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Yours, Mine, Ours, Theirs?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
April 2, 2020 2:00 am

Yours, Mine, Ours, Theirs?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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April 2, 2020 2:00 am

You can tell a lot about what a person values by the choices they make with money. Ron Deal, director of FamilyLife Blended, says finances and personal values are especially complicated in blended families. Ron urges couples thinking about blending a family, to plan, plan, plan, for your financial future together. He lists practical tools to help make asset management easier.

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How you form a blended family can be tricky.

How you bring together two financial backgrounds, two different bank accounts and balance sheets, that can be tricky too. Ron Deal says that's a subject that a lot of couples never have a conversation about before they form a step-family. I think a lot of couples don't talk about this because they have this sense that it might bring up some conflict. Let's just not go there if we don't have to. We're happy today. Why do we want to mess that up by talking about money?

And yet, if you don't, I think you push off inevitable disagreements or potential conflicts. This is Family Life Today. Our hosts are Dave and Anne Wilson.

I'm Bob Lapine. You'll find us online at This is a subject that blended families ought not avoid. You need to talk about money and finances.

You need to know how to talk about it, and you need to know what to talk about. Stay with us. And welcome to Family Life Today.

Thanks for joining us. And look who is in the studio with us, huh? This is a good day when Ron Deal steps in.

Ron Deal. As long as he doesn't do the counseling thing with me he did last time. Put me on the couch and took me back into these dark caverns.

I might have secretly paid him to do that again. Not today. Ron, welcome to Family Life Today. Thank you. It's always good to be back. Ron gives leadership to Family Life Blended, which is a part of what we're doing here. And you've been doing this, is it a decade now, close to it?

Oh, man, I wish. We're coming up on eight years. So, yeah, it's been a while. Eight years here at Family Life.

Here's the cool thing, and I don't know how many people recognize this, but there's a lot going on under your leadership. There's an annual event for blended families called Blended and Blessed, which is coming up here in just a few weeks. It's April 25th.

That's a Saturday. You can find out more about Blended and Blessed when you go to By the way, great event. Ian and I spoke at it last year, and it's just tremendous. And our church live streamed it, and they loved it. There's also an event you do in the fall called the Summit on Step Family Ministries, which is more for leaders of church leaders and folks who are doing blended family ministry. Exactly, for lay counselors or people leading the small group or children's ministry leaders or senior pastors who want to know more about blended families.

And then you are writing and speaking. In fact, right now, you and Dr. Gary Chapman have been going around the country and speaking together on how blended families and love languages kind of mash up. And that's because of the new book that the two of you have written that is just now out.

And we're going to talk today about one of the big potholes. In fact, I remember, Ron, when you and I first talked about this subject, it kind of blindsided me. It was one of those, I never even stopped to think about that. Money there, Bob?

You don't think about money? What I never thought about is all of the complications that come in when a couple meet and fall in love, and they're either widows or there's a divorce, but there's another family or there are kids or whatever. Now whose money is what? And that gets messy really quick.

It does get messy very quick. We quote in the book a firm in New York that reported that half of their disputed estate cases were between stepmothers and adult stepchildren. Wow. These are things that end up in court and people battle over stuff. Let me just give you a for instance, because you're absolutely right, Bob.

I've been doing stepfamily ministry for about 27 years now in one form or another, and I spent about 20 of those years avoiding this subject. I bet. A, because I'm not a money guy and it's not my field of expertise, but I really didn't quite dive into it enough to realize all the implications for families until Greg Pettis came along and said, hey, man, we really need to do this. And he became one of the co-authors and we brought in an estate attorney, David Edwards. So it's kind of like the beginning of a bad joke. What happens when a family therapist, a certified financial planner and estate attorney walk into a book? I think it turned out well, but it was messy in the beginning.

I learned a ton about this and I realized all the things that I was missing. Here's just a for instance, Dave and Ann, Bob, you and Mary Ann. I'm just going to make an assumption. The average couple planning their estate today, probably if one of you dies, you're probably leaving it all to your spouse.

Correct. What if I told you that if you did that and then your spouse, your widow married somebody else? God forbid, you can imagine that at this point in time, but you guys are all pretty young. And so what if a few years, five years, 10 years after you passed away, your widow marries somebody else? And I think all of us would say if that was the situation, we'd want our spouse. If they met somebody and fell in love, we'd want them.

