Money symbolizes power and control not only in our society, but also our personal relationships. In stepfamilies, money often becomes a rather complex matter. It represents the level of commitment, trust, and unity between spouses. You probably have experienced some frustration over disproportionate gifts, perhaps from extended family, being given to children and inciting discontent over the recognition over their disparate value/desirability. Here are some steps to avoid similar strife.
- Clarify to yourself and your spouse what money means to you. What were the messages in your home when you were growing up regarding money? What do you still presently hold that is helpful or harmful?
- Define which assets stay separate and make it legal in order to better protect yourself and your children from the unfortunate possibility of a future divorce.
- Decide how present cash flow is managed in the family, especially if there is a wide gap of income between you and your spouse.
- Develop a joint financial plan that is in the best interest of your stepfamily. You may want to investigate some budget templates to guide you through the process.
- Treat children equally. Secure a mutually consistent approach to the children. Your extended families must be informed that discriminating between your biological children and your stepchildren is not acceptable to you, as it may undermine your family cohesiveness and contribute to some children feeling hurt and rejected.
- Share expenses based on equal income percentages rather than a dollar amount when your income is different from one another.
- Remember that your attitude towards shared and separate money represents your perceptions, hopes, and fears regarding your marriage.