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7 red flags your date is a bad money manager

Allie Johnson

March 14, 2016

You’ve just started dating a new crush, and you spot a sign of trouble: a credit card declined at dinner, a call from a debt collector or a pricey purchase.

Almost 85 percent of Americans say financial stability makes romantic relationships better, according to a 2015 survey by Ally Bank, so it pays to be alert to signs that your new mate is a bad money manager, is hiding dark financial secrets or just isn’t a match for your money style.

It’s best to learn about possible money problems early rather than after you’ve moved in together or are getting ready to walk down the aisle, experts say.

Here are seven warning signs you don’t want to miss early on in the relationship:

1. He flaunts flashy possessions. It might be a bad sign if your new beau roars up in a Ferrari for your date, but avoids inviting you to his apartment. “Some people have all the signs of having money, but it’s all artificial,” says Todd Spodek, a New York divorce attorney. “It’s easy to rent or borrow a car and get a couple hundred dollars for a night out,” he says. But throwing around money in this way could be a sign that your date is living beyond his means in order to keep up a false front, he says. “If you have a successful, comfortable life, you don’t need to show off.”

“As a couple,
you have to be in sync.”

— Samantha Daniels,
founder of
The Dating Lounge

2. She gets calls from bill collectors. If your new love gets regular collection calls, that signals a big problem. “That’s a major red flag — no ifs, ands or buts,” says Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills psychotherapist and star on WE TV’s “Sex Box,” a couples therapy reality show. If this happens, ask your new girlfriend or boyfriend about it, she recommends. “Give them a chance to explain,” she says. You might not get straight answers: People in financial trouble may choose to live in denial rather than face their money issues. But you might be able to learn about the why behind the debt, Spodek says. Maybe she owes because she got sick and is still paying off medical bills, or she lost a job and got. “It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person,” he says. However, it may be a sign of bad credit, since collections “will almost certainly lower your score,” according to myFICO.com.

3. He hits you up for a loan. A successful woman meets an attractive man on a dating app or site, and he begins an aggressive courtship, Spodek says, outlining a scenario he’s seen three times recently. “Then all of a sudden, he’s starting a business or has something big coming down the pipeline and needs some financial assistance,” he says. So, he asks his new love interest to co-sign a loan or put a big expense on her credit card, which he promises to repay quickly. “It’s always the same story,” Spodek says. Some people make a pattern of this — in fact, one of the men he knows of was charged with grand larceny, accused of conning a number of women. “They’re opportunists,” he says. Any time a new love interest asks for a loan, “Be very, very careful,” Walfish says.

4. She expects you to pay for everything. It can be a problem if one person develops an expectation that the other will foot the bill for all dates, says Nick Notas, a Boston dating coach. “You have to ask yourself, if it becomes an expectation, is this kind of unequal relationship really the path I want to go down?” he says. If it looks like this type of expectation is starting to form, he recommends that the person who has paid for everything so far say something like, “I’ve got this one. You can get dinner next time,” he says. If one person pays for dinner more often because the other makes a lot less money, the person who gets treated more should respond by cooking dinner for the two of them or sometimes or picking up the tab for after-dinner drinks, says Samantha Daniels, professional matchmaker and founder of The Dating Lounge. “You never want the other person to feel taken advantage of,” she says.

“If you want to get on an airplane, rent a car or get a hotel, you need a credit card.”
— Todd Spodek,
a New York divorce attorney

5. He has no credit cards. Did your date ask you to reserve the rental car for that day trip out of the city because he has no credit card? “If you want to get on an airplane, rent a car or get a hotel, you need a credit card,” Spodek says. Of course, you can survive by using a debit card, but then a large amount of your own money will likely get tied up in a bank hold. Preferring to use cash or check rather than credit is one thing, but not owning a card at all is a bad sign. Your date could have credit so bad he can’t get a credit card. Or, he could be lying about not having a card, Spodek says. “If they’re married or in a relationship, they might not want a suspect charge — flowers, a rental car, a hotel or a dinner not with their significant other — to appear on a statement,” Spodek says.

6. She craves a lavish lifestyle and you don’t. If you love to fly coach, stay in motels and eat at diners, but she prefers business-class flights, luxury hotels and fancy restaurants, this could signal that you’re not financially compatible, Daniels says. “As a couple, you have to be in sync,” she says. While some differences can be worked out, wildly different tastes and spending styles could cause issues down the road, she says.

7. His card gets declined at dinner. A credit card being declined could happen for legitimate reasons — for example, the card issuer spotted a fraudulent charge and shut down the account — or it could be a sign of financial woes. For example, maybe he has maxed out his cards or failed to pay his bill because he is struggling financially. If your date’s card gets declined, you can get more information by watching how he handles it, Walfish says. “If it happened to me, I’d shrug my shoulders, laugh it off and reach for cash,” she says. If he instead gets flustered and asks you to pick up the tab, that would warrant a conversation.

As you get to know a person better, you should talk about their money attitudes and pay attention to the answers. Find out if there were bankruptcies, debts or money fights in previous relationships, she says.

“That’s helpful information because history does repeat itself,” Walfish says “You can look at the person’s track record and see what you might expect going forward.”

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