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Undateable Debt | 1 in 3 Canadians say partner debt is a relationship dealbreaker

1 in 10 single Canadians' primary reason for wanting a partner is to share expenses and make life more affordable.

February is typically associated with flowers, chocolates and Valentine’s Day cards. However, beyond the millions of couples celebrating romance are equally millions of singles who are either still searching for love or opting out of dating entirely.

Finder asked more than 1,800 Canadians how they feel about finding love in 2023, their dating dealbreakers, and how much potential partner debt they could handle.

According to the Finder: Undateable Debt Report, being in debt is a dating dealbreaker and a potential relationship ender for one-third (33%) of Canadians.

“Few people want a case of sexually transmitted debt, and Canadians looking to make themselves more attractive as prospective partners should look for ways to consolidate debt and get their finances back on track,” explained Romana King, senior finance editor at Finder.

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Can Canadians afford to be single?

Finder asked Canadian singles their primary motivation in finding a partner and if they even wanted to try to date. Turns out, singles are split in finding love – 37% want a relationship for companionship and to enhance their happiness, while an equal amount (37%) are not interested in dating at all.

Then there are those single Canadians looking for love, but money is top of mind. Just over 1 in 10 Canadians (13%) want a partner to help with expenses and to make life more affordable. On the flip side, 13% see the high cost of dating as a hindrance to finding love.

Should I stay or should I go?

The recent Finder: Undateable Debt Survey also asked Canadians if the prospect of financial loss has ever seen them stay in a relationship they wanted to leave out of fear of a change in their standard of living.

According to respondents, almost 1 in 5 (17%) of Canadians admit to staying in a dead-end relationship for financial reasons.

"A person can feel trapped and financially dependent if they have no income or live on a limited income – whether due to disability, being a stay-at-home parent or another reason," explained King. "While leaving can feel like an impossible task, we need to remember that staying in a relationship for money, not love, can have detrimental effects on your physical, emotional and even financial health. The good news is you don't have to stay. There are ways to gain financial independence and find your footing and your way."

Dating dealbreakers

According to survey results, the top three dating and relationship dealbreakers include:

  • 36%: Has a history of sexual infidelity
  • 33%: Has a history of drug or alcohol addiction
  • 30%: Has substantial debt

How much debt is too much debt?

While we know substantial debt was in the top three relationship dealbreakers, Finder's Undateable Debt Report wanted to better understand what exactly "substantial" means to Canadians.

When asked how much consumer debt a prospective or existing partner would need to hold to consider ending a relationship, three-quarters (75%) would consider ending or not starting a relationship because of a partner's debt – regardless of the amount.

In fact, 3 in 10 Canadians (30%) would reconsider a relationship if a partner had a small debt (between $500 and $15,000). Another 15% believe "no amount of debt" is acceptable.

Turns out, a quarter of Canadians (25%) consider themselves true romantics, since no amount of debt would stop them from pursuing a relationship with someone they love. "This mindset needs to be challenged," said King, "Since the reality is that debt, the stress of financial problems and financial dependence can inflict serious stress on an individual and a relationship. Each person in a partnership needs to take steps to protect their financial future."

Key demographic stats

While the Finder: Undateable Debt Report found most Canadians want to find love, there were some key differences in their relationship priorities and dating dealbreakers depending on a person's age, gender, income and more.

Gender

  • Single men are more likely to want a partner for any reason (54%) vs 45% of women.
  • Men are likelier to want a partner to help make life more affordable (18% vs 8%).
  • Women are significantly more concerned with an unemployed partner (27% vs 17%).
  • Regarding the amount of "acceptable partner debt", women are far less forgiving than men.
    • Just 22% of women said, "any level of partner debt is acceptable to me," compared to 28% of men.

Age

  • Canada's youngest adults (18 to 24) are most likely (17%) to say they would like a partner, but that dating is too expensive.
  • Canadians aged 18–54 are more likely to stay in a relationship they wanted to leave (20%) to avoid a lower standard of living compared to those aged 55+ (12%).
  • Single Canadians aged 35 to 44 are most interested in finding a partner for happiness and companionship (46%).
  • Half (49%) of Canadian singles over age 55 would prefer to remain single.

Debt dealbreakers

  • Middle-aged and older Canadians (aged 45+) are far more concerned with financial dealbreakers such as substantial debt (35% vs 24%) and a history of gambling or bad investments (26% vs 21%) versus younger Canadians aged 18 to 44.
  • Compare this to younger Canadians (aged 18 to 44) who are more concerned with unemployment (26% vs 19%) and a prospective partner not making enough money to provide the type of lifestyle they want (11% vs 9%).
  • Just over 1 in 10 (11%) of those aged 18 to 44 said "no level of partner debt is acceptable," compared to twice as much for those 45 and older (20%).

Parents

  • Parents were much more likely to stay in a relationship for fear of financial hardship (21%) compared to those without children (14%).

Income

  • Nearly 2 in 10 (19%) higher income earners (100K+ per year) want a partner to make life more affordable compared to about 1 in 10 (12%) lower income earners (100K or less).
  • Canada's highest income earners (200K+ annually) were more likely to stay in a relationship to avoid a lower standard of living (20%) vs those making between 25K and 50K (13%).

