Is your debt stopping you from finding love?

Would "I owe money" stop you from saying "I do"?

You’ve got more than your credit score to worry about when under a pile of debt. Some 96 million Americans or 37.82% of Americans say they’d reconsider a romantic relationship because of another person’s debt, according to the latest findings from Finder.com, an increase of 12.16% compared to 86 million Americans last year. That means if you’re among the many Americans saddled with debt, you may be shrinking your pool of potential matches by roughly 86 million adults.

However, it’s not just whether you have debt, but how you incurred the debt that will be the biggest flag, according to Leif Dahleen from Physician on Fire.

How much is too much debt?

Ask the Expert

Leif Dahleen

Leif Dahleen

“How much debt is too much debt? To me, it’s not about the exact number or even the magnitude. What matters more is the type of debt, how it was accrued and whether or not the person has a plan or even a possibility to pay it down.
The average indebted medical school graduate has about $200,000 in student loan debt alone. As a physician, I’d hate to see my single colleagues be considered dating pariahs based on their numbers alone. Most physicians have the ways and means to become debt-free but wealthy, given enough time.
You’ll find responsible people with substantial debt. Conversely, someone with “only” $50,000 of debt may be living beyond their means while paying egregious interest rates on credit cards or, even worse, payday loans.

I would focus on the financial habits of the person, rather than the sum of his or her debts.”

Debt getting in the way of relationships

Would debt stop you from forming a relationship — or make you rethink your current who you’re currently with? Yes, say the roughly third (37.82%) of American adults who’d reconsider a romantic partnership due to a partner’s debt.

In general, most people are OK with certain types of debts that involve buying a house or a car, because most people don’t have the kind of money lying around where they can plonk down cash to own them outright. That’s why only 5.79% of Americans said that they would reconsider a relationship with someone who had a mortgage, and 4.76% said they’d have an issue with an auto loan. And the recent pandemic may have made people more sympathetic to medical challenges–only 3.20% said they’d have an issue with medical debt.

The types of debts that might raise questions with a partner are credit card debt (17.25%), loans from friends or family members (16.89%), and payday loans (14.60%).

But it’s not just the type of the debt: Size also matters. When asked how much debt is acceptable, unsurprisingly mortgages had the highest threshold, with the average American willing to be with a partner who owes up to $76,786.29 for their home.

At the other end of the spectrum, Americans are least likely to be with someone who owes as little as $3,160.82 for a payday loan.

Debt a deterrent for both men and women

Roughly a third of both men and women say they’d reconsider a relationship due to debt. In a switch from last year, men are slightly more likely than women to say that they would do so, with 41.5% of women saying they’d reconsider the relationship, versus 34.7% of women.

As far as the types of debts men and women find unacceptable, men are more likely than women to take issue with a partner having credit card debt or home, home equity, business, student, medical or auto loan. Whereas women are more likely than men to find loans from family and friends and payday loans as unacceptable.

Men vs. women: Which type of debt do you find to be unacceptable?
Type of debtMenWomen
Credit card18.45%16.24%
Money owed to family and friends14.36%19.02%
Payday loan12.12%16.69%
Mortgage8.56%3.45%
Business loan8.30%3.00%
Auto loan6.19%3.56%
Home equity loan6.19%3.00%
Student loan4.35%3.11%
Medical bill3.82%2.67%

As for how much is too much, men and women draw the line for different types of debts at different amounts. While women say they’re more willing to be with a partner who has debt, men admit to tolerating a larger amount of debt than men do.

For example, men are willing to be with a partner who owns up to $40,260.29 in debt, whereas the cutoff for women is $34,350.93.

Men vs. women: How much is too much debt?
Type of debtMenWomen
Payday$3,231.59$3,117.42
Family & friends$6,154.46$3,919.80
Credit card$9,275.00$11,426.59
Medical bill$14,138.73$15,145.13
Auto loan$22,791.87$18,654.78
Student loan$25,096.82$19,970.36
Home equity loan$22,138.16$56,066.71
Business loan$45,113.30$64,062.84
Mortgage$64,973.54$101,554.96

Which generation is most concerned about a partner with debt?

