Money changes everything. There’s a reason you hear this phrase so often. You might be attracted to someone, or even head-over-heels in love with them, but financial red flags can make or break a relationship. Date whomever you want, but before things get serious, you and your significant other need to have a serious talk about money. Are you on the same page, or reading entirely different scripts.
We asked random Millennials about what behaviors in a partner would or did raise financial red flags, and how it could or did affect the relationship.
Several people voiced concern over a partner who was irresponsible with money.
“My boyfriend and I weren’t engaged, but we were getting there and talking about our futures. I made the mistake of asking him about his student loans. He was quite resistant to discuss it, even evasive. After ducking several of my questions, he finally admitted he just didn’t know the answers. He was thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand, in debt, but had no idea of the exact amount. He spent his student loan checks on things other than school, knowing full well he was going deeper into debt. He didn’t even look at the balance owed, or how much interest he was paying. I insisted it must be online, but he refused to even look it up. I honestly don’t know if he was repaying them or not. That was more than a red flag for me. That scared me. I knew I couldn’t enter into a marriage with someone this financially irresponsible and dishonest.” — Bridget, 30
“Not holding a job. Yeah, we all have had a ‘jerk’ for a boss here and there. But if the boss is always a ‘jerk’ and you keep getting fired, or you quit over and over again, then maybe the ‘jerk’ is you. That [type of behavior] is a red flag for other issues as well, like anger control or other personality issues. Quitting jobs over and over shows lack of commitment, too. Anyway, those are my red flags.” — Raquel, 22
“People who can’t save. Instead of putting money in the bank or planning for the future, they spend it all on frivolous things like video games.That’s a big red flag for me.” — Tina, 20
“When someone doesn’t pay their bills. Look out! I have never been late, not once. But there are people who are late every month, even when they have the money to pay the bill! I would avoid these people no matter how nice or cute they might be. Just bad news.“ — Juan, 27
“Not having money to pay rent, but having plenty to buy Starbucks, trendy clothes and other wants, not needs. Shows a real lack of priorities and responsibility.” — Adam, 19
Greed and Ignorance
Wanting too much or wanting what isn’t theirs can signal potential problems.
“My grandmother had a lot of money. She inherited a bunch from my grandfather, and she also did well investing on her own. She was encouraged to ‘divest’ a good portion of it to avoid having it go to taxes. She sent two thousand dollars to [each of] her 17 grandchildren, and I was one of them. My fiancée at the time demanded her ‘half.’ I was shocked. I never would have expected that from her. Certainly, I was willing to share. I hadn’t really thought what to do with the money, but dividing it in half wasn’t my first thought. I wish I could say I didn’t give it to her. I did. I ended up purchasing a television for us with my half. That was the beginning of the end for us, and I guess it was for the better. I don’t miss her, but I wish I could have my other half [of the inheritance] back.” — Jim, 29
“Borrowers. I don’t even like it when my friends borrow money, but a guy asking me for money is a real turn-off. Sure, we may run into trouble now and then, but asking your girlfriend for money is a real deal-breaker with me.” — Anita, 25
“Not so much red flags, but I avoid being in a relationship with a guy who doesn’t know what it’s like to work. Not to be judgmental, but rich people don’t know what hard work is, and they don’t understand the value of money. Sorry, but I just can’t relate to that. I want a man who works hard and values money.” — Marlyss, 21
“Not knowing what a 401K is and not taking advantage of investing in them when they are offered by your employer.That’s a red flag that shows someone isn’t thinking about their future.” — Scott, 27
“Someone with no plan. I don’t care if you have a low-paying job, as long as you are using that as a stepping stone to something better. Some low-paying jobs offer priceless experience you can bring forward. But if your goal is to retire from McDonald’s or you have no goal, then I start seeing red flags.” — Serena, 32
“Credit card debt. That scares me. When you add up the interest charges, even just over a year, the amount you’re paying is staggering. Some women think nothing of having seven credit cards, all of them with rolling balances. I can’t understand this financial recklessness, and would have a hard time being in a relationship with someone who behaved this way.“— Todd, 30
Some financial red flags aren’t as easy to classify. Here are a few other concerns our interviewees expressed.
“I would avoid any guy who always wants to pay when we go out, or a guy who never wants to pay when we go out. Both are red flags.” —Sara, 23
“Never enjoying their money. I know it’s important to save, but I can’t stand people who scrimp and save and buy inferior products to save a dollar. Live a little. If we’re on vacation, I’m not eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to save money. I’m going to have the lobster!”— Brody, 31
“If you live with your parents, please don’t ask me out. That’s a huge red flag I just can’t get past. Under no circumstances will I date a guy who still needs his mommy and daddy to pay his way. I only date grown-ups.” — Tamika, 26
“Even if they hold a good job and handle their money well, I get nervous when I’m not allowed to make any of the financial decisions. Domineering behavior over finances is my red flag. You know it’s only going to get worse. Maybe that’s OK with some people, but I am an independent woman, both financially and emotionally. I’m not going to marry someone and suffer a control freak my whole life.” — Crystal, 28
Look before you leap, as another saying goes. Before making a lifetime commitment to someone, make sure you rule out any financial red flags that will undoubtedly cause problems in the future. You don’t have to abandon someone you love just because you disagree on money, but address current or potential problems before they become bigger problems. Make sure you both agree about how to handle your finances. Change bad behaviors, and you will have at least one relationship-breaking issue out of the way.