Should You Move for a Relationship?

couple on a swing
Here’s what to consider when deciding whether to move for a relationship | anyaberku/iStock/Getty Images Plus

If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you and your partner could experience a life event where a big move is required. Depending on your relationship status, your significant other could request that you come along. But what are the financial pros and cons of relocating to be with a loved one?

The Cheat Sheet spoke with Kate Ryan, a Wealth Management Advisor at TIAA, to learn how moving for a relationship can affect your finances.

The Cheat Sheet: What are some of the drawbacks of relocating to be with your partner?

Kate Ryan: One issue to think about before moving for love is your current living situation. Do you rent or do you own where you live now? If you rent, you need to understand the terms by which you can (or cannot) break your lease. If you still have a number of months left on your lease, you are likely going to be responsible for the rent for the full term of lease. Talk to your landlord about your options before making any decisions that might leave you on the hook for the rent in your old (and empty) apartment.

CS: What should you consider if you own your current residence?

KR: If you own, you’ll either want to sell or sublet your current place. It can be a good idea to talk to a licensed real estate agent to understand the current real estate market. Another issue to consider is the cost of living in your new location. If your new locale has a higher cost of living, it can impact everything from your car insurance to what you’ll pay for groceries. On the other hand, if you’re moving to a lower cost-of-living area, you may be able to save more. Moving may bring new expenses you’re not currently accounting for. For example, will you need to buy a car or a monthly transit pass? Or if you’re moving far away, will you need to budget for flights back to visit family?

CS: If you decide to relocate to be with your partner, how can you prepare financially?

KR: If you are going to be living together for the first time, there are a number of financial conversations you should have in advance of the big move:

  • Agree on the specifics of paying joint expenses. Communicating with your partner about splitting your bills and various expenses is very important for any unmarried couple moving in together. Perhaps you’ll split it evenly or the person who earns more will cover a larger portion of the bills. Whatever you decide, make sure to discuss it at length and make no assumptions.
  • Who owns the real estate? When one partner owns the property, it’s necessary to figure out how you will handle mortgage payments. Cohabitation is much more complicated than simply renting together. If your partner pays half of your mortgage each month, he or she will not legally own any of the property unless you change the title so you are both represented. Many strongly advise against adding an unmarried partner to the title of a home because it could lead to serious legal complications if the relationship takes a turn for the worse.
  • Rights of an unmarried partner. Unmarried partners also do not have rights to each other’s Social Security benefits or retirement plan benefits, unlike those who are legally married. Estate planning is critical to make sure your live-in partner has a say in your care and finances if you become ill and inherits what you would like them to after your death. Be sure to assign a durable power of attorney, who can make decisions about your financial assets should you become incapacitated. Estate planning is not a one-and-done process; documents should be continually updated to reflect your current circumstances.
  • Avoid accruing joint debt. As if paying joint bills wasn’t difficult enough, unmarried couples should avoid taking on large amounts of debt together in the event they break up and one person is left weighed down by loans they can’t repay alone.

CS: When is it a bad idea, financially speaking, to relocate to be with your partner?

KR: It can be tempting move to be closer to your partner, but before you pack up and leave you should think about how the move can affect your financial situation and career. Moving can be expensive and it can have a big impact on your job prospects, so make sure you and your partner are on the same page before making any big decisions. It can be a red flag if you have vastly different ideas of where your relationship is heading, and you don’t want to move to a faraway city only to find you’re not in the long-term relationship you thought you were in.

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