In the 14 years I’ve been with my boyfriend, Nick, we’ve weathered a lot of storms—from my parents’ divorce to paying off $50,000 of debt.
Nick and I started dating in 1999 as poor 19-year-old college students. We didn’t know anything about managing money at the time, but we learned together. After graduation, we both found full-time jobs, in finance for me and in IT for Nick.
Living off two full-time incomes was a huge change from being broke undergrads. We opened a joint bank account and finally started to live comfortably. We moved into a convenient (read: expensive) downtown apartment, bought a brand-new car and furnished our luxury apartment with a big-screen TV and new furniture.
For a while we paid our bills on time every month, but eventually our frivolous spending got ahead of us—and we landed thousands of dollars in debt. I wasn’t sure Nick and I could pay off our balances, and I went to see a bankruptcy consultant. As a financial planner, admitting financial defeat was one of the lowest points in my life. Ultimately, we didn’t file bankruptcy—there would have been too many consequences for my financial career. But we immediately cut our expenses and readjusted our budget. I took a second job, and we upped our credit card payments beyond the minimums. It took us three years to get back on our feet—but we did it. With our financial lives back on track, we started saving money again and allowing ourselves some splurges too. We were in a good place.
Getting an Unexpected Pink Slip
But in 2009 we suffered a huge blow. Nick’s company was acquired, and they outsourced a lot of jobs, including his. After working there for five years, Nick went to work one day and got called into a team meeting … that turned out to be his entire department’s two weeks’ notice.
I came home from work that night and immediately sensed something was wrong. The vibe in the apartment felt very somber. Nick was sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, though not really watching. When I asked him if everything was OK, he looked at me and said, “I got fired today,” then went back to (not) watching TV. I’d never seen Nick so dejected. It was truly heartbreaking.
I wanted to play the supportive girlfriend role, to tell Nick everything would be OK and he’d find another job quickly. But as a financial planner, my mind was racing: How could we adjust to living without Nick’s $65,000 salary? Would we have to move? What could we immediately cut out of our budget—and would that be enough?
I didn’t think we’d experience anything as a couple more stressful than paying off our debt—but I was wrong. Suddenly being forced to subsist on one income was another adjustment I never expected to make. We’re well-educated people and hard workers. And yet, there we were.