FamilyLife Blended® Podcast

136: Help Me with My Finances

with Gayla Grace, Greg Pettys | April 22, 2024
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Help for your finances! Money matters can be a hot topic for blended families, creating strife and inequity if not handled well. Listen in as Ron Deal speaks with Gayla Grace and financial expert Greg Pettys about how couples can make wise decisions on financial issues that benefit all members of their blended family.

Gain insight from listener questions such as: Should my spouse and I carry separate bank accounts? How do we spend our money equitably with “his and her” kids? Why do blended families need to do estate planning? What budgeting tools do you recommend? How do we share our resources? And more great topics applicable to every blended family.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Ron Deal

    Ron L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series of books including the bestselling Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages® and Becoming Stepfamily Smart (with Dr. Gary Chapman), The Smart Stepfamily: 7 Steps to a Healthy Family, and Preparing to Blend. Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist, popular conference speaker, and host of the FamilyLife Blended podcast. He and his wife, Nan, have three sons and live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Learn more at

Money matters can be a hot topic for blended families, creating strife and inequity if not handled well. Ron Deal speaks with Greg Pettys & Gayla Grace about how couples can make wise decisions on finances that benefit all members of their blended family.

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136: Help Me with My Finances

With Gayla Grace, Greg Pettys
April 22, 2024
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Greg: What does fair mean to you? Many people are in the “fair means equal” mentality, but really the more I hear from other couples, like my own family, I think about equitable instead of equal. What is equitable? Does my special needs child need one sixth? No, that would disqualify him from State of Ohio Medicaid and Social Security. Okay, so I have to do something different for him that's not exactly equal, but it's perfect for what he needs So the question is, what do the children need? One child may need more money where another child just needs to have more attention.

Ron: Welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We help blended families, and those who love them, pursue the relationships that matter most. Now that you're done with the dreaded taxes, let's talk about money management and getting your estate plan in place. That's today's topic; we'll get back to that in just a minute. Gayla Grace is joining me in the studio.

Gayla: Good to be here, Ron.

Ron: Nice to have you, as always; glad to have you here. Talking about money, I'm curious, you and Randy, ever have any, any stepfamily related money questions?

Gayla: Absolutely. You know, remember now, we're a his, hers, and ours family with five kids.

Ron: Yes.

Gayla: And so, for one thing, there were always too many bills and not enough money at the end of the month.

Ron: It's funny how that works.

Gayla: Oh gosh. But also, I think one of our biggest issues was how to keep it fair with our kids. Some kids are just more expensive than others, should we say?

Ron: Yes.

Gayla: Some kids in their teenage years, they might have more car wrecks, they do sports that are more expensive, and it's just really hard when it's my kid and this is his kid, and we want to be on the same page in our marriage and yet we may not be on the same page in how we're dealing with these kid issues. So yes, it can be a challenge.

Ron: You know, so many things embedded in those examples that you just gave. We're going to get into that here in just a minute, and I'm sure we'll come back to some of those themes. I was thinking of a pastor, as you were talking, that I heard when I was young in life, and he just talked about how it always seems there's too much month at the end of the money.

Gayla: [Laughter] Yes.

Ron: I thought, “I'm hanging on to that. I'm going to use that someday,” and I just did. So to you, our audience, hey, just a quick mention. If you missed our last episode, Growing Up Blended with worship leader Kim Walker-Smith, oh my goodness, you need to push pause on this podcast and listen to that one.

Gayla: Yes, it's great.

Ron: It really is great. It was compelling. It was encouraging. I hope you'll give it a listen. And I hope you're going to join us this coming Saturday, April 27th, 2024, for our next Blended & Blessed® livestream coming up. Nan and I are going to be there. Gayla is going to be there. Cheryl Shoemake, one of our new favorites is going to be speaking. Gil and Brenda Stewart are back again with us.

The theme is Building Unity in Blended Families. I think you know the drill by now. This is a virtual livestream event. You can attend from anywhere in the world. And hey, if it's Sunday where you live, when it's Saturday where we are, it's okay. Our streaming technology works just like YouTube.
Gayla: It does.
Ron: Just wait until it's convenient for you and hit play and watch it. And if you're on the West Coast—we're not on the West Coast—just back it up and play in your time zone. It's amazing. You can join us live. We would love to have you there.
We've got churches around the country that are hosting the event. Maybe there's a church in your area. The show notes will get you connected to our searchable map where you can look around and just maybe there's a church, and you can go join a group of people and be a part of them for the day and enjoy Blended and Blessed.
We hope you're going to be with us.

