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‘I feel bad that I’ll be taking most of his income’: I make twice what my boyfriend does. He pays me $300 in rent, but I want him to pay $800. Is that fair?

Dear Quentin,

My boyfriend and I have been together seven years, and in that time I bought a house. I used my own savings and spent about $10,000 on renovations. My house is a three-bedroom family home, and the tenants cover most of my mortgage. I still have other bills, two cars, insurance, utilities, cellphones, etc.

I have both cars in my name; my boyfriend is working to pay one off. He pays the $300 car note and insurance, and gives me $300 toward “rent.”

I feel like he should be paying me more, but he feels like he’s helping out enough and shouldn’t have to pay more because the tenants cover the mortgage. I tried to explain that I have more costs as a homeowner than just a mortgage, but he doesn’t seem to understand.

“‘He is terrible at saving money and constantly between jobs.’”

We keep having the same argument that he’s “saving up to buy a house.” However, he is terrible at saving money and constantly between jobs (that’s his own problem). Although he’s not good with money and has a hard time staying at one job, he’s always paid his half even though it’s not much.

I think $800 a month is a good deal to have all his bills paid besides the car and insurance; he disagrees and wants to continue to only pay $300. I do make at least twice what my boyfriend makes, so it’s not like I need the money. I just think it’s fair that he pays his way.

I feel bad that I’ll be taking most of his income, but feel like I can invest it better than him. What do you think is fair?

Hard-Working Girlfriend

Dear Hard Working,

We could go back and forth about what would happen if you were married, or if the gender roles were reversed, but the bottom line is you are entitled to ask your boyfriend to pay a fair market rent, or a rent that is more than $300 a month but still less than the market rate. In many housing markets right now, $800 is a bargain.

Here’s the takeaway: You don’t have to justify the reason you would like him to pay more than what most people pay on an average cable bill ($217) and electricity bill ($115) combined for the average American household, with an Amazon Prime

or Netflix

subscription thrown in.

“‘You don’t want to be an enabler and foster a culture of job-hopping and long periods between professional engagements.’”

Similarly, your boyfriend’s unwillingness or inability to hold down a job should not be a factor in his choosing to not live in the adult world. You’re not his mother, nor are you a friend who is giving him a couch to crash on while he gets his finances in order. You are his partner. He should be prepared to pay his way.

I’m writing this under the assumption that you took out the loan on two cars because your boyfriend’s credit score was not high enough for him to take out his own car loan. So he is paying off a car that is technically in your name, but the car will transfer to him when the final payment has been made.

Compare your respective income and expenditure, and the market rent for your neighborhood. Of course, you can factor in the fact that you are sharing a room (and a house). I could suggest $500 if your other tenants are paying $800, but the only figure you should settle upon is one with which you are comfortable. 

You want to be supportive, but you also don’t want to be an enabler and foster a culture of job-hopping and long periods between professional engagements. If you were not offering him a house to live in at $300 a month, he would have to find his own way in the real world, and become a more reliable and responsible employee.

The bigger issue is whether you are well suited for each other. If he is showing signs now of leaning on you financially and guilt-tripping you into agreeing to a token rent payment, it will only get worse as your relationship continues to develop. What’s fair in the real world and in your boyfriend’s world may be two very different things.

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.

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