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Which is the worst first-date mistake – talking about an ex, eating food off your date's plate, or mentioning that you are heavily in debt?

We have no idea, but we're guessing that a second date is unlikely in all those cases. A new survey from Finder.com suggests that in the case of excessive debt, you may not get to the first date at all.

Over 70% of respondents found debt unacceptable when choosing a partner, even when distilling down into different types of debt. However, while debt may be unattractive, very few of us are completely debt-free. As of December 2017, the Federal Reserve shows $3.84 trillion of total consumer debt in America, with $1.027 trillion of that as revolving (mostly credit card) debt.

Chances are, you carry a small slice of that $3.82 trillion debt, but that doesn't necessarily mean a lonely existence. Where is the line between acceptable versus unacceptable debt, and does it matter what type of debt you owe?

Topping the list is excessive credit card debt, a turn-off for over 77.55% of survey respondents. According to the Finder.com survey, the average credit card debt level that will cause a potential date to walk away is $11,525. (Although telling a first date that you’re only $11,524 in debt will probably cause them to stop returning your calls as well.)

Payday loans came in a close second in the unattractive debt derby at 77.35%, with only $1,830 required to repel a date. Given the high interest rates associated with payday loans, it's surprising that payday loans do not top the list. The presence of a payday loan at all suggests a lack of alternatives and, in turn, questionable financial choices.

Debts that are considered investments, such as student loan or mortgage debt, do not fare much better. Student loans received a 76.20% disapproval rating, with an average of $51,000 as the cutoff level for unacceptable debt. Almost 73% of respondents found mortgage debt unacceptable, with an average debt of $305,745 enough to make a prospective partner think twice.

At least some credit is given to the job creators. The most acceptable variety of debt for daters was a business loan, with a disapproval rating of just under 71% and an average level of $153,166 raising a red flag.

The Finder.com survey finds little difference between the sexes on debt tolerance. Men and women show the same disapproval rating to within a percentage point for most varieties of debt. The one exception is debt to family and friends, which women find more unacceptable by over three percentage points.

How about generational tolerance? Baby boomers are most repelled by credit card debt while millennials are least tolerant of student loan debt – understandable since many millennials are still dealing with theirs. Generation X is the most tolerant of all forms of debt, with disapproval ratings consistently 3-8 percentage points lower than the other generations.

What's the bottom line? Relatively high levels of any particular type of debt raise red flags for potential partners, and it's up to you to explain the circumstances and overcome those red flags with your other attributes.

Debt is not necessarily a deal-breaker in a relationship, but it's important for that debt to be in the right context – a moderate amount, borrowed for a good reason, and with a solid plan to pay it back. It's also important for you to be upfront about your debt with your potential partner. Debt may be a negative to overcome, but lying about your debt is almost certain to end a relationship. The truth will eventually come out.

If you want to reduce your interest payments and lower your debt, try the free Debt Optimizer by MoneyTips.


Photo ©iStockphoto.com/PeopleImages

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