My Tinder match asked if I ‘rent or own’ my apartment. Is it gauche to ask financial questions before a first date?


I met a guy on Tinder
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and had an introductory telephone conversation, which I always think is a good idea before making the effort to meet in person. During our 15-minute telephone conversation, he told me about his divorce, his job and his hobbies. He described himself as easygoing and outdoorsy, and someone who likes to socialize and play sports. 

He talked a lot about his children, for five minutes or longer. He said he owned a small house. He asked what I did for a living, when my last relationship was, what neighborhood I lived in and — this stuck in my craw — whether I rented or owned my apartment and if it was a studio, one- or two-bedroom apartment. I felt uncomfortable, but I answered.

I live in New York City, and I happen to own my apartment, but I felt like he was sizing me up and trying to get a picture of my finances before he decided to meet me. He also asked how long I’ve been in my apartment, probably to assess how much equity I had in it. I replied, “a while,” as I already felt like he was getting too into my finances for a first conversation.

Once he was satisfied with my answers to these questions, he suggested we meet. I am busy this weekend, so he suggested driving into the city during the week. Based on his job and profession, I can reasonably estimate that I earn about twice his salary, though this does not mean anything to me, and I could care less. But given his money-related questions, I find that ironic.

I asked some friends. Some did a spit take, while others felt such questions were fair game. What do you think?

Irritated Even Before Our First Date

Related: I want my father to quitclaim his home so I can refinance it — and take out a $200,000 annuity for my sister and me. Is this wise?

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“Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked.”


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Dear Irritated,

He is not your real-estate agent or financial adviser, so I agree that it’s strange for a virtual stranger to quiz you on your living arrangements.

Based on his questions, it’s important to him that you have the same level of financial security that he does. If it were not an issue for him, he would not have asked. It’s as simple as that. Similarly, if he were wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he may care less than someone who has climbed partly up the property ladder. But do I think it’s a bit much to ask in a first conversation? Yes.

Don’t give the Greek chorus too much importance. Whether or not other people are comfortable with such questions in a first call is immaterial; if you are not comfortable, you have your answer. You, after all, are the person who will have to date him, and expect him to show a semblance of emotional intelligence and sensitivity. It’s imperative to be able to read the room.

Let there be no mistake: If he is asking a question about your real-estate holdings or finances, he’s interested in them as a way of assessing (or judging) your suitability as a partner. Maybe he romanticizes his relationship prospects based on first impressions, and wonders whether he could combine assets and live in splendor. But words and questions have meaning.

Social acceptability vs. social mobility 

In America, it may be seen as more acceptable than in some European countries to ask what you do for a living, and even whether you rent or own in a big city like New York. The U.S. is a country of immigrants, and has more immigrants than any other population in the world, according to the Pew Research Center. 

The idea is to strive, work hard, and do better than the previous generation, although a majority of Americans reportedly doubt the attainability of generation-to-generation upward mobility, and millions of people are reassessing their relationship to work-life balance in the wake of the pandemic.

Wealth and looks play a role in whether someone swipes left or right, but the former appears to become more important when a connection is made with a partner who is deemed attractive. “When long-term interest is considered, the physical attractiveness of the model appeared to serve as an initial hurdle that had to be cleared prior to any other factors being considered by the participants,” according to this 2020 study.

People do swipe right based on economic factors. It would be foolhardy or idealistic to suggest that they don’t. If, however, a man poses in sunglasses with two thumbs up next to a Lamborghini, listing bitcoin
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trading as one of his pastimes, chances are he doesn’t own that Lamborghini and, in my estimation, may have “Tinder Swindler”-level intentions.

And if a potential partner is both attractive and wealthy? That seems to be an appealing combination. Female online daters are 10 times more likely to click on profiles with men who have higher incomes, at least according to this study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, while male online daters are equally likely to click on women’s profiles, regardless of income. 

I don’t put too much stock in studies that say men are looking for attractive partners, while women are more interested in men who look wealthy. You could probably do an analysis of any online dating site and gather a sample that would give you conclusions that say pretty much anything you want them to say. It all depends on the individual: Someone who knows the exact size of their backyard and strives to keep up with the Joneses is more likely to ask whether you rent or own.

In other words, this fellow who grilled you over your own socioeconomic circumstances may still be a perfect match — for someone else.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:

I want my son to inherit my $1.2 million house. Should I leave it to my second husband in my will? He promised to pass it on.

My adult sons live rent-free in my house, while I pay for 50% of utilities in my second husband’s condo

My brother lives in our parents’ home, which we’ll inherit 50/50. I want to keep it in the family for my children. How do I protect my interests?





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