Out in paperback now: the book Smart Girls Marry Money: How Women Have Been Duped Into the Romantic Dream—And How They’re Paying For It, by Elizabeth Ford and Daniela Drake. Forget for a moment that they annoyingly refer to grown women as “girls” in their title and check out their thesis: because, for a variety of reasons, men earn more money than women, it’s a wise move to marry someone who can provide for you and your family.I haven’t read the book, so I have no idea if it is filled with sexist swill or not. But just reading this Newsweek article about the book from when it was released in hardback last year, it sounds like pretty sensible advice to me.
Before you get upset, I will acknowledge a bunch of things that I know to be true: yes, women earn less than men for a lot of sexist reasons and that discrimination must stop. Yes, mothers get “mommy-tracked” and their careers are stalled. And of course there are all kinds of misfires to the “marry rich” idea, such as the rich guy who is an a-hole. But that doesn’t change the fact that marrying a man with money can be a better idea than marrying someone who is broke.
Take me, for instance. I’m afraid I’m going to get tarred and feathered as a “bad feminist” for admitting this, but yeah, I do want to marry someone who can financially support both me and our kids.
I’m not ashamed to want to “marry for money,” if that’s what would you can even call it, because I don’t fundamentally believe it is the “man’s role” to provide for women. My actual motivations, as I see them, are pure enough. I know of great guys out there—journalists, teachers, non-profit dudes—who will probably make great dads. But I personally wouldn’t pair up with them because, realistically, our two salaries together just wouldn’t be enough to cut it for what I want out of life. But, but, but, “Bank accounts shouldn’t matter at all!” And while I agree with that in theory, sorry, a man who can provide for me and our children is just much more attractive to me.
Bank accounts—and debts—do matter. And acknowledging that doesn’t make me a gold digger akin to Anna Nicole Smith—it makes me smart.
Right now, I rent an apartment with my boyfriend and a roommate, but I’m still living at the edge of my own means as it is. I don’t make a lot of money as a journalist. I owe lots of money to student loans and unless my future husband or I have a great job prospect someplace else, I don’t want to live very far outside New York City, because that’s where the media capital of the world is right now.
Maybe this isn’t “feminist,” but, logically, I need to marry a guy who makes more money than I do—preferably a lot more money than I do—for us to be able to afford what I want and I hope he will want, too: an apartment big enough for kids, prenatal care, doctor appointments, birthday presents, vacations, summer camp, college, cars for the kids, all that stuff. I know parents can raise children well on much less. But that’s not the lifestyle I grew up with. I want to be able to give my children everything I had—maybe a little less, maybe a little more—because I think my parents did a great job.
I also would immediately disqualify entering into a sharing-bank-accounts relationship with a man who proved to be irresponsible with his cash. College loan debt is fine (I’ve got it) and a reasonable balance on the credit card debt is understandable (I’ve got that, too). But I couldn’t wrap up my life or my children’s lives around someone who spent or managed money irresponsibly. I don’t want to deal with that drama ’cause I know we’d just argue about it all the time.
True story: I used to babysit for a family in which the mom was Latina and the dad was white; she was able to receive funding from the government to start her own business as part of some kind of “minority small business ownership program.” But really, her husband, who had been laid off after 9/11, ran the business and he hired my older brother to work for him. Over the course of several months, my brother told me all about how this guy I babysat for spent money willy-nilly and eventually ran his business into the ground. Not surprisingly, this couple separated and I think eventually divorced. The last time I saw the mother, there was a moving truck in front of their house.
I realize that’s just one anecdotal story, but I’m sharing it to demonstrate a larger point: There is nothing feminist about assuming your partner’s debt. And it goes both ways—I wouldn’t blame a man for not wanting to marry a woman who spent money irresponsibly. Couples’ finances are intertwined with one another and if he screws you up, or you screw up him, bad stuff is gonna happen to both of you. That’s why a man who makes a decent amount of money and is responsible with it will always, always be more attractive to most women.
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AUTHOR’S NOTE: I wrote a response to this post, “More On Marrying For Money,” on July 1.