Thursday, March 1, 2012

If I had a million dollars ... I'd buy myself a house (in the Caribbean)

Let’s say you go out with friends for Korean BBQ in the suburbs of DC. It’s a Friday night – you watch raw meat cooking before your eyes, drink beer, and attempt to avoid the Soju your friends are taking shots with and dumping in their beer. Afterwards, your friends head out, and you go home because you’re tired. You turn on TV and catch an episode of House Hunters International – it’s tropical – a couple from Texas are buying a million dollar house in the Caribbean. You wonder what they’re doing with their lives that allows them to buy a million dollar vacation home. (Seriously though – I always wonder as I get on a plane and walk by the first-class passengers … WTF are you doing with your life, I might want to do it too.)

You watch the episode, fantasize about being on the beach …. And text your boy(girl)friend “hey baby, we should totally have a house in the Caribbean when we retire”. Right? Or is that just me? I get that it might be creeper-ific to be planning someone else's retirement, contingent on how long you’ve been dating. I have to wonder, among the conversations of What do you want from your career, what do you want to do, where do you want to live, what kind of family life do you want, what are your dreams, do questions of Where do you want to retire, what do you want to do when you’re older, how much are you saving for retirement, what’s your philosophy for spending/saving/investing – ever come up?

I’ve read several books geared towards couples on how to resolve money issues, mostly because the intersection of psychology/relationships/money is always fascinating to me, and it seems like the biggest roadblock to financial security is different expectations and lack of communication. Our relationships with money are often complicated, due to our associations and past experiences. And I totally do realize that, at 22, planning your life at 60+ with your partner is probably not important, odds are your relationship won’t last that long. (Just sayin’ /cynic). But basic financial compatibility IS important – as much so, as sexual compatibility.

You can learn so much about a person’s financial values by observing them – are they buying rounds of drinks for their friends when they go out? Do they refuse to buy wine that costs more than ten dollars a bottle? Are they paying off their student loans? Do they worry about their finances? What’s their budget when finding an apartment? Do they have wealthy parents? But while you can see if someone spends heavily, or lives frugally, there’s so much knowledge you can’t have without a deep conversation. (Besides, we’re so good at hiding our behavior when we want)

I probably think about personal finances more than the average person, and I’m happy to over-share about my spending, salary, and credit cards at any point (probably not an entirely desirable quality). I realize that everyone has so much going on in their lives – and your finances are just part of that. But doesn’t money make the world go round?

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