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Old 07-08-2009, 10:52 AM   #1
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Smart "Girls" Marry Money?

Love Me, Love My Bank Account

A new book asks whether women should marry for money after all.

Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert
Newsweek Web Exclusive

"It's as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one." Some elderly aunt probably offered that advice at some point and you probably dismissed it. You vowed to marry only when you found The One, and his bank account would not be a factor. That's certainly the prevailing view of marriage, American style, in 2009. It's supposed to be a love match between two people who somehow sense that they are meant to be together forever. Admiring her intended's bottom line (the financial one, that is) automatically makes a woman a gold digger. Even the late Anna Nicole Smith, no rocket scientist, understood that being accused of marrying just for money was an insult. She married oil tycoon Howard Marshall Smith when he was 89 and she was 26. "It just so happens," she once said, "that I get turned on by liver spots."

In June, the prime month for weddings, it may seem heretical to suggest that romantic love is not the only requirement for a successful marriage. But that's what the authors of a provocative new book advocate. In Smart Girls Marry Money, Elizabeth Ford, a news producer, and Daniela Drake, a physician, argue that despite the gains women have made in the last few decades, we still earn considerably less than men (especially if we are mothers). A husband's paycheck is still critical. "We gals just haven't come far enough or fast enough," they say. "We know it's important to take the long view of things, but as we've heard said, in the long view, we'll all be dead."

Then there's divorce. Ford and Drake say that since women suffer economically much more than men when they get divorced, snagging a good provider is ultimately critical to an equitable settlement. And if current statistics hold, half of new couples are likely to eventually split up. Given that depressing reality, Ford and Drake say that a husband's earning power is a more important indicator of a woman's future happiness than his cute smile. "If the marriage crashes," they write, "it's the women who are exposed to an extremely high risk of poverty." They urge their readers to look for a Mr. Right "who just happens to be Mr. Rich."

While we're not quite ready to give up on the romantic ideal, the book did get us thinking about why a woman chooses a particular mate. As Ford and Drake point out, romantic love is a relatively new concept. Throughout most of the last 10,000 years, couples got together for economic reasons or for duty to their family. And much of the time, it was the families who arranged the unions. The idea of a bride and groom actually choosing to be together was considered disruptive, says anthropologist Helen Fisher in her book Why We Love. "This mercurial force could lead to suicide or homicide," she writes. "Even worse, it could upset the delicate web of social ties."

Arranged marriages are still popular in many cultures, and there are some indications that the appeal of these unions might be catching on, even in 21st-century America. Both Fox and CBS are reportedly developing reality shows based on the concept. In the Fox version, called I Married a Stranger, friends and family select a spouse from a pool chosen by producers. The CBS show, Arranged Marriage, tracks one couple through the process, while Fox will feature a different couple each week. Perhaps that's a logical next step when you consider the fact that the so-called love matches on shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have rarely led to long-term relationships, much less the altar.

A marriage based on more practical considerations can ultimately become a loving one. But in the past, that didn't really matter. As long as a couple fulfilled their obligation by staying together, one partner (usually the male) could look elsewhere for affection. Today we place higher demands on marriage. Spouses are supposed to be true to each forever (and with increased life expectancies, that can mean 50 or 60 years for the lucky ones who don't divorce). So the choice we make in our mid-20s (the average age of first marriages in America) has to be a pretty smart one.

How do we decide? There's a lot of research on the subject, and what scientists have found goes a long way toward explaining the current high divorce rate. In her fascinating book, Fisher says timing is a huge factor. You are more likely to feel that you are "in love" if you are already emotionally aroused. That can be caused by lots of things—suffering through a difficult experience like moving to a new city or recovering from a failed relationship, for example. Once you are in that emotional state, proximity helps. It's a little like the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream, where a little love juice sprinkled in the eyes (the metaphorical equivalent of emotional arousal) makes someone inclined to adore the first person he or she spots.

Despite the conventional wisdom that opposites attract, Fisher says that we generally marry people who are very much like us, who share the same ethnic, social, religious, educational and economic background. And people who have the same level of physical attractiveness and intelligence, as well as similar values, interests and social and emotional skills. Since some of these traits (such as intelligence and social skills) are influenced by DNA, scientists think that at least a portion of the attraction we feel is genetically driven. We seek similar genetic types.

