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HerMoney Podcast Episode 252: Why Modern Dating Is In Crisis 

Kathryn Tuggle  |  February 10, 2021

How women can rule dating. 

Just before clicking on this article, what were you doing? Perhaps swiping right — or left, as the case may be — on a potential new partner, using one of what seems like thousands of dating apps available right now? There’s: Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, Match, eHarmony, OK Cupid, Plenty of Fish, Badoo, Hud, Skout, the list goes on and on… There are an incredible amount of possibilities right at our fingertips these days, and we’re in deep. The average dating-app user spends 10 hours a week on their dating apps, and that doesn’t include going on actual dates. Millennials and Gen Z are spending the most time, at 20 hours a week. 

They’re also spending money — and that money is reflected in the stock price of publicly trading dating companies.  Match — which owns a number of these sites — has a market cap of $38 billion. Bumble is preparing to go public, and there’s talk it could raise $1B on its IPO.

But what’s the value for consumers? In other words, are we getting a return on our investment? Because we’re not just investing time into these apps, we’re also investing money. Most of them cost a little something every month, and some of them can cost hundreds of dollars a year. But according to a pre-COVID Pew Research Center survey, 67% of people said their dating lives were not going well. Heterosexual women in particular said that things are more difficult than ever, citing safety concerns and difficulty finding people to date. 

All of this has led writer Jon Birger to posit a simple, yet disturbing thought: Modern dating is in crisis. Jon is the author of the 2015 bestseller Date-onomics, and his new book, just out this month is Make Your Move: The New Science of Dating and Why Women Are in Charge. Jon argues in his new book that the outdated “rules” of dating are holding women back… We’re still being told to sit back and abide by antiquated traditions that don’t fit the mentality of the modern, empowered woman.  So, how can we change this dynamic, flip the script, and take charge of our dating lives? Jon tells us everything on this week’s episode of the HerMoney podcast. 

Jon breaks down how the pandemic has changed our dating lives, and how apps and online dating are a greater investment of our time, money, and emotional energy than we may realize. He also tells us why women are in charge — even if we don’t know it. Oh, and that nasty rumor that’s been perpetuated for years that guys like unavailable women? It’s just that — a rumor. Guys like women who are actually into them. 

Since Jon isn’t the biggest fan of dating apps, he breaks down some of the preferred alternatives, and cites research from Stanford University on how the one-year breakup rate for couples who meet online is higher than it is for couples who meet in other ways. Specifically, the one-year breakup rate for couples who meet online is 16% — versus 9% for couples who meet through friends & family, 8% as neighbors, 6% as co-workers, and 1% in church. 

Jon shares the harsh truth that “dating-app operators do not make money off happily-ever-afters,” referencing Match Group’s 2019 report wherein the company acknowledged that  “successful experiences drive repeat usage.” Translation: Start dating someone terrific on Tinder, and you’ll keep returning to the app to find someone even more terrific. Could it be that dating apps are intentionally setting us up to fail? 

Apps can be addictive, he says:  “There’s this FOMO — fear of missing out — thing that kicks in, because people have this fear: ‘What if my soulmate is out there, and I didn’t spend an hour or two every day swiping?’ But the reality is that this is not how the human brain is wired.” 

It’s better to meet someone in person whenever we can, so we can form a true connection and find a real spark from the very beginning. One big reason is the safety of online dating. A recent Pew Research survey found that 53% of women who use dating apps believe that online dating is unsafe, and 19% have been threatened with physical violence. 

Jon also discusses why he thinks women in their 30s should consider dating younger men, and why college-grad women should be open to dating and marrying non-college-grad men, something he terms a “mixed collar marriage.” Lastly, he breaks down his top three dating takeaways for our listeners who are hoping to make 2021 the year that they find their forever partner 

In Mailbag, we tackle a question on whether or not Medicaid will take over paying for long-term care when your savings are gone, and we explore the value of hiring a bill negotiator. And in Thrive,  Jean dishes on the money conversations you should have with your partner every single year. 

This podcast is proudly supported by Fidelity Investments. Life is full of big moments—both the planned and the unexpected. Fidelity can help you navigate both with confidence. Learn more at Fidelity.com/HerMoney. Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC Member NYSE, SIPC.

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Transcript

Jon Birger: (00:01)
I don’t think it’s good for my mental health to be spending as much time on social media as I am, but it is addictive because there’s this like FOMO, fear of missing out, thing that kicks in. And I think it’s probably accentuated on the dating apps because people have this fear. What if my soulmate is out there and I didn’t spend an hour or two every day swiping? But the reality is that this is not how the human brain is wired.

Jean Chatzky: (00:39)
HerMoney is supported by Fidelity Investments. Whether you’re celebrating a milestone or adjusting to the unexpected, Fidelity’s there to help you navigate life’s important moments with confidence. Visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more.

