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Women Increasingly Becoming Primary Breadwinners

photo shows woman taking paper money out of a green wallet
Credit: Getty Images

More women in high-earning heterosexual couples are out-earning their spouses – but many aren’t particularly comfortable with that, according to a new report from global wealth manager UBS, titled Own Your Worth report, Tradition, Trust and Time.

The report noted that 30% of women in high-earning households are the primary breadwinner, but because of trust issues with partners and time constraints, women tend to take a less active role in financial decision-making than men. Of those surveyed, only half of the female primary earners engage in short- and long-term financial decisions.


According to the announcement about the report, “Women have mixed feelings about being the primary earner. Less than half say they prefer it, compared to 87% of men primary earners. Women breadwinners also feel that financial decision-making is less natural for them (48%) compared to men in their position (27%). Additionally, friends and family often assume that men are the primary earners in heterosexual relationships, and one in two women breadwinners say they have never corrected them.”

The report included results from couples where at least one earner had a personal income of more than $175,000.

The report data found that men who were not the primary earners often wished they were, with 75% saying they were able to contribute more financially and 66% saying they wanted to take on the primary earner role.


In 2017, WO conducted a Pop-up Poll with more than 200 OD responding; about 68 percent of them said that there is the only or primary income in their household. Read that story here.

results from a 2017 WO survey that shoed 48% were primary breadwinner and 21 percent were sole income earners
Results from a 2017 WO Pop-up Poll


The USB report suggested that “overall, women face more trust issues from their male partners on their day-to-day spending and investing than men face from their female partners – and distrust is highest among non-primary earning men, who are more likely to worry about their breadwinner partners’ spending habits (66%) or hold them back from spending money (62%).”


The report acknowledged the complexities of household and work issues with working women. Women primary earners, the report says, still reported they take on more of the household responsibilities. As such, they may not have the time (or perhaps the interest) in financial decision-making. Interestingly, among women who were primary earners, 92% siad they were in a dual-income household with a partner who worked outside the home. Yet in couples where men were the primary earners, 40% of women do not work outside the home.

Read the full report summary here.

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