The Family Breadwinner

Sherri Shepard, co-host of ABC television’s “The View” has recently made several news headlines because of her current divorce and child custody battle.  Shepard has one child from a previous marriage and is expecting a new baby this summer.  This week Shepard revealed on her television show that at the heart of the custody battle was her role as the primary income earner in her family.  Traditionally, it has been the husband who has taken on the role as the “the bread winner” of the household.  

However, in today’s world, it is not uncommon for the husband and the wife to earn similar incomes or even for the wife to have a higher income than her husband.  Shepard admitted that she is struggling with the fact that while she is the mother, she is also the primary income source in the family and at the present time has the higher earning potential of the two parties.  While many couples will not have the high profile career that Ms. Shepard has, her situation highlights how important it is for couples to have a frank discussion not simply about money but also about their expectations about not only finances but also for how finances might play a role in any potential plans for having children.  

This change in our social climate and family atmosphere reflects very changing dynamics in our households- there is no denying that the American family is changing.

To begin with, it is widely much more socially acceptable- actually we would say even expected, especially in New York - for married women to join the work force. It seems ridiculous to even say, but when just 50 years ago the norms were so different, it does bear discussing. Women have had their roles shift so fast there is a huge gap between what they saw their moms do, and what they are doing. There was nothing gradual about the change. Cultural changes and shifts usually happen over many decades, gradually changing. When they happen drastically is when there are economic factors and variables involved- and in this case marital finances are directly affected by the economy, and thus women are evolving socially, but also out of necessity for a dual income. The recession and all that it brings has a downside but like the ebb and flow of things that has 2 sides to every coin, there has been a positive side to this. Women have been given the opportunity to take control of their own lives because of the financial strain in the family- and now they have a stake in what is going on in their bank accounts.

If you are a woman in New York and you are planning for your wedding, then you are probably planning for your prenup too. It is the sensible decision, and women are sensible when it comes to planning for their family nest- whereas the June Cleaver mother did not even know what their bank account looked like, today’s mother and wife is probably the one writing the bills, and allocating the money.

This issue is important to raise since this puts a strain on the partner who is doing the bills, so this bears discussion as well. If you complete a prenup, then you can discuss finances in a way that never allows one of the two of you to say “But I didn’t know you felt that way” or “I thought we would save more for retirement” or “I don’t want to spend that inheritance, I thought we were going to save it”. All of that is eliminated by the click of a button when you have our prenuptial agreement staff attorneys draft your document- quick and easy for a very reasonable fee, and it is delivered in under 48 hours to your email inbox.

Engaged couples should consider not simply their financial picture in the present, but how it might change in the future should they choose to expand their family.  It is not always entirely possible to map out the future, but it may help couples to have a general roadmap for whether or not both parties will continue to work after children or whether one party will become (or continue to be) the primary breadwinner of the family.  If the two of you choose to include parameters on your finances or employment plans after children, it can be tailored to fit your specific needs.  Likewise, should these expectations change for both of you in the future, your prenuptial agreement can be amended as needed.