Picture this: You’re on a date and you both tick each other’s boxes. There’s no bad breath or rudeness in sight, and the chemistry is clearly there.
But soon after that awkward conversation around money, things start to fizzle. There are many things that will determine whether a date goes on to become a life partner, and according to new research, finance is a key factor.
More specifically, personal loans, credit card debt, and a lack of financial literacy topped the list of financial deal-breakers when considering a future with a love interest.
Western & Southern Financial Group surveyed over 1,000 married Americans to find out how money issues can make or break a relationship.
Top financial turnoffs for men and women
If you recently got your car, clothes, or holiday on finance, you could be sabotaging your chances of finding love.
According to the report, personal debt is the biggest financial turnoff among both men and women.
This was a particular bugbear among baby boomers (born 1955–1964) and Gen Xers (born 1965–1980).
Meanwhile, millennials (born 1981–1996) and Gen Zers (born 1997–2004) are more forgiving of those taking out loans.
This is perhaps unsurprising, given that younger generations have to take on more debt than their elders, as the cost of living and studying has steadily increased.
Interestingly, the second-biggest financial turnoff differed for men and women.
Thirty-one percent of women found irresponsible spending a deal-breaker, whereas financial illiteracy was a bigger issue for 28% of men—and Gen Z agree.
Gen Z want dates to be brushed up on finances
The generation that has grown up with all the information they could need at their fingertips isn’t forgiving of not understanding financial management. In fact, the survey shows that they voted this as their top turnoff.
Credit card debt ranked third in the top turnoffs for men and women, but it was the biggest red flag for millennials.
Bad news for those earning less than $29,878: This was the minimum that respondents said they want a partner to make.
Fortunately for most, this is well below the median annual salary in the U.S., which is $37,522, according to 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
And although student loans weren’t a top deal-breaker for any generation or gender surveyed, respondents said that they wouldn’t date someone with more than $28,076 in student debt loans.
Men are a little more forgiving of debt than women, the survey showed. For men, $31,179 was a deal-breaking amount of debt. For women, it was $22,901.
But these expectations don’t meet reality. The average amount of student loan debt someone with a bachelor’s degree has is $37,574, according to data from Education Data Initiative.
When is the right time in a relationship to bring up money?
Talking about money is awkward. It’s why many people often put it off, especially those who are not frugal or savvy when it comes to spending.
But ultimately it’ll save a lot of friction down the line, with finance a leading cause of strain in a relationship.
Almost 40% of the couples surveyed said that they argue about spending habits. Meanwhile, couples who fought the most frequently argued about salary and saving strategies.
This probably could have been avoided had they known the state of each other’s finances before marriage.
It’s why the report recommends couples have critical money conversations before tying the knot to avoid heartbreak later.
Worryingly, one in three of the couples surveyed admitted that they didn’t talk about finances until after marriage.
Older respondents were less likely to discuss finance while dating.
While 13% of those surveyed talked about salary in the first month of a relationship, almost a third of baby boomers (the youngest of whom are 58 years old) waited until after marriage.
By contrast, over 10% of millennials discussed their debt before even confessing “I love you” to their prospective significant other.
The money conversations that married couples wish they had sooner
Over a third of the couples surveyed regretted not discussing salary sooner.
Respondents also wished they’d talked about investments, saving goals, and spending habits sooner; they ranked this as more important than early conversations around buying a house together or splitting bills.
“Before getting married, couples didn’t talk much about finances. But afterward, conversations around investments, joint checking, and retirement savings started picking up steam,” the report says.
“Now that they’re married, couples might feel they have all the time in the world to tackle these topics. But in reality, you might regret it if you wait too long to go over these things together,” it adds.
It also advises getting rid of any red flags, by clearing credit card debt, for example, and becoming financially literate before embarking on finding “the one.” This way you’ll be less likely to be thrown off by conversations around money on a date.
In the long term, as dates evolve into a relationship or even marriage, “the more informed you are, the less likely those chats will become quarrels.”
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