Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @farnoosh. Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance expert, bestselling author, TV personality, and sought-after speaker. Her mission is to help people take control of their finances so they can live their richest, happiest lives. She has personally coached a wide range of audiences, from college students, to couples, to executives at Fortune 500 firms. Farnoosh is a contributing editor at Money Magazine and frequent contributor to DailyWorth, Yahoo! and The Today Show. The New York Times calls her advice, “perfectly practical.” Her latest book is an Amazon #1 Best Seller and is entitled When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. For more information, please visit www.farnoosh.tv
SmallBizLady: Why did you want to write this book?
Farnoosh Torabi: We know by now that women are increasingly the chief breadwinners in their families. There have been studies, books and discussion all about this in recent years. But what we are not discussing – more importantly – is how to make these family dynamics work. The fact of the matter is, when she makes more, her relationship faces challenges – emotional and financial – that are very unique and potentially damaging.
I’ve been helping people with their finances for over 10 years and this was the first time where I saw a financial complexity really shaking things up in relationships to the point where there was no established guide or recipe on how to make your partnership succeed. And as someone who is in this demographic, making more than her husband, this was a personal need as well.
SmallBizLady: How did you first identify this trend?
Farnoosh Torabi: My curiosity about female breadwinners grew exponentially once I became engaged to my husband. This was a few years ago. As the breadwinner in our relationship, I yearned to connect with other women living a similar financial dynamic. It was around that time, too, when the media began to have a field day with the topic of “women on the rise,” highlighting how fabulous it is that we’re finally ascending in the workforce like never before and out-earning our male partners. While this is certainly something we should celebrate, we also need to acknowledge that this dramatic shift is riddled with complex struggles that can threaten coupledom and even spill into our relationships with friends and family members.
SmallBizLady: Why did you feel this issue was important?
Farnoosh Torabi: It’s important because, at the end of the day, we should be able to proudly celebrate the fact that women are on the rise and supporting not only themselves but their families as well – without any of the guilt, shame, confusion and hardship as it is. And ultimately, we need relationships to thrive for our own happiness…and to prove to the future generation that you can marry for love regardless of your financial success. Your relationship and prospects for finding the right partner won’t be threatened by the fact that she makes more or that he makes less.
SmallBizLady: What do the statistics show?
- MORE DIVORCE. When she makes more, marriage difficulties jump and divorce rates rise. In fact, economists at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the National University of Singapore found that traditional views of gender identity, particularly the perception that it’s a man’s job to make more money than the wife, are affecting whether or not we marry, whom we marry, how much we decide to work, and even whether we choose to stay married. Over a five-year span, they found that the divorce rate rose by half among couples in which the wife earned more.
- MORE INFIDELITY. Your marriage is also vulnerable to infidelity on both sides. A 2010 Cornell University study examined 18- to 28-year-old married and cohabitating couples that had been together for more than a year. Men who were entirely dependent on their female partner’s salary were five times more likely to cheat than men who made an equal amount of money. As for women, the more dependent they were on their male partners, the less likely they were to engage in infidelity.
- MORE PRESSURE TO MAKE IT ALL “WORK.” My own academic study of over 1,000 women – primarily breadwinners – found that when she makes more (versus making the less or the same) she feels more pressure to stay on top of the finances, advance in her career, maintain her income stream and deal with disapproving or judgmental family and friends. She also reports she’s less satisfied with marital satisfaction, with how the chores are getting managed and the couple’s family planning status.
SmallBizLady: Why is this such a problem?
Farnoosh Torabi: Like it or not, our way of thinking about money is largely rooted in biology and how we’ve been socialized and raised. For example, men generally feel the need to be the “alpha” in order to feel attractive. They need to “provide,” and that – forever – has meant “financially provide.” Women, no matter how much money they make, still want to be “taken care of” in some capacity by their mate. Society has evolved but our lower animal brain is still stuck on the thought, “what does this mean for my status.” These sometimes unconscious – though fundamental – human needs go unrecognized or unappreciated and lead to trouble in a marriage where she makes more.
SmallBizLady: What’s the promise of the book?
Farnoosh Torabi: I promise that with the recipes in this book (and I encourage readers to change up the ingredients to suit their preferences), you will walk away with feeling acceptance and ultimately empowerment. It’s the acceptance that it’s okay to earn more. And finally, this book intends to empower breadwinning women and the men who love them…to be able to confidently create a new set of rules in their relationship so they can feel secure in themselves and as a couple.
Along the way, this book will give answers breadwinning women desperately seek, like how to:
- Manage money in your relationship without you feeling stressed and him feeling left out
- Avoid resentment
- Boost intimacy
- Make your man still feel like a hero AND want to do more for you
- Avoid the trap of being the woman who “does it all” and take advantage of the smartest ways to delegate.
- Quickly figure out whether you’ve found Mr. Right, or if you need to cut your losses and move on.
SmallBizLady: Why do you think there are more breadwinning women now than in years past?