East vs West

  • A partner's substantial debt was the number one relationship dealbreaker for British Columbians (38%) and Albertans (44%) but came in third for Ontarians (33%) and second for Quebecers (30%).

Top 3 tips to tackle debt and become dateable in 2023

To better understand your financial goals and needs – and find a way to happiness, health and prosperity, whether single or in a relationship – you first need to understand the numbers. King suggested using credit card and bank statements to track what you spend. Using these ready-made tools, you can then build a realistic budget. "When you put it all on paper, it becomes easier to see where to cut a few costs to find and build some savings."

For those who want to tackle debt and either find more happiness in their own lives, more contentment in their current relationship, or become a more attractive potential partner, King has the following three suggestions:

#1: Get educated
"Trying to solve a problem when you don't know what to do is like fixing a bicycle when you don't have any tools," explained King. The first step in dealing with debt – or building financial independence – is to get educated. If you're just starting, become familiar with key concepts such as budgets, how interest is calculated and the cost of debt. When you are more comfortable, explore the power of compound interest, the importance of principal-only prepayments and the basics of investing."Tackling debt is more than paying off that outstanding bill," said King. "It's about learning what it costs to borrow and knowing when it makes sense to borrow and when it's best to cut costs."
#2: Focus on the short-term
For those currently in relationships, remember that debt is common. According to Debt.org, 7 out of 10 North Americans get married with some debt – mainly credit card and student loan debt. The key is to take action to either prevent or eliminate financial stress that can lead to discontentment or unhealthy behaviours. For those already in a relationship, the key is to focus on how each person can contribute to getting out of debt. This starts with a conversation. "Examine the budget and look for ways to reduce your spending," suggested King. "Avoid telling your partner how to change their spending habits. Instead, focus on how you can change your spending habits." The goal is to become collaborative about achieving mutual goals and supportive of one another's individual goals. "It's a partnership and works best if you have mutually beneficial ways to help each other to achieve your goals."For those looking for love, consider how debt is impacting your life. "Look at your budget and consider ways to change," noted King. Consider completing this task even if you are spending less than you earn. "The key is to examine your habits and question your assumptions," said King. This is a critical step for the 13% of survey respondents who wanted to find love but found dating too expensive. "Often, our actions are not aligned with our values," added King. "Taking time out to examine and question our spending lets us realign our values with our actions."If dating is too expensive, ask yourself why you need to spend on specific activities. Rather than take a potential partner on a dinner, consider a coffee chat or a walk around a lake or park. "Dates, particularly first dates, don't need to be expensive endeavours. Instead, find activities you enjoy and consider sharing this activity with a potential partner."
#3: Develop a long-term plan
Whether in a committed relationship or not, anyone tackling debt will need a long-term plan. Examine your budget, analyse your options and list your goals. Then assign tasks to each goal. For instance, if you want to pay off all high-interest loans within three years, you'll need to figure out the monthly repayment required to make this happen. Next, consider tools to help you make this plan work. One option is to consider debt consolidation using a balance transfer credit card or a low-interest personal loan. To make this strategy work, be sure of the following:
  • The interest rate on the new credit card or loan is lower than the rates charged on your current debt.
  • Check transfer fees. Make sure you don't end up paying more than you'll save in a year, to transfer the debt to a lower-interest option.
  • Don't reduce the amount you pay. Instead, keep making the same payments at a lower interest rate. This helps pay more of the principal debt off faster, further reduces your debt costs, and gets you closer to debt-free.

Next, start monitoring and rebuilding your credit score. "While debt can be damaging, it can also be a powerful tool to help you build financial freedom," explained King. Find out your credit score and check your credit history. Educate yourself on how to increase your credit score. Common strategies include always paying your bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, making extra monthly payments to credit cards or loans with higher outstanding balances.

Over time as your credit score increases, the cost of borrowing will decrease, further helping to reduce costs and the time it takes you to become debt-free.

Survey methodology

The results of the Finder: Undateable Debt Survey were collected through an online Pollfish survey conducted between January 22 and February 2, 2023. In the survey, 1,846 Canadians from across the country were asked about their opinions on relationships, dating and the financial implications of both. The estimated margin of error for the survey is +/- 3%, 19 out of 20 times.

About Finder

Finder is a personal finance comparison site with a mission to help Canadians save, invest, spend wisely and grow their wealth. Each month, Finder provides half a million Canadians – and more than five million globally – with independent and trustworthy financial information. Our goal is to help people make better financial decisions by providing objective, comparative insight on thousands of products and services.

As a global fintech website and app, Finder provides consumers free access to smart money content. Whether it's expert insight, product or service comparisons or independent reviews, Finder helps consumers stay on top of their finances while saving time and money.

Finder is available to consumers in Canada, Australia, America and the United Kingdom. Initially launched in 2006 by three Australians – Fred Schebesta, Frank Restuccia and Jeremy Cabral – Finder's global reach now includes thousands of products and services in hundreds of financial categories and provides expert content and independent reviews to more than five million users each month.

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