The Moneyist: I want to marry my boyfriend, but he has $25,000 in credit-card debt and leads a financially reckless lifestyle

Dear Moneyist,

I really love my boyfriend and I think that I’d like to marry him, but at this point in our relationship, we aren’t exactly “financially compatible.”

I am teacher with a credit score of 790, no debt, and a small, but decent amount of savings. I’m planning on buying my first home next year. I don’t make a ton of money, so I am pretty frugal and I really try to just spend it on the things I really need and want, and do without the rest.

My boyfriend is an engineer making more than twice what I make, but he has no savings and lives paycheck to paycheck. He has $25,000 in credit-card debt, a truck payment, and child-support payments. As far as I know, he isn’t able to pay down his debt at all.

His divorce was finalized this year, so some of this financial reality is new for him, and I think it has been difficult for him to come to grips with it.

Also see: I’m 81 and signed over my life savings to my son to manage my finances, but now he’s keeping all my money

I’ve asked him to get some free financial counseling, but he says he knows where his money goes so he doesn’t need it. I told him point-blank he should get rid of his truck, and get a car cheap to own and maintain like I have, plus save on payments, gas, and insurance, but he says he loves the truck too much and he owes more than the truck is worth.

I’ve encouraged him to go back to court and try to get some of his divorce renegotiated, because he claims his ex-wife’s income was grossly understated in her divorce papers, but he says he can’t prove it so there is no point.

On the one hand, there are all his excuses.

On the other hand, I honestly haven’t had the financial issues that he has to deal with, so I don’t even really know where he should start. I want him to get his financial house in order so that we can get more serious, but I don’t know exactly what that would look like.

I want to stop offering passive financial advice, and want him to stop offering passive excuses. I want us both to do stuff that works and actually become financially compatible. Any ideas?

Stuck in rut with a boyfriend in debt

Dear Stuck,

He can start by making a plan to pay down his debt.

You are one of the few people who have written at the right time. Maybe 90% of the letters to the Moneyist arrive after the damage has been done: The inheritance has been stolen, the divorce papers are signed, the deeds of the house have been changed, siblings have already taken control of bank accounts, life insurance policies have been neglected and, yes, people get married and realize their partner is unwilling to change.

He is very unlikely to change if you marry. He may even be less likely to change. He will know that there will always be someone there to pick up the pieces. You may even end up paying more than your share of the bills. His poor credit score will make a joint mortgage and most other loans more expensive. In most situations, his financial troubles will in all probability become yours. Debt collectors could take a car or furniture that belongs to both of you.

I have a suggestion: Bring the water to the horse, but don’t make him drink. Make an appointment with a financial planner and ask that person to come to your home to go through your financial affairs. Tell him it’s important to you and he doesn’t have to participate, but you would like to share some details from his finances (anonymously, if he wishes) and all he has to do is listen and, if he doesn’t listen, you can present him with the findings after the fact.

Don’t miss: My husband grew up dirt poor and doesn’t believe in insurance or banks, yet he racked up $7,000 on my credit card

And if he agree to even that? I’m not sure there’s much more you can do. He is effectively telling you that he is not prepared to lay the foundations for marriage. He is, on the other hand, telling you that he is committed to his own lifestyle, and nothing or nobody will change that, not even you. Take him or leave him. If you bring him face to face with the financial responsibilities you would face as a married couple, you will have done everything you can.

Many people are, of course, reluctant to marry someone with a low credit score. Some might say that it’s shallow, others would say it’s common sense. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, those three digits for a man who earns good money like your boyfriend reflect bad habits. In fact, one study has suggested that debt of $11,525 makes someone “undateable” and 77% of people find debt unattractive. They say credit-card debt is the No. 1 red flag, followed by payday loans.

It’s about so much more than money. Research has shown a high credit score can help predict whether someone is trustworthy, reveal their skills at navigating a relationship and show their level of commitment. Something to remember in your case: Similar credit scores are also “highly predictive” of whether couples stay together, according to a 2015 paper by researchers at UCLA, the Brookings Institution and Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C.

If he refuses to make compromises, love is not enough.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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Published at Sat, 15 Dec 2018 01:07:08 +0000