An increasing share of U.S. marriages — 24 percent — include a woman who earns more than her husband. That’s up from 6 percent in 1960.
Make no mistake: The wage gap has not closed. Women nationally make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and in Seattle they make only 73 cents.
Still, an increasing share of U.S. marriages — 24 percent — include a woman who earns more than her husband. That’s up from 6 percent in 1960.
As the husband in one of those marriages, Glen Johnson, proprietor of Luckyboy Painting in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood, considers himself lucky indeed. His wife, Emily Johnson, is a project manager and earned about $40,000 more than he did last year.
“To us, it’s not even a thing,” he says, although the extra time he spends at home helps them both. He shops for food, cooks, does light cleaning and takes on major projects such as electrical and plumbing upgrades.
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The way Glen boils it down: “She doesn’t have to pick up the dog poop.”
And the way Emily sees it, “If it weren’t for him, I’d be eating ramen noodles and beer.”
Logistically, they keep separate bank accounts, with Emily paying for most home expenses and Glen covering the car and groceries.
Farnoosh Torabi, a personal-finance expert whose book “When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women” is due out in May, says it is important that men who make less than their wives feel their money is significant, too. It could be set aside for college, retirement, savings for the next car or big vacation — something that’s valued and appreciated.
Women who earn more than their husbands often handle much of the family’s financial management, which “on the one hand is progress, because women used to bury their heads in the sand about investing and long-term financial management,” Torabi says.
However, it’s important to have balance, with men participating in decisions and both parties having a clear picture of their finances. Financial planners can help, too, by making recommendations and bridging possible communication gaps.
In her new book, Torabi says her husband, Tim, grappled early in their relationship with thinking of her money as “our money.” However, she didn’t want to make all the big decisions and told him, “I don’t want to be the only one on this island of ‘she makes more.’ It’s very lonely. We need to be a team.”
Torabi’s family also struggled at first, surprised that their daughter earned more than her husband.
“They groomed me to be who I am, so you get to a place where you feel really proud and they’re proud for you — but no one from my family would anticipate I’d end up being a breadwinner,” she says.
Her family adjusted, as did Torabi and her husband, who are expecting a baby boy this year. She considers herself fortunate that her husband’s sense of self-worth does not depend on him being the primary source of income.
However, women who earn more also face expectations outside their families — for example, at work. Torabi recommends that they not give anyone at work reason to think they are financially vulnerable as a breadwinner or that they deserve a promotion, for example, based on their financial role at home.
She also advises female breadwinners to hire someone to do housework if they can afford it.
Sometimes men earn less because their jobs are not consistently 40 hours a week. That gives them extra time to shop and cook and clean, as Glen Johnson does.
Still, Emily Johnson spent one recent Sunday afternoon deep cleaning in ways her husband does not — while he hung out at a local bar with friends tickled by the idea of Glen as a “kept man.”
“It works out for us,” he says.