Not me, Bob. I want Ann only to have eyes for me. Well, but if you're in the box in the ground, can't she have eyes somewhere else at that point? But you're thinking about your kids. Yes.

No, I'm joking. Of course, that'd be great. And so you left everything to your spouse knowing that they're going to provide for your kids. It's all going to be left to them after they die. But in the meantime, lo and behold, they get married to somebody else. And then your widow dies. Do you realize all of your assets just got left to their new spouse?

I don't like this scenario. And their new spouse's kids. Wow. That's true.

Not your kids. Yeah. It happens that easily.

In fact, there's a term. It's called asset drift and unintended disinheritance. You've just inadvertently disinherited your kids just because you didn't think about it. And there's so many people that are already in that blended marriage. Maybe they were widowed. Maybe they were divorced. Whatever the back story is, they're already in that marriage. And they've not done any planning around this.

Right. And they're just assuming everything works out in the end. And that turns out to be one of the most dangerous assumptions people can make.

Well, take death out of the equation. And let's say that there's this blended family that has just formed and it's a couple in their 60s. And he had three kids and she had four kids. And he was pretty well off. And the woman he married, money was tight. Now, the three kids, history kids, who were expecting, when dad dies, we're going to inherit some good money. And the business.

And whatever the story is. Does this now get divvied up with her kids too? Right.

Like, so is the rule that he leaves everything to her? Or, wait a minute. And imagine how disgruntled his kids are. Exactly. Exactly. Well, we just sat at a dinner table with the disgruntled daughter.

Remember? Yeah. I mean, she just shared. And she's a wonderful Christian woman. And she's like, this is really hard.

The money we thought we were going to get is now going to our stepmom and the kids. And you know what? Here's the immediate question. On the surface, that sounds like, oh, she's greedy. Yeah.

But wait a minute. Money is never really about what's above the surface. It's often about what's below the surface.

So what could be going on in her heart? Is this about, I'm greedy? Or is this about, I don't feel honored. I don't feel cared for. I'm beginning to think that mom or dad, or whatever the scenario is, is more thoughtful about their new spouse than about us as their children.

And if there was ever a time back when mom and dad divorced, when I was 10 or 20 or 4, and I felt uncared for then, this now reminds me that I've never quite felt cared for all along. It's almost like evidence. It's evidence, right. And so it's raw all of a sudden. And then she's really disgruntled. And money is always emotional.

It is. There's no way you get around it. So now you are really driving at some hurt emotions. Well, and any time we've had you here, we've talked about the relational tensions that happen in a marriage relationship, in a step-family relationship, and those are very real. Take money completely off the table.

There's still a whole bunch to deal with in terms of loyalty and past baggage and all of the things we've talked about before. But again, now you throw money into the mix, and you've just added a nuclear device that I'm thinking, this can take the best laid plans of a blended family and sabotage it. Let me tell you how passionate I've got about this. At our last Summit on Step-Family Ministry, Greg and David and I did what we call Summit Immerse.

We did a three-hour workshop on the themes out of this book. And I made this statement, and I've never said this before, but I'm saying it again now on the air. I think pastors have a moral obligation to force, if I could use that word, couples who are in blended situations or dating, considering becoming a blended family, we have a moral obligation to ask them, to help them, to ask these questions, to plan, plan, plan, because this unintended disinheritance phenomenon is sad. We're called to care for our children.

What does 1 Timothy say? If a man doesn't care for his family, if he's not stewarding and providing for, well, if you just assume, honey, I love you and you love me, and with the best of intentions, you just assume it's all going to work out, the odds are things are going to go awry at some point. Maybe after you're gone and your widow is trying to deal with your children, their stepchildren, that's when it all hits. You really have to do some careful thought and planning around this.

Yeah, there's a word for what you're describing, and the word is naive. Yes. This issue is going to come up either before you get married or after you get married, and so the question is where's the best place for it to come up, and the answer is before you get married, because after you get married, you want these things settled so you can get on with the business of forming a new relationship. You know, there's just so many interesting things that I learned. Did you know, for example, if you're a widow, and let's say you're under the age of 60, your spouse died young in life, and you've been getting Social Security benefits, spousal benefits. If you remarry before the age of 60, you lose your benefits, but if you remarry after the age of 60, you keep all of your prior benefits, as well as gain possible future benefits. Did you know that if you're divorced from somebody, your former spouse can claim Social Security benefits on you long after you're divorced?

