How to Manage Money Together

INSIDE: If you’re starting a second marriage and kids are in the mix, you and your partner need to seriously talk about money. Here are some tips to get you thinking about blended family finance.

Conversations about money can feel uncomfortable and complicated, but they are sooooo important. This is true for couples who are considering marriage or moving in together. It’s true for soon-to-be parents who are trying to budget for parental leave. And, it’s especially true for couples who are coming together to create a blended family.

Even if you don’t want to talk to your partner about money, these conversations should happen before you make any major financial commitments. Talking about money early and often can help you to avoid uncomfortable and costly financial situations in the future. 

Essential Questions to Help Blended Families Navigate Finances

Blending a family can be a beautiful experience but when it comes to mixing finances–things can get complicated. It’s important that you and your partner sit down and discuss the important questions such as: 

  • How are you going to divide household expenses? Is it going to be a 50/50 split, or will you divide expenses based on how much money each of you makes?
  • How will you pay for your children’s expenses? Divide it evenly or base it on how many children each of you bring to the blended family?
  • Do you want to opt for a shared bank account or, are you going to keep separate bank accounts?
  • How are you going to pay for shared family expenses? A shared credit card? 
  • Will the kids get allowances? How will you teach your kids about money?
  • What are your shared long-term financial goals? Do you want to save enough to help your kids pay for college? Are you focused on early retirement? Or, do you have a ton of collective debt that you want to pay off?
  • Do either of you have a financial obligation to your ex?
  • Do you need a financial planner to help you understand your big financial picture?

How to Build a Blended Family Budget

After you’ve talked through the answers to these questions, you can use this information to create a blended family budget. This can be done in three simple steps on a piece of paper or using a spreadsheet.

  1. List how much income you bring in each month
  2. List out your family’s fixed (rent, mortgage, insurance, child support payments) and variable expenses (eating out, activities, shopping for clothes) 
  3. Subtract your expenses from your income. If you have money left over make a plan to save or invest. If you are spending more than you make, you will need to adjust your expenses. 

For additional tips on different types of budgets and more information on how to make a budget click here

Allowance 

When it comes to your kiddos, another topic you and your partner can discuss is allowance. Are you both on board with giving the kids allowance? If so, how much? And, at what age do you want to start to give your child an allowance?

Giving your children allowance can be a great way to teach them money management skills. As soon as your kids are old enough to count, you can start to introduce the concepts of money and an allowance. This gives you the opportunity to discuss spending, saving, and giving. 

For older kids, giving allowance can be a good way to replace them constantly asking for money. Have a family meeting and establish how much you will provide each kid with every month. If they get different amounts, explain why. This way they can plan and save for their social outings and determine how much pocket money they will have available for shopping trips. 

Paying for college

College is expensive, especially if you have multiple children. If you and your spouse are able to afford it and you decide that paying for college is an important financial goal, then you need to come up with a game plan for how you are going to achieve it. 

Are you going to pay for your kids’ full college experience — tuition, housing, transportation, food, and living allowance? Or, are you willing to contribute a certain lump sum for tuition alone? 

Are you both going to contribute to all of the children’s college funds or are you going to focus exclusively on your own children? Will your exes be contributing to your children’s college savings? 

You can also involve your children in these conversations. Set up regular family meetings to discuss financial topics like college. Talk about the expense of college tuition and whether or not they will have to obtain student aid. 

A family meeting can also provide a good opportunity to talk to your kids about student loan debt and what kind of impact that can have on their future. You can also talk about the benefits of earning a scholarship and how that can help them avoid taking on additional loans. 

How to Have a Successful Family Meeting

Plan to have a weekly family meeting or once a month, whatever works for your situation. Create an outline of what you are going to talk about and have every family member contribute to the conversation. You can start each meeting with a review of your previous meeting and any unresolved topics. Just as it’s necessary for you and your partner to keep the dialogue open, it’s also important to make your kids feel like they are part of the conversation. 

Estate Planning

The estate planning process involves preparing for the management of your estate (your home and other assets) after you die. When it comes to financial topics that people don’t want to talk about, estate planning is probably at the top of the list. For starters, most people struggle to just have a conversation about money but, add in the topic of mortality and you’ve got a real party starter! 

While it’s not a favorite topic, it is important to be prepared for every situation, especially when you have kids. When discussing your estate plan you will want to cover topics like:

  • Do either of you have a will?
  • Do you have life insurance? 
  • Have you assigned an executor to your estate? 
  • Have you discussed your wishes with your family members?
  • How do you want to split your assets up among your children when you and your spouse are gone?
  • Do you want to set up a trust for your children?
  • Do your exes have any claim over your finances when they are the surviving spouse of that prior relationship? 

If you and your partner don’t know where to get started on the topic of estate planning or you are just struggling to work through it, consider hiring an estate planning lawyer to come up with a comprehensive estate plan. 

Are You Ready for Your First Family Meeting?

To be prepared for all of the different financial situations that you may encounter as a blended family, from allowance, to college, and even death, it’s important to start talking ASAP. Start by setting up a regular family finance meeting and choose one topic for the agenda. Dig in and ask the tough questions. The best way to avoid financial fights in the future is to talk early and often.

— By Jessica Martel

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