When Can She Ask Him How Much He Makes?


Name: Chelle
Question: New to dating scene. When it is appropriate to ask someone’s income. Can this be asked on the date?
Age: 43


You shouldn’t be inquiring about someone’s income until you and they are considering merging finances or living situations. Up until then, how much they make is none of your business.  Finances are a very touchy subject for some, especially if their finances are somewhat unstable. Should that be the case, it’s important to remember that a credit score or bank balance is not necessarily a reflection of someone’s character.  However, if someone acts glib about their shakey financial situation, that’s a pretty good sign they’re irresponsible.

Most people when asked about their income, credit score,  debt, etc are probably going to be uncomfortable even if they have stellar credit. Money is just not something you discuss with someone with whom you are not already emotionally intimate.  So much of our society tells people to equate someone’s financial situation with their value and status, which creates a good amount of shame and embarrassment for people who struggle to reach those ideals. Also keep in mind that if you’re going to open up that door, be prepared for all your money-related skeletons to come tumbling out, too. Here’s the deal: if you haven’t spent any significant amount of time trying to support yourself on your own, you can miss me with your lectures. Being supported by parents or alimony will get you judged just as harshly as having debt. It works both ways.

Nobody likes being judged, especially for past mistakes. Someone could be doing everything right now but had a rough time of it three years ago and so their credit is fair to average. The number isn’t what matters. It’s the story behind the number that counts.



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18 Responses to “When Can She Ask Him How Much He Makes?”

  1. fuzzilla Says:

    I’m surprised this is such a short question. Meaning, I expected there to be a lot more history and context and at least a specific person they’re dating before they’d even think to ask that. First date? Oh, hell no, that is all kinds of rude. Guess you are pretty new to the dating scene. You might as well ask someone what they weigh.

    I think you can look for clues and get a general sense of how responsible or not they are, though. Such as dress, clothes, living situation, the stories they tell about their life, etc. Some people are so paranoid about potential “gold diggers” that they think it’s rude to ask what someone does for a living. It seems completely bizarre to me to *not* talk about what you spend most of your waking hours doing, to at least briefly touch on it. To dance around something so basic to your everyday existence makes it seem like you’re hiding something. I mean, do women honestly go on and on about, “So, have you made partner yet? Have a company car? Is it a Lexus? Late model?” like guys on the Internet seem to think they do?

    • Parenting Says:

      I agree. Look for clues.

      Personally, I wouldnt want to date someone for 2 years, wait until we move in together, and then find out that we are not compatible from a financial lifestyle perspective.

      As for the specific to the penny number, I agree with Moxie. I would not ask until you are trying to figure out how much each of you will contribute to the household. Until that point, you can ballpark it based on their industry and title. If you dont know how much someone in their role makes, ask their title and check on glassdoor.

  2. Robyn Says:

    IMHO knowing how much someone “makes” is not nearly as important as knowing that they live within their means i.e. they don’t send more than they earn and aren’t in ten tons of debt.

    When it comes to “a number”, “net worth” is a much better indicator of the above than “income”.

    But either way, it would be totally crass to be asking someone about their net worth or income or significant assets when you first meet them / start dating them.

    • UWSGal Says:

      “When it comes to “a number”, “net worth” is a much better indicator of the above than “income”.”

      Not necessarily. A freshly minted cardiologist may have a negative net worth due to his/her grad school loans, but will be making half a mil a year for the rest of their career in a year. A thrifty book-keeper may have a net worth of a few hundred thousand dollars and no debt, but will never make more than a 100K. Which one would you rather be? You decide.

      The point is, this is very specific to one’s circumstantial, age and profession. The older a person is, the more important net worth is compared to income because their years of earning potential are declining. If their occupation is fairly generic, you can surmise how much they’re making based on their seniority and title, but it is not always possible. In many occupations there’s simply no way of knowing. In my industry people with identical titles can make multiples of one another’s income and it varies year to year. An attorney working for a white shoe firm vs. an ambulance chaser – huge difference. People in entertainment – forget about ever figuring out how much they make.

