Financial Fitness Zone

Is money more important than sex in a marriage?

In relationships, money trumps looks, according to a new Experian survey of married people. It's not how much money your partner has that makes or breaks the relationship, rather it's how he or she manages it.

The survey asked what people want in a potential spouse, and 95 percent of respondents said financial responsibility is important. Physical attractiveness (86 percent) and career ambition (77 percent) also emerged as key factors, but personality compatibility came out on top, with 98 percent of people saying that's crucial in finding a husband or wife.

The data comes from an online survey of 1,010 married adults conducted April 16 to 19. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Money & Matchmaking

Meeting a man or woman with desirable attributes is one thing, but finding someone with similar goals can be a bit trickier. You're not going to agree about everything, but some things are non-negotiable. When it comes to building a family, 98 percent of married people said it was important to share goals. Having similar life plans was the next-most important (97 percent), followed by similar financial ambitions (96 percent). Financial compatibility even beat out sexual compatibility, which 95 percent of married adults said was important, but that difference is within the margin of error.

It makes sense people care so much about financial compatibility. Money is intertwined with pretty much every aspect of life, giving it the potential to be a constant point of conflict. Numerous studies have analyzed the role of money in divorce, and a 2009 study from a Utah State University researcher found money fights predict the likelihood of divorce.

The funny thing is people don't really like talking about money. The survey found 73 percent of women and 60 percent of men said having a spouse who is open about personal finance and credit makes him or her more attractive, which doesn't quite line up with the 96 percent who say financial compatibility is crucial in a partner. As for those who are cagey about money, 59 percent of women and 44 percent of men say avoiding talking about money topics makes a person less attractive.

Whether you like it or not, talking about household finances and credit is practically a necessity for couples. Budgeting may not be the most romantic activity, but setting clear expectations for spending could help you avoid unpleasant conflicts. Getting a grip on credit is pretty easy, too. You're entitled to free copies of your annual credit reports (here's how to get them), and you can check your credit scores every month for free through Credit.com. You can do it together and get on track toward those shared financial goals.

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