position. He WOULD be moving with a job, with the same contractor company. There actually may be opportunity for him to be in a Sous Chef training position. He thinks it will be better move for his career and will open him up to a new market.
Someone mentioned a lifestyle conflict and that is completely is right! It not just income I am placing value on — it’s more about lifestyle. We have the typical blue collar vs. white collar lifestyle conflicts. Balancing expectations are what I need to do; I’m just not there yet. I still expect the fancy dinners and vacations. I don’t think my mind has caught up with the fact that he just can’t afford it. But I respect or try to be compassionate about his situation because I have dated the “high dollar assholes” and I surely don’t want that.
He does give me intangible things that I couldn’t buy and that no other man has ever given me: companionship, unconditional love, support, laughter, and I can absolutely undoubtedly be myself around him. So you see why this is sooo hard for me.
Well, good luck with your decision! Keep us posted.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
ForeverYoung August 26, 2011, 12:07 pm
Thanks for the clarifications but you should update us again when you make the decision as to whether you decide to live together or not. I still stand by my advice that financial incompatibility is a big deal.
Oh and I would be really annoyed if my boyfriend had the attitude that everything will be okay, hard work pays off. Um actually, no it doesn’t always pay off. I know many very hard working blue collar people who struggle to support a family their whole career. Things never just happen – you make them happen. In an economy like this I think it’s a little naive to just assume everything will work itself out. Call me a cynic.
Budjer August 26, 2011, 12:08 pm
Yes agreed…preferably a few months from now so we can hear about your bf’s job propsects and hopefully better money situation if you did move.
mf August 29, 2011, 12:40 pm
Yeah, I totally agree. This guy sounds like a good boyfriend and father, but he really does seem naive when it comes to money.
I don’t think she should necessarily MOA, but it would be a good idea for her to hold off on a long-term, binding commitment (living together, marriage, kids, etc.) with him until he really gets a handle on his finances. If he doesn’t have a plan now, he may never have a plan. Can you deal with spending the rest of your life with that kind of person? If his hard work doesn’t pay off, are you willing to pick up the financial slack, so to speak, with harboring any resentment against him?
Further down, Elizabeth recommended that he move to Atlanta on his own and she should wait it out for six months. I think that’s a great idea. This would give her time to see what sort of career he can have there and if/how he puts some plan into action to pay down his debts.
Skyblossom August 26, 2011, 12:22 pm
My cousin was in the same situation. Her boyfriend was a truck driver and she had a college education and higher income. She had to really consider whether she wanted to be married to a truck driver but he was the best guy she had ever dated. He had the family values she wanted, he treated much better than other men did and he didn’t know she would be making so much money when he asked her out. (Her mom owned a convenience store and she was working there as a clerk when he met her and asked her out so had no idea she came from a more affluent family.) She did marry him and he still drives a truck and she has provided them with a million dollar home and he is the rock on which their family rests. He is an excellent husband and father and values family and fidelity highly. He would be just as happy living in a trailer house with her, it’s her that he values. She provides them with the expensive home and vacations and pays for the kids activities. They bring different things to the marriage and it works for them. It did take her a long time to decide it would be okay to marry a truck driver and to know that her friends would look down on it. Her parents looked at the quality of his character and didn’t mind that he drove a truck. I don’t think he came into the marriage with debt which is another matter. Whether this situation would work for you only you can decide.
Riefer August 26, 2011, 12:40 pm
There are two differences between your cousin’s situation and the LW’s. First, as you mentioned, her hubby didn’t come into it with debt. Second, your cousin seems to make a LOT of money. If she can buy a million-dollar home on her own, then yes, obviously she can afford all the vacations and stuff. What if LW can’t afford a home on her own? Or vacations for two? Then she has to give that up for him. It’s a lot harder of a decision when you know you have to take a step down in lifestyle, which it doesn’t sound like was the case for your cousin.
