This interview should be required listening for women — and men — who are in a relationship, particularly a marriage, in which the woman earns more than the man. This is precisely the situation in which author Farnoosh Torabi has found herself, and as a popular financial columnists, she discovered she wasn’t alone.
Based on her own experiences, questions from her readers, she began researching relationships for her latest book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. The book features stories from and advice for the growing number of couples who are seeing this non-traditional income dynamic.
The book will be released May 1, but Farnoosh is offering several special deals for anyone who orders the book before its release. You could win care baskets from the author’s favorite brands and services, including TaskRabbit, Evernote and Stella & Dot. You might also win lunch with the author and a backstage pass to the NBC Today Show.
In today’s episode of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, Farnoosh Torbai discusses this phenomenon and offers tips and suggestions for adapting to a different financial balance. Continue this article to listen to the podcast. You can also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
Luke: Welcome to the Consumerism Commentary Podcast. I’m Luke Landes. Today Farnoosh Torabi returns to the podcast with her new book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women, available May 1 from Amazon, in hardcover and Kindle editions. Welcome back, Farnoosh.
Farnoosh: Thanks for having me! It’s great to join you again. I’m looking forward to talking about the book.
Luke: More women are making more than their partners than ever before. More are primary breadwinners. They could use rules for dealing with that situation. I’m curious who these women are. You’ve identified two distinct groups of breadwinning women?
Farnoosh: There are a number of groups. There is obviously the married woman who is making more than her husband. Wither she’s been making more since the very beginning of the relationship or she has found herself inheriting the role as a result of him either losing his job or switching careers, or her going back into the workforce and earning more. Then there are single moms, as well, who comprise a big chunk of breadwinning women in this country, and they are of course the sole providers in their families. They’re not married, but they still to their credit are breadwinners because they’re supporting financially their families.
Even if you’re not married, even if you don’t have children, single women, especially in the younger demographic, who are on average making a higher median income than many of their male counterparts in most of American cities today are categorized as breadwinners in a way because they’re not only able to provide for themselves, but perhaps also a family if they so chose.
Luke: Is that related to the trend that women at the same age as men tend to be more educated?
Farnoosh: When you look at the 18-to-34 year old demographic, what we do find is that women are getting better grades in grade school, and then going to college and graduate school in larger numbers. So yes, this is fueling part of why we see this new trend. Definitely, women are getting their education at a faster clip, and the job market has also been favorable to women in some respects. We just came out of the recession which was dubbed the “man-cession.” We saw a lot of men lose their jobs in industries like construction, manufacturing, and even finance.
All the while, industries like healthcare, education services have been booming. In fact they’re among the fastest growing industries through 2016. These are industries that traditionally have employed women in a majority. Depending on how you look at it, the job market has also been a lot friendlier to women as they’ve been going to college in higher numbers.
Luke: Are women making conscious choices to partner with men who aren’t on their level in terms of income or education? It seems to me that these days with communication being so easy and travel being easier than it’s been in any generation in the past, it should be easier to find partners who match each other on education level, even if they have to travel more, outside of their community.
Farnoosh: I don’t think that women are seeking out men who are making less, just as men aren’t seeking out women who make more. I think that it’s a surprise, perhaps, that you arrive at this place, as a woman you arrive of having accomplished so much academically, and your career, financial stability. You do expect to meet someone who is your “equal,” and that’s a word that gets thrown around a lot in the dating space, “I want to meet my equal.” A lot of the time that means finding someone who is perhaps not making the same amount of money as you, but someone who has equal ambition, equal education, equal promise in terms of what the future holds in terms of career and other things.
I think that is where the confusion and the lack of direction falls. We find these partners that we ultimately fall in love with, but we aren’t prepared as women to necessarily be the breadwinners. That’s where the book picks up. I found myself in this predicament, in this dynamic, and I had a lot of questions. I’ve worked in the financial space for more than ten years, helping myself and others try to solve financial complexities, and this was really an issue I found that first of all we weren’t really talking about openly. We didn’t really have a healthy dialogue happening in terms of how to help these couples thrive. And there are very specific issues and complexities that these couples face that if at the end of the day they go unresolved they are breaking up marriages at even a bigger rate than traditional couples where he makes more or there is income parity.
Luke: is this lack of preparation at least partly a result of the trend that started maybe fifty years ago, encouraging women to become more education and build their careers — the more feminist approach to life?
Farnoosh: Certainly the encouragement and public support of and for women to get out there, get their education, there’s obviously been more equality in the workplace, more job opportunities for women, women are going to college more. Certainly that has fueled this trend and why we’re seeing women being able to stand on their own two feet, be financially independent, and perhaps even make more than their male counterparts.
But I don’t think that our grandmothers or our mothers ever anticipated that we would get to the point where we would find true love and then be in that marriage and be making more than our male partners. If you look at the statistics, one out of four married women makes more than her husband today, which is four times greater than it was in the 1960s.
That’s a huge evolution. My mother certainly didn’t prepare me for this day. So what we find as a generation of modern women, we have to develop our own new rules in terms of how to make a marriage work because it does complicate things in a way that you wouldn’t expect. It seems pretty innocuous, it shouldn’t matter who’s bringing home the bigger paycheck, but because our society links money to power so much, and because a lot of the male gender identity is rooted in his ability to provide financially, these primitive instincts that we have in terms of what men and women are supposed to do in a relationship — that really complicates things when she’s bringing home the bigger paycheck.
Luke: When you talk about gender identity, does that come from the cultural experience that we’ve had in the Western World, patriarchal society, or is there a biological driver for the male of the species having a superior role?
For the rest of the interview, listen to the podcast.
Updated December 14, 2017 and originally published April 24, 2014.