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Matchmaking when the women is the big earner - is it a big problem?

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Contributor:
Rosie Bowie
Rosie Bowie

The question of economic discrepancy or income discrepancy is something that is probably more significant in the matchmaking business, particularly for older people (let's say that's over 35) than, say, the age difference issue.

So how important is it to ensure that a couple have a comparatively similar financial situation?

In a hitherto relatively macho kiwi culture, having women earning big money has created issues for men more than the women, in our experience at Matchcompany.

Interestingly however, there have highly successful matches we have made where the couple have totally different financial circumstances. However, there have also been many where one or other of the couple we have introduced have indicated that financial or economic reasons were a reason why a relationship may not work.

But times are changing fast in terms of the earning power of women and - more slowly - the expectations of men.

As women have climbed the career ladder and earned a great deal more than ever before it is often the case that they are earning far more than the men we have available for introductions. In fact, it never ceases to amaze me the number of women who are doctors, accountants, senior managers, entrepreneurs and the like who are earning very substantial annual incomes.

Men, on the other hand, have been far fewer in terms of achieving that degree of financial security as a broad rule.

Today, every piece of research internationally and locally shows that more women than ever are married to men with less educational qualifications and lower incomes.

I know that in the US, for instance, a Pew study* showed that women's earnings grew by over 44 per cent iin the 50 years from 1970, compared to six per cent for men. That is a major differential and I doubt whether much is different in New Zealand.

So how to deal with that from a dating perspective?

It depends upon the men, earning less, and the women, earning more, how they handle that situation. A variety of personal, emotional and other factors come into play, not just financial.

But, equally, arguments over money are a key cause of relationship breakup and so this is a vital area of interest for anyone looking to enter any relationship involving income disparity.

The important thing is not the disparity of wealth, it is an understanding between the parties and an acceptance of how that is to be handled. A couple needs to understand important issues, including:

- Do the couple accept the current, or future situation regarding the disparity?

- Are the goals of the couple similar? Do you both share the same aspirations and how they will be paid for?

- Are the respective roles of the parties in alignment? For instance, is it accepted and understood that one party (the major earner) will continue earning while the other handles other aspects of their lives together without fear of retribution, jealousy or resentment?

- Are there shared goals for both parties, such as for further education or personal development so that both feel fulfilled in what they want to achieve?

- Are you objectives financially in alignment also so far as your approach to debt and saving? Is there a major 'spender' in the partnership, which could lead to conflict, even if he or she is the major earner?

Overall, the most important consideration is the respect each partner has for the other with a 'cards on the table' approach where all matters, not just financial, are addressed in an open and honest manner. Once the relative 'business side' of the relationship is discussed and understood the emotional, personal issues can be more successfully dealt with.

A man or woman with little money can contribute more to a relationship than a parter earning or having plenty, but who creates controls or issues that can torpedo an otherwise successful partnership.

*To view the full study entitled “New Economics of Marriage: The Rise of Wives,” go to http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1466/economics-marriage-rise-of-wives.

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