Skyblossom August 26, 2011, 2:19 pm
But it is a step down from the home she would have had if married someone with an equal or greater income. Maybe they would have a 2 million dollar home or a second home or a boat and they have none of that. She also belonged to a social circle that didn’t have much respect for truck drivers so faced a lot of criticism but she is happy with her decision and they’ve been married for 15 years now.
beans629 August 26, 2011, 2:32 pm
I’m just going to say…awww. That absolutely rocks, I LOVE hearing stories like that.
SherBear August 26, 2011, 12:41 pm
I am from a very upper middle class/white collar family where the least educated people have Bachelor degrees. I once attempted to date a guy who was the first in his family to go to college and have a white collar job in finance. During our first time hanging out one on one he was talking about how he loves boating to which I responded “me too! We have a couple motorboats and a new pantoon boat at my family’s estate.” I will never forget the look on his face when he was like “an estate??”…apparently he had never heard anyone use that word before, I quickly switched to saying cottages but the damage was already done – it was glaringly obvious that we were from different worlds. Needless to say we didn’t work out, I think a lot of it was due to his own insecurities about not being up to my family’s standards (even though he had an fantastic job and was extremely financially savy). It’s too bad because I would have wanted to give us more of a chance. But I can totally understand how it’s a challenge to live in a white collared world with a blue collar guy…I’d say just trust your gut, if you can’t handle a guy without a set plan then it’s time to part ways.
parrt August 26, 2011, 8:30 pm
good for the guy.
AnitaBath August 27, 2011, 12:27 pm
On the flip side, this applies to all relationships as well. My roommate freshman year was extremely wealthy. Like she lived in a VERY affluent neighborhood in New York, her dad was the first vice president of a large investment banking company, she had a small yacht, etc. But that was all she knew, and so she just assumed that everyone was a millionaire. She honestly thought that she was only middle class, perhaps upper-middle class.
I’m from a middle class (perhaps upper middle class) family from the Midwest. I remember when I brought her home for a weekend with me, and she just kind of looked shocked at where I lived. Right in the middle of a nice, historic town, in a well-kept, 3,000 sq ft home built in 1899. I could almost just see the shock (and some disgust) on her face the entire time she was there. I think that was when she realized that not everyone was as rich as her, and she realized what middle class actually is. She seemed shocked that I just didn’t have the money to take a week-long trip to Italy with her and her family.
So then the next year we lived together, and she started treating me like a servant. She didn’t see anything wrong with never lifting a finger, she’d take anything of mine that she wanted, and generally just treated me like crap. She found another millionaire friend from California that she spent most of her time with.
So, you’re right, the difference is usually glaringly obvious. But I can’t help but wonder which side is more closed-minded.
JK August 27, 2011, 12:33 pm
I would’ve dumped her as soon as I saw the “disgusted” look on her face at my home!
When I was younger (early teen) I had a really good friend that was from a millionaire family, I was middle middle class (haha). Her family and my friend herself were among the sweetest, most generous people ever, you would never have guessed they had so much money.
2_J August 26, 2011, 12:49 pm
Side note, sorry she said it twice and it irked me , the correct phrase is “hit the nail on the head” 🙂
heidikins August 26, 2011, 12:15 pm
Fancy dinners and vacations vs. companionship, unconditional love, support, laughter, and being able to be yourself all the time.
Honestly, it doesn’t look like that tough of a choice. I realize there are other issues at play, but ultimately would you trade two weeks in Paris or wherever for the unconditional love and support from an honest, hardworking man?
ForeverYoung August 26, 2011, 12:17 pm
Yeah but there are other fish in the sea. Why can’t she wait until she finds someone who is -her- perfect match?
heidikins August 26, 2011, 5:48 pm
Sure, if he’s not it, MOA and stop wasting his and her time.
savannah August 26, 2011, 12:20 pm
Don’t you think it’s better that she knows these are issues for her, however superficial you judge then to be, rather than trying to suppress what she values in life and in a partner only to be miserable for a while before an inevitable and messy breakup/divorce?
