It’s Okay That Your 20-Something Boyfriend Is Broke

“I let social media influence me too much. Last year, I cheated on my ex because I thought he was a bum because he wasn’t funding me to have a luxury lifestyle like I see others have on TikTok. The whole time, he was saving money to adopt his nephews. I want him back, but he hates me now,” a TikTok user captioned her video. She’s hardly alone.

By Keelia Clarkson4 min read
Pexels/Евгений Шухман

There’s nothing like social media to create dissatisfaction in your life. Just when you start feeling confident about your body, you come across a fitness influencer whose physique brews insecurity in your own. As soon as you begin to feel at peace about being single, a girl you went to high school with posts magical wedding photos, and you’re back to square one. Right when you settle into your new fixer-upper house that you and your husband saved for years to get, a 20-year-old TikToker shares a tour of the brand new $4 million mansion she bought in the Hollywood Hills, and suddenly, your living room doesn’t please you like it did just a few minutes ago.

It’s hardly a secret that social media, with all of its perks and fun, can produce discontentment. You scroll through Instagram and TikTok and X, sitting on your secondhand couch in a pair of old sweatpants and a t-shirt from your swim team days. Every person whose page you stumble across seems so much prettier, richer, and happier. It feels like the lives they’re living are more important and impressive than yours. You can’t help but compare yourself to them and feel that you come up short by every metric.

This has unfortunately been true since the dawn of social media, so much so that it’s woven into the very fabric of the online world. Even so, there are always new ways that social media can cause chaos – more recently through a growing swath of young women who not only expect their 20-something boyfriend to totally financially provide for them, but to be able to fund their incredibly luxurious lifestyle as soon as he’s out of college. In other words, when the vast majority of people are, for lack of a better term, broke.

“I’ll Only Date Him If He Makes Over Six Figures”

From the 6-6-6 rule to the “I’m looking for a man in finance, trust fund, 6’5, blue eyes” song that’s trending on TikTok, it’s obvious that one thing on the minds of many women is how much money a man makes. To be sure, it’s not always ill-intentioned or even wrong for a woman to want a man who can provide financially; furthermore, there’s definitely some humor thrown in with these trends. Not every woman is terribly concerned with salary. But there are still women out there who desire an incredibly wealthy man who will fund a lavish and luxurious life, far beyond merely wanting to be able to stay home with the kids and not worry about living on one income. Within this movement, any salary under six figures is seen as poor, splitting at all on a date is a big no-no, and frequently being showered with expensive gifts is a given.

In a TikTok titled “Crazy things my millionaire husband has said to me,” a user shared her husband has told her: “Why have one luxury car when you can have three?” “I’m sorry I upset you, go buy another Chanel.” “I’ll disown you if you ever buy anything but 24k gold.”

Of course, women being in search of a man with means was happening long before TikTok. And it isn’t even inherently wrong to like designer bags, if the relationship is based first on love and commitment. From Jane Austen characters marrying a man who could easily provide for them and allow them to maintain their social status to reality TV stars marrying Z-list celebrities, it isn’t exactly new for women to take more than just looks or personality into consideration when looking for a life partner. Still, the rise of social media has made it seem all the more achievable to land a guy with a thick wallet and made the guys who aren’t millionaires seem like lazy underachievers to women with a desire for the “finer” things in life.

Why These Can Be Unfair, Unrealistic Expectations

The problem with comparing your life and your 20-something, barely out of college boyfriend to TikToks featuring a man handing a wad of $100 bills to his girl like it’s Monopoly money? You’re measuring him with a yardstick that he can’t live up to. Young men can’t (and shouldn’t) be expected to fund a lifestyle that includes month-long trips to the Italian coast and a Bentley birthday present and first-class tickets to the south of France and “just because” Birkin bags. Not only is this image of what a man “should” provide for a woman unfair, but it’s also downright unrealistic, according to the stats.

To put things into perspective, in 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average annual wage for people 20-24 years old was just over $38,000. And while the statistics did show that salary tends to increase with age, the average annual wage for people 25-34 years old was just under $53,000. So to expect a 20-something boyfriend to make six figures right off the bat (if ever), to own a home, and to be able to offer full financial support simply because a random girl on social media has a rich boyfriend who buys her diamond tennis bracelets on the reg simply isn’t reasonable.

A man who’s just out of college is in a phase of life where he’s beginning to establish himself; he’s forging a path for himself, he’s making connections in his field, he’s looking for stable work. And because his career is still in a very malleable state, he’s probably at least somewhat broke. Not due to laziness or an unwillingness to work hard, but because he’s young and unestablished and new to the working world. So unless he was fortunate enough to land a good job immediately or his family is able to fund his life, he’s not going to be flush with cash. He probably won’t be able to afford to eat out multiple times a week or to take you on extravagant dates or to buy you a pricey gift for your birthday. Does that really warrant a breakup? 

What Do Healthy Expectations Look Like?

So, should women simply have no expectations when it comes to a man’s finances? Is it wrong to have them at all? Does it make her materialistic to care about whether or not a guy makes money or how much money he makes? Is it bad to want to be with a man who is able to provide something?

Put simply, no. Women should have expectations of the men they date. And it certainly isn’t wrong for a woman to take a man’s financial health into account when considering whether he’d make a good partner. In fact, it can be unwise not to. Tying your boat to a guy who lacks a work ethic, doesn’t desire to provide, and has no vision for the future will create regret and resentment, especially considering that a 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that 71% of respondents said a man should be able to financially support his family. So, what do healthy expectations look like when it comes to a guy’s finances?

For starters, understand that a guy who’s broke because he won’t work hard and a guy who’s broke because he’s a young, 20-something who hasn’t yet established himself aren’t in the same camp. Furthermore, pay more attention to whether your fresh-out-of-college boyfriend has earning capacity (or at least, is working toward having valuable skills that will increase his earning capacity) than to the number in his bank account.

Your 20-something boyfriend might be broke right now, but is he someone who shows a willingness to work hard? Does he desire to work his way up the ladder of his industry? Does he aspire to be able to provide for more than just himself? There is a certain beauty in growing up alongside someone, in seeing them go from minimum wage to stable and secure, in watching them be able to take on greater responsibilities. What should matter more than whether he’s able to afford a Chanel bag is whether he’s committed to you and to becoming a man who can be trusted to bring something to the table.

Closing Thoughts

Women shouldn’t be made to feel bad for wanting a man to be able to provide something. But where it’s easy to go wrong is believing his current financial state is indicative of what it will look like years from now and even placing a higher importance on living a luxury lifestyle than building a life with someone and growing together. First-class tickets and Teslas don’t keep us warm at night, and there’s nothing more meaningful than witnessing someone go from an inexperienced, broke kid to a capable provider.

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