      It also depends on the ultimate goal of the relationship. If you’re dating towards marriage and intend to merge finances, having a frank conversation sooner rather than later would be a good idea. It doesn’t have to be all in one go. May be you discuss your financial priorities and philosophy, e.g. spend vs. save during the first 3 months of dating exclusively. This is also when it will become naturally obvious without even bringing it up. For example, usually within this time frame you’d take a trip together. So – do they fly coach or business? Do they insist on staying at the Four Seasons (and can pay for it!) or are searching for an AirBnb under $80? You would have also done some shopping, dining and other activities together and seen each others’ homes. This should give you a good idea of how much a person makes and spends. Later in a relationship you can discuss investments, real estate, 401k and such. In my experience such discussions occur naturally. For example I own a vacation property so it will be known and obvious to people I date fairly shortly, etc. So, i think things like this come out organically as relationship progresses. IF THEY DON’T, in other words if the person is going out of his way to not discuss anything related to finances or investments or their career, that is a red flag i think. I would press the issue then if I was several months in and before getting really more invested… Otherwise there’s no need to force these things.

      • Robyn Says:

        Yup, agreed that there’s a timing component when considering “net worth” as a more reliable indicator than “income”.

        I’m in my 50’s, at which point “net worth” becomes a significant consideration if you’re aiming for a long-term partnership.
        If someone hasn’t accrued some decent retirement savings & paid down most of their debts by the time they are 55, they will be in deep financial do-do in their 70’s (if not before).
        Unless they can hook a sugar-daddy or sugar-momma (and I definitely ain’t a sugar-momma!).

  3. Nia Says:

    Yeah, the only way I can see doing that is if you’re putting your cards on the table for some “sugar baby” (and at 43, those years are behind you) situation.

    Maybe ask yourself why you need to know.

    If you want:

    To be taken care of financially: set that up specifically and make no bones about it. But you better be a compliant “10” ready to do anything for your guy/gal

    To be sure the person isn’t taking you for a “ride” financially/is stable: Look for clues. Do they pay with credit cards (not bank debit cards) every date? Did they hop from live in GF/BF to GF/BF? Do they get lots of calls they decline while on dates with you? Does their apartment seem commensurate or slightly below their “station” in life (ie, a small starter place for a 20 something, a comfortable town home for a 40 something)

    To make sure this person is on or around your level financially to avoid a big mismatch:

    Honestly, if you’re a woman, and you’re dating men, I get this. Women have outpaced men in earnings recently, and men haven’t caught up with feeling comfortable with a woman significantly out-earning them. So I’d look for “can he keep up” clues.
    Can he eat and the places you like? Does he work 9-5 and make any references to bonuses, raises, investments, retirement? Or is he banking on a big tax return to pay back bills?

    • UWSGal Says:

      Totally agree with all your points. Except I am not sure I got the credit vs. debit card issue. Since CC have more perks (miles, points, rollback of fraudulent transactions etc.) and are safer than DC, i always ask a person why they use Debit, if I see them do it. I actually ask that question. Because this could be a massive red flag: (1) they may have no credit as a result of recent bankruptcy or similarly bad event (2) they may be using their “business” account to expense their lifestyle for taxes through some bullshit LLC – which is pretty much just waiting in line for the IRS to fine them for tax abuse..

  4. Yvonne Says:

    I think men leave clues about their financial situation. If a man’s well-off, he’ll want you to know that, and may even tell you so. He’ll want to go out on fun dates and won’t mind paying, but don’t be blinded by a man with money who’s not a nice guy.

    I briefly dated a separated man who was doing well, but was terrified that his greedy wife was going to take him to the cleaners. Not a good situation on many levels. Another guy barely worked, and was waiting for an inheritance to come in. He was crazy-cheap, and hated spending money on dates. Another alluded to having trouble paying his bills. These examples are extremes, but you want to be cautious with anyone who raises these red flags early on.

