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Hello everyone, this is Kim Hayes, writing as a contributor for Well Kept Wallet. When you first meet someone, the last subject you want to discuss is money. I mean, honestly, what would that even look like? “Hey, I think you’re really amazing…but can I see your bank statements before we get anymore emotionally invested in this?” I think not. When you first meet someone, you’re busy finding out what their goals and dreams are, what you have in common, and the butterflies tend to cover up most of those early warning signs. But the number one cause of divorce in the United States is money;
so perhaps making an effort to talk about money should be a priority in the beginning of a relationship. To be honest, looking at a person’s bank statement will tell you far more about their priorities, values and behavior than 100 dates ever could. But since that probably would freak them out and prematurely end the relationship, here are three money-related issues to observe in a potential spouse.

1. Work ethic

A strong work ethic indicates integrity. A person’s attitude toward their job, and work in general, is an important observation to make. And by the way, you don’t have to have a job to have a strong work ethic! If a person recently lost their job, are they doing absolutely everything they can to find another one, perhaps even accepting menial jobs for the time being so that they don’t go into debt? Also, I know many stay-at-home moms who do their job (arguably the most important job in the world) with the utmost discipline and integrity.

2. Spending Habits

When you go out together, pay attention to their spending habits. Do they demonstrate self-control when it comes to money? Deacon hasn’t always been as money-conscious as he is now, but even when we were dating he would find inexpensive or free activities for us to do. Dropping big bucks on a nice dinner every once in a while isn’t a bad thing, but if he or she is eating out for every meal and charging it to a credit card, there may be a potential problem. Are they able to stick to a budget? Sticking to a budget takes self-control and discipline, both wonderful qualities to look for in a potential spouse. If you see these qualities reflected in their relationship with money, its probable that these qualities spill over into other aspects of their life as well. Are they savings-oriented? A person who manages to put money away for a rainy day and invest in the future is a practical and wise person. Finally, do they have a giving heart? Setting aside money to give to people and causes that need financial support is the ultimate priority test. It’s so difficult to give your money away, but it really is essential to keep your heart in the right
place when it comes to your wealth. If our money only serves our self, then we will likely expect everything and everyone else to do the same. Selfishness in not a desirable quality in a potential spouse!

3. Attitude Toward Debt

Debt can be one of the most stressful aspects of your life, and it doubles when you marry. Working hard to make monthly payments is frustrating. And then there’s the blame game. “I’m working to pay off your debt!” and so on. Is this potential person debt free? If not, are they willing to work hard to become so? Nothing dominates your resources like those monthly student loan, car, and credit card payments. And believe me, they take their toll on a relationship. The phrase “till debt do us part” has roots in reality, since debt is one of the leading predictors of divorce.

Obviously, no one is perfect. When Deacon and I got married, we had a combined debt of $52,000. But we paid it off together and became a team in the process. I am thankful that we learned together, and that money is now a bonding factor in our relationship. If the person you are considering doesn’t pass the money test, don’t give up on them. Are they teachable, willing to be humble enough to learn about how to manage money effectively? That may be the most important aspect of all!