No. I had no idea. Yeah, you don't actually have to even know about it, and the government's not going to tell you about it.

It doesn't affect your Social Security benefits or any new spouse you might have, their potential benefits, but a former spouse can make that claim. Sometimes people are leaving money on the table and didn't even realize that they could do it. Well, and I've heard of Christian couples who are not married, but they're waiting until they're 60 to have the wedding, but they're still living like they're married, because they're trying to hang on to these financial benefits, and they're going, well, we're married in God's eyes, but just not in the state's eyes until we turn 60. And below the surface matter there is, do you trust God? Yeah. I mean, ultimately, that's what that comes back to. But it is helpful if you at least know what the laws are and what the implications are.

Here's another one. People saving for college for their kids. There's a thing called FAFSA, the Free Application of Federal Student Aid form.

Do you know that they keep score differently than the IRS? Let's say you're the custodial parent of your kids. FAFSA doesn't care. They're going to determine whether your child gets student aid based upon how much time the child spent in either home two years prior to you actually filling out the form. In other words, you may be the custodial parent. The other family may be paying child support.

They don't care about any of that. If the child spent one more night in your household than the other household, then the determination is going to be based on your income. If you have a higher income household and a lower income household, co-parents could simply get together and say, you know what, why don't we let Johnny stay at your house two extra nights this year.

When it comes time for him to go to college, we'll qualify for more student aid. It's that simple. But if you don't know those things, then all of a sudden you've found yourself in a quandary. So what are couples doing? I mean, I know a couple going into their first marriage rarely talk about money, and then they get in like, oh my goodness, are couples going into a blended family even thinking?

No, they're not. I think the assumption is I love you, you love me, we're going to be a happy family, and somehow it'll all work out. I trust you to care for my kids, you trust me to care for yours. And I love those intentions.

We want to build on those intentions in this book. Smart Step Family Guide to Financial Planning helps you put together what we call a togetherness agreement so that those intentions actually become fulfilled. But if you just assume, that's where things get in trouble. The law isn't on your side. The law in the United States is very much biased towards biological kin relationships. And so if you just assume that the money is going to flow to your spouse, who then flow to your children after the stepparent passes away or what have you, that's not going to happen. But you can make it happen.

That's the really cool thing in all this. That's this togetherness agreement? This togetherness agreement allows you to do that. It functions basically like a will. It basically says, hey, here's what we intend to do to provide care and provision for one another for my spouse, for my children, before I die, after I die. We're going to have life insurance go here and the estate is going to go here. The family business is going to go to this child because they are invested in the family business. Nobody else seems to care about that. We don't have to worry about them having a role in this.

Business goes there. Life insurance does this. In other words, it allows you to talk through and decide together, see? There's the togetherness piece about how you're going to help money foster your family-ness, not inadvertently divide it up. And I'm guessing a low percentage of couples are doing this. I don't think anybody's doing it because we're just introducing the concept.

I mean, it's brand new. Is that super expensive to do, Ron? I think that would hold people back, like, gosh, that's going to cost thousands of dollars to get a lawyer, an estate planning person. What keeps us from doing it?

I'm so glad you asked. We actually think and we say in the book that many couples who maybe are of simple means and have a simple financial portfolio can just do this themselves. They can write it down. It becomes a written document that they share with their children and the intentions are clear. I don't think you have to pay anybody.

I do think other people are going to say, well, you know what, we have some things here. We probably ought to put a legal stamp on it somehow. We need to involve an attorney. And, you know, you count those costs up front and decide whether that's something you want to invest in. I don't think it's a terribly expensive process.

In fact, I know from the people that the early folks that we've had respond to us and tell us that they've taken action along this. You can hire an attorney for a couple thousand dollars and it's done. Well, and if you're going to die without a will, it's better to have what they call a holographic will, just something you wrote out even if a lawyer is not there. Now, that can run into legal challenges later on, but it's better to have a holographic will than no will. And it would be even better to have a legal will than a holographic will. So that's kind of the hierarchy here. Yeah, things are simple and you just want to write down here's our plan and you witness it and you both sign it and you get some other folks. Then you got something that says here's our plan and if anybody challenges it, you got a document to deal with. If you do have means and a sizable estate, probably better to have a lawyer on top of that.

