Could Your Partner Become a Liability?

by Kristina on November 24, 2010 · 9 comments

As some of us may have lost our jobs, and more and more of us are learning to live on less, it is safe to say that we have all made some adjustments in our financial lives over the past few years.  Two members of my family have lost their jobs due to downsizing, and as you know my income has also dropped since 2008.

I know that my income decline has been a major adjustment for my boyfriend Nick because we have less disposable income every month. We have cut down on, or in some cases we have cut out, some of our leisurely activities.  This past year we each went on separate mini vacations with our friends, as opposed to 2 or 3 vacations together.  Our day to day expenses have not been cut down very much because most of our expenses are fixed.  We have shopped around for new home insurance, and we also shopped around for a new satellite/home phone/internet package…however our provider hasn`t changed.

Since I sold my car we are now saving approximately $800 per month.  This of course is a big financial help because it’s one less thing we have to worry about.  However, with the recent decline in my income I wouldn’t have been able to afford it anyway.  We didn’t use the car very often; we did less than 12,000 miles per year.  I only bought the car because I thought it is what a 27 year old young professional should do.

As jobs are being cut all across industries and all over the country, how can we cope if our spouse looses their job and our partner suddenly becomes a liability? I can see the financial burden that my income decline has put on my relationship with Nick, and I am not sure if my relationship with my boyfriend would survive if I completely lost my job.

Some couples split their expenses 50/50; some couples pay a percentage of the monthly bills based on their total monthly income.  In some couples (like Nick and I) expenses are split 50/50, but if there is an expense that is not shared (NFL Sunday Ticket Sports Package) the person who wants it pays for it.  Therefore, Nick’s personal expenses such as Pay per View Mixed Martial Arts sporting events and trips with his friends to Las Vegas or NYC, haven’t changed.  It is our spending as a couple that has recently changed.

All of a sudden your spouse looses their job, and your DINKs income becomes a single income, but your expenses don’t change.  If one spouse carries the entire financial burden is the other spouse considered a liability?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 E.D. November 24, 2010 at 8:39 am

My husband has been unemployed since 9/2010. Since my job is secure and I have been promoted three times in seven years, we have decided to stay in the area. This has severely limited my husband’s job search since the engineering Ph.D. jobs he is qualified for seem to be leaving the area.

We are able to live fairly comfortably on just my income, mostly because *we have no kids*, I grew up with very little, and my husband spends almost no money on his hobbies. We have no debt besides our mortgage, healthy retirement accounts, and about $40k in cash that we are sitting on besides our emergency fund (it was earmarked for home improvements and a car when his dies, but we don’t feel right spending it). All in all, his job loss has not created the absolute disaster that it does for most people.

Being the sole breadwinner has been stressful and we have had a hard time adjusting the household duties to account for the fact that he is there more (and making more of a mess). I still wouldn’t consider him a liability because he is still very actively looking for work and trying to run the household mostly on his own. If he stopped doing both of those things and started basically mooching, then I would have a problem.

2 E.D. November 24, 2010 at 8:41 am

Sorry, he’s been out of work since 9/2009.

3 Valerie November 24, 2010 at 8:55 am

My husband and I don’t try to split money based on our incomes… we are in this together, “for richer or for poorer”.

4 Wade November 24, 2010 at 10:54 am

This is from the point-of-view of someone that has returned to school because I do not have a job. I do view myself as a little bit of a liability. We have recently paid for my final semester of my MBA program, so I am causing my wife and I to spend more money without my contributing to our income level. Hopefully with my graduating next month, I can find a job and no longer be a liability.

5 Honey November 24, 2010 at 12:03 pm

We split rent according to income and everything else 50/50. My boyfriend is probably going to quit his job, hopefully after he finds something else but that is not a guarantee. Since he currently makes twice as much money as I do this would change things quite a bit for us, but I honestly think the adjustment would be harder for him than it would be for me since I don’t mind being frugal or doing chores and he is kind of (to be honest) a baby whenever it comes to any kind of sacrifice.

I figure that both partners are going to lose their jobs at least once at one point or another in the course of the relationship, and there are other ways to contribute that you do when you’re (temporarily) not bringing home the bacon.

6 James November 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Great posting. If your partner is unemployed and you are not married – dump them. If you are married, support them.

7 Mathew November 28, 2010 at 8:31 am

You are right unemployment is a very big problem. But now a days as we all know the world is facing credit crunch so it will be unfair to leave your partner just because he/she is unemployed. Unless there is some other big issues involved.

8 Bret @ Hope to Prosper November 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm

If one partner would leave the other just because they lost their job, it’s not a marriage or a relationship, it’s more like roomates with benefits.

Like Valerie said, marriage is for richer or for poorer.

9 Kristina December 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Marriage is for richer or poorer, but money can put stress on a relationship and cause tension. I imagine that it must be very stressful to be the sole provider in a relationship…I cross my fingers that Nick and I will not face that situation.

For many years I thought that I was on top of the world as a young professional in finance. I can definitely say that these past two years have knocked me off my pedestal and brought me back down to earth.

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