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How to Deal with Money Problems in a Blended Family

Updated on February 20, 2017
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Sadie Holloway has been a proud stepmother for over 25 years. She writes about blended family issues and modern family dynamics.

Are you going to be getting married to someone with kids from a previous relationship? Are you bringing kids from a previous marriage into your new marriage? Here are some tips and suggestions for how stepfamilies and remarried partners can discuss money issues and overcome common financial problems.

No matter how big or small your family is, don't go to the grocery store without a budget and detailed shopping list.
No matter how big or small your family is, don't go to the grocery store without a budget and detailed shopping list.

5 things that smart couples talk about when developing financial plans and savings goals:

  • Life insurance and estate planning
  • Living arrangements: Should you buy, rent, or live in a house that was once shared with an ex-spouse?
  • Vacation plans: How often will you go on vacation?
  • Spousal support obligations: How much and how long?
  • Paying for the kids' education

Blending your finances together with a previously married man or woman can improve your joint cash flow situation. Or it can cause stress, grief, and endless arguments about money. Talking about how the two of you want to spend money and save money now that you're part of a stepfamily is critical to your financial success. You need to think and act like a team working towards the same goals.

Financial expert Andrew Housser from Bills.com sees marriage as a team effort, especially when it comes to handling money. "Every wedding drafts two people into a team," Housser says. "Money disagreements can make an end run around a solid partnership. But with some sound coaching, couples can play to win on the financial field." This is smart money advice for newlyweds who want to start their life together on solid financial ground.

Recognize that every team is made up of individual people. Housser says, "In life, always following a plan can result in frustration -- that's human nature. Whatever the budget, couples should plan for each person to have some money they can spend on anything they want, without coaching or criticism from their partner.” If one of the partners in the stepfamily doesn’t have biological kids of his/her own, the freedom to spend a mutually agreed upon amount of money taking care of personal needs is essential. If a partner feels that all of his or her income is going towards support her partner’s kids (and by proxy her partner’s ex-spouse), resentment can start to build up. Successful stepfamilies allow each member of the family to have the freedom to pursue both personal and mutual goals.

Focus on developing each others’ strengths and providing support where it’s needed. The strongest teams are the one’s that celebrate each team members strengths. Managing your money as a new blended family is no different. If one of you is an expert at clipping coupons and spotting smart ways to save money at the grocery store, then let that person take charge of the family food budget. If one of you is a whizz when it comes to creating spreadsheets and diligently entering data, then it makes sense to let that person take care of tracking the household cash flow. The important thing to remember when planning your financial future together is that you are both bright, creative, intelligent beings.

No matter how you decide on dividing up the financial tasks, Housser recommends that couples check in at least once a month so that you are both fully aware of how your financial plan is progressing. This isn’t just a smart money tip for financially savvy couples. It’s also a good tip for strengthening your marriage and keeping the lines of communication open.

At the end of the day, you are in this together. Don't spend so much time worrying about money that you forget to have fun.
At the end of the day, you are in this together. Don't spend so much time worrying about money that you forget to have fun.

Play by the same rules is you want to win as a team. To make sure that each of you is heading towards the same financial goal post, identify your mutual values and then make the best money choices you can to support those common goals. Sit down together and come up with a list of your top priorities as a newly blended household. Do you want to buy a new home together? Are you eager to take a family vacation together? Will one of your stepkids be heading off to college soon?

Housser says that "Planning how to use your money -- instead of letting your money run your life -- allows every team to move down the field of life toward their goals. And that's clearly a win-win situation, for you and for your marriage."

Do you plan on blending your bank accounts when you get married?

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© 2017 Sadie Holloway

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