Book Reviews

Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage: Handling delicate financial issues with love and understanding

by Patricia Schiff Estess

For a brief period, we were adrift without a life-line to Patricia Schiff Estess' expertise on stepfamily money matters. Her original book has been updated and republished as Remarriage and Your Money - Once Again, for Richer or Poorer (Betterway Books, 1996, $14.99).

Our SAA Lincoln office tells me that we receive numerous inquiries about stepfamily money management. Remarried couples at conferences and professional symposiums seek me out to ask for ideas that may help resolve particularly troublesome money matters. If your questions are about college expenses or inheritance, SAA has a tape called Steps Ahead with Daisy Petals: "They Love Me" (College Expenses); "They Love Me Not" (Inheritance) . If your questions are about how to divide money within the stepfamily, or how the children fit into the financial picture, the audio tapes Stepfamily Money Quandaries: One, Two, or Three Pots? and Money Challenges with Our Children may be for you. For most other general stepfamily financial issues, I refer you to Money Advice.

This book covers the gamut from preparing prenuptial agreements, consolidating expenses and investments, to handling expenses for the children. While coping with the emotional issues of your new financial situation, reading about the stages of financial trust - (1) Rose-Colored Glasses, (2) Don't-Rock-the-Boat, (3) Lay-It- On-the-Table, (4) Getting-It-Together, and finally, (5) Achieving Stability, can ward off "the crazies." No, you're not the only person having these complex feelings and, yes, you do still love your spouse in spite of uncertainty about this money stuff.

Most financial decisions are meant to be revisited. Circumstances change and what is fair at a point in time may no longer meet personal and family needs later on. Prenuptials are an obvious case in point. Money Advice offers ideas about how to amend or negate a prenuptial and even describes the "Anatomy of a Prenuptial - In Stages." Ownership of property and control of household money and expenses also come to mind. We're all familiar with the One Pot, Two Pots, Three Pots system. Here you can learn how to put your family's personal spin on this system in a way that allows for adjustments as time goes by.

Does the stepfamily exist that has not sensed at least the possibility of financial danger? When the squeeze arrives and there's not enough money - whether from reduced support for children from a prior marriage, job loss, or illness - Pat Estess can walk you through the crisis with specific and, more important, doable ways to minimize the financial damage.

Of course, not every stepfamily financial crunch arrives through trauma. An exciting arrival, the "Ours" child costs might be an eye-opener. Unless you're experiencing instant adoption, you have some time to plan. "Steps to Take Before or When 'Ours' Arrives" begin on page 106.

Every winter, I receive questions from the media about stepfamily gift-giving and the "caste" system. Unequal gift-giving does occur, most notably involving grandparents and stepgrandparents. Sometimes it is a power game but more often because roles are new and so are the expectations. The author is a finance expert; however, she has heartwarming stories to tell about ingenious techniques to lighten the gift-giving occasions.

This is a book to own. Read it before the wedding and you'll find it an indispensable reference book thereafter.

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