Elizabeth August 26, 2011, 12:22 pm
If that were all there was to it, then it would be a much simpler decision. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the LW is also factoring in his general money immaturity to factor. It’s not just that he’s the ‘poorer’ guy that will make her happy: it’s he’s the ‘poorer guy’ who will make her happy until the bill collectors call and try to garnish HER wages for his mistakes (if they married) and ruins her credit score because ‘all my hard work will pay off’ in the end doesn’t pay the bills.
If Atlanta does give him better opportunities (and perhaps has cheaper living expenses?), then I think he should go alone for the first six months. Maybe that’s not ideal to be long distance for a short period of time, but at least then you could see how he handles things on his own without your help.
SpaceySteph August 26, 2011, 2:17 pm
You make a good point. In college I dated a rich kid who could afford fancy dinners and vacations because his daddy was rich and footing the bill. But it would always bother me that he had no concept of working for money, saving, budgeting, etc. Without his dad’s money he would be in just as big a hole as the LW’s boyfriend- debt, no plan, no concept. I worried what would happen when he graduated and suddenly his dad wasn’t paying for everything. Would he make his credit card payments on time (having never had to pay a bill)? Would he be able to afford his credit card payments? Things like that.
We broke up for other reasons, before I ever got to find out. I was from an upper middle class family but even though I didn’t necessarily NEED to because my parents could help out, I got jobs to contribute to my costs in college and had my own rent and credit cards in my own name which I paid every month (after sophomore year I met my costs without help from my parents). Despite us both having our parents money to help us out, we had very different feelings about money which were a bigger deal than if one of us had been poor.
Elizabeth August 26, 2011, 2:50 pm
Exactly. I’m actually working on rehabbing my brother. He’s two years younger than I am and was at a cross roads last year and decided to come to Chicago to make a go of it. He got a job in the union at my company, and has been a good worker. However, since he was bringing in a steady paycheck and had no real expenses (lived with me), he just spent and spent and spent. Let his student loans go to default because he didn’t want to look at them etc. For right now, we’ve got him back on track, and he has me hold his debit card and give him an allowance each week. Slowly, we’ll start incorporating more of the decisions on him so he can be a functioning adult. It’s tough work. Some people just don’t ‘get it’ when it comes to money. Maybe I’m not doing everything right, but at the very least, we have good discussions so I *hope* he’s starting to understand that money requires planning. Hopefully he’s fully rehabbed before he starts seriously dating someone!
savannah August 26, 2011, 3:44 pm
This is going to sound harsh but i’m having a hard time comprehending this situation you’ve laid out with your brother without wondering about whats really going on here. I’m not sure if you think you’re responsible for his money sense (perhaps because you see yourself as an enabler because he lived with you?) and thats why you’ve taken on this intense motherly role, or maybe he’s just very very young although he does have student loans so perhaps not. You say yourself he’s not a functioning adult but it seems that there is more to it than he simply does not “get it” for you to be so involved in his day to day finances. (which I guess it good if the alternative is him out on the street, but unless there is more going on here, i’m not sure you’re stuck with just those two options)
Elizabeth August 26, 2011, 4:01 pm
I’m not entirely sure what you’re implying by ‘what’s really going on.’ If you have other suggestions please please let me know. His coping mechanism is to avoid, and that’s really frustrating.
My brother is #2 of 5. My mother admittedly coddled him and did things for him that he should have done himself when he was growing up. He had full ride basketball scholarships to D1 schools but blew it with the grades. He therefore has a smallish (under 10k) amount of loans and only halfway to a degree. About a year+ ago, he and GF of 4 years broke up, had to move back home with my strict/uber religious parents. Completely avoids all bills. Defaults student loan. Had to settle some credit card bills. Parental situation almost to a boiling point.
