Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage
Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage has triumphantly summed up all aspects of remarriage that involves money which makes it not only a must-read for every remarried couple but also a must-keep in their libraries. The principles behind every tips and advice are timeless and are applicable today as they were 20 years ago and will still be applicable 20 years more.
Every stage in a remarriage has a financial aspect to it. Early stage has decisions on pre-nuptial agreements and merging households. Middle stage has issues on money management, on having a new baby, and on former financial obligations. And late stage has concerns on estate planning, health care and retirement. Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage has a chapter or two for all these stages and financial aspects.
Patricia Estess, who is an extensive author on money and family topics, provided practical advice on how to resolve issues and make informed decisions in every aspect. Every tips and advice are detailed, specific, and true-to-life.
Delivered in a fresh and conversational tone, every chapter is sprinkled with anecdotes of more than 100 real remarried couples (including that of Estess’) who “have been there” and how they have come up with their own creative solutions. Although not every solution is for everyone, these anecdotes will give insight and encouragement to readers who are undergoing the same situation that although financial problems are inevitable, they are still manageable.
Estess jumpstarted the book with the two essential building blocks of successful money management in every remarriage: trust and communication.
Trust means being open and honest about your financial beliefs and situation to your spouse, especially in the early years of your remarriage. It’s about sharing financial information with each other and feeling safe how each person handles money.
Like anything that is of value, trust takes time to build. Patricia Estess reviews the five stages of trust most remarrieds go through which are first identified by Anita and Edward Metzen, who are also remarrieds and researchers in the field.
- The Rose-Colored Glasses Stage. Money talk seems crass or unimportant because the strength of love will handle everything (naivete) or there will be no money conflicts (ignorance).
- The Don’t-Rock-the-Boat Stage. Feelings of resentment or anger surface but aren’t voiced out.
- The Lay-It-On-the-Table Stage. Couples painfully express their concerns to each other.
- The Getting-It-Together Stage. The couple has arrived at a mutually agreed upon lifestyle and has established an effective method of handling finances and making financial decisions.
- The Achieving Stability Stage. The couple really reels in control of finances and has integrated perspectives.
Each of the couple comes into a remarriage with their own financial beliefs and styles of handling money. But it doesn’t mean that conflicts in style will create problems, the problem lies on how the conflict is handled. Here is where communication comes in. Communicating clearly and frequently creates and widens the middle ground for trust. The act of sharing confidentialities strengthens the bonds of love.
Estess warned about financial hot buttons and gave practical strategies on how to diffuse them and have more productive conversations about money. She also suggested that refusal to talk about financial issues is more destructive because this erodes trust.
Estess then dived into specific financial topics that remarried couples encounter in the early stages of their marriage. This includes drawing up a prenuptial agreement and deciding whether to move in or to buy a new a house.
According to Estess, even if a prenuptial pact is not for everyone, the prenuptial process is. Talking about finances before the wedding cultivates trust and encourages productive communication. Learning about each other’s finances would reveal problems that can be prevented or resolved early on. Whether it is an actual prenuptial agreement or a simple prenuptial conversation, it must be in a spirit of fairness, love and respect built on a foundation of openness and trust.
On deciding where to live, Estess said there is no universally right place to live, but it’s important to develop your own identity as a couple in the house that reflects the two of you.
Though buying a new house and starting fresh would be ideal, the couple must consider if they can afford it, who will pay for the mortgage, whose name should the property be in, will it be near the school and work, and will they be able to sell their old houses soon.
On the other hand, moving in and merging households may give uncomfortable feelings to the new comer and territorial feelings to the in-residence family members. Estess provided creative ways on how to counter these feelings and make the process of blending easier. Some of these include shuffling bedrooms, redecorating together with children, and bringing the new comer’s own furniture in.
Deeper and deeper into the book, the topics are getting more and more detailed and technical as Estess discussed how to set up a money management system that works and how to tough out financial troubles.
She laid out the ABCs of Money Management, which pertains to Accounts, Budget and Chores. In the accounts part, the couple must decide whether they will have individual or joint bank accounts, or a combination of both. They must achieve a comfortable balance between their individual needs for independence and autonomy and their commitment to the common good of the remarriage.
The couple must also do a regular budget overview, which is a glimpse on how much they are earning and how much they are spending. This tool helps the couple in dealing with more financial decisions such as going on a vacation, sending a child to a private college, or venturing into a new business. In the event their spending or earning changes dramatically, they will know with confidence which pieces of the puzzle to move.
Financial chores like paying bills, filling out forms, preparing the papers, and hustling with the credit card company should also be shared by the couple. For those who have little time or love for details, Estess gives creative approaches on how to make the tasks simpler and easier.
