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When the Wife Makes More

by: Adam Funk, CFP®, The Savings Coach

Farnoosh Torabi (author of When She Makes More) and Adam Funk (The Savings Coach) at XY Planning Network 2017

Farnoosh Torabi is bringing to light the paradigm that friction and conflict may arise in a marriage when a wife earns more than the husband. I met this inspiring woman and bestselling author at the XY Planning Network in Dallas this week. Her research found that 24% of American households have the wife as the breadwinner, up from only 6% in the 1960s.  You may want to ask yourself (and your spouse) if it might be the elephant in the room of your marriage.

Farnoosh found that female breadwinners face a much higher risk of burnout, infidelity, and divorce. She has come up with a bold strategy to overcome the imbalances affecting this family dynamic. I’d like to cover a few of her many good suggestions here that I found helpful.

Regardless of who makes more, she encourages household spending to look something like 10% hers, 10% his, the rest to household. The significance is that this gives each person a little slice of their own identity within a marriage. It’s a chance to spend money on your own interests without being judged daily by the other. Ways to accomplish this allowance are you could simply use cash, separate credit cards with a certain limit each month, or even separate checking accounts with debit cards you transfer or direct deposit a set amount of paychecks into.

Another good suggestion is to systematize transparency.  Technology today allows us to use an online dashboard that aggregates all your accounts onto one screen. Many successful couples also meet together with their financial planner. I use a software with my clients that aggregates all accounts so we can see all investments, debts, and spending. For some people we use it to make a plan, for others it is used to monitor the plan and keep score with your net worth, but I believe for all the most valuable aspect is the constructive conversation between a couple. It is a tool to discuss personal finance constructively. Too many people have made a habit of criticizing their spouses spending when really they should be happy for their spouse living their life even if it involves quirky expenses.

You could sense rustling in the seats as we were sitting in the conference of hundreds of other planners. Many still in the startup phase of building their own firms like myself and are therefore a two-income household. And because we are just starting our own business and not earning much income yet in the first few years, that means that our spouses are working and making more than we are. Similarly, entrepreneurs experience higher divorce rate. In the past, we often attribute the friction in a marriage because of being an entrepreneur and the unstable income experienced by being self-employed. When what I am taking from Farnoosh is that maybe part of the friction is due to the spouse earning more and neither person quite knowing how to handle this unexpected dynamic.

Encourage outsourcing. Her surveys found that when she makes more, she does more housework and is less satisfied with how domestic duties are managed. Hire a house cleaner. Last thing a woman wants to do when coming home from work is to go to work on the house. Our culture still implies that it is the women’s job to handle the household duties, but that may be just too stressful to do both.

Communication and dialogue is part of the solution. Yeah, we got to talk about it. As a financial planner we meet with clients regularly either annually or perhaps more frequently. But much of the benefit is it forces husband and wife to come together at least once a year to discuss money in a constructive manner. As teammates, they can dream of their future together, and come up with a plan to pay for everything we want in life. Our lives evolve and big events occur and we want to tackle it together. Our goal is not to simply tell you the rate of return your investments are experiencing, but how will we pay for all the great and difficult things life holds in our future.

Give his money meaning, a better sense of purpose.  The male culture still implies that men should be the providers. So, the mechanics of spending are for the lower income spouse to direct their paycheck to large meaningful things such as saving for retirement or the kids college funds. This way the man, even though earning less, still feels like he is fulfilling the role of family provider. While the wife’s larger paycheck goes to cover the daily lifestyle expenses. The big picture is still the same of total household income and expenses, but a mind shift can occur that makes life more meaningful to the opposing personas and in turn create more harmony within the marriage.

I just ordered her book and look forward to reading more details. You can too at http://farnoosh.tv/books/when-she-makes-more/

– The Savings Coach



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