He looks for work, my company had an opening. He applies and gets it. Comes and lives with my boyfriend and me rent-free to start over. I don’t bother him about his finances for 9 months to see what he does. Simply ran a credit check for him when he got here so he would be aware of what he had to tackle. He did nothing. I finally have enough of it because I won’t let him live here for free if he doesn’t take full advantage. We agree that I will take over his money for now. I lay out the plan. I write it down. I set him up on mint.com. He starts saying things to me like “you know, I could put more in my savings account if i didn’t go to dunkin every single day,” or “i should try to find cheaper dates to take my new gf on.” He calls the loan company and gets on a rehab program with them. We set him up with easy pay. Get him a credit card with a $300 limit to rebuild his credit score.
I mean, it’s not perfect. The next step is to start charging him a small amount for rent. Also, he needs to save up for a car, so that can be a good goal for him to think about every time he spends his money.
savannah August 26, 2011, 4:36 pm
Sounds like you are doing all you can and being really supportive. I guess I was just seeing my own brother in a lot of what you were describing, all of the avoidance and inability to understand consequences. He’s somewhere in the middle of the autistic spectrum, although my parents would never admit it so they just overcompensated and his relationship with my older sister is similar to what you describe. She and her family took him in to ‘help’ him get on his feet but really just ended up stunting his development and growth, especially when it came to money matters, and ended up hurting her own finances greatly supporting him. She’s become really frustrated but has refused to show him any tough love because in her words he was ‘special’, thought I know he’s capable of much more than she thinks.
Anyway, I’m sure it’s a different experience for you, I was just taken aback I guess by how much you are doing for him in cultivating his money sense. On one hand I think it’s really good to be that supportive and all of the things you’ve mentioned seem to be really good steps. And on the other I always debate with my sister about the merits of just letting go and seeing what people are really capable of, especially if they’ve never had to do it before. Who knows what they could really accomplish if they really had to? (which is really the everyday reality for you and me)
Elizabeth August 26, 2011, 5:36 pm
Very true. The last thing I want to do is be another enabled for him. I definitely don’t extend myself financially to him other than give him a free room since we own. I have my own student loans to pay off. I feel like we need to have another planning session soon to talk things over and maybe even make him responsible for a utility bill. This has only gone on for about two months so we’re still working on details. The twenties can go by so quickly. I don’t want him to be thirty And have no savings, equity or plan. It’s a lot harder to get back on track then. Sorry to hear about your own brother. It does sound very similar
MsMisery August 26, 2011, 1:54 pm
Why not “Fancy dinners and vacations AND companionship, unconditional love, support, laughter, and being able to be yourself all the time”? Yes, relationships are work, but no one should have to sacrifice huge chunks of themselves.
ele4phant August 26, 2011, 3:29 pm
It would be nice if things were so easy, but many marriages are strained, or are broken-up, over financial issues. Life goes a whole lot easier when a couple shares similar financial philosophies.
heidikins August 26, 2011, 6:01 pm
They’ve been together for a year and a half though, not 6 months. And (presumably) she has always known enough about his financial situation (i.e. his chosen profession) to at least be able to guess where that would lead in a financial partnership. If that isn’t what she wants, and it clearly isn’t, then she needs to accept that and move on to someone better suited to her.
And again, yes, I realize there are other factors and I am not her, or am I emotionally invested, and I have my own opinions and biases, as do we all. But if he’s not gonna cut it, MOA.
ele4phant August 26, 2011, 6:21 pm
I don’t know, year and a half sounds about right to me to be seriously evaluating if you truly compatible enough with someone to make it for the long haul.
MsBorgia August 26, 2011, 1:34 pm
This seems more like a clarification than an update…
AndreaMarie August 26, 2011, 1:36 pm
Thanks for the update. We all eventually find ourselves in a tough spot financially. Many times its may be caused by things out of our control, especially with the state of the current economy. So here’s to hoping that the hard work does pay off and he’s able catch up to get on his feet.
The only thing is you hope that his inability to put together a solid plan and goals, and his laise faire view attitude towards his finances in the past, don’t effect other areas of his life beyond just money.
