Adventures in Online Dating: Should You Reveal Your Income?

Penny Wrenn

For some, ruling out possible matches based on their income means being realistic, not superficial.

Alix Abbamonte is a 33-year-old freelance publicist in New York. In the past few years, she’s made several online profiles—on OkCupid, Tinder, Match and eHarmony—none of which have revealed her (variable) income. Still, she always checks to see the salary of potential mates and uses that information to determine if she will give a guy the time of day. “When I read that a man is making only $60,000, I am turned off,” she says. As for $50,000 or less? “Absolutely not.”  

On the other hand, Abbamonte generally doesn’t believe a guy when he says he makes over $200,000, since there isn’t any way to verify that people are giving accurate estimates of their income. In fact, a 2010 OKCupid report found that 20% of its users said they made more money than they really did, presumably to make themselves seem more appealing.

So what are the implications of indicating you don’t want to reveal your salary—or of leaving that section blank, like I did?

Salary Secrets: I’d “Rather Not Say”

According to the AYI survey, 82% of online daters do not answer the income question at all, and, of the people who do answer it, 40% respond “Rather not say” instead of selecting an income bracket from $0 to $150,000+. Interestingly, the survey also found that people who choose “Rather not say” on their online dating profile are perceived to be lower earners. They have the same contact rates as men who make under $20,000 and women who make under $60,000.

It’s no wonder Michelle Frankel, founder of NYCity Matchmaking, never lets her clients skip the salary question when she’s helping them complete their profiles.

“I absolutely think it’s important to reveal,” says Frankel, 43. “Everybody has their preferences and biases—whether it’s blond hair or brown hair—and finances should be no different.”

“Everybody has their preferences and biases—whether it’s blond hair or brown hair—and finances should be no different.”

Frankel is in the business of helping people find love online (and offline), a job inspired by her personal experience: She and her husband, 42, met on JDate in 2011. Frankel and her husband both revealed their incomes in their profiles (they each made more than $150,000), and she says that the numbers “definitely” played a part in them getting together. But the couple is in the minority, since more than 80% of JDate users choose to leave their salary blank or select “Will tell you later.”

Van Wallach, 56, a senior proposal writer for a major professional services firm, was a member of JDate and before he started dating a woman he met on JDate in 2008. While he ultimately decided to select the “Will tell you later” option, he initially listed his income as between $75,000 and $100,000.

“If [income is] important to you, I’ll provide that information up front and you can decide immediately,” he says.

Wallach says he gave “zero consideration” to potential mates’ incomes—except when he saw they were higher than his. “That signaled they may be aiming for a lifestyle or relationship that I just couldn’t afford, given post-divorce debts and child support.”

JDate user Yan Falkinstein, a 31-year-old attorney who lives in Northridge, California, says he doesn’t want to be judged by the number on his paycheck.

“When I first started online dating, I was a student,” he says. “I was in college, and then in law school making less than $20K working part-time. Most girls probably wouldn’t want that anyway.” But years later, Falkinstein is making $85,000 and he still doesn’t list his income. “I changed my ‘About me’ section to say I’m an attorney. That should say enough,” he says.

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  • Mike L

    I’m a man who used to do a lot of online dating. I think it’s imperative that a man put his salary on his online profile. “I’ll tell you later” doesn’t work, because so many women will filter men based on their salary. If a man makes a low salary, you might as well put that up front to get it out of the way. If a guy makes a high salary, he has to put something there, even if he deflates his salary. It’s hard enough for men to get any attention online; we don’t need any additional reasons to get filtered out.

    I had a male friend who was making well over $150k and he put his salary as “I’ll tell you later,” because he was afraid of attracting gold diggers. I told him that he had to put SOMETHING, or else he’d get filtered out by women. I told him to put $75-100k. He was in his early 30s. I felt that 75-100k should be sufficient for any non-gold digging woman to be satisfied with. Of course he started having a lot more success on the site!

