- According to new data from Insider and Morning Consult, 74% of Americans said they had some sort of income imbalance with their partner before they started dating.
- The survey was conducted as a part of Insider’s “The State of Our Money” series, which looks at financial health among Americans.
- Forty-four per cent of people surveyed said that they made more money than their partner going into their relationship, and 30% said they made less money than their partner at the start. Just 26% of people said they and their partner earned about the same.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
In a survey of 2,096 Americans from Morning Consult and Insider, the majority of Americans reported they had a financial imbalance going into their current relationships.
About 44% of people surveyed who were either married to or living with a partner said that they made more money than their partner before they started dating, and 30% said they made less. All told, about 74% of people surveyed reported having some financial imbalance before they started their relationship. Only 26% of people said they came into their relationship making about the same amount of money.
Having significantly more or less money than a partner can be a big point of contention in relationship. When bestselling personal finance author Ramit Sethi asked his 143,000 Twitter followers what they would do if their partners earned more than they did, the vast majority of people replied with positive reactions like “OMG, that would be AMAZING! Our household income would go up – it’s great!”
However, he wrote in a post for Business Insider, “Those same people emailed me 45 minutes later and confided in me that they earned more than their partner and hated it.” He later got several emails from people who said they made more than their partner, who “resented” their lower-earning partner, felt that they were “mothering them,” or felt that they “weren’t ambitious.”
But, as Insider and Morning Consult’s survey shows, uneven incomes is a situation familiar to a lot of American couples.
Just earning more or less money isn’t the problem
Relationship expert Susan Winter told Insider’s Sara Hendricks that money imbalances in relationships don’t always cause problems inherently, explaining that it’s often the implication of power that can be problematic. “Traditionally speaking, money equals power, and the one with the power is the one who controls the relationship,” Winter told Insider.
Winter suggests keeping some form of financial independence, even as your relationship gets more serious. And as far as making the power dynamic in a relationship feel more balanced, she suggests to Insider, “Begin with the basic question of ‘who does what?’ If your partner makes all the money, how can you contribute in a way that feels important and valued?”
Business Insider contributor Jennifer Still wrote about making more money than her partner, saying, “My partner sometimes feels guilty for not contributing as much financially to our relationship, even though it’s not something I ever think about or hold against her.” She continues: “Our wage discrepancy is entirely circumstantial and something we’ve worked hard to make a non-issue in our relationship, but I think we’d both be lying if we said we’d conquered our respective concerns entirely.”
However, she writes, “Ultimately, money isn’t such a huge issue in our relationship that we’re constantly preoccupied with it.”
Whatever the earnings dynamic in your own relationship, experts recommend being open about money with your partner. “I’d say more often than not, people probably aren’t exactly on the same page,” financial planner Christine Centino previously told Business Insider.
Her favourite tangible sign of couples who are communicating well about money is a simple spreadsheet. “They have both gone through this spreadsheet,” she told Business Insider. “They have all the numbers and they’re like, ‘here’s what we want to do.'”