At a Glance
When it comes to sexual orientation and income, gay couples earn more than straight ones. A Pew Research Center analysis revealed that men in same-sex marriages outearned opposite-sex marriage couples. So does that mean there are also differences between the way gay and straight couples talk about money?
Earning differences are affected by gender and race too
First, there are other socio-economic factors to consider before jumping to conclusions. “The earning difference between gay and straight couples is mediated by gender and race. So, lesbian households, especially those with women of color, tend to make less than straight households,” says Amira Hasenbush, Founder and Attorney At Law at All Family Legal.
Plus, couples are made up of people who have different life experiences and backgrounds, so it would be hard to pinpoint whether the way a couple discusses finances has anything to do with their sexual orientation. And there are generational nuances too: Millennials have different attitudes than Gen Z, for example.
Social expectations and financial transparency
“When my wife and I started getting serious, the first thing we did was talk about money. We’d both come from homes where the money had been pretty taboo, and knew enough about finances to know that the more open you can be, the better,” shares Shannon Bernadin Owner of The African Garden. Bernadin’s wife earned a lot more than her, so the partners agreed to split bills and rent equitably rather than equally. They felt that it was important to make decisions that would allow them to invest in their future as a couple as well as tackle their income difference head-on to avoid later conflict.
“We have straight friends who keep all of their money separate and never really talk about it until they suddenly need to fight about it, and that just wasn’t a pattern that we wanted to participate in. I don’t know if it’s because we’re gay and there are no societal expectations for either of us to be the breadwinner, but we seem to have a much easier time discussing our finances than our straight friends.”
Family environment growing up may matter more
Joshua Gerstler, Chartered Financial Planner, Chartered Accountant and founder of The Orchard Practice, an award-winning boutique financial planning business, says that he has dealt with a wide variety of couples –both gay and straight ones–and that any disparities in the way couples approach their finances are mostly chalked up to your family environment growing up.
“I do not believe that sexuality impacts finances. I believe that your own experiences with money growing up will have a much wider impact on how you interact with money.”
At the end of the day, being transparent is vital for your relationship, regardless of your gender, orientation or earning differences. Nearly half of American couples experiencing financial tension admit it’s had a negative impact on their relationship, and 7 in 10 Americans have had a disagreement with their partner in the past year, according to a study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).
In Credello’s latest survey on Love & Debt in a survey of 600 Americans ages 18 to 44 it was found that the biggest money-related topic of disagreement in a romantic relationship is how much to save. Thirty-six percent of respondents say they disagree about how much to save. And disagreements on discretionary spending is a close second at 33%. Roughly one in four agree about all money decisions with their romantic partner, so it’s a common point of tension and there are more couples fighting about money than agreeing on all fronts financially.