For years, romantic comedies have taught us that love is blind when it comes to finances. How else can we explain the plot lines of rags-to-riches movies like Maid in Manhattan, Pretty Woman or Pretty in Pink? While the financial inequality between the two protagonists provides tension throughout the story, at the end of the day, feelings outweigh bank balances, because #truelove. While it would be nice if this was always the case, the reality is somewhat different.
According to a new survey from CentSai, a financial wellness community, researchers found that for millenials, being $25,000 or more in debt is a “relationship deal-breaker.” Which is kind of ridiculous when you think about it, considering the rising cost of living and college tuition. Unless you’re one of the rare few who received a full ride to college thanks to a scholarship or generous parentals, it’s rare that you meet someone in their 20s or 30s who doesn’t have some kind of debt.
Even more ridiculous: researchers claim that 25 percent of respondents admitted that “it would be a deal breaker if their partner had the same amount of debt as them–regardless of the amount.” However, the (slight) bright side is that approximately 63 percent of participants would be more forgiving if the debts were from student loans.
So what what does all this research mean? Despite what rom coms would have us believe, money matters when it comes to online dating.
However, I’m of the school of thought that how you approach money is more important than how much you actually have. If you’re trying to figure out whether you and your love interest are financially compatible, I urge you to look beyond the dollars and cents, and ask yourself the following questions:
- How do they handle their finances?
Between student loans, car payments, mortgages and credit cards, having some kind of debt is pretty normal these days. If your love interest is in debt, how are they dealing with it? Do they have a realistic budget that allows them to save money while also (slowly, but surely) paying off their debt? Do they live within their means? Alternatively, do they live well beyond their means, ignoring debt and creditors in favor of having the newest, shiniest items? Personally, I would much rather date someone who has some debt, but is actively working on their finances, than someone who spends recklessly without regard for their future. How responsible you are with your finances speaks volumes about long-term commitment.
- Do you share a similar lifestyle and values?
While a lot of online dating sites have an option where you can list your income bracket, the numbers don’t always provide accurate insight into whether someone is in fact living well. For example, someone who is making $80K might be up to the ears in debt and constantly dodging creditors (because they’re living like they’re making $150K, for example) whereas, someone who makes $50K might have much more financial freedom because of how they’ve handled their money. So, don’t take numbers at face value.
What it comes down to is lifestyle and values. For example, I’m less concerned about someone’s actual salary than what they are able to do with their money. For example, I want to be able to enjoy certain activities with my partner like Sunday brunch, attending concerts together and having enough money to occasionally take off somewhere for a weekend getaway. If someone wasn’t able to do these things with me, it would give me pause. However, at the same time I don’t want to date someone who is completely focused on money and material things because that’s just not my thing. If we can’t take off to Bora Bora at the drop of the dime, that’s fine – as long as we can have leisurely omelettes and mimosas every Sunday and have the means to grab Adele tickets when they go on sale. At the end of the day, you need to be on the same page about your lifestyle and values. Finances are a huge part of this.
- Do you have realistic expectations?
Going to back to the CentSai study, you need to have realistic expectations about the people you date. If you’re only willing to date people with advanced degrees, you better be prepared for the fact that they’ve probably accrued some educational debt while pursuing their career. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to expect someone to be debt-free or have a great financial track record when you’re in debt and/or aren’t willing to get in good financial shape yourself. Wanting the people we date to be financially healthy is one thing, but you need to bring something to the table too. If you’re looking for someone to take care of you financially, be realistic about the fact that you might not find what you’re looking for.