Here We Are, Again

Prenote: Alright, this post is mainly just a really big rant. And I apologize for how long it is. I probably shouldn’t be putting this out into the blogosphere. I’ve gone back and forth about writing anything for a long time. But, honestly, it’s a big stressor in my life right now. It has a huge impact on my relationship. Actually, it’s the issue that will decide whether or not we make it as a couple. It has a huge impact on our financial future, the plans we can make. As such, I don’t think I can really be honest about my financial life if I don’t address the situation. And I’d love to get some feedback from other people.

Here We Are, Again
The boyfriend and I have been enjoying some pretty blissful months. We’ve been spending time together. Planning. Dreaming. Communicating. Despite the drama at work, the ridiculous cold, and tremendous amounts of snow, our relationship finally felt like it was heading in the right direction. Relationships are never perfect, but we were both working towards making things work.

And then, in the course of one discussion, my world came crashing down. Again. All my feelings of trust and stability. Gone. And we were there. Again.

Our biggest problem is based around his children. Which makes me feel like a terrible person. I don’t want to be that person. You know, evil step-mom (possibly, someday) who ruins the kids’ lives. I want him to have a wonderful relationship with his boys. I want his boys to have a wonderful life. I really, really do. And I know, I’m not a mother. I’ll possibly never be a mother. I don’t have any say in the boys’ lives, and I’m fine with that.

So what’s the problem? Decisions are being made. Big decisions, with far-reaching implications. Decisions that will affect all of our futures. And I don’t see the choices being made as being in anyone’s favor.

I should probably point out that his kids aren’t exactly kids anymore; they’re young men. His youngest is a sophomore in college. They’re both in their twenties now. Ideally in the next few years, they’d both be “leaving the nest”. These are the years when most parents are helping their kids to get out on their own.

The Little Issue
Overall, his youngest is doing pretty well. An average college kid. There have been a few bumps in the road, but for the most part he’s doing alright. I only have a small(ish) issue in concern with him. The boyfriend had been paying for the majority of his son’s college. His son was doing Stafford loans, and the boyfriend was picking up all the other expenses. Probably around $15,000 a year, including books. It was a stretch, but doable. I was totally on board with that.

Then going into his sophomore year, his son decided to take out large loans to pay for his education instead. $25,000/year, to be exact. I’m not sure if this amount includes the Stafford loan, or is in addition. I think part of it stemmed from his mother, and wanting to not be so dependent on his dad. I understand. But taking out $75,000 worth of loans to finish an undergraduate degree? I think it’s a terrible idea. Personal experience with student loans, and article after article I come across, all confirm that taking on large amounts of debt to complete a degree is a terrible idea. Not to mention that the boyfriend had to “sign something” in order for his son to take out the loan. Is he a cosigner? Or did his son have him take out a Parent Plus Loan? The boyfriend has no idea. Every time it’s brought up, the boyfriend gets defensive; His kid is smart, he knows what he’s doing! Yep. Just like every other kid in college. *sigh*

Alright, so the boyfriend could be on the line for a lot of money in student loans. Even if his son finishes school, and gets a great job right away, there’s no denying that kind of debt load is going to be tough to handle. And his son regularly discusses quitting school. A little less this year than last, mainly because someone told him college gets easier after the second year. Seriously?!? Junior and Senior years are not known for being the easiest years! Quitting school with $25,000-50,000 in student loans, and no degree, is not starting adult life out on the best foot. I would have much rather he (we) scrimped for 3 years for him to graduate with a manageable amount of student loan debt, rather than him take out such a large debt load and struggle for many years out of college.

I said my piece, and let it go. Like I said, it’s not my kid. I have my concerns that this will come back to hurt us later. And since the boyfriend is looking to retire in the next 5-10 years, the timing is less than ideal. I have firsthand knowledge of how a $25,000 student loan can balloon to $42,000 before the cosigner (in that case, me!) is even aware there is an issue, all thanks to the “magic” of compound interest and penalties. I can only imagine a similar scenario with a starting amount of $75,000. Yikes!

But he’s not the first kid taking on enormous amounts of debt for school. It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s the decision they’ve made. We’ll all survive. And, knowing the worst case scenario, we can be prepared this time.

The Bigger Issue
If that was the only issue, I could deal. Our bigger issue? His older son. Without going into a bunch of details that aren’t mine to share, the kid was given too much, too soon. He had the world by the ass right out of high school. And he handled it like the immature, irresponsible boy that he was. It wasn’t long before it all blew up. Big. He’ll be suffering the consequences for many, many years to come.

He made big mistakes. He was young, it happens. He’s going to have to figure out how to recover from those mistakes. And I get that he’s still a little lost right now, and depressed, and trying to figure things out. But the thing is, he isn’t doing any better. The boyfriend is totally blind to this. His mistakes are smaller, so it somehow seems okay. But he isn’t in a position to make as big of mistakes. And I feel like Dad is enabling him, instead of helping him.

Our first issue is the truck. Several years ago, when things were good, his oldest son bought a truck. A big, flashy, expensive, used pickup truck, with all the bells and whistles. I’ve never gotten an exact answer as to how much the truck cost, but I know it was more than my new Ford Escape cost. I’m guessing around $25,000+.  I know trucks can be expensive, but that seems like a lot for a used vehicle! And of course, he took out a loan. His payments are ~$400 a month. He has at least a year left on the loan. Doing the math, it’s probably several years left, but I know it’s being downplayed for my benefit.

