How much debt is a relationship dealbreaker?

New research from personal finance site found people do put a price on how much debt is acceptable in a potential partner.

Got more than $11,000 in credit card debt?

couple paying by credit

The survey of 2,000 Americans found that's the benchmark ($11,525 on average to be exact) that is deemed unacceptable. Just over 77 percent of survey respondents consider credit card debt to be reason to kick someone to the curb.

Payday loans averaging $1,830 were deemed bad, and student loans at $51,000. Interestingly, millennials were the least accepting of student loans.

Read more: The Impact of Student Loan Debt On Millennial Happiness

Business loans were the most tolerable type of debt.

Here's the survey: "What types of debt do Americans consider unacceptable in a partner?"

"When it comes to gender, there isn't much difference between the types of debt each consider unacceptable in a partner" according to the survey results. "The top three most unacceptable debts for both genders are consistent: credit card, payday loans and student loans."

From MarketWatch: There appears to be a tipping point where debt and singledom go hand-in-hand

"Roses are red. And debt is too. But if you owe too much money, I'm not dating you," writes Quentin Fottrell for MarketWatch giving his take on the survey. "Given that many people are finally getting back on their feet after the Great Recession and now looking at an eerily familiar sight of a stock market gripped by turbulence, it's probably understandable."

As I have written in my column, I don't think that you have to dump people just because of a heavy debt load, whether it's education or even credit card obligations. If you're dating and want to know when debt should be a deal-breaker, here are four signs.

The debt isn’t treated like a big deal. Listen to how someone is talking about his or her debt. Does the person have a cavalier attitude about it? Dating gives you an opportunity to examine someone’s values. Love can’t conquer all. If owing people keeps you up at night, you may not be able to stay in a relationship with someone who can sleep soundly despite being mired in debt.

There’s no remorse. I meet a lot of people deeply in debt. It’s the ones who recognize that they shouldn’t have borrowed so much who tend not to go there again.

There’s no change in behavior. If someone has a lot of credit card debt and he or she is still piling on more with no intention of living within his or her means, that’s a red flag of financial irresponsibility.

There’s no plan to aggressively get out of debt. If your significant other ignores calls from creditors, isn’t opening mail and doesn’t have a specific strategy to get out of debt, you should be very concerned.

Often people want to know when they should disclose their debt. Talk about the details when you start to get serious. If you’ve decided to be exclusive — and particularly if marriage is on your mind — it’s time. And be prepared for the other person to walk. It’s his or her prerogative. Discerning what you can and can’t deal with is why you date.

I loathe debt. As I’ve said before, if debt were a person, I would slap it. Yet, I would not judge someone solely on the basis of his or her indebtedness.

People make mistakes. Maybe they borrowed too much because they used to be irresponsible. Or they lost a job or were trying to better themselves.

Don’t stand in judgment of past behavior. It should inform you, not necessarily stop you from getting further involved. When dating, pay attention to the person’s present-day financial conduct. If you like what you see, then stay.



Follow Michelle Singletary on Twitter @SingletaryM and on Facebook.


This article was written by Michelle Singletary from The Washington Post and was legally licensed by AdvisorStream through the NewsCred publisher network. 

Thomas J Cooper, CFP®, CPPT profile photo
Thomas J Cooper, CFP®, CPPT
Certified Financial Planner, Fiduciary
NAMCOA (Naples Asset Management Company®, LLC)
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