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Let’s crunch some  numbers. According to the most recent Census data, the median paycheck for Americans is $26,364, which means half of Americans made more and half made less. If most women can’t see themselves dating a man who makes $26,000 or less, then we have our answer: No, the average man cannot afford a girlfriend.


I found this quote buried in a HuffingtonPost piece rebuffing the advice of a Princeton Alum who suggested that young women must find their husbands in college or else, because at no point in their lives would they ever be surrounded by so many college-educated suitors with bright, well-paying futures ahead of them. The original letter, which you can find here, ended up going viral and it received mixed reviews from both men and women. As it relates to today’s topic, there are two main takeaways.

1. Most men adjust the type of women they date based on their income, among other factors. Men aren’t ignorant of what women prefer in a man. Most men know that although most women aren’t strictly motivated by money, money does motivate them. In other words, if all other factors are equal, a woman is most likely to choose the man pursuing her who makes $126k over the man who makes $26k, and why shouldn’t she? That is a smart choice to make. It sucks to be the well-rounded $26k guy, but in all fairness, if all other factors are equal, a man is most likely to choose a woman with a nice A$$ over a woman with extended back syndrome. It’s superficial, but it is what it is.

Even if they can’t afford a girlfriend, even broke men can usually afford to date. If he puts his mind to it, even a broke guy can scrape together a few dollars here and there to take you on a few dates or create the illusion that he makes more money than he actually does. Most of us know the “rich every two-weeks” guy. These are the guys in VIP every two-weeks when their checks cash, but they spend the remaining 13 days on Club Couch.

This isn’t to say that for some women, “money can’t buy love.” Men who prefer women above their pay grades seek out these types of women. Additionally, in my experience, a number of women will date the potential man over the man that stands before them, which means they’ll give a man, even a broke man, who doesn’t have a lot going for himself in the present a chance if he might have a lot going for himself in the future.

Most men don’t fear settling down as much as they fear settling down with the wrong woman. In regards to income, some men have a legitimate concern that they will “settle” before they reach their peak, and they haven’t had a chance to choose from the best options available to them. This isn’t to say some men won’t choose a woman and rise with her by his side, but I think there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows that men (and women) will “upgrade” if they are given the opportunity.

2. Men have no idea what women want, and I’m not sure women do either. Many men struggle with the idea that since women changed they have to change too. It seems like women sought equality with men, but as they moved closer to that goal, they began to look at men as beneath them. For men, the question is why does the rise of women have to be the downfall of men?

It is not that men as a whole are obtaining less education – although they are stagnating – it is the fact that women are obtaining more education than ever before. By 2017, women are projected to earn 64.2% of Associate’s degrees, 59.9% of Bachelor’s degrees, 62.9% of Master’s degrees, and 55.5% of Doctorates. In the Princeton Letter, the author makes a similarly interesting albeit not groundbreaking observation:

Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal.

While perhaps true, this statement seems to suggest that men hunt for “younger, less intelligent, less educated” women as if women are victims of the dating process. Is it unreasonable to assume that maybe women prefer older, more intelligent, more educated men? After all, if they aren’t interested, women have every opportunity to turn down these men’s pursuits. Trust me, plenty of women accomplish the amazing feat of telling a man they’re not interested in “no” every day of the week. The problem with the Princeton Letter, and others like it, is the fact that it prescribes a monolithic solution for a very diverse group, women.

Getting back to the topic at hand, the issue isn’t whether a man can really afford to have a girlfriend. A man simply has to find a woman he can “afford” at the time he can afford to be with her.

WisdomIsMisery aka WIM uses his background as an internal auditor to provide objective, yet opinionated, qualitative and quantitative analysis on life, love, and everything in between. WIM is not a model, a model citizen, or a role model. See more of WIM on his weekly write-ups for SBM, on Twitter @WisdomIsMisery, and Instagram: WisdomIsMisery.

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