Spoiler alert: Stress ahead!
More than three in four women think about money more than sex, and more than one in four Americans in relationships feel money-related stress affects their desire for sex according to a survey conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Yodlee from December 6 to December 10, 2013. The 2,039 U.S. respondents were adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,437 indicated being in romantic relationships.
What does this mean as we approach Valentine's Day next Saturday? More than first meets the eye, that's what!
While money's impact on the libido isn't something I'd given much thought to previously, it makes sense that it would. Being worried (about anything) can have an impact on your desire to … um … get it on. Making DIY plans for an affordable Valentine's Day may help placate the symptoms of money woes for the time being, but what's behind the stress anyway?
In some cases, people can trace their financial issues as far back as the attitudes they held when they first started dating. Others may be experiencing stress from a more recent turn of events that is nonetheless just as devastating. Regardless of how long-standing or difficult the circumstance, though, one good thing is that it is possible to help prevent or neutralize that stress to some degree.
Looking back – financial woes and casual dating
For many, if not most of us, casual dating took place mostly in our high school and college years – when we were young and had more dreams than money. If that describes your situation now, take comfort in the fact that just about everyone you know at this time in life is pretty much in the same boat you are. When no one has very much money or expectations of lifelong partnerships, the expectations for expensive dates or fancy gifts are also probably pretty low. Additionally, if you're at a more casual stage in your romantic life, you can avoid the financial and personal pressures of Valentine's Day altogether simply by not going on a date that day!
The trouble can come if during this time you aren't aware how significant the impact of poor decisions can be to your love life for years to come. For example, if you are caught up in living for the moment, as it were, you can easily attract others that have a similar mindset. That could make it harder to find that special someone who is interested in personal finance and would be willing to work toward building wealth and reaching financial independence with you. What if their champagne-taste-on-a-beer-budget mindset makes them feel like they're being controlled by their parents? Whether this is an accurate representation of their parents or not, that could lead to financial rebellion and a number of poor choices like taking out more student loans than necessary or racking up credit card debt.
It's important for parents to teach their children about money before they are on their own. But whether you have parents that took the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind their financial decisions or not, you can still avoid developing a dysfunctional relationship with money by taking responsibility for your own financial education – as you're doing if you're reading this blog! The end result could be many happy years celebrating Valentine's Day with the one you love in the future instead of the stress-filled environment you might have created after years of living it up.
Getting serious (about finances and love)
It's natural to want to settle down, get serious with someone, and maybe start a family, but you may not be able to at this point – at least, not on the timeline or budget you expected – and that could cause a lot of stress too. The Interwebs are full of stories about how Millennials are not reaching adult milestones at the ages we have come to expect. This includes things like:
- Delaying homeownership, often by moving back in with their parents after college or job loss (and staying there, sometimes for years!)
- Getting married in their mid-30s or later (rather than the mid-20s)
- Having children later in life
- Having fewer children overall
While none of these things are necessarily bad or evil on their face, they affect people personally and on a macroeconomic scale as well. Take having children later in life as an example. Having children becomes more difficult and dangerous as women get older. The potential for (expensive) complications may increase, and those complications may affect the long-term health of both mother and child. That may lead directly to having fewer children overall, whether it's because additional pregnancies are dangerous, the existing child(ren) require more care than anticipated, or the woman can't or doesn't want children after a certain age. (After all, wait too long and you're potentially supporting children during your own retirement! How's that for stress?)
On the purely financial side, homeownership, weddings, and children are billion-dollar industries that represent huge chunks of economic activity. Delaying or decreasing those things impacts us all in a variety of ways. And because social security pays today's retirees out of the pockets of today's workforce, having fewer children (and fewer workers) but more retirees is going to become a more and more difficult equation to balance.
Marriage, money, and divorce
Even if you are able to find love given the financial uncertainty that has become so common, it can be challenging to maintain harmony in your relationship if there is no harmony in your finances. Obviously, it is important to be on the same page when it comes to making financial choices. However, the impact that constant worry can have on both individuals and relationships is real.
Maybe one or both of you suffers from the stress-spending cycle, in which stress (even monetary stress) actually increases the odds that you'll make additional poor financial decisions. It can be tough to conquer your finances together when you have different priorities or spending habits. And even if you're on the same page, it can be hard to take a deep breath and let go of financial stress.
Being under constant financial stress can have a more significant and longer-term impact on your relationship than just whether or not you and your spouse knock boots on V-Day. It is widely acknowledged that financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce. And ending a marriage is often devastating both personally and financially – which means the stress those individuals are under isn't going anywhere but up unless they can summon the strength to de-escalate amid all the frustration. And that's pretty hard to do when you're considering divorce except, possibly, by realizing that having someone to love in your life is an incredibly valuable thing. Anyone who has lost the love of their life might see it that way, anyway.
So this article has been about as sexy as a list of high-yield savings accounts or jumbo CD rates. (Come to think of it, maybe GRS readers would find that sexy, actually!) So what's the takeaway? Simple. No matter what stage of life and love you're in, the sooner you start taking action to get your finances in order, the sooner you can start reducing your stress level. And the sooner you reduce your stress level, the sooner you can …
Well, that's none of my business, really ;-)
All kidding aside, has financial stress ever had an impact on your relationships? How did you overcome it? Share in the comments below!
Honey Smith has been reading GRS since at least 2008, right when she got her first â€œrealâ€ job and started getting serious about finances. She and her husband Jake are in their mid-30s and recently bought a home together. Currently, she manages graduate programs at a large state institution, and he is an attorney at a mid-sized firm.
Between them, they have paid off approximately $30,000 in consumer debt since she started writing for GRS in 2012. However, they still have nearly $200,000 of student loan debt, so she will continue to chronicle their debt-paydown journey. In addition to personal finance, Honey is interested in vegetarianism and cooking, gardening (despite living in the desert and having a black thumb), issues in higher education (including the student loan bubble and the slow death of tenure), and animal rights; however, her heart lies with fantasy novels, trashy TV and Skyrim.