  5. BTownGirl Says:

    Oof, it’s straight-up bad etiquette to bring up money on a first date. Yes, of course you want a sense of their financial situation, but there will be lots of clues either way. It seems like the only people who wind up really getting taken for a ride are the ones who ignore blatant evidence that the person is shady, i.e. the infamous Dirty John saga. The only thing I’d quibble with in this advice is judging people who have been living off alimony for some time. Sooooo many of the divorced moms at my stepkids’ school were out of the workforce for at least a decade raising their kids and in a lot of fields it’s pretty hard to jump back in after all that time and make halfway decent money. Even for people who don’t have kids, it’s an iffy thing to judge on without having all the info – maybe they put their ex through school or took a less intense job to have more time with a spouse that works a ton of hours, etc. etc. On the flip side, feel free to judge the heck out of anyone who cheaps out on (or, god forbid, hides money from) their ex/kids. That’s a sure sign of a dickhead.

  6. Selena Says:

    My father was in banking and when I was around 10 he told me never to ask people how much money they had, made, or what they spent it on. It was none of my business. I have the impression he was quite stern about this and as an adult it is obvious why – he was in a business and a position where financial confidentiality was an an imperative.

    I’ve never asked anyone what their income was, but some people have volunteered that information without any prompting whatsoever from me. What I consider private, I guess they don’t?

    If it’s important for you to know what someone’s income is to determine whether you want to pursue dating them or not, perhaps you could create a context in conversation where you tell the person what your own income is and see how they respond. They may tell you what they make, or they may not. But you going first, in context, may not come across as rude as outright asking.

    Don’t want to tell a stranger how much money you make? Right. That’s why you don’t ask a stranger how much money they make.

  7. EANx Says:

    When is it appropriate for a man to ask a woman why she weighs what she does? At the same time.

  8. Coffeestop Says:

    I would be less concerned with how much somebody made than how they managed their money and how much debt they had. However, that would not come into play unless we were in a serious relationship. I have never asked anybody how much they made early on in dating although I have had a few people tell me.

  9. AV Says:

    When? When you’re considering getting married or going into business with each other.

    Otherwise, don’t do it.

  10. Noquay Says:

    Usually there’s plenty of hints as to how well off someone’s a whether they’re responsible, living within their means. No need to ask; Just pay attention.

  11. Ian Says:

    Wow… why would you even need to know this, unless you are looking for a sugar daddy? You’ll be able to tell a man’s level of responsibility or ambitiousness (which I feel is a valid trait to “seek out”) by listening to them, seeing how they live, how they treat you, and how they mantain their lives.
    If a girl asked me this before we were together for a long while and/or we were talking about merging finances, I would only assume I was talking to a Golddigger. This question actually makes me angry.

  12. Rob Says:

    It’s appropriate when you’ve been dating them long enough to form a long term commitment (beyond exclusivity) yet you don’t have a feel based on their lifestyle and/or other hints they may or may not have dropped.

  13. Ss16 Says:

    I was surprised that the question was so short as well. I think it’s more important to spend time getting to know that person before you’re throwing out this question. In most cases, you don’t even need to ask specifically because the more you know about the person, you figure it out. You might not know the exact numbers in their bank account, but you have a general idea, and that’s good enough. There really is no good way to ask this question because they will likely be uncomfortable responding either way: 1) if he struggles with his finances, he would feel embarrassed to talk about 2)if he makes good money, he would question your motive in asking (i.e. if you’re a gold digger.

  14. Bree Says:

    At 43 and almost past childbearing age you should be taking care of yourself financially. But maybe you’re recently divorced and saddled with some growing kids or you’ve always put yourself into men’s hands financially, or you see a dismal financial future because you don’t make much money yourself , in which case I’d suggest asking him about money right away. Then follow up with an asset background check (hire a P.I.). Don’t waste time on pretenders. I hope you’re dating much older, uglier men.

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