I just turned 30 this week and am feeling a lot of self-directed pressure to get it together. I’m female, been in a relationship for 2.5 years, and will NOT be having children (genetic risks with both of our families). We live in insane Vancouver, Canada, where housing costs rival San Francisco.

We both recognize we need to leave the city now. The problem comes in deciding what to do next. He used to run his own construction company, but due to an injury has not been able to make the company really run for the last two years. I just completed a six-month certificate at a technical institute for front-end web development. This is following years of basically admin-drudgery, where I was dreadfully underpaid – despite a 4 year degree; don’t get an arts degree kids.

I assumed once complete I could work my way into a remote job in tech and we could relocate to a more affordable housing market where we could buy a modest property and start building some equity.

Tonight I learned that my boyfriend has dwindled his savings down to half. He now claims he is not interested in buying a property, is giving up on working and considering disability assistance (we’re in Canada), and doesn’t understand why I want to buy since we don’t want kids.

Aside from his lack of ambition, we are a compatible couple. However, I’ve been financially stressed all of my life – coming from irresponsible, immigrant parents who couldn’t save a dime. I paid my own tuition, only paying off student loans a couple years ago.

The constant financial pressure is causing me a lot of depression and anxiety about the future. My boyfriend’s increasingly blaze attitude is amplifying my depression. At the start of our relationship he was much more hopeful about his career, this hope has essentially disappeared.

Where to go next?

Enter your name and email address below. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

39 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    You will not be happy staying with him for the rest of your life. For you this relationship will recreate the situation you had with your parents.

    Your anxiety is not really about money, it’s that you have no idea what you’re doing with yourself and you have no goals except to not worry about money. But actually money is a tool to meet your goals. So it’s hard to not worry about money when you have no goals and think only about money.

    You need to want something in your life besides financial stability. Because financial stability/security/whatever is relative. And the number is always changing. Here are different ways to think about financial stability. Notice that none of them require owning a house or having a boyfriend with a job; it’s all about how you set goals and see your ability to meet them. And, here are blog posts I’ve written about this topic:

    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2014/01/30/13-ways-to-keep-your-debt-from-holding-you-back/

    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2013/01/09/8-new-ways-to-think-about-financial-security/

    As you turn 30 you are wondering why things are not falling into place for you. The reason is because you don’t have anything you want besides money. But money is a tool – it has no value independent of a meaningful goal.

    You need to want something in your life. There are not a lot of choices. You can focus on your career, or focus on your family, or focus on nothing and just be free of anything that has meaning.

    You don’t have a career you are excited about and want to devote your life to, and you’re not going to find one now if you haven’t found one at 30. For you, a career is simply a way to earn money.

    Right now you are not really committed to anything and nothing has much meaning to you — everything is tenuously attributed to you and could easily be jettisoned (the boyfriend, the career, the location, etc). You are not happy this way.

    So what’s left is kids. And you are pretty normal in that respect. Almost everyone gets to age 30 and does not have a career they want to devote their life to. And they want to have something in their life that is meaningful. And the only other thing there is is kids.

    Find someone who wants kids. You can adopt kids if you are worried about your genetics. Or you can get tested. Or maybe when you ditch the boyfriend you will find someone who either has kids already or has more compatible genetics to yours.

    So get rid of this guy, find someone you can have kids with. You will not worry about money anymore because you will worry about your kids because you love them so much. And that’s how life should be: we focus on the people we love.

    Penelope

  2. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    PS if it helps any, we’re 33 and 32 just outside Vancouver, and we have no desire to buy a house, either…why spend your money on something like a house here when you can have margin and enjoy your life without paying 60% of your take home pay on a house? We’ve owned a house before and housing is not just your mortgage. Talk about financial anxiety (and we had an affordable house in the States!) It’s not just him, there are plenty of us out here who don’t see the quality of life increasing when buying a house in this market…

    • M
      M says:

      To be clear I would not buy in Vancouver at this time, I see it as a bubble and a terrible investment. We would definitely look outside the Lower Mainland. Or I guess I would.

      • J.E.
        J.E. says:

        Once you move out of Vancouver you may find yourself having more money anyway. Housing is so expensive there that once moving to a lower cost of living city, you’ll find you have more of your income to put towards things other than rent or a house payment.

