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Study: How Finances Affect Relationships

Love and Money: A YNAB + eharmony survey about finances & feelings

A lot of us are looking  for two main things on this journey through life: Love and money. 

(And maybe some other stuff, like inner peace, calorie-free ice cream,  and the TV remote, but love and money are fairly universal desires.)

Although finances and feelings seem like vastly different subjects, they’re two major aspects of life that fuel so many of our actions, experiences, and decisions.  It’s also undeniable that each influences the other—our money affects how we feel, and how we feel has an impact on our spending habits. We may think it’s love and money we’re looking for, but it’s likely the sense of comfort and security that comes from having those things. 

It’s all closely connected, so when it comes to money and emotions, being on the same page as a potential partner is pretty important. We were curious to learn more about how finances affect relationships, so eharmony surveyed 1,227 general consumers and YNAB asked a group of 1,517 users the same questions—and then we compared notes. 

Money Talks: The Currency of Communication 

Talking about financial matters is important, but also has the tendency to feel a little awkward. We asked a few questions to get to the bottom of how (or if) people are broaching the subject of spending and saving. 

Couples with budgets are more comfortable discussing finances in their relationship

When asked about discussing finances in a relationship, over 28% of general consumers said they felt comfortable discussing finances with people they’re dating, with 26% claiming that doing so makes them more confident about their relationship. However, 24% of respondents prefer not to initiate conversations about finances with people they’re dating or in a relationship with. 

YNAB users were a little more likely to talk about finances, with over 70% stating that they were comfortable doing so, and 66% claiming that it makes them feel more confident in the relationship. Only 6% prefer not to initiate that conversation. 

Most people feel it’s appropriate to discuss finances within the first six months of dating

So, when do you start talking about money in a relationship? The majority of both respondent groups thought it was appropriate to discuss finances within the first six months of dating, according to 51% of general consumers and 63% of YNAB users. 

Couples who budget discuss finances with their partner once a week on average

When asked how often they discuss finances with their significant other, 51% of the eharmony survey respondents answered once a month and 18% admitted they never discuss finances with their partner. 

Once a week was the answer selected by 57% of YNAB respondents. Only 1% said they don’t discuss finances at all. 

Comfort levels vary widely when it comes to talking about money. 

Looking for ways to get the conversation started? Check out 84 Financial Questions to Ask Your Partner for some inspiration. 

Credits & Debits: Relationship Red Flags and Green Lights

When it comes to attraction and compatibility, there are a lot of different factors at play. We set out to discover how finances influence the outcome of a connection. Let’s take a look: 

Having little to no debt ranked as the most positive quality in a potential partner

When asked to rank positive qualities in a potential partner, having little to no debt, a high credit score, and money in savings was considered attractive to both groups of respondents. 

eharmony’s Survey  Results

  1. Having little to no debt (54%)
  2. High credit score (41%)
  3. Offering to pay for dates (39%)
  4. Having a lot in savings (39%)

YNAB Survey Results: 

  1. Having little to no debt (77%)
  2. Having a lot in savings (61%)
  3. Being very generous (53%)
  4. Having a high credit score (40%)

Having little to no debt is more attractive than offering to pay for dates. 

Being in debt or being behind on debt payments are relationship red flags when it comes to picking a potential partner

Respondents from both groups ranked having lots of debt, being behind on loan or credit card payments, and owing money to the IRS as their top concerns from the choices listed. One interesting difference between the two groups: General consumers ranked an inability to pay for dates as a potential problem, where YNAB users would be more concerned about extravagant spending.

eharmony Survey’s Results: 

  1. Having lots of debt (55%)
  2. Owing money to the IRS (35%)
  3. Being behind on loan/credit card payments (39%)
  4. Inability to pay for dates (30%)

YNAB Results: 

  1. Being behind on loan/credit card payments (75%)
  2. Having lots of debt (60%)
  3. Owing money to the IRS (46%)
  4. Spending money on expensive things (38%)

Couples with clear financial goals are less likely to argue about money

When asked about finances as a source of conflict in their relationship, only 33% of YNAB respondents answered that they argue with their partner about money, compared to 49% of general consumers. 

Spending habits are the leading cause of finance-related conflict

When asked what they tend to argue about when it comes to finances, both groups agreed that spending habits and financial priorities were the two biggest sources of money-related stress. 

eharmony Survey Results: 

  1. Spending habits (36%)
  2. Financial priorities (23%)
  3. Control over money (17%)

YNAB Results: 

  1. Spending habits (41%)
  2. Financial priorities (41%)
  3. Saving habits (6%)

Different spending habits and priorities can become an ongoing source of stress. 

Learn how a regularly-scheduled date night can change your financial future as a couple

Happily Ever After: Facing Your Financial Future 

Building a life is a puzzle with many pieces, but finances help build the border so that the big picture can come together more easily. We asked for input on laying the groundwork for what lies ahead. 

Roughly half of respondents thought the person who made more should contribute more to bills and expenses

Should the person who makes more money contribute more to shared costs in the relationship? 42% of general consumers thought it was only fair for the breadwinner to pick up more of the bills. 50% of YNAB respondents would divide up the expenses based on who brings home more bacon. 

Couples who budget recommend using a money management app and regular conversations about money as the best ways to avoid conflict

When asked to rank the advice they’d give to other couples about managing money, YNAB users strongly agreed that using a finance app and communicating regularly were their top two tips. 

The range of rankings in the general consumer group included a wider spectrum of answers, with an emergency fund and shared savings goals topping that list. 

eharmony Survey’s Results: 

  1. An emergency fund (45%) 
  2. Shared savings goals (37%) 
  3. Regular conversations about finances (35%) 
  4. Couponing (25%) 

YNAB Results: 

  1. Use a finance app like YNAB (88%) 
  2. Regular conversations about money (84%) 
  3. An emergency fund (73%) 
  4. Tracking spending for both partners (68%) 

Invest in the future and your relationship by getting on the same page with shared financial goals. 

If you and your partner are ready for a deeper understanding of your finances, check out these resources about managing money as a couple, and then take some time to fill out YNAB’s complimentary DIY Budget Planner workbook together.

It will help guide you through a conversation on your relationship with money, your current financial situation, and your future goals while providing actionable information about how to change your money mindset. Once you’re done, you’ll be ready to set up a budget—for free!

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Study: How Finances Affect Relationships