SINGLE WHITE MALE, 33, investment banker new to Seattle, could earn $150,000 this year; loves outdoors; seeks an upbeat, independent woman who wants children, because he's. . . Psyched to Get Married
(MONEY Magazine) – First he got involved with a neighbor in his new apartment complex only to learn she was already attached: Her husband suddenly appeared. Next he reconnoitered a nearby beach touted by a colleague as the place he'd met his wife only to find "200 guys in black Speedos": It had become a gay hangout. Then he showed up for lunch with a dating-service-matched bookstore clerk only to find himself breaking bread with a militant vegetarian inclined to Scientology: "She was out there," he says.
Why is a nice guy like Tim Carlsen, who moved from San Francisco to Seattle last summer to take an investment banking job, putting himself through all this? Simply because this hard-charging, 33-year-old Dubuque, Iowa native has decided he wants to tie the knot and start a family ASAP -- as most of his friends are doing. All he needs is the woman. Trouble is, because of his travel-intensive, 60-hour-a-week work schedule -- 20 hours more than the average American -- Carlsen still scarcely knows anyone in Seattle. So with characteristic determination, he is braving the perilous '90s dating scene by launching a no-nonsense plan to find a mate. Already, Carlsen has spent $7,600 in search of Ms. Right, including joining a $1,000-a-year dating service. He's ready to shell out another $40,000 for a ring, a wedding and a tropical honeymoon even if that puts a big dent in his anticipated $60,000-to- $120,000 bonus. "I don't want to be one of those 45-year-old fathers pushing a stroller," insists the practical Carlsen. He hopes to have three or four children. "By the time my kids are in college, I'd be ancient. They wouldn't be able to relate to me. I realized I'd better get going if I'm going to do this kid thing." Carlsen may feel a bit lonesome, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, he has plenty of company. Largely because so many men in their twenties are now career building in a downsized job market, the number of never-married men in Carlsen's 30-to-34 age group has more than quadrupled since 1974, to 3.3 million. (Never-married women in that group have quintupled, to 2.1 million.) Today, nearly 30% of men ages 30 to 34 have never married and, like Carlsen, they're not necessarily happy about it. Women may complain that convincing the Y-chromosome crowd to abandon their carefree single life is as tough as getting Jerry Seinfeld to give up cereal, but Carlsen begs to differ. "Some of my married friends say: 'Wow, you're single. You have a fun car ((a leased $460-a-month '94 Ford Explorer)) and a cool job,'" he says. "And I'm thinking, Sure. They're married and have these cute kids. These guys have everything I want." Economics is the major reason so many men are postponing marriage. In 1992 the average 30-to-34-year-old man with a bachelor's degree and a full-time job earned less annually than in 1975, after adjusting for inflation: $42,169 vs. $42,449. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the cost to feed, clothe and shelter a child until age 18 remains roughly the same -- about $80,000. Says Sharyn Wolf, a New York City psychotherapist and author of Guerrilla Dating Tactics (Plume, $10.95): "A woman waits to have the right feeling about the right man. But for a man, marriage is more of a timing issue. He tends to feel he needs to be financially stable first." Carlsen agrees: "I've passed on two totally doable relationships because my cash position wasn't there." In his devil-may-care twenties, he managed to spend every dollar he earned. Plus, he racked up $22,000 in credit-card debt that he finally paid off in 1992. As a result, Carlsen's net worth is now a slim $24,000, and he rents a white-box $540-a-month studio apartment. But his fortunes seem poised for change. He expects his current $60,000 salary as an investment banker for a Canadian banking firm to be boosted by a $60,000-to- $120,000 bonus in the fall. And Carlsen thinks he'll be earning in the mid- six figures within three or so years. It's understandable that Carlsen's earlier priorities, says Tracy Wilson, a 32-year-old Chicago video producer who dated him from 1982 to 1987, were to "work, make money and indulge himself." The oldest of five children of a real estate agent father and a then-homemaker mother, Carlsen was a self- described golden child and a star pitcher who led his Dubuque high school baseball team to a state championship. His parents' marriage, however, grew increasingly stormy as their finances got shakier. One consequence was that Carlsen had to pay for his 1985 University of Iowa B.S. in finance by managing a campus bar and restaurant and borrowing $14,000; today he still owes $7,000 in student loans. His parents