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The wallet triage

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Let's go deeply in debtIn past postings we have talked about dating’s financial conundrums and how to find balance. We’ve discussed how different financial values and capabilities cause conflict.

In dating, whether we realize it or not, we begin to do what was called a “wallet triage” by one of my hospital clients. This distasteful term was used to describe when they had to determine if a patient could pay for treatment. If not, they had to be sent to the county hospital. It was unpleasant for the staff to ask the uncomfortable questions about someone’s ability to pay while the patient was bleeding or in pain, and it was distressing for those being asked. But the hospital was hemorrhaging funds, and if they treated people without receiving payment, the hospital was going to close, which would have put the community in dire straights. It was a horrible situation for all concerned.

The dating wallet triage is determining if someone’s financial situation is something with which you can live. Especially if the other is in dire straights because of their decisions, not only because of the recession.

This week, a wooer disclosed that he owed the IRS tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes and penalties, plus some other debts. The government recently took ALL the money from his accounts. (Luckily, he was not asking me for any.)

Another man recently shared that he, too, owes back taxes and the IRS now garnishes any funds deposited to his accounts. He goes to check cashing outlets to cash his clients’ checks to get money for gas, food, etc.

I know these times are hard for many, many people. Both these men are intelligent professionals who made some unwise decisions that have caught up with them. I, too, have had financial ups and downs so I empathize with them both.

But as I ponder entering a relationship with a new man, I know I want someone who is financially sound. He doesn’t have to be weathly, but he needs to have his life mostly in order.

Both these men are natty dressers. The first one recently took a week-long vacation and shared he’d bought some new shoes, since he’s a shoe fancier. I don’t know about you, but if I have a closet full of functional shoes and owe the government tens of thousands of dollars, I’m not going to buy any new shoes, no matter how much I like them.

My ex floated a large debt for nearly all of our marriage. I have been in debt, and when I am, I don’t buy anything extraneous. I live frugally and put all my extra funds toward paying off that debt in months instead of years. My ex saw no problem with buying frivolous items even though he had large debt. It’s a matter of different values and priorities. I hate to be in debt and do everything I can to avoid it, and if I can’t, I pay it off quickly.

I found that being with a man who was always in debt meant we couldn’t do things that were important to me — and he said were important to him, too — or I would pay for them all myself. So when it was time to paint the house, he didn’t have the money (we’d usually split these expenses), so I paid for it. I didn’t mind paying for vacations or household improvements sometimes. But I resented it when he said he didn’t have the money to do what we both said was needed, then would buy something frivolous for himself.

You have to look at your own values around money and what’s important to you. If a man shows early on his values about money are very different than yours, best to discuss it if you can, or let him go. If his situation is temporary because of the recession, that’s one thing. But if he continues to make what you consider unwise decisions, best to move on as you’ll be fighting about money sooner or later.


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About Yury Zvyagolskiy

Yury Zvyagolskiy
In almost all American movies there is a bad guy who is usually Russian and his name is Yury. If the bad guy is not from Russia, his last name usually starts with Z. So here I am - Yury Z. My specialty is personal effectiveness. I am an expert in goal achievement, personal effectiveness, relationships and effective thinking.

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