I am 22 years old and just graduated from college in May with a bachelor’s degree. I recently started my first full-time job and am making decent money. Now that I am on my own, I am excited to start slashing away at my $10,000 in student-loan debt so that I can start saving and investing my money appropriately.
I was raised in a financially “well-off” home until the 2008 financial crisis that cost my mother her job, savings and, eventually, her house. Though she always made ends meet and ensured I was taken care of, I witnessed what it was like to go from having more than enough money to living paycheck to paycheck and, ultimately, to having everything literally taken from you.
Therefore, I was able to learn firsthand how important financial responsibility truly is.
This leads me to my motive for this letter: My girlfriend.
I have been dating a wonderful girl for nearly a year now and she brings me lots of joy. She is sweet, caring and loyal. She has a year left of school and then will start her career as a kindergarten teacher. Not long after, she wants to start a family. She is everything I could ask for. I love her very much.
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However, there is just one flaw that I need help with: Her spending habits. They drive me ****ing crazy.
Being that she is still in college, she has no immediate expenses of her own. Daddy takes care of everything. She literally treats him like an ATM and knows it. She is constantly buying clothes she doesn’t need and always saving items in her e-shopping carts. If her friends invite her on a vacation, Daddy will cover it and, if not, it would be doomsday. She’s entitled.
This worries me and scares me for our future.
I have brought it up to her, but she acts like it is temporary. She says that she has no reason to save money until she is out of school and treats every dollar she earns at her summer job as disposable income. When I say anything, she acts like I’m being dramatic. Because of her habits, basically anytime she talks about buying something new, it drives me nuts.
What do I do? I love her and see a future with her, but I want to ensure a stable and successful financial future for myself and my family. How can I change her ways and make her realize she doesn’t need to participate in every sale that her favorite women’s clothing designer has to offer?
Congratulations! You have noticed some important patterns in your relationship that could come back to haunt you later. You are among those young people who have watched their parents survive the Great Recession and applied that harrowing experience to your own. While you may not exactly be scarred by it, you probably have a far more cautious approach to your finances as a result. And your choice of partner will be a big part of that.
You have clearly both had very different life experiences, so it’s probably no wonder that your girlfriend is one of those lucky folks who has the luxury not to give too much thought about tomorrow. She has her parents’ income to rely on and, likely, has some kind of sizable inheritance in her future too. That has given her a sense of freedom and, perhaps, folly. Just because she can spend like there’s no tomorrow does not make it (a) any easier to watch and (b) smart.
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Believe it or not, 1 in 3 Americans say their financial stability is dependent on inheritance. That’s according to a survey released last week by Merrill Edge, an online discount brokerage service provided by Bank of America Merrill Lynch BAC, +2.90% Some 36% of Generation X-ers, 32% of millennials and 20% of baby boomers say they’re relying on their family fortunes. It’s hard to read that without feeling something, somewhere in America has gone horribly wrong.
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But you have something in your favor. You have some mighty fine feathers in your own cap. You realize the fortunes of one’s parents don’t always last and there’s something satisfying about paying one’s own way. Tell your girlfriend how your family’s history changed your outlook and then explain how her profligate spending makes you feel. (Maybe don’t say “profligate.”) Better to say how it makes you feel rather than attributing any value judgments to her behavior.
She may inherit a lot of money and/or marry someone who will keep her in the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. You’re 22. Don’t make a down payment on this relationship just yet. Keep your eyes on the prize. For you, that could mean a modest home, a fulfilling job, living within or even below your means, and having peace of mind. Write your budget plan on a piece of paper and show it to her .Your girlfriend’s idea of happiness might be something quite different.
Whether you wear a Swatch or a Rolex, you will have your answer in good time.
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