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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)

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

  1. Tim says:

    it’s about time…i’m tired of my wife freeloading off of me. it’s nice that she makes more than i do.

  2. My wife earns about…well…whatever her paycheck is more than me. When I decided to go full time on this web application, I wasn’t sure how I’d handle not earning ANYTHING. All things considered, not bad at all. There is no envy or weirdness, it just is.

    By the way, for all the flat tax fans out there, go ahead and save your breath. The government (which seems to have an incentive to collect ever more taxes), will NEVER go to a flat tax. If you read the research on this point, it is a far better bet that they will increase top marginal tax rates to around 70% or so. Of course, they’ll move the income bracket up to a million dollars or more, but there is a great deal of evidence that tax revenue is maximized when top marginal tax rates are in the 70% range.

  3. Miss M says:

    I’ve always been the breadwinner in the relationship, by a margin of 2X-5X. I have an engineering degree compared to a guy working freelance designing and decorating sets. Long ago I accepted that I would always be the primary breadwinner, and I’m OK with it. I think this shift will continue to happen since women are graduating with degrees in higher numbers than men.

    Oh, and very few couples are hit by the marriage penalty. Based on income data something like 5% of women earn enough to throw a couple into penalty territory. Most experience a marriage benefit, I calculated ours at about $1300 a year.

  4. daemondust says:

    My fiancée is still in school, but when she graduates she’s going to make more than I do. I have no problem with it.

  5. Damon Day says:

    I don’t see a thing wrong with it, in fact, for some men it may help to take some perceived pressure off of them. I think it just creates more money for the marriage. Just make sure to save a good chunk of it, especially if you are a younger couple wanting to have kids one day. Your wife may decide that she would prefer to be a stay at home mom. So make sure you do not get used to living on two incomes in case you decide one day to live on one, or your wife goes to part time work.

  6. gina says:

    It depends. An average woman takes a hit on her body, and income path after having children. Therefore the average man really should make it their business to bring home the bacon.

    Also if you’ve read the Millionaire Mind you’ll see that a very low percentage of decamillionaire families have wives that work full time. One reason is specialization: s/he with the highest income earning potential really should be unfettered in accomplishing that goal, while s/he with the most patience and interest in child-rearing would do that.

    Having not worked at the VERY high earning level, I would guess that a man would have the advantage in competing for advancement. Both men and women probably had been weeded out, but men remain in higher numbers. In lower to middle class it might not make a difference.

    But whatever you work out between yourselves is good.

  7. Dr Dean says:

    I think the bottom line regarding money in marriage, is good communication. As long as the focus is on OURS rather than HIS and HER’s then things will be fine.

    In my profession-OBGYN’s-the number of women going into the specialty have outnumbered men for many years now. Unfortunately that higher income, frequently comes with a large student loan debt. So couples have to be on the same page about spending, saving, and money management.

    • Jim says:

      Yes, the bottom line, for everything really, is communication. I think it’s important to keep the OURS mentality strong because its a partnership, not a competition.

  8. Lori and Jim says:

    I have ALWAYS earned double what my husband makes…I am a pharmacist and he is a warehouse manager…he makes about 50K a year and I make about 120K a year. It doesn’t matter. You hit the nail on the head when you said it is a partnership. It’s not about who makes what it is about how you manage it. We discuss every financial decision and the money all goes into one account and then transferred from there to savings accounts, etc. Jim actually stopped working for 4 years to raise our kids…we have 6 and at the time we had 3 under 2(twins and a newborn) and that was a very sound financial decision…when asked if it bothers him, Jim just smiles and says “everyone should get a sugar mama…I highly recommend it.”

  9. Lauren says:

    I have been outearning my husband for about 2 years now, since I got my RN license. He supported my ambitions for a long time without a word, so when it was his turn about a year ago, I told him to go for it. The only problem was that he started his new business right around the time the economy tanked. I think he minds me earning more because he is not where he thought he would be at this point, not because a woman is making most of the money in the household.

    • Jim says:

      I think that hits the nail on the head for most people nowadays. People, men or women, don’t mind making less than their partners if they are reaching their goals. Your husband only minds because he’s not where he thought he would or should be, not because you are outearning him.

  10. Amanda says:

    I out-earn my husband – by about 30%. It’s not a problem for us – as a partnership, our money goes into the same pool and, frankly, the bigger the pool the better!

    To Gina’s point, the fact that most millionaires are men with wives who do not work is probably more a result of social mores of the times in the past than anything else. Up until recently, most women were not pursuing full time careers, so I imagine this statistic will change quite a bit over time.

    • Jim says:

      That’s an excellent point about social mores, our generation hasn’t had enough time to get to the millionaire status… when that happens I bet that statistic will turn.

    • gina says:

      I haven’t researched the book, but once you start earning quite a bit, it is a status symbol for women to not work (for both halves of the relationship). I have seen snobbery from women whose husbands make enough to stay at home towards double-earners (or even single-moms). Ridiculous of course.

  11. ohsuzanna says:

    I think feminism has a lot to do with the social shift. Todays younger, more educated women scoff at the idea of a “traditional” marriage where the husband supports the wife (or, as one commenter put it, being a “freeloader”) I’d be willing to bet that most working wives would love to stay home with the kids and be freeloaders too, if they could afford to. Used to be that one income was sufficient for most families to live comfortably, but nowadays many married women feel they must earn at least as much if not more than their husbands because the family simply carries too much debt. Millionaire wives don’t have to worry about debt, so it makes sense that most of them would choose
    homemaking as their full-time career.