Good luck and keep us updated on whether or not you guys make the move.
Skyblossom August 26, 2011, 2:21 pm
I think that waiting until there is a plan and some solid, continuous payments on the debt is a good idea. Telling him that he has to get his financial act together, even if he never makes a huge sum, is okay and probably helpful to him over the long term.
JK August 26, 2011, 1:38 pm
Is it just me or does someone else have Billy Joels’ “Uptown Girl” stuck on their mind??? 🙂
misslisa August 26, 2011, 2:38 pm
Money maturity is a real issue. I once dated a guy who made over $90K per year, yet was always broke & could only afford to live in a tiny apt. w/a roomate. He had over $30K in credit card debt and around 8K in other loans. Plus child support. He blew hundreds every week on boozing, video games, gadgets, throwing parties, and crap, yet paid the minimum on his debt every month. His financial plan was this: “In 15 years when I’m 65, I’ll get my pension plus social security, and then I’ll get ahead cause I’ll keep working.” Despite his keen intellect, fun & outgoing personality, kindness, and other great traits, I just couldn’t get past his immaturity.
* Moving in together in a new city magnifies many issues. I once had a BF move from out of state to join me in Texas, and despite the transfer and promotion he got coming there, he just couldn’t make all his bills, so I had to help. He had not been honest
misslisa August 26, 2011, 2:39 pm
Oops, sorry, I had meant to delete that last bullet altogether.
AndreaMarie August 26, 2011, 2:58 pm
Oh so true. “Financial maturity” is so important. You can be making $50K and living comfortably, including going out to dinner and taking a vaca. But I know someone making over $150K who is dead ass broke. Pays his rent in certified checks because he has bounced them so many times.
ReginaRey August 26, 2011, 1:54 pm
I’m still very wary after reading this clarification. Different planning styles are VERY difficult to mesh because they reflect your personality. The boyfriend seems very “shrug it off, whatever,” about planning, and you seem to want an organized, thought-out approach. I’ve faced this before in relationships, and it is extremely difficult to change because it’s a mindset; a big part of what makes that person who they are.
People need to be able to self-motivate. You shouldn’t have to constantly ask, “What’s your plan? What’s your plan!?!? WHAT’S YOUR PLAN?!?!?!?!” You aren’t his cheerleader, his coach, or his financial advisor. He needs to be motivated in his own right to get his life together and to aspire to greater things. It seems like he’s been very slow to do that himself, and you are FAR from the “end” of this.
Honestly, this seems far bigger than money. This seems to be a big incompatibility between personalities. The type-A, organized planner and the type-B, disorganized and a bit scattered person. You need to think long and hard about whether or not you want to face these issues forever. Because even if it isn’t finances, it will be other things – inability to make social plans, allowing you to do the parenting and being the “bad” guy to future children, pushing off household responsibilities on you. Don’t think that once his finances are in order, he’s magically going to turn into someone who enjoys planning and who is motivated in all that they do. Who he is is who he is, and that will be hard to change (and shouldn’t change for you, necessarily).
Skyblossom August 26, 2011, 2:23 pm
I think you’re right. This really isn’t so much about differences in income as it is about basic personality differences and attitudes about handling money.
ReginaRey August 26, 2011, 2:34 pm
Yeah, and it’s hard for me to picture two people being compatible in the long run when they have fundamental differences in personality and attitude. It’s very difficult to have a successful marriage with someone who has very different notions of how to make a plan, how to handle finances, what motivates them, what goals to aspire to. I feel that the LW and her boyfriend are quite different on all of these points, and there just isn’t enough in common. And it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t love or care for each other, but it means that they will ALWAYS have something to argue about, something they differ upon, something to add stress to their relationship. It’s difficult to make a marriage out of that, I think.
