Love and Money: Protect Yourself At All Times
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Bobby Caldwell’s R&B classic ponders the question of “What We Won’t Do for Love.” Unfortunately, what we are willing to do for love often includes horrendous money decisions, the kinds that can both destroy your financial health and result in the adult-and-messy relationship outcomes that are endless fodder for TV court shows. This is one of the primary reasons why withholding access to your money (as well as your body, heart and home) is one of the foundational tenets of self-love and healthy decision-making when preparing for and pursuing loving, sustainable relationships in the Grown Zone.
April is Financial Literacy Month, a perfect time to focus on love and money, and to make the point that Grown folks do not engage in financial foolery to get a relationship, nor to keep one. Remember, the vast majority of romantic relationships do not last more than a few months, and outside of marriage, you have few legal protections for your assets, credit-worthiness or finances after a break-up, even if you have children together.
With this in mind, here are a few money moves you should never make for love:
Do not lend money. Or, more to the point, do not lend money casually, without a written agreement laying out repayment terms signed by both parties. Otherwise, you have no way to prove the money you gave was a loan, not a gift, and you have virtually no way to get it back. Consider any monies shared outside such an agreement to be gifts or part of the shared expenses of your relationship, with no expectation of repayment. If you can’t afford to make such gifts, do not do so in the name of love.
Never cosign. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there is a three-out-of-four chance that you, not the borrower, will end up repaying the loan. Can you really afford to do that? If you cosign for a car and it’s repossessed, it will stay on your credit report for seven years, just as if you took out the loan yourself. But being a cosigner does not make you a co-owner. If you take out a loan to buy a car for yourself, you can sell the car if you can’t make the payments. But you can’t make the person you cosign for sell their car if they don’t meet their obligation.
Never give your PIN, bank account numbers, ATM passwords or other personal financial information to a love interest. That kind of access should be reserved for the ultimate financial commitment in a relationship: marriage. So, what if you are in a long-term, committed, relationship, but not married? Doesn’t matter; being in a long-term relationship without the benefit of marriage, means you have to be more proactive about protecting your finances, not less.
Don’t assume that you can love anyone into changing their financial habits and behaviors. You know how we are always reminding you that your love does not give you the power to change, fix or control another person’s behavior? That goes double for money habits. Your love will not cure a person of shopping addiction, or make them stop abusing credit cards and pay their bills on time. You can’t obligate a person to stay with you or treat you with honor, esteem and respect by paying off their debts or making them financially dependent on you. A person who engaged in financial infidelity when you met will not miraculously become trustworthy and fiscally responsible because you choose to become lovers, marry and/or procreate.
Treat knowing financial history as seriously as knowing sexual history before you expose yourself. You may say what’s in the past should stay there. But getting involved with anyone who lies or is secretive about their financial health and habits is an open invitation to adult-and-messy foolery. Look at it this way: commingling your finances without knowing one another’s financial (including credit) histories is like having unprotected sex without knowing one another’s HIV status. If you’re intimate in every way but financially, that’s a problem. In fact, if you can’t talk about money before you get married— openly, honestly and with emotional safety—do not get married.
Our bottom line: The rules of love and money are the same as for boxing: Protect yourself at ALL times. Living in the Grown Zone means never exposing yourself to financial foolery in the name of love.
Join us for Grown Zone Radio, same topic Saturday, 4/5/14 at 12 noon, EST online or call in: (714) 364-4724
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Zara Green and Alfred Edmond Jr., named to Black Love Forum’s “14 Most Inspiring Black Couples” list for 2014, are co-principals of A2Z Personal Growth Enterprises, producer of The Grown Zone. Zara is a speaker/trainer & author. Alfred is an award-winning journalist and expert on business and personal finance. The couple, both “Do-Better Fanatics”, lead sessions on personal growth, self-love and resiliency, healthy relationships and “grown” decision-making at live events across the country.
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