First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then come divorce and the blush of a new love, marriage again, and the host of financial issues that plague most couples the first and second (eighth, 10th) time around.
If you're lucky, you get it right for your first nuptials and live happily ever after. But even the most hopeless romantic can't ignore the staggering rate at which official couplings come apart.
So what comes between starry-eyed lovers and their long-term commitment? You guessed it: money.
Instead of belaboring the bad news, let money be the thing that brings you together and not the wedge that drives you to opposite ends of the house to fume. The first step is to talk openly about finances. Fellow Fool Robert Brokamp created a money-based version of The Newlywed Game to break the ice with his bride, which you can read here. Print it out, make some popcorn, and get ready for a fun (really!) conversation about money.
There are also key nuts-and-bolts moves that will smooth your financial transition into a second marriage.
- Disclose your finances to each other. (Yes, even that five-figure amount you owe to Mr. MasterCard.)
- Complete a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to identify the assets each of you is bringing to the marriage. It should also spell out who gets what, should your starry-eyed love flicker out or if one partner -- gulp -- dies.
- Set up a new family budget and determine how you'll pay your joint expenses.
- Decide how to title your joint assets. After all, you don't want your ex laying claim to your stuff at an inopportune time.
- Develop a new estate plan, including new wills, durable powers of attorney, living wills, health-care proxies, and trusts.
- Adjust your dependency exemption on your tax withholding and review your insurance coverage to make sure you have the proper life and disability coverage for additional dependents.
All this stuff is important whether it's your first or fifth marriage. But it's especially important for couples who have merged their money with another in the past.
Want to peek behind closed doors and see how other couples handle the money and marriage issue? Check out Couples & Cash: How to Handle Money With Your Honey. After all, nothing says "I love you" like coming home to a balanced checkbook.