#13 - Are You a Breadwinner? with Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney
Transcript from interview #13 - Are You a Breadwinner? with Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney
Do any of you feel that as breadwinners, you are more entitled to certain decisions and decision making in the household?
Ooh, tough question... partner's gonna get mad if he listens... Welcome to the I Also Want Money podcast where our mission is to democratise, demystify, and demasculinize making money. My name is Nicole Kyle and I'm here with my co-host Sophie Holm and co-producer Harrison Comfort. She's back. On the podcast, we are bringing back Dr. Jamie Trager-Muney. Dr. Jamie is a wealth psychologist. And in today's episode, we're focused on the societal dynamics, pressures and anxieties of being a breadwinner, and a woman. Today's episode is a little special because we are also bringing on a dear friend of ours at the podcast. She's a breadwinner herself. And we're going to talk through how being a breadwinner affects her relationship, life, and career goals, and really just get real. So with that, let's get started. Jamie, one of the things we observed in preparing for this episode on breadwinners, and I pause because we're going to talk about whether we even like that term breadwinners... But one of the things we found is that the percentage of female breadwinners in the UK is on the rise. So, Jamie, in your opinion, since that's the case, why isn't this idea of a woman breadwinner more celebrated, or at least more normalised?
Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney :1:43
Most people have no idea. I think if you ask the average person in the street, what percentage of women versus men are the main breadwinner in a family, they would have a very different thing. So it's hard to celebrate something that you don't have an awareness of. So as we've talked about before, raising awareness of these things, is really important. And that we just need to change the traditional ways. Sometimes I feel like our brains, in some ways are such great evolutionary organs, but in other ways are slow. And I think that we're still caught in ways that we don't even recognise where, the man is the breadwinner. The man is the hunter gatherer, you know, which is kind of funny because how many men do you know are going out and hunting?
Yeah, I've never been hunting. Two anecdotes I want to share. So I had a breadwinner as a mother and a stay-at-home dad and his male friends used to make fun of him and call him Mr. Mom. And I also know guys who have said that they would never date a woman who made more than them.
I agree. I'm just repeating what they said. So on that note, how much does male insecurity play into this breadwinner concept?
Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney :3:07
Yeah, I think it absolutely plays into the shame and the vulnerability on both sides. You know, Sophie, I think it was you that said, that's outrageous. And it's funny on the other side, I've heard women who said, I could never date a man who weighed less than me, which is equally outrageous and kind of odd. So we need to break down these silly, silly things. I mean, I say they're silly, but they really are real. And we need to say that men's worth is so much greater than their ability to provide for the family and women's worth is so much greater than their ability to nurture. You know how many women are made fun of like, you know, you don't want to be at home with your children. They grow so fast, you're out. We need to really just catch ourselves in these stereotypes because they're dated and they don't serve. And I think that the more that your dad could stand up and say, I love being at home, you know, it makes so much sense for my wife to go out, she's the one that's earning more. We don't both have to do that role, we have certain roles in a couple. And there's certain jobs to do. So if we could get away from that being connected somehow to gender. It's just these are the roles that need filling and how we're going to have a division of labour and that it's not about worth. I think that's the biggest thing too. There's such a connection between earning and worth for both men and women, but particularly for men, so you know, how can people hold onto their self worth without having it tied to what their paycheck is?
Your point there is a really good one because you're basically reminding us that we all have to be checking ourselves around when we start to slip into these gender roles that have just been pushed onto us by society, rather than being things that we actively choose to participate in. And that makes me think, Jamie, actually, when you think of the concept of breadwinner, it's a super heteronormative construct. So, in your experience, have homosexual couples, gay or lesbian couples, have they been able to break free of this construct?
Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney :5:36
That's a great question. In some ways, yes. I mean, sometimes there's even the mention of you know, playing more of the male role or the female role when one partner makes a significant amount more than the other partner. Because if you're only evaluating it on the money, then there can be this resentment of like, well, I'm bringing in all of the money I'm paying for our rent, I'm paying for our trips. But you need to really look at what are all of the roles that the couple needs and are those being equitably divided, and then really acknowledging and being grateful for the roles that are being fulfilled, so that the person who is making the money has the ability to focus on their work. And right now, I think we just pay way too much homage to bringing home that salary and that paycheck.
Dr. Jamie, one of the main takeaways that I have is that we place way too much value on the making money role in a relationship, and maybe it's just given a disproportionate amount of importance relative to others.
Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney :6:55
Absolutely. I think that money is a tool. And it's a means to a certain ends. But it's not the only means, and even if somebody's paying for the trip, they might not be the person who's organising the trip or planning the trip. And there's a lot of other things that need, you know, in a really great partnership, no matter if it's between a man and a woman or two women, two men, it doesn't matter. We're supporting one another. And we have complementary skill sets that we bring to the relationship so remembering that and not putting so much value just on money. I think in general, we put way too much of a value we deify money to a certain extent.
Jamie, your point there is really important because I know for me, so I'm the breadwinner in my relationship with my male partner. And I feel like there's a heightened pressure for women breadwinners to, quote, have it all together. And that can provoke a lot of real anxiety. I know that's been my experience. So, Jamie, as a psychologist, what's your advice for dealing with that anxiety?
Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney :8:15
Yeah I think that it's a lot of responsibility. And I think that's where you can start to break down and say, you know, and we talked earlier about joint responsibility, because whenever one partner feels like it's all on their shoulders that's a lot of pressure.
Yeah, it's interesting, right? I was having coffee with a very senior lady for my network the other day, and we were discussing the term breadwinner, and she just highlighted her dislike with the term, some of the expectations and limitations that come with that term and I would tend to agree. I think it's important that when we talk about this, we either own and embrace the term or we find a better term for the concept of being a breadwinner. A better way to describe and talk about it, because that's so important for us to start celebrating and normalising women breadwinners in society. I also just want to pick up on the division of labour. I think it's really, really important that women, even women breadwinners or whatever term we decide to come up with, it's better for it. That we don't just give away that responsibility. So for us to become financially literate, we need to start speaking about this, we need to start owning and learning more about money and finance and wealth.
Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney :9:40
Agreed and we all need to have a certain level of financial literacy. I'll tackle that first. I mean, I think that we should be teaching. There's a couple schools but very little. In middle school, we should be teaching people how to budget how to have basic financial literacy skills, and we should have it in high school. We shouldn have it in college. Because it behoves each of us to have that knowledge. And I think that if you shifted the word from breadwinner to contributor, and then looked at all the ways that contributions need to be made into the family, then there's different kinds of contributions. And that example of one person investing and one person making it, you're right, it still can fall along gender lines. But again, if we break down, what are the different ways that this family needs to be contributed to and who's going to do what role and with that knowledge of everybody needs to have a basic level of financial literacy.
I couldn't agree more. I wish my financial journey had started earlier. I definitely feel like more opportunities come with having a higher financial literacy. So elevate everybody to know more.
Thank you so much, Jamie, for being here today, we really appreciate your insights on the psychology of being a breadwinner and how we as women need to think about our wealth journeys as a result. Really appreciate the time, Jamie, thank you.
Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney :11:14
My pleasure. This was a lot of fun.
Wow, after that, I feel a little seen. I don't know about you. Soph. But let's break this down and bring Paige on. So we've brought our dear friend Paige onto the podcast to help us synthesise and talk through some of the key ideas we heard from Dr. Jamie, welcome Paige.
Thank you. It's great to be here.
So page one of the things that I know we talk a lot about is obviously being a breadwinner. I'm a breadwinner in my relationship now. Sophie, you've been a breadwinner in previous relationships and Paige you're a breadwinner in your relationship, right?
That's correct. As you know, I'm a lawyer and in big corporate law firms, salaries are known to be relatively high for lawyers. So for me, I've actually been the breadwinner in really all of my relationships.
And how does that make you feel? I know I have feelings about it, but let's start there.
Sure. So, interestingly, for me, I found it really important in choosing a career that I knew that I could provide for myself, without anyone else. So for me, actually, one of my goals, not necessarily, was to be a breadwinner, but was to be able to have a job where I could support myself without needing to be in a couple with anyone else. And that was really important to me, because I want to be able to spend my money on the things that I want to spend it on. I don't want to have to ask permission for things and I certainly wouldn't want anyone to be able to hold it over my head, God forbid, if I was needing to rely on someone for financial support.
Yeah, and Paige, I think you're in a really fortunate position because the career and work that you're passionate about also happens to be a line of work where you have hopes and realistic hopes of being a breadwinner. I'm just thinking of some of our friends in creative Industries, musicians, actors, what have you, where it's very unlikely in those careers, you would be a breadwinner. And I know in my case, it's the opposite. I have a job where I have financial stability, but it's not necessarily the work and career that I'm passionate about. I can't say it's my life's work or life's purpose. So I think for folks like myself, or folks who are in careers that provide that financial stability but aren't necessarily as fulfilling. There's almost this extra layer of anxiety around being a breadwinner. There's the pressure that one feels. And I'm just curious, Paige in your current relationship or Sophie, in your prior relationships, how have you dealt with the pressure of being a breadwinner?
