Sexy savers

I once went out with a guy – a fine guy – who seemed more sexy as he talked about paying off his auto loan. His enthusiasm about getting out of debt was attractive. However by dessert, he shifted the conversation to the type of car he was going to upgrade to – with a loan – not long after he paid off the car in question.

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He did not get a second date.

Two researchers at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business have done work that “sheds light on how a fundamental consumption behavior (spending and saving decisions) influences the formation of romantic relationships.”

“The desire to attract a romantic partner often stimulates conspicuous consumption, but we find that people who chronically save are more romantically attractive than people who chronically spend,” wrote Jenny G. Olson and Scott Rick in their paper “A Penny Saved is a Partner Earned: The Romantic Appeal of Savers.”

Yeah baby.

“In the economically uncertain postrecession era, many surveys and studies have shown that being responsible with money — perhaps even to the point that you might be considered cheap — bodes well for your love life,” writes Brad Tuttle of Time Magazine.

When the authors ran an experiment in which participants had to evaluate dating profiles, savers were deemed the better catches, reports Chris Taylor of Reuters.

They write that that there are several reasons to believe that savers will generally be preferred to spenders in romantic contexts. Savers may be viewed as having greater financial resources while spenders are viewed as more materialistic.

“It is notable that we observed this pattern in the shadow of the Great Recession, a time in which people who chronically spend may be viewed as especially irresponsible,” they say. “Whether savers continue to be preferred in times of economic abundance (when active saving is less necessary for financial survival) is an important open question.”

When the topic “Savers Are Sexy” was posted on Reddit, a social news and entertainment site, the feedback was mixed.

“Financial responsibility gets my engine going, aww yee,” wrote Octopushug. “It helps demonstrate that a person is most likely confident enough in him/herself and their self worth without plastering every sort of name brand and, god forbid, SWAG all over the place. It also suggests the person is most likely relatively mature, is able to plan for the long term, may be generally responsible and considerate in other areas as well, and is able to delay gratification. On the other side, a miser isn’t that great either. Moderation is key.”

Lonelyfriend wrote on Reddit: “Being frugal is not sexy, though. When you go on dates you are always thinking ‘Are you really worth a 60 dollars meal on a Friday night? I could have lunch every day with this budget.’”

The researchers concluded, “savers may win in the dating market, but only when potential mates do not crave excitement.”

That suggest that savers can’t be exciting. You don’t have to spend a lot to have fun. I married a saver and after almost 22 years of marriage, I still find him super sexy and exciting, especially when he’s saving us money.

What about you?

Color of Money Question of the Week

Do you find savers sexy? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Sexy Savers” in the subject line and include your full name, city and state. Or tweet your response to @SingletaryM #moneyquest.

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The Freshman 15

You might have heard about the freshman 15, the additional pounds many freshmen pack on during their first year of college.

Cameron Huddleston of Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine puts a financial spin on the freshman 15. Here are some things freshman should avoid to prevent unhealthy financial flab, Huddleston says:

-- Don’t take too long to graduate. A Sallie Mae survey found that although 92 percent of students said they would graduate college in five years or fewer, between 60 percent and 75 percent actually take six years to get a degree.

-- Don’t neglect to use student discounts.

-- Don’t wait until graduating to start paying down student loans.

Debt Pumps Up Young Adult’s Blood Pressure

“Researchers from Northwestern University found that adults ages 24 to 32 with high financial debt are more likely to have poorer self-reported health (both mental and physical), as well as higher diastolic blood pressure,” the Huffington Post reports.

As the site points out, diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number on a blood-pressure reading indicating that pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

“You wouldn’t necessarily expect to see associations between debt and physical health in people who are so young,” Elizabeth Sweet, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement. “We need to be aware of this association and understand it better. Our study is just a first peek at how debt may impact physical health.”

Priced Out of Marriage

A research paper by University of Virginia sociologist Sarah Corse and Harvard sociologist Jennifer Silva found that middle-income families can afford to spend the money to maintain the intimacy of their marriage or deal with troubled children while working-class people are priced out of the institution.

So for last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “Is marriage a middle-income luxury?”

Arisha Williams wrote on my Facebook page, “No, being single has become too expensive! Two are better than one.”

Valerie James wrote: “The destabilization of our society is based on the destabilization of the family. People (husbands and wives) need to know the difference between a want and a need. They need to know the meaning of love and respect and apply them in their marriage. They need to have a common goal and be willing to work together for it. And then lead by example to raise their children to know these things.”

Another reader wrote: “I think we can all agree that marriage is not the problem; life has gotten too expensive for the labor class to survive. It just impacts marriage because children suffer from this poor economic condition our government has decided we should get used to.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.

 
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