Women out-earn their partners in a third of American couples.1 It really is inspiring to see such a large number of women bring in the bulk of the household bread; it shows how far our society has come since the days of narrowly-defined gender roles, when men were expected to provide and women to stay at home. Although high-earning women produce a net positive effect on a couple’s finances, many successful women come to me with the same complaint: Traditional ideas about gender roles stubbornly persist, and can cause resentment and generally negative feelings in men.
My first bit of advice to breadwinning women is not to ignore the elephant in the room. As emotions around gender roles and money may cause tension in the relationship, your man’s wounded pride may be the number one obstacle between you and fulfilling relationship, in which you can both enjoy the financial fruits of your labor. Because a man’s self-esteem is often tied up with his earning power, you may need to work hard to ensure your partner feels important and needed. Keeping the lines of communication open is key.
A big issue that often comes up with female breadwinners is work/life balance and the “second shift” many women still find themselves working in the home, no matter if their partner works or not. Today’s men participate in more childcare and cleaning than their fathers did, but women still do more than their fair share of household chores and managing of the family. Without honest communication, simmering resentments will eventually erupt into ugly scenes. A couple must negotiate and agree on how to divide and share tasks. If you can afford it, outsourcing time-consuming but necessary chores, such as housecleaning or grocery shopping, can go a long way towards increasing both partners’ satisfaction with the relationship.
You’ll need to plan your finances a bit differently as the primary breadwinner: Make sure you consider purchasing life insurance for both partners, particularly if you have dependents. You should update your life insurance coverage as circumstances change to make sure it’s adequate for your circumstances; your relationship may begin with one person as the primary breadwinner and shift with time, so be sure each person is covered with the right amount. If your spouse is a stay-at-home dad, as are about 16% of fathers,2 he can save for his own retirement with a spousal IRA, to which the working spouse contributes but which is solely in the name of the non-working spouse.
Read an article about spousal IRAs by W2W teammate Shelly Eweka here:
1 Nerdwallet.com, “How Breadwinning Women Can Have It All,” February 3, 2016.
2 As of 2012. Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/06/05/growing-number-of-dads-home-with-the-kids/, pg. 1.