Nearly 50% of families in the U.S. today are blended families (remarried or recoupled). According to Allianz, an insurance and investment company, many blended families tend to be more financially challenged than non-blended families, more likely to live paycheck to paycheck, and more likely to feel that their spouse/partner brought financial baggage to the relationship that’s hard to overcome.
As if combining two families physically and emotionally wasn’t already difficult enough, the financial challenges are additionally overwhelming. So, what can we do to help alleviate the financial stress of a blended family?
The Marriage Comes First
First, and most importantly, remember that the marriage comes first. According to Pastor Jimmy Evans, a family builds around a marriage, and a marriage is first. Sure, sometimes there are conflicts in blended families, where one spouse will prioritize their children over their new marriage/relationship. But always remember that you teach your children by your example. If they don’t see you succeeding in your new marriage, how can they have a good example for their own marriage one day?
Marriage must be number one, and strong families build around strong marriages. Not only do you have to prioritize your marriage even above your children, but you also need to teach your children to respect your marriage. Marriage only works if it’s first.
Steps to Financial Collaboration
In a blended family, you need to be hyper-sensitive to the issues of fairness and equity. Remember that you need to make every decision together. Here are my top 4 suggestions for financial collaboration, to help ensure that you and your spouse are completely aligned on money and finances.
From the very beginning, honestly and openly share all the financial specifics of your blended family. Disclose all prior commitments like child support, estate planning, and life insurance, as well as any debt that you bring to the relationship. Resentment may never materialize and cause disharmony in your relationship if you share everything from the beginning, even the things about which you might be embarrassed.
Budget, Budget, Budget
- Create a budget and stick to it.
- Clearly define roles of who is responsible for paying the bills and record keeping.
- Include the children in the budgeting process so they better understand household finances.
- Always discuss large/unusual purchases beforehand.
- Review the actual spending regularly to make sure it’s in line with the budget.
Blended families can often start out with a “mine, yours, and ours” mentality. This isn’t inherently wrong, so long as it works for both partners. But, my suggestion is to start out focusing on the “ours” category and to build a track record of working together successfully financially. The best way I’ve found to do this is to establish a joint checking account, from the very beginning, that you’ll use to pay all household expenses. Fund it monthly in a way that feels fair, which isn’t necessarily the same as equitable. If you make substantially more money than your partner, consider contributing more than your partner does. Seek to find what feels fair to both people.
Money is an emotional topic. It relates to our deepest fears and issues around trust. For example, if a former partner was dishonest or unfaithful about money, then a person might bring those feelings and fears forward into their next relationship.
If my fear around money is low and my trust towards my partner is high, then I’ll probably be quite comfortable around this topic and more able to be reasonable. But if either my fear around money is high or my trust in my partner is low, then I might come across as more greedy or needy or less collaborative when it comes to money. So, it’s all the more important for a couple to talk openly about their fears and issues from the very beginning, so they can work together to alleviate any concerns as quickly as possible.
Regardless of what you choose to do with your finances, always keep the dialog open. Issues in any relationship accumulate and fester when they are not tended to regularly. Just like your garden or landscaping, a little bit of care on a regular basis keeps everything that much more beautiful.
If you’d like to receive coaching in financial matters or in how finances are affecting your relationship, I’d love to help! Contact our Client Care Team to learn more or to set up an appointment.