“Would You Date Somebody with Debt?” is a post by Adina J in which she takes a look at the (apparently hypocritical) Canadian dating scene.
47% of Canadians are hypocrites.
“Whoa,” you may be thinking, “did Adina wake up on the wrong side of the bed today? And how the heck did she come up with that number?”
I didn’t; Match.com did. In its recent survey, 47% of Canadian singles (surveyed by Match.com, but let’s not quibble over details like that) said that they would not date someone who is in debt. A whopping 94% of respondents indicated that they believe a person’s ability to manage their finances is very important.
Why do I think that between 47% and 94% of Canadians are hypocrites? Because there is an abundance of statistics demonstrating that Canadians, on the whole, are money-stupid. The average Canadian’s consumer debt load hit $27,485 at the end of 2012. Last year, another survey found that 47% of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque. Let’s not even talk about the folks nearing retirement, a lot of whom still owe money on their mortgages — if not HELOCs and credit cards — and worry about making ends meet in their golden years, having never bothered to actually save much of anything.
It’s nice that single Canucks are alert to the importance of sound personal finance; it’s just too bad that they don’t seem to be practicing what they demand. It’s one thing for people who aren’t in debt to turn their noses up at potential partners who carry debt. At least, it involves no hypocrisy. It’s another thing for the average Canadian, mired in debt with zero plan for climbing out, to be judging the financial foibles of a debtor suitor. Stones v. Glass Houses. Pot v. Kettle. Etc.
But my bigger problem with this anti-debtor dating attitude has nothing to do with hypocrisy.
One: debt does not bear a linear correlation with fiscal irresponsibility. There are more and less legitimate reasons to carry debt. Warren Buffett’s mini-LBO of Heinz does not equate to your taking on a HELOC to remodel your kitchen. There are more and less legitimate types of debt, too. While we’re talking precedents, Mortgage v. Credit Card is a cliché example. Further, people’s ability and determination when it comes to paying off debt varies and is not necessarily predictable based on the amount of debt involved. Entrepreneurs start out with debt; so do neurosurgeons (or just run-of-the-mill MDs). These are the type of people who have a much better chance at becoming wildly successful — both professionally and financially.
Two (and related to #1): most Canadians (being money-stupid) have silly ideas about debt. How many people do you know who are quick to categorize student loans as “good debt”? Never mind that there is a difference between a $30,000 loan used to acquire a B.A. and a $40,000-per-year job, and a $150,000 loan used to acquire a medical degree and a six-figure salary. What about a mortgage? That’s always “good debt”, too, right? Especially if you’re buying an investment condo in Toronto. And, while we’re at it, everyone needs a car loan because you can’t get caught driving an 03 Malibu (or you’d lose that prestigious $40,000 a year job you got with your expensive BA). These choices can be as representative of irresponsibility as any maxed-out credit card.
And so, when it comes down to it, the whole anti-debtor dating mentality tends to have so many holes and exceptions that it’s practically useless as a bona fide mate-selection tool.
Three, the whole thing is a lie. This comes back to numbers, again. Most Canadians are in debt (72% to be exact, based on a 2012 CIBC poll). The age groups most likely to hold debt were 25-34 year olds (84%) and 35-44 year olds (83%); coincidentally, these two age groups also make up over 73% of Match.com’s demographics.
If single Canadians were as picky about their potential mates’ financial pecadilloes as their survey responses would suggest, there wouldn’t much dating going on at all.