In the past, divorce and remarriage were something that people seriously frowned on. Now, however, step-parents are just as common as biological ones. This is not necessarily “right,” or “wrong,” but you should be aware that a blended family can make approaching finance with your kids a little more challenging.
Here’s how you can work out some of the kinks:
Have a meeting.
In a blended family, you can have as many as four parents who are, on some level, responsible for teaching money. Think of yourself like a financial board and get together on a regular basis (for instance, once a month) to talk. Discuss things like what you see your child doing with allowance money, goals he’s setting, who should buy what on the child’s behalf and how often, or whether it’s time to set up a bank account. The big point to drive home here is that all members of the “board” need to be in agreement about what will be taught, when, and how. There shouldn’t be any undermining of the primary money goals—stress that any pettiness needs to get set aside for the sake of your child and that he, under no circumstances, is a pawn. Some financial experts even recommend that you put the decisions the “board” comes up with into a legally binding document.
Be upfront about financial assistance.
Alimony and child support are relatively standard in mixed families, but you also can run into cases where things are much more complicated, such as if one parent loses a job and has to be on unemployment or other state or federal assistance. Although you might be tempted to hide this, don’t. These types of changes affect what you have available to invest with or for your child, and the other parents will need to know if you can’t make payments for some reason so they can make their own financial plans for your child’s care and education.
Look closely at inheritance and your trust and bank account options.
In the United States, if you have no will, then typically, your spouse (or registered domestic partner) or blood relatives inherit your assets. This means that if you and your partner aren’t married or registered, you typically won’t inherit assets your partner has that you are expecting. That can make a difference in what you have available for a child. Additionally, if you have a child when you aren’t married, usually, that child will inherit through the mother. Stepchildren, unless they are legally adopted, generally aren’t included in the definition of children for inheritance, either. If you do have a will, it can clarify what assets you want each child to have. Trusts and bank accounts solely in your child’s name can either keep assets out of your estate or limit the number of people who have access to them, keeping them protected and out of any intermarriage or interrelationship drama.
Use the same or similar resources.
Whether you’re using chore charts, Bankaroo, books or other tools, the use of those tools should be consistent across the board. This provides some familiarity for your child and simplifies the learning process. The caveat here is that you don’t necessarily want to duplicate. For example, your child doesn’t necessarily need a piggy bank at your house and your ex’s house.
Watch your budget.
Budgeting in a mixed family is more important simply because larger families have more expenses to cover. It costs more to feed four children, for example, than it does to feed two. Involve your child in this budgeting process so they understand the complexities of the household expenditures and income, and so they can grasp why you can or cannot give them certain things.