About the Author

Honey's main interests are online dating, long distance dating, and long term relationships. She met her boyfriend on MySpace and they have been exclusive since their first date over three years ago. Currently they live in Tempe, Arizona. Honey graduated with her PhD in Composition and Rhetoric in May 2009. You can contact Honey via email here or online here.

Finances and Dating

With the entire economy basically imploding around us, the question becomes even more relevant: what kind of financial shape does someone have to be in to be considered a desirable partner?  I find money one of the most interesting conversational topics around and am always sad that it’s considered impolite to inquire too closely about others’ finances for a couple reasons: 1) I think that if we talked about it more among ourselves, many of us would learn a lot and not make as many financial mistakes, and 2) I’m a nosey biatch and want to know what everyone’s up to.

(photo credit greekshares.com)

This turned out to be a particularly interesting issue in my case because the BF moved to Phoenix a year before I did, when we’d only been dating a little over a year.  Fortunately (given the market now) he at that time couldn’t afford to buy a house, although it was what he wanted to do more than anything.  Given that he was renting, though, he chose a house that I would have put my foot down and said absolutely not to if I’d been moving in with him.

However, I wasn’t, and because a year isn’t really long enough to butt in, he rented it.  Then when I moved to Phoenix, his lease wasn’t up yet so I ended up moving in to a place that is kind of expensive, bigger than we need, and relatively far from both of our jobs.  We have had many discussions about moving to a smaller, cheaper, more centrally located place but decided that it would take so long to recoup the costs of moving + security deposits + first and last months’ rent that it’s not really worth it to move until we’re ready to buy.  Fortunately this will probably happen for us when the market hits bottom (unfortunately for whoever’s house we end up buying).

Given banks’ reluctance to lend money right now, though, our debt is also a factor.  We both have substantial student loan debt and he also has quite a bit of credit card debt.  We make enough money to pay our bills, but what criteria do you use to judge whether someone’s “financially stable” or not?  How soon is too soon to talk about money?  Do you talk about money with anyone other than your significant other?  If so, who?

Just as Lance believes that sex and social skills should be taught in school, I believe that budgeting and other forms of applied mathematics should be taught in school.  Not that it would have stopped what’s going on right now, but maybe some of us would be better equipped to weather the storm.

That’s my two cents.  What’s yours?

If this post made you want to cash in your 401(k) and emigrate to Costa Rica, you might also enjoy:

  • Jonsi

    This is an issue for me because I am in my last year of my PhD program. I have maybe $3k in debt, so my debt doesn’t bother me at all, but having a social life does. While I am fortunate to be in the physical sciences and get paid to go to school, it’s quite tough dating when I could make more money — and have better benefits — working at Starbucks. And even though I should be making a 6 figure income with what I intend to do, being a student does not make me a desirable partner.

    Many women who I in complete honesty, hardly talk to and definitely have not been hitting on, have asked “when will you be done with school?” “1-2 years, why?” “Oh, because we couldn’t date, because you don’t have a job and make money.” It’s insulting. They really do say that when NO NO NO I was not hitting on them. The reality is: there are plenty of times I have to tell my friends “no, I can’t go out this weekend” because I’ve already exceeded my budget for the month. The alternative is to not have credit card debt. It does make dating tough. Forget taking someone to dinner, dating multiple people: it’s damn tough.

    On the other side, I am around young people, have freedom, and have lots of positives, but it pretty much limits me to dating other graduate students who understand the situation, but if they have the option — all things being equal — of dating a guy making $80k a year versus my $18, I come in second.

    So I am a little bitter, but that is because I am tired of being poor.

    Regarding women: the amount of money they make does not bother me as long as (1) they don’t have debt unless it is student loan debt and they can make payments on it and (2) they have a passion in life. Meet those criteria and I don’t care. It’s nice dating women who earn more, but it’s rare to find ones who don’t expect me to take them to nice restaurants, etc. I can’t blame them for wanting a guy who makes as much as them. I had a good thing with a woman last fall, but we basically broke up because she wanted me to commit $1500 to a vacation with her several months in advance. I couldn’t do it. Her attitude was “if you really wanted a future with me, you could find a way to make this happen.” But no, I couldn’t, not unless I took a second job, and that’s not a healthy expectation to put on a guy trying to finish his dissertation.

  • http://20-forty.com/ lisaq

    I agree. Money is one of the biggest causes of relationship problems so you have to talk about it, but it sucks.

    I’ve learned a thing or two as a result of my marriages/divorces. Kira will tell you the one thing she has learned from my marriages/divorces is to keep finances separate…separate bills, separate checking accounts, etc. etc.

    lisaqs last blog post..I’m From a Map Dot…

  • http://dadshouseblog.com dadshouse

    It’s a total turnoff when a woman asks me how I make money. I’d rather she ask how I spend my days.

