A growing number of women are becoming the highest income earner in the household, creating pressures related to health and finance.
Evolving societal values and changing attitudes in the workplace are leading a growing percentage of women in Australia to more prestigious or higher-earning roles than their husbands – and with this trend comes new challenges that may be important to consider as you rise up the ladder in your chosen field.
While it may not have always been the case, your current salary potentially dictates that you perform the role of chief breadwinner in the partnership.
So what are some of the factors that might come into play now that your income exceeds that of your husband’s?
Most significantly the major earner in any household unit – regardless of whether it is a man or a woman – takes on the added responsibility related to coping financially in difficult circumstances.
Medical issues in particular can have a huge impact on the lifestyle of the whole family – and the enormity of this potential hurdle might be amplified if the individual to suffer injury or illness is also the person whose wage is most heavily relied upon.
Kristen Houghton, author of And Then I’ll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First, found herself in a situation such as this recently, when a health scare led to immediate thoughts of panic and financial stress.
Writing for the Huffington Post Tuesday (January 31), Houghton said: “I am a woman who, like many others today, makes more money than my husband and I’m also the one who has the health plan.”
Regular mortgage repayments and other necessary expenses are largely covered by her paycheque, Houghton added.
“If something happened to me, even if I was laid up for several long months and unable to work, financial disaster loomed.
“Savings accounts can get depleted rather quickly when they aren’t added to each pay period,” she said.
These types of concerns can quickly escalate when you realise that over the years a number of altruistic – but not necessarily financially sound – decisions to assist loved ones have left your savings fund lower than it might be.
This is a circumstance that Houghton says she knows well, with handouts such as student loan payments for an adult child and one-off financial assistance to struggling relatives possibly putting a bigger hole in her and her husband’s retirement fund than was first expected.
Savings have the unfortunate habit of being more fickle than you realise. The plan to steadily build your account over a long period time can fall apart rather suddenly in an unexpected emergency.
“I quickly realised how unprepared I, as the person making the most money in the relationship, really was,” Houghton explained.
“In the horrible event that I wasn’t able to work at my current salary, everything could possibly be lost. It would only take a few months and that would be that.”
While there is little point becoming stressed by thoughts of what may or may not happen to you in the future, it makes good sense to pay attention to your overall savings strategy and perhaps discuss your circumstances with an expert financial adviser.
ipac is one of Australia’s largest financial advisory firms and has offices based across the country. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the AMP Group, ipac specialises in research and financial advice that helps clients lead happier, more fulfilling lives.