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The Moneyist: ‘We have an absolutely great relationship’: My live-in boyfriend gives me what he used to pay in rent. Should I give him a stake in my home?

Dear Quentin,

We have an absolutely great relationship. Right now, my boyfriend pays toward the mortgage what he previously paid in rent at his apartment. He has the means to pay significantly more.

My boyfriend and I have financial goals that include paying off the mortgage on my house. I have $300,000 in equity in my home, helped by my payments over the years and the increase in market value. I owe $200,000.

We are aware that paying off this house will provide us with financial freedom, and also open up other opportunities for us to buy additional income properties. But we don’t know how to make it work.

If we both contributed equally, the house would be paid off in a few years. How can I protect the equity I have in my home, and how can he take on my house as his own protected investment? I have previously been divorced.

Love & Money

Dear L&M,

You don’t say how long you have been together, but I suggest waiting before handing over a share in your home to your boyfriend. I don’t recommend your boyfriend taking over your house as his own “protected investment.”

It’s your protected investment. It provides you with financial security and a sense of stability. Think very carefully before sharing that with anyone who was not there from the beginning, and who may not be around for the next 30 years.

Co-owning a home you’ve spent years paying off should not be a precondition for a happy relationship. Your financial independence is a precious thing. You will understand how valuable it is if you lose it. Don’t take it for granted.

Co-owning a home you’ve spent years paying off should not be a precondition for a happy relationship.

Take a lesson from this woman who sold her home to move into her husband’s fixer-upper, or this letter writer who bought a house with her former partner three decades ago, and will likely have to give him half when she sells it.

If you marry, you can then slowly commingle your financial lives. In the meantime, you may wish to consider a cohabitation agreement — a de facto prenuptial agreement for unmarried couples. You set the terms and conditions.

If you want to invest in real estate, you could agree for your boyfriend to pay less rent and save money to invest. The time may come when your boyfriend will face a similar decision: invest together or, if he can afford it, invest alone.

You will have plenty of time to figure out whether you have a future together, but this house — your house — should not be the deciding factor. Never feel guilty for having your own home, or feel responsible for your boyfriend who does not.

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