Pay Dirt

My Parents Bought Me a House. I Want to Charge My Boyfriend to Live With Me Anyway.

I don’t feel entitled to his money.

Hand holding a pair of keys.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by estima/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Have a question? Send it to Athena and Elizabeth here(It’s anonymous!)

Dear Pay Dirt,

I’m a woman in a serious relationship with a man—he’s from a wealthy family and makes good money in tech. I’m from a middle-class family and am a freelance creative, and though I get by and have some professional things that could move my career in a good direction in the next few years (finishing a degree, book deal), COVID hasn’t been kind to my income the past couple of years. My boyfriend owns a big house in a trendy (i.e. expensive-to-rent) area and has a mortgage. My parents recently bought me a small house in a less trendy but nice, up-and-coming area. This was my inheritance share so I won’t get anything else major in their will, and I spent a lot of my savings on refurbishing the house, but I have no mortgage. My parents have always felt very strongly that I should always own my house solo as financial security, particularly given that my career and income aren’t always predictable, which I agree with.

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The question is what happens if my boyfriend and I move in together? It would make sense for him to move in with me so he can rent his house, which would cover his monthly mortgage payment and make him some extra money. I also spent time and effort on my house and I want to live there for at least a while. I guess my question is, would it make sense for him to pay me a small rent if he moved in? I don’t have a mortgage to pay off, but also if he moved in with me, he would be able to make a good profit off his house, while I wouldn’t be making anything. And genuinely, maybe that’s fine and just the way it is—I don’t feel entitled to his money or think he owes me or anything! Maybe we’d adjust our shared expenses proportionately. I’m just new to homeownership and don’t know what the norm is, and want to make sure we’re doing what’s smart for both of us, financially.

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—No Mortgage, No Clue

Dear No Mortgage,

What a unique position to be in. I would definitely take advantage of moving in together if it’s the next step in your relationship. You can wake up every day next to your partner plus share expenses.

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You can simply split utilities with him since they will go up once he moves in, especially electric and water. I also think it’s fair that he pays a small amount of rent every month despite not having a mortgage. There are other expenses to owning a home such as property taxes and home maintenance costs that you could start saving for with this extra cash. I would just make sure anything you are asking him to pay isn’t something that you wouldn’t be willing to pay if you were to move in with him instead.

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It’s not taking advantage of him financially to ask for him to contribute to living expenses. If the above still makes you feel uncomfortable, you can ask him to contribute in other ways. Maybe he takes care of groceries and tabs when you eat out. Every couple is unique so find a system that works for you—not what feels traditional or you think is expected of you. Here’s to living with your S.O.!

Dear Pay Dirt,

I am a 28-year-old earning a decent salary and living with no debt. Until last year, I had one credit card, and it worked great for me! However, this year I gave in to the encouragement from my friends and family to get another credit card to build my credit. Turns out, I hate it. I likely have ADHD (runs in the family) and I hate having to use different banks, worry about different fees, and look in two different places for my money and spending. I have always paid off my credit card in full every single month, but last month my autopayment bounced because of a large airfare purchase that I didn’t plan for well enough and it completely threw me.

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I’m decent at budgeting (I use Mint), have a retirement account and another investment account, an emergency fund, no mortgage, and no car payment. I’m in a good place! So, is it really so important to have more than one credit card to build my credit? Is it worth the anxiety I feel about dealing with it all? I know it seems small, but it is completely overwhelming to me.

—Building Credit and Anxiety

Dear Building Credit,

Bounced charges happen to the best of us! I can understand why having more than one credit card stresses you out. I can’t imagine how people who credit card churn for points keep track of it all.

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But your family and friends are right. If you are using credit cards correctly, having more than one credit card can improve your credit score. The more credit you have available to you, the lower your credit utilization ratio is. For a good credit score, you’ll want a low credit utilization ratio (below 30 percent). It also helps to have multiple cards in case you lose one or it becomes compromised. Some cards will also offer you other advantages such as cash back for certain purchases or an overall lower interest rate.

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If you think you have ADHD, I would advise you to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. You may find that medication makes tracking your finances more manageable. It’s always possible you’ll have worse or better weeks with ADHD which is why it’s important to have plans in place. You’re already regularly budgeting with Mint and are in a great place. You can always keep track of bill due dates in a spreadsheet and then write them onto a calendar or planner so that you are regularly reminded. You can also set up regular reminders on your phone and computer. I’ve also been known to stick post-its everywhere. If you’re not already, I’d also make it a point to sit with your finances regularly to make sure you’re on the right track and don’t need to tweak your financial system. I hope these tips help!

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Dear Pay Dirt,

Fifteen years ago in my early 20s, I had a winning lottery ticket that paid just under $1 million after taxes. My older sister “Elena” made a case that she deserved a share because she stepped up and raised me after our single mom died when I was 7 and she was 20. But I knew giving Elena a pile of money outright would probably do her more harm than good because at the time she was an active drug addict. So, after paying off my college loans and credit card debts and buying myself a small house and a new, reliable car (which I’m actually still driving to this day), I saw an attorney who helped me put the rest of the money in a revocable trust with Elena as the beneficiary.

