Ah June. The weather can be lovely at this time of year, and there was a time when many young couples longed to hear the sound of wedding bells as the summer approached. But who says that love and weddings are only for the young? According to the U.S. Census, there are now more older married couples than there are younger married couples, and while one reason for this is that men are living longer, many people are actually meeting, falling in love, and choosing to get married over 50. There could be multiple reasons for this: more people are putting off marriage, more LGBTQ couples are deciding to take advantage of their relatively new ability to marry, and the divorce rate has been rising for decades, meaning there are more older singles looking for new relationships. This last reason might account for a lot of later-in-life marriages: Pew Research has found that around 53% of divorced people over 55 are remarried, including 67% of those ages 55-64.
Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided to get married later in life, congratulations! But along with all of the emotional considerations that go into the decision to tie the knot, there are also a lot of more practical things that you need to think about before you walk down the aisle. You’ll need to:
Be Open About Your Finances
A big part of love is trust, and being open and honest with each other, right? Well, that’s just as true for your finances as it is for your feelings. You might have more savings and assets now than you did in your 20s, but you might also have more financial baggage – and your future spouse should know about it all. Take the time to go over both of your debts, assets, divorce agreements, and credit scores.
Knowing all of this will ensure that you’re both prepared for what’s to come, and it could impact some of the big decisions you make together; for example, if your fiancé has bad credit, you could have trouble buying a house so you’d need to be clear on where you’ll live as a married couple. Or, if your fiancé has a comfortable retirement income but is saddled with debt, if they died, you would end up with the debt minus the income. In this case, you’d want to look into a good life insurance policy that names you as a beneficiary.
In addition, you’ll want to have an open discussion about how to handle your joint finances, especially if you’re set in your financial ways or have young children from a previous marriage to take care of. Decide how you’ll share savings, bank accounts, paychecks, bill payments, investments, and any expenses related to your children. Consider having both a joint account and your own separate accounts so that neither of you feel like you’re losing your financial freedom!
Examine the Effect of Marriage on Your Taxes and Other Finances
Marriage can be a beautiful thing. It can also be financially advantageous, giving you tax, insurance, and social security benefits. But in some cases it can actually have a negative effect on your finances. For example, if you receive alimony or child support from a previous marriage, you could end up losing those benefits when you remarry. Marriage can also negatively impact your social security payments, especially if you didn’t work while previously married and are currently claiming spousal benefits that are significantly higher than what you would get on your own.
When it comes to taxes, marriage can really help couples who have very different incomes, but couples who are both high earners could be hit with a “marriage penalty,” meaning they would pay more when filing jointly than they would individually. All of this is not to say you shouldn’t get married; you just need to be fully aware of how your finances could change once you’re hitched.
Plan Your Estate
As you enter into a new marital relationship, estate planning is essential, especially if you have children from a previous marriage. You might think that your assets would be passed on to your children if you die, but this isn’t necessarily so. In fact, in many states, spouses are automatically entitled to up to half of your assets, and, if you want to pass on some specific assets to other parties, in many cases you’ll have to have your spouse sign a notarized beneficiary form. Make sure you update all of the following, and are clear about who the beneficiaries are and how much you want each to get:
- Your will
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
- Investment funds
- Any other financial accounts
Decide if You Want a Prenup
We’re so glad you’ve found your true love and we certainly don’t want to bring you down, but unfortunately, you do need to think about all possibilities. You should have a clear plan in case of divorce or death, and a prenuptial agreement might be just the thing to put both of your minds at ease. A prenuptial agreement, or prenup, is a written contract that you both voluntarily agree to that specifies how assets will be divided if you do end up getting divorced.But you don’t need to think about a prenup as a preparation for divorce; a prenup can be a great way to strengthen your will, and make sure your estate is passing to the right people. After all, in many states, your new spouse can claim an “elective share” of your assets in place of what they were left in your will. A prenup will ensure that your spouse cannot challenge your will, and that you get to make all of the decisions about how your assets will be divided ahead of time. According to Christine M. Searle, certified internal auditor and owner of Searle Business Solutions, “If you don’t have certain things arranged, the state gets to make decisions for you and that’s like dying without a will.”
Be Clear About Your Medical Wishes
End-of-life care is also an unpleasant topic to have to talk about, or even think about, but it’s another one that you should discuss with your partner before you get married. Many people assume that their spouse will automatically be able to make any decisions about their medical care should they be unable to do so themselves, but that isn’t necessarily true. Without an advance health directive that spells out your wishes, there’s no guarantee that your new spouse will be able to direct your doctor about your care.
According to Kelley C. Long, CPA, a Chicago financial planner with Financial Finesse, “You need to be very clear in writing what your wishes are so your new spouse and your adult children don’t end up at odds over your care.” As with all of the considerations we’ve looked at above, the most important thing is to be clear, open and honest about your wishes, and speak with the whole of your newly extended family about how you want both financial and medical decisions handled.
Whether you’ve got a second (or third!) chance at love, or you’re embarking on this journey for the first time, there’s no doubt that it’s an exciting time. Enjoy it! Take this time to feel like a kid again – but don’t forget to deal with all the grown-up stuff surrounding your new marriage!