There are two common ways to marry. You can marry your equal or you can marry rich. In my opinion, marrying your equal is better than marrying rich.
There’s just something to be said about starting from nothing and getting wealthy together. It’s harder to appreciate sudden wealth, especially if you didn’t earn it.
At 44, 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. And that accomplishment isn’t limited to money.
People with similar levels of accomplishment tend to be of similar age, income, education, wealth, and/or 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 more accomplished than your partner. You may start to feel you’re losing respect for them if you catch them lounging around too often instead of hustling to get to a top level in something, anything.
If you’re the partner who is lounging around, you may start resenting your partner for being so demanding, especially if they are much older than you. Why be so successful if you can’t enjoy the benefits? You start rationalizing to yourself.
The physical passion only burns for so long until substance takes over. Over time, it’s also easy to take each other for granted.
Marrying Rich Sounds Nice In Theory
As someone who wanted to be rich growing up, I never considered marrying rich. Naively, it never occurred to me that I could marry into a rich family or marry a rich partner to make life easier.
Instead, I just wanted to spend time with an attractive best friend for the rest of my life. There was no strategy on my part.
But if I was clearly told the pros and cons of marrying rich, I may have been less idealistic and more calculated on whom I partnered with.
Instead of locking down an attractive best friend as a life partner, why not lock down a rich and attractive best friend instead! After all, rich people need love too.
Alas, given I’m content with my choice, 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.
To get started, check out this fascinating chart below showing the relative likelihood of divorce by income. It looks like the more money you make, the less likely you are to get a divorce.
Pros Of Marrying Rich
1) 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.
Not only will you be able to live a longer life of luxury, marrying rich could help pull the rest of your family up the socioeconomic ladder as well. Families tend to support each other.
2) 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.
Rich people tend to have more power to make things happen than non-rich people. If your rich spouse or spouse’s rich family can’t directly help you, they can introduce you to someone who can. The network of the rich is an enormous asset.
3) Only the best lifestyle.
Your rich spouse won’t want to lower their standard of living to your level if you are of average wealth. Instead, they will bring you up to their level. See the movie Crazy Rich Asians as a reference.
Instead of slumming it in 2-star hotels off the main strip, you’ll be staying at a 5-star hotel right along the ocean. Forget about 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 higher quality than what you could have afforded.
4) 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? You wouldn’t even have to think about contributing to a 529 plan.
If you marry rich, your future kids can take all the after school programs they want. They get to be exposed to every single music, sport, and art activity in order to find their true passion. Instead of reading about the pyramids of Egypt, your family can fly to Cairo and check them out in person.
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? If you marry really rich, your family can legally buy your kid’s way into a prestigious university.
From an evolutionary perspective, marrying rich helps increase the chances that your bloodline will survive for generations.
5) A way to prove your naysayers wrong.
Somewhere along your life, you will have encountered some doubters. Maybe you weren’t a great student and your peers voted you as the person most likely to end up living in mom’s basement. Or maybe your unsupportive parents disapproved of your previous relationships or areas of interests.
Whatever the case may be, by marrying rich, you immediately prove all your naysayers wrong. Society looks up to rich people, up to a point. Even though you didn’t create your fortune, you’re set for life as your naysayers might have to work their whole lives just to achieve a fraction of your new wealth.
The Cons Of Marrying Rich
Now that we’ve discussed some of the pros of marrying rich, let’s go through some of the cons.
1) 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.
I’ve made the case that if a rich person truly loves their spouse, they will make them financially independent as well. This means helping them create their own wealth so they feel just as free.
2) Higher expectations for everything.
Marrying into wealth may mean that you have to hold yourself in a different way. In-laws and friends may raise the bar in which they judge you compared to when you weren’t rich.
If you don’t look amazing and don’t have incredible talents elsewhere (academics, art, music, athletics, etc), then people may think you’re just not good enough for your spouse. If you’re not fit given your ability to afford the healthiest foods and best trainers, they may think you’re lazy.
Further, rich people are expected to publicly donate to as many charities as possible. You’ll be constantly hit up for funds even if you don’t believe in the cause. If you don’t contribute you may be viewed as cheap, even if you have your own projects you care passionately about that aren’t public.
One person I know married into a billion dollar fortune. He escaped to the Amalfi Coast for one year with his whole family because he was sick of being pressured to donate and attend all these public functions.
Judgement about how you spend your money is constant when you’re rich. One commenter in my post, President Biden Wants To Raise Your Taxes If You Make More Than $400,000, wrote,
If a couple is earning $400K and only giving $3K for charity, I have to wonder why they’re working so hard.
