According to The New York Times, cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500% in the past half century. 1,500%!! In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. But you know what they say: just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Before you start picking out curtains and rolling out the monogrammed welcome mat with your sig-o, here are a few things to keep in mind:
DON’T pay to furnish his place. I get the desire to get your domestic goddess on, but remember that this could potentially be a short-term investment. If his place is really a dump…dump him. Unless he has a good excuse for his slovenly behavior, like i-banking hours or a recent death in his family, chances are that if his place is a wreck…he is a wreck. Get out now. People who are financially responsible appreciate and take care of their things, because they understand their value. His place doesn’t have to look like a spread out of Architectural Digest, but it’s fair to expect a certain level of cleanliness and upkeep, especially now that he’s no longer a bachelor. If you’ve already furnished the guy’s place and you think he has potential, at least make sure you have a key to his place and an agreement that if you go, the furniture goes, too.
DON’T cosign for loans for a boyfriend. EVER. Unless it’s money to tip the pizza delivery guy, because he doesn’t have cash on him…don’t even lend him money. Slippery slope, friends, slippery slope. Wait until you make it official and have legal claim to (and protection from) joint bank accounts to share your funds.
DON’T leave valuable items at his place. Like your jewelry, or your passport. In the event of a sudden breakup (hey, it happens!) you don’t want to be left harassing your ex for your valuables…or having to go over there and (awkwardly) retrieve them yourself. And should things end badly, as sometimes they do, you don’t want him profiting from your family heirloom watch. Just saying.
DO have a written, signed cohabitation agreement— before living together. Decide how the bills (rent, utilities, etc) will be paid…50/50? Or in a ratio of earnings? If you earn $70,000 and he earns $100,000 perhaps he should pay a higher percentage of the bills? In this case you would pay 40% of the bills and he would pay about 60%.
DO know your partner’s FICO score and the amount of his debts before you move in with him. This information will inform every financial decision you make together from here on out, from your rent payment to future housing loans to employment prospects (seriously, some employers check for this as an overall indicator of financial responsibility). You’ll be a lot happier with those walk-in closets if you remove the skeletons from them first.