  • Sam

    I think it is absolutely necessary to include your salary in your profile. Some people are very particular about the salary that their significant other earns and it should not be looked at as superficial. For instance, I am married and it is imperative to me that my husband has a significantly higher salary than I do. I knew the career path he was headed towards when we met (I was 18) but I did not discover how irresponsible he was with money until well in to our relationship – THAT is the kind of conversation you save for later. I believe habits are fixable but salary… not so much.

    Lastly, why on earth does a woman have to feel inferior because the person she is dating makes more money than her? What is the reason for that insecurity? The fact that you’re not comfortable with your achievements is far more important than the amount of money your significant other brings home.

  • Guest

    I am female, but if I were a man, I would be really hesitant to list my salary. Women can be so calculating and shallow when it comes to finances!

    I have an online profile and I have listed my income as $150+ (I make $250k). I make plenty of money to support myself and I don’t need a man for his money, so I don’t look at the guy’s income. I do look at whether or not he is religious (I will not date someone to whom religion is important), whether or not he went to college (that’s a minimum operating requirement for me) and whether or not he reads.

    I have found that I am frequently contacted by much younger men, and of course, I filter those out since I know they are only looking for a “sugar momma”… not gonna happen! So I empathize with men who must always be second guessing if a woman is using him for his money.

    Personally, I think a relationship needs to be founded on equality, and if one person (the guy or the girl) is contributing a disproportionate amount of _____ (money, effort, planning), then the relationship is never going to be a solid one.

  • Monique A. Williams

    If his income is too high for her, than is there a threshold for too low? And if she’s just looking for someone nice to have drinks with, why does his income make him “too good” for her? The writer needs to get her self-worth in check before checking out her date’s net worth.

  • markbrooks

    To research Are You Interested news go to Online Personals Watch here

  • Stephen

    This is a shallow discussion. Why not just date and marry your pile of money?

  • La Chicory

    Proper etiquette is a lost art. I was raised that asking how much a person earned was inappropriate and incredibly rude. Common manners are being replaced by a sense of entitlement that is so self absorbed it often borders on the sociopathic! It astounds me how people feel entitled to such personal information from total strangers.

    Recently I was hiring a professional my very close friend of almost 30 years had used. I needed to know if the person had earned the value of thier commisions and broached the subject with her. Even with such a close friendship (we’re practically family) I tried to word it delicately so to give her the means to help me with the information I needed with out prying into personal territory.

    Call me miss manners if you want but I miss the days when people knew what was rude and actually attempted to be polite. Little things like please, thank you and excuse me, Giving the bus seat to a senior was expected. Today people shun what was once considered common decency. It’s a loss to society as a whole, and then they wonder why crime rates increase.

    • V-Nasty

      But crime rates aren’t increasing.

      • La Chicory

        You believe crime has not increased?! Here are some stats from Stats Canada (Canada’s governmental statist collecting agency) .
        After increasing 13% in 2004, the homicide rate increased by 4% in 2005. The 2005 homicide rate, 2.0 per 100,000 population, was the highest since 1996. Attempted murders were also on the rise, up 14% from the previous year. There were 772 attempted murders in 2005, 101 more than the previous year. (Source: Crime Statistics in Canada, 2005 – Juristat – Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Vol. 26, no. 4)

    • AngelsandDemons1

      I tend to agree with you on choosing not to post. Once we have a conversation and I devolve what I do and where, one can easily look up salary rates. I once even had someone ask me how long I had been in my profession within my county as they could likely look up the salary scales by year and figure out my income. With that being said, I choose to leave off my income because I would prefer not to attract anyone based on income; and, if someone prefers not to talk to me because of my unposted income, then they are probably not worth getting to know. nevertheless, I’ve been wondering about posting something as I wonder if it will increase responses to my profile.

      • La Chicory

        While it might increase the number of responses you receive, if that was what made the difference then these would be people as you pointed out probably are not worth getting to know. You are worth more then selling out your integrity wait for someone who values you for you, you will be much happier and better off if you do. Best of luck with it dear.