You may not know, or maybe you do know, that one of the books in our Smart Stepfamily series is all about stepfamily finances. It's called The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning. It's been highly rated. It addresses both the dynamics of blended families as they relate to daily money management and unique financial challenges that stepcouples face.

Our guest today was one of the coauthors on that resource with me. That's Greg Pettys. He is a financial planner with over 35 years. I, Greg, I'm sure that's shortening you up a little bit, but I didn't want to say how old you were so— [Laughter] He's been doing this a long time, securities and financial planning with people. He's spoken at a number of the FamilyLife Blended events. He's appeared on this podcast. Episode 19, by the way. You might want to go back and listen to that, Financing Togetherness in Blended Families. And he was on episode 58, Investing for Life After Kids. Be sure and go back and listen to those if you have not heard them. Greg, thank you for coming back on FamilyLife Blended.

Greg: Great to be with you, Ron and Gayla. It's going to be fun.

Gayla: Yes. It's great to have you, Greg. And, you know, all of us here in the United States have just finalized our taxes. Why do we hate that so much? What would you say about that?

Greg: Well, you know, it's not what you earn that matters; it’s what you keep.

Ron: Oh, that's right. [Laughter] I mean, you just said it so plainly, as what the government will let you keep.

Gayla: Right.

Greg: Yes, that's right. And it's a big deal because we get taxed when we earn it, we get taxed when we spend it, in most states, and then we get taxed when we die with it. We're here to help mitigate that; that's part of what we do.

Ron: Well, thank you. Maybe we can come back to that in a minute if you have a tip or two. We'll all appreciate that.

Speaking of taxes, I just want to remind our listeners that FamilyLife® is a donor supported ministry and any outreach that you support through what we do is tax deductible with your donations. We just want you to know that; that money flows directly to us for the work that we're doing when you give specifically for FamilyLife Blended. So if you want to support us or just say thank you for what we're offering through this podcast and other resources, check the show notes. It'll get you connected in the right place.

Okay, we've talked in other episodes about our Togetherness Agreement, Greg.

Greg: Yes.

Ron: A great concept that you came up with, that we first introduced in that book, The Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning. We've talked about daily money management principles. We've talked about estate planning, some of those things.
What we're going to focus on in this episode with you are questions that have come in from our listeners and viewers, and we're just going to hammer you. I mean, we're going to give you an opportunity. [Laughter] We're going to give you an opportunity to help us help them and so that's where we're going.

Greg: Absolutely; alright.

Ron: Gayla, I think you've got the first one.

Gayla: Yes. In fact, this question was asked two or three times. It's kind of a hot question: should my spouse and I have separate bank accounts to support the children that we each brought to the marriage? Or should we combine our finances and support all the kids equally? That almost ties into my illustration that I gave right off the bat about what one of our struggles was as a blended family.

Ron: And by the way, Gayla, I want you to comment at some point about the child who had the most car wrecks. [Laughter] That caught my attention. Wow!

Greg: That's an expensive child right there.

Ron: That's an expensive child right there!

Gayla: It was a boy. Don't y'all know? Men?

Greg: Of course.

Ron: Of course. Greg, talk around this for a minute. We know there's no black and white answers for all blended family couples, but just maybe talk around a few principles to help us think through.

Greg: And I think it was Marjorie Engel that had a great input on this, and we respected that. That there's really no right, absolutely right, and absolutely wrong answer on that one. Having numbers of accounts, whether it's one or three or five; it's not a reflection of really anything positive or negative. It's a reflection of what works for the couple.

Sometimes I use the analogy, it's like a set of keys. I have a set of keys I carry. My wife has a set of keys she carries. Some of the keys on our keychains are mutual. We both have keys to the house, but I don't need her key to the gym locker that she goes to the gymnasium to work out. Then she doesn't need the key to my office, so I have one key from my office that she doesn't use. That's okay. That's what I do.

So as long as there is complete honesty, transparency—where you know what you're doing in these accounts, and you've come to an agreement that the purpose of this account is for this, and the purpose for my separate account is that—it's going to work together. Sometimes people start with three and come to one, or start with one and decide, “Well, we maybe need an extra account for those other ancillary expenses.” It has to just work for the couple. I hope that makes sense. It kind of depends.

Ron: Let's drill into it a little bit more. What are you thinking?

Gayla: Well, I was thinking something that you said also is it can change. So if you do it a certain way for a while and it doesn't work, then you have to step back and say, “Okay, we need to try this a different way. I don't feel good about how this is played out,” and you have to step back and try again.

Ron: Yes. And the other thought I had was where the money goes in and where the money comes out sort of has a personal attachment to that.

Gayla: Right.

