How to Tell If You’re Dating a Deadbeat

I’m very fortunate that the Honeybee and I rarely have a disagreement regarding money. In fact, I can only remember it happening once in over 16 years of marriage — and it was all due to a silly misunderstanding.

A recent study affirmed the conventional wisdom that says money is the most likely point of conflict in a marriage. This is especially true when one spouse tends to be a spender while the other is a saver.

When a married couple has different philosophies regarding the importance of financial responsibility, there’s usually going to be big problems somewhere down the road; many times, the only solution ends up being a messy and expensive divorce.

Of course, that’s why it’s important to know if your partner is financially compatible with you before you tie the knot.

So, does your current steady have their financial act together?

If you don’t know, you better find out — especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner. Think about it. Just because your flame is spoiling you doesn’t mean that he (or she) can afford it.

True, your lover may seem to be financially well-off, but will he be able to maintain his lifestyle after you get married? And if not, does he possess the discipline required to throttle back on the spending pedal?

Unfortunately, folks who fail to ask those simple questions often end up being led into a financial quagmire.

Thankfully, there are warning signs for those who choose to pay attention.

In “Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey,” co-authors Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar offer five indicators that may signal you’re dating a deadbeat. I’ve listed them here, along with a few additional ones of my own.

How many of these apply to your current valentine?

  1. They always insist on picking up the check at a big dinner or throwing down a credit card without looking at the bill. This may be the sign of a big spender living beyond his means in an attempt to impress you.
  2. They live in a large but sparsely furnished home. According to Thakor and Kedar, this can indicate your partner has, as they say in Texas, “a big hat, but no cattle.” 
  3. They avoid answering phone calls. This is a potential sign that your steady is avoiding bill collectors.
  4. They lease a car. Yeah, this seems like a bit of a stretch to me too. However, leasing is often a sign of living beyond one’s means.
  5. They ask you to buy things for them or cosign loans. But, Len, they always promise to pay me back. Okay. Let me know how that works out for you.
  6. They have a lot of bills marked “urgent” or “past due.” This is another big financial red flag.
  7. They have bills in somebody else’s name. It could be an ex-sweetheart’s bill, or indicate that your current lover couldn’t get an account on their own. Then again, it could also mean that the postman simply delivered the bill to the wrong person — so make sure you verify that address before you get too accusatory.
  8. They admit that their credit cards are maxed out. This, too, is a great indicator of somebody having trouble living within their means.
  9. They have a payday loan company magnet on the refrigerator door. Ah, yes … “Joe’s Payday Loans: When nobody else will lend you money. Not even your relatives.” Don’t laugh. Short of a loan shark, the payday loan company is typically the lender of last resort. 
  10. They have a live-in maid named “Mom.” Psst. Come closer. If you said “yes” to this one, and you happen to be in your lover’s house right now, listen to me very carefully. Put down the mouse. Then calmly walk out the door and get away. As fast as you possibly can.

Photo Credit: FBellon

22 comments to How to Tell If You’re Dating a Deadbeat

  • Great article. So many people find out when it’s too late what they’re getting into. While you may be “blinded by love”, you’re going to be quite unhappy later if you’re inheriting a mess in marriage. Once married, it’s both your problems.

  • pen

    Some of the items on this list also apply to someone in debt, but is truly working on fixing past mistakes. Finding the difference is interesting.

  • Here’s another one: Does your sweetie not have a checking account/debit card/credit card and run to a check cashing shop on the corner every Friday on their way to purchase lotto tickets and some cold ones? :)

  • Lol funny tips.. ahh yes finances are often the source of many problems in relationships… good to figure these things out prior to getting married!

    • @CCC: LOL! Good one, Joel! I knew I should have consulted you before I published this! :-)
      @Darwin: When it comes to your personal finances, I think the only thing worse than divorce is having your good credit ruined by a financially irresponsible spouse.
      @20s: I think it is THE biggest cause of problems in a marriage.

  • otc

    Thankfully I’m married. The things you have to go through LOL

  • What do you do if you were both spendthrifts when you married, and now one of you isn’t? (Besides argue a lot… lol)

  • Dating and you are already co-signing? no no no no.

  • oregon girl

    You add him to your bank account so he can cash his paychecks and the State of California seizes same bank account for unpaid child support…….BIG RED FLAG! He told me he hadn’t gotten around to opening his own bank account after his divorce was final. Guess what…..his divorce wasn’t final either.

    • Stephanie Moss

      OMG!!!! I would kill the prick really I think I would. What a snake to do some thing like that! Never, best I would ever do for a person any person is if all they want is a paycheck cashed have then sign it over to me, I cash it and give them their money. They don’t like it they can eat me, bite me whatever….another red flag to that is them getting pissy cuz you won’t add them to your bank account. I been burned before I will admit, first time shame on them second time shame on me.

    • Chef Lynnie

      Oh No! NEVER, I repeat NEVER believe anything … ask to see the custody agreement, divorce decree, and bankruptcy filing…if unavailable RUN, do not walk, to the nearest exit and leave the LOSER behind as he eats your dust!

  • That creates a problem when one spouse is a big spender and the other is careful with spending especially when they have the same bank account.

  • I prefer the direct approach and asking outright how they manage their money. I am not suggesting to do this on the first date but before you take things to the next level.

    Also I feel that trust has to be earned and not given just because you are really into a person.

  • Good list. We avoided the issue until it hit us in the face but it’s all over now and we do talk about money and plan a lot.

  • Volfram

    Yay, another article that reinforces my decision to NEVER EVER GET INVOLVED WITH ANYONE!

    My financial habits are better than almost everyone else I know. I’d probably be a deadbeat magnet, and there’s almost no way anybody I might hypothetically try to date would be able to match me.

    • Spedie

      Volfram: I could add #11:

      If your spouse has chosen not to pay their child support, no matter how other responsible they are, run for the HILLS. I do not care how frugal they are, how tight they are, how responsible they are.

      I do not give a rip about their “sad stories”.

      You know my story.

      I am now of the mindset to not get that involved with anyone. I’d rather live alone and lonely for the rest of my life, than have the last 30 yrs of savings ripped out from beneath my feet in 23 months.

      I was a deadbeat magnet. Never again.

      • Volfram

        Child support is a deal breaker. This person failed at marriage once, why should I think their second time will be any different?

        If you’re marrying a divorcee, you already know this person isn’t able to maintain a committment. You shouldn’t be surprised if they skip out on YOU.

      • Chef Lynnie

        Oh No – another trusting soul separated from his money…but, take heart – we ALL are not deadbeats, just SOME… IF you really choose to be alone don’t waste your life being lonely – ENJOY it, find your passions, get up and go, get out and LIVE life…it really is not a dress rehearsal, this is the real deal! And who knows, if you are out there having fun, biking, hiking, swimming, cooking, shopping, shooting, WHATEVER floats your boat, you might just meet one of us who enjoy the same things and who are NOT deadbeats! Good luck and I wish you all the best!

  • [...] Rule number 1 for a happy relationship: don’t date a deadbeat. Len Penzo can tell you how to identify deadbeat dates. [...]

  • [...] Blogger | Feb 7, 2013 'Money' by Flickr user 401(K) 2013This post by Len Penzo comes from LenPenzo.com.I’m very fortunate that the Honeybee and I rarely have a disagreement regarding money. In fact, I [...]

  • [...] How to Tell If You’re Dating a Deadbeat [Len Penzo dot Com] When a couple has different ideas about money, there are going to be difficulties at some point. However, dating a deadbeat presents a whole new list of problems. [...]

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