Skyblossom August 26, 2011, 3:27 pm
and love doesn’t conquer all. It’s one of those situations where you take your time and see if it works before you go any further. Maybe he’s maturing and getting his act together or maybe he gets a financial advisor and is back to his old ways in a week or two. I’ve seen both and I think it’s fair to say he needs to prove himself in this respect before it goes any further. He has lots of great qualities but this is a big problem. The LW is wise to be cautious and ask questions about this.
Kelbells August 26, 2011, 3:36 pm
I live in Atlanta, and have the majority of my life. The restuarant industry here is one of the best in the country. It has tons of restaurants; from the small, singular restaurant all the way up to the big chains. Many people come here to start restaurants. I say this so you know that he should have no problem finding a job and working up in the industry. I have the “white collar” job now, but I worked in restaurants all through college and after and I was able to make really good money.
Anna August 26, 2011, 4:09 pm
At the end of the day, no matter how many fancy dinners you go to, it is priceless to have a good, real man at home who loves you. And I actually like his attitude of “It will get better. Hard work pays off.” At least he has ambition and is thinking positively. I think the LW is being too hard on him. If a requirement/expectation of being in a relationship with you is being able to afford expensive gifts, you clearly don’t have your priorities straight.
I think of it this way: who would you want to spend Armageddon with? Once you take away the shiny cars and fancy dinners, who has the character to be the man you need at your side? Probably the one who hasn’t had such a cushy luxurious life. Just sayin’…
ForeverYoung August 26, 2011, 4:29 pm
I think you might have watched a few too many disney movies in your life. Who would you want to spend armageddon with? Well I would love to live my life waiting for armageddon to happen, but in the mean time I have bills to pay. I have life to live. Unfortunately love doesn’t conquer all. If love was all you needed to make a marriage work there would be a 0% divorce rate, because i’m assuming everyone that gets married loves their significant other at the time of the wedding. Real life kicks in and if she is a planner and wants to see a concrete plan of how he is going to get his financial situation under control, and he wants to “hope for the best” it seems like they have incompatible financial managment philosophies.
Nothing personal to you, I just think that it is extremely irresponsible for anyone to go into anything hoping it just magically works out without a plan.
heidikins August 26, 2011, 5:55 pm
They’ve been together for 18 months. If this isn’t what LW wants it’s time for her to accept that in order for her to be happy in a relationship she needs someone with more money/financial stability. She needs to move on, and let him find someone who is better suited to him as well.
VioletLover August 26, 2011, 6:39 pm
If armageddon happens, I want to be with the person who knows how to handle situations by thinking them through and who is capable of planning. Not the person who muddles along, hoping for the best, thinking hardwork will take care of everything. Just sayin’.
parrt August 26, 2011, 8:27 pm
“typical blue collar vs. white collar lifestyle conflicts……I still expect the fancy dinners and vacations. I don’t think my mind has caught up with the fact that he just can’t afford it. But I respect or try to be compassionate about his situation because I have dated the “high dollar assholes” and I surely don’t want that.”
You think you are “white collar” ? Laugh out loud.
somehow this deluded federal government worker still thinks that she has a real job and works “hard”. unless you are a cancer scientist, federal government workers are basically shunned like lepers in the private sector.
I don’t know what department you work for, but … good luck with your “career” if you were to ever lose your tax payer funded “job” LW.
rsBella August 28, 2011, 6:02 pm
I get it…when I was finishing high school, I met my first boyfriend – a super sweet, kind, mature young man with zero ambition or money maturity. Every few months he’d have his phone cut off for not paying his bill and couldn’t afford a car and was completely incapable of saving a dime. But I was young and in love, and stayed with him two years, holding desperately onto his good traits, while I studied abroad, took courses, and learned about the world. Eventually it fell apart, because after tons of personal growth and all of my experiences in college I realized he was in the same spot as when we met. It broke my heart, and ten years later I still think of him from time to time. But I swear, there’s so much to compatibility when you’re going to spend 50 years with someone, and love and kindness aren’t always enough of a glue to keep two people together.