Back in my 20s, financial responsibility was a tiny blip on my dating radar.
I was looking for someone who loves beautiful words and cherishes my spontaneity, and couldn’t care less about anything else they did or did not bring to the table.
It was through pure luck that I ended up with a frugal maven of a husband who was equally ignorant of financial compatibility and chose the off-screen equivalent of Carrie Bradshaw as a mate (a.k.a. the 27 year old me).
Knowing what I know now and having borne witness to many messy dissolutions of relationships due to money, I advise anyone who wants to play Relationship on Easy Mode to prioritize financial responsibleness over physical attractiveness in a partner.
There is a lot of stigma around money and dating, so let me set the record straight:
It’s not true love unless you choose someone with more problems and less money than you. — FALSE
A financially responsible person doesn’t have to be rich right now, or ever. They simply have the toolkit to foster a stable financial future. — TRUE
You’re not a gold digger for wanting an equal partner who has their finances together and pulls their weight. — TRUE
Wanting an equal partner who has their finances together and pulls their weight ≠ gold digging.
If the two statements above resonate with you, here’s how to find your own Mr. or Mrs. Financially Right:
- Be the right partner
- Make yourself available
- Find the right partner
I shall elaborate.
How to Attract a Financially Responsible Partner
Forget gimmicky pickup lines, throwing pebbles, and love potions, the only surefire way to attract a great partner is by being the best version of yourself.
Unquestionably, the best version of you, the best version of me and the best version of Meghan Markle will differ, but you don’t need to become Meghan Markle to find your own prince or princess.
Let your most attractive traits shine brighter, and half of the battle is already won.
If you’re unsure where to start, I got a few self-improvement suggestions to maximize your chance of attracting a wide pool of romantic prospects that you can sift through later.
I’m going to throw out the caveat that matters of the heart are not a perfect science. A hypothetically flawless human isn’t showered with unconditional love by default. So there’s absolutely no need to collect attractive traits like baseball cards. Just do what feels right.
1. Get your finances together
Most financially responsible people also value financial savviness in a partner. And you should keep your finances in tip-top shape for your own sake anyway.
What a financially responsible person looks like:
- They are financially self-sufficient
- They’re current on their bills
- They happily live below their means
- They have less than $5,000 of high-interest debts and is in the process of eliminating them
- They have savings set aside for emergencies (my emergency savings are in EQ Bank Savings Plus Account, a high-interest savings account)
- They have started saving for retirement (my retirement savings are in Questrade, a Canadian low-cost stock broker)
- They have a positive net worth
- They have lofty but realistic financial goals and a plan to achieve them
How to become more financially responsible:
Treat the list above as your personal task list. Check off the ones you’ve accomplished, and tackle the rest one at a time, starting from the top of the list and work your way down.
If you’re ever stuck, feel free to search this blog for tips or reach out to me if the topic hasn’t been covered on the site yet.
2. Enrich your life
Life is a delicate dance of expectations and disappointments. It can feel like a constant battle to keep it from falling apart. Fair or not, those who enjoy a fuller life do seem more attractive in the eyes of others.
What someone with their life together looks like:
- They are on a fulfilling career path
- They have hobbies and passions that keep them content and grounded
- They’re actively improving their physical and mental health
- They can cook, fold laundry, and sew a button on
- They have people they can count on for support
How to get your life together:
Between YouTube videos, blogs and books, every common life question has already been answered.
For starters, this list of books covers everything from building relationships, to decluttering, to landing a job, to cultivating good habits and breaking the bad ones.
For more nuanced and personalized advice, consult people you know who seem to have it figured out.
If they agree to have their brains picked, please respect their time and keep the questions highly specific. They will appreciate it.
Don’t ask, “How do I find a high-paying job?”
Ask instead, “I want to be an audiobook narrator like you, what resume-building gigs should I take on to gain more experience?”
Practicing makes perfect, and that is as true for lifting weights as it is for loading dishwashers.
3. Build confidence
Confident people naturally draws people in with their positive aura and makes people think, “ooh, this person feels great, I wonder why.”
The media loves to portray confidence as a suit-wearing, wildly gesturing, pseudo-successful, arrogant interrupter of conversations. But this depiction of confidence is downright misleading.
Confidence is not:
- Showing off and bragging incessantly
- Belittling people
- Pretending to know everything
- Thinking they’re better than everyone else
- Acting like their life is perfect when it’s not
In fact, those are clear signs that someone is NOT confident.
Has Stephen Hawking ever boasted about his intelligence? Does Warren Buffett ever show off his wealth obnoxiously?
No, because they don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
What a confident person actually looks like:
- They’re comfortable with who they are, including their flaws
- They believe they’re neither above or below anyone, regardless of wealth, physical attractiveness, or intelligence
- They’re willing to admit when they make a mistake (because they’re confident they can fix it)
- They can calmly express their differing points of views, without fear or the intent to antagonize others
- They do not insult people who disagree with them
- They’re not apologetic for being different
- They’re not afraid to discuss feelings and show vulnerability
How to become more confident:
Focusing and reflecting on personal growth already grants you a basic but crucial foundation upon which to build a healthy level of confidence.
