How to Talk About Family Finances When You Remarry

Updated on January 9, 2017
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Sadie has been a proud stepmother for over 25 years. She writes about blended family issues and modern family dynamics.

Discussing money with family members can be difficult for most people. Married couples often have to make a concerted effort to talk about finances. Many relationship experts claim that arguments about how to spend and save money are the number one cause of marital breakdown.

People who are getting married a second (or third) time have an extra set of financial issues to talk about as they learn how to blend their family assets in a way that is fair, transparent and reflective of the new stepfamily's needs. Here are some tips and suggestions for how remarried couples can start talking about their blended family finances honestly and openly.

Many people who remarry come into the new union with different money management habits and hang-ups.
Many people who remarry come into the new union with different money management habits and hang-ups.

Important Note: Don't forget to include an updated estate plan as part of your financial planning. When you remarry, it is important that you both have an honest discussion about how you want your assets and affairs to be handled when you die. Consult a professional financial planner, estate planner or lawyer for more guidance. Laws about wills and estates vary from country to country so it's important that you and your spouse seek qualified legal advice when writing or revising your wills.

For couples who have re-married after a divorce, discussing money issues can be even harder. Not only do re-married couples have their own household finances to juggle, they likely also have other financial commitments from their previous marriages that they have to take care of. Unfortunately, that means that sometimes it can feel like there is another person tugging on your family’s purse strings.

From child support and alimony payments to having to buy two sets of everything (clothes, bikes, sports equipment) to fees for extra-curricular activities, many women in second marriages can feel like they're last in line when it comes to the extras. Barbara LeBey says in her book, Remarried with Children, “If problems with the children is the number one reason remarriages fail, money problems run a close second.”

Talking about money issues openly and honestly doesn’t just strengthen second marriages, it can also reduce debt and create financial stability for blended families.

Larry Burkett, author of Money Before Marriage: A Financial Workbook for Engaged Couples says, "Money is either the best or the worst area of communication in our marriages."

Even when they're deeply in love, it's still difficult for some couples to talk about finances. Bad money experiences from the past can stand in the way of talking honestly about where they stand financially. But avoiding conversations about money won't bring these couples together. In fact, it can drive them apart.

The size of a family can double or triple when people remarry.

The sudden change in the size of your family may require a bigger home, That's a big financial decision!
The sudden change in the size of your family may require a bigger home, That's a big financial decision!

How to Talk About Money When You Remarry

Make a list of expenses that are non-negotiable. No matter how well off (or cash strapped) your new partner may be, there are some financial items that are set in stone. They simply can’t be trimmed from the budget. Child support, alimony (if applicable), insurance premiums, medical and dental costs for your spouse’s children, and school fees are budget items that are usually determined by forces outside of your household. Neither you nor your spouse has much control over these financial commitments so the sooner you acknowledge this, the easier it will be to have realistic expectations about money. Knowing what these non-negotiable items are ahead of time will make budgeting and long-term financial planning much easier for your blended family.

Be upfront about your beliefs and values about money. Aside from all the financial obligations you and/or your spouse have to children (and possibly exes) from a previous marriage, you both bring something that reaches back even further than your last marriage. You each bring all the habits, beliefs, and values about money management that you picked up from your family during your childhood. How your parents managed, or possibly mismanaged, money will affect your spending and saving habits in adulthood. Perhaps you grew up in a well-off household and never gave money a second thought. But what if your spouse grew up in a different situation? What if your spouse's family was always struggling to make ends meet? One of you might be relaxed about spending and saving money, while the other grapples with anxiety about never having enough money.

Be careful about discussing family money matters in the presence of other people, especially your stepchildren, your in-laws, and your ex-spouses. Discussing money troubles in front of the stepchildren and other family members who have no say in the matter is unwise. Stepchildren shouldn’t have to worry about the family finances, so don’t talk about private money matters in front of them. It’s not fair to burden kids with your own worries about debt and financial issues. Don’t vent about cash flow problems or gossip about money with other family members or friends either. Money talk gets around. Before you feel the need to vent, ask yourself if you want your private money matters getting back to your ex-spouse and his or her family.

Acknowledge your individual strengths. Between the two of you, figure out what your individual strengths are when it comes to managing money. Then support each other in doing the best you can in those areas. For example, perhaps one of you is really good at studying grocery flyers each week, clipping coupons, and getting the best deals on food and household items. If one of you is good at handling negotiations and being assertive, put that person in charge of dealing will the salesperson at the car dealership. Find out what each of you is good at when it comes to handling household finances and then assign money management duties appropriately.

Appreciate what you do have as a married couple. Do an inventory of all the blessings in your life, both money blessings and blessings related to health, wellness, love, and security. You’ll probably discover just how rich you really are when you start noticing all the good things you already have in your life.

Being honest and open about your money, debt, and financial goals is the key to a happy, healthy, successful second marriage.

A family that plays together, stays together.

Coming to an agreement on how much money your new blended family can afford to spend on vacations may be difficult, but it's not impossible.
Coming to an agreement on how much money your new blended family can afford to spend on vacations may be difficult, but it's not impossible.

Appreciate what you do have as a married couple. Do an inventory of all the blessings in your life, both money blessings and blessings related to health, wellness, love, and security. You’ll probably discover just how rich you really are when you start noticing all the good things you already have in your life.

Being honest and open about your money, debt, and financial goals is the key to a happy, healthy, successful second marriage.

© 2017 Sadie Holloway

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