Ron: We had a stepmom say to us the exact dollar amount that she made went into their account and that was the exact to the penny amount that her husband paid to his ex-wife in child support every month. And so it felt like, to this stepmom, it felt like she was, in fact, supporting the mother of her stepchildren.

Gayla: Yes, exactly.

Ron: There was sort of this psychological connection to, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, that feels weird,” right?

Greg: Yes.

Ron: And so I'm wondering if people have money going in and out of a particular bank account that goes to child support or flows to the other home or came from the other home, that has a meaning to it, and you ascribe meaning to that: “What does that mean for us in our relationship?” And then there's kids and maybe there's accounts that you do most of your expenses in your home for out of that, or there's that mutual account that we just pay our mutual bills with. It really comes down to how people assign meaning to particular accounts and what's happening there.

Greg: That is so true. Money is a tool that serves what we value. That is important because it has an emotional element to it. To your concept, Ron, so above the surface issues, for every above the surface issue—let's throw one out: child support—there is a much deeper under the surface issue attached to child support. There's the emotion of trusts, distrusts, all the emotional baggage that can go with child support is underneath the issue. So, in my role and anybody who's in my position, it should be listening to the emotional baggage, if you will, the undercurrent of the below the surface issue and addressing that really before we jump into the numbers and the facts above the surface.

Gayla: Yes, and even in this example that we gave, the numbers didn't change. What was coming into the house and what was going out of the household did not change. But what they did was they rearranged how her income was not tied to going over here to child support. It is just a matter of manipulating the numbers, the accounts, something so that emotionally you can accept the way your money is going out.

Greg: And the sooner we can talk about those issues, the sooner we can get up below the surface on the issues, then the better the accounts will flow and fall into place naturally. When Johnita and I married, I was 30; she was 27 and we just decided to throw it all together. Couples that marry later in life may decide that might not be the best idea. Initially, at least, they've had 20, 30 years to accumulate and maybe they're in different situations, and they have different obligations, and their commitments vary so they may need to keep a separate account for the promises they made to the children from the previous marriage. There could be accounts to help bring those promises to fruition.

Ron: It's so important what you just said. And I failed to tell our audience that you and Johnita are a blended family yourself, so you have walked this road. Okay, let's dig a little bit more because what you said a minute ago, I think parallels to husband and wife when you said that you, as a financial planner, sitting down with somebody, really need to listen for that below the surface stuff so you can sort of mine that out first, and then help them make practical decisions about where they put money and how many accounts they have. What does it mean to them? And, as husband and wife, you need to do the same thing, listening to one another.

Gayla: Right.

Ron: Your spouse comes to you and says, “I am not supporting your ex with my income.”

Gayla: [Laughter] Right.

Ron: You don't go, “Yes you are. You got to—" you know, no, no, no. You go, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Tell me, what is that about? What does that feel like to you? What's the message that you get from thinking or feeling like what you're contributing is just going to the other household?” And that's where you start with one another as husband and wife.

Gayla: And you acknowledge those feelings. You don't get on the defense and say, “I don't see it that way at all. I don't understand how you're seeing it that way.” That will not serve your marriage well.

Ron: No, it won't.

Gayla: You have to also, just like you're saying, Greg, listen to the emotions that your spouse is expressing through their words also.

Greg: Yes. It's so important that this be a part of premarital counseling and premarital work, don't you think?

Ron: Yes. If we can get out in front of it, absolutely, it's—but if you're listening right now or watching and you're like, “Yes, we're already married; too late,” okay, now's the time.

Gayla: Yes. And there's no way you're going to address every financial issue that's going to come up. You've just got to figure out how to communicate about it.

Greg: Two indispensable tools for us has been: number one, counseling, and number two, dating. And on the date night, one date night a year should be devoted to finance.

Ron: Oh, man.

Gayla: Wow. [Laughter]

Ron: I don't think I've ever heard that anywhere. Gayla, you heard it right here.

Greg: Go to your favorite steakhouse and let's bring our finances.

Gayla: At least we get a steakhouse.

Greg: The two of us will get a four top and spread all our paperwork out and tell the waiter or the waitress, “We're going to be here for two hours. [Laughter]

Ron: “Start bringing the drinks; we're going to be here a while.” That is fantastic. I seriously have never heard anybody ever recommend something like that.

Greg: We've done that, and it's really helped.

Ron: Well, what kind of steak do you get? That's what I want to know. [Laughter]

Gayla: Can I get seafood instead? I don't want steak.

