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The Financial Implications of the Reverse Breadwinner Effect

The Financial Implications of the Reverse Breadwinner Effect

November 29, 2017

Just a few decades ago, it was standard for men to be the sole income provider for their family while women ran the household and took care of the children. However, the number of women joining and returning to the workforce after child-bearing has been rapidly increasing, and now more than ever, females are out-earning their male counterparts. For female CRNAs, this is particularly the case due to their high income.

This is known as the reverse breadwinner effect, and as much as men may be supportive of their wives out-earning them, it can consciously and unconsciously provoke more money arguments.

Love and Money

With many couples averaging three fights per month revolving around financial issues, (1) money is the primary reason for arguments between couples. Furthermore, 3 in 10 married adults admit to potentially deceitful behavior about money, and arguments about finances are the most common predictors of a future divorce. (2)

New research has shown that when women contribute more financially to the household than their husbands, they’re more likely to engage in money arguments (especially when they have children), and there’s even an increased risk of infidelity on the husband’s part. (3) The question is, what is the underlying cause? Is it that the arguments contribute to a husband’s feelings of unhappiness in relationships where they are out-earned by their wives? Or, is it the power shift?

In many relationships, people view the breadwinner as the spouse who holds the most power. When a female CRNA is the highest paid in the household, her husband may feel ashamed, anxious, or upset, all of which can cause problems in the relationship.

Tackling the Reverse Breadwinner Effect

It’s important to remember that conflict in a relationship is natural. There are healthy ways to handle and overcome these types of arguments. As a female CRNA, you’ve worked hard to obtain a high level of education and earn a high income. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of the success you’ve achieved. However, it’s helpful to understand that your partner may feel inadequate in comparison. Here, we’re sharing four actions you and your partner can take to create financial peace.

1. Be An Open Book

It’s important for both partners to offer full disclosure of their finances and be open about expenses, regardless of whether you’re married or living together, and have joint or separate bank accounts. You and your spouse should be aware of how you spend your money, especially when it comes to significant expenses, loans, or ongoing fees. Studies show that around 49% of financial arguments stem from unexpected expenses. (4) By maintaining an open line of communication regarding upcoming bills, you may be able to avoid such confrontations.

2. Set Limits

It’s important for a couple to be on the same page regarding their finances. How much can be spent per month on non-essentials? How much is too much for a new pair of shoes? Establish and agree upon a few basic guidelines and create a structure for how you will spend and save money. If one of you is more disciplined than the other, you might consider having the disciplined spouse manage the monthly budget and spending.

3. Collaborate

Most often, one spouse acts as the Chief Financial Officer of the household, managing all bills, budgets, savings, investments, and insurance policies. However, it can be helpful for both partners to understand their spending versus their saving. If time allows, sit down together once a month to review credit card statements, account transactions, and other bills and check for any possible errors. Ongoing input from both partners will strengthen your relationship and create a true partnership.

4. Enlist the Help of an Independent Third-Party

Sometimes the best way to ease money tensions is to work with an objective third-party, whether that’s a financial advisor, a marriage counselor, or both. A financial advisor can work with you and your spouse to review your financial landscape, identify any gaps in your coverage, assist you in establishing short and long-term goals, help you stay on track, and provide professional and knowledgeable advice. Some couples seek guidance from a marriage counselor for assistance with building stronger lines of communication and compromise.

Although the topic of finance can occasionally cause tension, money doesn’t have to become a constant source of concern in a relationship. Invest the time to address spending habits and savings goals, uphold transparency regarding purchases, and communicate effectively.

As an independent advisory firm that works exclusively with CRNAs, our team specializes in helping CRNAs identify and pursue their lifelong financial objectives. If you have questions about your financial situation, desire advice or education on investing, or have yet to get started strategically planning for your future, we would be happy to help. Call our office at 855.304.3748 or email

About Jeremy Stanley

Jeremy Stanley is the founder of CRNA Financial Planning® as well as CRNA Tax Associates®. He has been providing advice and guidance for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) for over two decades. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Jeremy has met rigorous certification and professional standards set by the CFP® Board. He is committed to adhering to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients.

Jeremy is also the author of The Wealthy CRNA and A CRNA’s Life After Anesthesia. The Wealthy CRNA features insights into becoming a financially successful CRNA and how to start planning for your financial future, and has been prior approved for up to 4 Class A CE credits by the AANA. A CRNA’s Life After Anesthesia serves as your financial roadmap for a smooth emergence into retirement. It reviews recent changes in the CRNA industry along with the new rules of retirement and the final steps of legacy planning. This book has been prior approved by the AANA for up to 2 Class A CE credits.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.