Are you planning a second marriage? You've got company.
Consider these components to make your second marriage’s finances run smoothly:
1. Keep a personal account. If you've been single for a while, you're used to being on your own. Having a personal checking account and a debit card will allow you to transition into a financial partnership without feeling like you've disappeared.
2. Use a joint account for household expenses. To pay for things like mortgages, utilities, and food. If the house belongs to both of you so should the bills.
3. Don't keep too much separate. Having one person responsible for the water bill and the other taking care of the electricity is a recipe for trouble. Unless you have total control over incurring the expense, sooner or later you'll argue over the size of the bill.
4. Gradually blend your finances together. As time goes by, put more expenses into the “joint” category. Working together will strengthen your marriage.
5. Plan for a joint account shortage. Decide now what you’ll do if there's not enough money in the joint account to cover the bills. Will you borrow the money? Will you each contribute to the shortage? Will attempts be made to reduce future bills? By knowing what your plan is, you'll focus on it instead of playing the blame game.
6. Plan for windfalls. Discuss what you would do with any windfall money. Save it? Spend it? On what?
7. Set up spending rules. Determine levels where a purchase needs to be discussed with your spouse. You'll probably have one figure for joint expenses and another higher one for your personal money.
8. Discuss debt. Talk about any debts either of you bring to the marriage: how they’ll be paid and how to keep the other partner from becoming legally responsible for them.
9. Have a paycheck plan. Is your whole paycheck headed to the joint account, or only a portion of it? Decide this early on.
10. Account for differences in income. Discuss what you’re going to do if one person's income is significantly larger. Will they be expected to contribute more?
11. Have a conversation about gift giving. Make sure you're on the same page when it comes to buying gifts—not only for family, but for friends and co-workers as well.
12. Talk about charitable giving. Some consider donating to charity as an important part of life, while others may view it as unimportant or even foolhardy. Make sure you agree on how you'll handle charitable giving.
13. Clearly define who owns investment accounts. Are accounts brought to the marriage different than accounts created after the marriage? Do you have complete control over your own IRA and 401k? Or does your spouse have a say in the investments and beneficiaries?
14. Talk about your money style. Each of us has a unique relationship to money. We've been affected by our life experiences and our belief system. You don't have to completely agree with each other, but it is good to understand how your spouse makes his or her decisions.
15. Plan for the long term. Discuss where you'd like to be financially in five and 10 years. These long-term goals are important to you as individuals and as a couple.
16. Discuss inheritances. This is especially important if you have children from your previous marriage. Avoid fights among the half-siblings after your passing by telling them about your plans.
17. Plan to modify your system. It's unlikely you'll get everything right the first time. Schedule a time to revisit these issues sometime in the near future. That way, you can fix any problems before they become major issues for your marriage.
18. Accept your differences. Part of the reason you love your spouse is that he or her is a little different than you, and that extends to their finances. Unless those differences threaten to ruin your finances, find ways to limit any damage and learn to live with your spouse.
Some of these topics may be difficult to discuss. But the sooner you explore these topics and work to resolve disagreements the stronger your marriage will be.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com. The site features thousands of articles including second marriage finances.