separated in 1990 and divorced this year. Carlsen insists that his parents' difficulties haven't made him shy away from commitments. But since graduating nine years ago, he has bounced around in four cities, holding nine different jobs, including office-equipment salesman in Dallas, mortgage broker in Chicago and financial adviser in San Francisco -- each position, however, better paid and more challenging than the last one. "I wanted to look at the financial world from different angles," he says. Now researching environmental and technology firms for a new Seattle branch of a Canadian investment bank, Carlsen thinks his job-hopping days are over. "I could stay here for 20 years," he says enthusiastically. "It's great to have a hand in funding companies that clean up rivers and protect kids." Surrounded by college friends who settled in Chicago and, later, in San Francisco, the energetic Carlsen had no problem getting dates after breaking up with Wilson in 1987. But it wasn't until late 1990 that he met his next serious girlfriend, a "very cute" woman seven years his junior who was working in a Bay Area restaurant. The relationship sputtered out last year. "She thought I was a workaholic," he explains regretfully. Comments Sue Grant, 31, the older of Carlsen's two sisters who is a high school gym teacher in Pleasanton, Calif.: "In the past, Tim has been attracted to a glamorous type of girl he could take care of." Nowadays, Carlsen describes his ideal wife as "my best friend and the most independent person I can find. I want to be able to sit on the sidelines, cheering her on." While he admits that looks matter to him, he adds that "it's more important she be athletic, outdoorsy and have a very positive outlook." With good looks, a handsome income and excellent prospects, Carlsen is hardly the guy you'd expect to have trouble getting a date. Even statistics are on his side: Seattle has 92 single men for every 100 single women. But Brian Krueger, co-author of Beyond Putting the Toilet Seat Down (Armchair Press, $6.95), calls the grunge capital one of the worst cities for dating in the nation: "People there," he says, "tend to be negative about relationships, unreceptive to small talk and lacking in a sense of humor." Carlsen has found the city trying. That classic urban meeting place -- the singles bar -- is scary enough in the age of AIDS, but bars makes him queasy anyway. "Even though I'm aggressive workwise, I think it's incredibly rude to go up to a complete stranger in a bar and ask for her number. I just can't do it." Nor has his $100-a-month health club, where he works out three times a week, proved fertile ground. "It's awkward. All these dudes are out to & impress, and the women are defensive." What about the booming business of personal ads (about $50 for a one-week ad in the Seattle Weekly)? "Never! There is no screening. That's Fatal Attraction stuff." And the '90s version of a village square -- computer chat lines like CompuServe, the one Rush Limbaugh used to link up with his new wife -- doesn't appeal to him either. "I'm too busy to stare at a computer screen," he says. One Saturday night last October, Carlsen realized he had to change tactics. "I hadn't had a date in two months. I'd been working most of the day. And I was alone in my apartment watching ESPN," he recalls ruefully. "I suddenly thought, I'll be doing this when I'm 40." So when an employee of the Bellevue, Wash. office of the 60-branch Matchmaker International (MMI) struck up a conversation with him a few months later, he was hooked. "She said there are a lot of women out there like me, professional, working a lot and hating bars," he says. Even the $1,000 fee for a year's membership didn't faze him -- especially after salespeople showed him a binder full of endorsement letters from married former clients. Unfortunately for Carlsen, such dating services generally have only minimal success making matches. Aaron Ahuvia, a University of Michigan marketing professor, estimates that little more than one in every 15 clients of the nation's 2,500 dating services wind up marrying people they meet through services. It didn't help Carlsen that although about 60% of all dating service clients are women, only about 40% of MMI's 1,000 Seattle-area clients are -- a fact that he says MMI did not make clear. MMI manager Brendan Mann says Carlsen didn't ask about the male/female ratio. So far, Carlsen has liked only two of the eight MMI-arranged lunch dates well enough to call them back. The six fizzles included a 22-year-old recent college grad who told him he was too old for her; a 39-year-old "fingernail artist" with an 18-year-old son, and that zealous vegetarian. "I'm serious," he fumes, "and they're giving me these goofballs." Responds Mann, who rejected Carlsen's request for a $500 refund but agreed to provide extra matches: "Tim is very picky."
