Marriage after 50 is, in a lot of ways, the same as marriage before 50 – with one or two exceptions; namely, you may be entering the union with children, bulky retirement accounts, and other assets, like houses.
In that case, you should take some time to think about what you have, and what you’d want to hold on to if the union goes belly-up. You may even want to consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement (no, they’re not just for celebrities). Planning ahead reduces the chances of catastrophic financial ruin. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If your future partner also has assets he or she wants to protect, the idea of a pre-nup shouldn’t cause much strife.
Beyond that, the general pre-marriage financial housekeeping is the same. Mainly:
Talk money. You need to ask the following questions about your beloved’s financial life. What do you own? What do you earn? What do you owe? And what do you spend? These are personal questions, I hear you arguing. You’re darn right they’re personal and so is marriage. And not being willing to share this information with the person you’ve chosen to share your life is the leading reason that so many marriages end up in divorce. Why? If your spouse-to-be has a lot of undisclosed debt (and the shaky credit report that goes with it) that’s not information you want to learn only when you apply for the mortgage on that house and are denied.
Talk tactics. Before the wedding you should have discussed how you’re going to merge your finances. Will you keep separate accounts, have one joint account, or use a combination of both? I’m a fan of this last approach, because it gives you some autonomy but also allows you to work together to handle the joint household expenses and save for your goals.
Talk benefits. In fact, do more than talk. If you’re still working, you and your soon to be spouse should conduct a benefits audit to figure out if it makes sense for you to swap your singles health plans for a family plan from one of your employers. This swap works well, particularly if one spouse works at a company where the employee contribution is small. You could save hundreds of dollars this way, and all it takes is a quick meeting with your HR department during your company’s next open enrollment.
Talk costs. You should also look at everything else that you pay for separately and see if those things can be bundled. If you didn’t live together before you walked down the aisle, you’re going to now, and that means one rent or mortgage payment instead of two, and a significant decrease in utilities. You may want to get a joint cell phone plan, so you can share minutes and talk to each other for free, or start commuting together if it’s convenient to save on gas (heck, you might even be able to get rid of a car, depending on where you live and how much you drive).
Talk retirement savings. At the very least, you should add your new spouse as your account beneficiary. That way, if you die, the money in those accounts will go to him or her. The beneficiary designation on your retirement accounts overrules your will. You should also think about your investment strategy as a combined effort, even though you hold separate retirement accounts. Try to diversify your investments not only within your individual accounts, but also between each other’s accounts. By having different asset allocations, you’ll at least reduce the risk of both portfolios taking a huge hit at the same time.