Recently I wrote about how because of the different types of matching programs that Mr. PoP and I have on our work 401Ks, we could do some tweaking and maximize our maximize our 401K employer matches across both accounts without increasing our employee contributions. Basically, it would get us about $1.5K/year in additional matching funds without costing us anything – after all, we have combined our finances 100% so it doesn’t matter to us whose name the 401K funds are in.
Part of that analysis showed that Mr. PoP and I are currently earning pretty similar money these days. But our incomes weren’t always on par with each other, and there’s a decent chance that will change again in the future. So how does this play a role in our marriage?
The Past: She Earned More Than He
When we first got married, I made a lot more than Mr. PoP, especially when he took a minimum wage job that we saw as a long-term business opportunity. At that time, I was making just a little less than I am now, which was significantly more than Mr. PoP. We both knew whose income was paying the bills. But what was the dynamic like?
Mrs. PoP: Honestly, I’ve never been the bra-burning feminist type, so I wasn’t viewing my relative paycheck size as a “big win” for womankind. But at the same time, I’m also not of the traditional perspective that a husband must always out-earn a wife and be a “provider”. It just was what it was. Even though I was contributing more monetarily in the short term, we both thought that Mr. PoP’s minimum wage job had great long term prospects, so I really considered his minimum wage paychecks as him working toward funding our future while I was funding more of the present.
Mr. PoP: I was OK with this, but we both knew it was for a limited time-6 months at most. Later on, when I was out of work for a month or so, and then not making any real money at my sales job for the first month, it felt bad. Accurate description below:
I consider myself pretty enlightened about gender roles, but suddenly having no job and letting my DW bring home the bacon was brutal. You would think that I could have relaxed and hung out with the cat or something, but I was pretty depressed during that time.
The Present: We Earn About The Same
When the business opportunity didn’t pan out as we had really hoped, Mr. PoP started over. And he went from minimum wage to $80K in a year by working his way up through commission sales. So this is where we are now. Our paychecks are within 10% of one another – and a good bonus for one of us or the other could determine who comes out on top at the end of the year.
Mrs. PoP: The drastic change to Mr. PoP’s earnings has allowed us to accelerate some of our savings and investment goals. Without that, I don’t know how we would have been able to plan out $100K in debt payment in 27 months or less. The only big spending change I can remember consciously making in our spending with the extra income was increasing the restaurant budget to allow Mr. PoP room to go out for networking lunches with colleagues once a week without cutting into our “restaurant date” budget. But I don’t remember a big “whoosh” of relief knowing that I wasn’t the main one responsible for our immediate funding needs.
Mr. PoP: While Mrs. Pop may not have felt a rush of relief, I’m pretty proud of my contribution to our financial goals. I’m good at what I do, and relatively highly paid. Pride isn’t always a good thing, but after going through a few years of making little, the difference in earnings feels nice.
The Future: Good Chance He’ll Earn More, But Who Really Knows?
Looking at the next couple of years, if we stay on our current “tracks” at our jobs, there’s a good chance Mr. PoP is going to out-pace me raise-wise and easily make more money than me. We’re also getting to the point in our lives where we’re going to have to make decisions about whether or not we want kids in the next few years, too. There are enough open questions at the moment that it’s hard to say who’s going to out-earn the other in the future.
Mrs. PoP: The next step up on the corporate heirarchy where Mr. PoP works would be a pretty decent pay boost for Mr. PoP. But again, other than a few more networking lunches that would be expected of him each month, there wouldn’t be a whole lot else that we would forsee changing about our budget… Unless we decide to have kid-lins. Biologically, we should figure out what we want in that department in the next few years. If we go that route, it’d be pretty important to me to spend a decent chunk of time with them, so I’d probably end up going part time or go to flex scheduling at work. Either way, kid-lins would definitely impede my earning potential in the near-term. But if we decide that’s what we really want, well… who cares who’s bringing home the veggie bacon, right?
Mr. PoP: Flexibility is one of the nicest parts of being responsible with your money. The decision to have kids or not will be made easier because one of us could stay at home with them and we wouldn’t feel any financial strain. If I was the main bread winner at that point (seriously, bacon, veggie bacon, bread, whats with all the money and food analogies?) that would be fine, especially since Mrs. Pop was so supportive of me following my dreams early on!
How has income (in)equality played a role in your romantic relationships? Has it ever been a bone of contention or has it been a relatively easy obstacle to maneuver?