The Moneyist: ‘She has no ambition’: I make $100,000. I’m buying a home before the wedding. My fiancée earns $50,000 and has $20,000 in student debt. What’s a fair prenup?


Dear Quentin,

I have been in my current relationship for almost three years. I’m a young woman, 41, have a great, stable career and make about $100,000 a year. I am ambitious and my prospects have me increasing my income by $10,000 every year. I have about $140,000 in savings, and no debt. I am close to closing on a home, which will be completely financed by me. 

My girlfriend, 38, works a few gig-type jobs that she loves and makes $50,000 a year. She has very little in savings and about $20,000 in student loans, and isn’t in the position to buy or help with a down payment, closing costs, etc. She lives paycheck to paycheck, pretty much, and as she loves what she does, isn’t motivated to do anything else to make more.

We don’t live together, but we have started the marriage discussion and plan on moving in together when I close. My family isn’t thrilled about the relationship for a few reasons. My girlfriend doesn’t have a stable career. She has no ambition, and makes significantly less than I do. 

“‘We will create a household budget to include combined expenses, mortgage, utilities, groceries and dining out together.’”

As far as living arrangements, we will create a household budget to include combined expenses such as mortgage, utilities, groceries, dining out together, etc. Until we get married, we will split things down the middle. After marriage, we will open joint savings and checking accounts. 

We each contribute the same percentage to our checking account to cover the household budget, so I would pay more since I make more. Then we contribute the same amount each month to a joint savings account to build a joint emergency fund.

I cannot plan for every eventuality, and these are very un-sexy premarital conversations. Is there anything else I am not thinking about? Does this seem fair to me and my partner?

Planning Wedding & Prenup 

Dear Planning,

I can answer your penultimate question. The final question is for your partner. 

Marriage is many things, but as you suggest, it is a business contract in addition to a commitment to spend the rest of your lives together — or, at the very least, a show of willingness to do that.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of your prenuptial agreement, the overarching feeling from your letter is of one person who holds all the cards, and another person who doesn’t get much of a look in. Indeed, you mention that your family doesn’t support the relationship, and your fiancée is vaguely — and likely unfairly — compared to your ne’er-do-well former sister-in-law.

I don’t get a clear sense from your letter that you respect and/or support your partner’s choices. If you have misgivings about her unwillingness to switch to a higher-paying career track — instead of the one that makes her happy — the differences in your respective outlooks will only get worse as time goes on, especially as the economic imbalance in your relationship grows.

Dividing your finances forensically will only go so far. Your letter focused on the finance, but I guess I was hoping to read one nice thing about your fiancée. And I’m sure she has many fine qualities.

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