  3. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    Do you absolutely not want kids of any kind-biological, adopted or step? Don’t have them if you are sure you really don’t want to be a parent. Kids aren’t the go to answer for everyone.

    I do agree that the relationship doesn’t seem ideal. You may seem ok right now, but I see resentment growing if something doesn’t change. If things don’t change, you might think about ending the relationship and striking out on your own. Things might fall into place once you relocate from Vancouver. It’s a great city, but housing is expensive to the point of ridiculous. I often wonder how anyone can live there who isn’t a millionaire several times over.

    Start looking at jobs that utilize your recent certification. Keep your skills fresh and look at jobs located in places that are affordable. Start applying now. Don’t wait for your boyfriend to come around or make up his mind about what he wants to do. If you got a job somewhere else that may be time for the sit down/ultimatum with your boyfriend.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      J.E. thank you for weighing in.

      The person who asked this question clearly is not interested in having a career that is a focal point of her life. I mean, she is getting random certifications at age 30. And most people at age 30 have either found a career they love or they are tossing in the career towel and they are having kids. After all, very few people in this world find that their career provides meaning in their life.

      So what do you suggest to people who clearly will not find meaning in life from their career, and are floundering. Where else do we find meaning besides something we are passionate about (we call this career — shorthand for what we want to spend a large amount of our time in our life doing) or children. What else do people do in their life that creates enough meaning to feel satisfactory?

      Do you have an example of someone who did not have any career by age 30 and did not have kids but is having a life at age 45 that you (or anyone else) would aspire to? And if not, why tell people it’s okay to not have a career or kids?

      I ask this because I genuinely want to know. I do not see any alternative in life besides a career that you are very passionate about or kids.

      Penelope

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Yes, good question. I mean that you need to be able to see one person in the whole entire world who has lived or is living a life you would like to choose. Because you are not going to invent a new way to live.

          You know how if someone describes the person they want to marry, and that person doesn’t exist in anyone’s experience, then there is no way the person will get a partner? The same is true for choosing a life. If you are trying to create a type of life that no one else has ever done, you will end up with nothing.

          When people who have no career that enthralled them, and they tell me they don’t want kids, I always say, who is a model for the life you’re planning? And the person always says they don’t know anyone who is happy with no kids and no passion/life commitment for something else. And then they realize they are thinking they will have something that doesn’t exist.

          Penelope

          • J.E.
            J.E. says:

            By someone who doesn’t have a career, do you mean not working at all or not in a job considered “professional”?

      • M
        M says:

        Thanks J.E. + Penelope.

        I definitely do not want children. My older brother has severe autism (non-verbal, epilepsy) and needs constant care. My goal would be to have enough financial security to help fund his care – although we have resources in Canada, they are still limited. I see this as enough for me, I do not want to be responsible for someone else beyond that.

        I also wouldn’t say I had no career by age 30 – I was an event coordinator for 7 years (I know I mention admin jobs above, I was being somewhat self-deprecating). Not having career-savvy parents, I thought working hard and being in an industry I enjoyed would lead to financial success. It did not. My mother passed away from cancer last summer and I decided to embark on a career change following that.

        I already have a paid contract with a local creative agency. Career has always been the focal point of my life, but unfortunately I’m just not killing it like I thought I would.

        Penelope, to answer your question, a Google search turned up this: https://www.businessinsider.com/successful-people-who-changed-careers-2017-11#dwayne-the-rock-johnson-transitioned-careers-not-once-but-twice-before-he-was-the-most-electrifying-man-in-sports-entertainment-johnson-was-briefly-a-backup-linebacker-for-the-canadian-football-leagues-calgary-stampeders-he-ditched-the-football-career-and-joined-the-world-wrestling-federation-wwf-in-1996-at-24-which-catapulted-him-to-stardom-and-allowed-him-to-cross-over-to-tv-and-movies-in-the-early-2000s-8

        • J.E.
          J.E. says:

          This brings up another issue with your boyfriend. Is he supportive of you taking on caretaking responsibilities for your brother? Once your father passes, you will be the person who signs off on all things dealing with his care and the person who is called any time an issue comes up. If you did stay with your boyfriend long term then by extension he’s along for this as well. For example, would he be resentful if you two had planned a getaway and then had to cancel because something came up with your brother? You also mentioned your boyfriend had dwindled his savings down. If he went on disability, that’s not exactly high roller money. Would he be looking to you to support him and be resentful of instead your money going to your brother’s care?

