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The Good Men Project recently pondered, what’s a man without money?

That’s a good question.  Would you date a broke man?

I’ve never been one to focus on money — my own or someone else’s — or see it as a path to happiness. Now that I’m at midlife, however, and helping to get two kids through college, hoping to retire one day, and dealing with the never-ending costs of living (my broken clavicle cost me a lot of money, despite my health insurance, and my car appears to have an electrical problem, no doubt a pricey problem, that I need to deal with ASAP), I think about money a wee bit more. I still don’t equate it to whether I am happy or not (and never will), although I acknowledge money certainly makes things easier.

I never made a lot of money in my career — newspaper journalism — but that didn’t stop men from dating me, or two men from marrying me. I am fortunate to have a wonderful longtime partner (who, as an educator, knows all about small salaries), but I sometimes wonder what would happen if I lost my job and was looking for love — would I be marriage material (assuming I even wanted to marry again, that is, which I don’t), or even dateable?

Let’s forget my age for now (and maybe longer!); by virtue of my gender alone, yes — I would probably be viable relationship material. But if I were an unemployed man — regardless of age — would the same rules apply? Probably not (although I imagine a certain amount of women would eagerly entangle themselves if he was hot; yes, we gals can be incredibly shallow, too).

Unemployed, under-employed and low-income men are just not good dating or marriage material in the eyes of many women.

That’s why the pro-marriage people have it all wrong when they say marriage will get low-income women out of poverty. While studies have shown that low-income women value marriage and have more traditional views about marriage and divorce than others, they don’t want to get hitched to a man who is going to drag them down. A man who isn’t contributing financially is a handicap, as one young single mother says in Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage: “What was his purpose? I started thinking, ‘I don’t need him.’ He was just like an extra burden. It was actually easier without him.”

I’m sure I’m not the only girl growing up whose mother told her that it’s just as easy to love a rich guy as it is to love a poor one. A few years ago, the book Smart Girls Marry Money: How Women Have Been Duped into the Romantic Dream — and How They’re Paying for It advised women to do just that.

I’m not sure many — any — boys get the same message, and even in this presumably enlightened age, I just can’t see a parent encouraging a son to “marry up.”

Earlier this summer, a study (OK, funded by a credit report agency so I take it with a grain of salt) indicated financial responsibility and financial compatibility was more important or just as important as career ambition, physical attraction and sex and intimacy, especially for women.

It never even occurred to me to worry about such things (I’ve never discussed credit ratings with a partner), but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have paid it some attention when it seemed like things were getting serious.

A recent study seems to indicate that we are stuck in a time warp when it comes to gender and moneywe can’t get past the idea that a husband should make more money than his wife, and that is impacting whom we marry, how much a wife works, and even if a couple stays married. Among the interesting questions posed:

What happens when a man marries a woman who has the education and skills to earn more than him? The couple can avoid violating the “man earns more” social norm if the woman works part time or leaves the labor force altogether. The authors found evidence of both choices. But what if the woman stays in the labor force and does earn more than her spouse? How does this affect the marriage? The findings here are striking. In such couples, surveys show, both wife and husband generally report being less happy about the marriage.

So, here’s how it appears to work:

Unemployed, under-employed and low-paid women are still datable and marriage material, while guys are not. Meanwhile, highly paid women are dateable and marriage material, as long as they don’t make more than their husbands.

If that isn’t proof about how far we haven’t come as a society, I don’t know what is.

  • Would you marry a woman who made more money than you?
  • Would you marry a man who made less money than you?
  • Would you date someone (presumably temporarily) unemployed?
  • Does it make a difference if a man doesn’t make a lot by virtue of his profession (artist, musician, teacher, etc.) or because he has low ambition?

Photo © Sean Arenas/Fotolia.com

20 Responses to “He’s broke, you’re not — do you date him?”

  1. K.B. says:

    I totally agree with this article that broke men are way less likely to be in a relationship than are broke / low income women. I think it depends on what the debt is. For example, my ex-husband is 50k in debt. His debt is IRS (nearly 20k), a Cadillac at $400 / mo which he can’t afford, and odds and ends credit cards. That type of debt is NOT good and I would avoid him like the plague. It is NOT the reason WE divorced however. But … if you presented him to me with that debt in the early stages of dating …. I would not view him as marriage material. His income does NOT support that load and it also shows extreme carelessness.

    Now, take my debt as a public servant. I have one 5k credit card and an 80k student loan. BUT …. my credit card will be paid off in a year and my student loan paid off in 10 years because I’m on the loan forgiveness program (they removed 18 years). And .. my student loan at 80k is $400 / mo. – which I’m perfectly capable of paying on my public servant salary. And my student loan monthly payment is 1/3 of that of my ex-husband.

