Forget “richer or poorer” – when Americans marry, they’re decidedly looking for someone to show them the money. A recent survey by the Connecticut firm, Prince & Associates, showed that two-thirds of 1,134 people polled nationwide would marry an average-looking person they liked if they had money – and by money, they meant in the ballpark of $1.5 million. Survey respondents had incomes between $30,000 and $60,000, the national median.
Russ Alan Prince, who studies the wealthy, explains the phenomenon simply: “People want to have the good life.”
“Most people get upset because it’s politically incorrect – well, so is life,” Prince says. “People want the money, it’s not a big secret. Once again, ‘I’m living on $30,000 a year, if I had a million dollars I don’t have to do this nonsense job anymore’ – that actually can be appealing to a lot of people.”
But the survey respondents were savvy enough to know that money can’t buy them love: A full 43 percent said they expected they’d probably end up divorced from their dreamed-of money mate. Though gold-digging has a long, storied history, today’s divorced daters aren’t doing it any more than in the past, says Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of “How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?”
The reality is, many men and women who divorce expect to remarry in a year or two, but are surprised when five to ten years elapse without anything magical happening, she says. The reason, in part, is that they’ve become highly selective about partners. “I have not found that money is the primary criteria although it’s always a factor for women,” Sedacca says.
More often, the selectivity revolves around understanding and avoiding the pitfalls of the first marriage. “Many divorced parents found that they originally married for the wrong reasons including putting money first and then suffered the consequences of a marriage devoid of intimacy, respect and parental collaboration,” Sedacca says. “These people certainly try to create new relationships with healthier outcomes.”
But the fact that today, more people are getting married later or for the second or third time means that there’s an increased astuteness about money and practicality about marriage in general. Family attorney Alexis Martin Neely, who runs a personal money management web site, www.FamilyWealthMatters.com, says the starry-eyed love of young twentysomething newlyweds transforms into something more no-nonsense in subsequent nuptials.
“They learn from the mistakes made early in life or in first marriages and realize that a marriage is a lot more like a business partnership in which two people are coming together to create a great life together and a lot less like the lifetime romantic love affairs that one too many Danielle Steele novels led us to believe are our destiny,” she says.
Women were more likely, overall, to consider money in the marital equation. Nearly three-quarters of surveyed women in their 30s said they’d marry for money, compared to 41 percent of men in their 20s. Char Granstra, a retirement planning expert in Rock Valley, Iowa. who remarried three years ago, says she would have had a hard time considering marrying someone who wasn’t ambitious and planning for retirement. “In other words, having worked hard myself to accumulate assets, I did not want to have to support another person in retirement because he had not paid attention to these issues himself,” she says.
Brette McWhorter Sember, a former divorce attorney and author of “No Fight Divorce,” “The Divorce Organizer & Planner,” and numerous related book, says while, obviously, no one ends a healthy marriage thinking they’ll marry up, it’s her experience that divorced women particularly do shoot higher, financially, the second time around.
“I don’t think that we can attribute this to greed – I think you ought to also consider the statistics that show that women who divorce are thrown into financial difficulty, as opposed to men who generally come out of it just fine,” Sember says. “The experience of being practically destitute can be a powerful motivator.”
Divorced women who are thrust into paycheck-to-paycheck living aren’t the only ones with an eye on financial assets while dating. Men whose income has become diluted by child support and alimony also realize the power of a partner’s financial finesse, says Pat Nowak, author of “The ABCs of Widowhood.” Some 61 percent of men in their 40s said they’d marry for money in the Prince & Associates survey.
“So finding someone to date, with substantial resources, is now considered quite acceptable,” Nowak says. “Why be poor when you can combine assets and live the life you previously did?”
Marriage has long been tied to money or the social status that goes with arranged marriages often worked to boost a family’s standing in a community, and dowries certainly padded pockets. Today’s eye on the richer over poorer is nothing new, even if it’s less overt. Accountant Daniel Gass of Sunrise, Fla., says attraction and desire arise from a complex of characteristics and criteria and money, a signal of success and abundance, is always in the mix. “Even if you don’t care if someone is rich, you may care that they be steadily employed,” he says. “That may not be considered to be ‘marrying for money,’ but I think that is only because you are not marrying for a lot of money.”
Prince, by the way, thinks the $1.5 million figure is kind of low real wealth is more in the tune of $10 million and up. And it’s not a sin to want the good life. “Let’s be realistic,” he says. “Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it solves a lot of problems.”
STAYING FINANCIALLY SAFE IN MARRIAGE
1. Think prenup.
No, they’re not sexy and they don’t exactly say “Romeo and Juliet,” but if you’ve got some cash, they’ll cover your assets if need be. Not only that, but some prescribe them as a “marriage enhancement” tool. Adryenn Ashley, author of “Spotting the Kooks,” suggests looking at prenuptial agreements as a long form of marriage vows, something to ensure marital longevity. And the 40-some hours you’ll devote will get you face-to-face with financial realities and expectations. You’ll get to know each other better, and you won’t be blindsided by bad credit scores, clashing expectations on what goes to the kids, and other major issues.
2. Talk shop.
Be aware of one another’s financial situation, goals and thought processes when it comes to spending and saving, says retirement planning specialist Char Granstra, of Rock Valley, Iowa. “It is very important, especially in second marriages,” she says, “to discuss financial issues upfront and to not only agree, but to put it in writing and utilize a good attorney to make sure that things happen as you intended.” Sit down together and talk about how money is going to be handled and budgeted, accountant Rob Seltzer of Beverly Hills, California, says: “Assumptions without discussion is just asking for trouble.”
3. Plan for the worst.
No one wants to think this out loud, but do: Never lose sight of the unpretty fact that your spouse or future spouse may not always be there. Ensure you’ve got enough independent resources to live comfortably if and when things end in death or divorce. (But while having your own account may boost feelings of independence, remember they’re not necessarily protected in divorce proceedings.) Never hand over total control of money matters. “If you are not the breadwinner in your family, make sure you are the family CFO,” says family attorney Alexis Martin Neely, who runs a personal money management web site, FamilyWealthMatters.com. That means know about your family income, insurance, savings, and other assets, and how much you’d keep in a divorce, and how much you’d have (and where paperwork is located) if widowed.


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