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Your Marriage Needs a CFO and a COO: Insights on Marriage and Finances

Your Marriage Needs a CFO and COO


Marriage, often portrayed as a romantic union between two people, requires more than just love and affection to thrive; it requires insights on marriage and finances.  Have you noticed that, while technology makes it easier to handle things like banking, working from home, and shopping, it seems we are not really relieved of time pressure.  We often find ourselves too busy, or too tired, to connect in depth with the people who matter the most to us.

A recent article published on August 13, 2023, in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) sheds light on an unconventional yet intriguing concept: applying the roles of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) to your marriage and finances. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the insights presented in the WSJ article and explore how adopting these roles can potentially enhance communication, decision-making, and overall harmony in your relationship.

The Traditional View of Marriage & Finances

Traditionally, marriage has been seen as an emotional and personal bond that doesn’t necessarily require a business-like approach.  I think of my parent’s marriage and how the finances were assumed to be the role of the husband and not a co-designed effort.  This led to a household framework that centered on the needs of my Dad and not on the mutual needs of the couple and family.  Ultimately the result was a financial disaster.

I love working with couples to help them work through goals and goal achievement.  Many have appreciated that our appointments are a place to comfortably research, assess and make mutually agreeable financial decisions.

Introducing the CFO: Managing Financial Harmony

In the context of marriage, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role takes on the responsibility of managing the financial aspects of the relationship. This includes budgeting, saving, investing, and making decisions about the marriage and finances that align with the couple’s goals. The article points out that this is not a one-and–done decision.  Neither role should operate as a silo.  

I would add that regular reviews are critical so that neither spouse is in the dark.  I have met with many divorced or widowed spouses who had no idea of the finances.  This left them vulnerable and afraid when suddenly the responsibility was thrust upon them.

Implementing the COO: Streamlining Household Operations

The Chief Operating Officer (COO) role, as applied to marriage, focuses on the day-to-day operational aspects of the relationship. This includes tasks such as managing household chores, coordinating schedules, planning family activities, and addressing logistical challenges. 

When I read this, it rightly or wrongly screamed “MOM” to me.  And the difficulty is that these days both parents, same sex or otherwise, often need to be working outside the home.  While financial decisions should not need to be addressed as often, the ‘COO’ role does have those day-to-day decisions to make.  

I see a risk to the one in the ‘COO’ role to feel overburdened and undervalued.  If this role is agreed to by one party, it needs to be consciously and mutually agreed upon.  I can also imagine that in either role, there may need to be period delegation as, at certain times such as tax preparation or family gatherings, one can feel overburdened.

Part of business success is knowing and taking advantage of the ability to delegate.  This would certainly be true here as well. Delegating can help strike a balance in marriage and finances. 

The Benefits of Applying Business Roles to Marriage

A CFO and COO framework encourages shared responsibility, preventing one partner from feeling burdened by all financial or operational tasks. This distribution of responsibilities can strengthen the sense of partnership and equity in the relationship.

A financial advisor adds to the team by bringing decades of experience helping clients through various life stages and transitions, providing perspective to the strategic goals, and clarifying and broadening the set of choices. An advisor can be a wonderful resource for both marriage and finances.

It is one of the most satisfying aspects of my work to guide couples so that they may confidently and comfortably meet their goals, whatever role they select in their life partnership. If this topic resonates with you and you would like to learn more about how our advisors can help you apply strategies like this and more, please feel free to contact us. 

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Jason Wade