    So I have a higher debt load but the monthly payment is way lower AND it doesn’t involve the IRS and careless car purchases. When he told me wanted a divorce to pursue other women …. I just smiled and said, “Sure …. go for it!” He was dumb enough to do it.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      That’s a lot of debt, K.B. Did he have that before you married him, or was that a discovery after-the-fact?
      I never asked any former partner or husband about his debt. I absolutely would do that now — however — if he was making good decisions and paying it down, it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. I’d just get a prenup ;-)

  2. John says:

    I am a low paid male and looking at all these websites has confirmed my worst fears! I did not realise or understand the importance of a good education and job until to late and after my last girlfriend dumpingrme because of money issues I am close to giving up all together. Although she would never admit she left me because of money I know it was a huge factor, which is sad because she had her own house etc and I could of supported us on this low income as she earnt a very good amount of money. So this is it 30 single like normal and unable to get better work due to education mainly. I had one love but sjEd fast realised and I guess my replacement pointed out how little I earnt and now women over thd net dont wang to mnow men like myself. I care for thr elderly by the way and I wish I was dead, thanks for showing all men in my position we are better off dead no matter how loving we are.

    • azhira says:

      It does not matter to me John…I’m interested in honesty, integrity, and a personality fit. I say this as a woman who makes more than the average income anyway.

      We do exist. (I just have a different sort of baggage of my own.)

  3. Batman says:

    That’s women for you.

  4. MerAlene says:

    No one every said you’re better off dead. Get off your butt and get and education, so you may write/spell more clearly and potentially earn a better living. I worked full time and when to school full time simultaneously to finish my degree. Plenty of financial aid programs out there.

  5. Ms Kat says:

    *HUGE sigh of relief….and here I was, thinking maybe it was just me, that I was being too picky, that my standards were perhaps too high. I’m soooo glad I’m not alone!!!
    I’m 32, single, no kids and never been married (yet ;) ) and I just purchased my first home in February. The guy I’ve been seeing for just over a month is younger, 26, has a car, has an apt. We met online, of course. He told me he was a manager at a fast food restaurant. So I thought, ok he’s a MANAGER, has to make at least as much as I do, right? Nope.
    He messaged me tonight and said he wanted to come see my but didn’t have the gas………
    I knew I should have run for the hills when I had to pay the bill on our first date, but I wanted to give the guy a chance; and no, he’s not doing anything to try to improve his situation. It is very discouraging to a nice young lady such as myself that is seeking marriage and family but can’t seem to find any financially responsible and financially independent men out there. I would have to agree with the article above and say that is is a very important factor to me..I mean, I can manage my money, my man should be able to manage his as well.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Thanks for commenting Ms. Kat. It isn’t that you’re too picky or that your guy is irresponsible. To make a relationship work, the couple needs to have the some financial values. If you don’t have that, the relationship will not work even if he’s a millionaire. Wishing you the best.

    • JamieK says:

      RUN, GIRL, RUN!!!

  6. fuckuandurmother2 says:

    Why should a man be in a relationship period?

  7. Fair? says:

    I’m 66 and lost all my money to Madoff….every cent…I thought about seeking a partner on a web site. It was then that I realized that I have nothing to offer anyone in a relationship
    So what would my profile heading say?
    Once had millions…not a penny now..
    It’s enough to make someone extremely angry…
    I have no earning power….I received my SS and a small pension I received from a volunteer fire dept when I lived in Westchester NY
    Remember that sone
    I’m Mr Lonely…

  8. Sam says:

    This is so true! I’m 31 years old and I’m currently dating a 32y old man who is unemployed, uneducated, has no car, and lives at home with his mommy. When we met he told me he is a business man. Little did I know he was in the business of being broke all the time.
    Soon after we started dating the requests for loans, electronic fund transfers, “help me pay this bill because I currently don’t have access to the internet” started coming. He always promises he will pay me back but when I remind him he says “the only thing I owe you a wedding ring, a house and some babies”. Only the heavens know how he plans on getting me all of that.
    So every time I see him he is with a friend I call him “The Transporter”. So I end up carrying the bill for all 3 of us. To make matters worse, The Transporter sometimes brings his girlfriend with the expectation that I will cover everyone’s bill. I have considered walking out and leaving them with the bill. But then I think what if they get arrested and get bad record which would make it even harder to find a job.

    I know that he has not been as privileged as I have been and maybe I’m overly sensitive about that and the fact that they are from the ghetto so maybe they can use some help coming up. I don’t want to come across as being snobbish so I tend to overlook many things. I even give him my bank card and my pin so he can pay if we are together just to try save him some respect as a man. But I have realized that if I don’t ask for my bank card back he “forgets” to give it to me and while he has it, he uses it without asking for my permission.

