“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The twenties are a time for self-discovery.
Mistakes will most certainly be made, whether it’s related to your college major, career path, or lifestyle choices you might not seriously think through just yet.
When it comes to relationships, it’s easy to adopt a carefree approach if you’re a trusting soul and out for some fun in your quest to find the right person. You feel like you have time to think about what you want and that the right person will be inspired to be a better person for the sake of your relationship.
However, you’re going to get stuck in a vortex of stress and grief if you choose to settle with a financially irresponsible partner.
The cold, hard truth is that time waits for no one. Before you know it, two weeks of besotted attraction can easily turn into two years (or more) of resentment and misery due to incompatibility…and that’s time and life you’re never going to get back.
There are plenty of money mistakes to avoid in your twenties, such as taking on too much debt, living on credit cards, or spending more time on social media than on money matters.
Now let’s explore why settling with a financially irresponsible partner is a top money mistake you want to avoid when it comes to your relationships.
1. Love Doesn’t Pay the Bills
A 2018 survey from TD Bank found that 30% of married couples have an argument about money at least once per month, and that 44% of divorced couples had frequent arguments about money matters before they split.
Someone who’s responsible about money makes time to discuss money matters. They don’t hide money from you or keep debt a secret. They’re able to curb impulse buying and don’t treat your bank account as their personal ATM.
You might have the most amazing intellectual conversations with someone or physically connect with someone in a more intense way than you’ve ever experienced. These traits make no difference as to whether or not the person is financially responsible (and if you’re on this site, chances are you would appreciate a partner who you can have shared financial goals with).
Life is full of ups and downs. Handling money responsibly includes saving some money on a regular basis so that you’re able to use it when an unexpected need occurs some time in the future. All the serenades in the world aren’t going to help if you’re a mortal who needs to get bills paid.
2. Having A Kid Changes Everything
If you have or plan to have kids, your partner’s financial irresponsibility is going to impact your entire family. You might feel obliged to stay together for the sake of your kids, but if your partner has an immature approach towards finances, you’re going to be in a constant state of stress as to whether there’s enough to provide your kids with a safe and comfortable home environment to grow up in.
And if you’re the one shouldering the financial burden, a financially responsible partner wouldn’t spend your money frivolously, especially if that money is supposed to be going towards supporting the needs of your children.
Take the time to really get to know someone before you build a life and family with them, so that both of you are ready to take on the responsibilities and commitment that parenting requires.
3. Change Only Happens When People WANT to Change
A classic mistake we make when falling in love is thinking that our partner will change for us if they truly love us. If that were true, break-ups would never need to happen!
Don’t stay with someone who’s irresponsible with money just because they tell you that they’ll “change” in the future. Watch your partner’s behavior and actions. If they still do the things that stress you out, like waste money on non-essentials or make big purchases without telling you about it first, they’re not interested in accommodating your needs in the relationship. Cut your losses and make space to meet someone who has the qualities you’re looking for. You can’t force someone to be something they’re not.
4. You Need to Have Shared Goals in a Relationship
To have a strong relationship, you and your partner must have similar priorities.
You may want to save for a downpayment, build an emergency fund, start a travel fund, or put aside a percentage of your income for investing. You will not have a happy relationship with someone who prioritizes weed and cigarettes over saving for the future.
Resentment will build over time when there are no shared goals. There’s no reason for you to suffer for months or years because you and your partner don’t see eye-to-eye on the big things in life.
5. Money is Real
Someone I dated in my twenties was academically gifted, but had the notion that money was not important because “it wasn’t real.” It didn’t matter that we struggled on some very real things like figuring out where to live and how to get better jobs at the time. He was set in his belief that ideas and philosophy were the most important things in life.
That relationship didn’t last for a number of reasons. The lesson I learned was to stop viewing my relationships through rose-tinted lenses, especially when it came to finances and whether my partner and I could work towards common goals.
Money impacts your daily life, your lifestyle, and your relationships. And financial responsibility is crucial when you want to share your life with someone. It is the basis for material security which also translates to a certain level of emotional security. It brings a sense of stability to your relationship, and its absence could make you and your partner constantly stress over whether you can afford a roof over your heads by the end of the month.
Settling with the wrong person often turns out to be a very bad mistake, because of its potential to inflict repercussions on several areas of your life.
If personal finance is a big part of how you live your life, I’d recommend including “financial responsibility” as one of your relationship dealbreakers. No relationship is guaranteed to work out, but at least you’ll avoid the stress of trying to build a life with someone who has zero intention of improving their bad money habits.
About the Author:
Jess is passionate about helping others to improve their personal finance knowledge. She writes and edits content for the Optimal Living Daily podcast network, which regularly features content from Money Mini Blog via Optimal Finance Daily.