What if there is not enough money? How would they allocate limited resources? How would they handle the times of financial emergencies? Two common choices available to all couples when it comes to financial troubles are to spend less or to earn more. Estess included ten smart ideas on pruning expenses which can also be used by those who don’t need it. When it comes to earning, the couple has options to look for promotion opportunities, take a second job, or start a low-capital business.
Remarried couples have an additional option to go after a biological parent who is not providing the agreed-upon support. If the couple experiencing financial crisis are the support-payers, they can request for a reduction of the support.
Success during the rough times depends on the depth of the couple’s commitment to each other. A financial crisis can destroy relationships, but they can also solidify them.
Estess then tackles financial decisions involving other people in the couple’s lives. First of which involves having a new person in their lives, their own baby. One of the major considerations when deciding whether to have a new baby is money. Estess enumerated the steps to take before or when the “ours” child arrive which includes beefing up the emergency fund, updating and increasing insurance, claiming extra withholding allowance, starting an education fund and reviewing the estate plan.
Former spouse and children also involves a lot of money concerns. Some of which are: What if you can’t pay what you owe to your former spouse? Is the spouse with more money always makes the decision about children when money is involved? What to tell children about family’s finances? What to do with issue of fairness with the children? Is a stepparent responsible for a stepchild? What to do when stepgrandparents only prefer giving gifts to their grandchildren and not to stepgrandchildren?
As there are many variations to the complexities of remarriages when it comes to extended families and obligations, there are also as much solutions. Estess gave a few ideas on how to handle each case and encouraged remarried couples to build on them to come up with creative solutions to their unique situations. Because they are now in a remarriage, with a focus on the “re,” they are now more knowledgeable and more flexible in searching for solutions than they were in their first marriage.
Estess then covered financial considerations during the later stages of life such as marrying later in life and the estate planning process. Others might think that marrying later in life has less worry than marrying early. But that is not usually the case. Late remarriages are usually met with questions like “What if she is only marrying me for the money?” and “What happens if I pass away first?” and “What will the children say?”
Couples marrying at a later part of their lives should talk about their finances early on and continuously throughout the remarriage. Women usually worry about what they are giving up when they remarry. This may include alimony, career, Social Security or pension benefits, or an adult child’s emotional or financial support. Health care would also be a common subject and the couple can discuss health insurance, health care plans and drafting a prenuptial agreement to lessen the worries of health problems. When deciding on where to live, late remarrieds have the option to move to a simpler and less expensive house if they are living a simpler lifestyle especially because this part of life is usually a low-income-high-cost part.
At remarrying age, couples already know the value of estate planning. They already have acquired assets and they know they are not getting any younger. Still only a few do the actual process of estate planning.
According to Estess, you have done parts of estate planning without even knowing it. Assigning a beneficiary of your life insurance, having money in the bank as a trust for your children, signing child custody agreement, and drafting pre-nuptial agreements and wills are already considered estate planning. To some, these might be enough. But others, especially those with large properties and complex family history, require a more comprehensive approach.
To kick start your estate planning process, Estess suggested thinking about who should get which of your properties after you are gone. She recommends making a worksheet of your family members, properties and your estate planning goals. This can save you time and money when you actually see an estate planner and ensure that the system you created is aligned with your goals.
Estess also advised to be alert of changes in your circumstances that may require you to update or revise your estate plan. She also brushed on keeping the important documents relating to your estate plan in safe places and making a list of where these documents are so as to make it easier for the executor to find them when the time comes.
As a bonus to the readers, Estess devoted a chapter on a financial action plan for newlyweds. It is a to-do list that remarrieds should do right before or right after marriage to have a better and more successful financial course. Here are some of them:
- Establish a joint bank account (if applicable).
- Rent a safe-deposit box in joint name (for important documents).
- Rethink your tax situation and make necessary adjustments
- Review insurance coverage – life, disability, car and home.
- Change beneficiary designations on life insurance, pension or profit sharing plans and bank accounts.
- Coordinate medical and hospital benefits.
- Reevaluate investments.
- Sift through financial files.
In conclusion, Estess revealed what she thought were the four secrets of every successful remarried couple she interviewed for the book:
- They are tenacious about problem-solving.
- They communicate and negotiate.
- They subscribe to the philosophy of “what’s important to you is important to me.”
- They have been determined to make the marriage work because they care deeply about one another.
Every remarried couple will face more than one financial issues covered in this book. After breaking through every issue, they will emerge stronger, with a renewed feeling that they can overcome any obstacles life may throw at them. Having Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage as their guide will make every breakthrough more possible.
Review completed by Richie Montalbo, Certified Public Accountant
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