Updated: 4/1/2011 4:08 PM ET|
Do smart women marry money?
It sounds easier to find a rich man than to find your own way financially. But I've got a 2-step plan that will make you both richer and happier.
Young women, here is some advice:
Don't throw your hot, youthful selves away on young, financially unproven men. They may never become successes, and if they do, they'll probably just chuck you for younger models when you're too old to successfully compete again in the marriage marketplace.
Instead, marry rich guys while you're still taut enough to snag them. They may dump you, too, but at least you'll have nice, fat divorce settlements with which to pursue true love, or the pool guy, whoever comes first.
Notice I didn't say it was good advice.
But that is the gist of a 2009 book, "Smart Girls Marry Money: How Women Have Been Duped Into the Romantic Dream -- and How They're Paying for It," by Elizabeth Ford and Daniela Drake.
"Rather than pursuing love, we suggest pursuing a lifestyle with a man you like, or admire and enjoy," they write. "But in any case, he should be a man with resources."
The book is relatively new, but the advice is probably as old as marriage itself. Maybe you've heard this old saying: "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one."
That reminds me of another chestnut: "If you marry for money, you will surely earn it."
The authors seem to have no qualms, though. They enthusiastically endorse gold digging and even take great pains to dismiss the notion that women can manage well financially on their own. You'll never earn as much as a man, they advise, and if you do succeed, you'll regret it. "Empowering ourselves economically can undermine our sexual power," they counsel.
Betty Friedan is spinning so fast in her grave that she's augered herself down another 6 feet.
The book is laughable, of course. However, it does diagnose a legitimate problem: people rushing into marriage blinded by lust and romance, without enough talking about money. It's an issue I've also discussed.
But the authors prescribe exactly the wrong solution by advising women to seek out a gold-plated Prince Charming. Ford and Drake explicitly endorse the secret fantasy entertained by too many women: that someone or something will rescue them from having to deal with their own finances.
"That's such a hurtful message," said financial writer Jennifer Barrett, a co-author of "The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough." "It plays into these fears that (women) can't manage their own money and have their own life without supplementing it with a man."
Money can disappear
Then there's the other problem: Gold-digging often doesn't work. Daddy Warbucks can die, lose his money or show you the door right before a sunset clause in your prenuptial agreement qualifies you to share in his wealth.
In Barbara Stanny's case, handing over the financial reins to her husband meant losing a fortune after he gambled away the heiress's wealth and fled the country, leaving her with a $1 million tax bill.
The experience prompted her to write her first book, "Prince Charming Isn't Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money," and embark on a lifetime of teaching women to manage their own financial lives.
"When you take charge of your money," she said, "you take charge of your life."
That doesn't mean you have to go it alone. You just have to change Prince Charming's job description, Stanny said. "He's no longer our rescuer or our savior. He's our partner."
It's time for full disclosure: I didn't marry for money, and I'm glad.
I tried dating investment bankers and other masters of the universe. But when I finally felt confident enough to provide for myself, financially and emotionally, I promptly met the man of my dreams.
He wasn't rich -- far from it. But he wasn't a financial mess either. In the more than a dozen years we've been happily married, we've grown richer together in every sense.
So here's my advice to women, and men, when it comes to love and money:
Be your own Prince Charming. That means being fully self-supporting and having finances that work. Live within your means, save for retirement, have an emergency fund, and pay off credit card debt. Don't wait for another person or a lottery ticket to save your bacon.
Once you've got your finances on track, then:
Don't marry anyone who will screw it up. And yes, despite some of the protestations I've heard from the divorced, you usually can see it coming if you choose to look.
Gamblers, addicts and drunks will put you on the fast track to financial misery, but so will someone who won't control his spending, who drags around credit card debt and who refuses to save for the future.
Most often, money problems in marriage are less dramatic. You can save yourself a lot of pain by ditching the rescue fantasies, discussing your finances honestly and creating together a financial plan for your future.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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If you marry too high above your own financial status you won't know what to do with yourself. It's best to marry at or slightly above your current financial status. Too drastic of a change can only lead to disaster.
Of course smart women marry money! What? You think she marry the nice rich guy because he's so exciting? No! She has a bad boy to give her that... and he also cleans her pool! Just don't tell anyone I said that!
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