Thinking of taking your romance to the next level this Valentine’s Day? It might be wise to consider one aspect of your partner that can make or break a couple: the person’s money habits.
Here are five financial red flags to watch out for in a partner.
Reluctance to discuss money
According to Dasha Cherniakowska, a couples therapist in Massachusetts who specializes in financial issues, it’s a common belief that talking about money is unromantic.
“An inability or unwillingness to talk about money in general for various reasons should be a red flag,” she said. “The limiting belief is that it’s not stylish, it’s shameful, and it stops people from talking about finances and spending.”
One way to approach this topic is to start by trying to understand your partner’s relationship with money, which is often heavily influenced by their childhood experiences.
Talking about money in the early stages of dating may not be relevant or important compared to when you are considering a future together. But when the time comes, Chernyakovskaya recommends planning a “money date.”
“I suggest that couples plan a date night over a glass of wine or hot chocolate so it’s something they’re really looking forward to in a nice setting,” she said. “Talk about money in a more neutral, nonjudgmental way, asking about values rather than numbers.”
Out-of-control credit card debt, caused by impulsive spending, is another financial red flag in a partner, according to relationship and personal finance experts. After all, being in a serious relationship with someone who has a lot of credit card or other debt may also have financial implications for you.
“What people don’t realize when they’re in a long-term, committed relationship is that even if it’s the other person’s debt, it’s also kind of your debt,” said money coach Nicole Victoria, founder and CEO of No Budget Babe, a financial advice company. literacy. “Paying them off will affect your ability as a couple to work on other financial goals together.”
Of course, context matters, and it’s important to understand how someone accumulated debt in the first place. If your partner is impulsive and has a habit of overspending, for example, that’s different from someone who took on debt to deal with a medical emergency. And if a person is ready to discuss their debt and is actively working on its elimination, this is a good sign.
“However, if you help them pay it off and you have to put the savings aside for other purposes, it becomes yours too, so it’s good to be aware of these things,” Victoria said.
As for the attractive features, according to the recent survey from the dating site Eharmony and the personal budget app You Need a Budget (YNAB).
Flaunting your wealth
When someone shows their money, it can be related to insecurity. They can also spend beyond their means.
“Spending is a big red flag when they’re clearly spending more than their income allows,” said Sarah Schweistall, personal finance professional at YNAB.
“If your partner is always buying another round of drinks at the bar, find out why. Pay attention to your partner’s motivations behind their financial behavior—be careful when their desire to impress is overshadowing their financial reality,” said Emily Irwin, wealthier executive at Wells Fargo.
On the other hand, never offering to pay for dates or frequently borrowing money can indicate a lack of resources or just plain selfishness. While living within your means is generally considered commendable, behavior such as asking wait staff for tips or agreeing to eat on your dime is a different story.
“I’m a big fan of everyone having a budget, but you want to think about how your partner feels about you, your friends, and others who you may not have that deep of a relationship with,” Irwin said. “That includes service workers like waiters and Lyft drivers, and you want to make sure you’re not with someone who’s trying to save a dime by being disrespectful to someone else.”
Nor does frugality necessarily mean that one has limited financial means. People with huge financial resources can also be stingy.
“Just because someone has a lot of income doesn’t mean he or she can support their spending, and it doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t some unsavory frugality going on,” Irwin said.
Transparency is key when discussing money matters, and it can go a long way in ensuring a couple’s financial compatibility.
Consider a partner who hides debt or misrepresents the size of his assets. When a couple is saving for something like a down payment on a shared home, one partner’s avoidance can prevent the couple from making a decision and hurt the other partner financially. These habits are what money experts call “financial infidelity.”
“Things like being overly secretive with your money, lying about your expenses and refusing to share financial information with you is a concern,” Victoria said.
Financial abuse can also happen in relationships. Some people use money to manipulate or have power over their partners, especially if one person in the couple has significantly more resources than the other.
“A lot of times it comes down to control,” she said. “Maybe one partner doesn’t allow the other to spend money or have autonomy over what happens financially in the relationship.” The other partner may not have access to the couple’s bank accounts or may need to ask permission to make certain purchases.
“I see women who have to ask for money or they get welfare. It’s offensive and it’s a tactic used to control them,” Victoria added.
An unhealthy dynamic can also arise if there is a large difference in how much each partner earns.
“When decision-making power is based on each person’s financial contribution, it leaves the person who earns less money in a permanent state of disenfranchisement,” Cherniakovskaya said. “They have to give in to the preferences of the person who earns more.”