The Beatles insisted finances and fondness were unrelated. “I don’t care too much for money,” they sang. “For money can’t buy me love.”
But money can buy dinner on that make-it-or-break-it first date. And money can buy Valentine’s Day flowers and candies. Money, or lack of it, can also sabotage your credit and turn off potential lovers.
So, even if money can’t exactly buy love, is it a factor in choosing a companion? On behalf of NerdWallet, Harris Poll surveyed 2,057 Americans 18 and older about the role personal finance plays in their relationships.
Our survey turned up some surprises. We learned that millennial men, those in the 18- to 34-year-old age group, are the most generous when it comes to spending money on their partners. We also found that with a majority of these men, a potential significant other’s finances are more important than attractiveness. Meanwhile, almost half of all men and women said that whoever pays for that first date better make sure their credit card will be approved.
Millennials to go all out on Valentine’s Day. Younger men and women in relationships plan to spend an average of $290 on Valentine’s Day activities — more than any other age group. These millennial men in relationships plan to shell out an average of $371.
Most people think men should pay on the first date. Sixty-four percent of Americans said men should pay for the entire bill on a first date — and men were more likely to say this than women. It’s the younger men, ages 18-34, who feel more strongly (68%) about paying for that first meetup. But there’s no need to haul out a super-exclusive (high fee and premium benefits) credit card: 74% say that would have no effect on whether there’s a second date.
Financial stability matters. Women (60%) more so than men (43%) say a potential partner’s financial situation is important to them.
Bad credit is a turnoff. Forty-eight percent of Americans and 61% of those who make $100,000 or more say they wouldn’t date someone with bad credit. Sixty-three percent of college graduates wouldn’t date someone with bad credit, as opposed to 40% of people with a high school degree or less who say the same.
Millennials to spend $100 more than other Americans on their valentines
There’s no discount chocolates for the 18- to 34-year-old set. Millennials in relationships will spend an average of $290 on Valentine’s Day activities — almost $100 more than the $196 average among all people in relationships.
Millennial men in relationships, in particular, plan to pull out all of the financial stops for their valentines by spending an average of $371. The dates will be cheaper for their female counterparts, who expect to spend an average of $197. Among all of those who plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day, men are set to outspend women by an average of $161.
Tradition rules first dates
The traditional gender role of men taking the financial lead doesn’t end after Feb. 14. Most American adults think the same roles should apply to first dates, too. According to the survey, 64% of Americans say men should foot the whole bill on a first date — with men (68%) more likely to say this than women (61%).
Like with the pricey Valentine’s Day festivities, it’s the young bucks, in particular, who believe they should pay up. Seventy-seven percent of millennial men in relationships say men should pay for first dates.
Men of all age groups are more likely to foot the bill going into the second, third and even 50th date, according to a 2014 NerdWallet survey of couples who’ve lived together for at least six months. Nearly 60% of women in that survey say their significant other pays for date night, while 56% of men say they pick up the tab. About 40% of both men and women say they either take turns paying or split the bill.
Finances vs. physical features
Not only does tradition likely prod men to shell out for dates, but this may also demonstrate their financial resources. Most women (60%) say a potential significant other’s financial situation is important to them in their dating life. On the other hand, 43% of men feel the same way, according to our survey.
Some may even prefer savings to sexiness. Forty-four percent of the women surveyed say a potential partner’s financial situation is more important than physical attractiveness. Only 35% of men agreed.
However, among millennials in our survey, the trend reverses. A majority of younger men (54%) say a potential partner’s financial situation is more important than physical attractiveness, but only 43% of millennial women feel the same.
Credit helps you score
In some cases, bad credit seems to matter as much for getting approved for a second date as it does for a loan. In fact, 46% of American adults said if their partner’s card was declined on a first date, they wouldn’t pursue a second. Nearly half (48%) say they wouldn’t date someone with bad credit, according to the survey.
Bad credit becomes even more of a turnoff once you factor in wealth and education. Among those with income levels of $100,000 or more, 61% said they wouldn’t date someone with bad credit. The same was true of only 38% of those making less than $50,000.
In this survey of adults, 63% of college graduates say they wouldn’t date someone with bad credit, while that response drops to 40% among people with a high school degree or less.
It’s all something to ponder before your romantic night out, whether you’re diving into a first date or enjoying Valentine’s Day with your longtime significant other. But it might be best to talk about the kind of things that money can’t buy and to save the credit score discussion for another time.
This survey of 2,057 Americans ages 18 and older was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet on Jan. 19-21, 2016. This survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, contact Chris Rein at [email protected]
Courtney Miller is a data analyst at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Laura McMullen is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]. Twitter:@lauraemcmullen.
Image via iStock.