(Closed) Dating, marriage, and money: How do you handle uneven salaries?

posted 8 years ago in Relationships
Post # 3
3564 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

I am in a similar situation–my Fiance makes significantly more than I do. Unlike you though, chances are I will never earn close to what he does (I’m a social worker, he works in finance). I understand what you mean about people who make a lot of money and the high egos/arrogance/narcissism that often go along with the money. However, as you say, it seems like your Fiance doesn’t exhibit any of these traits. I would say that you need to look at yourself, and where your own insecurity is coming from. For me, I felt insecure because I worried that my Fiance would feel resentful that I don’t contribute as much monetarily, or that he would get angry if I spent “our money” (which I really felt was his money). But he didn’t feel that way at all–it was MY fear and my insecurity that was making me feel guilty, not anything that he did. So I needed to work on being okay with there being a salary difference, because it’s not something that’s going to change.

I found it helpful to talk to my Fiance and have him reassure me that he doesn’t think I”m a gold digger, doesn’t mind being the breadwinner, and that he feels comfortable with the way we each spend our money. Have you expressed your fears and your feelings of intimidation to your FI? It sounds like maybe you’re a little envious that he’s working and making money right now, while you have to wait til you graduate to start working on your career–does that have anything to do with it?


Post # 4
11325 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: February 2011

I’m in kind of an opposite situation– I make more than my Fiance does. Our base salaries are comparable (mine is just slightly higher), but his bonuses are around 1-4K/year whereas mine are anywhere from 10-100% of my base. This was a good year so I made almost double what he did. It really hasn’t been a problem though. It would bother me if he didn’t work hard, didn’t have a good job, or was unhappy in his job… but that isn’t the case. He has a great job and makes a totally respectable income, that is all I could ask. I just happened to pick a career that is much higher paid (I’m an attorney, he’s an accountant— as he says “the only way an accountant makes more than an attorney is if he’s dirty” haha). We basically live on his salary + my base and bank my bonuses for extra stuff— down payment on house, wedding, vacations, remodels, etc. it works well for us. 🙂

Post # 5
1566 posts
Bumble bee

Wow, this is a great question. Fiance and I are both in finance, as are most of our friends, so I have seen these dynamics at work for many couples. 

My best friend is my age (just graduated college), while her Boyfriend or Best Friend is a few years older and makes a lot more money. She also doesn’t know how much he makes and doesn’t want to know (I honestly do NOT understand this at all, I feel like couples shouldn’t have big secrets like that, but it works for them). Another friend is in a similar situation – her Boyfriend or Best Friend is doing really well at work and keeps making more and more, though she does not know how much. 

I definitely understand where you are coming from with worrying that money = arrogance = marriage problems. I personally could not see myself in a relationship with a typical finance guy because (generalization here) they think they’re the sh*t because they make so much money. However, my Fiance is NOTHING like that and finance is his dream career. Neither of my friends’ boyfriends is even close to that stereotype either. 

My thoughts are that if someone has a certain personality, you would have seen it by now. Getting a huge amount of money at one time can transform personalities, but gradual progression in his career likely will not make him a whole different person. I worry about it in my relationship, but I think staying close and knowing what’s going on in each other’s lives at work is a good way to avoid surprises. We talk a lot about who he hangs out with at work, those peoples’ choices and personalities, and which aspects of  these choices and personalities we want to avoid. That keeps us on the same page. 

Post # 6
4024 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: September 2010

My Fi makes a lot more than me. I am going to school still too, so that doesn’t help either! Neither of us make 6 figures though, but he brought home almost double what I did last year. But we look at it as all our money. We have a joint checking so both our paychecks go in there and we write all our bills from there. So it doesn’t seem like one makes more than the other becuase we both contribute and we share everything equally.

Post # 8
1154 posts
Bumble bee

anonybride, while I admire your independence and desire to stand on your own feet I would keep in mind that it can be pretty difficult to keep separate accounts and live ‘one life’ together when the salaries are disprate.  Are you not going to go on expensive vacations?  And how is that fair to either of you?

Post # 10
1566 posts
Bumble bee

I was also wondering about what @Arachna mentioned. If he makes a lot more than you but you don’t let him pay for you, what happens when you want to do something that’s beyond your means? 

