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Financial Resource Center

Money Management


Financial Candor Is Vital in Second Marriage

by Judy Dahl / August 3rd, 2021


When people marry for a second time, they typically bring along more baggage—financial and otherwise—than with a first marriage. The situation often is more complicated, with children and two households in the mix, and partners with more ingrained money-handling habits. They may be paying child support, have significant debt, be involved with a family business, or have valuable investments or property. That's why, before you marry again, it's essential to talk openly with your sweetheart about your individual financial situations and to plan how you'll handle finances going forward.

Start by thinking individually about what you're bringing to the marriage in terms of debts and assets and how you'd like to see your finances handled. Then sit down and have a conversation, understanding that your future spouse might not want to do things exactly the way you do.

Debt is a main cause for couples' marital problems, so you need to be open about it. Share your credit history, too, because it will affect your spouse's.

Day to day

Share your attitudes toward spending and saving and your financial goals. Money issues can be emotional, so if things get heated, consider involving a certified financial planner. The professionals at your credit union may be able to assist or to refer you to qualified resources. Talk about how much each of you will contribute to expenses and what parts of your salaries and bonuses will pay each expense. Some couples agree to allocate the same percentage of their incomes to certain goals or debts. Others believe the system of "yours, mine, and ours" works well, where each spouse keeps a separate account, and each contributes a certain amount to a joint account.

If you have children from previous marriages, decide how you'll each financially support them. How much support does your former spouse provide? How much will you and your new spouse provide? Will the money all come from your pooled funds or will you pay all or part from your personal accounts?

Investments, insurance, and estates

Look at the investments you each have and determine if you want to adjust them so your overall portfolio is optimal. Your insurance coverage needs may change as you combine households, so review and modify your policies as needed. You'll probably also need to change beneficiaries listed for your insurance policies and investment accounts. You can choose to file income taxes jointly or separately, and your unique circumstances will dictate which method makes more sense. Keep in mind that, if you file jointly, you're both liable for the entire tax bill.

You'll need to change your wills and estate plans. Your spouse is entitled to up to half of your estate when you pass away, depending on your state's laws. If you want all or some of those assets to go to your kids from a previous relationship, you will have to plan for that.

Communication

It may not be romantic but be sure to talk regularly about financial matters. Open, honest communication about what's working and what isn’t will help to prevent serious marital problems and possibly even a significant loss of money.

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