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Elena has been clean for almost 10 years now. She’s an amazing foster mom to several troubled teens and works part-time, in addition to receiving approximately $22,000 a year from the trust. Meanwhile, with my house paid off, I’ve been able to get by doing the creative work I love. Then I accidentally got pregnant. The father is a good guy and would want to be part of our child’s life, but won’t be able to pay much support. I can’t raise a child on my current income, and if I got a regular job, most of my additional income would be eaten up by daycare, plus I’d be less present, less happy, more stressed, and not as good a mother. Until now I never realized how badly I want to be one. And I’m 38 so this could be my last chance.

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Would it be selfish of me to dissolve Elena’s trust so I can have and raise my child, even if it means Elena needs to work full-time and can’t be as present for hers? Should I worry the resulting stress might cause her to backslide into addiction? My plan would be to use the interest income to make ends meet until my child goes to college, then pay for his/her education out of the principal, then possibly share what’s left with Elena, if she’s still alive by that point (she’s 51 now, and has some health issues as a result of her past). If this is not an acceptable plan, what would you suggest I do?

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—Pregnant and Poor(ish)

Dear Pregnant and Poor(ish),

This sounds like a hard scenario and I want to hold that space for you. Your worry is valid and with either choice you make, it’s going to have an uncomfortable consequence for someone involved.

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With your generosity, your sister has been able to find a healing path while helping others. It sounds like she has become reliant on this income to help raise her children, so not having it will come as a blow. Taking a substantial part of her income away will add stress and with stress, some addicts relapse, but many don’t. Part of the recovery process is finding coping mechanisms that work for you so that you can handle situations like this. So, while I don’t think taking the trust away is going to cause her to relapse, I do imagine it will spur some hard feelings like resentment. She is, in a sense, trading places with you.

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I do not think you’re in the wrong if you revoke the trust so you can now raise your child while working part-time. When you originally set up your financial affairs, you did not imagine that you would have the opportunity to be a mother. Now that you do, it only makes sense for you to want to enjoy it. That includes rerouting resources to help you with your new circumstances. So yes, it’s going to be hard on your sister but you have shown her nothing but support in her journey of being a mom. I’m almost positive she will be happy to do the same thing for you now.

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It’s going to be a difficult conversation but set a time aside to talk to your sister about the matter at hand in a neutral place such as a coffee shop or a park. If you feel uncomfortable doing it in person, make time for a phone call where you won’t be interrupted. Explain that your new circumstances have led to a change in financial priorities, and while you have been supporting her and her children, you now need to support a child of your own. Ask her what she feels is fair in regards to ongoing support. Maybe you can deduct a    certain percentage of money from her payments every year until you are no longer supporting her at all. Perhaps it’s just helping her out with emergencies. You may be surprised by her answer. I’m definitely curious so keep us posted on what she thinks. I’m sending you the best of luck.

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Dear Pay Dirt,

My parents, ages 78 and 83, have a history of poor communication around money. My dad, who grew up in a destitute household, always worries about not having enough. My mom views my dad as stingy and not willing to properly take care of the family. They’ve primarily dealt with this by maintaining separate bank accounts and using income from their jobs (both still work part-time!) and social security for personal expenses.

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They have $350,000 in a retirement account managed by an independent financial advisor. I review their monthly statements, and the advisory firm seems to be doing a good job conservatively managing this money. They also have a fully paid-off house, worth about $250,000. They withdraw about $45,000/year to cover joint expenses—think food, utilities, property tax, some home help for cooking and cleaning, etc.

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Recently, both parents have started working less. This is completely understandable—I can’t believe they’ve worked this long. However, my mom especially, views her personal expenses, mostly around alternative health (supplements, “energy healing”, etc.) as essential to her well-being. She wants to draw down another $1,000 per month from the retirement account to cover this. My dad is worried about how long the money will last, especially if either of them needs to move into a more intensive care setting. He’s particularly concerned about this as he was just diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

I’m their only son, living across the country. Historically, I’ve helped out with tracking budgets and preparing their taxes but have done a good job staying out of any interpersonal money conflicts. I have my own family, two kids, and have been proudly financially independent since I was 18. But I’m also not in a place to support my parents financially or have them move in with us down the road. Is it no big deal for them to spend at a faster rate on priorities that are important to either of them? Or is my dad right to worry about increasing expenses given their financial situation?

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—Parental Problems

Dear Parental Problems,

Your dad is right in worrying about increasing their withdrawals, especially since they’re already withdrawing $45,000 a year. With only $350,000 left, they are due to run out of their retirement nest egg in seven years. And with early on-set Alzheimer’s, or other health issues for that matter, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I love me some energy healing as much as the next person, but I strongly believe that your mom is on the hook for this one by herself. Her part-time job should cover her energy healing sessions as well as her extensive supplement regime. She may find she can cut back in other areas once she realizes your dad isn’t going to budge.

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You may also want to help your parents start to look into seeing if they qualify for any other resources in their area. Helping them maintain their independent living for as long as you can shorten the burden on your own family in the long run.

—Athena

More Advice

My wife and I had several embryos made and a failed surrogacy. My wife was suffering serious depression at the time and our marriage was struggling (we were in serious debt over the fertility treatments). We had a fight and I left. I went to a hotel and turned off my phone. To this day, I am still haunted by those missed messages.

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