Hey, I’m in no position to judge someone for buying a vehicle and taking out a loan. Been there, done that. But the problem is, he can’t afford it. The kid only makes $300-500 a month! There was a 9-10 month time period when he couldn’t make payments on it at all! So what happened? The boyfriend picked up the slack. I know he’s put over $5,000 into his son’s truck payments. And multiple times he’s driven across the state to pay off the repo guy before the truck was taken.

We could go into the argument that many parents provide cars for their kids. And if the boyfriend wants to spend money on his kid’s truck, that’s his choice. But the kicker? The truck isn’t currently driveable! That’s right, thousands and thousands of dollars being dumped into a truck that hasn’t been driven in over a year. His son is currently driving one of the boyfriend’s old farm trucks, and dumping all of his income into a truck he doesn’t even drive! Every time I bring up the lack of logic in this plan, I get the backlash that his son “earned it”, and he can’t stand the idea of taking it away from him. But he didn’t earn it! He can’t even afford it! And the money he’s making should be going into other things. Like maybe someday getting his own place! (And don’t even get me started about the son’s 4 wheeler! Luckily it’s finally paid off!)

The Elephant in the Room
Which brings us to the biggest issue; His son is currently living at the boyfriend’s house. Most of the boyfriend’s income goes to pay for the house he used to live in, where only his son lives now. The boyfriend stays mainly in the apartment that the company provides for him. Sure, the boyfriend visits, and checks up on things, and takes care of the maintenance, etc. It’s a big farmhouse, on a big piece of land. The best choice would be to sell the house. No, I’m not talking about kicking the kid out on the street. He could go live with his mother, or we have an extra bedroom where he could stay. Sure, it wouldn’t be the most comfortable living arrangement, But, when you’re in your mid-twenties, a little discomfort isn’t a bad thing to help spur you out on your own.

The boyfriend can’t afford more than the house. We can’t move there; it wouldn’t work for our jobs. Plus, it’s the house he and his ex-wife had together. His boys consider the house “their’s”; I’d always be the outsider, it would never be “my home”. But still, he keeps the house, for his son. We talk about him selling the house. He acknowledges that it would be the best decision financially. He admits that he doesn’t really want the house.

So, we start to talk. And plan. And dream. If we both sold our houses, we could pay for our dream home outright in cash within 5 years. We talk about what that means. Moving south? Staying local? A nice 2-3 bedroom ranch, with a few acres of land? We go about blissfully, maybe for a month, maybe for a couple of weeks.

And then suddenly, BAM! Maybe I should keep the house, and my son can rent it? Yeah, with his $300-500 income, and $400 truck payment, he can afford the house payment! Maybe I can sell the house, buy some land, and build a little something for him? Just till he can get on his feet? Maybe we’ll leave it like it is? JUST TILL HE GETS ON HIS FEET?

And just like that, I see all of my dreams sliding away. I see his son, living in the big house on the hill, continuing to make bad decisions, while we live on the remainder. I see the boyfriend, wanting to retire, but unable to, because he can’t afford that house on his pension. And I see him worry, day after day, that I’m going to finally get fed up and walk away. All because he refuses to make his son grow up.

I feel like a terrible person. I don’t have kids, but I understand that a parent would do anything for their child. He truly feels like he’s trying to do what’s best by his kids. And I truly feel that he isn’t. His kids aren’t kids anymore; They’re young men. Young men who are struggle to figure out what they want in this world. There’s a difference between helping your kids to grow up, and enabling them not to.

When things are good, we dream about what we want. And then, suddenly, he’s back to talking about ways he can help his oldest son. To me, it seems like long-term plans for a (hopefully) short-term problem. His son should be thinking about having a real future! Starting a career, whatever that may be. Getting married. Buying a house of his own, and settling down. He should be starting to turn his life around. But, at 55 years old, the boyfriend has less time. Even if he just hangs on to the house a few more years for his son, it’s still putting him behind. Yes, he has a pension. But, like I said, he can’t afford his current lifestyle on that pension. He’s pretty much living paycheck to paycheck as it is. Any savings he has quickly gets eaten up in his son’s next “emergency” (*cough* truck repo *cough*).The house was recently refinanced to a 30 year loan. He’s not going to work 30 more years before retiring! At this point, there’s very little equity in the house. By the time he got the house ready to sell, and paid out Realtor’s fees, he’d be walking away with very little. And who’s going to take care of him if something happens? His son?

It makes me wonder if, when we’re dreaming, we really are dreaming about what we want. I know he wants what’s best for his kids. I understand that. I want him to have a good relationship with them. I want him to help them on their way to being men. But I think it’s selfish of him to put his kids so far ahead that he doesn’t consider his own situation. As a parent, you have to plan for yourself too. Otherwise you’ll just be burden on your kids someday.

I love my boyfriend. I want us to build a life together. One that’s healthy and helpful to everyone, including his kids. But right now, I feel like it’s the one who screams loudest that sets the plans. And I don’t think that’s right. I’ve never been one to scream to get my own way. Yes, there is going to be some give and take. This isn’t all about what I want. But I want to be with someone who is planning a future with me. Someone who can work to create a future that works for everyone.

I worry about whether there’s even a future here for me.

– Cindy W.

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