Beyond these characteristics, women and men seek different things, Fisher says. For example, men are attracted by facial and body symmetry. Evolutionary biologists say this preference has evolved because women with these characteristics are more likely to bear healthy children, and propagating the species is what we're all about. Women tend to be attracted by a man's status in the world. That can express itself in many ways—intelligence, a self-confident personality, even height. Women also appear to be hard-wired to look for men who have strong cheekbones and jaws—traits associated with testosterone.

In the last couple of centuries, as women have gained more financial and legal autonomy, the idea of romantic love has played a greater role in the choice. That's reinforced by popular culture, which celebrates the idea of soulmates miraculously finding each other. As women have been able to earn more, researchers have found that the importance of a man's earning power in this equation appears to have declined somewhat. In their own admittedly unscientific survey, Ford and Drake say they found the same thing: "Our survey of women in their twenties revealed that most have no preference for a man with money . . . Some girls even said they would go for a subordinate 'if he was cute'." For lower-income women, though, money is still critical. One recent study of single mothers, for example, concluded that many would have married the father of their children—if he'd had a job. But a man without a paycheck? No way. Many studies have also shown that couples fight more about money than about any other single issue (including sex or how to raise the kids), and that's even more true in times of economic difficulty, like now.

Ideally, of course, we would all marry men who keep our hearts and our bank accounts overflowing with joy. If that describes your marriage, great. If not, Ford and Drake's advice might be worth listening to—as an antidote to all the overly sentimental views of marriage that surround us. "Falling in love does feel good," they say, "but the problems arise when we make it our number one priority." That's probably not a message June brides want to hear right now, but at least a few will probably wish they had once the honeymoon's over.
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Old 07-08-2009, 11:00 AM   #2
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So there will be a new book that asks whether men should marry for looks after all?
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Old 07-08-2009, 11:03 AM   #3
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So there will be a new book that asks whether men should marry for looks after all?
I agree that it's the same standard-you're valuing the guy for money and not for who he is as a human being

Feministe » Marrying for Money

"The feminist argument, of course, is that we need to battle things like wage and resource inequality instead of just telling women to marry rich; I imagine the authors of this book would respond by arguing that that’s great in the long-term, but in the here-and-now it’s smarter for women to marry wealthier men. Jessica Wakeman, a feminist colleague of mine from college, weighs in to say that she hopes to marry someone with money and wouldn’t pair up with “journalists, teachers, [or] non-profit dudes,” because her own career aspirations won’t give her the kind of lifestyle she wants for herself and her children.

I can understand the feeling. It would be very nice to be able to make a career as a writer or blogger and still live in a really nice apartment, take vacations, and raise children with all the trappings of the upper middle class (I’ll also note that it’s a sad story when “pre-natal care” and “doctor’s appointments” go on a list of what are ostensibly lifestyle “extras” that money can buy). Some people manage to do it, but they’re few and far between. In reality, the vast majority of freelance journalists and writers aren’t making much, and if you want those extras, you’re going to have to find a way to pay for them. Having someone else provide them while you pursue your passion is understandably tempting.

But nothing in life, as they say, is free, and in our society, money is power. To expect — to plan, even — to find a wealthy man who will underwrite your lifestyle in traditionally gendered ways while also believing that you won’t be expected to reciprocate through doing more than 50% of the traditionally female work of child and home care strikes me as naive at best. While people organize their families is myriad ways, and while there are plenty of egalitarian relationships in which one partner makes most of the money, it’s much harder to have an equal partnership when one partner holds the purse strings — especially when that partner is male in a society where male heads-of-household have long maintained power in the family through financial control. Again, not saying that egalitarian heterosexual relationships are impossible just because the man makes more money, but if you seek out a partner because of what they can contribute financially — specifically so that they can contribute a large amount in order to support you – it does seem a little naive to think that they won’t expect you to support them in parallel gendered ways. Maybe you’ll get lucky and they won’t. But money doesn’t usually come for free. Even the phrasing — finding someone to “support me and our kids” makes it pretty clear who would be in charge, and who is being put in the same category as dependent children.