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    I get where you’re coming from, DM, but I think there is a HUGE difference between trying to find out if some guy’s going to be your sugar daddy and making sure that he doesn’t have $50,000 in credit card debt or has filed bancruptcy in the past.

    When it comes to relationships, it seems like money doesn’t get discussed in a serious way until you’re living with someone, engaged, and/or married. It needs to happen WAY sooner than that because as LisaQ notes, differences in spending habits (not to mention dishonesty or outright theft) are one of the biggest causes of relationship problems.

    If I had known that the BF had $60,000 in credit card debt and $100,000 in student loan debt and planned on renting a house outside his means as soon as he graduated (these are fairly accurate numbers, btw) I may have made some different decisions. As it is, I have every faith that we can get our finances under control, but I don’t think we should get married until at least 50% of his credit card debt is paid off.

    I have a friend whose husband was in a similar amount of debt (both credit card and student loan) when they got married, and she never found out until after they were married. Fortunately for her, his credit card debt was accrued as part of his chemistry PhD and post doc, but what if she’d married him and found out that he had spent all that money just because he was a big spender?

    One of my friend’s friends married a guy and he stole like $30,000 of her savings to buy a FORD F150. The BF’s dad took the money that his mom gave him for the express purpose of depositing into her retirement account and deposited it into his account instead and she didn’t find out until 20 years later.

    Not only do we need to have a more structured way of informing our citizens about money, there should be a way of initiating these conversations in the initial stages of a relationship so you can write off people who are too great a financial risk. It’s as important, if not more so, than sexual compatibility.

    Honeys last blog post..Finances and Dating

  • http://honeyandlance.com/contact Lance

    Honey, I actually agree with you on this. I’m very much a realist when it comes to the connection of money and relationships, despite the fact that it’s unromantic and a turnoff. I don’t ever blog about this because my primary focus is initial attraction, but certainly any type of coupling needs to consider the financial aspects. I agree with Lisa about having separate accounts and funds.

    What I wouldn’t do is disqualify someone right off the bat based on finances, just like I wouldn’t automatically qualify someone because of them, but once you’re in deep, you have to talk about it. Also, I don’t think financial compatibility is more important than sexual compatibility, that metric is a little too clinical for me. I’d go in this order: mental-emotional-sexual-daily rhythm-Gator Fan-financial-spiritual.

  • http://honeyandlance.com/contact Lance

    Oh yeah, another note. I think education in high school needs to cover personal finance, credit, and investing, just like I think sex ed should be taught at a much higher level than it currently is. Why isn’t money spotlighted more in schools? IMO, it’s far more important to know money than any academic subject…if you don’t know how to make and manage money, what good is all that academic knowledge?

  • http://honeyandlance.com Honey

    I’m not necessarily saying that financial compatibility is more important in terms of how long a relationship lasts and whether it ends or not (though I think sexual and financial incompatibility probably end about equal numbers of relationships).

    I’m saying which would be worse: to get married, find out you’re not as sexually compatible as you thought, struggle for 5 years, get a divorce and find someone you are compatible with or

    Get married, find out you’re not as financially compatible as you want after your partner steals $40,000 of your savings to buy fancy clothes while you’re at war in Iraq (as happened to another friend’s brother), get a divorce and have to move in with your parents because you don’t have enough money for a place to live while your ex lives in your old house with your two kids?

    I’d pick option A any day…

    Honeys last blog post..Finances and Dating

  • http://honeyandlance.com/contact Lance

    Good point, neither of those are very appealing, but the thought of losing a ton of money as well as the relationship is a killer.

    This raises another thought in my mind, but can/should we value our relationships in terms of dollars? Just as a thought experiment, how much money would it take for you to end your relationship with your BF? I would say I can put a definite dollar value on ALL of my past relationships, and unfortunately the numbers aren’t all that outlandish.

  • http://www.cathouseteri.blogspot.com Cathouse Teri

    I don’t remember budgeting and applied mathematics NOT being taught in school. I believe we just weren’t in the mood to learn it!

    I think it’s important to be financially compatible. This can mean so many different things, that it’s hard to really make a hard and fast rule. If you have a financial plan in mind, though, you should not choose a partner who would sway you from that path.

    Cathouse Teris last blog post..This…

  • Chana

    I am divorced from a person that did not have my same level of schooling and made less than me (high school sweetheart) and that was a disaster.
    To me a financially stable man must make more than I do, have a min of a bachelor degree and no debt except for a mortgage and a car. I have never carried credit card debt and strongly think that whoever does is not a very responsible person unless that debt came b/c of a sickness or something like that or rought specific time and even for that you should have planned ahead. So for me I am not materialistic but I need a person with a good head on their shoulder because if that is not there it would drive me crazy and the relationship over a cliff. So yeah financially stable is a must.

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