For young adults, talking about money on the first date isn’t as awkward as it used to be.
Millennials are nearly twice as likely as their elders to say they’re comfortable sharing credit scores and swapping stories about debt with a potential love interest, according to Bankrate’s Love and Money Survey.
“They really are more open to having the money conversation with their partners early on, which is definitely a generational shift,” says Mara Liz Meinhofer, a certified money coach and founder of Love & Money Therapy. “It’s something that didn’t used to happen, and it’s very healthy that it’s starting to happen among them.”
Compared with other generations, millennials are also more likely to take credit scores into consideration when deciding whether to date a new flame. More than 1 in 5 (21 percent) say it would have a large impact on their interest in dating someone.
Talking money early on
Money is one of the last remaining taboos, Meinhofer says.
“Money involves feelings such as shame, fear, anxiety, worry, avoidance,” Meinhofer says. “So because it triggers these feelings, it just makes it even harder and uncomfortable to have the conversation.”
When you’re dating someone, it’s easy to put off a conversation about money — until you’re forced to address it.
But the younger you are, the more likely you are to consider talking about money beginning with date No. 1.
That makes sense, says Tiffany Welka, a wealth management adviser in Livonia, Michigan, who offers free financial counseling to couples who are engaged or considering marriage. Many millennials text or communicate via social media days before meeting in person.
“When I was dating, that wasn’t really the case. And I’m sure my parents are the same way, and my grandparents,” Welka says. “If it was a first date, that’s when you started the initial discussion. But nowadays, it’s different. You’re actually talking before you go on a first date.”
Talking about money sooner than later can be beneficial for someone concerned about whether the person they’re dating is trustworthy or reliable.
“I think it can kind of be a good topic to talk about,” says Mike Gnitecki, 34, a firefighter and paramedic in Longview, Texas. “Sometimes it shows you a general level of responsibility a person has as well, how well they manage their credit.”
Splitting the bill
Younger Americans are not only more open to talking about money with a date, they’re also more open to splitting the cost of spending time together.
Some 39 percent of Gen Zers and 37 percent of millennials expect to split the bill on the first date. Gnitecki is one person who’s in favor of this. He tends to bring up the topic when picking restaurants and openly questions whether an option is in his date’s price range.
“I tend to think the notion of the man paying for everything is kind of an old-fashioned concept,” Gnitecki says.
Times have changed. But when it comes to money and dating etiquette, gender norms from yesteryear somewhat remain.
Women are twice as likely as men to expect to split the bill on the first date. But more than half of women (54 percent) still expect their date to pay for everything. And most men (70 percent) expect to pick up the tab on the first date.
“Men are culturally conditioned to think or believe that they are or should be or are expected to be the provider and based on that, they come to the game already with that programming,” Meinhofer says. “As we keep evolving, that may start shifting.”
Men even expect to spend more on date No. 1. While women think it’s appropriate to spend an average of $80 on a first date, men estimate that the final total should be about $95.
Holding tight to gender norms
Gender-based expectations come into play in other ways during first dates. For example, more men (28 percent) than women (21 percent) say they would feel comfortable talking about dollars and cents when dating someone new.
Women (41 percent) are more likely to be bothered to some extent if their date makes a lot less money than them. And men are just a tad more likely to feel some type of way if their date makes more. In the survey, 22 percent of male participants and 20 percent of female participants say they would feel somewhat or very much bothered if their date had a higher salary.
More than 1 in 5 women (21 percent) say that knowing their date’s credit score would have a big impact on their interest in their date.
“Women are constantly trying to improve themselves,” says Meinhofer, who teaches financial education classes and finds that most of her students are women. “So things like being very mindful of their credit score, this is something that is very, very common in women.”
Having the talk
To Meinhofer, bringing up salary ranges and credit scores on a first date is a bad idea.
“The money conversation should progress as the relationship evolves and progresses,” Meinhofer says.
What she does recommend from the very beginning is observing and paying attention to what your date says and does. Watch for any red flags that could provide insight into how someone manages money.
The conversation about money over time should come up organically as you start talking about your future and how you’re going to pay for it. If it doesn’t, Meinhofer recommends setting a date for the discussion. While it’s hard to put a timeline on when this conversation should happen, she says it’s important to discuss finances when you’re ready to make a serious commitment to each other that involves a major shift, like getting engaged or moving in together.
Beverly Friedmann found out the hard way that there are consequences that come with avoiding the money talk for too long. The 30-year-old didn’t talk about money with a previous partner until they were about three years into the relationship and were discussing engagement and where they were going to live long term. Their different ideas about how they wanted to set up their finances created tension.
“I think that that was just stifling to our communication and relationship,” says Friedmann, a content manager and writer in Brooklyn, New York.
They tried to work things out, but in the end, parted ways.
Discussing money without weirding out your date
While you shouldn’t lay out everything on the first date, there are ways to inconspicuously find out more about someone’s financial status.
Welka recommends asking a top-layer question about retirement.
“’When do you plan on retiring, or how do you see your retirement? Have you thought about it?’ And see what they say,” Welka says. “That’s a great opener because then they might talk about, ‘I want to retire when I’m 50, or I don’t want to retire ever.’ Or maybe they haven’t even thought about it. But that brings up a follow-up question you could ask, maybe like, ‘Well have you started saving for retirement?’”
Asking your date where they bought their outfit can provide insight into where they shop. Asking about their occupation can help you find out whether they may have a lot of student debt. Even asking about your date’s childhood can be helpful.
“Their past has a lot to do with how they treat and use their money now,” Welka says. “So you can have a better understanding of why they do the things they do or why they make the decisions that they make regarding money.”
If it turns out that your date needs some help when it comes to managing money, the good news is that they can learn over time. If you’re willing to stick around, you could help your significant other get back on track. Good first steps include having them check their credit report for free and opening a high-yield savings account.
“I think that investing, saving, building up your credit, coming up with goals and financial plans — that’s all something that can be worked on over time,” Welka says. “I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker.”
Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,221 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken on March 25-26, 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults (aged 18+).