Would You Marry for Money?

“Looks and love are fleeting, but money can make up for the loss,” was a mantra I heard starting at a very young age from a close relative. She had successfully married a very wealthy man and seemed quite happy. Similarly, I have a close friend whose grandmother had always told her, “Marry for money, you can always learn to love.” She took her advice and in that case, it was a total disaster. I didn’t take the advice I’d been given, but apparently many women in our society do. Surprisingly, the practice is more common in our American culture than you might think. You might think this piece is headed in the direction of blasting anyone who values money in their signficant other. However, you’ll see I actually try to lend some legitimate support for this practice further down below.

A nationwide survey conducted by Price & Associates, out of the 1,134 polled, with incomes between $30,000 and $60,000, fully two-thirds of women were “very” or “extremely” motivated to tie the knot for money. The question they responded to so vigorously: “How willing are you to marry an average-looking person that you liked, if they had money?”

Women aren’t alone with their marry-for-money mentality; the survey also found of men in their 40s, 61% would do the same thing. Interestingly, sociologists have found men relax more about money as they get older and don’t care so much if their spouse makes or has more money than they do.

So what is the going price for jumping into nuptials with a wealthy someone you don’t love? “$1.5 million” should do it, say the respondents of the Price & Associates survey. Doesn’t seem like much does it, when you consider how quickly money can be spent or lost to the economy or bad investments these days.

Pamela Smock, a University of Michigan sociologist is shocked by the survey results, “It’s kind of against the notion of love and soul mates and main motivations to marry in our culture.” Even her research reflects a trend that having money is a catalyst for people to tie the knot. In fact, she found it is much more likely that couples get married if they have money and especially if the man has a positive cash flow.

Let’s step away from the highly controversial practice of marrying for money outside of love, and look at some of these findings findings. If it is true that couples are more likely to get married if the man has money, then it of course means that the man or woman, or perhaps both, are making the decision to marry strongly based on finances.

Would you pick a mate based on finances? With all things being equal (looks, personality, intelligence, attraction, common values, love), who would you more likely marry: the guy who is financially stable or the guy in a financial mess.

I haven’t polled anyone on this, but I think its obvious most women would go for the one who is financially stable, unless of course, they have a thing for underdogs.

Before the objections start flying let me define my idea of financial stability. For me, it doesn’t have to do so much with quantity as it does with quality. There are many great single guys out there who don’t have a ton of money but they live within their means. They save, they budget, they invest, and they stay out of substantial debt. To me they are financially stable. Everyone’s idea of financial stability is relative to their own idea of what is sufficient to meet their needs. You’ll have to decide what it means to you.

Without giving it a second thought, women set standards for potential partners all the time; like not dating men who are shorter than you or only dating men that share common interests or never looking twice at a man who smokes. Remember, important issues like money and debt will impact the kind of life you’ll live with a spouse so much more than many of the superficial preferences you might use to disqualify men on a daily basis. My argument here is that using money as one of the criteria to evaluate a potential partner is not so crazy.

Of course, it is a bit easier to see the superficial than it is to determine the condition of his bank account. He may act like he is solvent and have $20,000 in debt. So tread carefully, and initiate the money conversation to find out what his views on money are as this might give you some insight. What’s fair is fair. Also, just because you wouldn’t date someone who is financially insecure, that does not mean you can be a total financial mess yourself. While you are evaluating a potential partner based on his financial health quotient, you have to be financially healthy yourself.

If financial problems are the leading cause of divorce in our country, then it would make sense that financial wellness should be a prerequisite to marriage. What do you think?

(photo credit: DieselDemon)

  • http://change-is-possible.net H Lee D

    It seems reckless to marry without considering financial stability and compatibility.

    • Joanna Crain

      Hi H Lee D,

      You’re right it is reckless to marry without having looked at financial stability and compatibility. When love is involved, it can be difficult to focus on, but well worth the effort in the long run.


  • Olivia

    It may be a tad more subtle than that. You hinted at stability and living within one’s means. Character issues. I think those and transparency about finances are essentials. If a potential spouse is lazy and self indulgent it may well show up in their bottom line. Maybe not right away, but eventually they will be living beyond their means. If they don’t care about cheating creditors of their due they may in the end not keep promises to you as well.

  • S Lee067

    Just remember, a mortgage is debt too. The recent crisis shows how this is one of the most dangerous debts of all. If you are going to judge someone on their $20k school loan debt, make sure you don’t have a log in your own eye with a mortgage.

  • Marilyn Crosbie

    My mom lost her first husband in a tragic accident when he was 32 and she was 27. She had me and my younger sister- both under 2-1/2 years old. They had had a happy marriage and dad was doing extremely well financially. Shortly afterwards, a nice man asked her out. He was a policeman with a decent car, secure job and treated the three of us well. The combined assets from both of them made for material comfort for us all. He was not a tightwad either. We had a happy family life. Mom told me financial stability, generosity, and personal hygiene were what lived about her second husband. I didn’t understand her priorities, but looking back, she lived through the great depression of the 1930s so I now understand. Also, in my own marriage lack of money and my husband’s lack of ambition to ask for a well-deserved raise or get a better job caused distress while raising our family.