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Jean Chatzky: (00:55)
Hey everyone, I’m Jean Chatzky. Thanks so much for joining us today on HerMoney. Just before you pressed play on this podcast, what were you doing? Were you swiping right? Were you swiping left as the case may be, on a potential new partner, using one of what seems like thousands of dating apps available right now? There is Bumble. There’s Tinder. There’s Hinge, Match, eharmony, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Badoo, HUD, Scout. I could go on and on and on. But I won’t. There are just so many possibilities right at our fingertips and we are in deep. The average dating app user spends 10 hours a week on these apps and that doesn’t include going on actual dates. Millennials and Gen Z are spending the most time – 20 hours a week. They’re also spending money. And that money is reflected in the stock price of publicly traded dating companies. Match, which owns a number of these sites, has a current market cap, as I tape this show, of $38 billion, and just reported earnings that beat estimates. Bumble is prepping to go public. And there is talk that it could raise $1 billion for the service on its IPO. But what’s the value for you? Are you getting a return on your investment? Because you’re not just investing time into these apps. You’re also investing money. Most of them cost a little something every month. Some of them can cost hundreds of dollars a year. According to a pre-COVID Pew Research Center study, 67% of people said their dating lives were not going well. Heterosexual women in particular said that things are more difficult than ever, citing safety concerns and difficulty just finding people to date. Put all of this together and we know some, if not all, of why writer John Birger has put out this simple yet very disturbing thought. Modern dating is in a crisis. You all know John. He’s been here before. He’s the author of the 2015 bestseller “Date-onomics.” And his new book out just this month is called, “Make Your Move: The New Science of Dating and Why Women Are In Charge.” John argues that the outdated rules of dating are holding women back. That we are still being told to sit back and abide by antiquated traditions that don’t fit the mentality of the modern empowered woman. So with Valentine’s Day just in front of us, it seemed like a really good time to ask, how we can change this dynamic? How can we flip the script? How can we take charge of our dating lives? John is back with us today. John welcome, Happy Valentine’s Day,

Jon Birger: (04:06)
Happy Valentine’s Day to you. And I’m embarrassed. I didn’t know that the market cap of Match was $38 billion. Oh my God.

Jean Chatzky: (04:14)
I looked it up this morning. So, if I’m wrong, you’ll tell me. And I’ll correct.

Jon Birger: (04:17)
I don’t know. It sounds right. It seems to be growing every day.

Jean Chatzky: (04:22)
It does. It does. All right. First question. And we just have to put this out there. How does a married male, former Fortune magazine writer end up writing dating books for women?

Jon Birger: (04:37)
Well, Jean, you and I used to work together at Money magazine. And I think you can vouch for the fact that both at Money and Fortune were same building where I worked subsequently, the editorial staffs were mostly women. And over time I couldn’t help but notice that the guys like me were kind of disproportionately either married or involved in longer-term relationships while the women, who I think I can safely say had actually a lot more going for them dating-wise, were disproportionately single. And the ones I was friends with, it wasn’t just that they were single, they had these like dating horror stories. You know, they didn’t want to be single and either nobody was ever asking them out or the guys who they were going out with weren’t treating them right. So the idea with the first book Date-oomics was basically to explore why the heck dating was so much harder for women than it is for men. And I assumed it couldn’t be the answer that every single woman’s mom gives, which is basically, you’re not good at this. That there has to be more to it then you’re not doing the right thing, or men are good at dating and and women are bad at dating. So that was the impetus for the first book. And just to wrap it up, the first book was more pop science than dating advice. It kind of explored how lopsided sex ratios among college grads have spilled over into post-college dating. So we now have one third more women than men graduating from college. And that’s why dating is so hard for educated, successful women.

Jean Chatzky: (06:19)
You put right up in the subtitle of the book that women are in charge. So I’m thinking anecdotally, I know considerably more amazing women who are single, not because they want to be single by the way, but single, then I know men. And some of the men are amazing and some of them are not so amazing. So how could it possibly be that women are in charge?

Jon Birger: (06:49)
So if you think about the best-selling dating books that have come out over the past 30 years, like books like The Rules or Ignore The Guy, Get The Guy. You know, there’s been kind of a whole cottage industry of Rules-like books that have come out. They all kind of argue for a very complicated version of playing hard to get. Basically telling a woman that the way you entice a guy is basically pretending that you don’t like them. Pretending that you’re not interested. And then, you know, men are supposedly hardwired for the chase and that’s the way you get him to like you. And the message that these books essentially want young women to send to young men is not interested means keep trying. Now, before we get to the problematic nature of that message, I mean.

Jean Chatzky: (07:43)
Right. I mean I hate that message. I would never want my daughter or my girlfriends or any of the lists. It’s just bullshit. And I don’t curse on this show.

Jon Birger: (07:54)
Well, I’m glad that it was your curse and not mine. So if young women are stepping up in everything from sports to education to politics to business, are we really going to tell them that, okay, you can be a bad-ass everywhere else, but when it comes to dating, you have to sit back and pretend that you’re like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, or at least the pre-Harvard Law School version, and kind of sit back and play coy and be passive and just be a passive filter of male advances, as opposed to actively seeking out who you want and what you want most. And I don’t think that was ever a helpful message. But if you think about what the not interested means keep trying thing implies, in the post Me Too world, it’s really, really problematic.

