Manisha’s MoneyZen Blog

Are You Dating a (Financial) Deadbeat?

Ahhh, it’s February – the month of romance.  While thoughts of love are in the air, down here on the ground the financially savvy person might want to give some solid thought to whether their sweetie is in the red or in the black when it comes to their personal finances. While this may not sound romantic, it’s very practical. Money is routinely cited as one of the top causes of fights in marriage and one of the top causes of divorce. So here are five questions to find out if your honey has trouble with money.

1. Does your sweetie always insist on picking up the check at a big dinner and/or throw down his or her credit card without even looking at the bill?

While this could be a sign of innate generosity – it could also be a red flag for someone who is trying to show off and is doing so by living beyond their means thanks to the “friendly” help of credit cards. My experience has been that financially fit individuals – no matter how much or how little money they have – take the time to review bills before paying for them. A cavalier attitude towards that dinner bill may be an indication of a cavalier attitude towards money in general.

2. Does your sweetie have a large but sparsely furnished apartment / home?

While it’s possible that your sweetie is just waiting for his or her “personal design sensibility” to present itself… more likely than not it’s a red financial flag that you’ve got a case of what’s called down in Texas “Big Hat, No Cattle.” A phrase made popular in the wonderful book THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR, it highlights a sad but true phenomenon. In today’s credit driven society, the guy with the big house or flashy car OR the gal with the four-digit handbag and the three-digit stilettos may well be presenting an exterior image that bears no resemblance to their true economic reality.

3. Does your sweetie avoid answering calls on his or her phone?

It’s possible it’s just mom checking in to see how the day is going… but then again, it’s also possible that it’s bill collectors calling to find out when your sweetie is going to make good on that car payment, mortgage, credit card or other outstanding debts.

4. Does your sweetie lease his or her car?

Think about it, what’s the sales pitch for leasing – it’s “hey you can get more car for less money than if you buy outright!” As one of my all time favorite financial gurus, Dave Ramsey says, it should be called “fleecing” not leasing.  In financial matters, when it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

5. Does your sweetie ask you to co-sign or buy things in your name, and promising to pay you back?

Barring a life or death emergency, why would a financially responsible person ever ask their significant other to do this? This may be the clearest sign of all that something smells fishy… and it’s not the dinner you had last night!

Are there any other red flags that you would add to this list?

Comments

  1. I'm sorry but this is the nuttiest most paranoid diatribe I've ever seen. Items 1-4 describe typical male behavior and are indicative of nothing at all other than the fact that men and women are blessedly differant. Picking up a check blindly indicates that finaces are not an issue when it comes to you. A sparsely furnished apartment -we just don't decorate- a bed a chair, a TV, a fridge and a microwave all all we really need. I'd suggest that the message would be that it's a clear pallet that a woman could some day complete, not a sign of poverty. The phone-most of my conversations are 30 seconds long and are really of little urgency. Not picking up the phone when someone else is present is a courtesy to them, not an indication of financial issues. Leasing a car-Not enough information. Leasing a car is an excellent move from a tax standpoint, depending on your situation and makes much more sense than tying up capital unnecessarily.
    #5 is the only valid point you have.
    I don't understand why you'd contribute new anxieties to the already difficult world of male/female relationships.

  2. Hi Peter – From the deluge of VERY ANGRY emails I've gotten about this post you are not alone in your feeling about my piece! Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts.

    The article was intended to more of a tongue-in-cheek piece to encourage people to think about financial compatibly as an element of a relationship (a point I clearly failed to make judging from the tone of the emails I'm receiving). And if I could write it all over again I'd start of with a huge disclaimer that men should absolutely use these same questions to assess women's financial responsibility! To address your comments:

    (1) Here I was trying to highlight the fact that in a dinner rush a waiter or waitress can easily make a mistake and hand you the bill for another table or charge you for two bottles of wine when you only ordered one, so the idea is to check for innocent mistakes. In these awful economic times I'm meeting so many people that are financially traumatized to the point that they literally won't look at any bills!

    (2) I was referring more to the very sad phenomenon I've seen too much of where people buy 4 or 5 bedroom homes when on their incomes a 2 or 3 bedroom is what they can afford and they literally are out of money to furnish.

