how finances affect relationships

How Finances Affect Relationships – College Relationships & Students’ Financial Habits

Thrown into a new setting, college students quickly learn how to balance their social and academic life. But time management isn’t the only skill they develop — college students are forced to efficiently manage their money so they can live comfortably on their own. However, a study uncovers that a college student’s significant other can influence their financial habits, even more so than their parents. Keep reading to learn about this study’s findings on how finances affect relationships.

Parents, partners, and student financial habits

Researchers at the universities of Arizona, Minnesota, Alabama, and Wisconsin discovered romantic influence strongly affects money management skills and is stronger than the other principal way to learn money management — by observing parents’ actions.

Published in the Journal of Family Relations, researchers explored the different effects that parents and romantic partners have on the way a college student will spend, save, and budget their money.

The researchers pulled data from the Arizona Pathways to Life Success for University Students study, abbreviated as APLUS, which began to collect data from first-year University of Arizona students in 2008 and has continued to collect data throughout their adult lives.

Researchers focused specifically on students who reported being in a committed relationship during their fourth year of college.

Students were asked to report their perceptions of how often their parents and romantic partners engage in money management behaviors, including but not limited to tracking monthly expenses, spending money within budget, paying credit card balances, and saving for the future.

They were then asked to report their own attitudes towards their parents’ and partners’ behaviors, while researchers also inquired how often they engaged in similar financial activities in the previous six months.

When researchers uncovered that parents’ financial behaviors significantly influenced their children, it came as no surprise — especially at a time when young adults rely on financial support and guidance from their parents.

However, the fact that students’ romantic partners strongly influence their money management habits did come as a surprise.

Why romantic partners affect financial habits

Researchers examined college students in committed relationships and discovered that students’ financial behaviors were influenced by the responsible financial behaviors of both their parents and their romantic partners. The students modeled their own behaviors after both parties.

Yet romantic partners had more authority than Mom and Dad when it came to students’ attitudes about finances.

“This is likely due to the fact that coupled-up college students are spending more time with their significant others than with their parents,” said study co-author Dr. Melissa Curran.

The study also suggests financial education programs that target young adults focus solely on individuals without considering the people in their lives who may be most influential.

Lead study author and former University of Arizona faculty member Dr. Joyce Serido argues that “There is such a push to help young adults improve their financial decision-making capabilities…How about offering education for couples or for parents and their kids, involving more couples and families in discussions about finances?” (Serido).

Curran and Serido said college students are in something of a “melding stage,” in which parents and new social influences, such as romantic partners, have a combined effect on students’ money habits.

“From birth across the lifespan we’re very reliant on our parents in terms of finances,” Curran said. “It’s interesting to look at romantic partners at a time in people’s lives when many are starting to develop committed romantic partnerships for the first time. We predict that as these students continue to age, the influence from family origin will fall further away, although not diminish altogether, and romantic partners’ influence will become even stronger,” (Serido).

As students get older, their parents become less of a financial influence on them. Students welcome new influences into their lives, such as friends and romantic partners, who they spend more time with.

Although the students in the APLUS study were all in early committed relationships when surveyed, future data collection from the same cohort will help researchers understand more about how financial influences, decision-making processes, and behaviors evolve as young adults grow older, settle down, and potentially start families of their own.

Get Help With Finances With Couples Counseling in Orange County

Just as this study found that relationships can have a significant effect on a person’s financial habits, for better or worse, finances can have a significant impact on a relationship as well. If you need assistance with how finances are affecting your relationship, couples counseling can help you find a way to work with your partner to get things back on track.

Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW, offers couples counseling in Orange County, CA for couples at any stage in their relationship. Her approach provides a safe environment to open and honestly share thoughts and emotions. Through developing a positive, therapeutic relationship, you and your partner can interpret what is going on, both in your life and in the session, creating a better awareness within your relationship. Contact Jennifer De Francisco by calling (949) 251-8797 or make an appointment online.

Source: University of Arizona

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