Women outearning men: does it matter?

The question has been asked time and again. Ramit has been particularly interested in this question about gender-based stereotypes and money. Hypothetically, how would you feel if your wife/female partner earned more than you (male partner)?

(Technically, the statement is really: men and women act differently about money.)

Our running joke has always been that PiC’s always wanted a sugar mama, hardyhar.

Some of his professional friends have responded the same way: “why the heck wouldn’t I want her to? More money is more money is more good!”

To which I say: Duh. But so far, that couple hasn’t faced that reality.

Well, it’s becoming quite real for us, now. Because as it turns out, “doing something about it” (it being our wage gap between the genders) means that this year, I am pulling even with my husband and have solid plans to outpace him. We are some years apart and he made a healthy salary coming into the workforce, multiples of my entry to the workplace salary close to the same time as he had more education.

Slightly rankled with myself at the time (see: competitiveness in previous post), I made a resolution to fix that. I am making more at my age than he did at the same age. And this after 12 yrs of working not-for-my-parents, and several years after college but without the higher graduate school.

I love my husband with the warmth of Endor’s sun but this tastes sweet.

Now I have to up my game and steamroll a couple of my best friends. I know they’re making more than me. I don’t compare apples to apples, unless we’re talking medical professions, I’m going to play to win anyway.

Perhaps it doesn’t yet affect our attitudes towards each other or feel real because we’re combining accounts at a snail’s pace, and it’s also offset by the fact that I still lose a significant portion of income to supporting my dad each month. But I’m on track to continue to make more through annual and/or negotiated raises and we are well aware that I simply have higher earning potential. In part because of the choices I made, the conscious pushes for more by strategic choices and negotiations, and in part because of his choices.

Without significant change in career paths like going into management or further education, he won’t be in a position to compete with me. He does great work where he is but the room to grow is strictly structured. So while there’s no doubt he’s immensely proud of me, the question comes up: how does he feel about it?

So far, I don’t see any negative impact. If anything, perhaps because I’m a little less wound tightly, perhaps because with more income from me, our Bay household expenses feel less constrictive, we’ve been a lot more at ease generally. Not unstressed but we’re not snapping at each other over stupid little things. And it probably helps that we simply don’t discuss money with anyone (my rule).

He is perfectly comfortable discussing money with his family but I long ago put the kibosh on sharing our money and particularly my salary with them or anyone else we haven’t agreed on together. I talk about quite a lot in principle and theory freely but I don’t let those particulars out into the wild for a lot of reasons.

More so now than ever. I hate to say it but I suspect that, given the reactions of all his family and friends to recent events, they’re traditional and patriarchal and would likely have far more to say than I care to hear on the subject of who outearns who.

Thus far, our personal experience has been basically fine.

In your experience or opinion, how would you feel about a wage gap if your male or female partner made more than you did?

About Revanche

Revanche writes the personal finance blog A Gai Shan Life.