Real talk: getting married after 50

Tying the knot at a later stage of life can leave you blissful. Getting the legal and financial details settled ahead of time can help you stay that way.

Marrying after 50—whether you're saying "I do" for the very first time or trusting the love gods again for your second or third walk down the aisle—is a joyful milestone. Truth is, though, you two aren't kids just finishing college and starting careers, and so your marriage playbook is different.

"You've both lived a lot of life. There can be significant assets or liabilities," says Shelly Eweka, Senior Director, Financial Planning Strategy for TIAA. The decisions that go into merging your lives and finances with someone later in life aren't as romantic as other parts of planning your future together, but they're just as important.

Why you need a prenuptial agreement
"A prenuptial agreement reduces misunderstanding and conflict," says Eweka. Essentially, it's a legal document that a couple agrees to and signs before marriage to establish property rights in the event of divorce or death. It is also the place to address issues like spousal support, future gifts and inheritances, debt and special considerations for children from previous marriages.

It's possible you can do without one: Maybe you have no children and you're not looking for more than a 50/50 share of marital property (and that aligns with the laws in your state). But in many cases, it's a good way to protect your financial interests.

"If you are getting married, each other's relationship with money will 100% impact your financial goals. So share credit reports before you put a ring on."

"Know your state's laws," says Eweka. "In some, if your spouse had debt going into the marriage, it has nothing to do with you, but in others, even if it was your spouse's, you may have some responsibility."

In addition, actions you take during your marriage can have an impact. "If you inherit money and use it to purchase a home together, it is joint property. Be mindful of this," says Daniel Ruppel, a Financial Planning Strategist with TIAA.

"A lot is at stake," says Rob Stevens, another Financial Planning Strategist at TIAA. "At this stage of your life, you have less time to recover any financial loss."

Yours, mine, ours
If you both own homes, there are some questions to tackle. Will you keep one and sell the other? Sell both? Keep one, rent out the other? What about kids who would inherit your assets? Consider consulting a financial advisor to walk you through the options that are best for you. Consider how much rental income you potentially could bring in, for example, and whether it would be a significant help in reaching your financial goals. Location also matters, of course, as well as potential profit from selling one or both homes, and how much you need if you're planning to buy a new home together.

Then there's the matter of merging finances. Do you keep all money separate, or co-mingle some funds? The answer isn't always easy, as one person might have financial commitments to their parents, adult children or to a business. "It's hard to keep everything separate," says Eweka. "You can decide who is responsible for what, but [it's likely that] you'll have a combination—an account for the household as well as some money in separate accounts."

Again, it's important to consider your grown children here. "How much help do you give adults kids? What is the cutoff point? Do you treat them all equally, or give more to the struggling artist?" says Stevens. These are among the many questions to talk through long before the big day.

Mistakes to avoid
One common money mistake people make when remarrying is not updating beneficiary designations. For example, if your ex-spouse is still listed as beneficiary on retirement plans, IRAs or old insurance policies, update them. You don't want to unintentionally disinherit family members. You will also want to update powers of attorney, wills and any other essential documents.

Also, don't neglect to protect yourself from risks in case your spouse dies. If you aren't sure how you would cover expenses, consider purchasing life insurance.

Another frequent trap is avoiding the conversation altogether. Remember that ignorance is not bliss when it comes to money. It's common to not want to reveal things like credit card debt, or to be afraid that if you share how much money you have you might get taken advantage of. "But if you are getting married, each other's relationship with money will 100% impact your financial goals," Eweka says. "So share credit reports before you put a ring on. Know what you're signing up for."

Finally, although you're the parent, don't make the mistake of not listening to your adult child when they want to talk about your upcoming nuptials. Don't dismiss your child's concerns. And if you're the adult child with the parent remarrying? "The best thing for [you] to do is to encourage your parent to think things through," says Stevens. "Remind them you are just looking after them, as Mom and Dad did for you."

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This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor's own objectives and circumstances.

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Advisory services are provided by Advice & Planning Services, a division of TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser.