Announcement Module
No announcement yet.


Top Module

Finances slowing relationship - need advice

Page Title Module
Move Remove Collapse
Conversation Detail Module
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Finances slowing relationship - need advice

    Hey all.

    I have found myself in a rather annoying situation. My girlfriend and I have been openly talking about marriage for the past few months. I came to Japan with a large debt on my shoulders from my education (about 45K, US). While I am managing to pay it off (at about $500 a month - and I only earn 200,000 yen a month, so it IS possible to live cheaply in Japan), it will take me a number of years to clear the debt.

    The problem is this: she has pretty much said that we cannot get married until the debt is completely settled. Of course I am trying to increase my income here through various means, but I still do not see this issue being resolved within the next five or six years.

    We have always had an easy time communicating about other issues, but we seem to be butting heads here. I am at a loss. Are there any cultural issues in regards to money and relationships that I am missing? I have heard a lot about the stereotype of "man = bread winner", which I don't mind at all, but in order to get a fresh start in a marriage...

    I believe a lot of her issues come from her sister's marriage and some financial issues they have had, the details of which I am not certain of. I also think she is afraid to tell her parents about my debt. Any impressions from what her father might think?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

  • #2
    Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

    Hi Stephen
    before I can offer some advice could you give more info. For example are you living together? Does your girlfriend have a job? Does she live at home? How old is she? How long have you been going out? These may seem intrusive but then again if you are looking for advice on such a major issue ........
    One piece of advice might be for you to return to your home town (country) and look at the situation again. Sometimes being in Japan can cloud your judgement.
    A friend of mine a couple of years back was in a similar situation.....went home for a month....came back and was able to refocus on the situation. He didn't marry the girl, finished his Japanese language study and got a nice job in the state department.


    • #3
      Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice


      Thank you for the info so far. Your questions are not at all intrusive. I really want to find some angle from which to work from, and I am, currently, empty handed.

      We are not currently living together. She lives with her parents. She had a job until about one month ago. She has had a long time dream to live abroad in order to study. However, due to the state of the world (terrorism, etc.), her family is not so willing to let her live abroad for a long time (there is some friction at home over that issue).

      We are both 28 years old - I will be 29 in a couple of weeks.

      Her parents are both Korean, but were both born here. I am also aware that there might be some issues with visas (seeing as she holds a foreign registration card, too). To combat that, we have discussed living in the States, or in a different country if necessary.

      We have been dating for about one year. I'm the type of person that likes to think things through, so I am mainly looking for things to think about, a couple of which you have already provided. If things continue as good as they are now for another year or so, then I think I may want to pop the question. I have been through 3 or 4 serious relationships in my life, including one engagement, so I am in no hurry to jump the gun and make a mistake. But... well... my gut tells me it is right. Time will tell, however.

      My impression from her regarding her parents is that they will accept a foreigner as a son-in-law with no hang-ups, other than the monetary issue. I have met her parents and her sister and nephew (her parents do not know about our relationship, but her sister does - my girlfriend has never informed her parents of any previous boyfriends, of which she has had three).

      Does this shed some more light on my situation? If we do decide we want to marry in a year or two, I have to either communicate with her and her parents about my finances, or come to some other solution. Like I said, I don't see her goal of complete payoff coming before 5 or 6 years have passed.

      Thanks for your input!


      • #4
        Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice


        You've got to pay your debt quickly. Debt is indeed frowned upon culturally in Japan, and I'm fairly certain Japan-born Koreans feel the same way. If you are only earning 200,000 yen/month, you need to ramp up your income in a hurry, even if you have to spread yourself thin.

        Snapple had great advice: being here can cloud your judgement. Try to see your situation from the outside. It's good to reevaluate your relationship every so often anyway.

        And be wary of impressions from parents. Security for their daughter is probably their greatest concern, so show them the money, the more the better.

        Final thought: you may be jumping the gun with the marriage idea. If she hasn't told her parents about you, she may not be very serious.

        Good luck.