Jean Chatzky: (08:47)
So what do we do instead? Right. I mean, I queued up this conversation with a lot of talk about apps. And I know based on your work, you’re not a fan of dating apps. And yet, particularly right now in a pandemic when we can’t go out and actually, or we shouldn’t be going out and sitting in a bar and talking to the person at the next stool whose face we can’t even see because they’re supposed to be wearing a mask. Like, what do we do?

Jon Birger: (09:17)
Okay. So I have a friend or maybe more of a friendly acquaintance who is an English professor at Rollins College in Florida. And she had read an advance review copy of make your move. And she happens to be teaching a social skills or almost an adulting class that all graduating seniors at Rollins are required to take. And I think this is actually a cool idea.

Jean Chatzky: (09:39)
We need to get this woman on the podcast.

Jon Birger: (09:43)
You would love her. She’s she’s amazing. So she asked me to kind of virtually kind of speak to the class and there are 30 kids in the class. And I ran through all my misgivings about online dating, which you and I will, in a few moments, kind of discuss ourselves. And afterwards, it was a young woman who kind of piped up and she asked me, okay, if you don’t want us to do online dating, how are we supposed to meet people? Which is essentially the question you’re asking. So we put our zoom into the Brady Bunch mode and I said, okay, I’m going to ask a question and I want you guys to raise your hands if the answer is yes. And the question was, how many of you have somebody in your regular real-world life who you know and like who’s single, and who you’ve ever thought about dating? So there were 30 kids in the class. 30 hands went up. And my argument is okay, if there’s already somebody you know and like and trust from the real world, not a complete stranger on the dating app who you don’t know if this person is a good person, a bad person, if he’s real, if he’s lying, if he’s not lying. You’re really starting from zero on a dating app. If there’s already somebody you’re interested in dating, why the heck would you spend 10, 11 hours a week swiping on a dating app when there’s already somebody who you could ask out right now?

Jean Chatzky: (11:07)
And what was their answer to that?

Jon Birger: (11:09)
Oh, I’m sorry. I left out the most important part. Yeah. So 30 kids in the class. 30 hands went up with a yes answer. All 30 had somebody who they liked and knew and had wondered about dating.

Jean Chatzky: (11:23)
And so were they willing to accept that that was something they could should do? Did you get that having that conversation with them was going to steer them in the right direction? And I’m asking this the week after the GameStop frenzy on the Robinhood app, because I think that there are similarities. I think that, with all the swiping, that it’s a game. And that is why in so many cases, people go back to it. They’re addicted to these apps.

Jon Birger: (12:02)
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, because I’ve been promoting and pre-promoting a book, I’ve been on Twitter a lot over the past, you know, six months. Instagram as well. And I don’t think it’s like good for my mental health to be spending as much time on social media as I am. But it is addictive because there’s this like FOMO, fear of missing out thing, that kicks in. And I think it’s probably accentuated on the dating apps because people have this fear. What if my soulmate is out there and I didn’t spend an hour or two every day swiping. But you know, the reality is that this is not how the human brain is wired. Like if I asked you or any, or most people, if you needed a new best friend, is there any way you could replicate your current best friend or closest friend group by going onto best friends.com, if there was such a site, and finding a new best friend. And the obvious answer is that would be insane, because the way human beings bond is through shared experiences. And this is why every joke is funnier when you’re like with your friends then if you are just sitting alone in your living room watching a movie. Every triumph is more triumphal when you’re with other people. And it’s just very hard to connect with another person and to make the same bond if you don’t have shared experiences. And the other thing I’d pointed out, and this isn’t everybody, but a lot of the women I interviewed, every first date on a dating app is a blind date with a complete stranger. And the way they would begin the process is basically Googling the guy to death. Fact checking. Making sure you know, the job he said he has is real, the educational background he has his real, he’s not actually married, is actually Robert the hedge fund manager and not Billy Bob, the ex-con, that kind of thing. And then step two would be kind of an escape plan, a safety plan. You tell your roommate, your mom, your best friend, I’m going to be at the sushi bar on this date. If I text you just be ready, you know, if there’s a problem. And I, a hundred percent, understand nowadays why women would do that. I mean, there’s the Pew Research study that you referenced. 20% of women on dating apps have been threatened with physical violence. So in some ways it amazes me that, you know, if it was a singles bar, nobody would go back. Right?

Jean Chatzky: (14:38)
Right.

Jon Birger: (14:39)
Right. But if that’s your mindset going into the first date, fact checking and escape plans, and you have that level of anxiety, this is not a recipe for falling in like or falling in love.

Jean Chatzky: (14:50)
So in your book, you talk about the fact that there’s a study from Stanford University that finds that the one-year breakup rate for couples who meet online is higher than for couples who meet in other ways. And I wonder what that’s about. Because clearly these couples are making a connection. They’re just not making as much of a lasting connection. What do you read into that?