No, I think that's definitely true. And I've had stages in my career and different jobs where I wasn't that happy where I was. And the level of work that is expected of you in order to earn that salary is significant and was at times, too much. And because I was the one paying the mortgage, and providing for most living expenses at that time, it was incredibly difficult to make the decision or have to make the decision that I needed to leave. So it definitely influenced and kept me in jobs much longer than I would have liked because I was the one mostly responsible for those kind of essential expenses.
Right. And I think part of this is recognising that our generation came of age in a financial crisis, which for sure has impacted our choices around career and money. I was the breadwinner previously in older relationships. And at times, I definitely also felt my independence that I had worked hard for was lost in the burden of carrying the financial responsibilities and recognising that does take a toll on your partnership.
Yeah, and I definitely want to come back to that. I think before we go there, I just want to pick up on, Paige, our interview with Dr. Jamie Trager-Muney. I know that you listened to it. And one of her big comments that really struck us at least was around how it's sometimes very easy for people in relationships to ascribe their value in that relationship to how much money they earn. And that's dangerous, you know, for obvious reasons. Paige, what did you think of her comments on that?
I mean, I absolutely agree. And I think it's really hard to even be aware even when you're trying to be self aware about the amount that gender roles have seeped into all of our consciousness. So I think it's really important to point that out and, and also be sympathetic sometimes to yourself or to your partner, if these ingrained gender norms that you have no control over, seep in from time to time and give yourself permission to recognise it and move past it. So I think in that way, it's good to say, okay, well, look, nobody's perfect. And we were all raised with certain norms, and it's just about pointing those out and being aware of it.
Seeing firsthand how a woman can be treated unfairly for being career-focused and the primary earner in the home based on the experience that I've had with my mom, Paige, is that something that you can relate to at all?
I've had negative experiences in the past with other relationships where there was, there was really just no way that we were going to get past whatever issues my partner at the time was dealing with, and the discomfort that they had with me, being the breadwinner, in terms of earning more money, and also just having a more demanding job as well. And whatever feelings that brought up for him. But in my current relationship, it's been together more than 11 years, it didn't start at a place of perfection either. And that's including myself, and my gender norms that I brought to the relationship as well. So I think it's about finding someone that's willing to be open and will listen. When you challenge assumptions and say, okay, well, you seem to react negatively when I checked my email just then, are you uncomfortable with the fact that I have a job that requires me to work late? Is this going to be a bigger issue? And just gauge whether they have that openness to learn? So it's difficult to do, but I think, you know, it is possible.
And do you have any view on where this deeply rooted problem might come from?
I don't know more systematically, but I think in my experience, it's really been about someone's self worth and having confidence in what they bring to the relationship. And so for a man gender norm here, just based on my own experience who, whose idea of relationship is well they do the manly things, they bring in the money. You know, if they're not fulfilling those roles, they may start to wonder well, okay, what purpose do I actually serve in this relationship? Right? So it may be a kind of lack of comfort of what their self worth is and how they see and value themselves. And I think Dr. Jamie touched on this, as well in her comments.
Yeah. And we talked about that with Dr. Jamie, the word breadwinner and how we feel about that word. It feels very old fashioned to us. I'm not sure if I like the term. What do you guys think?
Yeah, it's funny because I think every time that you guys have asked me a question, and used the term breadwinner, I've unconsciously steered back towards not the money, but the career orientated aspects, right? So it's not the money per se but it's the it's the focus and it's the drive and it's the aspect of the career being kind of relatively more important to one party or another.
So Paige, just to bring it back to the money for a second, how has your career trajectory and the fact that when you did enter into relationships, you tended to be the primary earner? How if at all, has that affected your personal wealth decisions over time?
