Dear Quentin, I’m a 48-year-old single professional mom of two school-aged kids. I have an annual salary of about $200,000 and a net worth about $1.2 million. I unexpectedly found a pandemic romance with an old flame. It started online, and we were 900 miles apart. It was long distance for about a year, and then weekend trips (when the COVID-19 spike declined). We moved in “permanently” this fall. We would not be living together yet if we had just met locally.
We’re not talking about marriage yet. My boyfriend owns his own house, and a family member is supposed to start paying him rent soon, but that will only cover his mortgage, insurance, etc. He has lived with me free for six months. I have paid for trips, household groceries, and 95% of dining out. My boyfriend has a net worth of around $150,000 — including his house and 401(k) — and he has an $80,000 annual salary. My utilities have gone up, as he works from home. He bought $2,000 worth of extra furniture with my credit card to accommodate his stuff. I fronted most of his moving expenses (he’s paid me some back). I don’t want a permanent freeloader as a boyfriend, and he does want to pay something. He does some housework and some “free labor” (yard work) for me. He is not going to break even on his own home mortgage, so it doesn’t seem fair to ask him to pay a lot. He wants to contribute. But what is fair? The Breadwinner You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.Dear Breadwinner, Oh, boy. I would have said it’s too soon to move in together, but that ship has sailed. Given that you have mentioned marriage, I would like to add my voice to — I hope — a Greek chorus to say it’s too soon to even think about getting hitched. Greek choruses usually get a bad rap for sticking their noses where they’re not wanted. In this case, however, I think it’s warranted. Slow down. You don’t really get to know someone until you have lived with them, so know that most people start as they mean to continue. He has arrived and — notwithstanding his own mortgage responsibilities (let’s generously assume what he has said is true) — stood by while you paid not only for groceries, but also for trips and dinners out. The tablecloth in your kitchen is currently woven from red flags. What do you know about this man, and why have you been in such a rush to move in? Why have so many of his financial responsibilities suddenly become yours to bear? What need does he fulfill in your life that a solvent, stable and secure man who lives in your own city could not fulfill? If you are carrying so much of the load after six months, how much will you be expected to carry after six years? He should pay exactly half of all your household grocery bills and dinners and trips, and he should pay something toward his rent/your mortgage. I’ll leave that for you to decide — given the disparity in your salaries, he might pay one-third of the mortgage or market rent. If he showed the same willingness to contribute financially to your household as he has shown to uproot his life and move 900 miles to be with you, we would not be having this conversation. But his actions thus far do not add up. Tread carefully. Go slowly. And make no further commitment until you know more about him, and are sure this is the right relationship for you. I’m sure you think he’s a great guy, and he may be a great guy for someone out there, but I can only go on what you have told me in your letter. I do know this: A great guy does not sit idly by and let his partner pick up all the bills. By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties. 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. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns. The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually. More from Quentin Fottrell: • ‘I just don’t trust my sister’: How do I gift money to my nieces without their mother having access to it?• We’re getting married and have a baby on the way. My wife has offered to pay off my $10,000 student debt and $7,500 car loan• I have three children. I quitclaimed my house to my most responsible son. Now he has blocked my calls• My brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?