Many women find themselves in the sometimes uncomfortable position of being the majority breadwinner in the household, which raises the question, “Should I be worried?” The key to navigating this touchy subject is awareness, not worry.
: Women outearn their husbands in nearly a quarter of households with spouses between 18 and 65 years old according to data from the American Community Survey
. Also discovered in Gender Identity and Relative Income within Households
, researcher Marianne Bertrand and colleagues at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that many women with high potential to outearn their spouses – consciously or not - hold themselves back by staying home, taking lesser jobs or working part-time, choosing to not
to put that strain on their relationship. In fact, the divorce rate is higher for couples where a woman outearns her husband.
Now that you’re one of those brave women who said yes to the career of her dreams, here are some tips to handling your new found knowledge:
Talk about the fact that you’re blazing a new-ish trail.
No matter who outearns whom, the healthiest goal is for both partners to have equal say in family matters, expenditures, social events, etc. Being co-bosses of the family is a lofty goal, but one that can be achieved with frequent “status of the family” check-ins.
Recognize that household workload will be a problem.
Hate to break the news, but wives who outearn often end up doing much more of the household chores, not less, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey
. This survey shows that while husbands spend an average of 20.8 hours a week on household chores and childcare, wives spend 33.5 hours weekly on these activities, which researchers believe that wives who outearn do so to quell their partner’s fears by doing more household work, but picking up more than your fair share of dirty socks will only lead to unhappiness, resentment and burn out. A better idea is to divvy up household chores fairly.
Discuss financial decision-making
The default mode of marriage has been that the primary money maker dictates big financial decisions, but that should change. The partnership in your marriage should extend beyond the marriage license and into financial decisions made by both parties, not based on who makes what money. Talk about your expectations and how money was handled in your family of origin. Create family policies surrounding money spending and ask each other questions like: Is it a big deal if one spouse wants to spend $150 on concert tickets or new shoes? Do you feel that a certain asset like the house or condo you’re living in belongs to one person more than the other? Should that person then make the refinancing or even the decorating decisions? Answer honestly. Then draft a money decision making plan that works for your family.
Consult a therapist
If you’re getting into repeated and heated arguments about money, financial power, and chores, it’s time to see an objective counselor to help you find innovative solutions.