30 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh Penny I love this! Great minds on topics today eh?

    I have So Many Thoughts on the whole feelings side of the 50% – right now, I earn slightly less (but close!) to what my boyfriend makes, which I love because I feel like an equal-ish contributor… but I worry about how that part of me will take an ego hit when I go on mat leave someday, or go full-time freelance, or or or. There’s so many situations in which I could feasibly be making MUCH less in the future, and I worry that I’m not going to like it because of all the points you raised here.

    There’s also the whole I’m-saving-this-much-to-buy-a-house-and-once-we-do-I-might-not-be-able-to-save-50% anymore thing, but that’s a post for another day, lol.

    • I loved your post, Des! But when do I not?!

      It’s funny. I always knew how much it bothered him that I outearn him. What I never really stopped to consider was how proud I am of what I earn. The gigantic (and wonderful and perfect and all the baby squeals) wrench that I am throwing into our lives by going on this leave makes me so glad we’ve always done the “one pot” philosophy with our money. I’ll probably have to blog on that later.

  2. Morgen

    My husband makes about 50% of what I make, by the numbers. But we are just about equal by the books. 🙂

    If you looked at just his hourly wage, it’s true that I bring in a lot of income in comparison. But once you actually look over the whole situation, including the additional costs for my business, my increased self employment taxes, the things he does at home that we would need to pay for if he didn’t have those skills to bring to the table, the pendulum starts to swing the other way and you could make a strong case that he is as responsible for the increase in our net worth each year as I am, possibly more.

    I’m incredibly lucky that this is not an issue for him. He is confident in himself and proud to have a wife that successful. He is the best!

    • Morgen, That’s awesome! Sounds like a wonderful guy! And I do think I probably cost more, too 😉 You could certainly argue because I have more degrees that I’ve spent more!

      Mr. P is hugely supportive and wonderful. He doesn’t see it as a competition at all, but I do think there are times he wishes he could do more. But honestly, I wrote more about this in the post about our house, he contributes far more to our marriage, I think. It’s not all about income!

  3. I’ve earned more and less than my husband. During most of our marriage, my career has taken second seat (the military has a way of making that quite obvious!) In this next season, we are talking more about me being able to focus more on my work stuff and him handling more of the rentals, child care, home life stuff. I think because we have both been the high earner, and both been the primary care givers it helps us respect the stress/joy of those roles. I know it’s hard to feel like my income is the only way we can pay the bills, and it’s hard to be home with a baby for 12 hours straight with no adult interaction. I think the longer we have been married and the more we have flip flopped on the roles, the easier it’s gotten. Shoot now he would be thrilled if I made 6 figures! Or 10x as much as him. Because it really is all “our money.” But that’s 15 year of marriage, 6 kids, 6 moves, and 12 jobs later talking. =)

    • I don’t know that we’re in a position to flip flop permanently (unless I take away two years of service somehow), but I think this leave will be eye-opening for both of us. I love what an efficient and amazing team you and your husband are. I definitely think that’s part of what we are learning, too. We really are a good team, and we couldn’t do what we do without each other!

  4. We live on half of one income, but that is only because my husband’s earning potential is almost double that of mine (I was also a teacher). We decided for our family it made sense for me to stay home while the kids are young. And while I am happy with that decision, I have struggled with feeling less significant since I am not earning income. This was mitigated by a part-time work from home job until I had my second child, at which point that wasn’t really feasible without childcare. My husband is great about it–assures me that what I do is very valuable, of course for the kids, but also financially because we are able to save in a lot of other areas with having me at home. Anyway, I definitely understand that struggle!

    • So glad you shared another teacher perspective! It doesn’t really feel like a struggle per se, unless I’m blogging about it or stressing over our maternity leave budget. Like you and your husband (at least from when I can tell between your blog and your comments!), we’re such a good team that it really hasn’t mattered much until now. I know we’ll figure out what works for our family and make it happen. It’s just interesting to me to think about how there are lots of different ways to define saving half.

  5. We have the same issue. I’ll likely always out-earn Mr. Picky Pincher and it would be really hard for us to save if I choose to go on maternity leave in the future. I easily make $15,000 more a year than Mr. Picky Pincher. And I don’t even qualify for FMLA, soooooo… We’re kinda boned if I take maternity leave.

    We’re currently able to save 50% of our income (cough all of my income cough). If we went down to one income, it would mean savings wouldn’t happen. That’s why we’re choosing to eliminate our student loans and car loan before we have kids. That means less expenses each month and actual money that we could save.

    • If it makes you feel better, FMLA is guaranteeing me a job (YAY!) but I don’t get any income on my leave. And my salary is prorated afterwards. So…womp womp to that. That’s really smart to get rid of that debt before you grow your family!