Jon Birger: (15:16)
Well, I want to preface it by saying, look, I understand that not every offline way of meeting people is perfect. Like if you met at a highway rest stop or at a Vegas casino, I’m sure that the success rate of those relationships is probably pretty bad. So I don’t want to imply that like every real world way of meeting people is perfect, but the numbers I’m going to run through are the ways that I endorse in Make Your Move. So, so according to Michael Rosenfeld, who’s a professor at Stanford, who actually, you know, publicly has been pretty positive on online dating. And in his study, he says the success rate or breakup rates of, he basically says the way people meet is, in his words, not much influenced by how they meet. The breakup rates are not much influenced. But in my view, this all hinges on how you define not much. So if you look at the appendix of his study, he found that the one-year breakup rate for couples who meet online is 16%. Compare that to 9% for couples who meet through friends and family, 8% is neighbors, 6% is coworkers, which is my personal favorite, 1% for people who meet at church. And I think it was 4% or 5% for people who met in grade school or high school, which I find interesting because my literary agent, she and her husband met in third grade. I always think of her every time I see that statistic.

Jean Chatzky: (16:50)
Well, can we just talk about church for a second? I mean, I think everybody listening is going to go back to, you know, people are going to find religion based on this statistic. What is that? I mean, I think I can guess, right? It’s, it’s this shared belief and value system, right?

Jon Birger: (17:07)
I don’t think it’s about God and faith. I think it’s about shared interests and shared values. And I was actually on a Christian dating podcast a few months ago and we talked about this. And I tried to kind of take it gently because they didn’t want to diminish the faith aspect of it. But I think my quip was, okay if this was a group, if this was a birdwatching club, and you had like 30 people who love doing birdwatching and all had the same interests and values, it would be easier for those people to connect too, the same way it is for a Mormon or an evangelical Christian or a devout Jew or a devout Muslim. It’s these shared interests and shared values that are kind of the mortar to the relationships. It’s not necessarily the faith aspect in particular.

Jean Chatzky: (18:01)
Well, and even non-devout Jews or non-devout Muslims, right? I mean, I remember when I moved to New York city, there was a temple in Manhattan and the rub was, go to Friday night services. If you go to Friday night services, you’re going to meet somebody. It was a reform congregation. It was not, you know, an Orthodox or a Hasidic sect. It was reformed Jews, you know, singing on Friday nights and making matches. And I think for the very reason that you’re talking about. You know, I don’t want to take us down and say that’s the only way. But I do think, I think the coworker thing, and when I first started working at NBC, there were all of these Today Show marriages. And there were at Forbes, when I was at Forbes, there were all of these Forbes marriages. And I think that’s gotten complicated. You know, you’re not really supposed to date people who might have any sort of power over your career.

Jon Birger: (19:06)
It’s complicated, but who in the world do you know better than somebody you spend nine, 10, 11 hours a day with. The workplace exposes everything, right? Like, you know, if a guy is untrustworthy or unkind in the workplace, he’s going to be untrustworthy and unkind in a relationship too. And the reverse is also true. If he’s generous and nice and helpful. And if your senses of humor mesh. And obviously if you’re attracted to him, that’s a pretty good sign that a relationship might work out. There’s really nothing like the workplace for replicating what a marriage or what a serious relationship might look like.

Jean Chatzky: (19:54)
We’re talking in terms of men and women here. But I know that we have a lot of listeners to this show who are in or interested in same-sex relationships. Do these same trends hold?

Jon Birger: (20:11)
Well, in terms of the workplace dating thing. I think the workplace is a great place to meet people, regardless of whether it’s same-sex dating or different sex dating. Just because, if you’ve worked with somebody for six months, you already know if you like the person. You have some sense of compatibility. You’re so much further ahead in the game once you have that first date, compared to where you would be with an online first date with a complete stranger. So I don’t think the same sex versus different sex thing matters when we’re talking about dating in the workplace.

Jean Chatzky: (20:47)
How about in terms of the apps though? I mean, the other thing that I felt was really interesting was the point that you made about a 2019 Match Group report, where they said successful experiences drive repeat usage. In other words, these dating app operators don’t make money off of happily ever after. They make money off of breakups and you coming back to the app.

Jon Birger: (21:13)
Right? So Jean, you and I both have worked for large media companies, right? And, as you know, media companies are not in the business of willingly bidding farewell to their subscribers and to their ad revenues. So obviously if you, and I don’t blame Match Group for this. Match Group, just for the record, doesn’t just run match.com. They own Hinge and OK Cupid and Tinder and a bunch of other apps as well. So obviously, if you’re a shareholder of Match Group, or if you’re an executive at Match Group, your goal is not to say goodbye to your members. Your goal is to keep them as members and keep them as subscribers. And if the user we’re talking about is not interested in a long-term relationship, that’s fine. I mean, I don’t assume that everybody wants to get married. I don’t assume that people don’t like to be single. I mean, I try not to make these kinds of judgements. But if your goal is to find a life partner, you kind of have to figure out if your goals, as a dating app user, are aligned with the business goals of Match Group or any other dating app operator. And I think it’s pretty clear. The answer is no.

