This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com
We’ve come a long way since the Mad Men-esque era of the 50s and 60s, when financial security for women came exclusively in the form of a man.
At least that’s according to the findings of a new survey from Charlie. We surveyed 533 single (defined as never married) women ages 18 to 40 in to find out how they think about finances when it comes to finding “the one.” According to the results, women are waiting until well into their relationships to have the “money talk.” If they don’t like what they hear, bad news: most women view potential beaus or belles with a large amount of debt as more of a liability, than an anchor. The majority of single women these days don’t believe that marriage is necessarily the ticket to financial stability. But to understand where we’re at now, it’s important to take a look at where we came from.
A Brief History of Women’s Financial Rights
Back in the “good old days,” our grandmothers had little choice but to attach themselves to a man — for better or for worse — in order to gain financial security. Not surprisingly, these unions weren’t always the most compatible. Oftentimes, men controlled the paycheck and the checkbook, and that in turn controlled the women they supported.
Thankfully, things have changed over the years due to hard work from civil rights activists. Sweeping changes were made to make things fairer for everyone, including people of different races, religions, nationalities, ages, and — gender. Here are a few milestones:
Women are More Reluctant to Marry Debtors
One of the biggest standout statistics from our survey was that 58% of single women would be hesitant to marry a partner with a lot of debt.
Given the massive increase in student loan debt among college graduates these days, that’s a tough prospect. Take the graduates of the class of 2017, for example. Among students who had to take out loans (about two-thirds), the average debt burden after graduating was $28,650, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. And that’s before you add on credit card, mortgage, or other debt.
An important factor here is debt-to-income ratio. A doctor, for example, may pop out on the other side of med school with six-figure debt, but he or she may also be able to make a six-figure salary right out of the gate. Someone with $100k worth of debt after studying underwater basket weaving, however, may be a different story. Similarly, it’s important to take into account what type of debt someone has. Did they take out a student loan with the aims of getting a high-paying job? Or did they take out a series of payday loans to pay for a bad gambling habit? Or do they have credit card debt from splurging on habits they can’t afford?
Context is important and can help women suss out potential marriage partners who may still be very financially-responsible despite carrying a large amount of debt.
Women Don’t Like Having “The Talk” Early On In a Relationship
Understandably, learning the finer points someone’s debt situation can be a little tricky , even if it is important. We have so many emotions and tensions surrounding finances, and for good reason. Few of us were taught good skills and behavioral habits for managing our money, and even fewer of us were raised having open and healthy conversations about finances.
That’s why it’s no wonder that many women prefer to have the money talk later on in their relationship, once they’ve developed a lot of trust with their partner. In fact, according to our survey,
48% of single women said finances should only be discussed at all in a serious relationship.
Discussing finances early can save a lot of heartache later on. Some things may be easy to spot early on, like a penchant for buying pricey gifts on every date despite your beau (or belle) driving a beater. But other things, like past bankruptcies or foreclosures, are more difficult to catch.
The only way to know is by opening up and having a conversation about what’s important to you. After all, many people list whether they’re interested in kids, overseas travel, or expensive hobbies in their dating profiles. Yet, 74% of single women specifically would not want to see financial measuring sticks like credit scores or student loan debt in dating profiles.
Most Women Don’t See Marriage As The Ticket to Financial Stability
We know women don’t necessarily want to tie themselves down to a heavily-indebted spouse. And we also know women can do (virtually) all of the same things as men, like renting an apartment, having a meaningful career, travel, opening a bank account, or buying a house.
These two factors combined have led to a grand conclusion:
66% of single women don’t see marriage as the only path to financial security. And that’s a good thing.
There are so many things that can happen by putting all of your financial eggs in one basket. Your marriage could (sadly) end in divorce. Your spouse could develop new bad financial habits. Plus, it’s no secret that pensions are becoming a dying breed, making it more important than ever for everyone — men and women — to save for their own retirement.
Whether you’re currently married or not, it’s important for everyone to retain some semblance of financial independence. You can do this by considering a prenuptial agreementor considering whether combined — or separate — finances are right for you. Some experts even advise each spouse — even stay-at-home-moms — to keep a separate “freedom fund” to kick-start their newly-single life in case it’s ever called upon. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a relationship that’s not working because you can’t afford to leave.
Women’s Attitudes Towards Relationships and Money are Changing, and Often for the Better
It’s no secret that the relationship between money and marriage is changing, and for women this gives us insight on why they may be more hesitant to lock down a marriage partner. After all, if you can retain your own financial independence in a marriage, why else marry (or stay married) but for love? A lifetime of happiness — financial and otherwise — is something that we can definitely get on board with.
Crystal Vandegrift is a wedding photographer covering Virginia, D.C. NC and Maryland.
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