Why savers marrying spenders can be a good thing
George Rowand/USA TODAY

8 December 2016

All the world loves a saver, it seems, and most want to marry one. While opposites attract in the world of magnets, a recent study says that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to couples saving and spending money.

People who save money rather than spend it are the most attractive marital candidates to fellow savers and to women who consider themselves spenders, according to the survey by TD Ameritrade of 2,100 Americans. But only 39% of spender men want to marry saver women.

“Savers tend to raise the game on the readiness of the family to cover unexpected events, so I think that’s one of the reasons why they are an attractive bunch to be with,” said Lule Demmissie, managing director of investment and retirement at TD Ameritrade.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that spenders should be kicked to the curb from the get-go, romantically speaking. Under the right circumstances, a mixture can benefit everybody.

“It could be a good thing if you and your spouse are on different ends of the savings/spending spectrum,” said Kathryn Bossler, a financial wellness expert with Greenpath Financial Wellness, a nationwide non-profit financial counseling and education organization. “If there is open communication, in a healthy relationship, this could be a really good system of checks and balances. The saver will make sure that there are savings while the spender will make sure there is a quality of life.”

One scenario did present a problem, however. Spenders marrying other spenders can create a volatile situation in the household.

“Spenders married spenders, we found to be the most combustible combination because there is no safety net,” Demmissie said.

“A spender being married to a spender can be something that can easily spin out of control,” Bossler added. “There’s not a checks-and-balance system. It can certainly cause financial trouble because there’s no-one there being responsible, saying, ‘We’re spending too much.’”

Men and women see things differently

The survey discovered that Millennial men and women look at money with different points of view. Women tend to want to save for vacations, for having an emergency fund and for a down payment for a house. Men — while embracing those same ideas somewhat less enthusiastically than women — are more willing to take a risk with money to invest in the stock market or to put a vacation on a credit card. The differences can come down to how each party feels about time.

“There is always a perception among women that time is not on their side, from not earning as much to leaving the workplace to have a child,” Demmissie said. “Investing in the stock market is what the men value more. Having an emergency savings account is what the women value more.”

Long term, Millennial men said their goal was to retire before they hit 65. Millennial women want to be able to pay for their children’s education.

One other thing that has become clear to Bossler is that Millennials have a sense of unease when it comes to debt.

“Millennials don’t want to carry debt,” she stated. “They have a lot of student loan debt, and the last thing they want is more debt. They have had to be very creative in their choices getting out of school ... living with parents, roommates, really delaying decisions, even with a good job. I think it’s overwhelming to them. They can’t imagine life without debt.”
Lessons from the holiday season

The season for gift-giving tends to bring how one feels about money to the forefront.

“The holidays are one example of where your values come out,” Bossler said. “Everyone has their own ideas about what the holiday season means. This is one opportunity where you might charge up debt and create problems for your finances.”

Demmissie said that while the holidays can create financial friction, they also can present a great opportunity for learning from each other. People should look at what they have in common, not try to force their thinking on the other person.

“I don’t think that spenders are spending like a drunk person and a saver should be portrayed as a real serious person. I think this survey shows that each persona can learn from the other," she said. “There is wisdom on both sides of the spectrum.”