And all that aside, even if you and your partner have a 100% egalitarian relationship regardless of who makes what, it strikes me as a little immature to expect that an upper-middle-class lifestyle is best attainable through a princess fantasy. Adults have to make decisions about wants, needs, and what to sacrifice. It’s part of being a grown-up. Sometimes, you can’t do exactly what you want to do and have exactly what you want to have. Responsible decision-making often requires re-evaluating your priorities and making compromises.

And of course, the very option of finding a rich man to marry, or the option of choosing to stay in a low-paying career, isn’t available for a lot of women — especially women who are just getting by financially. There are only so many rich men in the world, so feminists are going to have to come up with something better than this is we want to better the circumstances of all women.

I don’t object to the notion that finances should play some role in who you partner with, especially if you’re getting married or sharing property or bank accounts. Tying your finances to the finances of someone who is fiscally irresponsible is a decidedly bad idea. But “responsible” and “rich” are worlds apart. Partnering or marrying someone with a similar financial outlook and similar goals is probably a good idea; I personally would resent being with someone who expected me to financially support them, or who wasn’t willing to contribute to half of the household expenses, or who was such a scrimper that they were never willing to splurge on a great dinner or a vacation. Someone who is super-frugal and puts every penny in savings, or someone who wants a partner to pay for all of their stuff, probably would not want to be with me. But financial compatability is a long way away from wanting to “marry rich” so that one party can financially support the other.

And there is the fundamental question of how we want to value other human beings. Feminists understandably object to women being traditionally valued for their physical appearance and their subservience; we often also object to men being traditionally valued for their breadwinner status and earning potential. The problem isn’t valuing financial security; the problem is expecting that someone else provide it for you, as opposed to being a partner in providing it, together, for each other and any children. To expect that you can pursue a low-paying passion while someone else comes along and pays for you to live the lifestyle you desire is pretty entitled. "
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Old 07-08-2009, 11:11 AM   #4
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I have nothing against stay-at-home mothers who can afford to do what they do, and use their nurturing abilities in a positive way. It's okay to desire a man who has succeeded in life.

However, I despise the gold-digger mentality.

Sure, it's "smart," in a Madoff kind of way.
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Old 07-08-2009, 12:28 PM   #5
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I married for love......26 years. Neither my husband and I were rich. If fact, we had nothing, but love. It worked out.
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Old 07-08-2009, 12:51 PM   #6
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The one woman I know who married for "safety" (which is what marrying for money means to me) is now miserable. But she can't leave her husband because while there is enough money while they are together she won't have enough if she leaves him. Plus, most of the people who marry for money (or looks) seem to move on and marry someone else much quicker (or have affairs sooner) than those who marry for love.
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:27 PM   #7
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Smart girls cover all the bases. So do smart boys.

They can also distinguish financial compatibility, earning potential and spending habits from "money" as markers of deeper beliefs and values that are the real basis of long-term commitment and happiness.
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:35 PM   #8
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The most important thing is friendship. If you can't stand being around someone money won't solve it. When it comes to money it's not how much you make but how much you save. If people have modest incomes or even small incomes they can make it with tight budgets. This requires a control in expectations. Men shouldn't marry just for looks and women shouldn't marry just for money.
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:46 PM   #9
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and when you're gay, you can marry for looks AND money.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by purpleoscar View Post
Men shouldn't marry just for looks and women shouldn't marry just for money.
I'm marrying for both next time around...

I married for love the first time around, and all I got was a broken heart and debt...
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:29 PM   #11
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and when you're gay, you can marry for looks AND money.
Don't be silly, you gays can't get married and bring what you do behind closed doors into the public.
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:49 PM   #12
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I married for love the first time around, and all I got was a broken heart and debt...
I know it's hard nowadays since many people don't know what they want so if you marry them they could change on you 5 - 10 years down the road and pull the rug from under you.

Hey it always could be worse:

Police call McNair killing a murder-suicide - CNN.com

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Old 07-08-2009, 07:43 PM   #13
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I love the way girls is in inverted commas.
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Old 07-08-2009, 07:47 PM   #14
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I'm marrying for both next time around...

I married for love the first time around, and all I got was a broken heart and debt...
That does tend to happen if you don't make them aware who is boss.
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Old 07-08-2009, 08:20 PM   #15
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Smart girls let him think he's the boss.
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