At 40, I’m starting to see more relationships fall apart than begin. But for those that are still lasting, the one constant seems to be that each partner is fairly equal in accomplishment. People with similar levels of accomplishment tend to be of similar age, income, wealth, and experience.
Among the many reasons why people break up, a lack of respect might be reason #1 followed by resentment as a close #2. Let’s say you’re much more accomplished than your partner; you will start losing respect if you catch him/her lounging instead of hustling to at least try to get to your level. If you’re the partner who is lounging, you’ll start resenting your partner for being so demanding, especially if s/he is much older than you.
The physical passion only burns for so long until substance takes over.
Marrying Into Wealth Sounds Nice
As someone who wanted to be rich growing up, I never considered marrying rich. Instead, I just wanted to spend time with an attractive best friend for the rest of my life.
But if I was clearly told the pros and cons of marrying rich, I may have been much less idealistic, and much more focused on trying to lock down a rich attractive best friend instead. After all, rich people need love too.
Given my window has passed, let me reflect on the good and bad of marrying rich to help those of you who still have a chance or are thinking of splitting.
Pros Of Marrying Rich
* You leapfrog a generation of struggle. Tremendous wealth can be created in one lifetime. But building tremendous wealth takes intense work and serendipity. Since we only have one life to live, it’s logical to marry rich at a younger age and relax rather than work extremely hard to try and get rich at a later age.
* You have a greater chance of getting ahead. For those of you who have the pride and self-motivation to make something of yourself, having a rich spouse opens plenty of doors. Your rich spouse will have more connections to help you along in your career than the average person since people tend to hang out with other people of similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
* Only the best lifestyle. Your rich spouse won’t want to lower his or her standard of living to your level. Instead, he or she will bring you up to their level. Instead of slumming it in 3-star hotels off the main strip, you’ll be staying at a 5-star hotel right along the ocean. Instead of taking economy class like the rest of us, you’ll go first class or maybe even fly private. Your house, food, cars, clothes and leisurely activity will all be of the finest quality.
* An easier time for your kids. If you’re thoughtful, then you realize one of the best reasons to marry rich is less for you, but more for your future kids. We all know that in 20 years, college tuition will become even more unaffordable. Wouldn’t it be nice to write a $100,000 a year college tuition check without pain? Further, how great is it to know that even if your kids can’t hack it academically, they’ll still be able to do anything they want due to a sizable trust fund? From an evolutionary perspective, marrying rich is a no-brainer.
The Cons Of Marrying Rich
* You may never feel like you’re good enough. The larger the wealth gap between you and your rich spouse, the larger you might feel like a slave to your spouse’s wealth. Given your lifestyle is paid for by your spouse, you’ve got to hold your tongue about many things for fear of looking spoiled and ungrateful. However, the more you hold your tongue about things that bother you, the more resentment will build.
* Higher expectations for everything. Marrying into wealth may mean that you have to hold yourself in a different way. In-laws and friends will instantly analyze you by your looks, physique, and accomplishments given you aren’t rich. If you don’t look amazing and don’t have incredible talents elsewhere (academics, art, music, athletics, etc), then people will think you’re just not good enough for your spouse. Further, rich people are expected to publicly donate to as many charities as possible. You’ll be constantly hit up for funds. If you don’t contribute you’ll be viewed as cheap, even if you have your own projects you care passionately about that aren’t public. One tennis friend who married into a billion dollar fortune escaped to Paris for one year with his whole family because he was sick of being pressured to donate and attend all these public functions.
* People may think you’re greedy. The more dissimilar you are in age, looks, and academic accomplishment, the more people will think you married for money instead of love. In the back of your mind, you always know the lottery ticket is a key variable to getting hitched, even though you will never admit it. Nobody thinks 38 yo Amal Alamuddin is a gold digger for marrying 55 yo George Clooney because Amal is an accomplished barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specializing in international law and human rights. Be successful enough to hold your own.
* The paradox of choice. The more money you have, the more choices you get to make. The more choices you get to make, the higher the chance you might make a wrong one. There’s something to be said for only being able to afford one humble home. You’ll never have to deal with PITA tenants. There are literally 50 different types of potato chips at the supermarket now. What a bummer to wrongly pick up the disgusting red curry flavor kettle chips rather than the mesquite BBQ variety! Psychologists David Myers and Robert Lane, independently conclude that the current abundance of choice often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness. Americans are paying for increased affluence and freedom with a substantial decrease in the quality and quantity of community. Life may be easier and happier if there’s only one way to go.
The Best Case Scenario
If you’re lucky enough to find someone you truly love who so happens to be rich, then wonderful! But we know this rarely happens or the relationship seldom lasts unless you are also pretty well off. Instead, the best case scenario is if you both start off with very little and build your fortune together.
Imagine if you met your sweetheart in high school or college. You’d get to go through all the struggles of trying to get good grades, a respectable internship, and a job that doesn’t suck your soul, together. Then in your 20s, you’d get to experience stabs in the back, micromanagers, layoffs, office politics and all sorts of other terrible things that make relationships stronger. Then if you’re lucky, one or both of you will hit your stride, make a lot of money, and freely share your good fortune.
Money becomes less of a stressor when you experience the different stages of personal finance together. Once money is out of the way, you’ll have more time to work on other things to strengthen the relationship.
Of course we can’t always choose our life partners. Sometimes we’ll have to marry a resume instead. Just know that marrying rich isn’t a panacea. If it was, the wife of a fellow I met wouldn’t want to leave him and their three kids after just completing the construction of a $2.7M dream home. If marrying rich was so great, a close friend of mine wouldn’t have divorced her deca-millionaire husband 20 years her senior to live in a ratty studio with a new beau her same age. I’ve got endless examples of rich people breaking up. They are no different.
The fabulous life gets old after a while. The one enduring trait that makes a relationship last is mutual admiration and respect.
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Updated for 2018 and beyond.