Ron: Alright, Greg, we got another question. Let's go into this one. This one's got a little bit of a twist to it. Okay, here's a question: “Ideally, how do we share our resources?”
That's the heart of the question but then listen. She adds a little context for her situation, but that's really what we want to talk about: how do we share our resources? She says, “I have three children, full time, little child support, and I don't make a lot of money. He,” her husband, “has his own kids and doesn't want financial responsibility for my kids.”
She says, “I feel disadvantaged.”

Yes, okay. Well, there's some uniqueness to that. Let me just speak to she feels like she's disadvantaged because he doesn't want any financial responsibility for her kids. Before we address that general question of, “How do we share our resources?” I just want to speak to that specific situation and say, that's a tough one. First of all, that does send a message that “I'm here for mine, but I'm not here for yours.” I wouldn't encourage anybody listening to us right now to take that sort of a posture with your spouse. Like, yours are yours and mine are mine.

Gayla: Right.

Ron: Didn't mean 100 percent we all throw money in the same account, and everybody has access. I'm not saying that, but at the same time, you are, when you marry somebody with children, you are taking on a responsibility for their kids.

Greg: Yes.

Ron: Not that 100 percent of everything comes out of your income but, my goodness, you can't marry the person and not marry the package. I mean, that's been something we've preached from day one in this ministry.

Gayla: Absolutely.

Ron: If I was talking to that husband, I would go, “Yes, dude, I'd like for you to think that through and pray about it a little bit. Because I think the Lord's calling you to something more than that so struggle with it and wrestle and see if you can't see your way to being more of a team member.”

Greg: And we talk about in our first chapter here, Ron, taking stock first of ourselves, then of our relationship, then of our assets and our goals and money. So, taking stock of ourselves, you know, what kind of an attitude do I portray when I'm stingy with my money with my wife? How do I feel about the financing of togetherness? So often money is the reason people split, but it doesn't have to be. Money can be the reason that we stay together; but it's one small step at a time.

If I were counseling that situation, I would find at least one small area they could agree on that he would support on her side of the ledger; a goal that they both could agree on. Maybe it's education, maybe it's vacations, maybe it's, you know, legacies of some kind, maybe it's helping parents. We have so many aging parents in the sandwich generation. Maybe it's just one step he takes to demonstrate he is trying to finance togetherness. He's just trying to get over the hurt from his past marriage.

Gayla: You know, it also makes me think about the relationship not strong with the stepkids and so that's why he tends to be a little stingy with his money. And so can the couple work on how to strengthen those relationships, how he can have better input with them in the relationship part, and as that gets stronger, would he be more willing to then invest financially?

Greg: Yes.

Ron: That is very insightful. I bet you there's a pretty high correlation between stepparents who really struggle to share of their resources if they feel like they have a difficult relationship with a child.

Gayla: Right.

Ron: Or that they're being taken advantage of or something like that.

Gayla: Right. It's just natural.

Greg: You know, thankfully there are tools that you can implement that can help your spouse now, but yet later comes back to be in the hands of your children, your biological children. You can get two things done with a good trust. We've talked about that, and I don't want to dive too deep, but the QTIP—Q, T, I, P—so you can help your spouse with income from your assets now, but yet assure that your children, your biological children, will get the asset at the end of your spouse's life.

Ron: So you're saying if you're fearful that if you're sharing resources now and maybe stepchildren or stepchild is going to squander that somehow, you can still protect a portion of that in your estate that you want for your biological children that will not be squandered, if you will.

Greg: That is correct. And this is where we always work with good estate attorneys that have kingdom Bible worldviews so that we can get good legal advice. That is one of the first things I recommend to any listener is to hammer out the basic blueprint of where your assets are going, whether it's today or whether it's 50 years or 100 years from now. But you want to know that and map that out together; hammer that out one step at a time. First, get your wills, get some basic living trust work perhaps, and then add a few elements to it later down the road when you've got clarity about your legacy.

Gayla: Okay, let's move into another example, Greg. Somebody, another story that we received, “I moved into my husband's home after our marriage. We argue a lot about how to will the house to our blend of eight kids. It's the home he grew up in and bought from his parents. His kids and siblings say that the house should stay with them and does not belong to my kids. It has caused so much contention between us that we have even considered ending our marriage. Please help.

Greg: Wow.

Gayla: That's a tough one.

Greg: That is tough. And again, here it goes back to the fact that assets carry emotion. Wow. The home I grew up in. I was just talking with another couple with similar situations where every time he pulls up in the driveway after work, he thinks to himself, “My name isn't on this mortgage,” and “This home was picked out by her previous husband,” and “What's going to happen if she's gone one day? I may be kicked out of this house.”

