Many people in America live in a mashup of families. According to the Step Family Foundation, 1,300 new stepfamilies are formed every day.
Bringing together two households can be challenging, especially when it comes to finances.
Here’s how to navigate this tough terrain.
Have money talks sooner, rather than later
Realize money management will be different as this new family comes together. “Did one person previously control all the money? Was there open communication about finances? Was there financial infidelity?” asks Brian Brandow of Debt Discipline in Ronkonkoma.
Money conversations are a top priority, especially if children are involved. Maybe there were certain standards of living that will be affected by a new financial reality. Talk about any resulting lifestyle or budget changes with the youngsters in the family.
“Involve them in age-appropriate ways in family budgeting decisions, like creating grocery lists and planning vacations so they begin to get a sense of how far money goes,” says Sara Rathner, a financial expert with NerdWallet.com.
Create a financial plan
“The couple should agree on a plan for their money. Figure out how and who pays the bills, what amounts will be spent on different budget categories. Get on the same page,” says Brandow.
Choose whether to save together, or to have separate bank accounts to support the family. “Either way, open communication between parents is critical to avoid disappointment or resentment later,” says Michele Lee Fine, a financial representative with Guardian in Jericho.
If you were married to your now-ex the last time you drafted a will and chose beneficiaries for your life insurance, and for bank and investment accounts, make updates. Says Rathner, “Wills don’t supersede accounts with named beneficiaries. Consider changing your will to ensure that your biological children inherit your assets instead of your new spouse.”