    • That’s a good point, Sam. I’m also not sure what we’d gain (except feeling more equal, which could be quite significant!). We put everything in “one pot”. I do have one close friend who does percentages of all expenses everything with their partner based on percentages of their respective salaries. It’s really fascinating to me to learn about how couples spend/share/pool finances.

  6. I make double what my husband makes. It’s fine for now but when it comes to time off for kids? Eeeeeek. I have this post in drafts titled The least feminist thing I’ll ever write. It’s been sitting there for months. I think I’m going to share it in my next newslettter instead. But you’re right we don’t talk about this stuff and I would like us to be more open about it.

    • It’s actually worked fine for us. Since we’re both on salary schedules, we knew it would work out like this when we met (he was going back to school for his teaching degree). But the unpaid leave is a huge wrench in an otherwise excellent plan of saving 50%! 😉 I have to make sure I’m signed up for your newsletter!

  7. I have a post in the works on this topic, or essentially, what money looks like when you have a kid, are a working mom, and make normal people money. It touches on a lot of things, but I just haven’t figured out a good framing device yet because there is so much I want to say. A few things:

    We’re in sort of the opposite boat. Mr. Steward makes more than me and I’ll be for real–I don’t resent him, but I resent the fact a lot. Mostly because I have a Master’s and he has an A.S. Welcome to the non-education world, which values degrees in non-STEM fields basically zilch. I could get a side hustle, but then we have the same problem as with the refereeing–I will barely ever see my baby girl, and that’s so, so not cool with me.

    Basically, my working is what allows us to pursue any above-and-beyond goals from basic subsistence/covering bills and emergencies. And, frankly, I like working. But, I also work for so low a wage that it is somewhat hindering our goals. I have a plan to make more, and I’m thinking (hoping) it’s a waiting game at this point.

    In short, I think of how we could save more a lot, but I just don’t know how–we’re pretty frugal as is, so it means my income has to go up. In my uneven household, it causes me a lot of anxiety and frustration, especially lately, as we consider a second child.

    • I am so glad you commented. I feel so much anxiety when people ask me about a second or third kid. The way my maternity leave is set up, I don’t know that it is financially practical to expand our family beyond one. Nevermind how difficult this pregnancy has been. One happy and healthy baby will make us both THRILLED.

      I can’t wait to read your post. Please, please share when you publish. 🙂

  8. PiC and I contribute 25% off the top of our respective paychecks to savings, and the rest goes to paying bills. This is still an astronomical amount to me and I hate that we have to spend so much but I’m always doing what I can to reduce our spending so it’s not like I’m just saying yay! 75% to spend!

    I’ve never made enough to support two households PLUS save 50% and I’ve always always wanted to do that. Even just taking away one household would boost our savings by nearly 15%, but we can’t do that, and I feel very responsible for the hit that our savings takes because of that, since it’s my family that we’re supporting.

    Add to that, I “only” got half pay during maternity leave, and it brought out a whole lot of feelings. At the time of leave, I was grateful that we didn’t see much impact on our finances during that time because spending went down but it was also really irritating that I was taking another financial hit because I chose to work for a smaller company with more non-monetary benefits.

    We make what seems like a lot, but I run the numbers in my head a lot and there’s pretty much no way we can afford a second child on the money that we make, and that’s another sobering thought.

    • Your comments are always so thoughtful and profound. I also am struggling with the responsibility that I feel for causing us to lose so much income next year. Mr. P, though, couldn’t have championed me taking the longest leave possible any louder than he did. I hemmed and hawed, and he absolutely insisted that we do what was best for me and the baby. So 12 weeks it is. 🙂

      And I hear you with the baby #2 business. We can swing one unpaid leave. I don’t know about two.

      • As PiC reminded me repeatedly: we’re the ones doing the toughest job that our partners literally cannot do. They can handle everything else in tandem, including take the temporary hit to the paycheck, with us. And it’s not OUR fault as women who are causing the income loss. It’s the crappy system that pretends that our choices to build families with our spouses and partners is only our responsibility, as if the other parent isn’t equally responsible. It’s asinine and despicable. #NoGuiltMamas

  9. Katelyn

    My husband and my money are one in the same. There is no separation. There is no shame/guilt/sadness if one makes more than the other because it all goes in one pot.

    I never understood why there is a stigma if one couple makes more than the other. It’s almost impossible to make exactly the same amount as each other.

    Our worth absolutely does not get defined by how much we make. The proof is in the love.

    • Yup. We put it all in one pot, too. But when you have no income to put in the pot, you do notice and it’s a little jarring. Or at least it was for me. And there are so many ways to contribute, too, that are just as important and even more important than salary.