The good news is it can be a fairly simple process of ownership titling. Not every joint account has to be joint tenants with rights of survivorship. So in other words, the house doesn't have to be set up jointly to where if she's gone, then he gets it a hundred percent. It could be set up in what's called joint tenants in common, J, T, I, C. You could put an innumerable amount of names on this JTIC and what happens is at the death of any of the owners that are listed, their percentage goes to whoever they named, not to the surviving spouse 100 percent.

Ron: Okay, so let me press in. If the house is already mortgaged, do you have to have another mortgage, go back and redo all of that, or is it less difficult than that?

Greg: That's a good question. Here's where an accountant should be involved because there could be a gift tax. There could be a gift situation. It doesn't have to be taxable. It can be very easily done for most homes. If it's joint tenants with rights or survivorship, both people simply have a hundred percent interest in the property, both now and at death. They can simply both agree that for my portion, I'm going to list my children under my tenants in common, and then for his portion, he's going to list his biological, or whoever, nephew, sibling, and they both agree. They go in and have it retitled.

Now when they do so, they might be making a gift a part of the equity of the home to those people so that means again, an accountant and an attorney or a planner, or all three of us should be involved.

Ron: There’re a few things to think through so here's the $64,000 question, if you ask me, are we just leaving this fight to our kids after we're gone?

Greg: Oh, my my.

Ron: Or is it like, the house gets sold and the equity gets divided according to their percentages? Or do they have to come together and decide what to do about the house?

Greg: The couple that is setting this up and they're going from their own joint tenants with rights of survivorship into a joint tenants in common, they simply say, “Hey, do you want to be a part of the equity of this home? Can we list you as a part beneficiary or part owner?” And so then really, who would refuse it?
Gayla: Right; that's what I was thinking.

Greg: Yes, so it can be a very positive discussion.

Ron: Yes, and that's the point. You're bringing up stuff that's real to life, engaging the kids, especially as they get older, and helping them to make decisions and know what's going to happen.

Gayla: Yes, and the decisions have to be made so either we're going to make them and make it easier for our kids, or in the long run, it is going to be harder for our kids.

Greg: That is such a good point, Gayla. Without a will—and two thirds of our listeners, unfortunately, do not have wills—in the state you live in, they have a will for you. It's called Dying Intestate Succession. And, like, for example, in Illinois, if I was single and I passed away without a will, half of my assets go back to my parents—

Gayla: Oh my.

Greg: —and then half to my siblings—

Gayla: What?!

Greg: —nobody else; my parents and my siblings.

Ron: Not your kids.

Greg: If I'm single and yes. But now if I have children, then they do come in and they get involved in it.

Ron: Okay; wow.

Greg: But you know, not my stepchildren. This is really big.

Ron: Yes.

Greg: Unless you adopt that child, at your departure, even though you made promises that, “Hey, you get half of my estate, my beloved stepdaughter,” they have no legal rights in most states. Now there are some states like Texas that are on the edge of a three-party view where a stepparent is included, and their rights are included.

Ron: Here's the takeaway for the listener or the viewer. There are financial tools available, so you do not have to be left to whatever the state wants to tell you to do with your money.

Greg: That's right.

Ron: You get to make those choices. You just have to be proactive to sit down and sort of tackle this subject. Because if you don't, somebody else will make the decision for you. You know, I'll never forget, you mentioned Marge Ingle. She was very seminal in my life early in my career when I was starting to work with blended families. I heard her say 30 years ago, Greg, that the legal system in America had not caught up with stepfamilies and the legalities—

Greg: That’s so true.

Gayla: Wow.

Ron: —and the complexities of life. I don't think it's caught up yet.

Greg: You're correct.

Ron: And so, you can't assume, you cannot assume that the state in which you live is going to make things work out the way you want them to.

Greg: You must leave stepchildren named by name, not by class. Name the names of your stepchildren in your will if you want them to inherit anything. If you say something like, “all my children”—

Ron: that won’t do it.

Greg: —that can be contested.

Gayla: Oh, of course.

Greg: You just got to say it the way it is here. “Here's my six children. Even though three are my stepchildren, I'm treating them all the same”—if that's your view—“and here are their names and dates of birth and social security numbers.” Either that or you adopt. They don't have rights.

Ron: Yes, that's sobering.

Okay, let's do another question. “With my fiancé paying child support for his four girls, and I receive support for two boys, how do we balance the money designated for the kids? So we got money coming in for four, we got money coming in for two. How do we split costs? My income can't support half of everything.” I think this question is getting at percentages.

Greg: Yes.

Ron: You know, money's coming in for four on one side, for two on the other side. So if a partner says, “Well, let's just split everything 50-50,” “Well, you're getting a whole lot more for the four than I'm getting for the two,” right. What are some ways couples can think through that?

