What Does the Match.com 2011 Survey Tell us About Singles and Money? By Dr. Jonathan Rich

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The impact of finances on relationships has long been an area of fascination for me and led me to write The Couple’s Guide to Love and Money, a guide to coping with this often-difficult topic.  So I was excited about Match.com’s survey of singles in America, a survey with a healthy portion of money-related questions.

Since the mid-nineties Americans been on a wild economic ride.  We experienced giddy euphoria in the late nineties when we started to believe that jobs were becoming obsolete and we all had the Midas touch.  Most of us have been humbled since then, as our retirement funds and home values crumbled and frugality has come back into style.  I was particularly curious about the attitudes and behaviors of singles in the aftermath of this manic-depressive economy.

Stressed by finances

Nearly three out of ten American singles in this survey (29%) reported that they were “very stressed” by the economy and money concerns and 84% described themselves as at least “slightly stressed” (slightly, somewhat, and very stressed combined). Women feel the stress a little more than men, and economic pressures stay fairly constant until age 65, when there is some relief.  These findings are consistent with the American Psychological Association November 2009 survey of stress in America.  This survey found finances were the top stressor, described as a significant source of stress for seven out of ten Americans.

Money and gender roles

Over the past fifty years, there have been dramatic changes in gender roles.   In the early seventies, as feminist ideas took root, society properly recognized that genders were interchangeable in the workplace – women could do a “man’s job” and men could competently handle jobs traditionally occupied by women.  As feminist Wilma Scott Heide cleverly observed, “The only jobs for which no man is qualified are human incubators and wet nurse.  Likewise, the only job for which no woman is or can be qualified is sperm donor.”  But as economic pressures increased, gender-related choices became gender-related necessities.  Many men no longer had the luxury of proclaiming sexist Archie Bunkerisms, “A woman’s place is in the home,” and only in affluent families did women (or men) have room to choose between pursuing a career and being full-time homemakers.

As we climb out of the worst and most widespread economic disaster since the 1930s, have singles’ ideas about dating and roles shifted even further?

Current attitudes

Singles were asked to indicate how much they agreed with the statement, “Because of the economy, I am more interested in finding someone to share my life with than before.”  I was disturbed by this statement, as it seemed to express an unromantic and uncomfortably pragmatic attitude toward romance.  I was relieved to see that four out of five respondents did not endorse romantic involvement as a way to relieve financial pressures and that women were only slightly more likely than men to seek economic relief through a relationship.

Basic tenets of financial gender equality were highly endorsed by both men and women.  About three out of four respondents agreed that couples should share household duties and share financial decisions equally, with women only slightly more likely to endorse these concepts than men.  Fewer than one in five singles still believe that the woman should be the primary caregiver in the home, with this notion favored only slightly more often by men than by women.  While most singles are comfortable with gender equality, role reversal is still not yet completely accepted.  Although 45% of men declare they are ready to step up to the challenges of being a “househusband,” the partner primarily taking care of home and childcare duties, only one out of three women say they are ready to accept men in that role.

In spite of social and economic changes, certain male/female roles appear slow to change.  The moment when the bill arrives after a first date has become an increasingly awkward moment.  Thirty-seven percent of men but only 19% of women believe that it is always the man’s responsibility to pick up the check on the first date.  To make matters even more confusing, this tradition may be making a comeback, as the youngest and oldest singles were the most likely to endorse it.

The bottom line is that, as American society evolves and pressures increase we become more diverse in our opinions and traditions.  We can no longer assume that our date’s economic views and views of a possibly shared future are the same as ours.  More than ever, couples need to share their views about finances and other important issues at the beginning of a relationship and for as long as it lasts.  The median single in this survey believed that these important disclosures should come two to six months into a new relationship. The process of coming together is more challenging and requires more communication than ever before.  But maybe that’s not a bad thing.

About Dr. Jonathan Rich

Dr. Jonathan Rich received his BA from the University of California, San Diego, his MA from San Diego State University, and his Ph.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, and has been licensed as a psychologist since 1987. He currently maintains a private practice in southern California, specializing in psychological testing and research consultation. He is the author of the self-help book, The Couple’s Guide to Love & Money.

For more information on our “Single in America” study:

 

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  • Steve

    Way too much emphasis is placed on money today! We are looking at each other more in terms of net worth than as human beings. This is a major reasons why many relationships either don’t get off the ground, or begin to dissolve after they have taken root.

  • Larry Campbell

    I firmly believe you can’t build or maintain a successful relationship based on money. I have noticed this to be true in my oqn family. My older brother’s wife left him after 30 years of marriage because he didn’t make enough money to suit her. Her career was more successful than his so she dumped him and moved out on her own. My youngest half sister married a divorced man who was older than she was. When he lost his high paying job and was forced to find other employment at his advanced age, lack of agrrement and perceived lack of support from his wife led him to desert his second marriage. So, yes money still plays a big role in whether a couple stays together. So, if your relationship is built around money, then it is doomed to fail. There must be some other basis on which your marriage is built so that when hard times hit, one member decides to bail out rather than commit to maintaining the relationship and keeping the marriage intact.

    • http://blog.match.com matchuptodate

      Appreciate the note, Larry. Great thoughts here on finances. Definitely an interesting topic when it comes to dating and relationships.

    • Matt

      You’ve said it all, Larry. But I find a lot of women (at least in my geographic locale) who divorce and come out better financially than their ex-husbands, who still want someone to slip them the big credit card. I came out of a long-term marriage and gave most of our assets to my wife (who, in fact consistently earned slightly more than me) to keep peace and a relationship with my three kids. I’m very pleased that it worked (i.e., the relationship with the kids has remained great over five years – I think in part because I didn’t push our divorce into a blood bath over $). However, although I have a cash flow that supports me, I have no “cash in the bank.” Would it be reasonable to ask one of these women who ended up with the “assets” (e.g., the family house) from the marriage to couple with me – who has no assets, but earns a nice income, with no debt, to put the “post-marriage package” together for the two of us? But my experience is that they’re not thinking that way. They want a “sugar daddy” because, as we all know, the happiest women are married to the richest men…NOT! But your average, “back on the dating block after 2-3 decades” woman ain’t buying it.

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    “19% of women believe that it is always the man’s responsibility to pick up the check on the first date..”

    That’s what they’ll say when answering a survey. Ask the other 81% when they’re with their girlfriend’s and I’d be very surprised if at least half of them wouldn’t be a little dishearted if on the first date they weren’t paid for.

    Matt

    • Don Draper

      Amen.

      D. Draper

  • Don Draper

    In the past five years I’ve had fifty first dates that involved some purchase of food or drink. I have had only one legitimate offer to pay or assist in making the purchase. It so happens she was a physician, who earned an attractive salary. I paid anyway…batting 100%.

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    I do consider all of the ideas you’ve offered in your post. They are very convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very short for novices. May you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

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