Polyamory and Finance: Risk or Safety?

Building on previous posts, today we’re talk about the first of your financial priorities: risk or safety.

Risk or Safety

At first glance, you might ask why anyone would prioritize risk. The short version is that in money stuff, risk is usually tied to opportunity.

As a general rule, the more you have, the more you can afford to risk. When you realize that risk is tied to opportunity, you begin to understand who it is easier for the rich to get richer than for the poor to get rich.

Starting a new company is a risk–but if that company is successful you can have more money AND set your own hours.

Switching jobs is a risk–but if that risk is successful you can have a better paying job, or a healthier work environment, or be at a company that offers better advancement opportunities.

Investing is risk, taking a loan is a risk, paying for a certificate course so you can try for a different career is a risk.

There’s no one right answer

Whether you choose to risk of play it safe is ultimately a personal choice. There are very valid arguments to focus on safety if you are poor–but there are also arguments for risking if you pick your risks carefully.

And the same applies no matter how much money you have.

It’s not binary

Like most things, this isn’t a binary choice. It’s a spectrum with risk and safety on the two extreme ends. And your situation will change what is a risk and what is safety. For most people, going back to school will be a big risk, especially with what tuition is these days. But some companies have programs where they will pay for you to go back to school. In that case the going back to school may be safer than keeping your current job because you aren’t paying the tuition, your company will be less likely to lay you off (because they’ve invested in your tuition) and you’ll have a near-guaranteed higher paying job once you graduate.

So…. Polyamory?

How polyamory affects this decision is largely a matter of the decisions you’ve made about your polyamory. If you have kept your money completely unentwined and have made no financial commitments to or with your polyam partners, then risk or safety is entirely up to your personal preference.

Commitments

The more commitments you have made, the more you will usually need to lean toward safety to be sure you can keep those commitments. With no commitments, you can risk everything. With commitments, you can risk only what you haven’t committed or else you are risking breaking those commitments.

Again, this is easier for rich folks because their “everything is bigger. Someone with money can risk what would be “everything” for someone poor and have a cushion left over so they aren’t risking the commitments they may have made.

Entwinement

If your finances are entwined with other peoples–joint bank accounts, joint budgets, etc, then this decision isn’t yours to make alone. you need to talk with the partners you share finances with and come to an agreement on what level of risk and/or safety everyone is comfortable with.

 

This really isn’t a polyamory issue

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that nothing I’ve discussed here (or in the last three posts) is REALLY specific to polyamory. It could apply to any situation where you are (or aren’t) dealing with the questions of sharing finances and how to handle finances

Joreth is fond of saying that there are no polyamory problems, only relationship problems. I don’t entirely agree, but in this case it definitely applies. But it’s kind of like learning to do a math problem by rote without understanding it. In monogamy, everything works a certain way and people rarely talk about it and never really break down the individual decisions that are made. We know that 5*3=15, without understanding what that really means.

So when we’re presented with 6*4=?, or “how do we handle finances in a polyamorous relationship” we don’t know how to start figuring it out. Not until we break the situation down into individual pieces, the way I’ve been doing here.

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