Second marriages can be complicated, especially if children from a previous marriage are involved. Open discussions about financial matters followed by agreed-upon decisions and actions will go a long way in improving the relationship.
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If you find yourself in this situation, here are three things to consider when starting a conversation about your finances with your spouse:
- What are your financial expectations? Rarely do couples enter a second marriage on equal financial footing. Inevitably, one person has more wealth and/or cash flow than the other. Too often finances are not discussed on the front end. Eventually, a plan will emerge via trial and error…usually with disagreements or unspoken resentments as part of the process. To prevent this, start by setting aside a casual evening and agree to an open-minded discussion about financial expectations.
- Who will pay what expenses? Broadly, discuss who will be responsible for each expense. Often a joint checking account is used for common household expenses; how much each person contributes to that account is based on cash flow sources. Often, personal expenses are paid separately from individually owned checking accounts. It is best to find a solution that works best for you as a couple. As part of this process, begin to build a family budget and revisit how it is working at least once a quarter. Adjust it as needed.
- Who is responsible for long-term care? For those who find love again later in life, this can be a significant question that is often not discussed until one member of the couple needs long-term care services. My mother died of Alzheimer’s disease and I witnessed years of arduous daily care given by my father. In a second marriage, you need to discuss, decide, and communicate if this care will come from the spouse or the ill spouse’s children. Be sure to discuss both the financial aspects and the actual care, both of which can take an enormous toll.
Ideally, these discussions happen before the marriage. However, it is essential for those already married for a second time to have this discussion now. Without it, unresolved conflict is likely to grow. If you and your spouse are having difficulty coming up with a family budget or financial plan, please seek out a financial advisor to help guide you in the right direction.
Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP®, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including 50 Rules of Success; J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire; and 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. For more information, visit The Welch Group. Consult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.
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