Published in: Banks | Nov. 13, 2019

Why You Should Never Depend on Your Partner for Financial Support

By:  Dana George

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Depending on your partner for financial support can lead to a host of problems. Here are a few and what to do about them. 

Fans of romantic comedies will recognize the story arc: Two people from different socioeconomic classes meet, sparks fly, and eventually they end up together. Perhaps he sells books and she's a movie star, or he's a business mogul and she's a cleaning lady. Whatever the setup, there's always a happily ever after.

Funny, we don't assume the cleaning lady marries the business mogul, earns her MBA, and starts a business of her own. We assume that her new rich partner will change her life by taking care of her.

A couple sitting on a couch ripping apart a piece of paper with a big black dollar sign printed on it.

Image source: Getty Images

It's a dangerous premise. Male or female, married or in a committed relationship, counting on your partner for financial security is the very definition of risky business.

All your eggs in one basket

Being financially dependent means that if one partner loses his or her job, becomes ill, or is otherwise unable to work, the entire house of financial cards falls. There is security in having another income to carry your family through the tough times.

Whether you have a one- or two-income partnership, there are several ways you can plan for the unexpected and make sure that each partner feels financially empowered. Consider taking some of the following steps for a balanced financial relationship: 

  • Manage the money. Financial power can be derived in two ways: earning money and managing money. Managing the budget is a good way to balance the power dynamic. If your significant other earns more than you, how about making sure you're the one paying the bills and planning for future financial needs? If you don't know much about finances, read up on the subject, watch videos, and/or enroll in a class at your local community college. It's all about finding parity in your relationship.
  • Put funds away in your name. There is something psychologically powerful about having money that belongs only to you, even if it's not much. Open a savings account in your name and slip a little money in whenever you have extra on hand.
  • Make plans to cope with one income. If you work but earn less than your partner, assume that one of you will be without income at some point. If you lose your job, your partner will need to pick up the slack. If your partner's job disappears, have a plan in place to pay the bills, even if it means working more hours or taking on a second job until a new job is found.
  • Talk about money. Hopefully, your relationship with your partner is healthy enough to allow you to discuss finances. This would be an excellent time to see whether you could take over some of the budget management. If you don't have that kind of relationship, check out some of our tips on talking about money matters.

Handcuffed by finances

Making time for honest discussions and planning your shared financial future can go a long way toward giving you and your partner the financial security you need. But there are times when financial dependence keeps people in unhappy -- and even damaging -- relationships.

Money should not be the deciding factor when someone wants to leave an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship. There are millions of Americans who stay in relationships because of financial insecurity, as well as primary breadwinners who don't feel they can afford to leave. If the calculations don't work out, the unhappy couple may limp on.

The power of financial literacy

But there is strength in being part of a financially literate couple. That means that both of you are familiar with the key concepts of personal finance and that you work together toward common financial goals. Here are some of the key financial concepts to work out together:

  • Budgeting
  • Insurance
  • Investing
  • Saving for retirement
  • Funding college for your children
  • Tax planning

You may not always agree on the details of your finances, but knowing that you're on the same team can help you find a healthy compromise. 

Power of independence

There are few things in life more important than independence -- the knowledge that you can take care of yourself. Remember when you were a kid and dreamt of what you would one day do with your life? Whether those early dreams worked out or not, it's never too late to come up with a new one. 

Creating a reality in which you are financially independent allows you to take care of yourself while planning for the future. Knowing that you can take care of yourself offers a healthy dose of pride and can ultimately make you a better partner. 

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