Thursday, February 2, 2023

My Dearest [debt-free, financially savvy] Valentine!

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It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so naturally our thoughts are turning to love and romance and that special person in our life or that we dream of being in our life romantically.  I can envision a new couple, out on the town for a date, still sizing up each other as they sit down for an intimate dinner at a swanky restaurant.  All sorts of things can still derail their nascent love.  Bad manners, bad temper, bad breath, bad credit….

Wait!  Bad credit?  As a predictor of relationship success, yes, bad credit is probably more accurate than the other factors.  Fortune just published results of a survey of over 1000 married Americans taken by Western & Southern Financial Group.  The intent was to find out how money issues can make or break a romantic relationship.  The results are telling.

“According to the report,” wrote Fortune, “personal debt is the biggest financial turnoff among both men and women.”  This was particularly true of those born between 1955 and 1980 (a combination of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers).  In what is likely an indicator of changing attitudes toward debt or of the necessity of carrying debt (such as student loans), those born between 1981 and 2004 exhibit a more lenient attitude toward a potential partner’s load of debt.  Overall, men cited a total outstanding debt of $31,179 as being a turnoff.  Women were less forgiving: $22,901 is a deal-breaker for them.  Uh-oh.  Although personal loans and credit card debt were bigger no-no’s, someone seeking romance might want to examine their student loan status.  The average amount of student loan debt in this country has been steadily increasing and now stands at $37,574 for a bachelor’s graduate.  Maybe we should not be surprised at how late in life people are marrying now, or even choosing not to marry.

The numbers began to diverge from there.  The second biggest financial turnoff for women (31%) is irresponsible spending.  For men assessing a woman, it is financial illiteracy, at 28%.

The survey’s authors went on to report that respondents said that they want their partner to make no less than $29,878 (this was an average amount cited).  This is well below the U.S. median salary of $37,522 and amounts to about $14.36 per hour for someone working a 40-hour week all year.  Good thing for romance that the minimum wage has been climbing.  You might sling hamburgers for a living these days and still have your chance at love.

Some other interesting findings:

Ø  Forty percent of couple said they argue about each other’s spending habits.  (That’s all??)  And the couples who verbally spar most often over money do so about salary and savings strategies.

Ø About one-third of couples said they did not talk about money until after they married (particularly true of Baby Boomers).

Ø  Over 10% of millennials discussed their debt with their potential partner before they even told him/her “I love you”.

Ø  Nearly 13% of respondents talked with their love interest about their salary in the first month of their relationship; but 28% of Baby Boomers waited until after they were married.

Ø  Couples with joint checking accounts were the most likely to clash over spending habits.


It is an illuminating survey of Americans’ mixed relationships with each other and with money.  Marriage counselors as a whole say that communication issues and clashing values are what lead to most divorces.  But it is the fights over money—how to make, save, or spend it—that are the most intense and the least likely to be resolved.  The lack of communication and the disparity in values over finances probably sit at or near the top of the causes for divorce in the United States.

As someone who teaches and promotes financial literacy, both as a volunteer and as a sideline business, this survey awakens me to something I should have realized long ere this: NOBODY wants to talk about money.  But EVERYBODY wants to talk about love.  I could persuasively argue that every movie made in America is about love; even John Wayne westerns and war movies have some love or former love relationship worked into the plot.  So I’ve gotten it wrong all these years.  I shouldn’t advertise “Financial Literacy Class”.  I need to rebrand as “Finding Your True Valentine”.

In which case I probably need to revise my Disclaimer page:

Roger Young is not a licensed marriage counselor or member of the clergy.  The comments and opinions in this website and blog and in his presentations are his own and do not represent those of any other individual or company.  They are not intended to be, nor should they be construed as, relationship advice.  Any relationship is subject to disagreements, including relationship-ending arguments.  Readers and clients are responsible for their own actions and by reading his blog and engaging him as a coach agree that he cannot be held liable for break-ups and divorces.”

So there!

Until next time,

“Roger Young

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” I John 4:7 NIV*

*Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission.  All rights reserved worldwide.