Yours, Mine and Ours: A Blended Family Finances Checklist
Family finances can prove difficult under any circumstance, but that’s even more true in blended families, where two sets of often well-established financial histories and philosophies seek to meld into one.
At Semmax Financial Group these days, we have seen a number of blended families where people have remarried, either after a divorce or the death of a spouse. Sometimes it’s older couples who are already retired. In other cases, it’s a younger couple still trying to raise children. But regardless of the specifics of the individual situation, when families grow together, their finances also merge, and then it can become problematic if careful planning and communication is not done.
I know. I have a blended family myself, and one of the first questions my wife (my girlfriend at the time) asked me was about my credit score. It was a great question because if you plan on buying a house or car together, or solving a variety of money-related problems, both of your credit ratings will come into play.
None of this is to say that you should make finance the final factor in deciding whether to continue in this relationship. But you want to make sure you have a good handle on the myriad of financial problems that can arise.
Credit score aside, here is a checklist of some things to consider:
People grow up with different thoughts about money, influenced by their parents or the circumstances of their formative years. Some people are exceptionally frugal, saving every penny and rarely, if ever, spending anything just for fun. Others spend with abandon, not caring about the unexpected expenses that life can throw at them at any moment. Many fall somewhere between these extremes.
If you’re going into a serious relationship, you should talk to your new partner about how you’re going to spend the money.
financial accounts and invoices
Once you learn each other’s financial philosophy, you need to make decisions. Should you combine your financial accounts or keep them separately?
If the two of you are closely aligned with your finances and approach to spending, you may decide to just combine everything. If you’re older, have adult children from previous relationships, and are better off financially, you may choose to keep things separate. For many, a hybrid approach may be best – keep some things separate but have savings, investments, and household accounts together to meet your combined goals.
When there are children from a previous marriage—especially young children—additional financial situations come into play. Does a person owe or receive child support? How does that fit into the overall budget? What is the status of student finance for the children and are there other related obligations? All of these questions should be addressed and clarified.
Beyond the financial issues, remember that it takes time, patience, and a concerted effort of everyone to successfully merge a happy family. Be aware that it may take some children longer than others to accept the “newcomer” on the team.
Where will you live and what will you do with the houses you already own? The option you choose could be due to a combination of financial prudence and personal desire. You could live in one house and sell or rent the other. Or you can sell both houses and buy a new one to give your blended family a fresh start.
When making this decision, you should consider factors such as the amount of mortgage on each home, the level of property taxes, and whether one home will meet the needs of the blended family better than the other.
It may be wise to consider a prenuptial agreement, especially if there are significant assets involved or if you both have big differences in your overall finances. Also, make sure your beneficiaries are up to date since your family is mixed, whether for a will, life insurance, or retirement accounts.
Additionally, you want to update medical orders and permanent powers of attorney. It is best to consult an attorney with these questions.
It is important to have common family and financial goals and to communicate those goals. A good visual way to do this—and a good family project—is to create a “vision board” that everyone participates in so everyone’s viewpoints are heard.
Sure, there’s a lot to consider here, but a financial professional should be able to provide guidance on what to consider and the pros and cons of each option that comes up. However, the final decisions are up to you and your significant other.
Above all, it’s important to understand the value (not always financial) that each person brings to the relationship and how you can work together as a team to achieve your dreams.
Ronnie Blair contributed to this article.
The information contained herein is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide tax, legal or investment advice and you should not rely on it. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any decision based on the specific information contained herein.
Financial Advisor, Semmax Financial Group
Michael Sellers is a financial advisor with Semmax Financial Group in Winston-Salem, NC. He has extensive financial services experience and earned his CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation while working at Vanguard in 2017. Sellers holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Wake Forest University.
The appearances at Kiplinger were achieved through a public relations program. The columnist was assisted by a public relations firm in preparing this article for submission to Kiplinger.com. Kiplinger was not compensated in any way.