I'm not saying you're a gold digger, but maybe you should be, say the authors of "Smart Girls Marry Money
." According to co-writers Elizabeth Ford and Daniela Drake, blindly following your passion for that guy at the coffee shop without considering other factors first could leave you single and not so well-off later in life.
And it doesn't matter how smart you are. "After attending a few class reunions, we noticed many lady lawyers, doctors and MBAs were still slaving after 40, while lots of less brainy gals were taking long vacations from their day jobs, shopping at Prada and enjoying more than their fair share of hot-stone massages," the authors write. The key? Hitching your wagon to a man with some financial prospects. Or at least not falling head over heels into marriage to a man with none.
Elizabeth Ford spoke to Lemondrop from her office in Los Angeles, where she is a television producer.
Lemondrop: Why write this book? What prompted it?
I am a mom and my co-author also had a young son the same age, and we met in the play yard at preschool. She's a physician, and at that time I was working for a syndicated television show, and we were running and gunning and we were noticing that a lot of other mothers were kicking back and spending time with their kids. We were talking about how we both had spent a lot of money on our education and considered ourselves to be these high-powered career women, and yet these other moms who hadn't made these choices had it easier. Who was really smarter? Is it us or is it them? It was like a joke. Who's the smart girl: the girl who's Phi Beta Kappa and got the great job, or the girl who's kicking it as a stay-at-home mom? Daniela especially was like, "This is ridiculous."
Why is it so necessary for women to marry money? Why can't they just make their own?
I think we make it pretty clear that women can make their own money and they do make their own money. But I think what's more our point is not so much that you have to marry for money, but that depending on love is a mistake. And I think it's sort of the opposite of what we're taught growing up: Look for true love, find your one and only. Every Nora Ephron movie, everything you read is all about finding this other human being that will complete you and that is the secret to life. Well, it's not the secret to life, and that's the cautionary tale that the book is about. It's about a bunch of women who are love junkies and are still working very hard, but they're overlooking that to create a partnership that really works, in addition to bringing home the bacon (which most married women do in our culture), you want to make sure that the partner you choose is meeting responsibilities. Don't be blinded by love. Women take time off to raise children and they make non-linear decisions in their careers and when divorce happens and economic mishap happens, women so often suffer far greater consequences than their male counterparts. Marriage is the most important economic partnership you'll ever make, so you need to not be coy about it.
Are men intimidated by powerful women who make more money than they do?
We say yes, absolutely. It's one of those old-school truisms that you can't believe is true, but there's a provider mystique. A lot of men want to be the ones who make the money. They want to buy the dinner, they want to take care of things. I have a dear friend who makes a ton of money and she produces a huge television show and she can't get a date. She's a beautiful woman, and she says, "It's like nobody wants to go out with me because I'm the boss of too many people."
What if you've already fallen in love with someone who doesn't have money?
It's not, "Is he rich?" It's "Does he earn? Does he work? Is he planning?" Be honest: There aren't enough rich men to go around. When you're partnering with someone, what I would say is, what do you mean by "I'm in love"? What does that mean? The scientific research we did shows that love is an anthropological biological function of the human animal that was meant to bond people together for the purposes of child bearing. But that initial craziness that happens when you're in love with someone fades. It does fade. It has to evolve into something else, something more lasting, and that's where you have to look at common values. I think the problem for young women today is that no one is seeing past this initial love rush, which is awesome and everyone loves to feel it. But then that fades and what are you left with? If you're left with a slacker boyfriend who sits around playing video games all day, you're going to be very unhappy. If you ride that wave with someone who's responsible and planning for your future, then you're going to be much more likely to have success in marriage.
Should a smart girl marry money no matter what? What if you find a guy with cash but you're not wild about him?
It's a personal decision. You should never go into a relationship where you're not feeling it at all, no matter how much money a person has. But my sister met her husband through a matchmaker, they both paid a lot of money to be matched up with different people. And when she first met him, she said, "Oh, I don't know, he seems nice enough but I'm not feeling a spark." And the matchmaker said, "Well, just go out with him again," and now they're happily married. The point is that the spark doesn't have to happen immediately. Biology says that just spending time with other people can allow emotions and feelings to grow. The book is not about how to be Anna Nicole Smith and find your fortune through a man. It's more of a, Hey, smart working women: When you're looking for your mate, don't undersell yourself. Look for more than just a guy who says sweet things to you.
One of the premises of the book seems to be that women have a sell-by date. What do you mean by that?
We wrote this book for young women, and we know that anthropologically, biologically, when you are a young woman, you are the most desirable that you will ever be. It's power in advertising, it's power in relationships. It's a time when, if your goal is to be in a marriage that lasts, our advice is, don't wait forever to look for the man of your dreams. When you're young, you'll have the highest value in that market.
You say that smart girls should arrange their own marriage and fight like hell for the marriage they want. Does that mean forgiving cheating, if it happens?
I think -- again, it's an opinion -- the expectation of complete monogamy for an entire life is a pretty high one. And to say that because someone has an indiscretion, that the entire relationship should be null and void is a very American ideal that becomes harder and harder for real people to live up to. Why do we make it so that that's the one thing no one can bounce back from? Our opinion is that obviously it's a personal decision but it's one of those things that we think has been elevated, that it's an unforgivable sin. Maybe it should be a forgivable sin.
Any advice on pre-nups?
I'm totally for pre-nups. When two companies merge, there are contractual obligations on both sides. It's all about negotiation. You need to negotiate what you're bringing into the marriage and what you're taking away. There's a stigma on pre-nups, but women should look at it as an empowering tool. The strain and agony that goes into a nasty divorce is really much worse. Why not do that type of negotiating when both people are on great terms?
There's an entire chapter on masturbation. How does that fit into your thesis?
For young girls, it's a way of making sure you don't confuse those feelings with love, especially early on. Just because things feel good, that doesn't mean that he's the one. And I think it's empowering to know what you're capable of and not to put it all on the guy. It's empowering as a woman to feel like you're a whole sexual person and not dependent.
You also say that it's important for women to be financially savvy on their own terms. Why?
I think that's sort of the Achilles high heel for many women. I myself have been a victim of it. Suze Orman, who we love, said she's dealing with these people, they're successful, well put together, amazing women, and yet they do not want to deal with a 401(k). And they will not shop around for a better deal on their insurance. She calls it the X factor for women. It's something we have to overcome. And to feel empowered you've got to be willing to take a look at the bigger picture of how your personal economics work, so you can then have an intelligent conversation about it. Many women just want their partner to take care of all that stuff and if that partner isn't good at it, they're both screwed. It's super important for women to push through their own resistance to financial management and get knowledgeable.
Why should we rethink the concept of "settling"?
I think that's such a negative term. And I think, again, this is based on this Happily Ever After, that you're going to meet this person who not only makes you feel more in love than you've felt since you were 16 but who also fulfills your every need and is perfect in every way. I worry that young, beautiful, smart, talented women are waiting and waiting for this person who doesn't exist instead of being with someone who is responsible and handsome and takes care of things and would make a good father. That's not what I call settling. That's called being smart about the choice you make and not always chasing after a fantasy that doesn't exist. I think for many young women, it's all or nothing. You've got to be willing to understand that people are just people. They're not princes, they're not going to take care of everything for you, and you have to look for the attributes that help complete the attributes that you have. If that's called settling, then I say settle.
Kate Ashford is a freelance journalist who writes about personal finance and health (and other things). Without online shopping, she wouldn't own anything. Her work has appeared in Money, Women's Health, and Self. For more, check out HerTwoCents.com.