When I first got into online dating, I felt frustrated by the men I was meeting. There was nothing wrong with the guys themselves — they were cute, nice, smart and kind. Devoted dads with quirky interests and a sophisticated worldview. But none that I could really get into. The men I really dug were also creative, ambitious types who’d achieved a measure of professional success.
But men like this didn’t message me online. And they didn’t respond to my queries.
I took a hard look at my profile, and saw a couple of red flags: One, I’m a single mom. Likewise, I’m also a freelance writer. I am also one of the many “polite” people who think that talking about money with strangers is distasteful, and so I left the “income” portion of my profile blank. Granted, politeness wasn’t the only reason I didn’t list my income — if I revealed it, would my (then six-figure) income come off as a brag? Intimidating to men? Would it convey that I’m shallow and overly interested in money? Plain-out rude?
But leaving it blank was leaving men to guess whether or not I’m looking for a sugar daddy, or any of the other awful stereotypes about women and money.
And so, I posted my income.
For the next few months, I giddily went on dates with the most interesting men I’d ever met – a filmmaker, a fashion exec, a music lawyer, a restaurateur, a NYU professor, several dot-com entrepreneurs, and two successful authors. Most of these were first dates, though one marketing executive, fresh from a divorce from a stay-at-home mom to whom he is paying copious alimony, told me he appreciated the months we spent together: “It was important to be with someone who’s in command of her own life and doesn’t just need me to be a financial engine.” In other words, because I was financially independent, he felt secure that I cared for him for who he is – not what he earns.
Money is a tricky subject, and money and dating is prickly territory. I’m a financial writer and find the psychology of money fascinating. So I started to ask other online daters about their feelings on the subject. Did posting one’s salary serve as a tool or a detriment to finding a good match?
Like anything in relationships, everyone has their own priorities, goals, and paradigms. My friend Cassie, an investment banker in her late 30s, rules out men who list an income online that’s “really, really low – like $80,000.” But she claims to be more open-minded about a guy’s earnings when she meets him in person. “There are so many people online, you need to narrow the choices somehow, and money and earning potential are important to me,” she says. “I’d prefer to marry someone who earns enough so that I can stay home with our kids if we get married, so why would I intentionally go out with someone I know does not?”
That said, Cassie does not state her own income on her profile. “I feel like it’s none of anyone’s business until you get to know each other,” she says.
Janice, 40, on the other hand, has no interest in ever marrying or having kids, and could care less how much a guy earns. “I paid more in taxes last year than my boyfriend earned all year – so what? We have a great time together,” she says. “For lots of people, money has nothing to do with how they relate.”
Damon, a 38-year-old real estate developer whom I met online, disagrees. He stated in his profile that he earns more than $500,000 annually. I asked why he chose to post his income. He said his initial motivation was to attract more women, but he soon found it as a useful weeding-out tool. “I don’t care about how much a woman makes, but stating my income helps me sniff out the gold-diggers,” he said. “If a woman’s income is low, or she doesn’t include it, and she is Eastern European and lives in Staten Island, I assume she’s only interested in my money.”
Several divorced women I know say that they value their own financial independence too much to be involved with a man who may be a burden, and so they reveal their income online – and keep an eye out for men who would fit with their program.
In the course of my research, I came across one lengthy profile that was witty and well-written enough to hold my attention. It helped that the 42-year-old writer stated that he earned more than $150,000, which I thought was a little suspicious given he said he was earning a PhD and worked in academia. In the very last line of his essay, he wrote: “My income and job are a lie – I am earning a bachelors and earn $35,000 as a teacher’s assistant. I just wanted to see if women really like me, or are only interested in money.” I couldn’t tell which turned me off more: his open cynicism about women or the dishonesty. I messaged him to ask how much success he was having with this tactic, and he said he hasn’t gotten any inquiries from women he’s interested in dating.
Janice says that when she was actively dating online, she does include her income. “I work damn hard and am proud of it. If some guy is intimidated by that, he’s not the guy for me,” she says. “In most cases, it makes sense to date someone in the same income range as you. But when you meet someone, and you’re wild about them, all those rules go out the window.”
Sarah, in her early 40s, says she doesn’t include her income, nor does she look for a man’s, mainly because she doesn’t believe income is an important indicator of compatibility. “Plus,” she points out, “if dudes lie about height, you know they are lying about income, too.”
Emma Johnson blogs at WealthySingleMommy.com.