        • #5
          Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

          If I could add my two cents worth, coming from someone married to a Japanese, and up to his eyeballs in costs having to do withraising a family in Japan

          Debt is probably frowned upon, but I think if they understood it is to pay university loans, are working on improvingyour education, they may see things in a different light. Koreans are very education conscious and realise it is not cheap to pay your way through college. Most kids here will have had their education paid for by their parents, and not pay their own way and dont realise the actual cost.

          There is a bit of difference between borrowing money to apy for an education, and getting into debt to buy consumer items, gambling etc.

          Interracial relationships can be fraught with problems with future in-laws etc especially as they may have high expectations for their daughter, or she may worry they will put pressure on you etc. When I first met my girlfriend I didnt tell her parents for three months of our relationship which ticked me off a bit as I felt she was hiding me. Now I feel she wanted to break them in slowly and get them used to me first.

          I wont make any judgements after your financial situation but speaking as someone who has paid his way through graduate school in japan is raising two kids in Japan, you will need a lot more than 200,000 yen a month to support both of you, especially if she is not working
          If you are paying off loans that means you will be on about 150,000 yen a month, before rent. If you get married and have children, they will just eat up your savings or what ever you earn. With rent, school fees, insurance, medical bills, nursery school fees, you will be needing a minimum of 350-400,000 yen a month to survive in japan.

          You will need to earn more, IMO if you want to make ends meet, or obviously consider putting off the nuptials until you get the debt paid off. It may be tough in the beginning but you may have to consider moonlighting, taking a second job,

          Of course it cant be helped that you have school loans to pay off and it will help you to get better jobs in the future etc (esp if you eventually decide to go to graduate school) you will be able to earn more income and get better jobs

          This is also another side-issue but if you up up to your gills in debt what do you and her plan to do about a wedding? If you havent already discussed this, she may be wanting a big celebration with 100 guests at a hotel chapel and may realise it is impossible under present circumstances. She may be waiting until you are out of the woods financially before broaching the subject.

          Just my two cents worth.


          • #6
            Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

            Bane and Paul,

            More good info, thank you! I enjoy the angles and things to think about.

            Of course I have every intention of increasing my income. I am well aware that 200,000 is not enough to support even a wife on, let alone children and a family. I have been in Japan for a year and a half and am just now getting to "understand the system" a bit. My income is increasing now, but slowly (I was used to 6% raises in the states, not 20 yen an hour). I am looking for ways to break out of the English Industry and get something more stable going.

            And I agree with Paul - I believe my girlfriend has not told her parents because she wants them to be broken in, get to know me, etc., before she lets the cat out of the bag. I, too, just like Paul, have been kind of ticked that she doesn't tell them, but I can also understand her position. In a nutshell, she doesn't know HOW to tell her parents she is seeing someone - she is 28 years old and has NEVER told her parents about a boyfriend. I don't think that it is because she is not serious, but just nervous about involving her parents at this point when there are issues we need to resolve between us (finances).

            I have another friend who is in the same position (he is Japanese and his wife is Japanese). He earns more than me as a 35 year old Salaryman, but his wife is pregnant now and he is worrying a lot about how to up his income. It doesn't seem to be just the fact that I'm a foreigner. I think the biggest issue is the lack of jobs for foreigners here and the fact that the overall impression from the Japanese viewpoint is that foreigners come to play for a year or two and then go back to "life". (at least that seems to be the word on the street).

            Regarding wedding finances - good point. I was engaged in the States once, but the parents of my ex-fiance were quite weathly and were going to pay for the wedding since my family is far from loaded. So I never had to worry about that before. Is it tradition in Japan for the man to pay for the whole thing? I can't begin to imagine how expensive that could be. Then again, I don't know my girlfriend's ideas about wedding (see, we ARE going slowly!) - I will have to ask her.

            Anyway I appreciate the input!

