Personal finance

5 red flags around money to watch for when you’re dating someone new, according to a financial planner

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  • Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which means people are prone to overspending to impress their dates.
  • Financial planner Cindy Scott says you shouldn’t ignore these five red flags around money.
  • Maxed-out credit cards and debts to family are two main signs that your partner can’t properly manage their finances.

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In the early days of a relationship, you want to put your best foot forward. You might even get into credit card debt just to impress the person you’re dating.

A survey by Credello shows that 41% of 600 respondents are willing to take on up to $2,500 of credit card debt in order to impress a new love interest.

While it’s totally understandable to be with someone who showers you with gifts early in the relationship, financial planner Cindy Scott at Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium says you might be ignoring crucial red flags around money.

From her experience coaching couples on creating realistic budgets, Scott says the root of money problems in a relationship tends to be a lack of communication.

“A lot of conflict traces back to never having a real conversation about money, sharing their belifs about money, their values around making it, spending it, saving it, investing it, giving it, loaning it, and so on,” she says.

If you’re dating someone new, here are five red flags around money you should be looking out for:

1. Avoiding money conversations altogether

Scott says couples should start talking about money as soon as possible in a relationship, even if it’s as simple as who’s going to pick up the check for a date or what the price limit is on a Valentine’s Day gift.

“If one partner’s view about money is, ‘I pay my bills, and now I can spend it all,’ and the other partner’s view is, ‘No, we should save it,’ that’s gonna create friction for some people,” she says.

It’s better to get on the same page about how you’ll spend your money as soon as possible.

“One of my clients who came to mind was with her ex-spouse for 12 years,” Scott adds. “She never knew how much money he made, nor how much money he had in the bank, and he never wanted to be on any shared accounts with her. Anytime she brought up the topic of money, he would shut it down.”

Scott says financial secrecy can drive a wedge between couples and prevent them from building a strong foundation for their relaitonship.

2. Maxed-out credit cards

“Maybe you’re at dinner, then they use a credit card to pay, and it’s maxed out. That’s a red flag,” Scott says. “It’s an indication of overspending. That can then jeopardize any possibility of putting money aside, not only for emergencies, but other future goals that couple may eventually have, such as starting a family, buying a home, and saving for retirement.”

She adds that overspending might indicate your partner is not thinking about their own future, let alone a future for the both of you.

3. Dodging debt collectors’ calls

Scott warns people to be wary of partners who “owe the IRS or have debts that have been turned over to collection agencies, especially if they’re dodging calls from creditors.”

This is another sign of overspending, or not having awareness of their own budget limitations, she says.

4. Borrowing money from friends and family, without paying them back

Beware of partners who borrow money from others without paying them back in a timely manner, says Scott.

“That should cause you to press pause and say, ‘We need to think about what’s happening here and why,'” she says. “These are types of things you want to pay attention to, and, at some point, have a conversation about.”

This behavior might be another signal that your partner is overspending. But Scott says it could be more complicated than it seems.

“Most of the people I work with, when there’s a money problem, it’s due to overspending,” she says. “But there are some people out there who simply just do not earn enough money to cover their expenses, and that’s a different conversation.”

5. Neglecting their retirement savings

Scott says that saving for retirement is an indicator that someone is planning seriously for their future. If you’re between the ages of 24 and 39, looking specifically for someone with a retirement account narrows down your dating pool to about 49.5% of people your age, according to the Census Bureau.

Scott says a partnership won’t work if one partner is seriously thinking about retirement, while the other doesn’t even have a retirement plan set up.

Wealthfront Wealthfront IRA


0.25%; 0.06 – 0.13% for low-cost investment funds

Account Types

Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP IRAs

Investment Types

ETFs, index funds, and crypto trusts

Wealthfront Wealthfront IRA


0.25%; 0.06 – 0.13% for low-cost investment funds

Account Types

Traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, and SEP IRAs

Investment Types

ETFs, index funds, and crypto trusts

Not planning for retirement might be a sign that your partner has poor financial literacy altogether.

“It’s not that these are unintelligent people,” Scott says. “It just means that, from a financial standpoint, they haven’t really been taught to value and recognize the need to prepare for a future that is certainly going to come.”


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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