Bob came in to refinance his home to pay for his daughter’s wedding. His wife requested that since he was going to refinance the house, he should consolidate her $20,000 unsecured revolving debt into the refinance as well. Although he paid for the house in his first marriage, when he remarried, he added his new wife’s name on the title.
In doing the refinance, it was mandatory that his banker pulls up the credit bureau for both. His wife was not happy for having to do that. Bob was in for a shock. His wife had over $75,000 in unsecured debt, most of it was given to help her son from a previous marriage. He had no knowledge of the state of her finances.
A similar incident occurred with Harry and his wife Carol. It was only after her death that he realised he was on the hook for over $50,000 worth of unsecured debt, accumulated from helping a dead-beat stepson over the years. With almost half of marriages ending in divorce, there are many blended families with a unique set of financial issues.
What to consider when thinking of remarriage
As our population ages, everything becomes redefined. Divorces are on the rise for people over the age of 50, but the good news is that many of these people are finding love again, and remarriages for people over 55 are also on the rise. As you settle into the second half of your life, you realise there are different considerations when entering into marriage again. The last thing you want is to have built your wealth on good financial habits only to have it taken down by someone who is loaded with debts. As uncomfortable as it may seem, you must schedule a time for a money conversation with your future partner. Pull up each other’s credit report and discuss plans to handle any negative credit information or debt. Also, discuss each other’s budgets.
People who remarry when their children are adults may be well established and may want to keep their financial affairs separate from each other. How a couple approaches their finances will be greatly influenced by the ages of the children when the couple decides to get together and also by different parenting styles: one may believe in helping their children, even when they become adults. The other may value independence. One parent may be having to pay child support whereas the other may not even have had any children. Some people decide to leave their jointly-owned home to their partner upon death but leave their investments to their own children.
Often both parties may not be at the same level of financial health when they enter a new relationship. One may enter with a great deal more assets than the other. One may be coming in with a massive debt load.
What if you each own a home? If you buy a home jointly with your new spouse and you die, the house automatically transfers to him. What happens when he dies? What about your children, will the proceeds go to his children?
Also, wills made in previous relationships need to be updated. What financial obligations does your new spouse have to their previous marriage(s)? Are they having to give up a substantial portion of their pensions to their exes? Are they separated or divorced?
There are many issues involved in remarriage. By carefully considering your current financial situation, talking to your spouse-to-be and taking prudent financial and legal steps, you can position yourself financially to protect your assets, yourself and your children regardless of how your marriage fares in the future. Don’t wait till after you are married to address them. It’s essential to understand where your partner stands on a variety of these issues to get a sense of your financial compatibility. Communication and transparency are key. Discuss your values, goals, and hopes for yourselves and for each other. How do you want to manage your finances in alignment with these?
Remarriage brings with it its own set of “baggage”. Financial woes can add to it, not to mention divided loyalties. Remarriage can also be another chance to get it right.
Jennifer Thompson is a Speaker, Consultant and Writer. She has worked in various areas of banking and finance for twenty years. By marrying esoteric ideas of money with the nuts and bolts of investing, she helps women through one on one coaching and seminars to navigate the world of finance with the purpose of enjoying life and abundance in every sense of the word.