As our population ages, everything becomes redefined. Divorces are on the rise for people over the age of 50, but the good news is that many of these people are finding love again, and remarriages for people over 55 are also on the rise. As people find love for the second time, there is the initial euphoria and then the reality that “this time it’s different” settles in.
You are no longer the young person with only hopes and dreams entering into a marriage. Oftentimes, you are someone who may have built a career, a family and wealth over your lifetime. As you settle into the next half of your life, you realize there are different considerations when entering into a marriage again.
The Finances: The last thing you want is to have built your wealth on good financial habits only to have it taken down (especially at a time when you need it preserved the most) by someone who is irresponsible with money or loaded down with debt. As uncomfortable as it may seem (a second divorce would be more uncomfortable), you must schedule time for a money conversation with your future partner. Pull up each other’s credit report and discuss plans to handle any negative credit information or debt. Also discuss each other’s budgets, current obligations, and promised obligations in the future such as funding college education for their children or grandchildren, supporting their kids or other relatives, paying alimony and taking care of elderly parents.
The Kids: Understand that although you may be happy and expect your adult children to understand and accept your choice, you are mom or dad, and you are seen in a very different light by your children. Your 30-year-old senior executive son known for being level headed may turn into a two-year old. Be prepared for the myriad of emotions your children may experience. If necessary, seek a family counselor to work through the emotions, but remember that ultimately this is your life and you have to make the best choice for you.
The Assets: Yours, mine or ours? Both of you have had decades to build substantial assets, and your children may have expectations as to what happens with those assets if you divorce or die. Consider working with an estate planning attorney to make sure your assets are divided in accordance to your expectations. This may be a prenuptial agreement that spells out exactly what happens to your assets in the event of divorce or death. It may clear up any confusion and put your kids at ease that they will not be shut out of an inheritance.
If you want to provide income for your new spouse in the event you pass away first but also want to leave assets to your children, consider working with an estate planning attorney on strategies such as setting up a Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP), known by many as a QTIP. You can setup a QTIP to pay a second spouse the income from investments and allow them to live in the home you may have had with your ex-spouse until the second spouse passes away. You can set it up so the second spouse will not be able to sell the assets. Once the second spouse passes away, your children can be named as the final beneficiaries.
The Income: Carefully evaluate you and your future spouse’s income to see how it may change if you marry. If you are receiving a pension from a spouse, either due to divorce or death, check with the company’s HR department to see if your pension changes if your remarry. If you are a widow or an ex-spouse eligible for a survivor ‘s Social Security benefit, you may become ineligible if you remarry before age 60.
After 60, you can generally remarry and still remain eligible for the benefit. If you are receiving retirement Social Security on your ex-spouse’s record, a remarriage can end your eligibility for the benefit, but you may be eligible for your current spouse’s benefit. Review your sources of income to assess and plan for any changes when you remarry.
Your Health: When you marry young, you typically marry “in sickness and in health” when both of you are healthy and you have no idea what the future health of your spouse may be. When you remarry at 50, it is oftentimes for “sicker and possibly even sicker.” Have an open discussion of past and current health problems as well as family health histories to prepare financially. Discuss what both of you have available to help with healthcare costs such as retiree healthcare plans, funds set aside in plans like a health savings account (HSA) that can help cover medical expenses, and long-term care insurance.
These are hard topics to discuss. They may be the last things you want to think about when it comes to remarriage. But in the long run, these discussions will go a long way to helping your second marriage start off on the right foot.