Many years ago I read Thomas J. Stanley’s Millionaire Women Next Door: The Many Journeys of Successful American Businesswomen, and I had an aha moment.
Chapter 17 in this book is titled, “Why not run the family office?”. Stanley wrote about Susan, a wife and mother who handled all of the financial tasks in her home, from budgeting to making investment decisions. She treated her role like a job and helped her family achieve financial independence. After reading the book, it became my mission to emulate Susan’s success (and sparked the theme for this blog). If you get a chance, find this book at your library and read it, especially that chapter.
I read Millionaire Women Next Door around the same time that I became a mother and left the full-time work force to stay at home with our new baby. It was a hard transition for me to go from being an equal financial contributor in my marriage to staying at home with a baby and not bringing in a paycheck.
Don’t get me wrong, being a SAHM was my dream job and it was exactly where I wanted to be, but it wasn’t easy to go to one paycheck. Even though I was helping my husband from home part-time with his business, I still felt like I wasn’t contributing to our finances and that drove me crazy.
But chapter 17 helped me realize that I could contribute substantially to our finances–just in a different way. My husband brought home the paycheck AND I managed the paycheck to make sure we stretched it as far as possible.
I realized my role in our family was not just of a wife, mother, and home manager, but also the Family Office Manager.
I also took on the role, because I had an interest in the topic of personal finance. No surprise there; I write a blog about family finances. But my husband and I both agreed that I would handle all of the day-to-day financial tasks for our home and it’s a role that I really enjoy.
Designate a Family Office Manager
The FOM should be the spouse who has the most interest to perform the financial task and doesn’t have to be a stay-at-home parent. The FOM might manage the household money, but shouldn’t be considered the controller of the money.
Money and marriage is a joint responsibility between the two spouses (at least in our home). My husband and I have equal footing when it comes to money decisions, even though my husband is still the bread winner. The fact that I am the FOM and my husband is the primary income earner helps balance out any feelings of inequality.
The Duties of the FOM Could Include:
- Track spending.
- Review budget and spending. Where are you over-spending? How can you reduce the grocery budget? Do you have enough money for Christmas gifts?
- Reconcile all accounts.
- Pay bills in a timely manner.
- Project short term cash needs.
- Organize paperwork for tax preparation.
- Prepare the Family Balance Sheet to review with spouse.
- Manage long term savings, such as retirement, college savings.
If this list would be too overwhelming for one person, divvy up the duties based on personalities and interests. For example, one spouse could handle all of the day-to-day responsibilities, but the other spouse could handle the long-term investments.
Remember you’re still a team and there are tasks that should be DONE TOGETHER:
- Devise and agree on a budget.
- Create your financial goals.
- Review the Family Balance Sheet and spending monthly.
- Discuss and agree upon all major purchases.
Tips for Success as the Family Office Manager
- Take the position seriously and treat it like a job. You might not be getting paid, but the FOM holds a lot of responsibility.
- The FOM might manage the money, but they don’t control the money. Spouses should make major money decisions together.
- The tasks will vary between households, so devise a to-do list of your family’s financial needs & tasks, so that the FOM knows what is expected of them.
- Set aside time each week to work on tasks.
- Meet as a couple weekly to discuss issues that come up. There must be open communication.
It’s important to note that choosing one person to be the Family Office Manager does not make the other spouse off the hook when it comes to dealing with finances. Marriage and Money are joint efforts. One person might be responsible for the day-to-day tasks, but the other person can not stick their head in the sand and avoid/ignore the finances. They must participate and be included with all major decisions.
This arrangement between me and my husband has been very helpful with reducing money tensions in our marriage. It works for us and hopefully it will work for you and your spouse too.
Does your home have a Family Office Manager? What does that person do in your home? Please let us know in the comments.
I am not a financial professional, just a wife and mom who would rather read personal finance blogs than watch Real Housewives of (Insert City), so please consult a professional if you and your spouse are in need of professional advice.
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