Physician moms are often the higher earner in their relationships. As the breadwinner, it can sometimes be a challenge managing our money with our partner without feeding resentment. How does a breadwinning woman bring home the bacon and have a thriving family and personal life? How does she strike this balance when she makes more? Is that even possible?
“Female breadwinners are on the rise, society still expects men to take the financial lead as breadwinners in their households.”
Agree? Thankfully, Farnoosh Torabi was brave enough to start tackling this subject that needs to be talked about in her book When She Makes More. Women are now making lots of money, but traditional gender roles still permeate our culture. I am a firm believer in looking at all the money as our money vs. mine and yours. However, it’s clear that when one person contributes more than the other, this money disparity often brews resentment. When Matt and I first started merging our finances, we started working with a flat fee financial advisor. This is a great use of a financial advisor, who serves as a third party money expert. The advisor can help iron out any differences and make suggestions that the other party won’t take personally.
About the Author
Farnoosh is a leading expert on finance with roots in journalism. After her first book release in 2008, she also found herself coaching Americans through money issues on shows like REAL SIMPLE, REAL LIFE. As she created more career wins for herself, she also grew her family. By the time Farnoosh was in her 30s, she realized that she was the breadwinner…and so are so many other women. That's the impetus for this book. I first discovered Farnoosh through her acclaimed podcast So Money. I felt like “I made it” when she featured me on her podcast to discuss women physicians and personal finance.
Summary of When She Makes More
Farnoosh conducted social research with Dr. Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and certified financial planner. They developed a survey and interviewed over 1,000 heterosexual women in committed relationships. There was an even split between women who make more than their partners and women who make less. 80% of the women interviewed held a college degree or higher. In the book, she walks readers through the 10 rules breadwinning women need to live by to make relationships and life work based on her research.
A Culture That Isn't Ready for Breadwinning Women
Farnoosh initially tackles what we already know. She also says that ignoring the fact that there are cultural and societal “norms” can be at your peril. The social culture still favors traditional gender roles. Friends and family might not say it, but they will still question when the perceived finances of a couple buck those trends. Society at large just isn’t comfortable with a breadwinning woman. I can hear my Korean mother disapproving of my choices when I was dating. She would use her preconception of their earning power and make comparisons to that of her soon-to-be doctor daughter (me!). Farnoosh recommends working with your partner to “Rewrite the Fairytale.” This allows you to define your rules as a couple.
When a woman makes more, that woman is more likely to be the primary decision-maker on all things money, like paying bills, budgeting, saving, and planning for retirement. Many of the surveyed women wished that their partner would participate more in handling the finances. Even if you earn less as a woman, Farnoosh says women need to stay involved in the finances and know where their money is going. Farnoosh recommends three buckets of money: his, hers and ours. In the book, she candidly discusses how she and her husband manage their finances.
Quality of Relationships
When She Makes More also reveals some tension in the relationships of female breadwinners. Couples often report less satisfaction in their relationship. Breadwinning women are more likely to get divorced as well. The reasons are multifaceted, but one of the reasons is due to an often lopsided division of the household chores and logistics. Can I get an AMEN? Us physician moms know all too well that we are often a physician, primary parent, cleaning lady, vacation planner, and at-home chef all at once. Farnoosh's tip? Hire a wife! I couldn't agree more. She also warns that the thought Am I better off without you? is a deadly missile and may begin the demise of your relationship.
When a woman earns more, she often feels a lot more pressure about being the main breadwinner. She feels the stress of having to maintain her income. She might also feel guilty about not having more time with her family. Of course, my tip is to take charge of your finances and set yourself and your family up to work towards financial independence and true wealth.
What I Loved
My favorite tips and insights from Faroosh's book are: The concept of instituting yours, mine and ours accounts. This is how Matt and I handle our “pots” of money. Overall, we look at it as “one pot.” I also love her tip about allocating his money to specific tasks such as funding your children's education. I am a huge fan of the idea of buying yourself a wife. Outsource as many household tasks as possible to bring more peace and happiness to the relationship. She also discusses prenups, which are an essential part of any marriage. Of course, if you don't have a prenup, it's not too late. Post-nups can also be very helpful to keep couples on the same page. Lastly, she points out something I think many couples overlook when they decide to have one of them stay home: The numbers may work out to have a stay at home spouse in the short term, but it may not be the best financial decision long-term since a long break from work is essentially committing career suicide in certain fields.
Who This Book is for
This book isn't just for breadwinning ladies! It's actually an important read for families of any financial makeup. Why? Because you never know when the breadwinner status might shift. From temporary disabilities and career changes to reducing hours or taking a leave to help with family, you never know when your role might shift and when your partner's role might shift. That means you also can't always predict if and when you might take on the breadwinner role.
Plus, the more perspectives you hear about how couples share their money and deal with financial conflict, the stronger your relationship becomes. Whether you're the primary breadwinner or not, you can use When She Makes More to reflect on the money dynamics in your current relationship.