I really like the guy I’m dating, and he’s following his passion in music but he's financially unstable and he makes significantly less than I do. How do I deal with the financial situation of someone I’m dating?
It’s hard for me to come to terms with the fact that there might be a point in our relationship where I may need to be the financial pillar. I can definitely support myself but supporting someone else is scary. He does live on his own with a handful of housemates so he's independent. But typically artists/musicians don't make a lot. Financial situations can change over time so I feel like what I'm scared of now may not follow me into the future.
Samantha B. — Las Vegas, NV
What a great opportunity you have to use your words! I know, I know, I’m being snarky, but really: Don’t leave this to chance. Talk to him.
Does he have a plan for paying the bills while he’s investing in his passion? Do you share similar lifestyle expectations? What’s his relationship with money? Has he planned for a side job that will help the two of you make ends meet? Is he realistic about finances, or does he believe that money is something that other people worry about?
If you don’t mind living on the cheap together while he noodles with his music, awesome! If you hope for a lifestyle he likely won’t be able to afford, not so awesome.
I don’t mean to scare the pants off of you, but you’ve got a valid fear here. If you end up being financially accountable for the two of you, that responsibility comes with problems far beyond daily living expenses. Having a dependent is tricky because it often adds unlovely dynamics to a partnership. To complicate things further, if you’ve established a pattern of supporting him over time, this has legal implications for you if you break up. Whether you’re married or not (in common law states), it’s possible that you’ll be supporting him for years, possibly decades after a split.
I’m not saying that this is just a musician thing; this could happen if you were supporting an out-of-work greeting-card writer, or fireworks salesman, or accountant. Regardless of his profession or his passion, this is something you want to talk all the way through with him.
All that said, I know plenty of musicians who are making a living at being musicians (studio session guys, music teachers, singers, sound techs, etc.). And you’re right—out of all of these people, only one of them has made a super-comfortable living at it, and it wasn’t an easy road along the way. But my musician friends pay their rents and mortgages. They buy braces for little Beth’s teeth, and some of them are even saving for retirement.
Whomever you partner with, musician or fireworks salesman or accountant, don’t leave this stuff to chance. Talk about it, and decide together who’s accountable for which parts of your finances so you don’t end up as the sole pillar of support by default. This whole not-a-lot-of-money-in-music thing is not a surprise, or an accident—it’s predictable, and can be planned for in advance.