Saving Is Sexy

Jonathan Clements

WE DON’T PROMISE thinner thighs and harder abs here at HumbleDollar. But—unbeknownst to us—we could be the secret to your relationship success.

This revelation comes from an academic paper, “A Penny Saved Is a Partner Earned: The Romantic Appeal of Savers,” by Prof. Jenny G. Olson and Prof. Scott I. Rick, which is based on Olson’s dissertation research.

Conventional wisdom—and earlier academic work—suggest that, if men flaunt their wealth, they’re likely to have greater dating success. But it turns out that big spenders are more likely to go home alone.

The Olson and Rick paper grew out of a series of experiments, which found that savers, both men and women, were viewed as more desirable romantic partners, because they’re perceived to have greater self-control.  In truth, it isn’t clear that good savings habits and greater overall self-control really are connected. But because good savers are viewed that way, they’re seen as less likely to, say, lose their temper, drink too much or be unfaithful.

Not all the news is good. While good savings habits may help you find a long-term partner, it may not help if you’re hoping for a short-term fling. For that, it seems spenders fare just as well as savers—and sometimes even have an edge. Those who toss their money around may be viewed as more fun and exciting, and hence a better choice for a one-night stand.

“The exact same photo labeled ‘saver’ was perceived as physically more attractive than the exact same photo labeled ‘spender’,” says Olson in a YouTube video devoted to her research. “But savers were perceived as significantly less exciting.”

Still, when you’re sitting at the bar, how could anybody possibly know your financial habits? Olson ran an experiment that found we’re pretty good at sizing up who’s a saver and who’s a spender, even if no words are exchanged. Exactly how we do so isn’t clear. But maybe if folks are, say, in good physical shape or aren’t too flashy in the way they dress, we might infer they’re generally good at self-control—including being good savers.

“People’s snap judgments were incredibly accurate,” notes Olson in her video. The upshot: “Spending a lot of money to get a first date probably isn’t wise, because it conveys a lack of self-control.”

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook.

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