Skip to Main Content
Go to NEST pensions homepage

14 February 2014

Back to news home

Want the secret to finding love? It’s not about your looks, but whether you can balance the books

The secret to finding love is about being able to balance the books, not about how you look, according to consumer research conducted by NEST (National Employment Savings Trust).

The research, which surveyed UK adults in long term relationships or with recent experience of a long term relationship, found that almost half of us (45 per cent) see good financial management as essential in our ideal long term partner. In fact ‘someone who manages their finances well’ comes ahead in the list of desirable qualities above some more obvious factors, such as good looks, wealth, the car they drive or whether they own their own home.

  • Someone who manages their finances well – 45 per cent
  • Someone who is good looking – 20 per cent
  • Someone who has a well-respected job – 17 per cent
  • Someone who owns their own house – 8 per cent
  • Someone who is wealthy – 6 per cent
  • Someone who has a nice car – 5 per cent
  • Someone who is sporty – 5 per cent

Once you’ve found The One, it seems managing your money is the way to keep them, with 89 per cent saying ‘good financial planning’ is important for happy relationships.

Speaking from experience, people who are recently single are even more likely to look for someone who can manage their finances well next time. More than half (54 per cent) of single people who’ve been in a long term relationship in the last five years say their ideal long term partner would be a good money manager, even higher than someone with the same interests as them (44 per cent) and someone who has the same priorities in life (46 per cent).

Other recent research conducted by NEST, published last month in NEST Insight, also suggests good money management is increasingly front-of-mind. People’s top three financial priorities now include saving for a rainy day and even pension saving, which in 2011 languished behind buying shoes and socialising.

A US trend that may emerge over here?

In the US younger people are asking about their date’s credit score at an early stage in their relationship. Websites have sprung up to cater specifically for singles looking for a partner with a tiptop credit score. According to the New York Times (December 2012), this practice is becoming so widespread that credit score has become a significant factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry.

Take heed if you’re in a relationship

While being a good financial planner might help you find a new love, NEST’s research shows that the key to maintaining a healthy relationship over the longer term is also all about keeping your financial love life in order.

  • More than one in ten (11 per cent) 25-30 year olds say they frequently argue about money in their relationship and across all age groups over two thirds (67 per cent) say they disagree with their partner at times when managing shared finances.
  • Disagreeing over priorities is the biggest source of financial arguments across the board, stated by 38 per cent of all respondents, followed by not communicating (23 per cent) and lack of planning (20 per cent).
  • Among 20-35 year olds, 22 per cent say lying to each other about spending and debts is the most common cause of arguments.
  • If unresolved, financial arguments can even lead to the end of your relationship, with 2 in 5 of all respondents who had experienced a relationship breakdown (41 per cent) admitting that financial issues were at least partly responsible. Recent ONS research found that rows about money during the recession triggered a rise in divorces.

Changing attitudes towards money in relationships

NEST’s research, which compared the financial love lives of 20-35 year olds with people aged 60 and over, suggests that although good financial management may be an increasingly important factor when choosing a long term partner, there is a tendency among younger couples to be less open and honest about their finances than their parents’ generation.

  • Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of 20-35 year olds say they have been lied to by a partner about money, compared to just 9 per cent of over-60s who said the same.  
    A fifth admits to lying to their partner about money, compared to 6 percent of the older generation, and nearly a fifth (19 per cent) also admits to having hidden financial difficulties such as debts from their partner, compared to 9 per cent of over-60s.
  • Fifteen per cent of 20-35 year olds have made a big financial decision without consulting their partner first, nearly twice the number of over-60s who say the same (8 per cent).
  • Even in long, committed relationships, the younger generation is also far more likely to have completely separate bank accounts than their parents’ generation (54 per cent vs 37 per cent. A fifth (22 per cent) of the younger generation have a joint account, but only for shared bills, compared to 14 per cent of over 60s, most of whom (57 per cent) have a single account where all money is combined.
  • 5 per cent of 20-35 year olds have a secret savings account their partner doesn’t know about, compared to just 2 per cent of over 60s.  

