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Your Take: Married Women Outearning Husbands

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Money money money!An MSNBC article this week discussed how women are increasingly earning more than their husbands. Twenty years ago, 17.8% of women outearned their husbands. In 2007, 25.9% outearned their husbands if they both worked and 33.5% of married women outearned their husbands period. It’s estimated that the percentage bas probably jumped because of all the jobs lost in the recession, it’s estimated that nearly 75% were held by men.

The Shriver Report conducted a survey and found that 65.3% of women and 61.2% of men were comfortable with women earning more than men. I want to know, what do you think?

I’m totally comfortable with married women earning more than their husbands. The key question is whether I’d be comfortable with my wife outearning me. I’d like to say I’m pragmatic and I’d be OK with it, but I have no idea and wouldn’t know until the situation presented itself. My guess is that I would be OK with it because I view our relationship as a partnership, an “us against the world” rather than a race only one of us can win. I’m never going to secretly hope she fails, that’s just stupid.

However, I also have a lot of pride. I fully recognize it’s sexist to think that the breadwinner of the family is the man, but part of how I was raised was that I am responsible for my family. If I was out of work and Martha were the sole breadwinner, it would bother me not because she’s outearning me, but because I’m not earning. When I think about it that way, it really has nothing to do with her earning more… so I imagine I’d be fine with it. 🙂

One thing I do know, it’s about time we eliminated the income tax marriage penalty. The income tax marriage penalty is the name given to the fact that the income tax brackets for Married Filing Jointly aren’t twice that of the income tax brackets for Single filers. If men and women are equal, why don’t the tax brackets reflect that? The MFJ bracket stops being double the Single filer bracket starting in the 25% bracket. I think it’s about time we adjust that to reflect both reality and equality.

What are you thoughts on married women outearning men?

(Photo: alexik)

{ 59 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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59 Responses to “Your Take: Married Women Outearning Husbands”

  1. Kyle says:

    Personally for me it doesn’t matter. I would love it if my wife were outearning me, she isn’t, but it would be great. Of course I also wouldn’t mind being a SAHD either.

    I think you are right about the scariest part not being earning less but not earning anything at all.

  2. Steven says:

    Yeah, but what about the housewives/househusbands who don’t earn an income? I think the Married Filing Jointly take them into account.

  3. Jon says:

    My wife has outearned me for about the last fifteen years. It doesn’t bother me at all. I would, however, like to catch up or pass her up at some point, as it would leave more money in the common “pot” for us to have more fun!

  4. Dave says:

    There have been several periods when my wife earned more than I did. The only time it really bothered me was when we were newly married. I was unemployed for two months and we had decided I wouldn’t look for work because of an upcoming extended international trip. It was definitely due to my feeling like I wasn’t contributing than being uncomfortable with my wife’s success. Also I was rather young (19) and guys are taught growing up that they are to be providers. I suspect that this is probably the most common case.

  5. Stacie says:

    I earn more than my husband, about 30% more. He’s fine with it, knows that I have a certain amount of drive and ambition. I measure myself against me, not him. He does the same.

    We are in very different careers and have opposite personalities too. He’s in sales; I’m an analyst.

    It seems like it would be a silly thing to argue about.

  6. prufock says:

    I have no problem with it. My personal take is that each person should be self-reliant – beyond that, it’s all gravy.

  7. Neil says:

    My wife does outearn me. Why would this be a problem, it means we have more money than we would otherwise. Of course, I’m second generation at this. My mother outearned my father for most of their careers (I know because I used to keep their books). Oh, on paper they earned the same salary, but the corporation that they owned got paid more for my mother’s time than my father, despite their similar education and experience.

    I suspect that while there may have been some recent numbers shift, this is part of the long term trend of women becoming more educated than men. A majority of university graduates are women. One expects them to make more. In my family’s case, my wife has a business degree while I only have a 2-year accounting diploma.

    The big thing, though, is that in families where the man outearns the woman, it’s quite commonly by a large multiplier 2x, 3x or more. I’d be interested to know what percentage of families in each group have that kind of discrepancy. I suspect that most “woman on top” families are, like mine, within one good raise of swapping position.

    • daemondust says:

      Why would it be a problem? It shouldn’t be, but many people have the notion that the man is the provider that they object without even thinking.

      The same men (and a few women too) probably want the wife to personify the stereotypical ‘barefoot and pregnant wife’ too. (Ok, that’s probably stretching a bit, but not much)

  8. reinkefj says:

    Personally, I’d have no problem being a “kept man” either. Seriously, problems with being “outearned” sounds like pride. And we all now what pride comes before.

    WRT the “marriage penalty”, it further demonstrates that (1) marriage should be none of the goofernment’s business. (2) Income tax should have never been permitted in the first place. (3) Ron Paul demonstrated in the last campaign that the income tax could be nuked if we just shrunk gooferment back to 1990 something levels. Argh!

    Not a Bible person, I do agree with the 10% for charity. It seems wrong that the gooferment gets more than 10%. I’d like the max income tax rate to be 10%. Then, the gooferment would be incentivized to make sure we all earn lots of money. Now, they are picking winners and losers.

    Funny how they are always picking their friends to be winners?


    • Neil says:

      “Then, the gooferment would be incentivized to make sure we all earn lots of money.”
      Not exactly true. If there was a flat, 10% income tax rate (which is my provincial income tax, actually), the government would have no incentive one way or the other about who earns money, only that total income increases.

      “Funny how they are always picking their friends to be winners?”
      I think you’ve missed cause and effect here. The winners (as in, the rich) pick their friends to be the government. Campaign finance reforms are needed to correct this problem, not tax reforms.

