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The Moneyist: My boyfriend has a nicer house, and says I should live with him. My mortgage is paid off. He believes I should pay half of his monthly costs. Is that fair?

Dear Quentin,

My boyfriend owns a house with a 30-year mortgage balance of $150,000 on a 4% interest rate. He has $275,000 in cash and retirement accounts. He is retired.

My house is paid off. I have $50,000 in cash and retirement accounts. I would like to retire within one to two years.

We wish to cohabitate but have not been able to agree on a fair “rent” to pay. He is not willing to live in my house because it has fewer amenities. 

He believes I should pay half of his monthly cost at his nicer, more expensive house. He could pay off his mortgage and save $600 a month, but he likes to have cash. 

I have forgone that luxury and paid off my mortgage. I am now working on building my savings. I don’t feel it is fair for me to pay half of the mortgage interest expense. 

I don’t know what repair and maintenance costs should be expected from me, if I have no equity in his house. There are many points of view, none of which feels fair.

These are the options he set forth:

· I live in his house and thus get to rent mine out. Pay him half of what I net from that rental.

· Pay half of the actual costs of living expenses and upkeep on his house while I live there.

· Pay him what I pay to live in my current home for taxes, insurance, and utilities: $800/month.

What say you, Moneyist?

House Owner & Girlfriend 

Dear House Owner,

I’m sure your house is just as nice. And just because he believes it, does not make it so. If you are paying no mortgage on your own home, I don’t believe you should pay one red cent more to live in his home. 

That is, you should not come out of this arrangement paying more, just because he (a) would like you to live in his home and (b) help him pay off his mortgage, or his tax and maintenance.

You both made different choices: Yours was to have a home that’s free-and-clear of a mortgage, so you can spend this time building up your savings for retirement and/or a rainy day. 

You have worked hard to pay off your mortgage, and you have $50,000 in savings, less than 20% of your boyfriend’s savings. He has $150,000 left on his mortgage, and that’s his choice.

If his aim is to find help to pay off half of his mortgage, he can find a tenant to do that for him. 

You are not the answer to his long-term financial plans, you are his partner in life. If his aim is to find help to pay off half of his mortgage, he can find a tenant to do that for him. What do you expect of you? Forget what he expects.

By the way he is approaching this arrangement, it seems like he wants the equivalent of a detergent and a fabric softener — a girlfriend and a tenant in one handy bottle to keep his financial plans smooth and clean.

Bottom line: You should not compromise any plans to build your nest egg. The lady’s not for turning. Only acquiesce to his plan if — with the help of an actual tenant in your home — it helps you too. 

In other words, the desired outcome for you is more important than the suggestions he has put forward. He could save $600 a month! That’s his business. Not yours. What do you want to have in your pocket every month?

Figure out what you want, and then work your way backwards based on that goal. For instance, if you can pay him $800 a month, charge $1,600 rent for your home, and put $800 towards your savings, do that.

You’ve come a long way. Don’t let these negotiations scupper that.

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