    He is a great guy with a wonderful personality but I just don’t want to live off food stamps and I don’t want to have to downgrade my lifestyle to accommodate his. I do want to help him achieve more in life but I don’t know how much is too much. I don’t mind that his idea of travel is going to the corner shop or that fun for him means sitting in the street corner with a bunch of friends who cannot even tell you what the fiscus or GDP are. But I cannot shake this suspicion that he is comfortable with the idea of being “a kept man”. He claims he is not but his actions tell me he is comfortable being taken care of by a woman (be it his momma or me). I just don’t see how I will ever be able to respect him as a man if he cannot take care of his own basic needs.

    To make matters worse, he has a kid from a previous relationship. I take responsibility for allowing things to get to where they are. He has no interest in looking for a job and even if he did he would probably not earn much. So my choice is either to pay for his education, ask my dad to help him to actually start a real business or to leave. I choose the latter (as of this moment that is). I just hope people don’t call me a snob. I just think I’m in way over my head! I need HELP!

    • Nik says:

      Sam, plz leave him while you still have a shred of dignity left. You can’t be ambitious for a man. If he doesn’t want a better life for himself on his own, you helping him isn’t going to change anything. RUN!

      • JanellaPatrice says:

        I want to be honest with you and tell you that this man is a “USER”. Love is all about “give and take”, not “give and give” or “take and take”. It is not a healthy relationship at all and if he really loves you, he will at least be sensitive with your needs. You are a very empowered woman and you deserve a man who will love you right because you trully deserve it believe me. I think you are a decent woman so don’t allow him to bring you down because in the end you might not notice but little by little you will loose all your self respect because you have already given everything about you that you did not save something for yourself. I will pray for you and hope that you find the courage to decide that you deserve nothing but the best because God loves you.

    • J says:

      You are getting played.

  9. OMGchronicles
    Twitter: OMGchronicles

    Sam, it’s OK to love someone but you are not responsible for fixing that person’s problems. You can help him find solutions — job referrals, grants, social services, etc. — and emotionally support him in that journey, but you are free to draw the boundaries — especially when it comes to money. Being a “kept” man or woman is OK if you both agree to that because you both are getting out of it what you need. That doesn’t sound like the situation here, sorry. And I understand how a great person with a great personality can mismanage money (been there, done that); again, you can’t solve that problem for him but you can support whatever efforts he makes toward making it better. If you let him know that and cut off the money supply, his true personality will be apparent. He may still be a “great guy” or he may not. Stay strong, good luck, and please let me know how it goes.

  10. Tara says:

    I have always (sometimes reluctantly) worked, and bring in average wages. Anthough I do not live for money, I understand that it is a necessity to have some money, just to live… or else you are living of charity essentially. Now I never previously cared if a partner of mine had money or not, until now, since I have been dating someone for 3 months, who has no money. This has put a tremendous pressure and imbalance on our relationship, as in 3 months, he hasn’t even taken me on a date.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Tara, thanks for writing. I have always been the same way — don’t care about money. It still isn’t a priority but it helps.
      That said, a date can be free — there are free days at museums, gallery openings, street festivals, open mike nights at nightclubs, etc. — or close to free, like making you dinner (nothing fancy, but it’s the thought), renting a movie and massaging your feet, playing guitar and singing for you (if he can), etc. I understand that men often equate their self-worth with their actual worth, and if he’s been looking for work and can’t find it, he may be depressed; we all would be! Still, kind acts are free; I hope he gets with the program!

  11. tara says:

    Interesting whats written, i have been dating this guy for abit more than a month, he said he is a freelancer designer and director infact he is but he is not doing great business as such market is tight at our place. I am 24 with degree and good stable earning he is 26 have an art certificate. I paid for most dinners and food plans we have a plan to go out of the country for new year and i think its on me :(. He knows the problem and looking for a job but this is tiering

  12. Tina says:

    I would like some input as to how I can turn down someone, without seeming like a horrible person. I met someone online, we had a lot in common and messages back and forth were funny, full of great conversation, really good stuff. So we agree to meet for coffee, and he then tells me that he can’t buy my coffee as well as his own as he is broke. He is retired from what seems to be a good career- no, I didn’t ask him why he doesn’t have a bean. He lives in a rooming house with 4 other people and they share a landline phone. I had made it clear in my profile that I wanted to meet someone with whom I could purchase a home so that I can run my home-based business efficiently (divorce put paid to that, but I could go half on a suitable place).
    He thinks we have what it takes to get along romantically, says he still wants to meet and that I will change my mind. I can’t imagine getting into a relationship with someone who tells me in advance that he can’t buy a $2 cup of coffee.
    However, because I was raised to be polite and not ignore people, I would like to know how to turn him down without coming across like an awful person. Any ideas?

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