NEW YORK, May 9 (Reuters) - Some women will be eating bacon at Mother’s Day brunches this Sunday. Others may be celebrating the fact that they are bringing it home.
Some 24 percent of married women earn more than their spouses, up from 6 percent in 1960s. Overall, 40 percent of breadwinners in American households with children under the age 18 are women, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank. (That figure was 11 percent in 1960.)
The trend of woman-as-breadwinner is the subject of the new book “When She Makes More” by personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi. Reuters spoke with Torabi about income inequality on the home front along with her tips for making a relationship work when women out earn men.
Q. What’s the best way to navigate the financial and emotional impact when a woman is the breadwinner?
A. When she makes more, she’s more likely to take on day-to-day and long-term financial decision making. The study we did in conjunction with the book found that 62 percent of women who out earn their partner or spouse pay the bills; 56 percent of them monitor household spending and 59 percent oversee budgeting as well as saving.
One of the challenges is that he can feel left out. She may start to associate making more money with being the more powerful decision maker.
As the female breadwinner, you may have a hard time letting go of the money sometimes, especially if you’ve been single for a long time.
Among couples who experience financial friction, it’s often because there is one bank account. The first thing to do is to set up three bank accounts: mine, his and ours. ‘Mine’ is the money you set aside for yourself (a slush fund for manicures and pedicures). ‘His’ is his domain and ‘Ours’ can be used to pay household bills or for the things that come up in a marriage or partnership.
Q. There has been backlash about your book. What’s behind the rancor?
A. There’s a division within the female community over this topic. Women in relationships who are making more than their husbands are latching onto the message and appreciate that there is a conversation out in the public.
But then there are women who think identifying this as an issue is not a win for women. Americans at large believe it is a man’s responsibility to provide for his family. And some men and women have antiquated views about what it means to be in a heterosexual relationship.
Q. What are the biggest challenges for women who out earn men?
A. It’s unfair to assume everything is hunky dory ‘when she makes more.’ For one thing, money doesn’t equal power.
Institutions and companies don’t provide enough support for the modern couple who may need something like paid leave to help a family member or to handle childcare. On the flip side, people assume that the man who isn’t climbing the corporate ladder as aggressively as his wife lacks ambition. That’s not a fair assessment.
Q. What’s the best way to level the playing field between men and women?
A. Communication is a loaded word, but you really do have to communicate with your partner. The younger generation has a better time with this than older generations because Millennials are being raised with a different set of family dynamics. Their expectation is not necessarily that the man will be the provider. They have more realistic expectations of what it means to be in a relationship.
The couples that are most successful don’t stay rigid in terms of what their roles are when they got married. They go with the flow if someone gets laid off or has not found a job yet. They understand what it means to get over the hump. (Reporting By Lauren Young. Editing by Beth Pinsker and Andre Grenon)