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Dating & Financial Compatibility: Sould you Drop a Financial Deadbeat?

Last updated by on September 17, 2013

We’ve talked a lot about newlywed finances, combining or keeping finances separate in marriage, and how to start a financial conversation with a significant other.

When you’re married or in a long-term committed relationship, you HAVE to work out the financial kinks. You have to discuss, be on the same page, and make financial decisions together.

If you don’t get on the same page, you’re going to have problems. In a Kansas State longitudinal study across 4,500 couples, financial arguments were cited as the top reason for divorce. And then there’s the marriages that don’t end in divorce, but the couple is miserable because they constantly argue about finances.

But what about before you ever get to the ultimate level of long-term commitment?

Finances are a pervasive issue, right from the get go, after all. Who hasn’t wondered who should pay for the first date or how much should you spend on the first date (and then the second) in those precarious moments? It may seem petty to dwell on those questions, but a story is starting to be written…

Fun debates aside, to what level should you put stock in financial compatibility? Lets say you’re on one of your first few dates with someone. Things are going good. You find them attractive, the conversation is stimulating, and they even smell nice!

But then they drop a bomb:

“I only have $100,000 in student loan debt remaining.”

“My credit score is in the low 600’s and I can’t get a credit card. Can you pick this one up?”

“I spend about $500 per month on new clothes.”

“I am trying to pay off these credit cards. Only about $20,000 to go!”

“My leased Escalade gets 10 miles per gallon, isn’t that great?!”

“I have to pay my ex $2,000 per month in alimony, which leaves me with nothing.”

“As long as I spend less than what I make, I feel like I’m in good shape.”

“I’m about $200,000 under water on my home. Guess I’m stuck for a while!”

“I have a $25,000 collection of Furby’s.”

dating and financial compatibilityNow before you call me a shallow jerk for suggesting that someone should be dropped for such statements, consider this. Most of us make or have judgements on relationship success based on things such as age, education level, religious denomination, occupation, appearance (height, weight, smile, posture, firmness of butt, etc., etc., etc.), food tastes, smell of breath, sense of humor, music preferences, or whether said person held that door for us on the way out of the restaurant.

Would it not make sense that we then take in to strong consideration the #1 predictor of long-term relationship success – financial compatibility?

And at the very least, shouldn’t you dig a little deeper on related topics to find out if the person has completely incompatible financial values and goals?

Hypothetically, what if you’re Mr/Ms. Frugality – you have your finances in order, you want to buy a home, you have zero debt, and you even have the goal of financial independence and early retirement? You’ve got a hot date, but they drop 2 or 3 of the above bombs on you by date #4. Your date, you determine, is completely financial incompatible with you. Would you ride it out when there are thousands, maybe millions of other hot dates out there that have financial values and goals that are perfectly aligned with yours?

I would put the odds on you being able to find another date who is more financially compatible and meets many of the required superficial specifications as much higher than trying to change your existing date’s value set and then see them dig themselves out of their hole over a few years while you patiently observe.

Of course, you may have other things in mind than a long-term relationship, and to that end, who doesn’t like a nice butt?

Dating & Financial Compatibility Discussion:

  • Have you or would you ever drop a financial deadbeat based on that quality alone? If you have, share your story.
  • Have you been dropped for being a deadbeat in your past life?
  • What types of financial deficits or value discrepancies would be a deal killer for a long-term relationship?
  • How important do you think financial compatibility is to relationship success?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Michelle says:

    I guess it depends. If they dropped all of those bombs and it was one person, I would think they were insane though 😛

    If it were just a couple of things, I do think I could manage, depending on the person. If it is all because they are extremely lazy and not motivated, it probably wouldn’t work out.

  • Steve says:

    I agree with what Michelle wrote. However, most of the other things you listed are either immediately obvious or will naturally come up in conversation very early while dating, at least if they’re considered very important to either party. The strongest comparisons are probably religious and political views – while commonly dating rules say you shouldn’t discuss them on the *first* date, I’ve generally found out about them within the first two or three. I simply don’t know if I’d feel comfortable asking a potential girlfriend or wife about this until we become more serious, because it’s something so much more personal. I’d be worried that even if she’s in great financial shape, I’d scare her away by asking something like this so early on.

    I wouldn’t start something with someone I know a financial deadbeat. Still, I don’t know if I’d be willing to break it off with one just for that reason if I end up really liking, maybe even loving, her before this information comes out.

  • Jason773 says:

    Man, that “who should pay for a first date” was a really heated post. Has to be your most popular one on here.

    As far as financial responsibility, I think that this is something that an astute person can figure out pretty well within a couple of dates. What’s the other person’s job, car, family background, living situation, university education, clothes, etc etc? You most likely won’t be 100% correct in your assumptions, but IME you can get pretty darn close and then act accordingly.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Yeah, the date post comments got a little out of hand… =)
      Wouldn’t say the most popular, but definitely the most commented and “spirited” debate.

      • Jason773 says:

        Yes, certainly the most commented. G.E., at what age did you meet your wife and what age were you married? I assume fairly young for both. On posts like that I generally know what side you are leaning towards (equality and all), but man you are lucky that you have avoided the dating minefield out there for the average guy. Even as a good prospect myself it is hard hard hard to find a LTR worthy girl, let alone someone to make a wife someday.

