Two Spouses with Divergent Incomes – Avoiding the Pitfalls

Maybe your husband is a high-earning engineer and you work for a non-profit which pays a lower salary. Perhaps you’re the hot-shot executive and your husband prefers to work part-time while pursuing his education. There are plenty of couples whose incomes vary immensely. Managing to avoid conflict in the face of such income inequality is not always easy. Vastly different income levels may be an issue serious enough to weaken the bond between the two of you.

To circumvent conflict, it is best to address the situation head-on, and honestly discuss how an income inequality might be affecting your intimacy. Check out these four common issues that couples face when one is earning more money than the other.

  1. The higher earner makes the decisions.

Many couples make the mistake of thinking that whoever makes more money has complete authority over decision-making in the relationship. Truth be told, a gap in your income levels should never lead to this kind of disparity.

When the higher earner calls the shots on handling the money, the lower earner may feel disempowered or even resentful. Is your husband funding your big family vacation with his higher salary? Does he feel that the decision about the destination is his – and his alone – to make? Or are you the one using your higher income level as a manipulation tool? Take time to analyse how your thoughts about salary levels affect how you make decisions.

Once you recognise an issue, broach the subject with your husband in a non-threatening manner. It’s suggested to avoid making large financial commitments without reaching consensus with your husband. Keep the honest but respectful communication going between the two of you, and share the decision-making.

  1. The higher earner pays for everything.

When there is a huge difference in your salaries, the higher earner may be forced to carry the burden of paying for all the household bills along with his personal expenses. The lower earner may sometimes feel that he or she does not have to pitch in on household expenses because the partner makes so much more money.

If this continues, the higher earner may feel resentful over the unfair division of financial responsibility, and the lower earner may feel unjustly entitled and may even try to hang on to his or her own salary for personal use. Are you letting your husband pay for all of your expenses? Do you deposit your entire paycheck into your individual account instead of your joint funds? Or is it the other way around? Be conscious of how money matters affect your personal dynamics as a couple.

To prevent animosity from seeping into your relationship, make sure to be open about how the two of you feel about your financial responsibilities. To give the lower earner a sense of responsibility, he or she can be put in charge of making the deposits and managing the bank accounts online.

Read 5 Money Mistakes You Should Avoid in Your Marriage

  1. The lower earner pays for the inconsequential purchases.

On the other hand, the lower earner may feel insignificant and ashamed because of his or her minimal financial contributions. This unhappy feeling may be further magnified if his or her salary only goes to pay for small-scale supplies or purchases like the monthly supply of toiletries or perhaps the occasional taxi fare.

As a remedy, try directing the smaller salary towards major financial goals that big European trip or your child’s education fund. By funnelling the smaller paychecks into the biggest expenses, you will be able to fulfil emotional needs as well as continue to work towards your common financial goals.

If you are the lower earner, talk to your husband about your concerns. Chances are he is not even slightly bothered about your lower income. Likewise, if your husband is the lower earner, be willing to talk to him about his emotions. Remind yourselves that you do not necessarily have to split your expenses 50-50 because the two of you have different careers and different salaries.

The lower earner can also compensate by pulling his or her weight in other ways. Keeping  the household running smoothly or taking charge of home renovation and vacation planning are time-consuming tasks that can take some of the pressure off the spouse.

  1. The higher earner neglects his or her other household duties.

While the lower earner may try to compensate for his or her reduced financial support by contributing to the family in other ways, the higher earner may neglect his or her other familial duties like childcare and household chores.

If your husband is guilty of shirking his family responsibilities, remind him gently. Likewise, if you are the higher earner, try not to fill your whole schedule with work-related matters. Remember to spend quality time with your husband and children. No matter what financial issue you and your spouse are facing, the bottom line is that you strive to keep your communication open and healthy. Talk about your feelings and work together towards solutions.

Related: When Women Earn More Than Men In a Marriage

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Relationships
Previous articleStop Being Too Busy, Make Time To Socialise!
Next articleAdvice For Millennials: How Can Investment Advisors Help?
Founder @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is the Advisor (former CEO) of The New Savvy. She is currently the COO of ABZD Capital and the CMO of Gourmet Food Holdings, an investment firm focusing on opportunities in the global F&B industry. She is part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and heads the Women In FinTech and Partnership Committee. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. Anna invests and sits on the board of a few startups. Anna is also part of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry Career Women’s Group executive committee. Anna’s story is featured on Millionaire Minds on Channel NewsAsia. She hosts TV shows and events, namely for Channel NewsAsia’s “The Millennial Investor” and “Challenge Tomorrow”, a FinTech documentary. Anna was awarded “Her Times Youth Award” at the Rising50 Women Empowerment Gala, organised by the Indonesian Embassy of Singapore. The award was presented by His Excellency Ngurah Swajaya. She was also awarded Founder of the Year for ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards. She was also awarded the Women Empowerment Award by the Asian Business & Social Forum. Anna has been awarded LinkedIn Power Profiles for founders (2018, 2017), Tatler Gen T, The Peak’s Trailblazers under 40 and a nominee for the Women of The Future award by Aviva


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here