Still, Carlsen credits the MMI experience for motivating him to chat up strangers. He has since snagged dates by striking up acquaintances with women at the grocery store, the Seattle/Tacoma airport and a local Thai restaurant and then exchanging business cards. These days, he averages six dates a month, ) often dinner and a comedy show (cost: about $75). Even when women initiate the date, traditionalist Carlsen insists on paying. This new $450-a-month expense doesn't bother Carlsen, since he needs only about two-thirds of his anticipated gross pay for day-to-day expenses. In fact, now that he's making serious dough, he's eager to spend it more wisely. If his bonus is big enough, he plans to shuck his noisy apartment, which overlooks roaring Highway I-5, and buy a home -- hoping to cut taxes in the process. He's wavering between a $300,000 house on Mercer Island, an affluent community east of Seattle "with a good school system" or a $200,000 condo "that I can rent out when I get married and buy a house." Carlsen plans to boost his meager savings too. He has only $12,000 in an Individual Retirement Account, which is invested in the aggressive mutual fund Fidelity Stock Selector (12-month return to June 24: 4.8%), $7,000 in the balanced fund Fidelity Asset Manager, up 5.82%, and $3,000 in his checking account. He aims to pile up $200,000 in savings by age 40 and then put aside $10,000 to $20,000 a year so that he will have $120,000 in annual investment income by age 60, when he hopes to retire. To accomplish this, Carlsen plans to start making maximum use of the simplified employee pension (SEP) plan this year that his employer recently introduced, which lets him contribute and deduct from his taxes as much as $22,500 a year, tax deferred, in whatever investment he chooses. What's more, he hopes to help his mom, LaVonne, through her upcoming retirement from a food sales job and offer some financial support to his four siblings. "That's what big brothers are for," he says. But Carlsen doesn't let those weighty concerns distract him. There are potential wives to be met -- perhaps during the scuba-diving week's vacation in Cancun planned next month (about $1,400). Despite the past year's setbacks, he continues to be optimistic about his wife hunt. "I'm jazzed because I know it's going to happen," says Carlsen with a grin. "She's out there!"
The Advice Dump the dating service. Instead of paying to arrange awkward dates with strangers, says Larry Mauksch, a couples therapist at the University of Washington, Carlsen might consider joining a bicycling club or volunteering to work with community groups that teach sports to kids. Such activities would increase his chances of getting to know women who share his values and interests. Bonus: They're inexpensive. / Hold off buying a house until you find a mate. A $160,000 mortgage on a $200,000 condo would cost about $19,000 a year in mortgage interest and property tax and would save only $4,700 in income tax, calculates Susan Nelson, a local financial planner. But if Carlsen waits to buy until he and his intended can pool their income and afford, say, a $240,000 mortgage on a $300,000 house, they could then save $7,000 in taxes. Get moving on that savings impulse. Nelson recommends Carlsen earmark $16,000 for an emergency reserve in the supersafe Schwab Government Money Market Fund (recent yield: 3.3%; 800-435-4000) and begin a fund for a house down payment. Then, if he starts contributing $22,500 to his SEP annually and his retirement funds grow at 12% a year -- possible if he invests in aggressive stock funds such as Warburg Pincus Growth & Income (no load; 12- month return to June 24: 11.2%; 800-257-5614) -- he could have $253,500 in his SEP and IRA by age 40. But he must also invest $18,000 outside the plan every year between ages 40 and 60 to reach his goal of $120,000 in annual income in today's dollars. Trim that wedding plan. Nelson says Carlsen should budget just $10,000 for the engagement ring, honeymoon and wedding. Traditionally, the bride's family picks up the wedding tab. If the couple pay their own way, observes Mauksch, then his bride should share costs.
Carlsen agreed with Nelson's advice about saving and about delaying buying a house. He plans to continue meeting the dates that MMI's manager finds for him. But he vows never to use such a service again. "It was an experiment that didn't work," he says. As for other ways to meet women, "I'm hoping this article will solve my problems," he says, only half-jokingly. "I'll take it from there."
BOX: Are you psyched too?
Any woman who wants to get in touch with Tim Carlsen after reading this article can drop him a line c/o MONEY, Time & Life Building, Room 33-59, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.
BOX: The high cost of itching to hitch
Over the past 12 months, aspiring husband Tim Carlsen sank more than 15% of his after-tax income into a mate search, including $1,000 for a dating service.
INCOME Salary $60,000 Bonus from old job 6,500 Interest and dividends 700 Total $67,200
OUTGO Income taxes $17,400 Car expenses 7,680 Rent, parking, utilities 7,620 Dating expenses, health club 7,600 Food 7,000 Savings 5,498 Clothing, dry cleaning 5,160 Entertainment, vacations 3,850 Student loans, credit-card debt 3,552 Gifts 1,200 Medical costs, life insurance 640 Total $67,200
ASSETS Savings and investments $22,000 Personal property 10,000 Total $32,000
LIABILITIES Student loans $7,000 Credit cards 1,000 Total $8,000 NET WORTH $24,000