So I think one mistake, what I think maybe a mistake for me is, you know, earning a relatively high amount of money relative to the to the other person. I kind of rely on my continued ability to earn and save the same amount, and, hopefully continue to progress up that ladder. So I think I'm making a lot of assumptions about my continued ability to stay on this trajectory, and not being as thoughtful about long term strategy. You know, what if that doesn't continue for whatever reason, including whether, I'm just tired of it and really need a career change. So I think being kind of the breadwinner, being used to earning more money and supporting the couple more, you just kind of start to rely on that same amount coming in every month. And I think, for me, I haven't thought as much about, well, what if that does change. And I feel very lucky now that I'm more than 10 years in that I found an area of the law that I am very passionate about. But definitely when I chose the law, there are a lot of other things that I was, at that time more interested in. And steered towards the law because of the financial reasons. So in a way I've kind of retrofitted or been lucky that I'm able to retrofit my passion into the career that I originally chose for money.
Well, yeah, I think they call that making the most of it right? And it makes sense given all that we have to think about, financial security versus a weighing that up with our passions, I think that makes complete sense.
Do any of you, this is an open question, do any of you feel that as breadwinners, you are more entitled to certain decisions and decision making in the household?
Ooo, tough question. Partner is gonna get mad if he listens. A little bit. Yeah, it's bad to say.
I don't think it's bad.
Yeah. And I guess I should clarify to you know, it's probably, not it is more related to the bigger life decisions.
What kind of bigger life decisions?
You know, where to live, budget for housing, maybe trips for a given year.
I mean, I will admit, when it came to buying our apartment, because it was my money, I felt like it was more my decision. And, we ended up with the one that I wanted. You know, it wasn't like my partner was kicking and screaming. Right. We both liked it. But, yeah, in that sense, I did feel much more like, okay, well, if it's my life savings, then it's going to be the one that is the top of my list.
Well, if you are the one bringing home the money, shouldn't you have a bit more financial say?
Yeah, I think it comes down to the relationship dynamic you have. And I think even having this conversation with you guys today, just makes me reflect on the types of conversations I shouldn't maybe introduce at home.
That begs to ask though, have you guys had any awkward conversations around this at home?
Well, I think and Paige, you hinted at this earlier, I think at the start of a relationship when you're just trying to test, what is the other person's affinity for traditional gender roles, that's when it gets a little tricky. I got really lucky with my partner in that, you know, from day one, we were able to just be really open with each other. But I can imagine, you know, if either of us, we're more attached to traditional gender roles, the start of that relationship could have been a little bit rockier.
Yeah, absolutely. And just thinking about, you know, if the shoe were on the other foot, and I certainly have female friends who are the homemakers. And that's, the deal that they have with their partner. And, I think for them, then they absolutely, going back to the earlier question, then they absolutely should get equal say and what house that you buy, because the agreement between, that couple is that, okay, the woman has chosen to be the homemaker and the man is earning the money, but that's the agreement that they have between them. And then therefore, you know, I would be incredibly angry if her husband didn't, take her say in choosing a house or making those big decisions. So I think going to Nicole's point it's just about making sure that you agree, are on the same page about the roles that you play and what you, are going to bring to the relationship.
Yeah, that's an excellent point back to what Dr. Jamie was also talking about division of labour in the household is very important that you discuss and agree upon.
I mean, one way that I used to do it, when there was a large disparity between what I earned and what my partner earned was, we paid for things on a proportionate basis. So, you know, 30% of my income towards household expenses and 30% of his income, for example, and so it was just the relative amount of what that was for him and what that was for me.
Yeah, you know, we do that in my relationship, too. So Paige, before we think about wrapping up, I have one last question for you. Do you think that it's harder to talk about being a woman and breadwinner outside of your relationship than it is to talk about it within your relationship? I say that because I kind of feel like society hasn't caught up to a place where as a whole, we've normalised and accepted that women can make more than their male partners.
I actually, I asked my husband last night, whether anyone ever gives him a hard time about it. And he said, you know, not to him personally, but definitely to his other friends. They get, you know, given a hard time when their wives [are] the, quote, unquote breadwinners. So yeah, it's tough and I think you have to be a really strong person to withstand teasing, if it is constant like that.
Yeah. And what strikes me from today is I haven't had many conversations like this one outside of my relationship, but it feels really good to talk to others about this dynamic between, being a quote breadwinner and the effect that has on your relationship and on yourself. So hopefully others will listen to this and take value from it. Paige, I just want to say a big thank you to you again for coming on to the podcast and being so candid with us. We really appreciated your reflections on earning, relationships, career goals, how those all intertwine, and particularly valued your perspectives on our chat with Dr. Jamie. So thanks, Paige.
Well, thanks for having me. It was great to talk to all of you. And I appreciate the work that you're doing.
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