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Most Americans consider debt a dating deal breaker

The Motley Fool logo The Motley Fool 2/5/2019 Daniel B. Kline

If you're looking for love as the calendar moves toward Valentine's Day, you might want to check your finances. No, you're not looking to make sure you have enough money to pay for flowers, chocolates, or a fancy dinner. Instead, you're checking to see if your debt limits your dating pool.

Nearly three-quarters of American adults (72%) said they'd reconsider a romantic relationship because of another person's debt," according to a survey from Finder.com. According to the website, that could shrink your "pool of potential matches by roughly 182.8 million adults."

How much debt is too much?

Survey respondents were most turned off by credit card debt, with 56% citing that as a red flag, and $12,615.96 being the threshold that raises concerns. That was followed by student loan debt (52%), with potential romantic partners becoming concerned when that obligation exceeded $48,761.15.

Payday loan debt was the third worrisome debt (49%), with the threshold for concern there being $4,885.52. That's an interesting contrast to credit card debt -- more people said they were concerned about credit card debt (likely due to it being more common), but they were willing to look past a larger amount. That's an appropriate response given the very high interest rates associated with often predatory payday loans.

Respondents also cited mortgages (49%), auto loans (49%), personal loans (45%), and medical bills (45%). As you can see from the chart below, respondents are more forgiving on these types of loans, which aren't as closely associated with making poor financial choices.

a screenshot of a cell phone: The amount of debt that might be a romantic deal-breaker varies based on the type of debt.© Finder.com The amount of debt that might be a romantic deal-breaker varies based on the type of debt.

What can you do?

Debt should not doom you to being alone, but prospective partners are right to be concerned, especially if you have credit card, payday loan, or other high-interest debt. This isn't a first date topic -- "Hi, I'm Joe and I have way too much credit card debt," is an awkward introduction. It is, however, something you should bring up before a relationship becomes serious.

Related video: The money questions he says you need to ask every new love interest (provided by CNBC)

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Ideally, if you have debt, you should proactively address it once a relationship begins to become serious. Don't just lay out your financial situation without comment. If the relationship has the potential to lead to marriage, the debt of one partner becomes the debt of the other.

Explain your debt, how you accumulated it, and how you're tackling it. You may have made irresponsible choices in the past, but you want to show that you're handling it, and that it won't be a drag on your future as a couple.

Aside from taking the steps needed to get your finances under control, the most important thing you can do as you go from dating to couple is be open. Talk about finances even when it's uncomfortable. Share your victories and mistakes.

You probably can't solve all your financial woes quickly. But what you can do is show that you're taking the right steps and working to make yourself less of a dating risk. Love isn't all roses and champagne, sometimes it's honesty and a willingness to improve yourself -- and not only for your sake, but for the benefit of your partner.

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