A couple was having a discussion about family finances. Finally the husband exploded, "If it weren't for my money, the house wouldn't be here!" The wife replied, "Hey dude, if it weren't for your money I wouldn't be here."
Maybe you heard about the man whose credit card was stolen - but he decided not to report it because the thief was spending less than his wife did.
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find that man.
These jokes, three of thousands on the subject of marriage and money, typify the need for a book like The Family CFO. Created by a money management expert and a writer, both women, and published by Rodale, which is known for its practical reference works, it is the real thing - a guide to finance for the marriage.
Step by step the authors seek to wipe away the doubts that anyone who has ever been married might reasonably have of the feasibility of working with your spouse to solve the family's financial problems. It starts, as the title implies, by outlining the duties of a family CFO - two officers, one to manage cash flow and the other the handle investments, who work in tandem, have meetings, make reports, and set goals.
Here's an example of the testy ground that Allvine and Larson tackle unafraid: priority fights, when "one partner just won't take an interest in family finances...it's not enough to talk about goals - you need to write them down...behave as if - the partnership's priorities come before your own personal desires."
The book makes use of short useful sections with headings that challenge: Job Change Questions, The Cost of Having Kids, A Five Step Debt Strategy. These are real issues, and they are examined with charts, projections, simple math, and a lot of personal examples from Allvine's experience of counseling couples with real life stresses. It is the painful acknowledgement that money "is the number one cause of tension among modern couples" that makes this compendium all the more valuable for those who choose to utilize it.
Before you rise to Family CFO status, by the way, you have to work on a questionnaire: Do you know the difference between a stock and a bond? Do you know what your marginal tax rate is? Do you know what your mortgage interest rate is? Whoops - I've already disqualified myself. But there's help - this book is full of answers for financially challenged people, and advice on how two people who think and talk totally differently about money can learn to communicate in something other than grunts and tears. Basically it comes with defining priorities, setting goals, and simplifying your economic life by treating it like a business - nothing personal when it comes to money. In fact, if money can become a neutral subject, it allows couples to relax and enjoy the rest of life, a point the authors make in many different ways throughout the book.
One later chapter, after you've been lead through the complexities of understanding your personal financial goals, is titled "Better Sex through Financial Management." The authors assert that "money is sexy - it's a powerful tool for achieving your fantasies." This is a compelling notion, matching some statistics I recently read: married people are happier than singles, and money - up to a point - does buy happiness. The Family CFO is trying to make a delicious candy bar out of these discrete servings of chocolate and peanut butter, and with their recipe in hand, we have a greater possibility for success.