NEW YORK (Learnvest) -- Love is blind, and never more than when it comes to our money.
But how do you keep from choosing a dubious financial partner while falling head over heels? It isn’t easy, as any of us who’ve loved and wound up in the red can tell you.
That’s what this list is for. In between the flowers and the heart flutters, take the time to see if the person you love fits any of these eight signs.
By the way, this advice is steeped in real-life experience, as well as a recent survey by TD Ameritrade about the biggest financial dealbreakers in Americans’ love lives. Not to mention research from the National Marriage Project about the most likely predictors of divorce—many of which center around money.
After reading these signs, if you’re tempted to say, “Oh, but my lovebunny isn’t really like that …”, call your mom or your closest girlfriend and discuss. One sign alone doesn’t mean your relationship is in jeopardy. And for each, we’ll give you a recommendation of what to do next if your true love fits the profile.
Check out the signs the one you love just might be bad for your financial health.
1. He’s in Major Credit Card Debt (and Not Doing Anything About It)
We know: Life happens. Icky things like a job loss or divorce can put you in the hole quickly. (Which is why we always recommend you build at least a six-month emergency fund.) We’re not saying you shouldn’t date anyone with debt to his name. The red flag in this situation is someone who continues to accrue it—and doesn’t have a plan to undo it.
Not only does the habit suggest you’re falling for someone who can’t handle money responsibly, there’s also evidence it can hurt you both long-term. “Consumer debt is an equal-opportunity marriage destroyer,” reports a 2009 report by the National Marriage Project. “It does not matter if couples are rich or poor, working class or middle class. If they accrue substantial debt, it puts a strain on their marriage.”
Credit card debt increases the likelihood a couple will fight over money—as well as issues other than money—and decreases the time they spend with one another, shows a study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. And the couples in the study who had accrued debt actually grew less happy over time as compared to those without it.
What You Can Do: The flip side of that same study shows that couples who made a plan and tackled their debt together remained happier with each other over the long-term. Debt definitely needn’t spell the end of a relationship, but it does mean you need to have a talk about how either partner got into debt in the first place and what you’ll do together to pay it off. Our “Get to Your Goal” calculator is an easy way to see how long it could take you.
2. He Spends Like a Drunken Sailor
Whether it’s literally getting drunk and buying a round for the whole bar, or just a serious taste for pricey new gadgets, spending as though money is going out of style can be a warning sign.
“When individuals feel that their spouse doesn’t handle money well, they report lower levels of marital happiness,” say the researchers. In fact, one study showed that feeling like your partner spent money foolishly increased the likelihood of divorce 45% for both men and women. Only extramarital affairs and alcohol or drug abuse were stronger predictors of being headed for splitsville.
What You Can Do: If your partner is fabulously wealthy, his spending is well within his budget or he has otherwise healthy financial habits, you can probably relax. But if your heart rate goes up every time he opens his wallet or unveils another new “toy,” it’s time for a talk.
People overspend for a lot of different reasons. Your first goal should be to communicate that his habits make you uncomfortable. One easy way to start the conversation? Take our “What’s Your Money Belief?” quiz together to reveal the emotions behind the financial decisions you each make.
3. You Have Vastly Different Attitudes Toward Money
While opposites do attract, and this needn’t spell doom, having vastly different worldviews when it comes to your finances can cause friction. Maybe you’re the spender, he’s the saver, or vice versa. Either way, over time, being nagged can wear thin. The problem is that resentment builds up.
Take a pair of married friends we know: “She has no concept of what a budget even means!” he’ll rail when he discovers yet another shopping bag. She, on the other hand, defends herself, saying: “I work so hard, I deserve to buy what I want.” They’re caught in a money stalemate.
What You Can Do: The goal isn’t to decide who’s ultimately right, just to get on the same page so you’re not fighting every time you head to the ATM. One of the easiest ways is to look at how you pool your money. If you need to have this talk, or you’re just headed for the altar soon, our free “Getting Hitched” bootcamp—which tells you everything a couple needs to know to combine their finances—is a great place to start.
One quick rule of thumb? Allocate money that is yours, mine and ours. LearnVest recommends 75% be shared for household expenses and meeting financial goals, with 25% as discretionary income you can spend on your own.
To raise the rest of the financial red flags in a relationship, read the rest of this story on LearnVest.