A happy Valentine’s Day is, I hope, upon you all. (If it’s not, just do what I did all my many, many single years and look forward to a happy February 15 when you can stock up on some very delicious, very cheap chocolates indeed).
Can I ask you something, though? Who pays for the meal – and, if you’re very much in love and young enough not for it to totally knacker you for work the next morning – the film/show/gig? Why? Is it the person who usually pays for things? Where does that money come from?
I ask because most of us slide into relationships without asking too many questions about anything. And for most aspects of life, this is fine – you intuit, you do ‘just know’ when you want to share a bed, a house, a life with someone.
But – are you happy to share your money? Is your partner? In what proportion, exactly? If there are two income streams, how are you going to manage them? Will one of you pay for the groceries, the cleaner, the childcare (if and when you get that deep into things) and the other general daily expenses while your partner pays for “big” things like a new car or sofa or home repairs? Or will you split everything equally? And will that be equally meaning “50-50 on everything” or equally meaning the person who earns more pays more? Will you adjust for pay rises over the years?
If you’re already sharing a home and a life with someone, are your internal financial arrangements the result of careful and deliberate thought and plentiful discussion or are they just how things have evolved? If it’s the latter – do some sums. How fairly is it working out?
And then, on the other side of the ledger from outgoings – are you saving independently or jointly? Do you both have investments? Are one person’s a lot larger than the other? Why?
These are all unromantic questions. I can feel you shying away from them in horror as I type. But! But money is a store of value, and how you treat money in a relationship can be a very good indicator of the value you place on each other. I know innumerable couples where one person outearns their other half and doesn’t contribute equally. Either because they have the daily expenses vs capital expenditures division which can benefit one more than the other. Or one person covers the running of the home at a rate that is a notional figure plucked from the air rather than worked out via a spreadsheet. Either way, such arrangements don’t suggest a partnership of two equals.
True commitment – and true security – is financial parity. Is your beloved willing to love, honour and do their share of the washing up? Great. But do they leave you with as great a proportion of your income to enjoy, save or invest as they do of theirs? Is (again, if you’re this deep into things) your pension equal to theirs? If not, how do they feel about contributing to yours so that you can enjoy an equally comfortable/penurious (delete according to practical likelihood) old age? Basically, are you on financial paths that will see your situations diverge or converge in the future? The answer to that should tell you much.
Unromantic in the extreme, I agree. But love is different from romance. Love is deeper, love is stronger and love means sharing your finances honestly and fairly, so that it profits you both.
Lucy Mangan Journalist