Show me the love — and the checkbook

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 | 11:58 a.m. CDT; updated 9:07 a.m. CDT, Monday, May 7, 2012

BOONVILLE — What does success mean to you?

Ashley Hicklin, 27, defines success in two parts: financial security and personal happiness.

For Hicklin, financial security doesn't necessarily mean having a lot of money or being in a higher tax bracket. Over a plate of pancakes at 87 Diner, she put it this way: "You don't have any debt that you can't pay. And you're comfortable. You're not living strictly paycheck to paycheck."

Hicklin's debts include a loan on her 2005 red Ford Mustang, a "toy" she purchased in addition to her day-to-day car (a 2007 Ford Escape) and a 2011 Iron 883 Harley Davidson. She has a mortgage on her three-bedroom house, which she says is much less than what the home is actually worth.

Yet she also has a stable job as a subrogation specialist for Shelter Insurance, steady income and savings in case of unplanned expenses. So, what constitutes financial security? Is it having six months of "survival" money in the bank, or is it popular financial adviser Dave Ramsey’s no-debt lifestyle?

Hicklin got married in 2007; the relationship ended in 2011 in a amicable divorce. She said dating now as a woman who's been-there-done-that is different than when she was younger. She knows what she wants in a potential spouse. One of her criteria: A man who's got his life together.

So one question she asks of suitors these days: Are you financially stable?

I wonder how many 20-somethings know the answer to that question? And how does that affect marriage and divorce rates?

A 2009 study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University confirmed what people have been told repeatedly: The frequency of disagreements over money and finances between married couples is a strong predictor of divorce.

Hicklin said finances weren't the root of the cause of her divorce, but financial stability is a strong consideration for her now.

What are the qualities single people look for in potential partners? And how do these qualities differ with age?

This story is part of the American Next, a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times.

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