Financial Planning for a May-December Relationship

May December RelationshipMay to December relationships used to be about the younger woman marrying the older man, but more and more often we see a younger man marrying the older woman . Marriage between contemporaries is tough, but a 20-to-30-year age difference can make it a whole new ballgame.  For couples far apart in age considering a trip to the altar, here are some issues to consider:

Consider a prenup: Sure, a prenuptial agreement may protect you in divorce, but it has an important secondary benefit – it will force both of you to think about all the financial issues, not only if you split, but if one of you becomes incapacitated or dies. That means exploring all possible worst-case scenarios you might face during your married life.  You’ll have to disclose your assets, liabilities and money goals and how you’ll provide for kids you want as well as kids from previous marriages.  You’ll also be forced to think about what could happen if one of you becomes sick or permanently disabled and how you’ll feel if you’re still working 10 years after your spouse retires.  Even if you decide against a formal prenup, the process is a necessary first step in planning well for the future.

Three things you must have: life insurance, life insurance and life insurance: Yes, older spouses will pay more for it, but life insurance is critical for both spouses.  It’s not just about the older spouse dying first.  If the younger spouse dies first, the older spouse could also die before the children are on their own.  A financial planner can help couples work through these scenarios and find the right insurance options.

Consider long-term care insurance: Even if you stay healthy well into your 90s, but end-of-life care is always expensive.  Most nursing home stays last two years and cost well over $100,000 per person.  Can you cover that cost out-of-pocket? Talk about long-term care insurance options.

Women need to become more aggressive investors:  Common knowledge has it that the average age of widowhood is 56.  Though the longevity gap between men and women will probably narrow in the future, women still need to plan for a longer retirement than men.  Add the cost of raising kids as a single parent and other household expenses and retirement can become a distant dream for surviving spouses.  Make sure your retirement strategies mesh, and both are reviewed for all possibilities before you say “I do.”

Inventory survivor’s benefits now: It’s not a terribly romantic subject, but it makes sense to see what you might get from public and private sources if your spouse dies.  For instance, you are eligible to receive survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration if your spouse dies, especially if your children are minors.  If you are both working, it’s definitely worth a trip to your company’s human resources department to talk through survivor’s benefits offered by your respective employers.

Get your wills, health directives and beneficiary information in order: Young couples often wait a few years until talking about wills, right-to-die and other issues tied to mortality.  Couples with big age differences can’t afford to wait.  Plan it now, and when your marriage is official, make sure you execute new wills, healthcare powers of attorney, medical directives and up-to-date beneficiary information on all your joint and separate assets.

It may be hard to think about these issues at the beginning of a relationship, but taking care of this early on – before a tragedy or costly planning mistake occurs – may be one of the greatest gifts you can give to each other.

2 thoughts on “Financial Planning for a May-December Relationship”

  1. So happy I found your website! A great resource. I live in Maryland and am a long distance caregiver for my father who lives in Lake Forest, CA. I fly out to see him as much as possible. He is 84 years old and has Alzheimer’s. Both my mother and my sister are deceased. I have Power of Attorney for his financial affairs and through the internet am able to manage his accounts, pay bills, etc. For the past 7 years he has been in a relationship with a woman (21 years younger than he). Since she is there with him (although they don’t live together) she and a bookkeeper get together every two weeks to go through his mail, pay any random bills that aren’t automatically paid, prepare for taxes, etc.. The bookkeeper writes the checks and he signs them, although I think he may not truly have legal capacity any longer. I have been preparing for the time when he won’t be able to sign checks and when I will be the only person who can. It’s a big responsibility, especially challenging long distance, but over the last several years I have been taking it on (as I took on the responsibility for when my mother was dying and her funeral, and then my sister’s illness – I settled her rather messy affairs, too). There are often conflicts between my father’s companion and me – confusion over who’s doing what, roles, etc. I want clarity and peace of mind that I am in control of my father’s finances and my and my children’s inheritance. Is there anything wrong with that?! I simply want to protect myself. My question, at last (!) is – do you think I should ask my father’s doctor to determine his capacity and if necessary, to sign a letter of incapacity? I imagine it would be painful for my father to go through this, although he won’t be able to retain a memory of it. But must he even be made aware of it?
    Many thanks for any advice or resources you can offer.

    1. These are indeed sticky issues you are facing, and my heart goes out to you. Consult with an elder law attorney in his locale to see what your best options are, and to what extent he needs to be involved or even know about it (though I imagine that if his caregiver is unhappy about your actions, he will get an earful about it from her).

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