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Why millennial men want spouses who earn more than they do

CNBC logo CNBC 4/25/2018 Darla Mercado

Well, I ain't saying he's a gold digger, but if he's a millennial looking to get married, he just might be.

A recent survey by Varo Money found that 41 percent of millennial men would marry someone who earns more than they do so that their partner can pay off their debts. To compare, only 15 percent of millennial women have that aim.

The mobile banking company polled 1,000 adults in March.

The survey found that 36 percent of American women earn more than their partner. For men in their 20s and 30s, that's just fine: More than 1 in 3 say that the relationship and romantic dynamics change for the positive when the person they're seeing earns more than they do.

Indeed, the median personal income for women aged 25 to 34 reached $29,429 in 2016, reflecting an increase from $22,895 in 1975, according to Census data. In that same time period, the median personal income for men aged 25 to 34 fell to $40,401 from $45,908.

"With women earning more and men starting to earn less, perhaps there is some pressure to pair up with someone who is earning the same, if not more, to even things out," said Catherine New, editor-in-chief at Varo.

Here's what millennials seek in a partner's finances.

Wealth is a factor

Nearly 30 percent of all millennials would like to marry someone who earns more than they do, the Varo study found. This was especially important to the men surveyed, as 57 percent of them said that wealth is a factor when selecting a partner.

Bear in mind that many millennials are toting large student loan debt balances, so they may want to find a high-earning partner to help them tackle the burden.

"Millennials have a lot of unique money issues that other generations have not faced — student loans, housing costs, a changing economy — and that means they must be on top of their finances," said Emily Brauer Gill, director of brand and communications at Varo.

Personal finances are important enough to young people that they'll call off a relationship if financial problems arise.

One in 5 millennials and Gen Xers polled said that they've broken up with a partner due to "money issues," Varo found.

An open conversation

If you're hoping to head off relationship woes due to money, start by having a frank discussion about your balance sheets, earning power and expectations.

A 2017 study from LearnVest, an online provider of financial planning services, found that 32 percent of individuals in relationships don't know how much their partner earns or the amount he or she holds in bank accounts.

"People don't like the sense that something is hidden or that they're not being told the full truth about something only to be surprised by it later," said New of Varo.

Here's how to start that discussion:

  • Go on a date to discuss your finances: Make it a quiet morning discussion over breakfast, as opposed to hashing out your bank accounts over drinks at the bar.
  • Dig into your details before you chat: Come prepared with your credit card and bank statements, loan balances and all of your relevant reports. This way, you'll have an informed conversation with each other.
  • Combine your accounts — or not: "Marrying" your finances is worth a discussion and it opens the door to a chat about compromise over spending. Still, it isn't right for everyone.
  • Don't lose sight of your shared goals: Maybe you want to be homeowners someday, or you'd like to start a family together. Talk about it now and head off conflict at the pass.

Related video: Mom and Dad still paying some of your bills? Turns out you're not alone

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