'Can you order an Uber for me, please? I don’t have enough money.'
'Yes, let’s go out... but... can you pay? I am running out of money.'
'Honey, you know my family. They are very poor. Can you help me out with $1,000 a month? I will pay it back for sure. I just need more time.’
He: 'Tonight you can pick the restaurant.' – She: 'Okay, cool, let's go to *insert any nice restaurant in town*,' babe!'
Getting the bill after the umpteenth dinner with your date. 'Shall we split?' - 'Sorry, I do not carry money with me.'
Those are all examples from Asia and the United States. Fortunately, only two I experienced myself while the others are stories from friends. Even more surprising is that I did not experience any other form of gold digging in my life. Especially living in Asia, I seem to be on the lucky side of the equation.
I do not believe it to be a coincidence. So what could be the reason for that? Find out in this blog post! Understand the underlying dynamics and get a different perspective on gold digging.
First things first. What qualifies as a gold digger? Following the dictionary Merriam Webster, a gold digger is as 'a person whose romantic pursuit of, relationship with, or marriage to a wealthy person is primarily or solely motivated by a desire for money.' The term gold digger is gender-neutral since there are both men and women can qualify as gold diggers.
To understand gold digging, we have to realize the links between this phenomenon, our gender role models, and societal structures. Leaving aside the last 50 years of a rather small part of the (Western) world, traditional role models dominate our societies. Those models themselves have been shaped to guarantee survival and reproduction. We could not be more mistaken thinking that through socialization and technology, we have risen to a state of rationality. Humans still possess the same genetic foundation as our ancestors living in caves. Our instincts and emotions still control every aspect of our lives more than we would like to admit. Being aware, acknowledging, and accounting for our animal heritage is not only the path to a self-controlled life. It is also the foundation to understand, detect, and disarm gold diggers. If we like it or not our dating life still works similar to our ancestors from the Stone Age: Both male and female prove their ‘worth’ and convince potential mates that they are a good match.
The man in his role as the (physically) stronger gender has to prove his worth to the womankind in several ways.
1. A good physical condition.
Physical indications are mostly subconsciously interpreted. It focuses less on the ‘beauty’ aspect but the subtle message a woman receives from a man that appears strong, fit, and healthy. It signals mostly two aspects: Firstly, the man is likely to have good genes that he will pass on to his children. That increases the offspring’s ability to survive. Secondly, a strong and fit man is more likely able to defend mother and kids against predators and other aggressors. That is the reason why most women are attracted to men that are taller than themselves.
It is all about that primal survival. Survival, in this case, equals two aspects. From an evolutionary perspective, the survival of our offspring means the survival of our gene pool. This instinct is the underlying force that influences our lives way more than we want to admit. From a societal perspective, it has been necessary that at least a couple of children survive to take care of the parents in their latest stage of life.
2. A good standing in society.
While humanity evolved and societal, cultural, and familial structures of human existence manifested themselves, the emphasis from the men’s physical abilities switched to their ability to successfully playing the ‘power game.’ Nowadays, the risk of a saber-toothed tiger entering our home and wiping out the whole family is close to zero. At the same time, the danger of another human killing the family declined massively as the juridical systems and ethical standards manifested themselves. Societies and dynamics of human co-existence became more and more complex. So did the threats that endanger survival.
Consequently, the requirement catalog for mating partners shifted as well. The famous quote survival of the fittest by Mr. Herbert Spencer (often wrongly accredited to the more famous Mr. Charles Darwin) does for a reason state fitness and not strength as the number one reason for dominance. Fitness contains the verb to fit. Being able to fit in and adapt to different conditions and environments is the number one reason why humankind is the only species of higher intelligence that has been able to populate nearly the entire earth – from the frosty landscapes of Greenland over the unbelievable altitude of the Andes to the extreme heat of the gulf region. The requirements of being able to fit into society, provide for the family, and protect them from any danger shifted from a physical focus to a societal and monetary one. At the same time, needs and desires evolved from basics needs to more elevated ones. When the need for survival is satisfied, humans automatically reach for the next stages of needs, desires, and recognition. Maslow’s famous pyramid of recognition describes it perfectly. Nowadays, it is not necessarily the physically fittest man that conveys the hidden message of being able to provide his family a better standing in life. It is the one that can afford to send his kids to Ivy League schools and use his networks to give them a big head start in life.