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          The careers this guy had, in your example, require extreme commitment. We are not talking about that type of work here.

          Also, I have found that the people who are most adamant about not wanting kids had the most trauma growing up. I am sure I would not have had kids except that as a very young adult I had to raise my brothers and it was so incredibly rewarding that I knew nothing would be as meaningful and fulfilling as having kids of my own.

          For the most part, though, I find myself looking very similar to the people who are overwhelmed and wounded from childhood and saying they don’t want kids in adulthood.

          Penelope

        • Minami
          Minami says:

          Good grief, your story is so similar to mine it’s insane – down to the autistic older brother I will have to care for, my mother passing away from cancer last year, immigrant parents terrible with money, getting an arts degree…

          Believe me, I relate.

          Paying off your student loans at your age is a huge deal for you, and it means you’re not financially irresponsible. But you’re also not geared for a big, financially lucrative career (because you’re not an EXTJ or INTJ personality type), so you’re probably more the type to build financial stability – rather than financial success – more gradually, via saving and managing your money carefully.

          Working hard and being in an industry you enjoy IS unlikely to lead to financial success, like you said, but it’s probably critical to your actual sense of contentment. I’m going to guess it was while you were in that industry that you managed to pay off most if not all of your student loans, so you will probably be happier returning to that field. If you’re managing to pay all your bills without stressing out too much and the work is rewarding, that will help a lot.

          And yeah, finding a new significant other who’s willing to settle down with you is another huge thing you’ll need. You may not need children, but you do need a family.

          • May
            May says:

            I don’t know if I can judge your significant other unless you give more details. He may want to take on some disability now, but he also might decide to get off it or find a side-hustle to supplement. And it does seem likely he is depressed and needs some therapy to give him a clearer idea of what choices he can make.

            When I met my now-husband in highschool some decade ago, I had to think about what was more important to me in a life companion: intellect on my level, earning power, earnest work ethic, a good heart, looks, etc. I decided having a good heart and an earnest work ethic was the most valuable thing because those are character traits that show integrity. All that other stuff is fickle and you don’t know when it will just get up and leave to also “upgrade” its chances at even more earning power, looks, elitism, etc. So I think what’s most important is to have enough self-awareness of your own needs and also look into the character of your boyfriend. One of you are probably going to have to be the main money manager if you do live together, someone who decides how the budget will work, how to best invest. These are things you have to discuss, especially if you do feel financially insecure.

            As for career, I think Minami makes good points. If you were content with yoru previosu work, even if it wasn’t high paying, as long as your needs are met and you have room to make more to help take care of your brother, contentment and peace of mind is worth a true premium. Penelope and others don’t get to decide what is meaningful to you. Don’t let force you into picking between dichotomies (especially if you’re an INFP lol). A meaningful and fulfilling life just needs to be full of your own joys, whether they are lots of little bits of things, unfocused but warm, or one main big giant challenging thing (I suspect just being able to care for your brother will already be that goal). Sometimes people’s lives are so muddles with trauma or numbness they need to achieve something extreme or all their focus to feel alive or worthwhile, but if that’s not you, then you have wider choices.

            As for what I think is “best” lol, I’d probably move out of Vancouver or rent+save and wait for the market to crash/recession again before buying property anyway! No need to rush this since you aren’t planning on every having kids anyway! (And even if you do decide to, you have a 5-10 window for happy accidents or whatever).

            If you still want to stick with your boyfriend (and I suspect he’s a more just down on himself), see if he wants to upgrade his credentials for something for office admin or IT. He can go on disability if he runs out of savings. You make it sound like he should be ashamed of it, but Canadians pay into that system for a reason, and it’s so people with injuries/illnesses like him aren’t completely crushed by poverty when they do decide to get back up on their feet. (I’m Canadian and have a rehab schooling background, so I want to be an advocate about this). Lay out a plan for yourself that can possibly include him and explain to him things you need in your life to happen (savings for a downpayment, enough income to support brother, an equal partnership), and see what he thinks. If he thinks it’s impossible for him, then just go ahead with your plan without him. You don’t have to break up with him right away (no kids, no rush!), just see if that motivates him to act and do something to follow you or if he will enact plans of his own. If it’s meant to be, it will be, if not, you got your own life to live.

