By Chip Munn
What is a Relationship CFO and Why Do I Need One?
The CFO of a relationship is the person or persons who have the responsibility for budgeting, planning, and the overall management of the family finances (just like a CFO does for a corporation). In most cases, the CFO position in a household is assumed by default.
When I discuss the relationship CFO role with clients, I generally hear that they never decided who would be the one holding the CFO role, it just happened. A 2018 consumer research survey by McKinsey and Company reported that in two-thirds of U.S. affluent households, men are the key financial decision-makers. But the present paints a different picture—more and more women are becoming the CFO for their families and taking on the responsibility of financial planning for their future.
A household CFO has two primary responsibilities: handling the current finances, like managing the checking account and household expenses, and anticipating what’s needed to meet future financial goals. The family CFO title is symbolic, of course, but reflects a critical role in the day-to-day leadership and management of a household’s finances.
The CFO’s responsibility for financial issues down the road is to prepare for known or unexpected changes that will occur in the future, such as a career transition, paying for college, creating an emergency fund, or retirement. An effective household CFO keeps goals on track by managing the current situation with an eye toward the future.
One or Two CFO’s?
The cornerstone of good relationships is based on effective communication, and that certainly holds true for the CFO of the household. If one person is the family CFO, there’s the potential problem for the other person to be in the dark about where financial things stand. This can be fixed by dividing the responsibilities in the relationship with co-CFO’s. In a co-CFO situation, one person can handle the day-to-day money issues like the budget and checking, and the other person can handle investments, for example. A co-CFO arrangement helps reduce the possibility that one of the partners doesn’t know what’s going on with the finances.
You may wonder why else a co-CFO arrangement makes sense. I’ve found that it helps build and sustain purpose in the relationship. A common purpose is vital for the long-term successful financial well-being in a relationship. It doesn't have to be hard, scary, or complicated if you have a plan. Of course, one of the biggest problems is having no plan at all.
Have a Plan and Stay on Course
Decision-making is better when you have a framework. And a financial framework or plan is a known stress reliever, too, particularly when times are challenging. The decisions of the relationship CFO or co-CFO’s can have far-reaching consequences. After all, they are involved in managing the day-to-day finances and keeping track of savings and investments to reach specific goals. If you don’t have a plan, the best time to start is now. A financial plan is the foundation to build and achieve your goals. Find a qualified financial professional who understands your dreams to prepare a plan and guide you toward your objectives. And when things don’t seem to be on course, a family CFO and financial plan can be reassuring. But don’t hesitate to reach out to your financial planner to get you back on track.
Under the leadership of a good relationship CFO (or co-CFO’s) and a professional financial planner, you can go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Who is the CFO in your relationship?
About the author: Chip Munn
Chip Munn is the CEO and a Senior Wealth Advisor at Signature Wealth Group. He is the author of The Retirement Remix, host of The Retirement Remix Show, and is a regular contributor to various financial publications like Financial-Planning.com and Thrive Global. Connect on Twitter at @chip_munn.