How much student loan debt is considered a dealbreaker in relationships?

Sure, a sense of humor, physical attraction, and general compatibility are important. But finances are also part of the equation when it comes to dating and finding a partner to settle down with—and too much student loan debt can be a major red flag to a potential suitor.

How much is too much? Just under $30,000—$28,076—in student loan debt is the average amount people consider a dealbreaker in a romantic partner, according to a survey of 1,008 married Americans by WesternSouthern Financial Group, a life insurance group. Those surveyed spanned all generations, from baby boomers to Gen Z.

That amount is significantly lower than the amount of student loan the average federal borrower has, which is nearing $38,000, according to the Office of Federal Student Aid.

Student loans were the biggest red flags for Gen Z respondents, who ranked it second behind financial illiteracy in dealbreakers. For the other generations surveyed, personal loans and credit card debt were the biggest financial turnoffs.

It’s not the first survey that’s found student loan debt can have an effect on single peoples’ dating prospects. Some consider it “baggage,” while others worry about how a significant other’s debt load can affect their own financial prospects, like buying a home or saving for retirement. A 2022 survey from National Debt Relief found that 3 in 5 Americans have thought about delaying marriage because they do not want to take on their partner’s debt burden (this relates to all consumer debt, not just student loans).

And it should be a consideration, or at least something to discuss before getting serious with someone romantically. Financial stress is a leading cause of divorce. In fact, National Debt Relief’s survey found 54% of respondents believe that a partner being in debt is reason enough to consider separation.

WesternSouthern’s survey also asked about the topics related to money that couples discuss before marriage, as well as what their biggest financial arguments are about.

Respondents were also asked for the minimum salary they are looking for a partner to earn, and the average response was $29,878.

In general, WesternSouthern urges people to be open and honest with their partner or prospective partner about their finances and financial dealbreakers. And the sooner the better.

“Talking about money can be difficult (even embarrassing), but some things need to be brought to light before tying the knot or starting a family together,” the survey reads.

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