    (3) This was a very poorly worded attempt at trying to highlight that both men and women will have better relationships if they are not hiding things from each other financially (once they've made it pas the initial dating stage)

    (4) There is so much debate on this one – my concern is when I see someone making $35,000 a year who is driving a 5 series BMW leased when really they should be in a Toyota Corolla at that income level.

    (5) Glad we agree on one :).

    So hope that helps explain somewhat better the points I was attempting to make!

  3. I saw this article on Yahoo and was looking for a way to comment. What the heck kind of advice is this?

    Peter has it dead on. I'll just add a couple of comments: You get a chance to review the bill when you sign. If it looks out of whack, you then check the rest of the bill. But checking the bill closely prior to giving over the credit card makes you look cheap.

    Some luxury car companies tilt the advantage over to leasing to keep their sales up. They artificially pump up residual values so that leasing is a great option.

    I often don't look at the bills I pay and I lease my primary car (through one of my companies). I'm hardly a financial dead beat.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Justin. In retrospect, I should have been much clearer about this: the idea behind checking the bill is simply to make sure that no errors were made (for example, to make sure you were given the correct bill & not another table's or to make sure you weren't charged for two bottles of wine if you only drank one – innocent mistakes can happen). I've observed that financially responsible people typically give their bills a brief glance over to make sure they are paying for what they think they are, whereas people who are more concerned about looking rich than keeping their finances on track pretend it doesn't matter what the bill is – because they are “successful enough” to afford it. As for leasing – there's a lot of debate on that. Again, in general, I've found that many people who are stretching to buy a more luxurious car than they can comfortably afford, often do so by leasing as opposed to stretching to buy it outright.

    If you are earning more than you are spending, are saving for a rainy day, and paying your bills on time – then of course you are not a “deadbeat.” But you may be surprised to find out how many of your peers (men AND women) are not as financially savvy as you. That's the point I'm making here – that outward appearance sometimes (not always) can be very different than reality (for both men and women).

  5. I saw this article on Yahoo and was looking for a way to comment. What the heck kind of advice is this? nnPeter has it dead on. I’ll just add a couple of comments: You get a chance to review the bill when you sign. If it looks out of whack, you then check the rest of the bill. But checking the bill closely prior to giving over the credit card makes you look cheap. nnSome luxury car companies tilt the advantage over to leasing to keep their sales up. They artificially pump up residual values so that leasing is a great option. nnI often don’t look at the bills I pay and I lease my primary car (through one of my companies). I’m hardly a financial dead beat.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Justin. In retrospect, I should have been much clearer about this: the idea behind checking the bill is simply to make sure that no errors were made (for example, to make sure you were given the correct bill & not another table’s or to make sure you weren’t charged for two bottles of wine if you only drank one – innocent mistakes can happen). I’ve observed that financially responsible people typically give their bills a brief glance over to make sure they are paying for what they think they are, whereas people who are more concerned about looking rich than keeping their finances on track pretend it doesn’t matter what the bill is – because they are “successful enough” to afford it. As for leasing – there’s a lot of debate on that. Again, in general, I’ve found that many people who are stretching to buy a more luxurious car than they can comfortably afford, often do so by leasing as opposed to stretching to buy it outright. rnrnIf you are earning more than you are spending, are saving for a rainy day, and paying your bills on time – then of course you are not a “deadbeat.” But you may be surprised to find out how many of your peers (men AND women) are not as financially savvy as you. That’s the point I’m making here – that outward appearance sometimes (not always) can be very different than reality (for both men and women).

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About Manisha’s Money Zen Blog

This blog chronicles my quest to identify simple, joyful methods that we can all use to feel calmer and more balanced in our relationship to our money.

Despite the abundance of personal finance books, magazines, radio programs and TV shows that have exploded into our lives over the past two decades, most of us struggle to find financial sanity, security and serenity. Rather than help us eliminate money pain, all this information has left us feeling overwhelmed and confused. We need fresh wisdom to break out of the cycle of despair and create lives of abundance.

Here’s hoping these short pieces will help you craft a uniquely rich and rewarding life.

To Your MoneyZen,
– Manisha