          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            Devil’s advocate: if you substitute “earning power” for “focus and drive” then You are looking at core parts of a person that don’t change.

            APenelope

          • M
            M says:

            To those suggesting that I go back to my previous career in event planning, remember in Canada student loans aren’t as steep. Paying off $12K in 5 years is no feat. While event coordinating in itself is enjoyable, the peak pay is not high, it is stressful, and worst of all you are working with the most difficult of personalities.

            Beyond that I cannot move to a smaller community (with a more reasonable COL) and stay in event planning.

            I will take working with a computer any day ;)

            BTW all the Myers-Briggs tests I’ve taken over the years tell me I’m an ENFJ, being on the cusp of the NFJ’s.

      • J.E.
        J.E. says:

        Personally, I’ve found meaning in my relationships with my spouse, family (parents, brother, grandparents’, cousins, etc.) best friends I’ve had since I was 12 who are like sisters, and friends I made by volunteering for local arts organizations. My “career” isn’t really a career, more like just a job that I’m able to turn off right when I leave for the day. It’s a low level hourly position that didn’t really require a lot of education, but it’s relaxed, pays me enough to do the things I want and I’ve been lucky to work with people I can laugh with. I get my fulfillment outside of work from the relationships mentioned above and all the things I’ve done with those people over the years and continue to do. I just need to scroll through my photos and feel content and smile at the memories. I’ve had fun and I’m still having fun. For some people that may not be enough, but for me it is. No, I’m not jumping for joy every day, but I’m also not in the depths of despair. I’ve had my share of bad times and heartaches, but overall I’ve been very, very lucky. Children and parenting just aren’t for me. For years I kept wondering when that urge was going to kick in for me and it never has. At 38, I don’t think it will. Besides, my spouse is 20 years older than me so he’d be in his 70s by the time a child was graduating high school anyway. Do I have a life that others aspire to? Maybe to some and to others my life may look boring or lacking substance, but either way, I don’t care. I’m too busy doing what I want. I know quite a few people who are over 30, single with no kids and working a job they feel ok about but aren’t in love with it. They get their fulfillment from stuff outside of work. I have a feeling like everything else, when people are happy they don’t bother speaking up about it. And for the record I have amazing parents and had a great childhood and I still don’t want kids.

        To the OP I say start setting things in motion to move now. Once you get in a lower cost of living area, then you may find that you’ll have more money to contribute to your brother’s care since the bulk won’t be going to housing. A lower cost of living area will be a big plus if you are switching careers and starting over in a new industry. If you have to take a pay cut starting out, it won’t be as much of a blow. Have the hard conversation with the boyfriend and find out just what he envisions for the future. If need be, better to end things now rather than later. A change of scenery may be what gets everything else rolling.

        • Melissa
          Melissa says:

          Do you know people at 50+ who have neither a career/creative pursuit/political cause they care about nor kids? I think Penelope’s point is that living without deep commitments while you are in your thirties is kinda fun, but when you look 15 or 20 years down the road, it leads to a lonely and empty life that no one would aspire to have.

          Like my neighbor who is a paranoid hoarder that desperately wants to be liked by my toddler and is occasionally convinced that her ex is tapping her phone lines.

          • J.E.
            J.E. says:

            I know a couple in their late 50s who do not have children, both have jobs but that’s not their main passion/focus. They are very involved in their local Rotary and volunteer for a ton of other organizations (event volunteers, serve on boards, fund raise). They are not paid to do any of this, they choose to volunteer their time. They travel a lot both through their volunteerism and just for fun. They have a ton of friends that they do things with as well. I just wasn’t sure if things like volunteerism or hobbies that someone is heavily invested was counting as the “something else” to devote one’s life to.

            I’m like this as well in that I don’t want kids and work isn’t my main focus. I have a job to assist in having a roof over my head and food, but aside from that, it pays for the stuff I really like to do. I agree you need something, but I feel that something doesn’t have to be a high powered career or kids or even monetized if that’s not your inclination.

