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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

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I’ve noticed many TV shows recently saying that singles should check credit scores before getting serious with someone. Is that good advice?


This is a timely and relevant question now that it’s tax season. In fact, I’ve been doing many media interviews about the general topic of love and money. Let me say that if a couple is getting serious, it’s excellent advice for them to discuss their attitudes toward money and money management and to disclose their current financial situation. Make no mistake -- economic security ties into emotional security. This is a topic that’s important for both men and women. It’s well-known from research that women tend to place more emphasis on socioeconomic status than men. Men place more emphasis on physical attraction. There are evolutionary reasons for these basic attitudes. But there’s a fundamental rule-of-thumb that remains useful -- people treat their partners like they treat their money. If someone mismanages money, it’s a safe bet that they’ll likely to mistreat the partner.

Men are wising up to this too. In fact, many men are seeking women who earn as much, if not more, than they do. These guys aren’t looking for a gravy train; they’re looking for someone who has independent thought, strong self-esteem, ambition and initiative. Men with a long-term relationship agenda find these qualities of financially successful women to be extremely desirable and enticing. 

Now back to the question at hand. Money management reveals a great deal about a person and their priorities. For example, in one study of online daters it was found that sexual behavior predicts how important money is to people.  In that sample of online daters money was “extremely important” to about 15% of respondents. And those who attach greater importance to money tend to report higher libido, a lower tendency to be faithful in relationships and a greater tendency to be jealous. Over all, the best predictor of attitude towards money is “faithfulness.”  Is it any surprise now that past research has consistently found that issues of sex and money are the leading causes of conflicts and disagreements in relationships?  It makes perfect sense when you think about it, since sex and money are both about control issues.

Interestingly, the same online dating study also found:  

  • The perceived importance of money generally decreases with age.
  • Women are more likely to find money very important.
  • Among those aged 60 or over, more men find money very important.

Over all, the research suggests that individuals who have a preoccupation with money expect, to a certain degree, that their relationships will be less satisfying and healthy than individuals who place less importance on money. Therefore, it’s important for a couple to talk about and understand each other’s money management style and attitudes about the function of money. Those issues aren’t fodder for conversation during the first few dates, but if the relationship seems to be getting serious then by all means bring up the topic before moving in together, getting engaged or getting married. There are even dating sites now that cater to people who are concerned about other’s money management. Yes, there’s a niche site for anyone and everyone!

From a practical perspective, these are questions to ask a serious prospect when the time is appropriate:

  • Do you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck?
  • Do you have a savings plan?
  • Would your family and friends describe you as an impulse buyer?
  • Are you always borrowing money from family and friends?
  • Do have multiple credit cards?
  • Do you rely on your credit cards for living expenses?
  • Do you see your partner having bank accounts with you or having separate accounts?
  • How often do you check your credit report?
  • What are thoughts about debt?

There are many more questions I could suggest, but you get the idea. You can use some or all of these questions as is… or you can use them as inspiration to develop your own. The key is to learn about someone’s current level of economic security and then understand how they approach and manage money. Again, money management often reveals a good deal about how they manage other important things in their lives.

It’s only fitting to close with some words of wisdom from a young girl. She sums it all up eloquently and simply…

“[In a relationship] one of you should know how to write a check. Because, even if you have tons of love, there is still going to be a lot of bills.”
- Ava, age 8


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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