Money can’t buy love, but it can certainly affect it — and possibly even stop cupid’s arrow in its tracks.
According to a new survey from the online dating website eharmony and the money management app YNAB, daters are taking into consideration the financial standing of their potential partners and identifying financial red, pink and green flags early on in their quest for a match.
“Overwhelmingly, [the survey found] daters measure the financial health of potential partners, and they’re looking at things like how much debt that person has, if they have money in savings, and if they have a high credit score as green flags,” said Rachel Wong, an accredited financial counselor and content manager at YNAB. “These things matter more to some than others, but each flag might be taken as an indicator. Just like a landlord might look at a renter’s credit score to determine reliability, daters will do the same thing.”
Here’s a breakdown of the types of flags, according to Wong.
- Little to no debt can represent qualities like a bright future.
- Money in savings can represent a feeling of security and freedom.
- High credit scores can represent a sense of responsibility.
- Lots of debt can represent a financial burden that a partner may take on or share somewhere down the line.
- Being behind on loan/credit card payments can represent a lack of current stability.
- Owing money to the IRS can represent thin margins and financial stress.
- Spends money on expensive things: This might be an indicator to someone that spending could be in excess, or that there might be a pressure on income to support an expensive lifestyle.
- Low credit score: This may be a pink flag as a low credit score indicates a credit bureau has rated this person unfavorably for future lending.
- Being unable to pay for dates (ranked highly in eharmony’s general consumer data and lower in YNAB data): This might be an early and visible indicator of financial scarcity in a partner.
- Little to no money in savings (more YNAB budgeters ranked this as an area of concern than the general consumer): Someone might interpret this as a lack of security or planning for the future.
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“Interestingly, the average daters surveyed by eharmony prioritize different financial qualities than YNAB users while dating,” Wong said. “When it came to financial green flags, average daters valued a higher credit score whereas YNAB users valued money in savings. Financial red flags also differed among the two groups. Average daters were more concerned about significant debt compared to YNAB users, who were more concerned about a partner being behind on loan or credit card payments.”
Navigating Red Flags and Green Flags in a Relationship
The fact that daters are taking into consideration the financial health of their prospective partners is a good thing, as too often that goes overlooked and can later land a couple in hot water (or, what’s worse, a fraught marriage or even a bitter divorce), but it begets questions, such as, how do you deal with someone else’s financial red flags should you choose to date them?
“If you’re with a partner who has financial red flags, honesty, transparency and trust are so important in your relationship as you navigate these topics,” Wong said. “If at any point you’re sharing expenses, their financial situation can intertwine with yours. Having honest conversations around finances, goals, and priorities, and using a tool like a shared budget will provide a common language for talking about money without either partner playing the role of the villain.”
If you’re in a green flag situation, where both mates are in good financial standing, you should approach your financial lives in the same way.
“If you’re in a relationship with both sides presenting green flags, you actually get the same solution [as you do when there are red flags],” Wong said. “Do you know your partner’s financial priorities, do they know yours? What are priorities and goals that you share? Getting your priorities aligned early on can really supercharge your ability to reach some of those bigger goals — like buying a house or taking bucket list trips — together.”
Ultimately this survey shows that people who are looking for love are already pretty comfortable talking about money, which didn’t surprise those conducting the survey.
“Money is stressful enough when you’re managing it on your own, but doing it with a partner creates an added layer of complexity,” Wong said. “The findings solidified our assumptions that few average daters are comfortable discussing money with a partner (28%) and nearly half (49%) of couples argue about money. The green flags were also fairly expected — with respondents saying that having little to no debt and a high credit score are both seen as positive qualities in a potential partner. Those two could be perceived as indicators of stability and potential in a partner.”
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