By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
My fiancé has a very successful landscaping company, which is about five years old. I‘ve been in corporate banking for 15 years. My fiancé and I are discussing me quitting my cushy six-figure job and helping him with his business. My question is, can I ask him to pay me a salary?
Right now, he pays all the bills and I put money into a joint savings account for us along with helping with groceries, cleaning lady, etc. Helping him at “the shop“ feels exciting and would be a nice change of pace/scenery. I just want to ensure I am/we are setting this up the best way possible.
We do not have a marriage date set yet (COVID, ugh!) but I prefer to quit my job/career after we are officially married. I just feel it is safer this way? We’re also discussing doing a prenuptial agreement, but I guess that’s another question!
He feels we can easily make more through his business (with my help) than my six-figure job, but I’ve never not had a paycheck. Is it fair that I ask for a salary, or just help him grow the business if he continues to pay for everything? Just thinking down the road if things go sideways, I’ve set myself up fairly to be protected.
Am I over thinking this?
Curious in Missouri
Your last question is the easiest answered. No, you are not over thinking this. You are asking all of the right questions, and your concerns (if that’s what they are) are well founded. But before I get to your first question about asking him for a salary, I have a question for you. Do you enjoy your job and the independence that brings? Be very careful about giving up a profession that pays well and one that you have worked hard for and gives you a separate creative, social and intellectual outlet.
It serves two very important purposes in your life: It gives you a separate identity to your husband, financial independence, and it splits the financial risk you both share. If people decide they can’t afford landscaping during COVID-19, you will both have your salary to rely on. If his job goes, you will hopefully have your job too. He is clearly very excited about his business, but it’s five years old and it’s important not to allow his excitement (née ego) overwhelm your work life too.
Think long and hard about this decision and wait until you are married to make it. Not earning a salary will also affect your Social Security contributions. Giving up your sole source of income, your job and any future chances of promotion should not be taken before you marry and nor should it be taken before you have agreed on a prenuptial agreement. These are all slices of the same pie. I hope you have the wedding you have always dreamed of if and/or when there is a vaccine available.
But more importantly, I hope you have the marriage and life you have envisioned for yourself. Above all things, your partnership should be equal. If one person holds all the financial chips, it will inevitably give the other more leverage in other parts of the relationship, which can lead to too many compromises and, ultimately, resentment. If you were the one with the landscaping business, would you ask him to give up his six-figure job? That too is a question worth asking.
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As of Monday, COVID-19 had infected 29,007,970 people worldwide, a figure that mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed 924,116. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,520,235 and 194,081 deaths), followed by India (4,846,427), Brazil (4,330,455) and Russia (1,059,024), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
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