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The other night I woke up at 2 AM to do the usual breastfeeding for our baby, who then decided to not fall back to sleep and stay up until 4 AM.
Usually during that late night staying up with the baby, I’ll check the news, trying to not to make noise and hoping that she will back to sleep.
That day, however, I decided to check Facebook feeds to see what was going on with the world.
After a couple of clicks, I ended up on the Facebook of a girl I met in grad school.
The two accomplished women
We met at the school bus stop. I was doing a doctoral degree, and she was in med school at the same university.
I struck a conversation with her while we were waiting for the bus to go back to our apartment complex. Let’s call her Sara.
Sara is Thai American and is my age. She went to Yale for undergrad and knew a mutual friend (let’s call her Emily) who also went to Yale and was also in med school.
Emily is also about our age and is Chinese American.
We chatted on the bus, and she struck me as a friendly, kind, and intelligent person. And what I noticed the most was how pretty she was.
When I got home, I started to wonder how a girl could seem to have it all: beauty, intelligence, and a great personality. Our mutual friend also has similar traits: pretty, smart, and kind.
And I knew that both of them come from very well-educated and well-off families.
Related: When You Are Ashamed Of Being Poor
Fast forward to when I was staying up with our baby, I saw Sara’s update on Facebook. Both Sara and Emily have graduated med school and work as Internal Medicine doctors.
I let my curiosity get the better of me and looked up the average salary for Internal Medicine doctors: a whopping $260,151/year according to Glassdoor.
I instantly got hit with a pang of jealousy. Here I was breastfeeding our baby late at night making an average salary while Sara and Emily are out there saving lives and making big bucks.
Each couple’s combined income averages $700,000/year. It’s almost a million dollars a year!
I was actually not surprised at their boyfriend’s/husband’s occupations and incomes. Sara and Emily are beautiful, accomplished women.
I’m sure occupations are not the only thing Sara and Emily thought about when they met their boyfriend and husband. But it doesn’t hurt that Sara’s boyfriend and Emily’s husband make so much more than they do.
Related: How To Deal With Spousal Envy
One might argue that it is more important for a couple to be in love and not care about other seemingly superficial factors such as education, profession, and income.
We should love someone for who they are, not what degree they have, how much they make, or what job they do. But is it really true?
After all, our education, occupation, and earning potential are indeed part of who we are. Those factors signal not only our interest in a certain field but also our determination to pursue a goal. It shows our responsibility and commitment as a student, as a professional, and as a person.
Coming from an Asian background, I know that my parents always encourage my sister and me to find a husband who is well educated, make good money, and can take care of the family.
If a man can’t even take care of himself, how can he take care of his wife and kids? That’s my parents’ logic.
I myself wouldn’t want to be with a man who has no job, no income, no ambition, and no purpose in life either. He doesn’t need to have a high income to be a good man. But it is a plus if he can make lots of money.
I grew up seeing my parents arguing about money (or the lack thereof), so I know that love alone can’t sustain either a marriage or a family.
Money, as dry and unromantic as it sounds, can provide financial security, reduce stress, and offer a family not only all the necessities in life but also important investments such education and retirement.
I know that it is easier for a man to be ok with a women who is not as successful or doesn’t earn as much as him. But not every woman or society in general is ok with a man who is not successful as her whether it’s in terms of income, social status, or career ranks.
In fact, some guys I have talked to feel intimated by women who they consider to be better educated and a higher earner than they are. In other words, if you are a man making less than $50,000/year, would you date a woman making $500,000/year?
I posted a poll on Twitter asking all the men out there whether they would have dated their girlfriend/wife if she made $500,000 and the man made $50,000. Below are the results:
Over all, 102 people voted. 93% of voters (95 people) said Yes, and 7% (7 people said No).
I don’t know if all voters are men and if those who participated in the poll actually meant what they said. Plus, the results are not to be taken too seriously due to the sample size (102 people) and the selection bias (those who were more confident were more likely to partake in the poll).
However, it’s encouraging to see that men with less earning potential (at least in the poll) won’t be turned off by high-achieving women.
If that’s indeed the case, then what’s the problem here? A voter nicknamed Popye raised a rather interesting point: “Would she date me is another question.”
It takes two to tango. A man being ok with a women making 10 times he does is only part of the equation. The other part is whether the women would be ok dating a man earning much less than she does.
I will leave the answer to this question to the high-achieving women who outearn their husband.
Below are some of the interesting comments on the poll:
“We actually compete for salaries. It’s a fun game for us and it forces me to negotiate harder when I get new jobs. I’ve been outearning him for most of my career.” – A Purple Life
“If my wife out earned me I would be so happy. We would be financially independent like NOW :D” – Dr. McFrugal
“A cool half million per year? Most definitely!” – Justin at Root Of Good
“This seems to make the assumption that it isn’t an issue or question for women.” – The Other DT
“I would force my husband to date a girl if she made 500k a year for me.” – Lily at The Frugal Gene
The next day, I told Mr. FAF my discovery and asked him “If I made $500,000/year, would you have dated me?” Mr. FAF skirted my question and said I don’t make that much. He didn’t say yes or no to my question and changed the subject.
If the income difference is $10,000, $20,000 or $50,000, maybe it wouldn’t matter that much. But what if that difference is $300,000-$500,000, would the husband be ok with it? Can he handle being considered inferior to his wife and thus less competent than her by society?
In fact, Michelle at Making Sense of Cents tackled this issue. She discussed the pressure she and her husband have faced when she’s the breadwinner in the relationship making more than $1,000,000/year while he doesn’t earn as much.
Society is ok with the husband being the earner in a marriage. But it’s no so kind to a man who is a stay-at-home husband or parent whose his wife is out there climbing the social ladder or running a successful business.
Then I started to wonder if I made $500,000, would my husband still be Mr. FAF or would I still be single since it would be harder for me to find a partner?
I would never know the answer since I don’t make half a million dollars a year. But there’s one thing I know for sure.
If I had the chance to become a doctor who makes $500.000/year, I would definitely take it. And I believe that I’d be able to find a man who is secure enough to know that he has more to offer than just a high income.
And I sure hope that that man would still be Mr. FAF.