Well, this is rich.
Affluent millennials are far more likely than rich seniors to think that money and power go hand in hand in a relationship. Indeed, two in three (66%) rich millennials — people ages 21-36 with more than $1 million in investable assets — who are married or living with a partner agree with the statement “whoever earns the most money has the most influence in the relationship.” That’s compared to just 37% of Gen Xers and 29% of boomers, according to a U.S. Trust study released Tuesday of more than 800 high-net-worth adults.
Elizabeth Lombardo, psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, says it’s because millennials are both driven by purpose, and are very motivated by money. “Consider a family like the Kardashians who are incredibly influential due to their wealth and how they choose to use it,” she says. Millennials have grown up with people like this in the spotlight, and thus often feel “a greater focus on wealth and its power as compared to other generations,” she explains. And this, in turn “can play out in relationships, where the individual who earns the most executes greater influence on decisions within that relationship,” she says.
Rich or not, many millennials say the power dynamic that a major income disparity can create is very real — but one that can be dealt with so one person doesn’t wield too much influence over the other. Tara Gentile, 34, who supports her stay-at-home husband with the income from her app CoCommercial, knows the feeling. “In my experience, there is absolutely a power dynamic that has to be managed, especially as a female breadwinner,” she tells Moneyish. In her case, sometimes her husband feels he doesn’t have enough decision making power in the household.
A lot of their success, Gentile says, is because they keep the line of communication open. She works on “remembering (and reminding him) that money doesn’t equal power in our relationship,” she says. “It helps to divide responsibility, it helps to manage our priorities, and it helps to support our different interests–but it does not determine who is in charge or who needs to yield to the other.”
It may also help redefine what financial equality means. Writer Melanie Lockert, 32, makes significantly more than her partner of nine years. “For a long time we split things down the middle because we thought that was ‘equal,” says Lockert. “But we realized ‘equal’ doesn’t always mean ‘fair,’ so we’ve switched to a percentage model that reflects our income.”
It’s also important to remember that “money is an easy way to measure things, but there are way more power tools in a relationship,” says relationship expert April Masini — including everything from kindness and intimacy to sex and experience. “Millennials who think money is the measure of power in relationships aren’t wrong, but they’re short sighted,” she says. “It’s just one.”