Traditionally, women took on the homemaking and caregiving roles. But as more women in the labour force join the corporate world and draw higher salaries, family dynamics have also changed.
Image source: Blackbox.com.sg
The Department of Statistics Singapore found that almost 65% of divorces in 2021 were initiated by wives. It is possible that women have the option of initiating divorce due to having more financial independence. In fact, the top two reasons cited in a study about divorce rate by advisory firm Blackbox were women’s economic independence and financial disagreements.
It is not that if you make more than your husband, the marriage will splinter. But if a couple does not talk about their finances or who should be the main breadwinner, the marriage could gradually grow cold and awkward. So how do you navigate a situation like this?
You’re in this together!
Remember, whether you’re making $5,000 a month or $50,000, both of you are contributing to the family. Sit down with your husband and work out what needs to be done daily and weekly to keep the home in order. Focus on how both of you will get all the chores done, bills paid, and childcare managed in a way that is fair. Discuss issues like:
- Should you get a nanny, domestic worker, or family member to help with childcare if you both have 9-to-5 jobs?
- Who should do the school runs and who should do the family meals?
- Can you afford to hire someone to clean the home?
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Be upfront about finances
List down your earnings and expenses, including how much discretionary income both of you will need. If you claim that you can buy more things “because you can afford it,” this is unfair to your spouse as your items may clutter up the home and he may think the money could be better spent on something else.
There are also shared expenses to talk about. These include:
- House mortgage or rent
- Car and other transport expenses
- Childcare expenses such as school fees
- A domestic worker’s salary, if you hire one
- Pet expenses
A 50-50 split may be more burdensome on your husband and leave him with less disposable income. So you should be open to footing more of the bill.
One way is to split based on income. For example, if you make $6,000 and your husband makes $4,000, this is a total household income of $10,000. Since you make 60% of the household income, you should pay 60% of the total expenses.
Clear communication about who takes care of what
Another way is to allocate the types of expenses both of you will pay. If you make more, you can take care of heavier expenses such as the mortgage or children’s school fees. You could also allocate expenses based on usage. For example, if your husband is the primary driver, he can take care of all car expenses such as the car loan, petrol, parking, and tolls.
Talk openly and the most important thing is that you both agree to pay for your allocated portion of the expenses. Have a weekly or monthly check-in just to ensure that you’re both on the same page when it comes to how much is being spent and what both of you are spending on.
Decide how you will achieve shared goals together
Besides your everyday expenses, identify shared goals and personal hobbies. Shared goals include owning a home together or whether to have children. Personal hobbies are things that bring you satisfaction such as travelling or a sport. These goals involve money so it is best to discuss with your husband how both of you will fulfil them.
For example, if you love travelling a lot more than your husband, you could pay for the bigger expenses like accommodation and flight tickets. Meanwhile, your husband can contribute by figuring out transport or planning the itinerary.
As for shared goals, let’s take buying a home as an example. If your husband has debt that needs to be paid off, he should focus on that first. You can put aside money first for the house while he pays off his debt. You also need to discuss how you will split the mortgage. Keep revisiting this discussion because salaries change frequently.
Another thing to touch on is whether to have a joint bank account. You could have a joint account for shared expenses and a personal one for hobbies and treats. This way, you and your husband will be able to pay the bills without conflict, while you still retain the autonomy to spend your money on hobbies and things you love!
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Be transparent and honest with each other
It’s important to stay open and communicative with your husband, especially if there are any events that might impact your income and expenses. Have pre-planned regular check-ins where you talk about potential promotions and layoffs, and how these could affect your family income. Discuss what to do as a couple in case any one of you loses your job or wants to resign.
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Make sure both of you have a say when it comes to financial decision-making. Address questions like:
- What are your individual expenses?
- Which expenses will you share as a couple?
- How much money are you giving to each of your parents?
- What are your short-term and long-term financial goals?
- How will the household bills and chores be shared?
If you find it hard to talk to each other, it does not mean you’ve failed as a couple. There is nothing wrong with getting professional help — an unbiased third party — to mediate.
No marriage is easy and one where you make more than your husband may have its unique troubles. The most important thing is that both of you see yourselves as a team and communicate openly.