The requirements for women to be - from a traditional viewpoint - desirable mating partners differed from those of their male counterparts.
The most important aspect for women was the ability to ‘gift’ the man with strong and healthy offspring to guarantee the survival of the gene pool. That translates into an attractive appearance and good fertility. Afterward giving birth, it includes the ability and willingness to raise the children and take care of the family with the means provided by the man. One may say that under the long rule of patriarchy, the female fulfilled a ‘facilitator’ role to enable the male to do his thing. As long as he was able to provide for the family, he fulfilled his role.
In my personal opinion, it is important to have an overview of the underlying societal dynamics to understand where gold digging originates. From a historical perspective, attracting and marrying a man of higher class was the only chance for a woman to improve her living conditions. For the longest time in history, women were not allowed to build their careers and independence.
Fortunately, the emancipation movement disrupted traditional role models. Strong women are constantly reshaping our cultures and societies. In recent history, emancipation has mostly been driving out of Western countries. The overall increase of living standards around the world and the following adaption of societal structures made the new role model of the confident and self-sufficient woman popular in other parts of the world. Globalization and the connected exchange of workforce additionally promote cultural exchange.
From my perspective gold digging is a relic of old times. Broken down it is the trade of money for beauty. It is a business deal – an exchange of goods. Hence it can be assessed by the same means as any other trade transaction. A couple of years ago an open letter from a wealthy Wall Street banker went viral (presumably J.P Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon though never confirmed). It addressed a young lady that was publicly asking for tips on craigslist how to marry a rich man. In an entertainingly rational wording, it busts the value of this trade from a business perspective. For a rich person trading money for beauty is a bad investment. While beauty naturally depreciates over time, money appreciates. Money creates more money over time, and beauty naturally fades away. I highly recommend to read the open letter – it indeed is quite amusing.
Another for me more important aspect is the type of relationship that most progressive and well-educated people value. I genuinely believe that the human species, in general, is evolving positively. The changes in humankind over the last centuries are not a result of evolution but changes in our cultures, societies, and value systems. Modifications in our gene pool take thousands of years to develop and prove themselves. Adaptions in the way humans structure their social coexistence can change dramatically over just one generation.
For myself, responsibilities within relationships are not set in stone anymore as dictated by old role models. Partners agree on them following an eye-level approach. The compromise includes considering what is best for the couple respectively family while still looking at the consequences for each individual.
Life-long learning is my life credo. And I love to learn from the people around me, especially my friends. I love to challenge my ideas and perceptions of the world. It would not make any sense to exclude my partner from that. In the end, our partner is the closest person in our lives - At least until kids enter the playing field. If I could not learn something from my partner, I would get bored easily. For me, the admiration for people’s strength, drive, motivations, and achievements closely link to attraction. Sure, I can feel attracted to a person that has an attractive physical appearance. But in case that person is what I like to call a glittering but empty shell then that same appeal fades away as quickly as it popped up.
As gender role models converge, so do the requirements for women and men to being considered a good catch or a keeper. If you are a woman that is self-sufficient, educated, aspiring, and successful, there is no incentive for you to partner up with an old-fashioned man. He would not value or honor your way of life. If you can handle your life by yourself and bring more to the table than monetary contributions, you are likely to seek a partner on eye-level and not an accessory that is nice to look at or an ATM. However we twist it – there is no trump card anymore that is sufficient by itself. What we need nowadays is a deck full of different cards. Those are unfolding their potential in combination which each other and when being mixed with the cards of the right game partner.
Now you have read a lot about the historical matters of gold digging and how it became obsolete for high-achieving self-sufficient individuals. But what is the big think about gold digging that nobody mentions? And how has it helped personally to get around gold diggers most of the time? I like to keep my promises - let’s find out in the next paragraphs.
