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  • Swipe left for debt: financial dating red flags

    We explore the common financial red flags you might find on a date, and how to overcome them.

    Last Updated: 1 January 2003

    From catfishing to gaslighting, dating in the 21st century is a minefield. And financial red flags – an expression for warning signs - are no exception.

    In this article we explore common financial dating red flags and how to overcome them, but this isn’t financial advice. If you’re not sure if a course of action is right for you, ask for financial advice.

    What’s the worst money red flag on a date?

    Our recent survey* asked people to name the worst money red flags on a date. To put it into perspective with other dating red flags, we compared it to discovering your date had a bad attitude to the opposite sex.

    Unsurprisingly, having these traits was considered worse than any financial problem.

    However, that’s not to say people don’t get red flags about this. Discovering someone has debt or doesn’t expect to work are still high on the list of icks. Followed by money struggles, or them showing signs of penny pinching i.e. not paying for a date.

    It’s easy to see why daters aren’t keen to match with someone who might make their life more difficult and complicated financially. For example, it’s understandable that the less you earn, the more worried you are about dating someone who doesn’t want to work or is in deep debt. Because, If you’re already having to work hard to make ends meet, there’s a much bigger risk that someone else’s problems could push you under.

    How do you start a money conversation while dating?

    All of our results assume you know in advance whether someone has financial problems. In reality, it can be an incredibly difficult topic to raise early on.

    The person with a problem can be embarrassed to talk about it, and the person who wants to check can be worried about coming across as an interrogator. By the time it comes up, it may be too late. It means that anyone who is currently dating needs to consider how they’ll get an idea of their potential date’s financial position.

    If it feels impossible to raise, there are a few ways to help you get started.

    1. Don’t put it off: It’s not necessarily something for the first date, but don’t wait until you’ve already committed. You need to know where you stand well before then.
    2. Start with the easy questions: For example, whether they’re a spender or a saver, or what they dream of achieving with their money.
    3. Get to the point: If they don’t volunteer any information about their finances, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any money concerns, including debts, overspending or things like gambling.
    4. Be honest about your own circumstances: It’s easier to ask someone to be open if you’re willing to be.
    5. Try not to react immediately: If they have money problems, you need time to process what this means for you before you make any decisions. It doesn’t have to mean the end of the relationship, but you will need to consider how it could affect you.
    6. In today's complex dating landscape, financial red flags are important considerations alongside more overt warning signs. While non-financial issues may seem more apparent, the impact of financial instability can be severe. Therefore, having open conversations about money early on is paramount to prevent these concerns from escalating into significant relationship hurdles down the line.

      * Figures from a survey of 1,402 people by Opinium for Hargreaves Lansdown in October 2023.

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