And you know what? One of the big myths I think of money is people say, well, I don't have enough. We don't have an estate. I don't own much. We don't need to do this.

No, that's wrong. You have something. And even if it's grandma's dishes that got handed down to you, your kids are probably invested in where those end up. So it's not just about the amount of the value of those things.

It is about the emotional connection, as Dave said earlier, that we have to those things and what they mean to us and how this demonstrates value of one another. I hear the kinds of complications that we've been talking about here and I am instantly overwhelmed to the point that I'm thinking couples who are happy and pursuing a life together, all of a sudden they're not sure they can make this work because of the complications. Well, there's kind of a collective denial.

You said naive earlier and I'll just say denial. I think a lot of couples don't talk about this because they have this sense that it might bring up some conflict. Let's just not go there if we don't have to.

We're happy today. Why do we want to mess that up by talking about money? And yet, if you don't, I think you push off inevitable disagreements or potential conflicts. And again, we've talked before on this program about step-family relationship can bond and have great depth.

But until they get there, they tend to be fairly fragile. It doesn't take much for somebody to go, oh man, okay, forget it. I'm not even going to try in this relationship anymore.

When you throw in a little conflict around money, all of a sudden that can destroy a relationship that was somewhat fragile. Well, we've run into people that have literally said, all right, honey, this is our plan. This is how we're going to manage things. Let's not tell the kids.

I'll let you tell my kids this was my decision after I'm gone. You've really had that? Yes.

Wow. And it's like, okay, what's below the surface there? I mean, this is a guy who's afraid to set boundaries with his kids, to say, look, this is what's happening. This is what's not happening. And then to deal with any potential response from their children. And they're throwing that off on their new spouse to know. And that gets at really a value about money. You say in your book that most conflicts are not about really money. They're about the values underlying it.

So get into that a little bit because that's what's really going on there, right? It's not just about dollars. Can I just set the record straight, all right? Every time you hear money is the number one cause of divorce. Every time you hear that or see that in an article or what, it is not true, right?

It is not true. What is true is what's underneath money. That's what creates conflict, right? Because money makes a statement about what you value or who you value and how you handle money tells somebody whether you're selfish or not. Tell somebody whether you're really mindful of them or somebody else.

Do you really care for us? Those are the statements money makes. In blended families, then you have these added things of, so do I really belong in this family? Who's your loyalty to? Is your ultimate loyalty to your children or are you providing for me, right? There's power issues in money. Who gets to spend money? Who doesn't get to spend it without asking permission? So there's control issues in money. There's acceptance issues. It seems to me more money is spent on your children than is spent on my children. Do you not accept my children? It's what money means. That's the stuff we fight about and argue about and that's what ruins relationships. I have recommended your Smart Step Family book.

I don't know how many times to how many people. In fact, almost any time I meet couples who are in a blended family, I say, have you read the Smart Step Family? Because that'll help you in so many areas. If I had a number two book to recommend, I think it's probably this new book because of the level of complexity. But part of me says, you've got to read this before you get remarried, before you form a blended family. I'm wondering how this works with couples who are two years in and the blended family has already been formed. It's like, I'm not sure we want to crack open this book because now all of a sudden we may come up with a bunch of disagreements.

And then we go through a tough season in our newly formed blended marriage, which is already having some challenges. So let me talk about the below the surface stuff there and then come back to the above the surface. Below the surface, the insecurity you feel around this subject ought to be telling you something. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it's trying to tell you something. So listen to that part of you that's going, I don't want to go there.

Well, why not? What's the fear? What's the concern? If we go there, it might send the wrong message.

Yeah, you're right. You need to communicate clearly about what it means and what it doesn't mean. About what your decisions are going to indicate about your values. Maybe that insecurity is, I'm not sure how others feel about me or my place in the family.

So you're really asking a family merger question. How far along have we come in this new blended family? Those are important. And we say in the book, when you find those below the surface issues, you need to attend to those first. So that's the first conversation is, honey, do you feel insecure in our marriage? And Ron, what happens if you as a spouse is thinking, this is really important. I want to read this book together.

I want to go through this. And the other spouse has no interest. They don't want to talk about it. What should the one that's wanting to do this, what's their role?

What should they do? I want you to get curious about what's below the surface. Not critical. Hey, come on, we got to get into, no, no, no. So tell me what's holding you up around this conversation.

