a goose and baby geese

Female Breadwinners: When you are both Mother Goose and the Golden Goose

As the breadwinner and woman of the family, you’ve got a lot on your plate – from major work decisions to what’s for dinner. You’re the meal ticket, in more ways than one. Your family depends on you for financial security, and that brings unique challenges and responsibility.

Many of my female clients are the main income providers of their family, and not just by a small margin. They’re crushing it at the office, but when it comes to financial planning, they still take a backseat.

In her day job, Kathryn puts together massive real estate deals, earning three times as much money as her husband, a government employee. However, when the two are out at dinner with friends, his buddies often approach him to participate in potentially lucrative deals or investments. They don’t even make eye contact with her or ask her about it, despite the fact that she’s an expert in the field.

Caroline, a hard-working entrepreneur who built her insurance business from the ground up, shakes her head as she recalls how often she is passed up for “Country Club Equity.” It’s her financial smarts that have allowed her and her husband to even become members of the exclusive club in the first place, but the “boy’s club mentality” prevails.

Female breadwinners have a unique set of challenges:

Some men are intimidated by their high earning, which can cause friction in a marriage.

In my (historically male dominated) profession, I hear from clients that often financial advisors speak towards the husband in the meeting and don’t make much eye contact or request input from the wife or give them credit where it’s due. They feel less confident about their skills with managing money, so they leave it to their husband. And, they see themselves as so busy with work and home, the personal finances becomes another item on the never ending to do list.

Almost half of all employed women, 49% to be exact, report that they are their family’s primary breadwinner, according to a 2019 poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News.

In 2019, more women than men are graduating from college and going on to high earning careers that outpace their male counterparts.

However, skills in the boardroom don’t necessarily translate to the world of personal financial planning. Many high net worth women just don’t have time or temperament in this area, so they leave it to their husband. While he may be wise in this area, she can’t tune out. Statistics show that at some point in their lives, 90% of ALL women will be completely responsible for making their own financial decisions. (Choi, Five Reasons Women Are Taking The Lead In Financial Planning, p. 3) That’s why it’s so important for women to take charge of their financial planning NOW.

But where do you start?

  • Assess what you have
  • Protect your income with insurance: life insurance, disability income insurance, and for women 50+, Long Term Care insurance. Disability is often overlooked, but super important – your family is relying on you! There is a lot on your shoulders, so make sure you protect is sacred to you. Discuss with an advisor if your life insurance should be owned by a trust or not.
  • Develop a Wealth Building System: your income is high, but is that translating to a substantial investment account? You’re busy, so if a system is already in place, through periodic reviews, there’s some assurance that you’re in a good position for long term wealth.
  • Drag him, or have him drag you, to financial planning meetings. It might be a sensitive subject if he’s been doing this all along, but it’s too important to not be involved.
  • A post nuptial agreement could be a smart financial move if there is a business or other non-liquid asset involved.
  • Unmarried women consider a pre nuptial agreement if marriage is in your future.
  • Take care of your physical and mental self.
  • And finally, delegate, delegate, delegate! House work, meals, errands – you are worth so much more per hour, and your down time is precious.

Perhaps we are victims of our own making. Maybe we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves for our home life. Why do a lot of women feel home must be perfect?

The most important advice I can give you is this: make sure you are involved in your family’s finances. It is critical that you take an active role in understanding, managing, and planning your finances. Have confidence in yourself, even if this is not your area of expertise! By just getting involved and asking questions, you will protect what you have and plan for the future like a boss.

References

Choi, D. M. (2017). Five Reasons Women Are Taking the Lead In Financial Planning. Forbes Community Voice, 5.

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