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4 Money Tips for Second Marriages

AARP's financial ambassador and her husband keep their finances separate — and why you might, too

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Alvaro Dominguez

My husband, Eliot, and I will soon celebrate our 10-year anniversary. Our marriage, the second for each of us, resembles our first ones. But it’s different in one very big way: We have not merged our money.

At first this seemed appropriate. We came to the marriage with different incomes and assets, and our obligations didn’t match. He was putting his children through college. I hadn’t hit that expense yet.

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A decade later, though, we’ve made some changes. And what I’ve learned might make managing money easier if you’re remarrying, or even marrying for the first time.

A prenup is no big deal

Really. A few months before our wedding, we wrote up what we thought was a fair division of our assets, should we split up. From that, a lawyer drafted a prenuptial agreement. It’s been in a drawer ever since — a $2,000 insurance policy that says what he came into the relationship with goes to his kids and what I arrived with goes to mine.

Systems reduce strife

Constant negotiating about who pays what bill or how household costs will be split is enough to stress any couple. Instead, find a systematic way to cover regular costs. Eliot and I set up a household account into which we each contribute an equal percentage of our monthly incomes. We also got a joint credit card, funded from that house account, mainly because I got sick of deciding whose turn it was to pay for dinner.

I know there are other ways to go. As I learned while researching my forthcoming book, Women with Money, some remarried women do all money jointly; some do all separately.

Want more advice? Read previous columns from Jean Chatzky.

Sometimes you need help

Last February, Eliot retired from his day job. Figuring out if he/we could afford it meant asking some big questions, such as whether he could still wait until age 70 to tap Social Security. Consulting a financial adviser helped us figure it out. The adviser also helped us sync up our various investments. You need a joint strategy that takes both your ages and retirement dates into account.

Finally, keep an open mind

Nowadays, I — once hell-bent on protecting “my” money — am thinking about merging our finances. My anxiety has abated, and I think the move will make it easier to manage our accounts. Eliot, however, is not quite convinced. Maybe by anniversary 15?

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