Between the (budget) sheets.

thRecently a financial company called Yodlee sent me a study about how financial worries influence sex habits. An astonishing (to me) 48% of U.S. students over age 18 find that concerns about cash affect their intimacy with romantic partners.

In fact, more than one-third (36%) of people aged 18 to 34 said that money woes affect their sex drives.

And here I thought that sex was one of those inexpensive things that could help take your mind off your bank balance.

This isn’t just po’ folks wondering how they’ll pay the rent, mind you. Of those with household incomes of $100k or more, 26% suffer “altered libidos” due to financial fears. That’s the same percentage as those earning $50,000 to $74,900 per year, and actually higher than those making $75,000 to $99,900 (19%).

The study also notes that women worry more about money: 77% think about it more often than they do sex, compared to 46% of men.

That part didn’t surprise me because, well, guys. But also because as a group women:

  • Generally earn less
  • Usually live longer
  • Spend more time out of the workforce caring for kids and elders (which means not just fewer opps for advancement but also diminished retirement contributions)
  • Use more of our funds on children when divorced/separated, and maybe even on them as adults if they have to move back in after college

(See some of the comments from readers in “Blowback from Mary Hunt’s book giveaway.” Scary, scary stuff.)

If they could turn back time…

I guess that’s why one-third of all those surveyed said they’d lost sleep worrying about their finances, and why about two in five (39%) of U.S. residents point to money as the single biggest stressor of their lives.

That’s a lot of numbers, to be sure. But here’s the one that really stands out for me: When asked what they’d change if they could go back five years, about half of the adults said they’d alter their spending and saving habits.

(It’s worth noting that none of them said, “I’d have more sex. Lots more. Without worrying about it.”)

This kind of “oh, if only…” talk is counterproductive, because it focuses on what we can’t change. We cannot retrofit the past with smarter moves. What we can do is let former gaffes inform future goals.

Sure, five years ago would have been a great time to start putting money in a retirement plan. The second-best time? Today.

Maybe you shouldn’t have spent so much money on shopping trips, meals out, latest-iteration tech and collectible figurines. However, that 20/20 hindsight can help you focus more clearly on what’s in front of you. Re-do your budget, maybe sell some of the stuff you bought and for heaven’s sake learn a few basic cooking techniques.

(About that last: I recommend “Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half,” as well as the recipe archives on the author’s Budget Bytes website.)

Creating true intimacy

Despite my earlier flippancy about sex taking your mind off your wallet, I’m well aware of how the economy affects emotions.

It’s hard to feel like a desirable partner if you’re judging yourself (rightly or wrongly) for not being a successful provider. Even in a two-income relationship, fears of looming bills can completely erase sex drive in one or both partners.

Yet I also know that working together for a common financial goal – whether that’s retiring early or simply making bank each month during hard times – can create a powerful intimacy. When you and a partner tackle an issue together, each small, shared victory takes you one step closer to more permanent solutions.

An attitude of “Why us?” can (and should!) be retooled. Try something like, “Look how hard we’re working to fix things, and always looking for ways to improve the odds.”

Not easy. Not fun. So tiring. But at times of personal financial crises, when so much is out of your control, you can make a very specific choice: whether to consider yourselves victims or victors. Celebrate every win, even if it’s just another $5 paid against consumer debt.

P.S. One thing never to skimp on? Birth control. No foreplay without  forethought! That’s one investment that will pay off, until you’re ready to create some little dividends of your own.

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  1. “Little dividends” Ha! Just made my day…

    • Donna Freedman

      Happy to hear it. 🙂

    • Jessie

      My grandfather always referred to us as his dividends, referring to the payback for working hard and investing time and effort into his family. I can’t hear the word dividends without remembering him watching us play with a smile on his face.


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