Mine, Yours, Ours? – Blended Family Finances are more than Just a Budget
When a remarriage creates a blended family, couples must deal with children and custody arrangements, their ex’s and their ex’s new partners, establishing a new household and integrating values, personalities and schedules. And to top it off, they have to decide how to handle money.
The Blended Family Money Pie – How Many Pieces?
History – Each partner brings attitudes and experiences from their previous marriage. In some cases, the ability to trust is damaged, so pooling everything into a single family account is problematic. Or if one partner had no say in the household spending, he or she may overcompensate and over control. If one of you has been a single parent for a while, there’s been no need to consult with anyone about finances.
Past Financial Obligations – each partner may bring debts, such as student loans or credit card debt, even mortgage foreclosure or bankruptcy. And from the divorce, this may include child support and/or alimony.
Future Obligations – if the new couple plans on having children, buying a new house, they need to take this into account. And don’t forget the unexpected!
Tips for Designing a New Family Budget
A traditional budget may not be the most practical approach to merging family finances. Getting all the information on the table and then tailoring how you handle the money may work best. If the ‘Yours, Mine and Ours’ approach makes it simpler and emotionally easier to handle, then try it out. No matter how you decide to operate the household budget, there are some suggestions to get you up and running.
- List all the financial obligations and when they are due. Write down everything from normal monthly expenses to one-time or quarterly payments like property taxes, insurances, school fees, Christmas, vacation.
- List all the income whether it comes from employment, investments or other sources. It’s important to know what your take-home income is because that’s what you have to work with.
- Look at your consumer debt and put a plan in place to pay it off.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Everyone needs to understand how the family finances work. Even the kids. If they understand that you are saving for vacation, then they realize why you’re not buying the latest cell phone right now.
- Look to the Future – estate planning is important, especially if you need to figure out how your assets will be allocated to your loved ones, whether from your earlier marriage, your new spouse and your future children.
- Don’t Go It Alone – You are not the first blended family to try to pull everything together. Ask for help. There are many resources, such as toughnickel.com and FocusonFamily.com, and even some great apps, such as mint.com to help organize and evaluate your plan. Find a trusted financial advisor who’s helped other couples to navigate the obstacles of getting onto a firm financial footing. Look for a fee-based only financial adviser as a starting point.