The classic hit song by music icon Tina Turner asks, “What’s love got to do with it?” However, when it comes to avoiding unhealthy relationships and establishing standards for healthy ones of honor, esteem and respect, it may be more important to ask: What does my money have to do with it?
A casual survey of any television court shows, such as Judge Judy and Judge Faith, will provide plenty of examples of people who believe that love justifies making loans, paying bills, taking on contractual obligations and doing any number of things they can’t actually afford, only to be shocked that love is not a defense for stupidity and financial recklessness. (Let’s not even get started on the chickens that come home to roost in a divorce due to poor financial judgement during the marriage.) In the absence of the self-loving, healthy decision-making standard we champion in the Grown Zone, we make some of our most damaging money moves because we mistakenly think love makes it okay to throw smart financial decision-making out of the window—a notion heartily endorsed by many, if not most, of the people we know.
Well, regardless of what you’ve learned from your family, friends, church, movies, TV and other sources of misinformation, healthy love neither asks nor requires you to throw caution—and your money—to the wind. So let’s talk about the money moves you should never make for love.
Do not bust your budget to bankroll a lifestyle for the object of your desire. Becoming the go-to funding source for a love interest anytime they make a demand or request is an open invitation to exploitation and resentment, which will be bad for your finances as well as the relationship. Do not blow your budget to buy expensive dinners and lavish gifts or otherwise pursue a lifestyle you cannot afford in order to get or keep a person’s affection. Keep this in mind: Most relationships last less than 6 months. When the “love” is gone, your bills will linger on.
Never cosign. If the object of your desire has bad credit, or you don’t know their credit history, do not give them access to your credit. A poor credit history may not make a person unworthy of your love. But it does mean that they present a credit risk that most financial institutions would not take, which means you can’t afford to either. Do not co-sign on credit cards, car loans, apartment leases or make other joint financial commitments just because you are in love. When you cosign, there is a three out of four chance that you, not the primary borrower, will end up repaying the loan.
When it comes to romance, be a lover—NEVER a lender. Repeated requests to borrow money are rarely good for a relationship, especially in the first year. If you feel you must, never lend without a written agreement laying out repayment terms signed by both you and your would-be boo. 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. (If they become angry or resentful of you or otherwise resistant to signing such an agreement, hold on to your money and end the relationship.) Consider any monies shared outside of 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 it in the name of love (see point No. 1).
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. Most identity theft, fraud and other financial crimes are perpetrated by acquaintances—people able to gain access to your information because they spend time with you, especially in your home. Being in love is no excuse for failing to keep yourself—and your finances—protected. Keep all sensitive financial documents, including checkbooks and bank statements, locked away out of sight in a safe place. There is no reason a love interest should have your social security number and other sensitive information, so guard it at all times. Never surrender it voluntarily—and consider it a major red flag if they ever ask or press you to share your personal financial information, especially before you really get to know them.