Merging two styles of money management styles won’t happen just because two people love each other. It’s about money. It has to be worked on as the years go by as every day there are a dozen of small decisions. There will be times for significant decisions such as savings and investments, tax planning, insurance and other matters.
Divvying up the responsibility for the decisions that make up the countless small money matters isn’t easy for a one-income family. In a two-income family it’s harder. And if that two-income family is also a second marriage, there can be particular money management problems including child support, alimony or budgeting for visits by children from that previous marriage.
Dividing the Dollars
Even though there are only two types of accounts — single and joint — there are many possibilities when it comes to merging them. All of the prospective solutions branch off from three basic models which have been developed.
Equal Share Couples
These couples put an equal amount of their salaries into joint checking and savings. The remainder is either saved or spent as each sees best.
Advantages: Each spouse places money in both daily and long-term expenses and each has money that is theirs to spend as they want.
Problems: Problems come up when one spouse earns substantially more than the other.
Proportional Share Couples
Here, each contributes percentage of their income to cover household expenses and joint savings. They have the remainder to do with as they please.
Problems: A significant difference in the amount of income which each spouse brings home could cause resentment as the person with the more substantial income may have more money for discretionary expenses.
Couples that combine all of their income to use for both household and personal expenses and the cash is held in a joint account.
Advantages: Each spouse’s work is valued equally regardless of how much income they earned.
Problems: The spouse with the lower income may not feel they have as much to say about how the joint income is spent.
Plan for a windfall
Discuss what you would do with any bonanza. Spend it? Save it? Explore the options before the money comes in.
Put the cards on the table — early — about any debt either brings to the marriage. Reach a mutual agreement on how the debt will be paid.
Be sure that there is agreement about buying gifts — and not just for family, but think about friends and co-workers.
Some people see donating to charity as important and others view it as foolhardy. Make sure you talk early about how to handle charitable giving.
Accept the Differences
Part of the reason that you love your spouse is that they are a little different than you. Often, the difference extends to finances. Find a way to limit the damage from these differences and learn to live with a new partner.
When Frank Sinatra sang about Love Being Lovelier the Second Time Around, “Old Blue Eyes,” may not have been thinking about the money involved. While second marriages can be rich and fulfilling, they also have some landmines. These hidden explosives can be navigated successfully with a little forethought, some planning and a lot of discussion.