          • Leonie
            Leonie says:

            Good advice, but I have to say, I read this and all I could think about was:

            Melissa has a kid!!

            Congrats!

      • Ivana
        Ivana says:

        It is never to late to find something you love.

        I was a mediocre burn-out back-end developer for 10 years, was never passionate about my career (was depressed and anxious most of the time), moved to a developed country, saved a decent amount of money, earned a permanent residence permit, later citizenship and finally did a “random” program in Library and Information Technology and found a job I really enjoy going to every single day. I love getting up, dressing up in the morning, doing my job well, doing everything in a structured and organized way and staying energized in the evening to go out for an exhibition, concert, painting classes. I also create digital art.

        I also finally have time for friends, to go out for coffee, beer.

        I cannot imagine getting married and having children at the point when I was desperate. You first need to find peace and joy before you involve other people in your life.

  4. susi somebody
    susi somebody says:

    Dear precious young woman ~ As difficult as it may be, you have to leave this relationship with your boyfriend.

    Today is the best It’s going to ever be with him. It will only get worse from here. Is this the “best” you want?

    I’m 60 years old and have not only experienced watching the best day fade further into the past, I’ve watched it happen with other people, still holding on to hope that “things will get better”.

    THEY WON’T GET BETTER if you don’t go GET better. Get out.

    Move ahead.

    I’m serious.

    Leave.

    I recently gave this advise to my just-turning 30 year old daughter leaving a terrible marriage with a guy who “used to have ambition”. I moved her across the country to live alone and restart her life. She is SO grateful she listened to my advice; she’s now progressing in her previously stalled career, making new friends and doing things she didn’t know she’d do.

    Go get the BETTER that’s waiting for you!!!

    Susisomebody

  5. Hubbard
    Hubbard says:

    One further thought about your relationship, OP. It might well be that your boyfriend is suffering from depression. Between his injuries and his dwindling savings, it’d be surprising if he wasn’t feeling down. If he’s unwilling to get help, then you do need to leave. But if he gets some help, things might be salvageable. No guarantee there, but there might be something that can be saved.

    • J.E.
      J.E. says:

      I was thinking the same thing. He may be depressed because the injury made him unable to do what he previously did and he doesn’t know or see anything else that he could do. Some therapy might do him good, but I also agree that it’s now guarantee that things will improve.

  6. Bernice
    Bernice says:

    It seems as though you are looking for someone to point a finger at for your own failures of expectations that you have put on yourself. Your feelings of negativity towards this are coming from your desire to meet a specific criteria that you clearly cannot meet.
    Take responsibility for your own under-achievements and set goals that are more easily attainable for yourself.
    I dunno, maybe my take on your post is completely way-off as it seems most people’s solution is to get rid of your boyfriend, which honestly makes zero sense to me if you love him.
    Lets say you took your boyfriend out of the picture-he doesn’t exist, you are completely free of his “lack of ambition” that you are attributing as your only relationship downfall.
    Then ask yourself-Would you be able to say with complete certainty that you are content/able to move towards achieving your aforementioned goals (owning a home, helping to raise your brother) independently? Probably not.
    That all being said, you have chosen to commit to a relationship with your boyfriend. Any relationship, romantic or otherwise, consists of the individuals involved respecting and acknowledging the needs of the counterpart. Have you discussed setting goals TOGETHER instead of putting your own goals on a pedestal? Perhaps if you can find a common ground, you can set some goals both small and larger (future goals) to work towards together.
    This may have come off as cynical and blunt but just some things to think about. Especially if you say you and your partner are “compatible in every way other than his lack of ambition”.
    I’ve tried the blame game and it’s never worked out in the long run.

  7. LAP
    LAP says:

    Your boyfriend is a negative influence and you don’t have respect for him. You may actually not want kids, or he may be a major factor behind that choice. You may actually be on a new bright shiny career path, or his lack of ambition maybe spurred you into finding a better paying career. Either way, it will be difficult for you to know for sure what your true, independent views are until you are on your own.

    • M
      M says:

      He’s a great guy who previously had a lot of drive. As others have said above he’s feeling down on himself, which is realistic given the circumstances. My frustration is that we had agreed to work towards a path and now he tells me he wants to give up.