Greg: Well, again, the earlier this conversation happens, the better. And again, we're at the steakhouse, right, having a steak. [Laughter]

Ron: We’re enjoying a medium rare right now.

Greg: The steak is on its way so everyone's in a good frame of mind.

And the question here is, what does fair mean to you? That's a good one. I love that question: what does fair mean to you? Many people are in the “fair means equal” mentality, but really the more I hear from other couples, like my own family, I think about equitable instead of equal. What is equitable? Does my special needs child need one sixth? No, that would disqualify him from State of Ohio Medicaid and Social Security. Okay, so I have to do something different for him that's not exactly equal, but it's perfect for what he needs.

So the question is, four kids get money coming out, two children, money's coming in; those percentages aren't equal. What do the children need? Take an inventory of their specific gifts and talents, their goals in life, their interests, where you feel like they're going to need some help. One child may need more money, where another child just needs to have more attention. One child might need to have the trip around the world because they're going to go on a mission one day, and you're a big part of their mission under pinning. Another child might need just to be able to have, afford, a bat and some good catcher's gear.

And they were thousands apart—the trip around the world and the catching equipment—but that son who got the catcher's equipment, you just put a fire under him for his future as a full scholarship athlete that'll save you lots of money. You know what I'm saying? That small gift that you made in that baseball equipment; it fueled something that is financially immeasurable, as is the thousand you gave your daughter to go on the mission trip. You created her ministry. You know you really did. You sparked it. Is this making sense?

Ron: It is, and so let's go a little step further. If a couple sits down and they look at their kids and evaluate their circumstance, they go, “You know what, we can see this coming. We see this for this child and that for that child,” and then they say, “Okay, what portion's coming out of your money and what portion's coming out of— Is that a percentage question at that point?

Greg: It is. Bring the kids into the circle and say, “Hey, kids, you know, when I was growing up, my dad couldn't afford and I had to earn all of this, but when your mom was growing up, she was given everything she needed. Now we've come to this thinking about our family that we're going to use matching funds because here's our situation is that we have X money. We have six children. Now, what one child will do may be a little different than the other child, but I want you to know this. Your mother and I will meet you where you are with your specific talent and gifts, but we're going to expect you to come meet us with effort, with wisdom about decision making, with a lifestyle that is such that it won't damage your finances.” And you can nail that down.

We talk about a college covenant, Ron, in our book, creating a college covenant. Boy, that's needed. So that's an example.

Ron: So kids know what their job is, what their part is, if you will.

Greg: Sure. Yes.

Ron: And then the adults can figure out how they're going to divvy up some of the financial responsibilities.

Gayla: You know, I want to dive in here a minute and just speak to women because there are times that we make sacrifices in our career, perhaps, because we choose to work full time, because we have circumstances in our blended family home that need a person there. That's the decision that we want to make, to be there when they come in from school, and so if we go to the percentages of money, it's really not going to play out well with the female who might have her own kids that are in the home also.

Greg: That is so true, Gayla.

Gayla: So again, I think we have to go back to the couple getting on the same page first.

Greg: And the power of the non-wage-earning spouse in the house.

Gayla: Right. Right!

Greg: Okay; that person is invaluable. Let's just say it's the wife, but it doesn't have to be.

Gayla: It doesn't; that's right.

Greg: I know couples have done it other ways but the non-wage-earning spouse in the house that is so crucial to the family is the most quote underinsured person. For example, when I do my analysis of insurance, that person is usually the most underinsured person in the family because without him or her, the other one couldn't go to work. They'd be a basket case for months or years. Who knows, they may not be able to do what they do for a long period of time. It'll affect every aspect of family life. I mean, it costs money for, to do all the things that are done in the house and the daycare and the washing, cleaning, cooking, all those things so that's a really powerful hidden element of planning, Gayla.

Gayla: Yes. It's just one more thing that needs to be talked about, needs to be recognized, you know, a dynamic in the home.

Greg: And if I could, since it's a segue, we're on the topic of human value, what we call human life value. I highly recommend in most cases the spouse in the house owns a life insurance policy on the wage-earning spouse. They own it on them because the spouse in the house never will have an opportunity for a pension.

Gayla: Right.

Ron: Right.

Greg: They may not even be able to collect social security to the extent that they would have, of course, if they'd had 40 quarters of coverage out there for 10 years of work.
So that's one of the first things that most couples should evaluate is, worst case scenario, if one of us wasn't here tomorrow, how much would we need to take us for the next three, five, ten years?

Ron: You know, our next question, Greg, I think is related to what you just said. We currently have enough life insurance to cover each of us and each of our kids for child support if something were to happen to us. Do we switch beneficiaries from our kids to each other once we're married and trust that the other person will give it to the kids if we were to pass away?

