Does salary matter in a relationship?

A bonus mid week issue on the topic of money and relationships

Whenever I come across posts like this, I see many comments about how the author is superficial.

I’d do my best to discuss this topic in a way that is balanced and without judgement.

This means not giving blanket answers which swing towards either extremes: “Money not important at all, feelings are the only thing which matters”

Or, “This is the most important factor because Singapore is expensive. Be practical”

When thinking about how to answer the lady on Reddit; here are some questions I feel it might be good for her to consider.

1. What is your ideal lifestyle?

Do you aspire to go for 3 holidays per year or to live in a specific district in Singapore?

From there, you have to work backwards and calculate the minimum monthly income needed.

If you earn $7,000 and your partner earn $5,000 and he is willing to contribute 50-50, and your dream lifestyle will be achievable, why not?

However, if your partner is unable to contribute 50-50 with you, here are other questions to consider:

i. Would you be open to downgrade your current standard of living or aspirations?

For example, right now, you live in a condo at Keppel Bay.

If you date a partner who has less financial resources who cannot afford to get an apartment in this district, are you open to moving elsewhere in the future?

ii. Or, would you be willing to carry a heavier load and pay more?

If you have a specific lifestyle that you want to upkeep without much sacrifices, it is good to speak to the other party and ensure that in terms of ambition and financial stability, you’re both on the same foot.

2. Is the issue here really income or fundamental values?

I once had a friend who dated someone who earned significantly less than her, around 5X less.

She was extremely unsure about the situation.

Not wanting her to miss out on a potentially good man, we had multiple conversations about this topic to ensure our due diligence was thorough and we covered all blindspots.

We soon discovered together that the core issue was not so much of income but rather the lack of a growth mindset.

In her social circle, many had a lot of global exposure; love to grow and could have deep intellectual conversations about a broad range of topics related to art; film; current affairs and social issues.

In contrast in his, his friends mostly stayed in Singapore their whole life. They did not really read and prioritize personal growth.

At the end of the day, she had an honest conversation with him and they parted ways amicably.

Being in an international environment and global exposure can really change a person’s perspective

3. Could this lead to resentment later down the line?

I once went out with a guy who had a stable government job but earned significantly less than I did.

Nonetheless, I was open to explore committing to him because he had good traditional Chinese values; super filial to his mum and gave back to society during his weekends.

Assuming you choose to date someone who earned significantly less, something good to think about is: What are these trade offs?

If it is based on core values, I think that is reasonable. Values are critical; important and less mutable.

However, if it is based on romantic efforts or looks which can be more temporary, that might be worth a second thought.

People tend to put in more effort at the beginning. However, it is simply not sustainable.

As time progresses, what if he drops the ball on the romantic front or spend less time on you?

Would you feel you got the shorter end of the stick? Would this will lead to resentment?

There are no right answers. It is about the kind of life and relationship that you want.

4. What is the growth potential here?

Fortunes change and your partner may lose his earning power, or he may gain earning. It is relatively common, and something you will need to learn to accept and deal with.

For the lack of a better analogy: Is this person a “growth stock“?

For example, if you date a younger guy or late bloomer with tons of growth potential, that could be a good thing. It is like buying a share of a company at lower valuation.

On the other hand, I wish to highlight that dating for potential can also be dangerous.

That means there are expectations further down the line, and commitment might be conditional based on that.

We all know that life has several factors that are out of our control. People might not live up to their potential for several reasons.

Furthermore, I personally feel like everyone deserves to be chosen and accepted by their partner for who they are; not who we imagine or want them to become.

5. What is their attitude towards money?

While salary can be one of the factors in your consideration, what I found constantly overlooked is one’s attitude towards money.

How does one perceive money? Is the value in it’s freedom; power; societal approval etc? Money is simply a currency we use to trade for things in life.

Also, what is their spending habits like?

For example, I know that I will not want to tie my life to someone with poor spending habits.

When two people get married; their finance are combined and goes into the same pot. Their debt is yours.

Imagine a case whereby thousands of your hard earned money get squandered on several luxury shoes; bags or belts.

Lastly, it is also important to understand the other parties’ attitude towards women in the context of money. 

There are some men who believe that women can only do well at home or in the workplace. They cannot be both.

Being good with work means a woman is likely less nurturing and not a good parent.

Yes, it is 2023 but stereotypes still exist and are often deeply rooted from experiences formed in childhood.

Overall, I feel like it is meaningful to discuss and consider perspectives like these versus simply making decisions based on ‘feelings’

Chemistry or money are important but it’s a small part of the bigger picture. It is better to match values and life goals which are a larger predictor of success.

Some other questions to ask yourself:

  • How do they fight? Are they able to openly address issues in a mature way?

  • Do you want your son or daughter in the future to have the same conduct as this person? An apple does not fall far from the tree

  • What are your core values and are they closely aligned with him or her?

Tried my best to be comprehensive; balanced and empathetic in this post. Should I have missed out on anything, please let me know.

Send this to your friends if you feel they’d get value out of it: