Student loan debt is causing headaches — in more ways than one.
A third of student loan borrowers report that their debt has decreased their sex drive, according to a new study by Student Loan Hero, an online resource for student borrowers.
Researcher Shannon Insler dug into the love lives of more than 1,000 people with student loan debt after completing a study in September about the physical manifestations of debt stress. She was surprised when—in addition to gastrointestinal problems and headaches—respondents in the study described their diminished libido.
Lying about debt
Insler also found that:
- Over a third of student loan borrowers have lied about their debt to their partner.
- A quarter have kept it a secret from their partner.
- 18 percent said it’s okay to lie about money.
Talking about student loan debt shouldn’t be shameful, especially considering that 70 percent of graduates are coming out of school with loans to pay, and more than 44 million Americans have student loan debt.
The solution to all this: More communication and less guilt.
“I don’t think it should be a taboo topic,” Insler says. “If I’m sitting in a coffee shop and I hear people talking about finances, I want to give them a high five.”
Debt doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker
Debt shouldn’t be perceived as a red flag for people looking for (or seeking) love. In fact, the study shows that people are open to choosing a partner with debt.
Over a third of student loan borrowers have lied about their debt to their partner
Seventy-two percent of respondents said having a partner who can budget properly is one of the most appealing financial traits. Less than a third said having no student loan debt was the most important qualification. (Only 9 percent are looking for a partner with a trust fund, by the way. Huzzah!)
“If the love of your life has a ton of debt, you can figure it out,” says Erin Wiley, a licensed therapist based in Toledo, Ohio who worked with the researchers.
Insler found the focus on good financial habits encouraging.
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“They’re looking at the bigger picture,” Insler says of respondents. “It’s more important how their partner manages the debt than whether they have it at all.”
Don’t let debt destroy a good thing
The study also corroborated other research showing that debt worries lead to postponed relationship milestones.
Insler found that 46 percent of respondents delayed starting a family, 35 percent delayed talk of marriage, 25 percent delayed moving in together, and 13 percent even delayed a first date.
“Everyone’s so stressed about their future and their own financial capabilities that they don’t want to tie themselves to anyone,” Insler says.
But again, perhaps borrowers need not feel so much shame. Even among millennials and the subsequent Generation Z, known for its financial pragmatism, money isn’t close to the most important trait in a partner, according to Wiley.
People still value traits such as kindness, a sense of humor, and the ability to enjoy life as traits they’re looking for.
Often, money and lack of debt are not even on the list, Wiley says.