45.8% of Gen X say they’d reconsider a romantic partner due to debt, followed by millennials (39.5%) and Gen Z (36.4%). The older generations seem to be more understanding of partner debt with only 34.2% of baby boomers and 25.7% of the silent generation saying they would reconsider a romantic relationship due to debt by a partner.

Generation: Would you reconsider a romantic relationship due to a partner’s debt?
GenerationYesNo
Gen Z36.4%63.6%
Millennial39.5%60.5%
Gen X45.8%54.2%
Baby boomers34.2%65.8%
Silent gen25.7%74.3%

Looking at student debt tolerances across the generations, Gen Z is the least tolerant of student debt with 5.78% of Gen Z saying they would reconsider a relationship with someone who had student debt, compared to only 4.54% of Millennials, 6.77% of Gen X, and 2.50% of Baby Boomers who said the same. Millennials are the least tolerant towardscredit card debt (20.41%) and mortgages (8.84%).

Gen X is the least tolerant of partners who has a business loan (7.55%, an auto loan (8.07%), a home equity loan (6.77%), or medical debt (3.65%). Of the generations, baby boomers come down hardest on partners who have borrowed from family or friends (22.50%) and who have taken payday loans (20.58%).

Generation: Which type of debt do you find to be unacceptable?
Type of debtGen ZMillennialGen XBaby boomersSilent gen
Credit card16.18%20.41%17.97%16.15%10.71%
Family & friends15.03%12.02%16.15%22.50%15.71%
Payday6.94%8.84%15.10%20.58%18.57%
Mortgage6.94%8.84%8.59%1.92%Not enough data
Business loan6.36%7.26%7.55%2.59%Not enough data
Auto loanNot enough data5.90%8.07%Not enough dataNot enough data
Home equity loan5.78%4.54%6.77%2.50%Not enough data
Student loan5.78%3.85%3.65%3.08%Not enough data
Medical billNot enough data3.40%3.65%2.50%Not enough data

The older generations agree that payday loan debts are hardest to tolerate, with the Silent Generation expressing intolerance for the lowest payday debt amount of $2,160.15, followed by baby boomers at $2,721.38 and Gen X at $2,807.33.

Gen Z was the least tolerant of money owed to family and friends, with a threshold tolerance of $3,548.41. Millennials were the least tolerant of medical debt with a threshold of $4,251.28.

Methodology

Finder’s data is based on an online survey of 1,658 US adults born between 1928 and 2003 commissioned by Finder and conducted by Pureprofile in January 2021, with representative quotas for gender and age. Participants were paid volunteers.

We assume the participants in our survey represent the US population of 254.7 million Americans who are at least 18 years old according to the July 2019 US Census Bureau estimate. This assumption is made at the 95% confidence level with a 2.36% margin of error.

Our survey questions asked people whether they would reconsider a romantic relationship due to a partner’s debt, the types of debt they found unacceptable and the amounts of debt they found unacceptable by debt type. Possible debt types were: Mortgage, Business loan, Home equity loan, Student loan, Medical bill, Auto loan, Credit card, Money owed to family and friends, and Payday loan.

Average calculations of unacceptable debt are based on participants who expressed an unacceptable debt amount for that particular debt type — for example, to calculate the mean amount of unacceptable mortgage debt, the participants who selected that they would not reconsider a romantic relationship due to a partner’s debt and the respondents who responded “0” (meaning they may find another type of listed debt as unacceptable, but do not find any amounts of mortgage debt to be problematic) were not included.

To avoid skewing the data, we also excluded extreme outliers from our calculations.

We define generations by birth year according to the Pew Research Center’s generational guidelines:

  • Gen Z — 1997–2003
  • Millennials — 1981–1996
  • Gen X — 1965–1980
  • Baby boomers — 1946–1964
  • Silent generation — 1928–1945

Past Unacceptable Partner Debt Stats

For media inquiries:

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Allan Givens
Public Relations Manager
203-818-2928
allan.givens@finder.com
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Nicole Gallina
Finance PR Strategist
347-677-4931
ngallina@finder.com
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