  12. Shadox says:

    There have been times when my wife made more than me. It has never bothered me. I don’t even understand how people can have such a concern, to be honest. It’s like being concerned that their family has too much money.

    On the marriage penalty thing, I agree, but the rationale has nothing to do with male-female equality, I think it’s based on the fact that a couple living together has a lower cost of living per person (eg only one house needed) so in effect their income is higher than that of a single person making the same amount.

  13. I think in any couple, you’re likely to have an imbalance in earnings – one person is probably going to make more money than the other. And each couple is going to have to handle it their own way. I can only go by how things worked in my family: my mom’s wife makes more than she does, but I don’t think it’s ever been an issue.

    And please, nobody ask which one of them is the “man” in the relationship (the answer is “neither”).

  14. zapeta says:

    I’d be ok with my wife outearning me. If she out earns me by a lot, then I can retire. Sounds like a plan to me.

  15. J's Mom says:

    I think most of the people who keep up with this site will be very progressive in their answer to the male/female earning debate.

    The marriage penalty is ridiculous. Yes, 2 people living together only need one house, but you should not be dinged financially for choosing to live with someone else. I’d love to hear more about how it might have come about and what steps can be taken to eliminate it. Shall I send this link to my congressperson, or is there a more efficient way to initiate tax reform?

  16. Patrick says:

    I really wouldn’t care if my wife earned more than me. I actually wouldn’t mind it :) Right now, I am the larger earner, but we consider the money we earn ours and that would not change if she began earning more than me.

  17. Christina says:

    The money I earn is our money. It doesn’t matter which one of us earned it. We are equal partners and don’t apply gender stereotypes regarding income potential.

  18. Sue says:

    I earn about 35% more than my husband and it doesn’t bother either of us. We’ve been married for 26 years, and I’ve always earned more than he has. I’m 13 years older than he is, so that means I will retire earlier, and he will be the major breadwinner at that time.

  19. Steve says:

    I wish like crap that my wife out earned me.

    That would be another 15k coming in. That would be like having no mortgage.

  20. Why would it matter, as long as food is on the table and a roof is over your head?

    As a survivor of the Cretaceous, tho’, I hafta say it’s gratifying to see comments by (presumably) younger people that reflect such a radical change from the attitude toward “women’s work” that prevailed in my youth. I was enjoined from studying science (my first love) because it was inappropriate for girls and was discouraged from getting a Ph.D. in any subject for the same reason…and when I waved my Phi Beta Kappa key at an HR exec in an attempt to get into a bank’s management training program was told that they didn’t hire women into that program, but I’d be GREAT in their secretarial pool.

    Times have changed. Thank heaven!

  21. Snoglydox says:

    The income tax thing bothers me, also: a person is lucky to find someone to share his/her life with and not worry about all the problems associated with being single, and he/she (and the someone)gets to combine two incomes to improve his/her lifestyle, and to top it off, the government gives him/her a discount for his/her luck.

  22. Kate says:

    I make more than my husband, and it doesn’t really matter. Both of our paychecks go into the same account and pay the same bills anyhow. It seems counterproductive to be competitive when you’re supposed to be working together.

  23. Stegman says:

    So I assume all the people saying men shouldn’t have a problem with women earning more, also believe women shouldn’t have a problem with their husband earning more? For example how many women would be happy to have no income or a low paying/part time job, and rely on their husbands as the major income provider? Yeah, that’s right, not many. So why criticize men for expressing the exact same attitude that women are praised for? If a woman said she never wants to be dependent on her husband and wants to pay her own way and have her own income and make an equal financial contribution, she would not be condemned for her ego or for being threatened. Instead she would be praised as an independent self sufficient women who can take care of herself and does not need a man. So there’s a lot of anti-male bigotry being expressed here.

    Women today are saying they want to be strong and independent and that means having your own income and not being dependent on a man. Why is it wrong for a man to say exactly the same thing?

    If a woman wants to have a high paying career so she can support herself and not be dependent on her husband, she is praised. When a man wants the same, he is condemned.

  24. Noona says:

    I had a huge problem out-earning my husband. He made much less, and seemed to be satisfied with not getting a better job. I was angry and frustrated. In my field, men generally just show up and say HI and get paid more than I do, so I was irritated that he was enjoying the good life on my “dime” while I was working like a slave…with no end in sight. If I get married again, I would like my husband to earn a lot more. I wouldn’t mind staying home and cooking for a change. But I can’t cook, clean AND earn 90% of the money. Am I that ugly and undesirable? I felt like he robbed me of my femininity. I would rather be single.

  25. Nelson says:

    It’s been my experience that when a wife makes more money than the man, that it is a disaster. Funny thing is, women actually have bigger egos than men do about this sort of thing, although everyone believes the opposite. If a woman pays for one year of a man’s education it becomes “well I put you through college”. If she begins to earn more, it becomes “I’ve always made more than you have”. History gets revised, women lose their respect and control (the woman’s over the man’s) becomes the order of the day.

    Trust me, men, don’t do it. Don’t marry a woman who has more money or makes more money than you. She will never let you forget it, and then say that YOU have the ego problem.


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