Jean Chatzky: (22:36)
So interesting. And a point that you don’t hear made often enough. I want to come back and talk about, all right, let’s get out there. Let’s get on these dates. Let’s ask for these dates. Why it’s important for women to do that and beneficial for women to do that. But as we go to that part of our conversation, let me remind everyone that HerMoney is proudly sponsored by Fidelity Investments. Some of life’s important moments are planned for way in advance, while others, we don’t see them coming. As always, Fidelity is here to help you navigate both the joyous and the unexpected events with confidence. Their resources, guides, and tools can help guide you through important financial decisions when you need it most. Visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more. I’m talking with John Birger. He is the author of Make Your Move: The New Science of Dating and Why Women Are In Charge. So regardless of gender, it is always stressful to ask somebody out. And it can be especially difficult, I think, for women, because it goes against those traditional gender roles that we were talking about at the top of the conversation. But you argue, there is a big advantage for women to asking the men that they like out on dates, particularly right now. And I want to know why that is.

Jon Birger: (24:00)
Well, particularly right now because, if you think about the lessons of the me too movement, and I will acknowledge upfront that men may not be learning the lessons of Me Too as fast as we should have. But the one lesson I think we have learned is that if a woman seems disinterested, if you’re talking to her in a party and she doesn’t seem to want to talk back, or if you text her about a date and she doesn’t respond, the correct response to this is not to assume that she’s playing hard to get, right? The correct response is to just leave her alone. Right?

Jean Chatzky: (24:37)
Yes, please.

Jon Birger: (24:38)
So if that’s the lesson men are learning, women who kind of follow books like The Rules and this other kind of play hard to get dating advice, it kind of backfires on them because guys are a little gun shy these days. And I think one of the reasons why guys in particular are defaulting to the dating apps is because yeah, there may be somebody who they like a lot in the real world, the neighbor or coworker, somebody they know at church or at temple, but they’re just so afraid right now of doing or saying the wrong thing. And I know that you have 20 something kids, right? As you know, this generation is deathly afraid of doing or saying anything that would be awkward or creepy. And they don’t have the risk tolerance that I think, you know, at least I had when I was in my twenties. And as a result, there are all these kind of potential relationships with people we actually know and like that never happened because we’re just so afraid of putting ourselves out there. And I think with women who put themselves out there, I think there’s just such a huge advantage, a huge potential win. Because contrary to what, you know, women have been socialized to believe, men actually like women who like them.

Jean Chatzky: (26:03)
I’m laughing because my husband would be the first one to tell you that, right? Like I’m going to get really slammed for telling tales out of school. But you know, he and his friends from high school, that’s how they dated. They dated the girls who liked them.

Jon Birger: (26:21)
Right. Which is funny because to me, this is obvious. And whenever I use that line on the lecture circuit, the guys are always nodding in unison. And the women in the audience are looking at me like I’m absolutely insane. Because they have been taught to believe that men live for the chase. And if you show too much interest in him, he will become less interested in you. I don’t know about your friend group, but I have yet to meet the guy who broke up with a woman he really liked just because she was too enthusiastic about him.

Jean Chatzky: (26:52)
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You also recommend that women in their thirties seriously think about dating younger men.

Jon Birger: (26:59)
I do. And well, by younger man, I’m not saying like a 38 year old should date an 18 year old. I mean, let’s be reasonable. But my view, and this is kind of extrapolated from my first book Date-onomics, which explored how this imbalance in the dating market was affecting behavior. My view is that a guy who has never married, I’m not saying divorced, but somebody who has never been married at age 38 or 45, somewhere in that range. You know, he has a decent job. He’s a nice looking guy. He’s not single by accident, right? I mean, he’s single by choice. And the further he gets into his late thirties or early forties, the more fun he’s having playing the field. And I almost think that this is an exaggeration, but not too much of an exaggeration, that a guy who’s never married by his early forties is essentially unmarriageable. Because he doesn’t know how to make a relationship work and his value system is different. And as counterintuitive as it sounds, I actually think the younger guys may be more ready for marriage than the older ones. There is research that shows the older you get, the more rigid you become about who you can build a life with. You know, when you’re 24 and I completely relate to this myself, you don’t have the same list of must haves in a partner that you do when you’re 34 or 44.

Jean Chatzky: (28:36)
Well, and maybe as you get older, you think about ways to do it differently. We had on this show, a guest named Judith Newman who married relatively late and she and her husband never gave up their separate apartments. They raised kids. They had a lovely life together. But they chose to do it differently and it worked for them. You also doubled down in this book on the idea of what you call mixed collar marriages.

Jon Birger: (29:04)
Mixed color dating, mixed color marriages. Yeah. I mean, if there are too many women in the white collar dating pool, and I’m using white collar and blue collar as kind of a proxy for college education. But if there are too many women in the white collar dating pool, and then there were too many men in the blue collar dating pool, which there are, you just never hear about it, but there are, to me it feels inevitable that some of those cops and electricians will eventually find the female lawyers and journalists. You know, with Date-onomics, I got some pushback on this, but I truly believe that these relationships are not only inevitable, but beneficial. I coach little league baseball and a lot of my co coaches or opposing coaches, they’re cops or firemen, or they run landscaping companies, things like that and they’re amazing guys. They’re great dads. They’re great husbands. And one thing that I know that will resonate with you is they did not enter their marriage with $50,000 in student loan debt. And as you know, there’s no like bigger stressor on a young marriage than one couples excess debt.