      I was single for awhile before I met him. I dabbled in tech (UX, graphic design, digital content writing) for 3 years before finally taking the plunge to properly learn how to code. Before being in a relationship I knew I wanted to do something more ambitious, for myself.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        ‘My frustration is that we had agreed to work towards a path and now he tells me he wants to give up.’ push/pull?

        Set some boundaries. Let him know that you are serious about your future, and you clearly want him to be apart of it. Does he want you apart of his future? Ask him that. Have a conversation about how his behavior and lack of commitment to anything is creating an environment that is pushing you away and causing you pain. You are a person who deserves support, too. Offer solutions again, and see what he says. You can’t mother him out of his issue, but you can tell him what you need in a partner.

        We can’t change others and you can’t change him, but a conversation around how this affecting you is important.

        Good luck

  8. May
    May says:

    If you were an ENFJ, it is unlikely you’d have these problems for long, so no worries, your force of personality will make things happen for you! If INFJ, Penelope would say “SEE YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO HAVE CHILDREN” so.. hahaha.

    Penelope, those “traits” of having earning power/”focus and drive” only seem to be naturally present in ExTJ (and maybe some ExTP on adderall–but with them it’s more likely to land them in jail or occasional homelessness). How much focus and drive do any other types really have (and is it good for them)?

    Should an INFJ find an ExTJ to marry? (probably not) So maybe the INTJ is the best bet for both income and quiet stability, and she is likely to find them in the computer sciences fields anyway. So I guess the answer is to: get into UI in a the startup scene and snag whatever INTJ programmer is there. You might end up with INTP instead, but that is also typically is an “easy” match for INFJ. lol

    • Minami
      Minami says:

      If you’re determined to marry this particular guy, push him to get therapy and/or medicated for his depression. If his depression is not addressed, you will have to break up with him. If he continues to stew in his depression, he will never be a support for the financial stability you seek. He will only become more of a burden (which he already is), and your resentment towards him will grow more and more as the years drag on. That’s not fair to you, and it’s certainly not fair to him.

      So help him get his depression addressed, and if you don’t want to do that or feel that you shouldn’t have to, then you break up with him to find a guy who will support you financially.

      • M
        M says:

        May, funny, he IS an INTP!

        Minami, I don’t believe in medication for depression (for most people). What he needs is action.

        Thanks everyone for the comments.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          INTPs are whimsical but not incapable. In fact, when it is something that interests them, they are on fire with it. INTPs generally don’t care about money (hence poster’s problem/dilemma).

          He probably needs medication. My brother is an INTP and went on meds and he said it changed his life (made it easier). Your guy may feel too smart to get individual therapy, but try to do both as it has best clinical outcomes. If he didn’t have issues before, he probably won’t need help/meds forever.

          Good luck

        • Bernice
          Bernice says:

          Has your boyfriend actually been clinically diagnosed with depression by a medical professional? Or is his “depression” a your way of validating/projecting your own professional/personal short-comings onto him?

          I ask because I strongly believe that you get what you give. Perhaps having a change of attitude and taking a serious look at how you can better yourself may have a positive influence in all aspects of your life?

          Take a look at what you have, what’s important to you and make sure you are satisfied with what effort YOU are putting into those things.

          It’s always easier to hold someone else accountable for the less than desirable things in your life, but in the end it’s never going to work if you don’t put in the effort and respect you so clearly expect in return.

          • Bernice
            Bernice says:

            Or if you’re unwilling to put any effort in, then I guess it’s Paxil or sugardaddies.com.

        • Minami
          Minami says:

          The decision for medication, therapy, or a combination of both should be between your boyfriend and his physician. Your personal disbelief in depression medication is irrelevant.

          Whichever route he takes, the fact stands that he needs help (more help than you can give him) to get his problems addressed, if your relationship is going to be sustainable without dragging you both down further and further.

          That, or it shouldnt be sustained at all.

          Just as it’s unfair for his loss of ambition to keep you in a financial position you don’t want to be in, it’s similarly unfair for your personal ambitions to push him to places he doesn’t want to be in, or isn’t ready to go to.

Comments are closed.