I’ve heard lots of different objections to pursuing financial freedom. Most of these objections are regularly discussed in other FI blogs.
But one that I’ve not seen covered in any depth is the fear that as a result of cutting our spending, the opposite sex might perceive us as cheap / mean and therefore unattractive.
I can only write from a male perspective but it seems to me that us guys might have a bigger problem than women with misconceptions in this area. This is because a lot of us men are idiots who, egged on by advertising, have picked up ridiculous notions about what women value in men.
The concern for single guys might be:
If I pursue FI and slash my spending, might I become unattractive to women? Don’t I need to be an economic provider? An alpha male? Does George Clooney talk earnestly about frugality on first dates? And does he fret about turning up the thermostat in his Man Cave when he takes a supermodel back and its a bit nippy? What if frugality is a deal-breaker for women?
The concern for guys who are married or in a long term relationship might be:
If I pursue FI and cut my spending, might that mean my Special Love Muffin will resent the fall in their “lifestyle”, stop loving me and run off with the bloke next door with his executive kettle and the ride on mower with go-fast stripes? What if she divorces me? What if she gets the goldmine and I get the shaft?
OK, so most men don’t actually put it in those terms. But The Escape Artist knows the male mind and the misconceptions that many have.
This is an area that’s quite tricky to talk about. We live in a politically correct age where lots of men shy away from anything to do with male / female relations. There is a terror of saying anything that might be construed as sexist. This makes it a perfect subject for The Escape Artist, who doesn’t mind cracking a few jokes in questionable taste and can not be fired by his Boss or Editor.
Men are simple creatures. Let’s face it…many of us never take the time to learn to understand how the opposite sex thinks and feels. This is why men often “joke” about women being a mystery and impossible to understand.
But when we avoid thinking for ourselves, we tend to end up following other people’s agendas. In consumerist capitalism, that means the agenda of large companies who spend billions on advertising and marketing . Those companies don’t spend billions because they enjoy creating amusing adverts. No, they spend that money because advertising works.
Consumerism does not want us to be happy. Consumerism wants us to buy shit in an ultimately futile attempt to feel better. So advertising aims to make us dissatisfied with our looks, possessions and partners and to want more, more, more.
How else are we to explain adverts like this?:
The advertisers want to persuade us that we can spend our way to attractiveness: that a deodorant can bump us up from a “7” to a “9”. We have been marinaded in advertising sauce all our lives and these ideas eventually get absorbed into our sub-conscious.
As a result, many of us guys have been tricked into the notion that by spending money we will become more attractive to women. This helps explain how many guys end up over time turning into Walking Wallets who think their only role in life is to pay the bills.
The truth is that women are perfectly capable of earning themselves and providing for their own economic future. Women do better in school, university and enter the higher paying professions in equal or greater number than men. Women often have better social skills, a more collaborative approach and better emotional intelligence. These are important traits in the modern workplace.
The advertising and marketing industries know that males aged 18 – 30 are perhaps the most easily manipulated segment. It is young males who are most willing to blow their money in pursuit of their mating goals. It is during these early years that guys get habituated to ridiculous spending (e.g. nightclub entry, booze, cars etc) picking up bad habits which they often then keep for the rest of their lives as wage slaves. Guys need to remember that it is high spending plus debt obligations which keep them on the treadmill.
I can’t prove this but I’m pretty sure that a lot of guys piss all their money away during their teens and twenties because those are the years in which most men’s functional intelligence is overwhelmed by their sex drive. Its a bit like expecting hungry dogs to save a juicy steak for the future.
I am not saying that all spendy guys are consciously trying to show off to women. But my theory is that a lot of them are doing so whether consciously or sub-consciously. In practice, its hard to determine where spending to impress same sex friends stops and spending to attract the opposite sex starts. It all just looks like what rappers call “fronting and maxxing”.
Personally, I don’t think most women are all that impressed with money: its not their main criterion for mate selection. If that were the case, then The Escape Artist would be unable to leave the house without being mobbed by screaming Surrey housewives (a bit like Take That back in the day). I can assure you that’s not the case. I’d have noticed.
The evidence from academic studies in evolutionary psychology suggests that money ranks way below kindness, intelligence, humour as well as physical looks in terms of what women look for in men. Those men that think all women are primarily looking for money are mistaken and this can skew their world view and make them unnecessarily cynical.
Confusion may arise because effectiveness, ambition and good people skills are traits that most women value…and that also tend to correlate with higher income. But it’s easy to see this in practice and assume wrongly that women are attracted by a guy’s high income…whereas in fact they are attracted to the underlying character traits.
Being single has pros and cons just as being married has pros and cons. I am not going to pronounce on which is “better” because who am I to say what’s best for everyone else?
But from the (admittedly somewhat narrow) perspective of pursuing financial independence, being single means you can run your own world like a benign dictator. You have complete freedom to go for extreme frugality with no messy compromises necessary. If you combine this with a decent paying job, then boom! suddenly savings rates of 66 – 75% start to look easy. At a 75% savings rate, it takes just 7 or 8 years to get to FI. If The Escape Artist had been single then, with hindsight, I could have made it to financial independence in my early 30s.
On the other hand, being married can also be a fantastic state in which to pursue FI. The evidence suggests that being in a happy marriage gives people a secure emotional base that allows them to focus on crushing it at work and maximising income. But this only works if you are clear on your own objectives and you have The Talk and discuss your Escape Plan with your partner.
So I think that you can successfully pursue FI whether you are single or paired up.
But single guys have to remember that extreme frugality can (if done wrong) look a lot like poverty to the opposite sex. What you wear, your flat / house and how you live all send signals to others whether you like it or not. Because no one can see the balance on your brokerage or bank account, other people instinctively look for clues in your external appearance.
To solve this “problem” just requires a bit of thought and hardly any money at all. If you are a single guy, just invest in some decent clothes, shoes, new bedsheets and then make sure both you and your flat / house are clean and tidy. If you have a clean and well managed fridge with some decent food and wine in it, you are now way ahead of many (most?) single guys. Cutting spending and attracting women are similar in that both are easily learnable skills which just require a bit of thought, attention and changing a few bad habits.
I think the worst possible strategy for guys is to get married but then carry on spending as if they are single and showing off to others. What exactly is the point of competing with The Joneses in a married, suburban arms race?
The hilariously funny thing about spending in an attempt to attract women is not that it’s immoral (although you can make that argument if you want). It’s that it’s mostly ineffective.
When I worked in the Prison Camp, I saw plenty of people that earned lots of money and spent like drunken sailors on shore leave. But, unlike drunken sailors on shore leave, I suspect that many of them weren’t getting much sex.
For anyone interested in more on this subject, I recommend listening to this podcast:
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