Other than that, surround yourself with positive thinkers and cheerleaders (pom-poms not required) – basically people who are willing to lift others up. When you find people like that, hold on to them for dear life and reciprocate in kind.
Last but not least, this article by Mark Mansion is a must read.
4. Become more interesting
Interesting folks are fun to be around. Every conversation with them is an unforgettable and magical experience. They inspire us, invigorate our soul, make us laugh, teach us new things, open our minds, and keep our spirits high.
That feeling can be quite addictive, especially in small doses.
How to become more interesting:
Reading exposes you to novel ideas and knowledge, contrasting world views, fascinating stories, and a larger vocabulary to creatively articulate your thoughts and feelings.
GoodReads is a great place to discover new books based on your reading history.
Test-drive new hobbies
Trying new things keeps your mind young and fresh, and makes for fascinating conversations.
Here are a few ideas:
- Learn a musical instrument
- Magic tricks
Stay current on world events
You don’t need to become a news junkie. A basic awareness of what’s going on in the world suffices.
Download any news App on your phone, and give the headlines a quick read every morning.
There’s no better way to broaden your horizon and experience facets of other cultures.
If you’re worried about the financial aspect, rest assured that there’s no shortage of landmarks to visit within your budget.
Develop your sense of humour
Anyone who can dish out witty comebacks is instantly attractive in my eyes.
Some argue that sense of humour is innate, but I bet there are things you can do to cultivate it.
Seek out intellectual conversations
Small talk is good and well. To connect with someone on a deeper level, discuss ideas and feelings.
Dare to be different
Think about the most interesting person you know.
They’re unconventional in a flattering way. Their persona, lifestyle and way of speech are not what you’re frequently exposed to. They’re interesting precisely because they’re unlike everyone else.
Embrace your idiosyncrasies like a badge of honour rather than something to sweep under the rug. Your love interest isn’t mesmerized by you because you remind them of their 4 exes, they are attracted to you because they’ve never met anyone like you before.
5. Cultivate emotional intelligence
If I can only give one life skill to my child, emotional intelligence would be it.
An emotional intelligent person is pleasant, open-minded, positive, empathetic, convincing, adaptive, self-aware, able to read a room, willing to take criticisms in stride, in control of their emotions, and perceived to be trust-worthy.
Emotional intelligent people make others feel comfortable around them, and as a result, people gravitate towards those with higher emotional intelligence.
How to boost your emotional intelligence:
Emotional intelligence is by far the toughest thing to acquire, because it’s multi-faceted, and requires a certain level of maturity and perceptiveness to build upon.
In the absence of more concrete solutions, these TED talks will do for now.
6. Gain independence
When dating someone new, we tend to spend a ton of unnecessary mental energy toeing the paper-thin balance between showing too much affection and not enough attention. It’s exhausting.
The underlying issue is that people do not want to come across as desperate or needy.
People act “desperate” or “needy” when they rely on someone else to provide “something” that they cannot access themself – a sense of belonging, money, emotional support, social capital, anything.
As long as you are independent in every sense of the word – you’re your own therapist, your own safety blanket, your own entertainer, your own provider, your own cook, and your own best friend – you no longer need a partner.
This doesn’t mean you can’t want a partner, or have people supporting you every step of the way. You just don’t 100% depend on them.
How to be more independent:
Whenever you’re presented with a dilemma or an emotional hurdle, always try to resolve it on your own first, and train yourself to make great decisions without the influence of naysayers and well-wishers.
7. Get your flirting game on
When you find someone attractive, flirting is an effective way to subtly communicate your intentions while simultaneously gauging their level of romantic interest in you.
You don’t need a complicated playbook to perfect the art and science of flirting. Just smile brightly. Compliment generously. Maintain eye contact when you speak. Done.
Where to Look For Dates
You are now ready to catch someone of your calibre by making yourself available.
Of all the various niche dating apps, you’d think there’s one for financially responsible people.
(I’ve looked. There are a few dating apps geared towards the 1%, but current wealth is not our focus here.)
But worry not, financial responsible folks can be spotted on any serious dating site.
Back in my days, dating sites let you pre-screen potential matches for deal breakers. I’m completely oblivious to advances in dating technology, but I’m going out on a limb here and assume that it’s still the case (or better).
Another great way to meet new people is through your friends. Birds of a feather flock together. The chance of meeting someone from your friends’ extended social circle that you see eye-to-eye with is pretty high.
In any case, irrespective of where your romantic encounters happen, watch out for red flags and signs of financial incompatibility early on to save you from potential headache and heartache down the line.
Which brings me to my next point.
What You Need to Look For In a Partner
Money is such a taboo subject to bring up during the early stages of dating, which makes finding a financially responsible partner tricky.
You can’t straight up ask someone about their credit score in between bites of chicken teriyaki, or inquire about their emergency fund while cuddling on the Ferris wheel.
So should we leave it to chance and hope for the best? Absolutely not.
