The Pulse

First Comes Love, Then Comes… Conversations About Money

As couples prepare holiday marriage proposals, a new study finds 1 in 3 Americans believe serious discussions about financial dreams – and debt – should happen in the early stages of dating

The new Northwestern Mutual study reveal almost half of Gen Z say financial compatibility is more important than physical compatibility. View the complete study here.

MILWAUKEE, Dec. 5, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — December is, by far, the most popular month for couples in the U.S. to pop the big question, but many Gen Z’ers and Millennials think an honest conversation about money should happen well before marriage proposals, according to the latest findings from Northwestern Mutual’s 2023 Planning & Progress Study.

Nearly one-third (32%) of Gen Z say the conversation about money should occur even before a relationship gets serious, and among Millennials the number is even higher (40%). More than 7 in 10 Americans (72%) across all ages believe this discussion should occur “well ahead of marriage or living together.”

“The rules for relationships are changing. First comes love, then comes real talk about financial dreams and debts, and then comes long-term commitment,” said Christian Mitchell, chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual. “By a wide margin, Americans believe that serious discussions about financial goals should happen before serious dating. A candid conversation about money can help a couple to fall in love with the future, too. Finances play a major role in many relationships, and more partners want to be on the same page before taking the plunge.”

The Value of Financial Compatibility

Money lies at the heart of many couples’ relationships – over a third (35%) say financial compatibility is more important than physical and intellectual compatibility. For younger couples, money is an even greater priority – half (49%) of Gen Z think financial compatibility is more important than physical compatibility.

“These findings put a new twist on what it means to have good chemistry between partners,” said Mitchell. “It is clear that all Americans, especially Gen Z, see financial compatibility as one of the core ingredients of a solid match.”

Financial Compatibility Gets Better with Age

The survey found that younger couples struggle more than older couples with seeing eye-to-eye on finances, and that can cause a significant strain on their relationships. Boomers+ are almost 20 percentage points more likely than Gen Z to say that they see eye-to-eye with their partner about managing money. Boomers+ are also 25 percentage points less likely than Millennials to say that finances are a significant issue in their relationship.

The good news is that financial challenges within relationships seem to improve with time. While 24% of Gen Z say that one person in the relationship blames the other for a financial decision that led to a significant loss of money, just 4% of Boomers+ said the same. Almost across the board, reports of financial challenges in relationships tended to slope downward over time – as couples address financial issues, establish joint financial goals and plans, generate more income, and accumulate more wealth.

Among couples who have been together for more than five years, partners are much more likely to report becoming more financially compatible over time.

“Financial fusion is one of the best things for a harmonious relationship,” said Mitchell. “When couples collaborate and follow through on a financial plan, their compatibility grows. Shared values, a supportive financial advisor and a clear financial plan can act like a magnet, bringing partners closer together instead of pushing them apart.”




About The 2023 Northwestern Mutual Planning & Progress Study
The 2023 Planning & Progress Study was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual among 2,740 U.S. adults aged 18 or older. The survey was conducted online between February 13 and March 2, 2023. Data are weighted where necessary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, marital status, household size, household income, and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. A complete survey methodology is available.
About Northwestern Mutual
Northwestern Mutual has been helping people and businesses achieve financial security for more than 165 years. Through a comprehensive planning approach, Northwestern Mutual combines the expertise of its financial professionals with a personalized digital experience and industry-leading products to help its clients plan for what’s most important. With more than $570 billion of total assets being managed across the company’s institutional portfolio as well as retail investment client portfolios, nearly $35 billion in revenues, and $2.2 trillion worth of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual delivers financial security to more than five million people with life, disability income and long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services. Northwestern Mutual ranked 111 on the 2023 FORTUNE 500.
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, WI (life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (NMIS) (investment brokerage services), broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company® (NMWMC) (investment advisory and services), federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company (NLTC) (long-term care insurance). Not all Northwestern Mutual representatives are advisors. Only those representatives with “Advisor” in their title or who otherwise disclose their status as an advisor of NMWMC are credentialed as NMWMC representatives to provide investment advisory services.