By Janice R. Love
Managing money in traditional families can be challenging, but in Stepfamilies financial matters are magnified and even more complicated. For instance, when my husband and I first became a stepfamily, I was receiving child support from my ex, and my husband was paying child support and alimony to his ex-wife. Now that are children are grown and two are currently in college, we have other financial matters to consider. In light of the complications of stepfamily finances, here are 10 conversations couples must have sooner or later.
- Discuss debt: Before marriage, lay all of the bills on the table to get a clear picture of your total debt. Don’t judge or criticize actions that led to the dilemma, focus joint energy on determining how debt will be repaid.
- Divorce Decree Requirements: Locate divorce decrees or court ordered child support documents and discuss incoming and outgoing funds. Determine the total number of years’ child support and alimony will be paid or received. Document additional financial requirements such as health insurance premiums, car insurance and payments, day care expenses and college tuition.
- Property & Inheritance: In some cases, you may still own property with your former spouse/partner and now your new spouse has legal rights to your property. Perhaps there are family heirlooms or an inheritance that has been designated for your biological children only. Discuss your desires for future inheritance and secure legal documentation as required.
- Tax Filing: Once you are married, will you file your taxes together or married separately? How many children are you claiming on your tax return? Do you have to trade off deductions with the other biological parent? Determine what is best for filing your annual taxes.
- Bank Accounts: Will you have joint accounts or separate accounts? Some couples use separate accounts but include their spouse’s name on the account for needed access while others combine all of their money into one account.
- Credit: Discuss your philosophy on credit and how credit will be used. Get recent credit scores and discuss your plans for making major purchases such as homes, cars and furniture.
- Spending: Discuss spending limits for discretionary spending. Discuss how much you will spend on children’s birthdays and holidays like Christmas. Do you have to get permission from your spouse to spend or give money to your children?
- College Expenses: How will college expenses be paid? Has money already been put aside? Do you assist with college expenses for your biological and your stepchildren, or does each biological parent cover their own children? Who completes the Federal student aid (FAFSA) application?
- Retirement/Aging Concerns: Discuss plans for retirement such as timelines and savings. What about assisted living and nursing homes? Whose children will be guardians or manage financial matters?
- Life Insurance, Estate Planning and Wills: Should additional life insurance be purchased so that your children and your new spouse are both equal beneficiaries? Do you include your new step-children as beneficiaries of your life insurance? Discuss inheritance issues for current and future heirs.
I have really only scratched the surface, but there are additional topics that may require professional assistance from a tax advisor, financial planner, or attorney. Many of these conversations should be discussed prior to getting married, however if you didn’t plan in advance, set aside time as soon as possible to have these crucial conversations. Whatever you do, don’t avoid the topic of money and don’t assume anything. Where do you need to begin?
Janice R. Love, known as “JLove Stepmom Coach” is the author of One Plus One Equals Ten: A First Lady’s Survival Guide for Stepmoms. She is the biological mom of two children and a stepmom to six. Janice earned a Master’s in Biological /Health Psychology from the University of Oklahoma and is certified as a Stepfamily Coach by The Stepfamily Foundation, Incorporated. Along with her husband, Rev., Dr. Bobby L. Love, she is the cofounder of Step with Love, a ministry offering blended family counseling, coaching and seminars for couples, stepmoms and churches respectively. Contact Step with Love for all your blended family needs.
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