She Makes More Than He Does: Readers' Mail

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Nov. 9 2009 11:42 AM

She Makes More Than He Does: Readers' Mail

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A week ago, I wrote about the growing number of wives who make more money than their husbands. I asked readers to send in stories of their experiences so I could share them here. Judging from the enormous amount of mail I received it seems as if a hearty percentage of higher-salaried wives are readers of DoubleX !

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This week is going to be devoted to running some of the submissions, some of which will be run with initials only or names changed in accordance with the various writers’ wishes. But before I start, I’d like to make a couple of observations from reading all the mail. Here they are.

Many women are not yet mothers but have planned how to keep on earning after they have children. Some couples have already decided that the dad-to-be will stay at home; others will figure it out once the kids are born. I’ll be interested to see how that works out.

Chores seem to be scrupulously divided-or a nonissue, except that so many people who wrote in made a point of mentioning them. Many submissions included precise references to which person does what chore around the house.

Education is a very big deal. Some women are more highly qualified than their husbands and earn more as a consequence; others are putting their husbands through school. The expense of education continues to follow couples down the road of their marriages, which brings me to my final point.

It seems that how a couple views their finances is much more important than who brings home the larger paycheck. The grumbling and resentment in the e-mails came from different outlooks, not bank balances. This is a sensitive area. One’s attitude to money becomes apparent over time, not over dinner on the second date. During the course of your life, your personal-and financial-circumstances will change again and again. The happiest-sounding couples were those who were in agreement about how to budget and when to spend. Their shared vision gave them a more relaxed flexibility as they sat down to pay their bills. To give you sense of what I mean, the first submission is from B., who doesn’t have such a setup.

My husband and I have been married almost five years, and for the last couple of years, I have significantly out-earned him. We don’t have any kids, but certainly money has always been a straining point in our relationship.

Right now he is pursuing a new career in the TV and film industry and has not worked for over six months. Prior to beginning his pursuit, I helped him save a significant amount of cash, so he has been using that money to fund education and personal expenses and he pays half of the credit card each month. When we first got married, most of our household expenses were split 50-50 with some exceptions. I paid the down payment on our home and loaned him money for his start-up business (which he paid back several years later). As my income has grown, I’ve often funded vacations for both of us and "splurged" on big purchases for the house.

Surprisingly, my husband has picked up a few additional duties around the house, since my job involves long hours and lots of travel. Years ago he assumed the role of grocery shopper and cook and recently added laundry and dishes to his workload. I’m responsible for vacuuming, dusting, caring for the plants and animals and cleaning the rest of the house (mopping, carpet shampooing, etc.). I’m also responsible for the household finances and making sure bills are paid. He’s never been good with money and came into the marriage with a bit of debt and a poor credit history. We’ve resolved both issues but a major sticking point for us is retirement-he has absolutely zero saved and doesn’t believe in saving for retirement. He figures he will either make a lot of money one day or just work until he dies. I continue to save the maximum allowed each year in case either of those goals don’t work out for him.

He is sensitive about money, wanting me to tell friends that "we" saved for the down payment on the home and that "we" evenly share in all of the household finances. To my part, sometimes I just wish he would be more grateful/thankful that he does have a wife who works very hard at her job, makes a good living and is smart about her finances.

My job (for a video game company) has a lot of great benefits and has provided him with health insurance (something he was lacking for many years), and has allowed us to have a very rich life. I don’t necessarily care if he makes more than me. At this point, I just want him to find a career that makes him feel happy and satisfied. When he starts to bring in an income, then that just means that I’ll be able to save more for both of us.

At this point, we are on the fence about having children. If he could carry the babies that would be much better as my schedule doesn’t really allow for too much time off. It seems like having kids would be a lot of work. We have a cat and I’m responsible for all of the dirty cat duties (cleaning out the litter, grooming it, etc.), and he gets to do all of the fun stuff like playing with the cat. I can’t imagine how kids would fit into my schedule if we assume the same roles with children.

Photograph by Jupiter Images/Thinkstock/Getty Images.

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