A COUPLE of years ago, I fancied a winter holiday in Cape Verde. Totting up the cost of flights, hotel and new beachwear, I needed several thousand pounds to spend a fortnight in style.
I’m a 51-year-old successful woman earning a six-figure salary from my own wellness business, so I didn’t baulk at the price. But I knew my boyfriend couldn’t afford to come – unless I paid.
*Ben and I had been dating for six months and got on brilliantly. Back then chemistry was all I thought about in a relationship – I’d never dreamed of judging a man’s suitability via his bank balance.
But I’m not shy about having money conversations. I knew Ben worked in IT and was on £30,000.
Ten years my junior, Ben saw work was as a means to enjoy watching the game with the lads or camping holidays in the summer.
I knew he would see it as odd if I went on holiday by myself. But I didn’t want to pay for him. In the end, I didn’t go.
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It wasn’t the first time I changed my plans because he couldn’t financially keep pace with me. If we went out for a meal he’d pick an el cheapo all-you-can-eat place instead of the smarter restaurants I love.
When we split I had to be honest. We hadn’t made it as a couple because the financial imbalance was too great.
I took stock: I’d been through hand-to-mouth poverty and built my own successful business through hard graft. But I’d never stopped to demand the same work and money ethics in my men.
That's why these days, I would never date a man who earns less than me – and I passionately believe no woman should.
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I now routinely comb through a prospective date’s social media accounts. I check he works where he says he does by phoning up reception and clarifying his position. If he’s a business owner I’ll confirm he really is with Companies House. It sounds extreme but it saves hassle and heartbreak knowing a man is worth it.
I’ve been frank with my female friends – most of them independently wealthy – and they do the same. I’ve even warned my daughters, Ella, 22, and Yasmin, 18, that whoever they build a life with must have the same income and financial mindset as them.
That might sound harsh, but it’s a philosophy I’ve developed from long and bitter experience.
Over the last five years I’ve dated at least a dozen men who earned less than half what I did. I’ve learned the hard way that being a sugar mummy is a thankless and deeply unsatisfying role.
In my 20s I qualified as a massage therapist but never quite earned enough to make ends meet. At 29, I became pregnant with my daughter Ella, now 22, and decided to go it alone.
We hadn’t made it as a couple because the financial imbalance was too great
Two years later, I was in a committed new relationship and expecting another baby, Yasmin, now 18. But – although I was sure he was the One – it didn’t last, and I found myself a single mother of two with no prospects, aged 33.
I desperately needed stability, but instead I kept dating men as penniless as me.
‘Who cares what he earns – or how irresponsibly he behaves – when you’re in love?’ I thought.
I lived hand to mouth. I survived by learning exactly how long different supermarkets took to process card payments. If I timed it right, I could buy a big food shop up to four days before I got paid, knowing the charge wouldn’t land in my empty account until the next cheque (hopefully) came in.
But I was sick of living this way. So when I went to networking events and started meeting successful wealthy men, I paid attention to their attitude to money.
It was a revelation! So I started dating them.
They enjoyed all the perks of wealth – designer clothes and cars that cost more than I’d earn in five years.
I’d be taken to restaurants people would kill for a table at. Without even having to look at the menu, my date would order heavenly food for me. Some women might consider that patronising, but I adored it.
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I watched how they talked about wealth, how they saved and invested.
And then I took a huge risk to pay for a professional course – something I’d always seen as too expensive, but now saw as an investment in my future – then set up as a life coach five years ago.
I earned £30,000 in the first year, and my business has grown from there. I now earn a comfortable six-figure salary.
Still, it took me another three years to apply those lessons in my personal life.
There were the straightforwardly stingy blokes, the worst of whom would measure out two coffee cups of water to pour into the kettle, so he didn’t waste more electricity than he needed to.
He’d follow me around his home turning off the lights, drive at a specific speed to get an extra mile out of his tank, even re-use teabags. With his clothing, he had a rule that he never threw an item away until it had three holes.
Another would show up at my home empty-handed when I’d cooked dinner, without even contributing a bottle of wine.
I’ve learned the hard way that being a sugar mummy is a thankless and deeply unsatisfying role
Then there were those who went to the opposite extreme, spending recklessly because they just didn’t understand money. And then inevitably, these men expected me to bail them out.
The most brazen got into the habit of organising our dates around going shopping. He’d point at things and say, ‘I’ll get that once I’m paid’. On one occasion it was a designer shirt, another time the latest iPhone.
It took me a while to realise that he was waiting for me to say, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll buy it for you’.
Needless to say, I didn’t. And once I spotted the pattern, the relationship didn’t last long.
Another ex used to come with me on supermarket trips, and casually drop his groceries into my trolley on the assumption I’d pay for them. That might sound like a small thing, but he was treating me like a cash machine.
For years I blamed myself for my failures in love, telling myself I was too ‘business focused’. One man even told me I was not relationship material because I was too busy earning money.
So two years ago after my breakup with Ben, I adopted a new approach.
As well as doing my research, I ask pretty direct questions on a first date including if he has any debt, what kind of house he lives in (and if he owns it). If he doesn’t want to answer, I assume he’s hiding something.
Most men are stunned, the majority nervously laugh and the rare one I actually want to be with respects me for being so blunt and answers honestly.
I’ve come to realise that true love grows only when you’re on the same page. Looks and passion are no longer important.
Since changing my approach my love life has improved beyond belief. The man I dated most recently had his own business and earns roughly the same as me.
On our first date, he thought it was funny when I told him I’d checked him out online. During our six months together, we went to high-end hotels and spent time together that didn’t involve watching Netflix.
In 2023 I’m not shy or embarrassed admitting that dating rich men is the secret to a happy life.
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