Pay close attention to what people say and do on those initial dates for clues on how they handle their finances.
From least important to most important, here are the attributes to look for in a financially responsible partner.
Ambition is the root of success.
Even if someone is not making bank right now, as long as they are ambitious, they will continually find ways to strengthen their financial wellness.
How can you find out if someone is ambitious?
Ask them about plans for the future.
Purposely keep the question vague to let them interpret it however they see fit, which will tell you a lot about where their priorities lie.
If that question triggered a passionate monologue about their career, then you know you got a winner.
This is not to say that other types of goals aren’t equally commendable, which is why you should ask follow-up questions to delve deeper into their motivations.
Perhaps they’re smack in the middle of a career transition, or in the wake of a life-altering epiphany, and may not have the next chapter of their life mapped out yet.
In the absence of clearly defined goals, assess their level of enthusiasm towards any productive activity.
Do they show a strong and sincere desire to better themself? To make a difference in the world? To fight for a cause? To learn?
If so, you’ve got a winner.
2. Excellent decision making skills
The quality of decision making impacts all areas of life. This is particularly evident when it comes to money.
The vast majority of self-inflicted money troubles are due to poor decisions – purchases are made without fully understanding the extent to which their financial future will be negatively impacted.
By contrast, most people who do well financially aren’t necessarily more intelligent than the rest. What sets them apart is their sound judgment that propels their net worth upward one rational decision at a time.
Rich folks aren’t necessarily more intelligent, they just consistently make great decisions.
Even on an average income, a lifetime’s accumulation of wise financial moves gets you pretty far.
So how can you tell if the person you’re dating makes good financial decisions?
A pop quiz is out of the question, but take note of their decision making process in general when you’re chatting.
In regards to important matters:
- Do they take the time to make a mental pro-con list?
- Do they ever consider the consequences of their decisions?
- Do they correctly assess their options?
- Do they lean on logic and facts more than emotions?
If the answer to all of the above is yes, then you’ve got a winner!
3. Healthy spending habits
Old habits die hard, hence current behaviours are indicative of future behaviours.
Having said that, how one spends on dates isn’t a perfect reflection of their everyday money habits, so don’t ghost someone just because they ordered a second round of drinks or paying $15 for a bag of popcorn. For all I know, they could be trying to show you a good time, which is endearing.
What you do want to watch out for is unnecessary waste of money and over-the-top display of wealth.
- Are they paying too much for convenience?
- Do they place extra importance on material possessions?
- Are they buying luxury items they clearly can’t afford?
- How often do they brag about their car/house/watch/purse/shoes?
- Are they cavalier about taking on debts?
These are signs of someone who might be consistently living above their means and loving it.
On the other side of the spectrum, if someone struggles to afford very basic things or comes cleans about their money issues, don’t shrug it off.
Having money troubles isn’t a deal breaker in and of itself. Even if they’re saddled with tremendous debt, as long as they are actively paying it off and make genuine efforts to turn a new leaf, I’d give them a pass.
4. Good attitude
The right attitude overshadows many flaws. A misguided one magnifies them. Make sure that you gain clarity on a person’s outlook on life before committing to a relationship with them.
Avoid people sporting these kinds of attitudes:
“Of course, the world revolves around me and my needs. Everything I want should be given to me on a silver platter.”
“I don’t know why you bother saving. Our lives have already been scripted like a reality show. If you’re destined to be rich, you will be.”
Avoidance of responsibility
“I can’t do [basic thing] but it’s not my fault because [5 poor excuses].”
5. Pleasant personality
A great personality opens many doors in life. A horrible one repeatedly bumps into walls.
A great personality opens many doors in life. A horrible one repeatedly bumps into walls.
Luckily, most people we meet in life fall somewhere in the murky middle. They’re neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Hannibal Lecter, they have as many flaws as they do virtues. But we can work with that.
Our job is to find someone whose personality not only meshes well with ours but is also agreeable enough that they don’t become their own obstacle in life.
Most people are on their best behaviours on the first date. They open doors, say “thank you”, and leave a generous tip.
But apart from professional actors, people can’t hide their true colors that long.
As you enjoy your fun dates, observe if and how they treat people differently depending on their socio-economic status (translation: are they rude to waiters?), and if they get easily frustrated.
Without integrity, nothing else matters.
Onward and Forward
Remember that, during the first 5 dates or so, you’re presented a tiny glimpse into someone’s curated version of themself. You can’t really know their full financial picture until much much later.
In any single case, there could be extraneous reasons that explain away the red flags that we aren’t privy to.
So be extra vigilant. If your Spidey Sense is tingling, make note of it, and watch out for additional clues that corroborate your evaluation.
But also be extra lenient if the person you end up falling for isn’t Mr. or Mrs. Financial Right, because we can’t help who we fall in love with.
At the end of the day, romance cannot be narrowed down to a set of fixed parameters.
This article is not meant to be a long checklist of desirable attributes to gather and hunt down, but rather a framework to help you navigate the complicated dating scene.