A Q&A with Farnoosh Torabi, author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women.
PureWow: When my husband and I got married, I paid off his credit card debt. Was this a mistake?
Farnoosh Torabi: Possibly. If you were able to pay off his debt without harming your own financial stability (and without resentment or regret) and it has allowed the two of you to pursue your goals together once and for all, then your generous act had its upsides, for sure.
But one challenge with bailing out anyone in debt is that this person never realizes the “pain” of getting to zero. Eliminating debt requires delaying gratification, planning and focus. If that’s never experienced, what’s to say this person won’t fall back on old habits?
PW: So, really--do I need a prenup?
FT: Yes, but only if you live in a state where you disagree with the laws pertaining to how assets are allocated in a divorce. For example, in community property states like California, assets are divided 50/50 in the absence of a prenup or postnup. If you want to protect any of your current or future money or other assets in the event of a breakup, then you may want to consult with an attorney and have a prenup or postnup drafted.
PW: When we go out to dinner, my boyfriend insists on paying. But I make four times his salary! Should I let him?
FT: If he can afford to do it, why not? When you treat your partner to dinner or any occasion, it feels good, doesn’t it? You feel proud. Both of you should experience that feeling from time to time.
PW: I’m fine with my man’s slender paycheck, but it drives my mother crazy. How do I shut her up?
FT: You stop giving her long answers to her questions. Don’t indulge her. Keep your responses short, to the point and always positive. Make sure to fill her in on all the wonderful reasons your man is the one for you. Don’t give her the satisfaction of seeing or hearing that you’re having a bad day with your guy, either. She’ll assume it has everything to do with the fact that you earn more. I won’t sugarcoat it: It may put a strain on your relationship, but try to remember that our moms are from a different time and they do ultimately want what’s best for us, although they have a strange way of showing it. Having compassion--and patience--is key.
PW: Since his salary is less than the cost of a nanny, I think he should stay home with the kids. He, however, wants to pay for child care and focus on building his small business. Who’s right?
FT: Mathematically, you are right. But we can’t live our lives based simply on what numbers and spreadsheets say. If he’s telling you that his happiness depends on his ability to pursue a business, as a couple you should give that a chance. It may not work out, and then you’ll need to reassess. But it should never be assumed that the person in the relationship who earns less should necessarily be the one to squash his or her professional goals when kids enter the picture.
PW: What’s one thing I can do to make my husband feel less insecure about our pay imbalance?
FT: Level the financial playing field. While he may not be making as much, he can still feel like a major financial player when you attach meaning to his money and appropriate it toward significant savings or costs. For instance, my husband makes less, but his income helps to fully fund big parts of our lives--the college savings account, retirement and our next vacation.