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Debt is a dating red flag, and so we delay bringing it up – or lie about it

A new study by SelfLender shows card and student loan debt and bad credit are among our biggest concerns in a potential mate


A new survey by SelfLender finds that, for many U.S. adults, credit card and student loan debt and bad credit are major causes for concern in a new partner. And with all the negative perception of personal finance problems, many also report hiding their financial situations from their partners.

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While bad manners and a dirty apartment may be obvious red flags when sizing up a new romantic partner, plenty of financial matters are also on the radar of dating adults, with credit card debt among the most prominent strikes.

A survey by SelfLender found that half of U.S. adults (50 percent) say credit card debt is a major cause for concern in a new partner. Not only that, but more than a third say even a bad credit score is a dating turnoff (37 percent), and that credit card debt is worse than student loan debt (35 percent).

The findings are consistent with a recent Finder.com poll that revealed credit card debt is the least acceptable type of debt held by a potential partner among millennials, Gen-Xers and baby boomers (although millennials find student loan debt equally undesirable).

With all that negative perception, it’s no surprise some adults report they’re hiding or sugarcoating their financial situations. Three in 10 admit they have lied about their annual salaries (30 percent), a quarter say they have hidden spending habits from partners (25 percent) and 24 percent confess they have outright lied to a partner about their level of debt.

Another strategy is to simply avoid the topic as long as possible. The survey found that the average adult waits about six months before revealing their true debt situation to someone they’re dating.

Other red flags reported by respondents on the financial front were a potential love interest being “cheap” (46 percent said this is a turnoff) or unable to keep a steady job (40 percent).

SelfLender’s survey was conducted by OnePoll in late June 2019 among 2,000 U.S. adults, with findings released July 29.

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