Valentine’s Day is approaching and romance is in the air. If you’re going out with someone you want to impress, there are a few simple rules.
Don’t wear a Bill Cosby T-shirt. If you live in your parents’ basement, keep that info to yourself. Don’t splash on any Adidas cologne before heading out.
And if your special someone asks if you have much debt, change the subject.
Tell them you have 19 cats. Tell them you love polka dancing. Just whatever you do, DO NOT TELL THEM YOU ARE MIRED IN DEBT.
At least not if you want to get married.
Almost 75% of Americans say they might not say “I do” if their prospective partner is in a financial hole. That’s according to a study of 2,035 people by Finder.com.
Considering there are approximately 111 million unmarried people in the U.S. and about 80% of Americans are in debt, theoretically that means 88 million of us might as well move to a deserted island with an inflatable doll. We have little to no shot at walking down the aisle with a human.
The study did not ask why people are so leery of debt, but it’s pretty obvious. Many singles grew up during the Great Recession. They got used to people getting laid off and having their houses repossessed.
Given those memories, today’s swinging singles will take stability and financial security over a spouse with great abs and a sub-580 credit rating.
Speaking of which, if you go to a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s Day and the check comes, do not whip out a wallet containing seven or eight credit cards. Chances are your date will be more alarmed than impressed.
The study found that credit cards are the least desirable form of debt, with 56% of women and 55% of men ranking it the No. 1 financial turn-off.
Next on that list is student loan debt, with 51% of women and 52% of men saying it’s the major red flag. Student loan debt has skyrocketed from $345 billion in 2004 to $1.5 trillion in 2019, so that worry is only going to get worse.
Women are more likely to be turned off by payday loan debt. That might show they are smarter than men since payday loans typically come with 400% interest rates.
Anyone who gets a 400%-interest loan deserves to be banished to a deserted island with a blow-up doll.
The most acceptable form of debt is a business loan, with only 39% of men and women saying it might be a deal breaker. That’s probably because borrowing from a bank to fund a business is considered a worthwhile investment.
Borrowing from VISA to pay for liposuction treatments is not.
Then there’s the question of how much debt is too much?
The big-ticket item is mortgages, of course. The survey found that $234,062 was the average that all respondents found acceptable. So, if you owe $365,000 on a McMansion you can’t really afford, you might be better off saying you live in your parents’ basement.
The limit for student loan debt is at $48,761. That actually shows a lot of tolerance considering the average student loan debt was $37,172 in 2018.
As for those pesky credit cards, the tolerance limit is $12,615. If that’s what you owe and you’re just making the minimum 2% payment, you’ll end up paying $9,200 in interest fees.
Think of all the roses you could buy with $9,200.
On second thought, don’t. It might bother you so much that you’ll start blurting it out at your Valentine’s Day dinner. Then your date will get up and say, “It’s been great, but I just remembered I have to go donate a kidney.”
How do you avoid such a scene?
It’s as easy as getting your debt under control, which is easier than you might think. There are nonprofit companies specializing in debt management programs that will lower your interest rates and get you on a budget.
All you need is determination, which comes through motivation. So, if you’re motivated to get married, get your debt under control.
You’ll look much more attractive, even if you smell like Adidas cologne.
Joey Johnston has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist with the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times. He has won a dozen national writing awards and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine. He started writing for InCharge Debt Solutions in 2016.