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As More Women Become Family Breadwinners, the Financial Discourse Shifts.

Helena Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Ontario, Canada, is married with three children and has been the breadwinner for over 25 years.

“It’s been difficult being the sole breadwinner in a profession that, while profitable, has periods of inactivity… So, in retrospect, I think it was quite brave of me to take this on with the income for the entire family reliant on my company,” says Smith, who defends sexual assault survivors and victims in personal injury lawsuits.

“However, each family must do what is best for them.”

Smith’s spouse elected to stay at home with their children while they were little. He still does some contract work and assists with her company, but Smith has always maintained the home finances as the principal source of income.

“I know how much money is coming in.” “I’m the greatest person to manage everything.”

Given the rigors of her career, she believes having her spouse take care of the family has been a big help.

According to a Wells Fargo research from 2021, more than half of all coupled women reported earning the same as, or more than, their spouse.

Furthermore, about one-third of millennial and Gen X women reported earning more than their partner. Women from the new generations outnumber women from the baby boomer generation (1946-1964) and the conservative generation (1928-1945). In addition, half of millennial and Gen X women stated they manage home money, compared to 40% of women from previous generations.

While it makes sense for the principal wage earner to have a bigger role in household economics, how does this play out for women, who live longer lives and earn less than their male counterparts?

Female Breadwinners’ Financial Planning

“The essential thing is that career women have a lot going on.” “Just because they’re professionals with promising professions doesn’t mean they’re not putting in work at home,” says Jackie Porter, a certified financial advisor in Mississauga, Ontario.

Many of Porter’s female clients who are primary wage earners come to her because they have been too preoccupied with job and family obligations to address their money.

They frequently want to prepare for their retirement, but Porter adds that as compared to her male customers, they prefer to take less risk with their investments and focus on having a sustainable plan of action.

Sara McCullough, a licensed financial planner in Kitchener, Ontario, says most of her customers come to her to help them manage their income and spending, regardless of their income level.

She doesn’t believe there are any gender variations in her clients’ financial goals or worries. She has discovered, however, that men require information to be presented differently than women.

“[Men] feel reassured when they see software output that says, at retirement, your assets are here, and then they run down like this.” ‘Show me the whole picture,’ it says. And I’ll realize I can still afford to purchase food.'”

Women tend to be more concerned with how their money look on a daily basis, with a more account-focused attitude.

Hold Financial Discussions With Your Partner.

Porter and McCullough both stated that they frequently assist their customers in having difficult financial talks with their spouses. This might be due to bill sharing, future planning, or taking care of non-financial obligations at home, such as housekeeping and child rearing.

“Even having talks about prenups and postnups or cohabiting arrangements, having a third impartial person come in and say, let’s speak about our financial strategy for the future,” Porter adds.

Jenny Potter, an executive editor for Food & Home at Walmart Canada, was the breadwinner for the most of her marriage to her husband, despite the fact that they now earn roughly the same amount.

“I was dead set on having an emergency fund.” And having cash on hand for a rainy day… whether it’s a job loss or our cat ate dental floss and required emergency surgery. In contrast, he was more concerned about paying off his debt.”

She said that her husband returned to school while they were dating in their mid-20s, and they had to be honest about what they could each afford, especially because her husband was earning half of what she was and struggling with student debt.

“That contribution, you know, it might not be like 60/40, it might be like 30/70, and so we end up kind of adapting.”

They still maintain separate bank accounts (save for one for emergencies), but they file their taxes jointly and talk if one of them wants to spend a large quantity of money.