When George, a hedge-funder in his 30s, is ready to move from the Match.com interface to a “real” email address, he shares a handle with them that includes a first name and last name — only they aren’t his own.
“I have a dating pseudonym,” admits George, who just relocated to Singapore after a decade in the West Village, and requested that his last name not be used for professional reasons. “I’m a private guy, so I don’t like sharing details about myself before I actually meet a woman in real life.”
Specifically, it’s the fear of a possible partner looking him up online and finding out he makes nearly seven figures a year that keeps George from coming clean. After all, men of his stature are prime targets for gold diggers.
“I do well for myself, but I don’t have a lavish lifestyle. I want to find a woman who likes beers and backpacking, not the things that they assume come with wealth,” he explains, adding that the women he clicks with laugh off his double identity when they learn the truth.
Although recent statistics from Match.com have found that 80 percent of singles are comfortable talking money details on a first date, in reality, it’s hardly necessary. After all, Glassdoor.com, Zillow.com, and fee-based background-check websites make it easy for anyone to conduct an informal audit prior to a first date, coming away with a pretty accurate picture of someone’s net worth. And that informal investigating is driving more and more wealthy Manhattan men to come up with increasingly elaborate ways to mask how much they make.
“It’s so easy to research people in this day and age. I’m constantly telling my clients, ‘Don’t accidentally give away any information before you’re ready,’ ” says dating coach Thomas Edwards, founder of the Professional Wingman.
“I have one client who’s created multiple apps that everyone uses every day. My advice to him is to downplay the specifics of his job. If someone asks what he does, I tell him to say, ‘I get really excited when I work on X.’ The point is to change the conversation so it’s about who he is and what he’s about, not about what his biography says.”
Vincent, a 40-something securities-firm partner who lives downtown, wishes he had taken that advice earlier. On one date, the woman described the multicarat, cushion-cut engagement ring she anticipated, asking if that was something he could provide. “After I heard that, all I was willing to provide was a taxi home,” shares Vincent (who wouldn’t reveal his last name due to privacy concerns), adding that he finds it a turnoff whenever conversations veer toward material goods. “Even innocuous statements like ‘I like your watch’ [are] a sign that a woman is thinking about money,” he shares.
Other telltale signs?
“I hate when dates are like a checklist,” says George, the hedge funder. “ ‘Where did you go to college, where do you work, where was your last vacation?’ I don’t think it’s necessarily just gold diggers who start conversations this way, but it’s definitely a way for women to suss out whether a man can bankroll her lifestyle. I prefer when women bring up more authentic conversation topics: ‘What’s your favorite craft beer? What’s your favorite book?’ The types of questions that help you actually see if you’re compatible,” he explains.
To avoid such traps, some turn to John Keegan, a dating coach in New York City. His services cost more than $8,000 for a series of one-on-one consultations, and he says a large part of that fee is spent teaching wealthy men how to date without automatically pulling out their wallets.
For example, instead of hitting a bar, Keegan took one of his clients, a world-renowned speaker, to Whole Foods. Over a $7 plate from the salad bar, his client met the woman who became his wife. “Of course, she was thrilled to find out who he was, but in the moment, all that mattered was the way they were able to connect,” explains Keegan.
Other locations that dating experts recommend to their clients looking to pick up women include the running loop at the Central Park Reservoir, JackRabbit sports shop on the Upper West Side, Brookfield Place during the a.m. coffee rush and even the uptown 6 train.
On the other hand, men who make north of six figures claim these spots are riddled with gold diggers: Blue Bar at the Algonquin, the Ace Hotel lobby, Equinox Wall Street, the Upper West Side’s Reebok Sports Club and “any Capital Grille.”
“It’s less the specific location and more about meeting a woman in an environment that makes you feel authentic,” Keegan explains. “For some, that might be a sticky-floored dive bar with a great happy hour. For others, it’s an art gallery. But the point is, what better place to meet someone than somewhere you feel comfortable?”
Hear that, gold diggers? The man of your dreams, available in Aisle 3. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll learn his full name.