Published: May 10, 2018

Collaborative research by Leeds and the University of Texas at Austin shows the pros and cons for couples of unequal division of responsibility for money matters. When couples begin their relationships, they naturally divide up tasks and give one partner more responsibility than the other for finances. The person who gets the job as the household’s “chief financial officer” is often just a partner who is doing less in other shared tasks.  At the beginning of the relationship the “household CFO” and the “non-CFO” do not differ in how much they know about money or in how good they are with money. But the longer the couple stays together, the more different the household CFO and non-CFO become in financial knowledge and their ability to make financial decisions on their own.

The authors conclude that these role divisions are not a problem as long as the couple stays together. As long as the couple stays together, it is the expertise of the CFO that matters to household financial outcomes. However, the hidden risk is that the non-CFO becomes increasingly vulnerable if he or she were forced to start making money decisions on his or her own. And since every relationship ends in either divorce or death of one of the partners, if one has been relying on one’s partner for a really long period of time, the transition is going to be rough.

Read more about the impact of the research on evaluating a couples financial competency over time.