Start with communication
To stave off that conflict, communication is key. Explore with each other what financial beliefs you hold; for example, are you a natural saver or would you rather “live for today"? Talk about the tough stuff, such as how to cover stepchildren's costs. After all, 63%2 of remarriages include stepchildren.
Let's say the wife makes more than the husband. If both spouses have children from a previous relationship, will the wife's kids get better clothes, computers, and vacations? Or will you decide to spread the support evenly between all the children? Be honest about what feels fair. Otherwise, you risk allowing resentments to fester.
Set up a budget
Take a look at all your income and track your spending for a few weeks to get a sense of your household expenses. Then create a budget to make sure you don't overspend, especially in the early days of making a new home together.
Don't forget to include savings and paying down your debt. Again, have a frank conversation about how to handle these sensitive issues. It's important to tackle your credit card debt, for example, but if one spouse is debt-free, it might be unrealistic to expect him or her to share that burden.
Establish three (yes, three) bank accounts
It's easier logistically to just have one checking account between the two of you, but this approach can lead to arguments down the line.
Instead, open one account for shared household expenses, and keep a separate account for each spouse. Each of you will contribute to the shared account, but you'll pay for individual costs separately. This gives you the freedom to spend some of your income on what you're accustomed to without needing to change or justify your habits (no need to give up your spa days or specialty coffees).
Contributing to the shared account can be split evenly, but it makes more sense to base it on a percentage that mirrors how much you make. For example, say Spouse A makes $2,000/month while Spouse B makes $4,000/month, and your expenses total $2,400/month. In this case, Spouse A would contribute half of what Spouse B puts in, because they make half as much: one would deposit $800 to the shared account each month, and the other would cover the remaining $1,600.
Give it time
No matter how much you communicate up front, there's sure to be financial wrinkles you didn't anticipate. That's okay. The right arrangement is the one that works for you. Expect to return to these issues on a regular basis, perhaps adjusting your expectations and agreements as often as every few months. As long as you remain honest, understanding, and patient, you'll be on the road to a successful financial partnership.
Stop by your local Synovus branch to learn more about opening checking accounts for your new family.