Money isn’t everything in a relationship, your character is. Money can be anything you make it to be. Just like the colourless, transparent, odourless liquid we call water, on its own, money has no character. It assumes the character of the owner. What the money in your possession or lack thereof does, is to reveal the kind of person you are. It is incapable of making you behave a certain way as though that behaviour wasn’t in you in the first place.
Communication is key
The main thing to remember when dealing with finances is that most matters concerning money in a relationship aren’t really about money. Money reveals beliefs and attitudes about what you value most, and furthermore reveals deeper character issues about you. These are some of the reasons blending financial habits can be very challenging for any couple.
However, the truth of the matter is that couples have a tendency of making their conflict about money, and are even prepared to walk separate ways because of it. As a matter of fact, of the top 10 reasons why South Africans divorce, financial conflict makes the top five. That’s because, whether we realise it or not, conflict about money can wreak havoc in multiple areas of our lives as couples. The strangest thing of all though, is the fact that couples never quite engage deeply on how they are going to work with their finances when they are married, or in your case, “living together”. Communication about money before deciding to join your bank accounts is absolutely critical.
Check your credit records
You need to talk about your credit history as well as asking a range of practical questions that apply to both of you. Is your credit record clear? Can you prove it? What’s your view on debt? Who do you currently owe? How are you managing that debt, and how far are you from paying it off? What is your attitude on savings and investments? Do you have them? What kinds and who are your beneficiaries, if you have them? Where do you spend your monthly budget? Can you prove it? What’s your attitude on charitable giving? The property you’ll occupy when you live together, in whose name will it be? Why? How are you going to acquire it, if you’ll be getting a new one?
Who will take care of which responsibilities then? What will happen if any of you defaults? What about the property you currently have, that’s been acquired individually? After moving in together, what will be the ownership patterns of the property you’ll acquire? What should happen to that property should the relationship end, either by death or through a break-up? Is there a Will? Is there anyone with a black tax? If yes, does it have a cut-off date? How is that to be managed in the face of the joint household responsibilities? Present the payslips for how much each of you currently earns. What if one of you loses their job or becomes physically paralysed and is unable to earn a decent income? Exclusively, the issue about your out-earning him needs to be openly discussed. Men in our South African culture and society generally aren’t always ready to relinquish their traditional breadwinner status with grace.
There’s an abundance of studies that show men in marriages where the woman earns more are more likely to cheat, become substance abusers, perpetuate sexual dysfunction at home, suffer from low self-esteem and more likely to get divorced. The more traditional a man’s idea of his masculine identity, marriage and family, the more likely he’ll be uncomfortable if she out-earns him. However, even guys who are more liberal in their approach to life may get uncomfortable when confronted with the reality of being out-earned by their partners.
His ability to better deal with this, much as it’s dependent on him, will be made better by how you carry yourself and jointly manage your relationship. Get this on the table before you move in.