Financial Compatibility or Physical Compatibility in a Romantic Partner? Gen Z Has Strong Opinions


Romance isn’t dead, but it may be on its way out. Younger generations view financial compatibility as nearly as important as physical compatibility, according to a recent survey by Northwestern Mutual.

The investment firm found that 49% of Gen Z said financial compatibility is more important than physical compatibility in a romantic partner. That percentage is surprisingly high, and it may result from some Gen Zers entering the workforce with high inflation and a housing shortage.

Here’s how other generations view financial compatibility, and a few suggestions on how to get on the same personal finance page with your partner.

Financial compatibility is less important to other generations

Gen Z is the most adamant that their partners’ finances align with theirs, and over time that idea appears to fade.

Here’s what percentage of other generations think partners should align financially:

  • Millennials: 40%
  • Gen X: 35%
  • Baby boomers: 30%

If there’s one thing that nearly every generation agrees on, it’s that money conversations should happen before the relationship gets serious. More than 7 in 10 Americans believe those conversations should happen “well ahead of marriage or living together,” according to the survey.

Financial disagreements get better with time

Gen Z isn’t wrong to be concerned about potential financial disagreements. Couples frequently disagree about money. An Orion survey released last year said that 27% of couples have money disagreements weekly or monthly.

The biggest money disagreements fall into a few categories:

  • Fears about market risk and the economy
  • Whether to spend or save money
  • How important money is to their lives
  • How to communicate about money

On the positive side, couples tend to have fewer disagreements about money over time. Gen Z partners are about six-times more likely to blame their partner for a poor financial decision than baby boomers. And over a five-year span, couples report being far more likely to report being more financially compatible.

How to get on the same financial page

The good news is that you can get on the same financial page as your partner before your golden years. Making a few changes to how you communicate can help right now. Here’s how.

1. Talk about money

Unsurprisingly, talking about financial decisions — and listening — is essential to having fewer disagreements about money. This might include talking about the debt you have if your relationship is relatively new or, if you’ve been together a while, talking about large purchases you’re going to make before you make them.

If you’re having difficulty doing this, it can be helpful to talk to a financial advisor so both of you understand saving, investing, debt, and other financial topics.

2. Create shared goals

You don’t have to agree on everything, but creating some shared goals will help eliminate potential disagreements. For example, this could be setting a goal for a shared emergency fund or a college fund for your kids.

Having shared long-term goals can help couples get on the same page in the short term. One way to do this is by using a budgeting app to create goals and keep track of your progress.

3. Find what works best for both of you

I know couples who merge their finances entirely and others who share overlapping expenses — like groceries and housing — but split other expenses. These different approaches work for them because they’ve communicated about their finances and agreed on a plan.

There are many ways to do this, including having different investment accounts but sharing a joint checking and savings account. Talk with your partner about what you prefer to share, and then work together to sign up for financial accounts that help you both reach your goals.

Come up with a plan

Finances can be stressful even when another person isn’t involved. Adding another person to the mix with their goals and personal views about money makes things even more complicated. But it’s important to remember that communicating and listening are the best ways to get on the same page and avoid major financial disagreements.

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