To this commenter, paying six figures in taxes and making money to save for retirement and pay for their children weren’t valid reasons for working hard.
3) People may think you’re a greedy gold digger.
The more dissimilar you are in age, looks, and academic accomplishment, the more people will think you married for money instead of love. It doesn’t matter how much you truly love your partner, suspicions will always be there.
When Amal Alamuddin got married at 38, nobody thought she was a gold digger for marrying 55-year-old George Clooney. The reason is because Amal is an accomplished barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specializing in international law and human rights.
Therefore, if you don’t want to be viewed as a greedy gold digger, you must be successful enough to hold your own.
4) 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 because you can’t afford to buy rental properties.
There’s something to be said about only being able to buy several types of potato chips. Instead, there are literally 50 different types of potato chips at the supermarket now.
We were all set to send our son to a great language immersion program. We were happy and excited.
Then, an impossible-to-get-into preschool notified us and said they had a spot for us. Then we had to go through the process of evaluating whether to upend our expectations and forfeit the enrollment deposit. Unnecessary stress!
Psychologists David Myers and Robert Lane independently concluded 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.
5) You might make your children miserable.
For a moment, let’s forget about the higher expectations society places on someone marrying rich. The expectations placed on rich kids could be so great that it could break them.
Imagine growing up as a rich kid where your parents are CEOs, successful entrepreneurs, Nobel-winning scientists, Olympic athletes, and so forth. It is highly unlikely you will ever come close to matching your parents’ success.
As a result, you might grow up always feeling not good enough since your baseline is so high. In Confessions Of A Spoiled Rich Kid, Samurai Marco discusses how he bounced around in his 30s and 40s without much direction. He couldn’t match his tech entrepreneur father’s success, so he became a vagabond.
Besides family pressure, you’ll also face tremendous competitive pressure from other rich kids who get into the best schools and get the best jobs. Yet, what if you go to Harvard and end up a nobody?
If you’re constantly surrounded by success, you ironically might become the most miserable person in the world.
The Best Case Scenario For Marrying
If you’re lucky enough to find someone you truly love who so happens to be rich, then wonderful! This tends to happen among already rich families who send their kids to the same expensive schools. This also tends to happen if you find love working at a high-paying company.
However, for most people, we know this combination of finding a person you love who so happens to be rich is rare.
Instead, the best case scenario may be 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 strengthening your relationship.
Be Careful Getting Too Rich And Successful
If you want your marriage to last, perhaps it’s also best not to get too rich. There may come a point where you have so much money that you don’t care if your wealth gets cut in half.
With so much wealth you may not try as hard to be on your best behavior. You might also not try as hard to compromise and make things work with your long-time spouse.
The same thing goes for getting too famous. Your fame might over-inflate your ego as you start thinking everybody loves you when they really just want something you can give them. This adoration may lead you to do questionable things, like hang out with Jeff Epstein on his private jet to go to his private island.
They say getting rich simply magnifies who you really are. However, when you have a lot of temptation due to your fame and vast resources, it may be hard to always do the right thing.
You Just Never Know How Your Marriage Will End Up
Of course we can’t always choose our life partners. Sometimes we’ll have to marry a resume instead for practical purposes.
We must accept that marrying rich isn’t a panacea. If it was, rich and famous people wouldn’t get divorced all the time.
Today’s examples are Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. There will surely be more examples of rich people getting divorced tomorrow.
The fabulous life gets old after a while. The one enduring trait that makes a relationship last is mutual admiration and respect.
Therefore, if you’re able to marry rich, then it’s best to continue working on being highly accomplished at something. Not only is being great at something good for your own self-esteem, it’s also good for your marriage.
Some things I’ve noticed about accomplished spouses who marry rich include:
- Still work at a job, which can seem amazing if the family is incredibly wealthy
- Open their own business
- Start and manage a family foundation for giving
- Regularly compete at high-level athletic competitions
- Master a musical instrument and hold concerts
- Hold art shows of their own work
- Be an extremely involved full-time parent who volunteers a lot at school
Finally, let’s agree that marriage isn’t the ultimate goal, happiness is.
If you’re not happy, then by all means get a divorce. The last thing you want to do is look back at a loveless marriage when you could have found happiness with someone else.
Readers, do you think it’s better to marry your equal or marry rich? What are some more pros and cons of marrying rich?
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 100,000+ others and subscribe to the free Financial Samurai newsletter.