Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
I’m a divorced woman in my 40s, and I’m working really hard to pay off my house. There’s a small unit in my basement, and the rent I get from it, $900 a month, I put away for emergencies and my retirement. I’ve been dating a man in his 50s who’s retired and lives on a pension.
“David” currently rents an apartment, but he’s suggested that we live together in my house. The trouble is, the house is too small for the two of us. When I told him this, he proposed moving into my basement unit and said he’d contribute $900 a month toward the household expenses. He thinks he’s being generous, because that’s more than I’d have to spend on groceries for him. But I told him that I need to save the full $900 I now get in rent from the unit—that I can’t pay for his household expenses out of the $900 he wants to give me and still save enough to retire myself. He thinks I’m being mean and that I’m too worried about money. He says that if I don’t commit to us living together, the relationship will be over. How do I love someone and not let financial matters come between us, but still protect myself? - Lori
In David’s case, maybe you can’t.
No doubt he has many virtues, but all that comes through in your letter are reasons to be wary of him. How can David not understand, for example, that the $900 per month he’s volunteered to pay covers only the rent you’d be losing, not the expenses of having him live in the house? And surely he’s currently spending more than $900 on rent, insurance, utilities and groceries. So how can he possibly see himself as “generous” and you as “too worried about money” when the deal he proposes is so lopsided in his favor?
At best, this guy is clueless about money. At worst, he’s trying to take advantage of you. Either way, you should seriously consider walking away from the relationship if David continues to insist on the arrangement he’s proposed. Because as much as you might like things to work out, the truth is: People who believe others worry too much about money rarely worry about other people’s money at all.
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Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
I work full time at an office, but I’m considered self-employed. I used to be an employee there, but the people I work for told me I had to either leave or stay on as an outside contractor and not receive any benefits. I chose to stay. My question is this: Can I give them written notice that I’m increasing my wages by 2 percent, or do I have to ask for the increase? They haven’t given me a raise in five years, and I could really use one. – Della
Assuming you’re not working under a contract that says otherwise, you’re free to raise the price of your services. But the company where you work is equally free to say, “Not interested.” That’s why we suggest that, rather than give them written notice, you speak to the folks you work for and tell them you’d like a raise. Don’t talk about why you need more money—everyone needs more money. Talk about the quality of your work, your value to the company and the fact that your compensation hasn’t changed in so long. Hopefully, they’ll listen to reason. If they don’t, though, you’ll be in the same unfortunate position of every person who feels underpaid: You’ll have to decide whether to continue working or quit.
One more thing: Buy an hour of an employment lawyer’s time and find out if the way the company has been handling your employment status complies with the law. You may find you’re entitled to more than they’ve led you to believe.