How to Remain Financial Equals When You Make More (or Less) Money Than Your Partner
In this week’s episode of Money Confidential, host Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez speaks with a young woman who makes more money than her boyfriend but who wants to make sure they are still financial equals.
Real Simple's weekly Money Confidential podcast addresses some of the biggest taboos and sticking points many of us encounter with our finances. On this week's episode, host Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez tackles a particularly tough situation: when one person in a relationship makes more money (or a lot more money) than their partner. Specifically, our guest—we'll call her Charlotte, though that's a false name to protect her identity—makes more money than her boyfriend, and they're having a difficult time making a financial plan for their future together that feels equal and makes both partners happy.
Charlotte is 26 and lives with her boyfriend—who she's been dating for almost four years—in Chicago. She makes more money than he does—a lot more. About $35,000 per year more, in fact. And while they both recognize that they work in different industries that progress at different rates, and that he's a little younger (and at a different point in his career), they also feel that, financially, they don't feel like they're on equal footing.
Though they've started to talk more seriously about their future—getting married and having a wedding, buying a home, and the like—they've struggled to figure out how to split their expenses now and how to discuss money (and their money concerns) without angering the other. "I almost don't want to talk about money because I don't want him to feel any kind of pressure from me [to earn more money] outside of what he's putting on himself, but I know that's unrealistic for combining two people's finances in the future," Charlotte says.
Charlotte knows her boyfriend isn't saving as much for his—or their—future as she is, and she doesn't want to feel resentful about their unequal contributions toward their shared dreams. She also isn't sure if discussing signing a prenuptial agreement (or prenup, a contract that will outline how they'll split their property and savings if they ever divorce) before they get married will hurt or help the situation.
To help Charlotte manage her feelings about earning more than her boyfriend and find a way they can even the financial playing field, so to speak, O'Connell Rodriguez turns to Farnoosh Torabi, a personal finance expert and author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women.
Torabi knows the challenge of making more than your partner—and the added difficulty of being a woman who makes more than her male partner—all too well. She has made more money than her husband and recalls feeling the tension of making more while battling cultural stereotypes (internalized or otherwise) that say the man in the relationship should be the breadwinner of the family.
To help Charlotte (and anyone struggling to develop a balanced financial situation with a romantic partner, regardless of how much either makes), Torabi recommends resolving money conflicts with patience, dialogue, and—perhaps most importantly—compassion. The key, she says, is making sure both parties feel like they have an active role and status in the household's financial future.
"It's about leveling the playing field tactically, but also emotionally, so that you both feel like equal players in the relationship," she says.
Check out this week's episode of Money Confidential—"I make more money than my boyfriend. How can we be financial equals?"—for O'Connell Rodriguez and Torabi's full conversation about finding fiscal equality in a relationship. Money Confidential is available on Apple podcasts, Amazon, Spotify, Stitcher, Player FM, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.