Money Talks. At Least to Lovers

Opposites attract when it comes to handling money, researchers say.

ByABC News
September 16, 2009, 5:24 PM

Sept. 17, 2009— -- Like to spend money? Spouse doesn't?

Big trouble ahead, and maybe it's because your own weakness drove you to marry someone who is your precise opposite when it comes to handling finances.

Researchers at three universities have concluded that while we tend to look for a mate who is like ourselves, that doesn't always apply when it comes to handling money.

"Opposites attract when it comes to emotional reactions toward spending," the researchers argue in a working paper entitled "Fatal (Fiscal) Attraction: Spendthrifts and Tightwads in Marriage."

"Tightwads" and "spendthrifts" may be attracted to each other because they hate being what they are and want a partner who can reel them in, said Scott Rick of the University of Michigan, and the lead author of the study.

Rick along with Deborah Small of the University of Pennsylvania and Eli Finkel of Northwestern University surveyed more than 1,000 married and single adults to see how their spending habits influenced their mate selection.

Their conclusions, if correct, throw an interesting curve into the old question of why Jack and Jill went up that hill. Maybe Jack, or Jill, had a real problem with money.

In a telephone interview, Rick estimated that about half of us are so hung up on money that it has become a serious emotional issue. That half is divided among spendthrifts, who love to spend, and tightwads, who hate to let loose with even a little cash.

Tightwads, incidentally, outnumber spendthrifts by a ratio of three to two, according to an earlier study by Rick, so not every tightwad is going to find an ideal spendthrift.

"Spendthrifts do not experience enough pain for their own good, leading them to generally spend more than they would ideally like to spend," the study notes. "Tightwads, by contrast, experience too much pain for their own good, leading them to generally spend less than they would ideally like to spend."