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Merging Money

Kathleen M. Rehl  |  November 5, 2018

I TIED THE KNOT again—at age 71. Four years into widowhood, I met Charlie online. Also widowed, he and I began dating cautiously, each respectful of our late spouses and those marriages, as well as our adult children and grandchildren.

We also focused on financial and legal issues. We knew from experience, and from research we had read, that financial disagreements can derail love. In an international survey of  widows and money, women shared advice about re-partnering: Talking about money matters was essential before remarriage, so as not to be blindsided later.

Here are 10 vital questions that Charlie and I used to delve into financial issues before our marriage last August. If you’re contemplating a new relationship, possibly including remarriage, these money talks may also benefit you:

  1. How will we make decisions about money, such as spending, saving, handling debt and budgeting?
  2. Who pays for what? Will we use, say, a joint credit card or checking account for shared expenses?
  3. Will we live together fulltime or keep separate homes?
  4. If we live together fulltime, whose place will we choose? Or should we move into a new home?
  5. What are our plans for retirement? If already retired, what retirement lifestyle does each of us desire?
  6. Will we merge our investments or hold them separately?
  7. How will we handle it if one of us earns substantially less than the other or has fewer financial assets?
  8. What about health issues and potential costs down the road? How will we navigate those?
  9. What financial responsibilities are we willing to take on for our children or aging parents?
  10. How do each of us feel about a prenuptial agreement?

Communicating honestly about money with your partner can deepen your relationship as a couple. I know it worked for Charlie and me.

Observe how your partner deals with money before you broach the subject. Where to begin? Perhaps start with, “I’ve been thinking about my financial future lately. I’d like both of us to talk about that, as we look toward our future together.”

Rather than jumping into all 10 questions right away, find a time when you’re both relaxed and undistracted. Maybe it’s after dinner on Sunday night, enjoying your favorite beverage in a quiet spot. Try to express yourself clearly and calmly, keeping your first money talk brief, preferably no more than 30 minutes. Then try another talk the following week.

You’ll learn what’s negotiable and what isn’t for both you and your partner. In certain situations, is there room for collaboration? How about an alternative approach that feels comfortable for both of you? Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all perfect way for a couple to handle their finances.

Kathleen M. Rehl retired from financial planning in 2013 and now focuses on speaking, writing and doing research that empowers widows. She authored the award-winning book, Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows. Kathleen walks an hour most days, practices gentle yoga and enjoys writing poetry. You can learn more at www.KathleenRehl.com.

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