Open communication and detailed planning can help love to blossom and endure
While the Beatles sang the line, "all you need is love," it is no secret that it takes more than emotion to create a successful partnership. This may be even truer for those finding love later in life. Coupling up in later years comes with both financial and nonfinancial considerations that people (especially those nearing retirement age) need to understand and appreciate.
Defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, there are roughly 77 million Baby Boomers, according to U.S. Census data. U.S. adults ages 50 and older have found themselves on their own due to factors related to death or divorce, with divorcees ages 65 and up reaching six people per 1,000 married persons in 2015. Amid this newly single demographic, another trend has emerged: more single Baby Boomers are (still) giving love a chance by finding romance after they turn 65. Whether or not they decide to walk down the aisle, there are considerations, both financial and non-financial, to consider. By striking the right balance, those in their golden years can protect what they have built while providing for a new spouse or partner.
An honest discussion about financial matters is key to relationship success
For starters, couples thinking about marriage need an intentionally open and honest conversation about their individual relationships to money. Skipping this conversation at the very start of a serious romance could spell disaster down the road. In 2009, the National Institutes for Health released a study that found that regardless of a family's financial bracket, money often served as a primary source of strife in the home. The study also noted that finances served as a backdrop for constant conflict, even outpacing couples' expectations surrounding intimacy.
One way couples can face this issue head on is with honesty upfront about their past experiences with money, and what they hope to give and receive financially to the new relationship.
Asking one another questions about monthly debts and obligations, potential credit pitfalls, or whether or not you intend to live modestly or lavishly can help both parties when it is time to craft a financial plan that benefits the individuals and the couple.
Other financial topics that couples need to make sure they have a clear picture about include:
Marriage may have an impact on your income taxes: A married couple’s tax filing status brings with it different brackets and taxes than that for a single filer. The actual financial impact may be felt at both state and federal levels, and should be discussed and considered before a decision to marry. Speaking with a financial professional to determine the impact on your personal financial scenario is a way to gain an understanding about what is expected and what to anticipate when the tax man comes calling.
Will your income sources be affected?: Social Security, pensions and alimony – each of these sources of income may have provisions that a later marriage could change. It is important to understand the conditions of each income source. In the case of alimony, for example, an ex-spouse’s obligation to pay alimony may stop when the former spouse re-marries. With Social Security, a later marriage may provide survivor benefits, or replace existing benefits.
Develop a joint plan for healthcare and long-term care as you age: A new partner may make you feel young, but making a plan for how you intend to age as a couple is a prudent choice that will serve you both (and your families) in the long run. Taking stock about how you visualize the aging process can include discussing whether or not you prefer to move to a facility or age in place in your current home and can take some of the guesswork out of making difficult decisions under pressure in the event of illness.
Estate planning should be an inclusive, transparent process: If the marriage is not the first for one or both parties, chances are each family has an estate to consider and separate heirs to keep in mind. One of the easiest ways to ensure this occurs with the fullest transparency possible is to set up a meeting with an estate planning attorney to discuss the matter and, if necessary, to update any wills to include the new spouse. A family estate conversation has potential for a high-intensity, contentious battle, but, whenever possible, ensure all parties involved and mentioned in the changes are present for the discussion. If there is family disagreement, an estate planning attorney can also recommend a mediator to help family members seek open, honest communication about the matter.
After the couple has reached a sound agreement on where they stand with each financial matter (including taxes) a logical next step is to seek professional help to get things in writing. By reaching out to a financial planner or counselor to solidify the agreed-upon plan, the couple can rest assured that they are not only in agreement about the issues, but that they place faith in one another as well as their joint decisions regarding finances.
Non-financial considerations can play an equally important role in ensuring a harmonious relationship
Couples who are joining together after having lived independently for an extended period need to expect a learning curve for creating unity under one roof. Practical matters such as merging households can be stressful endeavors without proper communication. If both partners are set in their ways right down to where they put their toothbrush in a shared bathroom, those logistics merit discussion and, wherever possible, compromise. It will also be critical to get a sense of expectations about one another's habits, such as cleaning and organizing the home, or to discuss individual outside activities and how each person intends to spend their leisure time together.
Similarly, honesty about family, past, and outside relationships and how to continue them will avoid potential tension in the long run.
For example, if the newlywed husband wants to spend time with his grandchildren once a week, and those visits include sleepovers, giving the newlywed wife a heads up and getting her blessing is probably a solid strategy.
The good news is that once these difficult conversations have been had, and details have been agreed upon, there is a likelihood that couples will be able to "set it and forget it" for the most part. This means that couples choosing to get married after 65 can (hopefully) settle in and enjoy the adventures that come with life's twilight.