When she’s earning advanced degrees, putting in the extra hours at work and carving out a niche as distinctly valuable, the idea is that (hopefully) she’s out-earning the ones that aren’t. But when she makes more than her male peers—or more than her partner—what happens to her relationships?
Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance guru, author and lady breadwinner, conducted a survey of over 1,000 women to find out. And she’s sharing what she found—what it really means when she makes more—in her latest release, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women.
Here, Torabi shares advice on everything from finding a partner who can handle your success to tips on managing joint finances—a mere taste of the of perspective-challenging commentary to be found amongst the pages of When She Makes More.
Smarty Cents: What motivated you to make the leap from offering advice on all-things-financial to a specific focus on breadwinning women?
Farnoosh Torabi: 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—researching and discovering solutions became a personal need, as well.
SC: If you could offer couples one essential piece of advice for managing joint finances, regardless of who makes more, what would it be?
FT: Make a conscious effort to share in the decision-making. Money can sometimes equate to power in a relationship, particularly when there is an income disparity. The person making more may feel entitled to call all the financial shots. That’s a recipe for disaster. Instead, couples need to find a way to level the financial playing field, as I describe in the book. This includes appropriating your incomes in such a way where each person feels like their money has meaning and value (particularly the person earning less) and that you establish some guidelines for how to spend, save and invest as a couple.
SC: We love that the text also addresses the romantic plight of high-earning single women and the challenges they face in finding a partner who isn’t threatened or turned off by independence. What essential piece of advice can you offer successful, dating-weary singles?
FT: As you search for your “equal,” keep an open mind and don’t resist men who may not make as much, have as fancy a job title or have as many degrees as you do. The fact is women under the age of 30 have a higher median income than their male counterparts in most metropolitan cities in the country. More women than men are currently graduating from college and holding advanced degrees, as well. Your “equal” may not have a similar resume as you, but he still may be a match for you in far more important ways—emotionally, psychologically and romantically.
SC: It seems that your research could improve the lives of women who aren’t the breadwinners in their relationships—by helping them to understand the perspective of a breadwinner, as told from the female perspective. Do you think there are other ways When She Makes More could benefit the non-breadwinning set?
FT: Absolutely, yes. You don’t have to be a female breadwinner to value some of the strategies and ideas presented in the book. You don’t even have to be a woman! I wrote this book for all modern day couples—men and women—who are seeking more nuanced and advanced ways to cultivate their relationship with respect to money, child rearing and balancing work and personal life. And because the economy is unpredictable and life circumstances can change, it would behoove all couples to anticipate a financial flip in their relationship at some point. While she may not be the breadwinner today, she may be someday in the future.
SC: We also love your mention of focusing on “making it all work” as opposed to the more traditional distinction of “having it all.” Can you elaborate on the difference?
FT: “Having it all,” in its literal, traditional sense, to me, feels like an unrealistic achievement. And it’s a societal ideal that places unnecessary external pressure on women to go above and beyond in ways that can compromise their health and happiness. We need to be kinder to ourselves and more realistic. The concept of “making it all work” implies that you are enjoying your life in a way that is personally meaningful to you and you’re doing your best to thrive. There’s no insistence on perfectionism. For me, the mantra, “done is better than perfect” is what gets me through my day sometimes when I’m trying to “make it all work.”
SC: In your experience, is there one among the 10 rules that presents the greatest challenge?
FT: Rule #5 is to Cater to the Male Brain, and that sentence, alone, is enough to ignite some controversy, to say the least. Women have stopped me and asked, “Why should we cater to him at all? We’re doing all the work. He should just know to step up and be a team player. It’s not our job to make him understand.” But what this chapter is really trying to convey is that there are major differences in how men and women’s brains function.
It also goes in-depth about how gender influences our innate needs. All of this plays out in relationships. If you’re interested in nurturing the relationship, it helps to embrace these facts and incorporate them in how you communicate to and relate with another. And this rule, while explaining to women how to express themselves better with men, is really about helping women in the end. Knowing how to communicate with your guy when discussing, say, household responsibilities in such a way that he really gets it is ultimately a win for her.
SC: What are some of your favorite resources around the web (or on your shelves) for inspiration?
FT: I just finished reading The Athena Doctrine by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio. It talks about the recent rise of women in various realms across the globe and the reasons they are outpacing and adapting better than men in many ways. It makes the case for more female leadership, something the world really needs.