Jean Chatzky: (30:16)
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. All right. We gotta wrap this. It’s fascinating. I could really talk about it for a long time, but as we do, top three takeaways from you for my listeners who want this year to be the year that they get into a meaningful relationship.

Jon Birger: (30:35)
So number one would be to just take like a three month break from the dating apps. And if you buy my book, Make Your Move, there’s a whole chapter that I call the make your move offline dating challenge, which kind of runs through a step-by-step plan for meeting and dating people in the real world. Number two would be to not be afraid to ask men out on dates. Don’t listen to those old dating books. Don’t listen to your hairdresser or any other kind of traditional dating advice you get. Like I said, men like women who like them. And I guess number three, and I know this is a little more complicated nowadays because the workplace is sometimes a virtual workplace, but I don’t assume that the here and now will be the forever. I feel like we’ll eventually get back to some sense of normalcy. I really believe the workplace is an excellent place to meet a partner, as long as you’re willing to kind of abide by some common sense rules. And one thing we didn’t talk about before, there are some companies that have actually come up with common sense rules and how to navigate online dating, like both Facebook and Google have a rule that you can ask anybody out in the date once, but only once. And anything that’s not a clear yes is a no. So if a woman says to a guy, yeah, not this week, that’s a no. So if you, if you ask out again, you know, basically you’ll be sent to HR. And I think that this is a way of dealing with what you spoke about earlier, this complication of workplace dating, but also allowing some of these relationships to blossom.

Jean Chatzky: (32:10)
Always fascinating, John, where can we find more information about you and about the book?

Jon Birger: (32:15)
So, you can go to my author website, which is Jonbirger.com. My name is spelled oddly it’s J O N no, H. J O N B I R G E R.com. There’s all sorts of information there. I’m JonBirger1 on Twitter. Unfortunately I’m a little different on Instagram. It’s John_Birger1 on Instagram. And the other thing I’ll mention is that for people who want to buy the book, if you run a book club, I do these kinds of book club Q&A’s, where like you can schedule me to do like an hour thing online, virtually, with your book club. And you can get more information about that either on my own website or on BookYaYa.com, which is the platform I use for this.

Jean Chatzky: (33:05)
I think you’re going to have a lot of takers. Thank you so much for doing this today.

Jon Birger: (33:10)
Thanks Jen. Thanks for having me on.

Jean Chatzky: (33:11)
Absolutely. We’ll be right back with Kathryn and your mailbag.

Jean Chatzky: (33:22)
HerMoney’s Kathryn Tuggle, our wonderful producer, has joined me. Hi, Kathryn.

Kathryn Tuggle: (33:29)
Hey Jean. That was a great show.

Jean Chatzky: (33:30)
He’s fun to talk to. You know, I’m such a data nerd. I like the way that you can take social phenomena and break them down and find the little hacks. Right? I mean, if I was single, I would be going to church or temple, right? If I was single and I wanted to meet somebody, done. Cause I don’t really think, I mean, maybe I would have found my way to the apps. I know a lot of people who are on them. I know people, look, I have two kids. They both have significant others right now. My daughter met her boyfriend through a friend. My son met his girlfriend on an app. And they’re both really, really happy. They’re all happy. Knock on wood. So I know it works sometimes, right? But I like digging into the numbers to figure out what does and what doesn’t.

Kathryn Tuggle: (34:22)
Totally. And I just think that the amount of choice out there right now. You know, everybody always says, there’s plenty of fish in the sea. And I think that there’s nothing that has brought that home more than dating apps, where you can log on and swipe through a thousand different people in a single night. But I do think that there is a push towards people wanting something more substantive. Wanting someone who they know through a friend or who they meet at church, just to get away from that instantaneous judgment that you make when you just see someone’s picture.

Jean Chatzky: (34:57)
Also, and we didn’t get into this with Jon, we probably should have, but maybe we’ll do it next time. There is this issue of too much choice, right? We talk about this when it comes to, I mean, you know, there was that famous jam experiment where a researcher from Columbia University laid out an array of jams and jellies, like 24 of them in a supermarket, and watched both how many people tested and how many people bought. And then she reduced the selection to six. And the number of people who both tested and bought went way up, right? Because sometimes there’s much choice you can’t decide. And I do think that his point about, well, maybe there’s somebody better out there if I keep swiping is what this issue of too much choice is all about, right? If I have all the candy in the world, how am I going to decide what to eat? It’s the big bag of candy at Halloween. Once it’s down to just the Reese’s peanut butter cups and the Hershey’s, I know what I’m going to eat. Right?

Kathryn Tuggle: (36:08)
Yeah. But I also think, at the end of the day, maybe it’s like the nature versus nurture debate, right? I think if you are the kind of person who wants to settle down or who wants to have a child or who wants to be partnered, then you will find a person. I think if you keep going back into the candy bowl for something better, than I don’t think what you really want is companionship.

