Have millennials been shortchanged when it comes to their financial outlook? When it comes to money matters in life, including the dating scene, home ownerships, and even starting a family, some would argue they have, especially in comparison to their parents. And this is a big deal, as this generation is the second most populous one in Canada (21.5% of Canadians) and is the fastest-growing cohort (2021 Census, Statistics Canada). And yet, so many of us shy away from openly discussing our finances – it’s still taboo, even though money matters can affect every aspect of our lives.

Toronto Star Business Reporter Ghada Alsharif is tackling these topics head on with real Canadian Millennials, having no-holds-barred discussions about everything from dating to starting a new business, in her “Millennial Money” podcast. After these frank discussions, Alsharif is getting expert insight to help us navigate these sometimes embarrassing issues to show there is a light at the end of this financial tunnel!

Let’s start with the dating scene! We have questions!

What major takeaways have you noted about dating and expectations in today’s financial landscape?

Ghada: In Season 3, Episode 2 of Millennial Money, “Dating during an affordability crisis,” we speak to a 32 year-old fashion designer who opens up about the financial pressures women face on the dating scene. She worries that she is running out of time, which is a concern for a lot of women that want to have children. She also talked about certain societal pressures, especially pertaining to her appearance. She said she spends hundreds of dollars on grooming, hair removal, makeup, outfits. She feels that doing that stuff is necessary to keep the attention of potential suitors. These societal pressures are very real and for many women it feels very difficult to not do these things. There’s pressure for women to look a certain way, pressure of your biological clock, women feel like they’re running out of time and need to find someone as soon as possible to settle down with. It’s not that men don’t have their own pressures to perform and impress in their own ways, but this particular episode was about this one woman and her pressures.

Our parents believe that the guy (traditionally speaking) pays for the date night. But in today’s world what is more realistic?

Ghada: Based on the conversations that we’ve had with many millennials for the podcast, we live in a high-inflation, high-interest rate environment that is increasing the cost of living at unprecedented rates. So, traditional expectations of dating don’t necessarily apply to today’s world. I think it comes down to what each individual is able to do at this point. A lot of people choose to split the bill, but there are some that believe that those traditional expectations still hold. Like our guest on Episode 2, for example, because women do still have a lot of traditional societal pressures despite financial expectations being out of line with what they were for generations before.

Some believe that if they’ve spent money on prepping for a date, then they shouldn’t have to flip the bill for dinner and drinks? Can you give some examples from interviews you’ve had?

Ghada: The best example is a woman I mentioned in Episode 2. She really laid out a bunch of examples of her experiences from dating. When we asked her if she has tried to spend less money on grooming, clothing and makeup and all of those things that women are told to buy, she said the person she was seeing had ghosted her when she put in less effort – or at least that’s the connection she made and she felt like it was not a realistic thing for her to do. I think it’s an interesting and important conversation to have.

Assuming we are all grown adults and earning our own living — is there any way to keep costs under control and set the financial boundaries politely without things being awkward?

Ghada: While I’m not an expert, in the Millenial Money Podcast we do take a lot of the concerns of our guests who talk about various financial issues that many millennials are grappling with and talk to experts who help break down how to set some of those boundaries for yourself and with others. One of the biggest things that we do talk about is how to deal with the cost of living, which is getting increasingly more expensive, under control, and the main takeaway was setting boundaries. One example of a boundary is to have more open conversations about your finances and to be more intentional with having those conversations. While those conversations are very scary, and we’re taught to feel shame around debt and finances, this doesn’t have to be the case, especially because so many of us are dealing with the same situation.

We are in tougher financial times all around as we continue to recover from the pandemic. Eating and drinking out has become more expensive. What other tips do you have based on your discussions to help maneuver through dates today so we can build a potential future together as couples?

Ghada: The financial expert we had on Episode 2, Happy Go Money author Melissa Leong, discusses dating and affordability and was great about breaking down how to have these discussions. For example, she suggested creating a budget specifically for dating the same way you would for a gym membership or an entertainment fund, for example. She talks about making the effort to research and go on cheaper dates if you are concerned about finances, doing things like making food together and having movie nights at home. Also it doesn’t hurt to have that honest and healthy conversation about where you’re at with your finances. The expert we spoke to said that when we are true to ourselves and where we are at in our lives, we can often find the most meaningful connections.

Millenial Money Podcast screenshot

The “Millennial Money” Podcast is definitely worth checking out. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and wherever you listen to your favourites.