Greg: I like every aspect of that except the very last portion, “and trust that the surviving spouse will quote, take care.” That's a ideal and should be a cornerstone. Yes, we should trust each other to take care of our children if we're gone and—not but, but and—the better way to do it is to take that burden off of your surviving spouse and create a trust.

It doesn't have to be complicated. But the trust is a living entity of itself that owns the insurance, and you write what the trust has to do, with the power of the trustee, so you're writing that trust. “I want this money to go for my education, health, and maintenance of my children's standard of living. What I will not do is finance an addiction. And what I will do is I will double anything that they put. If they come up with a $5,000 deposit, this trust will provide the other five for this effort.”

Ron: So you can be as creative as you want to be in terms of how that money gets utilized.

Greg: You can, and then you protect it from creditors and divorces down the road.

Gayla: Okay. Here's another one. I like this question. What is a good template or format to make a budget in a blended family? I'm going to answer this right off the bat because—

Greg: Go ahead. [Laughter]

Gayla: —my husband loves Excel spreadsheets. [Laughter]

Ron: That would be the right answer.

Gayla: That was the answer in our home was we're going to put everything on this spreadsheet.

Greg: That makes date night at the steakhouse even more fun. [Laughter]

Ron: Somebody just said, “No, I'm done. I’m never doing that.” I'm one of those who hates Excel spreadsheets.

Greg: And so do I, Gayla. I'm the spender in my family. [Laughter]

Gayla: That’s funny.

Ron: So quick question, as you get ready to answer this. Here's the thing I'm wondering as it relates to budgets and format, is there a different—like you can hop on the internet and find a thousand budget, you know, general things to budget.

Gayla: Right.

Greg: Sure, sure.

Ron: Is there something different that you should add to that for blended family?

Greg: Well from a biblical world view, I would say yes. There's usually not a slot on the spreadsheet for “Pay God First.”

Ron: Yes; that's right.

Gayla: Right.

Greg: And then underneath “Pay God First” should be “Pay Yourself Next.”

Ron: Oh, man. Dude, you're hitting it out of the park today. That's another good one; pay yourself.

Greg: Okay, so let's say ten percent comes off the top for the Lord and, or you know whatever you and the Lord have agreed upon. But then the next ten percent, if you're young, ten percent—you know, as we get older, it should be even a higher percentage. You should have your name on twelve pieces of paper that you put in your bill drawer, even ahead of your mortgage. It's pay me and take ten percent of your income and put it in a good investment with the advice of your investment advisor.

And then comes the bills, the mortgage, the housing, the utilities. So that would be the one twist that I would say—you know, just pulling one off of the internet would not be adequate. But other than that, if you add those couple of things at the top, it would work just fine.

Ron: Okay.

Gayla: That's good.

Ron: That is good.

Okay. Here's another one. I think this is back to fair question. “Our kids are in different sports; traveling costs, some activities are more expensive than others, of course. How do we balance the costs and what is fair once we are married? For example, I might travel every weekend with my kids, but he says he cannot afford to do that with his kids so they may just travel one to two times a month. Again, what is fair?”

Hey, I'm going to offer a little straw man answer.

Greg: Come on; alright.

Ron: And you can shoot it down, alright.

Greg: Bring it, Ron.

Ron: Okay. I'm thinking if you're saying yes to your kids traveling every weekend, then that's a yes that you need to financially support; meaning you don't say yes with the assumption that your spouse is going to cover all those costs for you. Like if you're committing, that needs to be something you're willing to see and follow through.

Greg: Yes.

Ron: I think that principle needs to be in there somewhere. But at the same time, I can totally see how somebody says, “Yes, but that's the whole point of us coming together and combining our incomes. It does add more. And it would create more opportunity, since we do combine, have more income, to be able to pay for X or Y for one of my kids.” So, I can see both sides of that coin a little bit, but I don't think people should be making commitments with somebody else's money until that person has said, “Hey, let's do it this way together.”

Greg: You're so right. I think that's right on the mark, Ron. And you could have a little fun with this. You know, I'm thinking of a game where “Children, I'd like you each to spend about a half hour and I'd like you to list all the things that you really need, want, and wish.” This gets them thinking responsibly about goals when they become adults.
“I want you to give me your top two needs, your top two wants, and then your bucket list, your one-day wish.”