Jean Chatzky: (36:33)
Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah. I don’t know if we have solved the problem. I mean, you know, it’s my age, right? I have women, friends, mostly women, friends, some guy friends too, who are divorced and who would love to meet somebody and who struggle. Who really, really are struggling because the pool is smaller. The idea of meeting somebody, I mean, I guess work still works, but it gets complicated and it gets harder. And I would love to figure out a solution for that.

Kathryn Tuggle: (37:08)
Yeah. It is hard, you know. And I agree with what he said about your standards getting higher. I think about the apartment that I lived in in New York when I first moved here and it was awful. And now that I’m older and wiser and I have more money, I would never settle for that kind of apartment. So as you get older, you do have more on your list of demands, but I don’t think that that means you should settle. I think that that means you should keep looking. And what we’ve been talking about is the sheer amount of volume of choice that’s out there right now. I think that there’s somebody out there for everybody truly.

Jean Chatzky: (37:49)
Well, I’d love to throw it to our listeners too. We’re going to go to our mailbag in just a second. But as you listen to this conversation, if you have comments, if there are things that have worked for you in your life, if you have suggestions that you’d like to make to the rest of our audience, throw them out there, Kathryn and I will discuss them happily on another podcast.

Kathryn Tuggle: (38:13)
I’d love that.

Jean Chatzky: (38:14)
All right. What do we have?

Kathryn Tuggle: (38:16)
Our first question is from Suzanne in California, she writes, hi Jean and Kathryn, I hope 2021 is off to a great start for both of you. I have a question about long-term care insurance. As somebody who does not have any children and with no family members on this continent, I always assumed I’d need long-term care insurance. However, in your book, Women With Money, I was both surprised and delighted to read that this is not necessarily true. If you don’t have a large nest egg, assets under $500,000, which will be my situation, you don’t need this insurance as you’ll quickly spend all of your savings on health care, at which point Medicaid will take over paying for long-term care. This makes sense. But what if a temporary stay at a rehab facility or nursing home wipes out my savings so I can no longer afford to pay rent when I’m discharged. Of course, I realize that paying the monthly premiums for this insurance for a few decades could put me in the exact same predicament. Thanks for your continued advice through the podcast, website, newsletters, et cetera. I love that your episodes are not always about money because it’s not always about the money.

Jean Chatzky: (39:18)
Suzanne, this is a really good question. And it’s one that, although I get asked about long-term care insurance all the time, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked. So a couple of just technicalities here. The first is that Medicare typically covers up to a hundred days of skilled nursing care. That can be in a nursing home. It can also be at home. It has to come after discharge from a hospital. But if you’re worried about a very short-term situation, this can be a route that you know, that you can count on. The misconception is that a lot of people believe that Medicare will cover their long-term care for as long as it goes and that’s not the case. But it will step in and pay for a hundred days. I Googled how long does a short-term stay in a nursing home or a facility typically last? And the average is actually longer than that hundred days. It’s somewhere over 250 days, around 260 or so. And so you’re right. There absolutely could be a gap. The problem is that with income and assets of the size you’re talking about, it may be impossible to afford to pay premiums on a long-term care policy for a very long time. But what you may want to do, if you’re worried about the gap, is to try to cover it with a smaller policy, kind of like you would pick up Medigap coverage for the Medicare expenses that the regular policy won’t cover. I wouldn’t lock yourself into a policy that is unaffordable for you in any way as you look out to your future, but that might be one route to consider. The other thing that I’d start to think about is do you have a community? Do you have, you clearly live by yourself right now. But are there people in your life, are there friends in your life, where you could envision a Golden Girls type situation as you get older? I’m being very, very serious about this. It’s something that I have thought about myself. It’s something that I’ve talked about with my girlfriends. That as we get older, because the likelihood is that we will outlive our spouses, those of us who have them, will it make sense for us to live together? It would solve the big problem of debilitating loneliness that I constantly remind myself, Dr. Mike Roizen, who was my co-author on Age Proof told me was as bad for your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. But it also gives us somebody to be our healthcare proxy. It gives us somebody to take care of. It gives us somebody to cook for. I think about when I make dinner at night and I would not be as happy, I think, if my husband wasn’t there to eat it. So give me somebody else who’s going to be there to eat the food that I cook. And that’s just something that maybe you want to think about as you get older. I hope that this is helpful. I know there’s not a perfect fit or a perfect product for the question that you’re asking, but there are some little fixes here and there that can get you part of the way.

Kathryn Tuggle: (42:58)
I love that suggestion, Jean. And I think that we are going to see so much more of that in the decades to come because the generations of women who have elected to live child-free or who are unpartnered, the chorus of those women is only growing. So I think the Golden Girls scenario is going to become a real viable option for retirement that millions of women are doing.

Jean Chatzky: (43:24)
Plus like it looks like fun, right? I mean, I just think I love my girlfriends. And I think living with them later in life would be something that I would really enjoy.

