There’s no question that finances are complex enough as it is. Add a new marriage to the mix, and things can get a bit hairy. According to Winning Stepfamilies, approximately 65 percent of new marriages in the U.S. involve children.1 And as we all know, children can add a substantial financial responsibility to our plates. If not handled strategically, managing bills with both your new partner and your ex-partner can create a tangled web that can impact children. And oftentimes, there’s more than one set involved. The U.S. Census Bureau found that about 70 percent of remarried couples have children.2
If you’re new to managing finances as part of a blended family — or even if you’ve been doing it for a while and are curious if there are better ways to do it — we’ve rounded up five tips to help guide you as you navigate a wide array of financial decisions.
Tip #1: Consider Your Collective Priorities
While budgeting is a must-have in any relationship, it’s especially important when you’re part of a blended family. After you factor in household expenses, consider your mortgage, insurance, medical bills and educational costs with your current and former partner to make sure your budget takes into account current and future costs. As you work together, take into account each person’s salary so no one is having to pay more than they can afford. Additionally, it’s important to factor in your children’s allowances as well — on top of any required child support — to prevent any unnecessary stress and tension between you and your partner.
Tip #2: Share Separate Bank Accounts
Because you’ll want to make sure both you and your new partner are contributing to your future, consider sharing a savings account to provide them with confirmation that you are a team. In order to avoid drama, having your own separate accounts as well can give you a sense of independence from your partner, which can be helpful when so much is already shared between the two of you. Above all else, make sure to communicate your wants and needs so you are both on the same page. Additionally, you may also want to share an account with your ex-partner so you both have a designated spot to collectively save money for your children’s higher education and more.
Tip #3: Delegate When Possible
On both sides, it’s important to determine who is in control of what so there are no mixed messages and confusion. From who manages each bank account to who pays for what, you want to create a clear and concise outline for how the financial responsibilities will be split up. Before this discussion, consider sharing your past mistakes so your partner is aware of your financial shortcomings. The more open and honest you are with them, the better. If you have trouble saving money, your partner can help steer you away from purchases that aren’t 100 percent necessary.
Even information like your credit score can be important when combining your financial responsibility with your new spouse. Especially if you both plan to buy a house together one day, it’s important that you each have all the pieces of information so there is no miscommunication along the way.
Tip #4: Communicate with Children
While you may think money is only a discussion for you and your partner, it can be helpful to include your children as well so they are aware of your game plan. Without going into the specifics, educate them on what your goals are so they have a clear understanding of your spending and saving habits. Even if your children are young, letting them know that both you and your spouse are working together will give them peace of mind as they adapt to your new relationship.
If your children have been spoiled in the past and your partner does not agree with overindulgence, taper off their spending and clearly explain why such changes need to take place. Although money can be a sensitive topic, when handled with care and compassion, navigating this new financial landscape can be easy and stress-free.
Tip #5: Prepare for the Unexpected
Even if your children have already moved out, there is always the chance that they could move back in and need your financial support. Additionally, one day they may ask you to pay for their wedding, a second degree or even a portion of their apartment. To avoid unwanted surprises, discuss these possibilities with your spouse and figure out how much financial support you can afford to provide your now adult children. While we all hope our children can be fully independent by a certain age, life happens, and you’ll want to be there to catch them if they fall.
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