Relationships and Money

Another question came my way, last week, that I really want to answer:

How do you feel about sharing bank accounts, net worth, debt etc. with a significant other? What about if the debt was incurred before you met/started dating/moved in together/got married? Would you keep it separate?

I’m going to start this post by saying that my answer is based entirely on personal experiences/preferences and that my opinion isn’t meant to be taken as advice. Now, with that being said, I’m going to be blunt.

I would never share a bank account, co-sign for credit, or make any big purchases (e.g. a home) with someone, unless I was married to them. Never. Ever. I have lived with two boyfriends before, and kept everything separate both times, and it all worked out just fine.

Well, except for the relationships. So thank F we didn’t own anything together! My crazy ex (remember him?) once offered to buy us a house to live in, as long as I’d help him pay the mortgage. Oh, but he wouldn’t let me put my name on the mortgage. Yea right, dude! I’m not paying rent to live in your (not our) house.

Anyway, despite my lack of interest in sharing a bank account with a partner, I can honestly say that I have always been honest about my finances with my exes. Crazy guy knew I carried credit card debt, and I didn’t have any debt when I lived with the guy before him, so there was nothing to tell.

If I were to start a relationship today, I would tell new guy that I’m -$24,000 in debt. But I would also be able to tell him that I’m paying off the car I drive, the furniture I own, and my education. Sure, some of my credit card debt came from partying, but a lot of it went to purchase things I can keep for the next 5-25 years.

I would also be able to tell him that I contribute to my RRSPs monthly, pay into a pension plan at work, and plan on being debt free by April 2014. And if my debt bothered him, I’d be able to tell him that no one has paid a cent of my debt but me; if he can’t see that as a somewhat admirable quality, he won’t be the right guy for me.

On the opposite end, if I started dating a guy and he was honest about his finances, his debt wouldn’t scare me off – as long as he had a plan. But I’m not paying off any of his debt, just as I won’t let anyone help me pay off mine. My parents have offered me all kinds of deals, including smaller payments on my School Loan, no interest, etc. but I refuse. I am in debt because of my actions and I am going to pay it off and learn from it. (If you don’t believe me, crazy ex once offered me +$5,000 to get back together with him. No thanks, dude. I can take care of myself.)

If the message hasn’t been clear, here is the simplest answer to this question: My debt is my own. New guy’s debt will be his. And I probably won’t even move in with a guy again, unless there is a ring on my finger. That might sound bitter but part of becoming a more financially-sound woman is being smart with every dollar I have. I hope to attract a partner with similar spending behaviours and financial goals and not one who could eventually pull me back into my old patterns…