Before we get into discussing your finances from a relationship standpoint, I want to make the point that you do not, in fact, need a partner. Let me repeat that another way: it is okay to be single. In fact, more Americans than ever before are making just that choice: the US Census found recently that nearly half of all American adults—around 100 million people—are now single, the highest rate in recent history. You might be thinking, “I know why that is—it’s because the divorce rate is at historic highs, too! So divorced people are ‘single.’” Yes, that’s true, but 61% of those 100 million folks have never been married. So while it might feel like everyone is getting married and settling down (if your social media feeds are any indicator), that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are lots of single, successful people walking around—and thriving.
But I’m not here to tell you whether or not to date, marry, divorce, or go it alone. Because the fact is that no matter the relationship situation you find yourself in, you are the only one who can take personal responsibility over your finances. Whether you’re a “table for one” or “table for two” (or, hey, “table for three”—who am I to judge!) you need to maintain control over what you bring to the table. The good, the bad, and (especially) the ugly. At the most fundamental level, that means looking these three things in the eye:
- What you make (salary, investments, other income): Tally up all the money you have coming in, whether it’s your monthly paycheck, interest from stocks you’ve invested in, money you make on the side selling jewelry, etc. These are known as your assets. Know your worth!
- What you owe (credit card debt, mortgage, loans): Get a handle on every single dollar you owe, including monthly payments on credit cards, your mortgage, student loans, auto loans, etc. These are your “liabilities,” and you are “liable” for paying them off.
- Your money habits (overspending, lack of savings, poor planning): Invest in a good LBD (that’s a Little Budget Diary, not a new dress) to keep track of what you spend and save every day. What do you tend to splurge on? Is there a part of your budget where you underspend, so that money could be put to work elsewhere? Know your pitfalls—we all have them, moi included—but be honest about them so you can be aware and catch yourself in a slipup.
These things are going to dictate your financial future no matter if you’re solo or have a partner. And they are your responsibility, not anyone else’s. You might not be able to predict future heartache or “conscious uncoupling,” but if you keep the trifecta above in constant check, you will be prepared for just about anything.