        Be thankful sir.

  • Jason773 says:

    To the men…

    From experience as a man who does well with women, the three most important things in this order that matter to women are 1) a masculine, leading, ‘protector’ presence, 2) aspirations and finances, including future goals and finances, and 3) looks. Get these things in order and your religious background, family background, food tastes, age, etc. won’t really matter. The first three will trump all, with 1&2 > 3 (looks don’t matter for a man as much as some would make you believe, but they still do matter).

    • jim says:

      Oh Jason,
      As someone who has been married for 33 years, I can tell you religion (or beliefs) and family matter a whole lot more than you’d imagine.

      • Jason773 says:

        The mere fact that you have been married for 33yrs means you have no place in what I was talking about, no offense. You think young guys today are playing by the same rules as you, when in fact we’re not even playing the same sport anymore. Dating, courting, marriage, technology and feminism has changed the landscape so much, that the mid 70’s, presumably when you were dating, are basically the stone age now. Hell, your average female can post a pic on instagram or facebook and get 100 guys ‘liking’ her pic within an hour.

        If you think men and women aren’t affected by these things then you must not get out much.

        • jim says:

          I have “…no place in what you were talking about….” Wow, last I looked this was still America and the First Amendment was in full force and effect. Just ’cause you don’t like what I have to say does not mean I don’t get to say it.

          You might also want to go back and actually READ my comment. It had to do, not just with religion, but with religion or beliefs. And you sir, are seriously naïve, if you think that doesn’t count for a LOT.

      • Jason773 says:


        To add some substance to what I just wrote and what I wrote before, religious affiliation and church/temple attendance has been going down in young age groups over the last 20 years (how many ‘religious’ couple do you know who have divorced? I can count at least a handful), age of first marriage has increased to nearly 28 for women and 30 for men, in wedlock birthrates are down (career aspirations for both men and women) while out of wedlock birthrates have been on a steady rise and divorce rates are clearly up.

        Not to be a doomsdayer, but dems the breaks. Most women simply don’t judge men based on an outdated biblical model anymore and have no legal or moral imperitive to stay with an ‘underperforming’, which is why money/aspirations, a masculine, leading personality and looks matter more than ever.

        • Gary says:

          Despite the “statistics” you mentioned, there are still many out there who do consider religion to be a deal breaker in relationships and why shouldn’t they? Of course there are women out there who could care less about religion, I’m sure you’ve met many of them. BUT there are also many women out there who do find that important and seek religious compatibility as they date. It all depends on what you’re priorities/goals are and whether or not your looking in the right place for people you are compatible with.

          • jim says:

            Thank you for your thoughtful contribution!

            My wife is a civil rights attorney – yeah she went to law school “back in the day” when women weren’t supposed to do that. Wow do you have a lot of schooling to get thru. Good luck.

  • I haven’t had a personal experience in this area, but I do think financial compatibility is of very high importance. I think there is a difference between two people with the same not-so-hot balance sheet, one of whom is complacent and one of whom is striving to better the situation. Past bad decisions matter a lot less than current ones.

    Thankfully, my husband and I sort of “grew up” financially together – transitioning from dependent upon our parents to independent from them – so we developed similar values and habits in parallel to one another before we decided to get married.

  • Anne says:

    I think you are too naive if you don’t give importance to financial compatibility.
    I fell in love and I got married to a nice guy without knowing nothing about his spending/saving habits. Late I learned that “savings” was not part of his vocabulary. Having good financial habits myself I thought I could teach him a thing or two and work it out together. Late I learned he is not willing to learn and that he thinks he can do it all by himself. Now we are deep in debt and we have lots of nasty discusions about it. It has been a very frustrating situation for me and I am still trying to work thing out but it is lots of work and it is exhausting.
    So, if you want to avoid a situation like mine, take a close look at financial compatibility before puting you heart in the table. Don’t be naive.

  • M says:

    My x-wife and I used to fight quite often over finances. We tried a few family monetary systems from all in one pot to splitting every bill 60/40. Compatibility is key, you and your partner need to have the same tools,vision and thought process to get yourselves the quality of like you are shooting for. Good personal management shows a person is organized,pays attention to detail,is usually not superficial,has self control and the ability to say no. All traits desirable on a personal and bottom line level.

    From a dating stand point,having been married I am a bit more put off than most when I see financial red flags. I tent not to discuss finances, though I do like to watch for red flags. Early on my financial capabilities and standing are off the table. The question at hand, yes I can say I would drop someone for having unacceptable financial habits. Currently I am dating a very lovely girl, but she is in the hole $100k+ though it has not stopped me it did make me uncomfortable to hear.

  • Interesting article, and something to definitely consider. I think people can change when it comes to their views on finances, but change is not an overnight thing, so it is often something that couples have to work on together to find common ground. The key is to work together though to find ways to be on the same page (if you aren’t already)!

  • Stacy Johnson says:

    Hi G.E.,
    Just a quick note to let you know we promoted your post Dating & Financial Compatibility: Should you Drop a Financial Deadbeat? Back on September 27 in our Blogger Round-Up.
    Hope we steered some visits your way.
    Stacy Johnson


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