  10. When Mrs. G and I got married, I earned a lot more. But when we relocated to North Carolina and she kept her New York job, the earning edge swung in her direction. It took four or five years before I bested her in the salary department again, but it was never an issue. And I think that was largely so because we never had kids. Losing half the household income, even for a short while, is tough. Losing sixty percent of the household income has got to be even tougher. You and Mr. P are doing great. Saving for retirement and accelerated mortgage payments can go on hold for three or four months. In the scheme of things, that fiscal lapse is nothing.

  11. It will be a difficult 3 months for you I think. I have been the higher earner for the most part. But then I got made redundant in June last year and didn’t earn for 8 months. Even though my whole redundancy payment got thrown at the mortgage that made living on 1 income manageable, I felt really guilty about not earning. However, 2 things help. 1. You become the budget defender in a big way, making sure the pennies he brings in are put to best effect is your job and 2. Think how you would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. I’d be happy to be the sole earner if need be and wouldn’t want my husband to feel any sense of guilt.

    Also, dare I say, its just money. Sometimes we can give it too much value.

  12. This can be so emotionally tricky. As much as my husband says it doesn’t matter, I know that deep down it does at least a little bit. We put all our money in one pot and budget together too, and I know he’s grateful that my higher earning potential means that we can both work part-time, but still…
    I try sooooo hard to thank and compliment him on the non-monetary things. He’s strong and was able to dig through our rock-clay soil to plant four new beautiful trees this month (mango, fig, peach, and loquat if you’re curious), and when I’m working more than he is he’ll make dinner and take my books back to the library.
    It all evens out, but the numbers are so much easier to compare than the actions.

  13. Love the honesty in this post, Penny – I’m not married yet, so I have little to contribute to the equation, but I do know you’re right in saying that while society tends to base our value on our income, it really derives from so much more than that. There are days I come home from work at 8pm and think how wonderful it would be to have someone at home taking care of laundry/dinner/that pipe that keeps leaking. Do you know of anyone looking for a stay-at-home wife/husband job that will work for little pay? 😉

  14. I’m the sole earner in my family, with three kids. My husband is a stay at home dad. Back when we first got together we made roughly the same, but then I started earning slightly more within a few years. Before he became a SAHD I earned triple what he did. And now of course it’s infinite, because he stays at home.

    In real life we don’t discuss this much because people find it so unusual. But it’s never bothered us. He’s been my biggest cheerleader and he’s proud of everything I’ve accomplished. I really believe it doesn’t matter. Whatever works for your family is fine, and who cares what others think. 😀

  15. I’ve generally made more than Jon, but that’s because we chose it, and he decided to be a stay at home dad, because I could swing it. But in fairness, like your Mr P, he was contributing far more to our household than he was bringing in.

    Take this weekend. I backed into someone’s car. I paid to fix the other car. Jon had me order a part and fixed mine. The damage was more or less the same, but the difference in cost was about a grand because he knew how to fix my car (and I could trust him to do so.) So he’s rarely been less valuable, but he struggles to admit to folks we meet that he’s a SAHD, and says he’s a property manager so they don’t look at him funny.

    But now that we’re trying semi-retirement, our income contributions are much more equal, and I’ve had a hard time feeling like I’m doing my part. We kind of flip flopped some roles, and we still haven’t found our balance.

  16. K

    My husband earns more than I do and will for the rest of our life (unless I go back to school to get my CPA or join the military like him). However, we feel as equal contributors because we both work full-time. Since we work the same amount, each having our busy times where we contribute more (my 60 hour weeks during tax season and his work trips) we don’t consider one as a higher income earner. We both put in full-time hours for our family, so it doesn’t matter. I can’t see that changing much when we have kids either, we would both be contributing to the family even if I work less at that time (my job is much more flexible than his) but I would be contributing by managing the house more on my own, right now we do it all together. We just acknowledge both the money and the work that we do in the house as work done for our family and it balances just fine.

  17. Karen

    I am a veteran teacher that earns significantly more than my husband who left the tech world and has not earned anywhere near the income I can contribute. But like many here, the contributions seem to work out, division of talent and effort in our home life seems to balance things out.
    Having similar financial values has been crucial to our partnership. I was able to stay home with our little one for One whole year! What a great experience, and yes, I missed working so I worked out a part time teaching position for two additional years. And I don’t regret it, even though I will have to work longer before I retire–nothing prepares you for the experience, challenge and joy of raising kids.

    Yes, we are frugal and I pick up pennies-and pick up empty plastic bottles for the spare change, love your posts.

    • I’m so happy to connect, Karen! That is fantastic that you were able to stay home for a year and then pursue part-time work. I know it’s fantastic to be around kids all day. I’m so excited for it to be my kiddo for a change! Hearing from you really makes me feel good about taking the full 12 weeks off. Thank you!

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