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Study examines the effect women breadwinners have on financial decisions, sex life

Monday - 6/2/2014, 9:53am  ET

computer online shopping (Thinkstock)
A couple's spending habits can be defined by which spouse earns more money, a poll from Money Magazine found. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON -- How much a wife earns can make an impact in many aspects of a couple's life, including behavior, financial decisions and sex life, according to a new poll from Money Magazine.

A Money Magazine survey of more than 1,000 married adults ages 25 and older found that on average, women in dual-earner households now bring in about half of the family income and nearly a quarter of wives earn more than their husbands. And women's earnings are leading them to have a greater hand in financial planning.

"Traditionally women's income was 'pin money,' used for extras like shoes or kids' braces," Liza Mundy, author of The Richer Sex, said to Money Magazine.

"Now many families have fully integrated the woman's earning power into their financial planning. That's a real transformation."

The survey discovered the following trends with families where women made the same amount or more than their husbands:

  • The more a woman contributes to the family income, the more likely she is to take the lead in money matters, the survey found.

    About 80 percent of the wives in the survey who earn more than their husbands say they're very or extremely knowledgeable about financial matters. Comparatively, with women who earn less, just more than half said they're knowledgeable about finances.

  • Women breadwinners are more likely to drive the financial style in the household and set if it is a "we decide" versus an "I decide" family, the study found.

    About two-thirds of respondents said they share financial decision-making with their partners, compared with less than half from households in which the man earns more.

  • When it comes to the effect of earnings on a couple's love life, the study found husbands are happiest and have good sex lives when their wives earn as much or more than them.

    Spouses in households where women earn as much as or more than men had high marital satisfaction. Six in 10 of those couples gave their relationships a five out of five rating and said they were "very much in love."

    The couples where women earned as much as men said they were happier -- 83 percent were very or extremely happy compared to 77 percent who said the same when women earned nothing or less than husbands.

    When it comes to turning up the heat in the relationship, women breadwinner couples reported the best sex life with 51 percent saying their love lives were "very good" or "hot" compared to 43 percent of spouses overall.

  • The added responsibility can come with a price for women, the study found. Bread-winning wives report more stress and don't always say they are happiest.

    Higher-­earning women are not as likely as other spouses to say they're very much in love, with 58 percent saying so. That's 15 percent less than men married to higher earners.

  • More money, doesn't mean fewer problems. The survey found money is the topic that spouses argue about the most, ahead of household chores, spending quality time together, sex, snoring, in-laws and what's for dinner.

    About 46 percent of respondents said frivolous purchases were the top cause of money fights.

The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

Watch a video about some of the poll's findings:

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