What if I tell you that gold diggers are not gold but lifestyle diggers? Think about it. Most gold diggers are quite limited in their abilities to create their dream lives by themselves. Otherwise, they would understand that selling shovels would be a way greater way to get access to more gold than they could dig in their whole life. Additionally, it would come without the negative side effects of being disposed of when they cannot live up to their promises (physical attractiveness) anymore.
I truly believe most gold diggers do not know the difference between assets and liabilities. I will cover those basic aspects of personal finance in other blog posts so let me offer at this point a boiled down explanation:
With your money, you can buy respectively build both assets and liabilities. Assets are investments that will make you money middle to long term if brought and sold strategically. Company shares (including both public and private companies), bonds, real estate, and commodities are the most popular representatives of this class. Especially stock dividends, real estate rentals, and shares in profit-generating businesses are important pillars for creating financial freedom through the so-called ‘passive income.’ That is income that is independent of the time you spend working in, e.g., a day job. The sobering perspective on assets is that they are not even 1% of the fun that liabilities are.
Liabilities are everything that makes fun, is flashy or glamorous. Liabilities suck out money from your bank account. Your brand new car? The moment you moved it from the car seller’s compound, it already lost 20% of its value. Trust me; it will not get much better. The visit at the Michelin star restaurant and the night out in an exclusive nightclub with bottle service? It will make you an Instagram story ‘richer’ and $500 lighter. From a personal finance perspective, you flush the money down the toilet. Welcome to the flashy lifestyle of liabilities. The Prada handbag? Liability. The Business Class ticket? Liability. The stay in the 5*holiday resort, including picture-perfect photos for social media with cocktails in the infinity pool? Liability.
You might now ask yourself: What the heck does this have to do with gold digging? Quite a lot…
Gold Diggers are lifestyle-loving individuals. That makes them liabilities-creating partners. They are masters in inflating lifestyles and burning through large amounts of (other people’s) cash. In their world, wealth equals the things money can buy and not necessarily the money itself. Being perceived as rich and living THE life is more important than actually being rich. True wealth in the form of black figures on a screen is surprisingly unspectacular. And building it from scratch seems to be even less rewarding. Putting in all the hours and efforts, sacrificing on many things and still not rewarding yourself with an inflationary lifestyle? Boring as hell from the perspective of a hedonist! The conditioned algorithm in a gold digger’s brain would spit out ‘Target is of no value. Move on to the next one!’
Let me give you one example: Gold Digger Max is getting to know Dominique and Alexis. Dominique and Alexis both have the same income. Dominique drives a nice sports car, lives in a nice penthouse in downtown, wears a Swiss luxury watch and is VIP in the most exclusive restaurant, bars, and clubs in town. Dominique’s lifestyle inflates as her/his income increases. Most of Dominique’s money is consumed or bound in depreciating liabilities. Investments and savings represent a small fraction of Dominique’s income.
Alexis prefers a moderate lifestyle and invests mostly in assets to build multiple income streams and achieve financial freedom in an early stage of Alexi’s life. Alexis uses his income to buy real estate properties and creates money by renting them out. Alexis’ investments in the stock market appreciate, and dividend payments generate another passive income stream. Alexis does not own a car, wears a regular watch, and tends to follow a low-key lifestyle.
‘Wealth measures the value of all the assets of worth owned by a person […]’ Following the definition of material wealth by investopia.com, Alexis is wealthier than Dominique. Now comes the million-dollar question! Who will Max, the Gold Digger, keep dating? Obviously, his is a simplified example playing with extremes. It does not represent the complexity of real-life situations. Nevertheless, I believe you understand the principles. I know persons who drive luxury cars exceeding 100,000 USD in value but do not have USD 20,000 liquidity on the side. It needs a small disruption, and their illusion of wealth tumbles down like a house of cards from a fresh summer breeze.
So how does this now translate into being able to detect Lifestyle/Gold Diggers and shield yourself from them?
