MBO: Marriage By Objectives

At work, my husband is highly motivated by his MBOs. MBO stands for Management By Objectives, and “MBOs” are a fancy way to say “goals.”

At home, we’ve been making the mistake of calling our financial goals simply “goals.” This terminology mix up has resulted in decreased productivity and a decline in overall marital satisfaction. As a result, we are implementing the new Marriage By Objectives (also referred to as MBO) system.

Just like in the original MBO system, our MBOs will work to align actions to achieve desired results. We will ditch our old-fashioned goals for clear MBOs that will ensure that both spouses are clear about what they should be doing, and how their actions are beneficial to the household.

Our MBO system will be primarily focused on motivation, performance enhancement, and results. Typically, meeting or exceeding your MBOs at work earns you rewards such as a financial bonus, recognition for a job well done, the possibility for promotion, and a sense of personal accomplishment. Meeting our MBOs will result in a much-sought-after lack of nagging.  Sound good?  Here are the steps to implementing an Marriage By Objectives system at home:

  1. Define long-range goals.
  2. With long-range goals in mind, develop overall goals for the year.
  3. With yearly goals in mind, assign each person specific, measurable goals. Goals should be in writing, discussed, and approved.
  4. Review performance on a regular basis in order to identify problem areas.
  5. As appropriate, reward successes or take corrective action (i.e. nagging).

If you are wondering if all this is really necessary, consider the fact that (in most marriages) there is a disconnect between spouses about who is responsible for the family’s finances. When asked if they are personally responsible for retirement planning, only 45% of men and 25% of women responded positively (Source: 2007 survey by Money Management International). These results suggest that most women (75%) and the majority of men (55%) feel that their partner is, often unknowingly, expected to be “primarily” responsible.


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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