The term gold-digger immediately elicits a pronounced response: revulsion. A woman who latches onto a guy (usually; other scenarios apply of course) solely due to his existing or perceived future wealth. Regardless of what she thinks of this man as a person, she has one focus – money. Well, what about a “rational/moderate gold-digger”?photo credit: appears in too many places to figure out.
Some will view this post as perhaps tasteless, stereotypical and unrelated to typical content here. Well, keep an open mind and consider the topic objectively – from an economic incentive/human behavior angle as opposed to your own personal relationship. The intent is to make you think, not insult you.
I was having a conversation with my wife the other day – you know, the insipid yet entertaining conversation where you say “what if this, what if that, what’s the real reason we got together, if I died would you re-marry, etc.?”. We got to talking about the usual ridiculous scenarios like what she’d do to me (actually, what she’d pay someone else to do to me) if I ever got caught cheating, etc…you know, you’ve all been there. Anyway, in jest, I said, “If we divorced or I died, you’d totally go for a rich guy. You’d never marry someone who didn’t have money”. While I expected her reply to be “That’s not true, money’s no object; that’s insulting…”, she said, “So? At least I admit it!”. I was initially surprised by this blunt admission and yelled half-jokingly, “See! You’re a Gold-Digger. Why the Hell’d you marry me?”. However, she qualified it with,
“I’m wasn’t gonna marry a slacker. I expect my husband to work hard and have similar goals and aspirations. I’m a hard worker and I’m ambitious; I’m not going to marry someone who doesn’t take their career and money seriously. I want my kids to be able to go to college; I want them to travel. I don’t want to have to work into my seventies. I want a certain lifestyle for my family and I don’t think I’d be happy in a marriage where we couldn’t do those things”.
I said, “So, if you fell in love with a starving artist or musician, you wouldn’t marry him?”. She replied that she’d never fall in love with someone like that to begin with. It’s a chicken or the egg scenario I guess, but her argument has merit. When I think about it, most of the couples we know have very specific traits in common. While there’s something to be said for opposites attracting (for instance, extrovert vs. introvert in our marriage, distaste in each others’ music, my disdain and her love of romantic comedies, etc.), now that I think about many of our friends, family and co-workers,
There’s often a strong correlation in couples related to:
- College Degreed vs. Non-Degreed – very few mixed combinations
- Hard Workers vs. Slackers – both tend to be one or the other
- Ambitious vs. Ambivalent – both are usually very passionate/interested in success, money, health, the kids, whatever or they’re not
For instance, in about 95% of our acquaintance couples, both partners have either a college degree or they don’t. My wife and I each have a B.S. and a Masters. We have a mix of friends/family that are either non-degreed or both degreed. There are a couple exceptions. Even though my wife’s home with the kids now and now that it’s been several years across 3 kids and I joke that she’ll never go back to teaching, I’m still acutely aware of her intelligence, ambition and her dedication to her role. I never had an appreciation for how many hours a teacher actually works per week until we moved in together. Similarly, the 60-90 hours per week I worked earlier in my career weren’t lost on her either. Now that I moved out of an Operations role, I’ve replaced about 30 hours per week with kid stuff from 6-9PM and blog work from 9-11PM many nights. We still don’t often sit around watching TV or sleep 8 hours now that our career demands have changed. There’s stuff to do!
In looking at other factors, in cases where someone’s a really hard worker, a hustler, someone who makes things happen, their spouse is too. The opposite is often true as well.
*Disclosure: Admittedly, I am somewhat lazy around the house compared to both my wife and other husbands in comparision – I admit it. I don’t whittle new bookshelves for the kids or put in new French Doors at the snap of a finger. My wife does all the laundry at night while I blog – (which is much more enjoyable) and when a kid’s crying, it’s usually my wife getting out of bed to comfort them. I’m not claiming to be the hardest working guy you’ll ever meet. I’d just put my wife and I at least in the same ballpark though.
This exercise also isn’t meant to convey that if you don’t have a college degree, you’re not a hard worker and won’t realize financial success. In fact, many non-degreed friends and family we know are business owners, hustlers (in a positive sense), and possess better technical and leadership skills than many white collar professionals we know and work with. Be it running a landscaping company, a restaurant, a computer tech, a CAD expert or whatever career it is, many people realize success in life in these fields with no degree. Note that a very prominent topic today is whether college costs are even worth it, bucking the conventional wisdom that a college degree was the only way to ensure success in America.
Regardless, I don’t know if this is an initial attraction thing, if people change once they get married and a dominant factor takes over both personalities consistently or if it’s something else, but there seems to be a strong correlation in these factors at least amongst the couple dozen people in mind.
Wall Street Divorces: The Gold-Diggers that Married Multi-Millionaires
Here’s an interesting study in gold-digging (this is great). I have a buddy who’s intimately involved in the legal/financial proceedings of high net worth divorces – many of which are in the Wall Street crowd given his clientele and locale. In 2008, as the economic collapse unfolded, the news pundits quipped authoritatively that we’re going to see a spike in divorces amongst the Wall Street crowd. The logic was that so many of these trophy wives married rich Wall Street employees with money on their mind and now that they were getting laid off, seeing bonuses chopped, etc., these gold-diggers were going to walk – the value proposition change. It sounded plausible given the stereotypes of gold-diggers targeting rich guys.
A year later, at least according to my friend, that’s not how it played out. Get this – what actually started to happen, was, instead of wives saying to themselves, “OK, I want out. I married this guy for a 7 figure salary and now he’s unemployed”, what actually happened was these rich Wall street guys were initiating divorces. What?
These guys are now having conversations with their accountants and divorce lawyers saying, “It’s going to cost me a hell of a lot less to get divorced now than it would have 2 years ago. It may never be this cheap again”. Basically, since the divorce settlement would be comprised substantially of stock-based assets and compensation, and since stocks took a 50% haircut and compensation was down, you have many of these rich guys who are unhappy in their marriages looking to get out while it’s cheap. Putting off a divorce for 2 more years may cost millions! It’s the exact opposite of what the media had portrayed, and what I had assumed, but perhaps these are the traits of some “reverse gold-diggers”, right? Before a certain threshold, these guys hang on to the wives because it’s too damn expensive to divorce them. But when that threshold is crossed and it becomes economically convenient, it’s out to the curb. Crazy, right?
Anyway, that piece wasn’t totally related to the core question, but it further illustrates the difference between real and perceived motivations relating marriage and money.
A few questions in closing:
If you’re a really rich guy and you’re questioning whether your wife married you for the right reasons, well, maybe she did or maybe she didn’t. But maybe she’s a smart, forward thinker who has similar ambitions to yours. Perhaps you should give her some credit.
Conversely, if you’re a guy reading this and your economic prospects are MUCH WORSE than your wife’s personal or potential economic prospects, maybe she really did marry you purely out of love. Or maybe she just didn’t think ahead and she’ll be unhappy when she realizes she didn’t?
*And to anyone relaying this post to my wife (since she doesn’t read this blog but tends to hear about it from friends and family)- I’m not labeling her a gold-digger :>. I didn’t come from money and we were married young just out of college. While I had a top degree in demand coming out of school, I’m not pulling in huge money – we do OK. But she was honest enough to admit that similar ambitions, work ethic and probability of financial security were factors in what attracted her to me.
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