As a believer in the Law of Attraction, I am convinced that we subconsciously have a great influence on the people we attract. Everyone can have bad luck and make bad encounters in relationships. In case this appears to be a reoccurring problem, it tells us and a lot about ourselves. Although suffering from our poor decisions, it might satisfy our subconscious desire for drama and unrest while stimulating our masochistic tendencies deep within. As this might sound a bit wacky in its general form, let me explain it to you in a more practical example:
As explained do Gold Diggers scout for a specific type of prey. Their desire to improve their lifestyle is so dominating that they even sacrifice the genuineness of their romantic feelings towards another person. Their self-esteem and values exclusively link to their success in portraying a flashy and glamorous lifestyle. In case you repeatedly end up with gold diggers, it might reflect your value and belief system. We all constantly share our core values with the world. Some of this communication happens consciously, but most of it occurs on a subconscious and non-verbal level. The way we dress, our social circle, our leisure time activities, places in town we meet our friends and so many more much more subtle aspects define the image we project about ourselves. And this image is closely linked to our core value and belief system.
It is rather easy to blame the opposite sex for being gold diggers, fake, and all the other negative tags. What is the actual hard, but ultimately rewarding part is to look into yourself. Ask yourself the question why you continuously end up with the wrong people? It tells as much about your hidden self as it does about the other person. We attract what we yearn. That might not always be the best thing for you, but it provides you with some form of temporary satisfaction. And this short-term gratification is a welcomed distraction from the challenging and often quite painful path towards self-awareness. In this blog post, I do not want to dig too deep into the theoretical part of self-awareness and our core belief- and value system but keep it practical:
Gold diggers find their prey in a specific habitat. That’s where gold diggers go hunting. In big cities, you find those places in cosmopolitan cafes during the daytime. But the real deals are done during after sunset. They happen in the highest trees of the metropolitan jungle way above the canopy of the average person: Rooftop bars or other upscale restaurants and clubs. If those places are among your most favorite destinations, you likely have high exposure to lifestyle-loving individuals on a mating spree. If you then let it rain over-priced liquor in the VIP section, you have set the perfect bait. It will not take long for the predators to enter the perimeter of the total reward.
I am not an opponent of showing class and style. Though I believe it should be more about manners and the ability to steer social situations as opposed to a materialistic showoff. If done well, a certain level of material wealth and exclusivity naturally comes with it. The emphasis is on naturally. It is a consequence of success and not the primary goal or indicator of such. My personal experience is that people who show off are doing the opposite: Spending any dispensable dollar on lifestyle and consumption. In the majority of the cases, those people aren’t wealthy at all, or they have not acquired their wealth by themselves. A lifestyle primarily focusing on consumption and materialism often goes along with a deep emptiness that those people experience. This feeling is very painful, and distraction is an easy temporary pain killer. From my experience, those kind of people are often uninspiring and frankly said super boring. I prefer spending my limited leisure time among the more stimulating company.
I spend most of my time out dancing Latin & Afro street dances because it is both challenging and entertaining at the same time. And I simply like the community, which is a cross-section of society. From time to time, my non-dancing friends are successful in convincing me to go out. Sometimes we end up in some of those fancy places. With the right company, this can actually be a lot of fun from time to time. But most of the time, I witness the thought evolving in my head ‘Interesting to visit those places from time to time. It is entertaining to watch people and decode their behavior. Nobody seems to really have fun except the people already being ridiculously wasted.’
In case you repeatedly end up with gold diggers (or any other toxic partner type), accept the challenge. Work on your self-awareness, learn about your dark side (The Shadow Archetype in Jungian psychology – read more here and here) and discover the deeper layers of your personality and subconsciousness. That will help you understand why you act in a certain way even you cannot explain those dynamics yourself (yet). Once you have reached that stage, it becomes clearer that we always attract what we seek.
 Because of simplicity reasons I will focus on the differences between assets and liabilities from a personal finance perspective. Definitions and categorizations from an economic perspective are more complex and differ from those for personal finance subjects.
 In personal finance topics I count one-time consumptions such as restaurant visits, travels, etc. to liabilities. Instead of appreciating over a longer time horizon they lose their value right in the moment you consume them.
 Excluding collectors’ cars like old timers which can actually increase in value and are a form of investment.
 Unixsex names are chosen on purpose.
 Not in his highly spiritual form but from a very practical approach.