Commenting on the findings, NEST’s director of communications and engagement Graham Vidler said:

‘Financial planning is clearly becoming much more of a priority, which is welcome news. Not only are people prioritising their own finances, but it’s clearly important for other parts of their lives – relationships, potential relationships and plans for their future.

‘Saving in a workplace pension like NEST is one way to get on the long term savings ladder, with contributions from your employer and the government often doubling the contribution you make. Over the next few years up to 9 million people will be enrolled into a pension by their employer. Our research suggests most consumers will consider this a welcome helping hand.’

Commenting on the findings Jo Barnett, life coach and relationship expert, said:

‘As a relationship expert I see many couples falling out of love over their financial differences.  This is because they have gone into a relationship or marriage without disclosing their finances or discussing any financial planning for the future. When you are in a relationship it’s no longer just about you, and the more open and honest you can be upfront about spending, saving and earning, the more respect and harmony you have later down the line.

‘Everyone has a different value for money, how they spend it, save it and share it. I strongly advise that you find out where each of you stand on all of these points before you get involved, and ideally build a relationship with a partner who has similar values to yours! Once you are in the relationship be as open and honest as you can, positive experiences will build trust and love.

Nick Hill, a money expert at the Money Advice Service, said:

“We all love a good chat, and when it comes to the big things in life - such as our career or relationships – we all appreciate having a trusted ear to bend. But talking about money can be tricky - it’s quite a British taboo. But it’s essential for couples, especially those running a joint household, to talk to each other about money – this includes identifying common goals. We’re all better at doing things when we have something to aim for. So whatever your goal – saving for that holiday or a house deposit - make time to sit down with your partner to plan together how you can achieve what’s most important for you and your family. Being able to talk about money is a key step towards being able to manage it well, and if you feel good about money you’ll feel better about life in general.”

The Money Advice Service also offer six top tips to help couples keep their 'financial love lives' in order 

  • DO set aside time to talk about money - Weekly, fortnightly, monthly . . . it’s up to you. Just don’t do it over breakfast, when you’re rushing out to work. And don't do it late at night when you're both tired. It’s important that both of you have a general idea of the family’s finances. Are there any big expenses coming up? How much is in your bank account?
  • DON’T avoid talking about money until it’s too late - If you think it’s going to end in an argument, it’s tempting to bite your tongue. But leave it too long and the molehill may turn into a mountain. Find time to talk about money issues when you’re both relaxed, and don’t spring a big money talk on your partner by surprise.
  • DON’T talk about money issues when you’re angry - You won’t solve any of your money issues by fighting or shouting. If the bank statement doesn’t make pleasant reading, take a deep breath until you can raise your concerns calmly and rationally.
  • DO remember that two people rarely see eye to eye on money - Just because you might argue over money (most couples do), it doesn’t mean that your relationship is heading for the rocks. Some people are spenders and some are savers. But just because you have completely different attitudes to money doesn’t mean you can’t work to find some middle ground.
  • DON’T talk about money all the time - Your life isn’t an episode in a money help show on TV. So, even if you’re determined to take control of your finances, it's not good to go on about it all the time. Put your family life first and only talk about money during the times you’ve set aside
  • DO view money as a means to an end - Managing your money isn’t about spending as little as possible, never being overdrawn, or building up a nest egg that you’re not allowed to touch. It’s about spending your hard-earned cash on the things you need and enjoy, and setting and respecting financial goals for the things you both feel strongly about.

About NEST:
NEST is a not-for-profit pension scheme which employers can use to meet their duties under the new workplace pension reforms. It was set up by statute and designed for the 11 million UK workers who were previously effectively locked out of retirement saving. Employers automatically enrolling their eligible workers have a legal duty to contribute to those workers’ pension pots, who may also get an extra helping hand from the government in the form of tax relief on their contributions, helping to build them a strong future.

About the research:
This was conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of NEST via a nationally representative online survey of 1,002 UK adults who are currently in a long term relationship or have been in a long term relationship over the last five years. The survey was carried out between 30th January and 31st January 2014. 502 survey participants were aged 20-35 and 500 were aged 60 or over.

Background links:
Credit score dating
Date my credit score  
New York Times