In 2019, data showed that two-thirds of mothers were either breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their families. While this has been an increasingly popular trend over the past decade or so, it’s a relatively new phenomenon that has, at least in part, come about as the result of a handful of societal shifts for women — think going to school for longer, earning more degrees, delaying marriage and children, and entering their 60s without a partner.
While the shift to more female breadwinners is positive in many ways, it also comes with a unique set of hurdles. From the pressure it can bring to the unique balancing act it requires, here are three of the top challenges faced by female breadwinners.
Challenge #1: Negotiating how to combine finances and split expenses with your spouse
If you’re making more money than your spouse, chances are you might feel some guilt around it. How are you expected to divvy up expenses when one of you is earning more than the other?
One of the best ways to combat this challenge is to use the “Yours, Mine, and Ours” system. The specifics of this system will look unique to each family, but it is based on the concept that you share expenses for household necessities — things like rent, utilities and groceries — while keeping individual accounts to fund anything from hobbies to gifts for one another.
Challenge #2: Balancing the present with the future
Can you remember a time that you found yourself in a financial predicament? Say in college you wanted to spend a summer abroad visiting a friend, but you also knew you needed to save up to pay next year’s tuition. What to do? It’s easy when you’re young to get caught up in the false notion that once you achieve professional and financial success, these trade-offs will no longer be a concern. Unfortunately though, for the vast majority of us, these predicaments follow us all of our lives, they just take different forms.
As a female breadwinner, you likely have to find the right balance between doing what you want to do now and planning for the future on almost a daily basis. Should you take the family vacation now or set aside extra money for your retirement? Send your kids to summer camp or add money to their college saving accounts? Of course it’s extremely important to plan wisely and invest in your future self, but it’s also important to think about the present and make choices that bring you happiness and fulfillment now. It’s all about balance.
Challenge #3: The pressure to stay in an unfulfilling or high-stress job
As the breadwinner of your family, chances are you have a high-paying, high-pressure role way up on the corporate ladder. While jobs such as these have the potential to place a great deal of pressure on an individual, likely too, you feel the pressure to stay at said job for your family’s sake. It’s important to remember though, that while you may feel trapped, you aren’t. Take the time to ask yourself some introspective questions. Is it the role you dislike? The company? Your industry? Once you have figured out the root of the problem, you can begin to reach out to your professional and support networks and put together a game plan for how to improve your situation. Remember, prioritize yourself, too. Your mental health is just as important to your family as your paycheck.
The Humphreys Group team can help
At The Humphreys Group, we specialize in helping women get smart about their wealth. From comprehensive financial planning to disciplined investment management, reach out to our team to see how we can help you conquer some of the challenges faced by female breadwinners like you.