Marriages begin with vows. In particular, “for richer, for poorer” is often pledged on that special day. These words are important as they signify, among other things, that the union is not based on material wealth. Still, finances are an important piece of daily life together, and you hope that you and your partner are on the same page about money. What happens if you’re not?
In the short-term, you could have arguments about spending. In fact, when asked to guess, most folks cite money as the number one offender of discord in relationships. (It is.) And in the long-term, a partnership where one person is a spendthrift while the other is thrifty can actually lower the frugal partner’s quality of life, says science.
Melissa Curren, associate professor at the University of Arizona, on the topic just published a study in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues on the topic spending and saving habits of people and the effects on their partners.
Their data were clear; there is a direct correlation between money habits and happiness.
Over 500 young adults in their 20s participated in the study. All were in committed relationships. Curren and her staff posed questions to these twenty-somethings on various topics about their partners’ approach to money. Some of the questions were about keeping budgets, and others were about credit card use and carrying balances versus paying debt off in full. Along with the financial questions were more general questions about the participants’ overall health and satisfaction with their lives.
Curren found that how a person’s significant other treats money directly affects that person’s well-being. What’s more, dating or partnering with an over-spender can actually lower your quality of life. It’s that serious.
Specifically, participants who found their partners responsible with money reported higher senses of well-being and a greater overall satisfaction with their relationships. On the flip side, those with partners who were perceived as irresponsible with finances reported a lesser degree of happiness and even said they felt less committed in the relationship.
Curren’s dating advice? “Young adults should choose their romantic partner wisely,” she told CNBC Make It. “We know that discussions about finances are difficult, but we also know that these discussions are important to have because problems related to finances can mean more than just finances — they can also represent issues of power and control, which may be why these behaviors are related to relationship satisfaction and commitment.”
Making financial stability a priority in your life is well worth the hard work. Millennials should just say no to avocado toast and focus on building a savings account. Additionally, the research seems to indicate that if you focus on partnering with someone who has a money mindset that is responsible, that can influence you to be more mindful of finances, too.
From casual dating to serious dating to living together to marriage, money is a key player in how we feel about our partners, so the best thing to do is talk openly about it. I know, the issue feels taboo, but it shouldn’t be. After all, once you’re sharing expenses – whether splitting a dinner tab or paying the mortgage – you’re individual spending habits become fair game. The sooner you address that giant elephant (or piggy bank) in the room, the better off both you and your relationship will be.
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