Ask Wendy

I Make More Than My Husband, Does That Matter?

Reprinted from March 10, 2017
Hey Wendy,

I’m a resident physician about to start my first real doctor job this summer. My husband is a teacher and his income will not change. Because of my debt and higher living expenses, our take-home pay is about the same, so in my mind, if I can afford something, so can he.

Throughout the course of our marriage, money situations have been pretty typical; we have split the cost of vacations and special leisure events, but he pays for meals most of the time.

We have different priorities around how we spend money. And I'm literally going to be making 4x more than him in just a few months. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I bought us both airline tickets for a vacation.

Is that emasculating or insulting? I have the idea that it's my money, so I should be able to spend it (on him) if I like, but I also don't want to be an Alpha Female. I'd like some input on how to handle everyday situations like this.

Sandra A. - Las Vegas, NV

Hey Sandra,

First off, congratulations on your job!

Do you have separate accounts now? It seems like you might from your comment, “It’s my money.” If you have different priorities around money, I recommend you keep your accounts separate but create a joint account for household expenses and shared investments.

Most men who have wives or partners that make more money than they do don’t find it emasculating. What is, however, is the attitude that can come with bigger purse strings. Buying plane tickets for both of you for vacation can be totally amazing or totally emasculating—or rather just totally off-putting—depending on how you handle the situation. Are you hitting up Expedia and then telling him, “This is what we’re doing” without getting him in on the convo first? That probably won’t land very well—the same way it wouldn’t if he did that to you.

Start by making decisions together. It’s perfectly reasonable to say, “Hey, let’s go to New Orleans in the fall for four days—we’ve always wanted to do that. I’m not a fan of coach. It would mean a lot to me if we could fly business class. Would you mind if I picked up those air tickets since it’s important to me?”

When you’re both aligned in the planning stage of decisions like these, it’s empowering, not emasculating, no matter who’s paying. Also, 50/50 is probably not the best model for you two. If you have a system that already works, great—keep it. Or try paying percentages of the bills based on means. Most importantly, don’t let him stop treating you just because your incomes don’t match up perfectly. That would be a disservice to both of you.

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