            Thanks again,


            • #7
              Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

              Mate, you have to get a new job or bail from Japan. 200,000, well that's just joke money. I'm not sure what your degree is in but whatever it is you will always be able to earn more at home than that (assuming you are from the states). Are you teaching English? If you are can I recommend you don't do that for too long as to be honest employers don't really care anymore if you have been 'exploring' overseas, give it a year tops. I would also imagine that you are not learning a great deal in that kind of work that would be able to further your career greatly. (I have made a few assumptions here).

              Of course if you are absolutely loving whatever you do and it is one of those jobs that is the first rung on the ladder to success, then by all means continue.

              Mate you invested $45,000 (probably more) in your education, why isn't that investment paying off?

              From my experience with Koreans (in Korea) they tend to be a whole lot less keen on the inter-racial marriage thing, and if she is that close to her family then I think you are gonna have a crap time being married of you stay in Japan.

              Koreans are probably looking for someone who will be able to 'support' the family in future years.. usually this is the eldest son's job, but it sounds like they have two daughters (or "two strikes, no balls" as they say in Korea) so they may be naturally more financially selective about who they see their daughter get hitched too.
              As far as cultural mores of the woman not working ; this is strong in Korea (as it is here). I really really suggest you think hard and spend some time in your own counrty with your girlfriend before you think about getting married. It may open your eyes to some more pertinant differences.


              • #8
                Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice


                More interesting points, and much appreciated. You have taken more hard-core reality stance, which is also useful and helpful to me.

                Her family is Korean, true. But both her parents were born and raised in Japan as well, so, for all practical purposes, they are Japanese (only the father speaks Korean, and that is because he studied it, not because he learned it from his family).
                They do have one son, but he is in College - I have not met him. He's the youngest in the family (three kids).

                Through this discussion I have been asking my girlfriend a number of the questions that people have posed to me to see what her reaction is. So far she is just confused.

                In regards to job, Juan, you are 100% right. I am, in fact, doing eikaiwa, and desperate to get out of it, or to take on my own students and make some decent money on it. My education was 60K US. I had a great job in the States until the economy went south in the IT industry. But it feels like there are so many issues to iron out that my career is in flux right now. I have to maintain sponsorship, and eikaiwa is the easy way to do that. I'd like to go back to school, but, obviously, I don't have the funds for that or the time while I am working on this debt.

                In a nutshell, I feel there is more opportunity for me in Japan than in the US, so I plan to stay here, at least for now. My situation with my girlfriend is something I am working with - a kind of goal (obviously paying off debt is something to do for myself, but it helps to have an extra incentive). I'd say in sum that I would like to start a business here, but not in the English business. I am still exploring options and searching myself for what I want to gain out of this existence.

                Again, thank you for the input and advice - it is MOST helpful.



                • #9
                  Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

                  Regarding wedding finances - good point. I was engaged in the States once, but the parents of my ex-fiance were quite weathly and were going to pay for the wedding since my family is far from loaded. So I never had to worry about that before. Is it tradition in Japan for the man to pay for the whole thing? I can't begin to imagine how expensive that could be. Then again, I don't know my girlfriend's ideas about wedding (see, we ARE going slowly!) - I will have to ask her.

                  Stephen, I got married in New Zealand and didnt have any money when I got married (not even key money, i was in the middle of grad school) but in general between Japanese couples its expected that the groom-to-be will take care of the costs of furniture the apartment new appliances etc, while the brides family will take care of the wedding and reception. this is will vary depending on the arrangements between the families, and it may be different altogether for a Korean family.

                  In my experience with weddings in japan the guests also chip in 20-30,000 yen a piece deppending on how close they are to the bride and groom, and that offsets the cost of putting on the wedding. the couple will send a gift back to the guests worth 50% in cost what they were given at the wedding. Again this may vary and be case by case. I doubt couples will break even but it will offset the cost of putting on a reception at a hotel with 130 people.

                  A lot will also depend on her preferences for her wedding ceremony- a ceremony can go for 70-80,000 yen for the basics up to 150-200,000 yen including flowers, photos and musicians etc.

