The Telegraph

Sunday 14 April 2002

Get rich girls, get divorced

By Susannah Herbert
The Telegraph

NEXT time you meet someone who calls herself a typical Sarah, be alert - especially if that's not her name. A "Sarah" is the latest chirpy term for the new super-breed of "single and rich and happy" women who are apparently poised to conquer the world.

Last week, researchers for the investment group Close Wealth Management declared that there were almost 200,000 of these "mass affluent" females in Britain, each with more than £25,000 in ready money at their disposal. And their numbers are growing by the week.

At first glance, this is excellent news. Women with wallets are A Good Thing. Not only do they have more power over their own lives than their less fortunate sisters, but they are, on the whole, better company than the broke. Classically, a woman with a little extra money to burn buys shoes, takes taxis, wraps herself in expensive seaweed and generally adds to the gaiety of the nation by making herself and her surroundings more agreeable.

The best Sarahs go further still. They are the favourites when god-parents are chosen: their singleness means they can devote more attention to you and yours, their happiness means they can always cheer you up and their money ensures little Johnny will never pine in vain for a bicycle. To cap it all - and this is where the sisterhood really begins to preen - Sarahs are presumably brilliant successes at work: how else would they have racked up their nest-eggs?

It's an awkward question - because the Close figures show that most Sarahs haven't actually earned their financial independence: they've been awarded it by the courts. The projected growth in "mass affluence" among single women is nothing to do with a national increase in female financial aptitude or a revolution in workplace equality, but everything to do with a national epidemic of failed marriages - currently running at four out of 10, the highest in Europe.

So girls, forget all they told us at school about making our own way in the world. It seems that the 21st century has given a twist to the oldest of formulae: where once society applauded women marrying for money, now they are reckoned poor saps unless they divorce for it too.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.