Money

Dating an over-spender actually lowers your quality of life, science confirms

Money habits matter a lot in a relationship, even if you're not married or living together, concludes Melissa A Curran, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, in a new study published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues. The way your romantic partner spends and saves directly affects your own well-being.

That's why she recommends being picky when it comes to dating. "Young adults should choose their romantic partner wisely," Curran tells CNBC Make It.

She and her colleagues assessed over 500 young twenty-somethings in committed relationships and had them rate their health and overall life satisfaction. She asked them questions related to their partners' financial responsibility, such as, Do they spend within a budget? And, Do they usually pay off their credit cards in full?

The researchers found that the more responsible the participants perceived their partners to be with money, the higher their own sense of well-being and the happier they were with their relationships. The opposite was also true. Participants who thought their partners were bad with money had a lower sense of well-being and felt less committed to the relationship.

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds
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Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds

"This finding makes sense developmentally as the young adults are transitioning to adulthood," says Curran. "It would make sense for them to draw upon romantic partners in terms of financial socialization agents." By socialization agents, she means people who can teach and influence the participants on matters related to money.

The idea is that the financial habits of whoever you're dating can rub off on you. If your partner is bad with money, you might become bad with money too, which in turn affects your life overall, since the researchers also confirmed that your own financial habits definitely affect your well-being.

For many young adults, parents are the most influential socialization agents. So, in this study, Curran also asked the participants about what their parents expected of them when it came to their finances. Did their parents, for example, expect them to track their spending?

The researchers found that high expectations from an involved parent led the participants to perform better on a financial literacy test. But, unlike romantic partners, they did not seem to influence well-being.

The findings suggests that it's worth it to make financial stability a priority in your life. Many young adults, however, either can't (student loans, rent), or don't (making key choices out of order, avocado toast). About two-thirds of young millennials have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and 46 percent have nothing at all, according to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey, and the numbers aren't much brighter for older millennials.

The researchers also suggest you prioritize being with someone who is a positive influence on your financial habits. And if you're bothered by your significant other's over-spending or general irresponsibility with money, Curran and her colleagues recommends talking things through.

"We know that discussions about finances are difficult, but we also know that these discussions are important to have because problems related to finances can mean more than just finances — they can also represent issues of power and control, which may be why these behaviors are related to relationship satisfaction and commitment," they report.

"Having discussions about finances and making financial decisions together helps couples become closer and more satisfied with their relationships."

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