Valentine's Day: 5 money mistakes that can kill the love

Love and marriage may go together like a horse and carriage, but personal finances can often un-hitch a couple. 

Valentine's Day may be a celebration of romance, but it's also a day when would-be Romeos and Juliets get tripped up by financial pitfalls, such as misjudging how much to spend on that candle-lit dinner. But it also underscores a deeper problem that many encounter in their relationships -- when partners have different approaches to handling their money. 

Financial stress is a leading source of relationship trouble, often coming when one partner is a saver and the other is a spender. Yet more than half of Americans say they don't consider whether their potential partner is good at handling their money before they jump into an exclusive relationship, according to a new study from lender Affirm. That could spell problems later on. 

"Most Americans in committed relationships say financial mistakes made by their partners as a result of bad money management are what upsets them most," said Elizabeth Allin, vice president of communications at Affirm. "There's a disconnect between what we're prioritizing when we date someone versus the expectations we have once we're committed."

One place to start: your potential partner's credit score. Americans with higher credit scores are 14 percent more likely to find love within the next year compared with singles who have scores 100 points lower, the Federal Reserve found in a 2015 study

Perhaps more important for long-lasting love, couples with similar credit scores are more likely to stick together, the Fed found. That could reflect a shared outlook about financial management and obligations. 

But many Americans aren't honest with their partners about their financial details, a trait that can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Men are more secretive, with only about half telling their partners how much they earn, according to a survey from financial firm Aspiration. About sixty percent of women spill the beans about their finances to their partners, it found. 

It's better to be upfront with your partner, said Affirm's Allin.

"According to our research, talking about financial goals and habits transparently can be a factor in a long partnership -- only 4 percent of couples who have been married for over 20 years say it's hard to discuss finances," she noted. 

Here are five money mistakes that could doom your romance. 

Spending too much on a first date. On Valentine's Day, it might be better to ease up on lavish spending, at least if it's a first date. Only one out of 10 women surveyed by Affirm said it was reasonable for their date to spend more than $100, although one-quarter of men said they thought it was the right amount to spend. "Women tend to be more aware of expenses and concerned about unnecessary spending than men, despite the assumption by some men that they must spend a lot to impress right out of the gate," Allin said. 

Incurring bank fees -- and library fines. Bank fees such as overdraft charges are considered turnoffs by potential partners, Affirm found. That's because these fees can signal a lack of financial control and result in charges that could have typically been avoided. But respondents said other types of avoidable fees were also red flags -- including parking tickets, credit card late fees and even library fines. 

"When it comes to small mistakes, men and women agreed they would be most upset about a bank account overdraft fee, but nearly half of women ranked this as No. 1 compared to 37 percent of men," Allin said.

Not being financially transparent. Most Americans want to know the nitty-gritty of their partner's financial situation before they tie the knot, including sharing their credit scores and how much they spend on bills. Almost one-third of married millennials said they later regretted not finding out more about their partner's finances before getting hitched, compared with 14 percent of boomers. 

Having a lousy credit score. Men and women agree that a low credit score is a turnoff, according to Affirm. A majority of those with scores above 750 -- considered to be a good score -- take responsibility for paying bills, compared with only 37 percent of those in the subprime range. 

Hiding credit cards or assets from your partner. It's not uncommon for Americans to hide assets, credit cards or bank accounts from their significant others, an action that can lead to relationship stress. About 15 million U.S. adults who are currently in live-in relationship say they're guilty of such "financial infidelity," according to CreditCards.com. Such secrecy can add stress to a relationship -- as well as emotional devastation if the partner discovers the hidden financial activity.