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Until debt do us part

Americans place importance on strong finances in relationships

Millennials are most accepting of debt in relationships, at odds with older Americans.

Feb. 02, 2016

More than half (53 percent) of Americans say finances have been a source of tension in their romantic relationships, but that isn’t causing them to shy away from discussing money matters. The latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index survey reveals 91 percent of Americans believe it is important to discuss finances with their significant other.

Americans not only place a great deal of importance on discussing personal finances with their partners – but a large majority (71 percent) prefer to start the conversation within the first few months of a relationship or sooner.

“If you haven’t discussed money with your valentine, consider starting the conversation sooner rather than later,” said Joe Buhrmann, manager of financial security at COUNTRY Financial. “Talking about finances as your relationship is budding can help quell financial quarrels down the road.”

Trouble in Paradise

Debt emerges as the biggest concern among Americans. Seventy-eight percent believe someone who is single and dating should be concerned with the amount of debt their love interest has accumulated, while 38 percent consider a large amount of debt to be a relationship “deal breaker.”

An even bigger red flag is carelessness. A majority (52 percent) of Americans would end a relationship if their significant other lacked interest in managing their finances. Additionally, over half of Americans believe a person’s credit score (58 percent) and income level (52 percent) are big considerations singles should take into account when choosing a partner.

“Most Americans can forgive their love interest for being in poor financial shape, so long as they care about changing for the better,” Buhrmann said. “Data suggests most Americans are less tolerant of a partner who isn’t focused on improving their financial situation.”

Generation Gap

In general, millennials are more accepting of a significant other’s debt level. Sixty-four percent would rather date a college graduate with significant student loan debt than someone who doesn’t hold a college degree.

In parallel, just 67 percent of millennials are concerned with the amount of debt their love interest has accumulated, compared to 78 percent of the general population. Millennials are especially at odds with the oldest segment of the population – 88 percent of Americans over age 65 believe a significant other’s debt should cause concern for someone who is single and dating.

Finding Financial Bliss

No matter your financial situation, or where you and your partner stand, there is hope. You can begin to learn about their money mindset by starting a respectful dialogue.

Here are a few easy conversation starters to consider:

  • How do you feel about debt?
  •  How do you feel about spending?
  • How do you feel about saving?

Instead of criticizing your partner’s financial philosophy, ask questions that could reveal what they were taught and their values around money to help add context to your partner’s current financial habits.