Kathryn Tuggle: (43:35)
I agree. Our last question comes to us from LK in Memphis. They write, hi Jean. Thank you for all of the work you do and for the variety of topics you cover in your podcast. And thank you to all of the people who support you in this work. I stumbled across your podcast a few years ago when I was looking for information about retirement and general money info, as I was no spring chicken and came from a family that did not discuss money. I think my parents considered it crass to talk about how much things cost, which now seems awfully and unnecessarily Victorian to me. I had a lot of student loan and credit card debt coming out of grad school, but I’ve focused on gaining control of my finances over the last 20 years and I now have excellent credit. But my question is, my husband just retired one year ago and I’m planning on retiring when I’m 70 in about three years. We’ve lived a modestly comfortable life since grad school and I feel fairly secure where we are in our retirement with our 401k, retirement program from university and our social security, we should bring in my current level of salary annually, which is about $70,000. However, as we face retirement, I’m looking for ways to keep on top of our monthly bills as I know they will rise while we are retired. So I’m wondering if it’s worth it to have a bill negotiator tackle our internet, cell phone, utility, credit card, etc. rates. We’ve done so on our own, but it’s exhausting. We spend a lot of time on the phone every year to talk down our APR for our credit cards and our Comcast monthly charges, etc. The company that we’re looking at, Experian, will only charge us if they get a reduction in the rate. Then they’ll charge 40% of the amount we stand to save in the first year. Any advice? Thank you.

Jean Chatzky: (45:14)
I’m all for this idea. I think if this is not something that you like doing yourself, if this is not something that you’re comfortable doing yourself, if this is not something where you want to put in the time, then yeah. Use the service. I mean, it reminds me very much, and by the way, Experian is not the only company in this game. There is Truebill, there’s Trim, which can help you get rid of subscriptions. There are a lot of different ones out there. But it reminds me of when I went to negotiate my property taxes. I wanted to grieve my property taxes. They seem to be significantly higher than the other homes in my neighborhood. And there were two ways to go about it. You could do it yourself, or you could hire a company to do it for you. And like this company, they took a cut of whatever money they saved. They actually took it for the next three years, but there was no upfront cost. They were successful. This was something they did all the time. So chances were pretty good that they did it better than I could do it. And I didn’t have to do the work and I was thrilled. So yeah, by all means, go ahead and do it. Just be careful of whatever personal information you’re asked to give them. If you are asked to give up any passwords and things like that, or other information that you are uncomfortable with, then be wary. Then take a step back. Then make sure there’s no way around it. The last thing, the APR for your credit cards that you are talking down. I hope that as you enter into retirement, you’ve rid yourself of revolving credit card debt. And you can get to the point where you’re only putting on those credit cards the amount of purchases that you know that you can pay off every single month. In that instance, the APR no longer matters because you’re never going to pay it. And so you don’t really have to worry about it. But it sounds to me like you are in really, really great shape heading into retirement. And I’m so glad that you found our show and you found the conversation. I think not talking about money is a very Victorian notion. And I’m so glad that we don’t live in those times anymore.

Kathryn Tuggle: (47:38)
Same here. And I had the same thought about the credit card debt. Your APR, ideally won’t ever be a concern once you’re on a fixed income, because you will be paying that in full every month.

Jean Chatzky: (47:49)
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Kathryn.

Kathryn Tuggle: (47:51)
Thanks Jean.

Jean Chatzky: (47:53)
And just a reminder for everyone who is listening, we have decided that we are going to put out a full week of love and money content on HerMoney.com. If you go to our website, you can make sure that you’re on the list for the newsletter so that you get that content in your inbox every single day. The other reminder for everyone is that we have opened up enrollment for the next session of my coaching class FinanceFixx. If you’re interested in moving your financial life out of chaos and into one of more control, I think our eight-week program can help get you where you want to go. The folks who are in it already are having some pretty terrific success. And on that note in today’s Thrive, let’s talk about some money conversations you should have with your partner every single year. By now, most of us know that talking about finances before you get married, that’s just vital to an open and honest marriage. But it shouldn’t be a one and done thing. People’s goals change over time. And regardless of how you share your finances with your partner, it is never just a matter of figuring out who spends what. Couples need to talk about their bigger picture goals and how their money can help get them there. You probably have a wide variety of financial goals from granular savings goals to long-term visions like a house, a baby an MBA. And while you and your partner might be on the same wavelength of putting extra pennies towards a summer beach vacation, you may not be as aligned when it comes to everything else. To make sure you’re on the same page, start by writing down your goals in the various categories. Health, family, travel community and professional. You might be surprised at what comes up on your list. And when you work independently from your partner, each making your own list, you’re given free reign to truly think about your own life goals and verbalize them to your partner. Then you sit down, you compare answers and you start to hash out your financial priorities. With a joint game plan, it’s possible to figure out details of how to achieve each of those dreams, whether it’s over the next several months or the next several years. Thank you so much for joining me today on HerMoney. Thanks to Jon Birger for the enlightening conversation on dating in this modern era. I’m eager to go through the entire book and find out more. If you like what you hear, I hope you’ll subscribe to our show at Apple podcasts. Leave us a review. We love hearing what you think. We’d also would like to thank our sponsor, Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Video Helper and our show comes to you through Megaphone. Thank you so much for joining us and we’ll talk soon.


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