  9. More money = good, regardless of who is making it. I’d be quite pleased if my wife made the same or more than I do. Not likely to happen in the near future, though.

  10. Mike Piper says:

    When I first launched my business, my wife was earning more than me. It didn’t really bother me.

    As to the “marriage penalty,” for many couples, their total tax burden goes down when they get married. It’s only a penalty when each partner earns a similar amount of income and when their total taxable income exceeds $137,050.

  11. Dave says:

    My wife has always outearned me during our 25 years of marriage by a factor of 2:1. (Serves me right for going into the low-paying profession of journalism!) Early-on in our marriage, we decided that money she earned and money I earned would be pooled and become “our” money and managed as such. She had no desire to manage our day-by-day budget or our long-range budget so I took over that duty, learned about budgeting and investing, and today, we are sitting pretty. Every few months, she asks me to give her the executive summary on where our finances stand and how our investments are doing and I do that. No muss, no fuss!

  12. As far as being comfortable with it, I think if the family is well provided for, then the satisfaction and pride ideally should come from knowing that you do your job to the best of your ability, instead of from your incomes.

    I have read several pieces noting that this recession has affected men and their jobs much more than women, so I believe this trend has only become more pronounced in the last 2 years.

    When the unemployment rate growing, I think it is a great advantage that women are making more than before, which can help compensate if the husband loses his job. Income diversification, if you will.

  13. Are you kidding me? I’d LOVE for my wife to out earn me! I’d be so ecstatic, that I’d probably take the rest of the year off , go to Vegas, and snowboard up in Vail with the buddies!

    Donno if the wife would like that, but she can come for a weekend if she wants! 🙂

  14. FFB says:

    My wife earns more than me. It’s a key reason why I’m home with the kids now. It’s different than what’s “expected” but I’m cool with it. My wife was smart enough to get 2 degrees and I wasn’t.

  15. Sarah in Alaska says:

    Yesterday, I saw another article that said that when the wife earns more than the husband, the husband contributes more to 1) the household responsibilities and 2) makes more of an effort to “pleasure” his wife.

    I see this as a huge benefit. Rather than the woman working 40+ hours AND completing the majority of the household responsibilities (cleaning, cooking, childcare), they are shared more equally. …plus she has some fun!

  16. freeby50 says:

    I think I’d be OK with my wife earning more than me. More money would be great. I’m not sure how it would impact my pride or male ego but I think/hope it would’t be an issue.

    As far as the ‘marriage penalty’ I don’t think theres any way to setup the tax code to make it equitable across the board for everyone in every situation. My wife currently doesn’t work. When we got married it cut our tax bill. So there was no ‘penalty’ at all so for us it actually was a tax *bonus* for getting married.

  17. Brian says:

    My wife already out-earns me by about double. I’m fine with that. I’m in grad school and I only get paid a little. I don’t really mind. We also pool our money into one pot and decide where it goes from there.

  18. I wouldn’t have a problem having my wife outearn me – after all we’re married and I feel like we’re a partnership – not a competition.

    On the other hand to a certain degree I can understand the psychology behind a man wanting to feel like the head of the household, to be the provider, and to be strong and respected. I think for a lot of men it’s very ingrained, and it becomes a pride and personal image issue – and that pride is very tied up in their career. When their wives earn more than them, it makes them feel “less manly” or not as good of a provider.

    I don’t feel that way, but I can understand where it comes from. Of course it’s easy for me to say this as well since I make more at our household. Not sure how it would be different if my wife did make more.

  19. Broke M.B.A. says:

    If my wife earned more than me I’d have to leave her!

    Just kidding, she actually started making more than me about a year ago. Ultimately, her getting getting a job doing exactly what she wanted was far better than the extra money that came along with it.

  20. Pride? How does pride enter the picture?

    You do all sorts of things to save a few dollars.
    If you do that, why would you be unhappy if your wife got a $20,000 (or whatever number it takes) raise to earn more than you?

    Think of the all the laundry detergent you could buy if she brought home that extra cash.

    Best regards

  21. Emily says:

    I would love to see the marriage penalty eliminated. My husband and I get hit pretty hard by it since we earn about the same amount, and we’re in a fairly high tax bracket. However, with so many people enjoying a tax break after getting married, I doubt there would ever be enough pressure for the government to do anything about it.

  22. eric says:

    That would be a great problem to have 🙂

  23. Right now my husband makes about 3k more than me. Last year I made about 3k more than him. It really doesn’t matter. Money is money and more money is obviously a good thing.

  24. Carla says:

    I outearned my ex husband for the three years years we were married. Of course, he didn’t have a job and didn’t want one, but that’s a different story. 🙂

    All-in-all, to me it doesn’t matter. Why so much pride when it comes to money, especially in a committed relationship? I think if a man feels insecure about his wife/girlfriend/partner earning more, he has other issues he may need to work though within himself.

  25. David says:

    Actually I’m kinda like Carla’s husband right now, but looking for work. Currently following my wife because her career ladder/education/etc will allow for a much higher pay ceiling than mine. In fact just did our 2nd move in 2 years.

    And it is hard sometimes. Intellectually I don’t mind she earns more. And I’ve become the quite the “domestic diva” w/ the cleaning, cooking, etc. But then there are other times, like last week, when I’d love to spontaneously buy flowers. And because _I’m_ not making the money, I wont. … Even though our money was always in the same pot, back when I was making more money.

    To me its more of being able to feel like I’m -really- contributing. Doing the stuff around the apt is all fine and good, but its not as “real”, if that makes any sense.

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