Farnoosh Torabi: Part of what is fueling this trend is the fact that women are achieving greater academic success. Beginning in grade school, young female students are generally earning higher grades than their male classmates, due to what researchers cite as better “approaches towards learning.” Girls are characterized as more attentive, eager to learn and organized when it comes to education – and teachers are rewarding them for that. Young women are also enrolling in college and graduating with diplomas at higher rates than men. In the graduating class of 2013, women earned the majority of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The projection is the same for 2014 and beyond.
In recent years the employment market has also favored women in certain ways. In the last decade the male-dominated manufacturing sector, for example, has shed almost six million jobs, nearly one third of its total work force, and has taken in few young workers. Meantime, job openings in health, education, and services, sectors that tend to be led by female employees, have been on the rise.
Women are also prioritizing their professional lives more than men during their younger years. A 2012 Pew Research Center study found that 66 percent of young women ages 18 to 34 rate their career high on their list of life priorities, compared with 59 percent of young men.
All of this supports women to earn more than men during their younger years and to potentially continue their breadwinning status once marriage enters the picture.
SmallBizLady: How does this effect households that have a female entrepreneur as chief breadwinner?
Farnoosh Torabi: Female breadwinners – especially those who are entrepreneurs –face unique challenges within their households. They risk burning out unless they commit to a new way of thinking and managing responsibilities with their partners that transcend gender role expectations and that, instead, play on their strengths. According to my study, female breadwinners say they tend to feel more pressure to “make it all work” – from finances to career to housework. She’s working hard to be not only the primary financial provider, but also at the forefront of all tasks in her home and personal life.
And as an entrepreneur whose income may not be consistent or predictable, and as someone who must find private sources for health care and retirement savings, the pressure to provide can be insurmountable.
That said, it’s important to highlight the great many opportunities and advantages households have with an entrepreneur mother who makes more. For example, the inherent flexibility that comes with being her own boss can better serve her and her family’s needs. Let’s not forget, too, that’s there’s a great deal of pride and exciting potential that comes with being an entrepreneur – especially a female entrepreneur. As a family, there are opportunities to come together to support the business and take it to the next level. It’s not uncommon, for example, to see husbands join their wives’ business efforts either full or part-time.
SmallBizLady: How does a woman handle raising kids and managing a business? Can she do both effectively?
Farnoosh Torabi: Yes, certainly. One common denominator I’ve discovered among female breadwinning entrepreneurs who are skillfully balancing career and family is that they establish clear boundaries between both worlds. Many create non-negotiables regarding how they spend their time between the office and home. For some, it means not checking email between 6pm and 8pm and reserving those hours for family time. For others, a non-negotiable may mean no early morning meetings, so that they can have breakfast with their children and take them to school, or limiting business travel to no more than a few nights away per month. These women decide on the most important moments between them and their children and create a work structure that protects those moments.
SmallBizLady: How should breadwinning entrepreneurial women manage money in their relationships?
Farnoosh Torabi: Level the financial playing field and be transparent. In a marriage where she makes more – and especially where she is running her own business – it’s extremely important to ‘level the financial playing field’ and to give his income a real sense of purpose, as it can easily get out-shadowed by what she makes. For example, if he makes less, allocate more of his income towards big family savings goals, such as an annual vacation, college savings or the down payment on a new car. That feels more significant and meaningful than having his income cover random expenses here and there. As an entrepreneur, it is also necessary to be transparent about business related income, expenses and investments so both spouses are on the same page. Include your partner in quarterly meetings to review budgets, expenses and goals. Even if he’s not an active partner in the business, he is your life partner and deserves to be in the know.
SmallBizLady: You also say in your book that you shouldn’t ask for help. You should ask for accountability. Explain.
Farnoosh Torabi: It is paramount that female entrepreneurs who make more don’t just ask for help from their spouses (e.g. help me with making dinner tonight or help me by picking up the kids today) but rather assigning entire domains to them and asking them to choose ways they can be entirely accountable for major aspects of the relationship and family. For example, rather than help with dinner from time to time, he can be completely in charge of nutrition and food, which means he is responsible for stocking the fridge and pantries, planning meals and packing lunches. Or, he can choose to be accountable for managing the retirement and savings accounts. Together decide what can be the areas in your lives that he can just completely take over and be the ultimate provider in that way. It’s beneficial for your state of mind and healthy for his ego.
SmallBizLady: You also support outsourcing. How can you tell when it’s worth it to pay someone else to do a job for you?
Farnoosh Torabi: Doing a good “job” as a business owner and spouse doesn’t mean doing every job. Yet that is sometimes the harsh expectation we, women, place upon ourselves. Put some of your family money to work and hire others to take care of ritual domestic and office-related tasks that neither you nor your spouse really want to do. Whether it’s hiring a virtual assistant to help organize your schedule or a caregiver to help you manage childcare, investing in other people to help you accomplish your day-to-day responsibilities can be well worth it if it allows you to spend your time in more meaningful and fulfilling ways. It’s worth it if it will cost you LESS to pay someone to do a task than your hourly wage. And your hourly wage is roughly your annual income, subtract the last 3 zeros and divide by 2. (So, if you make $100,000 a year, your hourly wage is $50 an hour).
Confident Corporate Female Manager” courtesy of stockimages / www.freedigitalphotos.net
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