I am likely going to choose a career in the long run where I am making a lot less money than Fiance, but I have no problem with him paying for me…we’re one family after all 🙂 

EDIT: Just saw your answer…that makes sense: was just confused when you said the biggest gift he ever got you was a handbag…I guess it really was a vacation. 

Post # 13
296 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: March 2010

Sounds like something in your past is influencing your perspective.  I can offer you two opinions.  My Fiance got laid off and has been getting measely unemployment while I am still gainfully employed.  I don’t mind taking care of mostly everything because that is what it means to be a family and a team.  I know his situation will change and he may be supporting me in the future. My father starting making major money about 15 years ago while my mom has always been a home maker.  I don’t think my father developed an ego or was self serving.  He worked very hard to be where he is, and knows he would not be where he is without my mother taking care of everything and being his support. He always came home and confided in her about the work day.

I think as long as you work as team and share your accomplishments together as if each was your own you should be ok. I would encourage you allow your Fiance to share his sucsesses with you. I imagine your Fi works in a highly competitive environment, and sometimes the only people you can trust and confide in are your family members. Men need support and encouragement. Yes, they have egos, but better you feed them than someone else.  For your own protection, you should be in the know about your family’s financial standing in case anything happens.

Post # 14
3564 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

How does your Fiance feel this whole situation? Is he okay with you guys keeping separate accounts, does he understand your feelings of insecurity? As Girlwitharing and Arachna said, I think that it gets very difficult to decide “who pays for what” especially when there is such a discrepancy in salaries. However, I think the idea of seeing a financial advisor is a good one–they’ll be able to explain all the option to you much better than I’m sure I would ever be able to!

I also know that my Fiance would be offended if I insisted on paying him back for gifts that he’d given me, or if I didn’t want to know how much money he had/how much he made. I would be careful about going too far in the extreme of trying not to look like you’re mooching off his money (which if you and your Fiance know you’re not, that’s what should matter, not the opinions of others) that you completely distance yourself from him and you lose intimacy with each other. I know exactly how much my Fiance has in the bank and how much his bonus is, and his base salary, etc. And I”m really proud of him for doing as well as he has. I think he would be hurt if I said “I don’t want to know about your successes.”

Post # 15
2395 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2009

It’s the flip side for me.  I make about three times more than what my husband makes…which isn’t hard to do considering he’s in the military.  I think it all depends on what attitude you take towards wealth.  I want to make a lot of money and I want to have a high income, but my motivations for that may not be what everyone expects.  Right now I’m busting my butt to make a ton so I can pay off my debts and husband’s debts, be able to provide for us both when he’s out of the Army and in school, and build up a nest egg so that one day, when we have kids, I can stay home with them.  After I’m no longer in the work force, I want the husband to make a decent and successful living.  I could care less about boats, new cars, ginormous houses, etc., I just want to be able to help our family’s, our kids, have a nice retirement and make our money work for us, not us working for the money.  Trust me, you can make a lot of money and not let it go to your head.  I refuse to pay for cable/dish because I think it’s a waste of money to pay $60/month for something I may only watch for an hour a night.  I drive a paid off subaru w/ almost 100k miles on it and plan to drive it until it dies.  We’re looking for a house in an older, more modest neighborhood even though we’ve been approved for a loan that would buy a much nicer and much newer home. 

Basically, what I’m getting at is no matter how much (or heaven forbid, how little) my husband and I make, we always work very very hard at staying grounded.  

As for the challenges between the income gaps, we really haven’t had any.  Due to circumstance, we still have separate bank accounts.  But whenever one needs money, we just wire it over.  We kind of have that what’s mine is yours thing going on.  So, even though I make a crapload more than he does our money all does the same thing; pays bills, goes into savings, etc.  The only time it became an issue was after we were married and my husband wanted to start paying my rent (he lives elsewhere until he’s out of the Army).  I was like, are you freaking kidding me?  My rent is half of his takehome pay a month.  He felt like he needed to be “taking care of me” now that I was his wife.  I told him the money would be better spent going into a savings account where it could really take care of “us” by providing us security. 

Post # 16
888 posts
Busy bee

my advice to you would be not to worry so much about what others think. 

i know that is hard!  i was very determined to maintain my independence too financially and personally (i actually make more than my partner but this is largely b/c i’m a bit older than him but the difference is not huge) but i found that this actually got in the way of us being a partnership.

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