Q. My fiancé and I have both been married before and we both have careers and children. We’re concerned about how to handle our money when we marry because both of us had financial problems and disagreements in our first marriages. Is it best to pool our money or to keep separate accounts?
A. I commend you and your fiancé for planning before the wedding how you will handle money in your marriage. Money issues are more complicated in a second marriage than they are in a first marriage. The good news is remarried couples are more aware of where their money is going and are more likely to work together on financial decisions because of their past experiences.
It is essential that financial information be shared. Marriage is an intimate partnership and without full financial disclosure by both partners there is a lack of honesty and commitment. You both have a right to know what is in your spouse’s will and what assets, debts and retirement plan he or she has.
Money issues are more complicated in second marriages because money may be going to child support, medical expenses, weddings of children and college tuition. The finances are complex and the emotions which accompany them are even more complex. Step parents feel love for step children but usually don’t have the deep bond a parent has with a child. They can be irritated by the financial drain on the family resources which may seem to diminish what they can do for their own children. There may be issues of equality and fairness.
There are no simple answers and each couple must design a financial plan which meets their needs and expectations. Pooling all your money works best for young families, for one income families and for couples in long, secure marriages. Pooling of money does indicate a strong commitment to the marriage.
Some couples keep their money totally separate. This works with two career couples whose incomes are comparable. It appeals to couples who are older when they marry, are well off, and who have strong needs for control and autonomy.
Another system is to have his money, her money and our money. Three accounts are set up with an understanding of what the joint account is used for - to pay living expenses (food, housing, bills), necessities (new washing machine, home repairs) or for savings. If incomes are not equal each partner may contribute to the joint account on a percentage basis. As you can see the three accounts system takes some work and negotiating.
Keep all your communications about finances respectful and be willing to compromise. Make your relationship more important than “winning” or “controlling” the finances.
After you decide whether you want to have separate accounts, joint accounts or three accounts do the following:
· Make a budget so you both see on paper what you have and where it goes.
· Decide who will pay the bills or plan how you will share this.
· If you are in debt, decide how you will pay this off.
· Agree to consult each other on major purchases.
· Allow each other small indulgences. Each of you should have at least a small amount of money to spend each week in whatever way you choose.
· Remember/realize that money and possessions will not make you happy or your children happy. Your relationships - time and fun together are what really matter.
Couples deeply in debt can get help at Consumer Credit Counseling, 866-461-5243. Couples battling over money should seek marital counseling from a Christian counselor. I hope these ideas help you have a happy marriage.
Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them. Proverbs NLT