Dear Neil: I have been in a relationship with a great guy going on 10 years. I am financially set. Thanks to my late husband, we worked almost 40 years to be financially secure in our later years. The man I am dating is not financially stable and secure, although he is working, but I am still waiting for him to get it all together 10 years in. I have held onto the relationship with him because I value his love and kindness, but I have provided for things his income couldn’t, and occasionally I have lent him money.
To those in a relationship with someone who isn’t financially comfortable, I would recommend that you communicate with each other about money and have firm boundaries in place about what you are and are not willing to pay for. Love is important, but being money smart is also, especially as we get older. If we were in our 20’s, I might feel that love would be enough. Now I don’t feel that way. I am not happy in the relationship any longer, because I’ve come to the realization that money does matter. Be financially wise in who you choose to become involved with.
Disappointed in Southern California
Dear Disappointed: Although I agree with your advice about being financially wise about who you become involved with, and that money is an important component of a relationship, I also can’t help thinking about how different this would sound if it were a man writing this letter rather than a woman. I would venture that a sizable number of financially set men in their retirement years would just assume that providing for a woman less financially comfortable—or paying for extras and helping out financially—was simply part of the bargain. That was the norm when many of us were growing up.
I am not insensitive to your desire of having a man who has greater financial stability. It is certainly understandable that you may not be in a position of wholly supporting him, and I can understand your frustration in watching him struggle but never quite succeeding with getting his financial house in order. If you are in danger of draining all your resources or compromising your own nest egg, then it makes sense that you may be forced into the decision of whether or not he is wise for you. But if that is not the case, I would urge you to consider what you are receiving from this relationship, because you describe him as a great guy who is loving and kind, and those traits are highly sought after and desirable.
In the end, your choice comes down to a simple question: Everything being considered, are you better off with him or without him?