“We're going to put points—we're going to give; your needs get five points, your wants get three, and your wishes get a point. Then we're going to come together and we're going to take a look at, what do you feel you absolutely need, 18-year-old child? What do you absolutely need, you know, 14-year-old child?” And we put them in there and we're going to say, “Okay, your mother and I are going to take these and we're going to talk about them, pray over them, come back, and have a plan to take care of one of your fives so you be thinking, which of the fives are…”

See, now you're causing them to get engaged with prioritizing their goals. So we're only going to take care of one five per year. Then next year you're, you know, or next six months, whatever your budget can handle: “Your mom and I can't handle the threes and the, you know, your wants and wishes right now. If dad gets a bonus, let's come back and talk about our wants.” Well, this helps them understand you can't always have everything you want when you want it, right?

Gayla: Yes, you know, and the other thing I'm thinking about; that for a couple to start from the beginning and be in agreement on things, like where you talk about sports every weekend. It's really easy to get into those patterns. It's not healthy for kids and so I think the couple has to come together and decide, what are our standards going to be?
Do we want our kids a part of youth group at church? If so, then we're going to have to help them make decisions about what is good for them and then the finances can kind of take care of themselves.

Greg: And with my children, the six of them are spread out over 20 years so I have a 23 and a 43-year-old. When they were growing up, you know, we were doing things with our first and our second, third child that we weren't going to do later because we became wiser, finances changed, and there are valleys and there are peaks in our financial world.

And so, the game has to have an agreement. “Things can change, children. We may not always treat this five, three, one point system the same.” And “No, we didn't buy you a car. Yes, I know, my first son.” We didn't buy him the car, but we helped his sister with one. Or we helped the one child with two years of college, but we helped the final child. Well, the final child didn't need; they had a full scholarship. I actually, I had—one of my children had a full ride and they kind of didn't come out and say it, but maybe hinted a little bit. “Well, so, you know, that matching fund, Dad.” [Laughter]

Ron: “Can I just get cash?”

Greg: “You know, you didn't have to put up anything, but I put up the full scholarship so”… But you have to be flexible, right? Parenting is a process.

Ron: Exactly. And parents, don't put yourself in a corner with your kids where, like, you owe them because you did it for one child and, no, life changes—

Greg: That's correct.

Ron: —you make decisions. You explain to your kids. You try to, back to that word, equitable. You're doing the best you can with what you have at this season of life and time. And I think, yes, you still get to be the parent.

Gayla: And we learn. I mean, we do get wiser. I think we do get wiser. We have a 20-year gap with our kids, too, and we have parented differently, our last child.

Ron: Yes.

Greg: And so we reserve the right to make those adjustments.

Gayla: Right.

Ron: Okay, I think we got one last question for you, and it's just sort of that, “Why do blended families need to do estate planning at all?” And “Why would it be important to tell your kids about it if you did one?”

Greg: You don't have to be rich to need an estate plan. Everyone has an “estate.” An estate is everything that you own, or you have opportunity to enjoy at your departure. And without a plan, often the state or someone else that the state appoints will have a plan for you. It's so important. If you have minor children, you must get a will with a power of attorney and guardianship. Appoint someone that you love, and you trust, has your same worldview, to be the guardian of your children if you're not here. That's one of the best gifts you could ever give your child is to have someone that is like minded of you to raise them if you're not here.

So everyone has an estate, and it doesn't have to be complex. It could be very simple: half of my stuff goes to my spouse; half of it goes to all of our children. Or, you know, like I said, “We have a trust for our special needs child. We have a trust for the maintenance of promises we made to our biological children. We have our home and joint tenants in common. You know, just taking little steps, but the estate plan would be the wills, trust and powers of attorney, and guardianship of children.

Ron: That's good. That is really good. Greg, man, you're the best. I appreciate you.

Greg: Well, brother, you bring out the best in people.

Ron: Well, thank you for that. Gayla, it’s nice to have you with me again.

Gayla: Yes, as always.

Ron: As always, good to have you here.

Well, let me just say to you, the listener, hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did, and I learned some really good things.

By the way, it's not too late for you to join us for Blended and Blessed this coming Saturday, I know, last minute, but hey, it's a livestream. You can jump in. We'd love to have you.

And if you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, make plans to be part of the live audience. We're going to be in McKinney. We'd love to have you drive up and be a part of the group there in the room with us where the event's taking place. It's going to be hosted by Christ Fellowship Church in McKinney. We'd love to see you there.

Okay, next time, you're going to hear a presentation made by author and MOPS founder Elisa Morgan at our annual Summit on Stepfamily Ministry 2022. The presentation she made at that event was called The Beauty of Broken. The Beauty of Broken.

Gayla: It was so good.

Ron: It was fantastic and that's why we're going to play it for you. That's next time on FamilyLife Blended.

I'm Ron Deal. Thanks for listening or watching. And thank you to our production team and donors who make this podcast possible.

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