                  A reception will be as deep as your pockets will allow. One of my friends had his reception at the Kobe Sheraton last year that lasted 6 hours, had 6 members of Yoshimoto Kogyo comedy troupe as performing guests (including `Pachipachi`) and they laid on a spread for over 100 people. A standard restaurant wedding will set you back about a million yen minimum.


                  • #10
                    Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

                    Hi again Stephen
                    good to see that you are getting some good responses to your situation. As it unfolds I am feeling that you are taking too much into consideration about how others in your girlfriend's family feels, and being in Japan I dont think you can clearly see what options are open to you. I suggest you take a pencil and paper and write down how much your will be able to earn and then ask your girlfriend to write down how much she will be willing to earn to keeep you two together.

                    You are still in your twenties, As the saying goes 50s are the new 30s. People are living longer, Professional sportsment are playing into their late 30 and early forties. My personal opinion is that you are rushing. 35 is plenty of time to get married.

                    Take a holiday out of Japan. Preferably somewhere where the life style is laid back. Lie on the beach, look around then think about your options.


                    • #11
                      Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

                      Stephen - you sure you want to start a business? It takes a bit/ lot of an investment, some time to break even and pay off start-up costs, and it has to succeed. 90% fail within the 1st three years. You also should have a good idea, be 200% confident of success, some customers to start with, etc..
                      Do you really want to add to your debt.

                      To add to the misery of costs (!)wedding dress hire (2 changes) 200,000/day. Total costs for reasonable package of 60 people - \3,000,000, thank you money would take care of maybe one third of that. Then, family parties, before and after, for relatives friends who could not go, expenses for own family over here. It is not just one day.

                      How well do you communicate? You said she did not understand your questions. Is her focusing on money a polite way of saying no? The debt is your problem, not hers. She might not have much faith in your ability to take care of her down the road.

                      And what do you want to do? Say, 5 years later, it goes sour, what are you options then? (As Paul asked on another thread)

                      Agree with snapple - take a break, think it out, and focus a bit more on YOU!

                      Take care

                      Trip Hop (Ms.)


                      • #12
                        Re: Finances slowing relationship - need advice

                        Snapple, TH,

                        Thanks for the futher input.

                        TH: No, I'm not sure if I want to start a business. I'm in a kind of discovery phase right now. Actually have quite a few options for work right now - my problem is picking one. I can obtain some private students if I want, but with teaching at my eikaiwa right now, the overload would probably make me nuts. I am also talking to my carpentry boss about sponsorship, but he's a little slow on the ball there. There's good money there to be had, but the whole VISA thing keeps me from going full time in that field. The decision there is really simple except for that issue. I don't enjoy waking up when I have to teach so much, but I look foward to going into the mountains and building houses - it's stress releif and I get paid for it.

                        All the info on marriage costs is very helpful. I spoke with my girlfriend some more today about the whole situation. She wants to be married by 33, which seems reasonable, so that gives me four more years and change to figure things out, pay off as much as I can, etc. I think she understands the situation better now than she did before, thanks a lot to the advice I've received here. A lot of the things you folks said entered our conversation today.

                        Snapple - absolutly, I need a vacation but, unfortunately, that costs money. My girlfriend suggested we take a trip somewhere, but there really is no way to do it in the immediate future unless I win the lottery.

                        It might seem strange to some of you, but I'm quite a relativist. Yes, I could go back to the United States and, perhaps (through a lot of luck), land another job that pays 50K a year. However, when I look back on my life in corporate america and my life here in Japan, I still prefer this one, even though it's quite difficult. At least here I feel like I accomplish something in terms of influencing someone's life (speaking here primarily of my students). The culture exchange is immensly rewarding. So, basically, I don't really consider going back "home". My situation, in my opinion, doesn't have that option. I like it here.

                        All that said, AGAIN, I want to thank folks for their kind input.

                        I had a chance, too, to meet one of the posters this weekend. It was really nice to put a face behind all this writing! Thank you!

                        Cheers all,