Valentine's survey: Financially prudent lovers are more alluring

6 in 10 say they are more attracted to educational and financial success than physical traits

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According to WalletHub:.
$20.7 billion — Total Valentine’s Day spending projected for 2019 ($161.96 per person celebrating the holiday)
$196 vs. $100 — Men spent nearly twice as much as women, on average, for Valentine’s Day 2018.
$7.6 billion — The amount Americans will spend on jewelry ($3.9 billion), flowers ($1.9 billion) and candy ($1.8 billion).
9 million — Number of marriage proposals made each Valentine’s Day.

'Tis the season for lovers to value their relationships — literally.

In addition to deciding how much to spend on a Valentine’s Day gift, people are contemplating how much to invest in a future with their heartthrob. Financial savvy is high on the list of relationship requirements, with 46 percent of people saying they would break up with their significant other if he or she spent irresponsibly, according to a new survey from the personal-finance website WalletHub.

That may sound harsh, but it’s understandable in the aftermath of the Great Recession and considering the state that many Americans’ finances are in now. Consumers hit $1 trillion in credit card debt for the first time ever in 2018, for example. The fact that financial irresponsibility can be a deal breaker romantically also is demonstrated by 53 percent of WalletHub’s survey respondents saying they would not marry someone who has bad credit.

The gender divideIn fact, 6 in 10 people say they are more attracted to educational and financial success than physical traits. But there is a gender divide: 44 percent of men still find physical appearance most attractive, compared to just 30 percent of female respondents.

“According to research in evolutionary psychology, men typically place a greater value on physical traits, particularly those that signal youth and fertility, while women tend to place a greater value on a man’s ability to provide for her (their) offspring,” said Abigail B. Schneider, an assistant professor of marketing in the Anderson College of Business at Regis University. “In our society, educational attainment often translates into financial success or a man’s resource acquisition potential.”

The long-term picture may also factor into the value people place on looks versus success. Financial responsibility and education benefit people for their entire life.

“Good looks fade,” said Steve Sherman, an instructional specialist at Montclair State University. “Also, with a little grooming and exercise, it's fairly easy to alter physical characteristics — personality and wealth, not so much.”

Men are also more prone to putting their finances in jeopardy in the interest of love, WalletHub found. Men are two times more likely than women to spend over $100 on a Valentine’s Day gift, and three times more likely to say a Valentine’s Day gift is worth credit card debt.

“Research shows that some behaviors tend to align with and reinforce our gender-identity, and that includes Valentine’s Day gift-giving behavior,” said Constance Porter, a professor of marketing in the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University. “It is well-known that men have assumed the societal role of taking on more of the gift-giving burden on Valentine’s Day. They spend more, and are more willing to go into debt to do it. Doing so could help some men reinforce their sense of male-identity and help them express this identity with others.”

Even though they plan to spend more for Valentine’s Day, men are not as concerned about what they will get in return. Men are more likely to not expect any gift than women are, while women are more likely to expect gifts of $50 to $100 and $100-plus.

“I think there’s still a sense that men are supposed to be the one who do most of the courting, and the Valentine's present is part of that,” said Karen Becker-Olsen, an associate professor of marketing and interdisciplinary business at The College of New Jersey. “Also, there are more things that women would appreciate than men. Women are more likely to expect a gift, while men are less interested in having a classic V-Day gift.”

At the end of the day, your partner probably won’t appreciate his or her gift if your Valentine’s Day spending ends up causing financial hardship throughout the rest of the year. After all, WalletHub’s survey found that 4 in 10 people say irresponsible spending is an even bigger turnoff than bad breath.

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