What concerns do you have about it? Go below the surface, try to help them. Sometimes your partner doesn't even know what their insecurity or fear is. And so you gently ask and try to draw it up so that you together can deal with that first. Only when you get past that can you then go above the surface and go, all right, what's a good plan for our money? It's kind of like once you do the hard work of below the surface, the above the surface stuff just becomes a function of making some decisions, finding out the financial options that you have available, and just a quick sidebar, the financial world has some cool stuff that allows you to find creative solutions. If I could just share one, this is my favorite. I have learned so much in the writing of this book. Q-tip, you ever heard of a Q-tip?

To clean my ears? No. A qualified terminal interest property trust. Oh, of course. Did you know, back to that original question we started with, like what if my assets go to my widow and then to their widow and to their kids? Did you know a Q-tip is something you can establish that says when I die, all the assets go to my spouse. When they die, these assets go to these children, this child, this child, this child, my stepchildren. Everybody's provided for from your grave, you can dictate where your assets go.

It's awesome. It provides for everybody. Everybody feels affirmed, everybody feels valued and cared for, and it's all set up ahead of time. You don't have to hope that it all works out. Will an average financial planner or an average estate attorney be able, will they know these issues for blended families?

I'm glad you asked. Yes, they will know what a Q-tip is. They don't necessarily know the below the surface issues. One of our goals in writing this book, and we've already started getting feedback from this, I had an estate attorney tell me, you know, I've spent 40 years helping people plan their estates and I've never thought about the relational matters going on below the surface until I read this book. So we're helping financial planners and attorneys understand relationship dynamics.

We're helping couples understand both of those things, in particular what's above the surface in the financial world. So here's kind of how I feel. I feel like I'm saying everybody should have this book. It's kind of like everybody should have a pet snake at their house.

I don't mean, you know what I'm saying. It's that you need this book and this is medicine, maybe not a pet snake. You need a shot.

You need to go get an immunization and, yeah, it's going to sting maybe for a little bit, but this is about your health as a family going forward. And if your mother is widowed and she's seeing a guy, they need this book. You need this book. If you're a pastor, a ministry leader, a marriage ministry leader, and you're helping couples doing premarital counseling, you need this because it's going to help you ask better questions and help them move into a space that they probably are naturally not going to do. And it's also going to help you talk about this issue because it's one of those issues like, if I don't talk about it, I don't need to think about it. And this book will say, not only are we going to read it, we're going to have communication and it's going to change everything, right?

And bringing up underlying issues can be scary, but it can be a good thing that can bring healing. I've got a friend who's a financial planner and I'm going to send a copy of this to him. I've got two brothers and I already sent them a copy. I'm imagining that everybody he works with, he's going to say, we've all got to read this because this is what we're dealing with day to day as we try to help people with their financial future. We've got copies, of course, of Ron's book, The Smart Step Family Guide to Financial Planning, written with Greg Pettis and David Edwards. You can go to our website at to get a copy or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order by phone. Again, the Family Life Today website is or call 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY.

Ask for Ron Deal's book, The Smart Step Family Guide to Financial Planning. And then many of you are aware of the fact that Ron's got an event coming up in April, April 25th. It's the Blended and Blessed simulcast. This was originally set up as a live event in Houston, but because of what's going on with COVID-19 with the coronavirus, it's not going to be a live event. It is going to be a simulcast event, which means that wherever you are, whoever you're with, whether you're gathering with a small group, and again, as long as everybody is young and healthy and you wash your hands and practice social distancing, it's okay to get together in small groups, but it may be just the two of you gather together and take part in the Blended and Blessed simulcast that we're hosting on Saturday, April 25th. You can go to our website,, for information on the Blended and Blessed simulcast, how you can sign up and be part of it. Again, go to and look for information about the Blended and Blessed simulcast. Now, tomorrow we're going to continue our conversation with Ron Deal about financial issues and blended families. This is important stuff, and if you know somebody who's in a blended family, encourage them to tune in tomorrow or to go to and get the podcast versions of these programs so that they can listen, pass this on to somebody who's in a blended family.

I think they'll benefit from that. I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with some help today from our friend Mark Ramey. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Music Family Life Today is a production of Family Life of Little Rock, Arkansas, a crew ministry. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-02 20:16:39 / 2024-03-02 20:29:07 / 12

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