I am a widow and my soon-to-be-husband is a widower. We are both in our 60s. I’m retired, and he plans to work several more years.
After an 18-month romance he proposed, and I said yes. He’s anxious to marry this year, and suggests we run off to the courthouse. I’d like a religious celebration, and a party with family and friends.
Here are his 5 practical reasons to tie the knot fast:
1. His children still don’t accept me and probably won’t come to the wedding.
I’ve met his son who is cold, but cordial. I have not met his daughter and grandchildren. She’s told him she wished he’d died too rather than stepping out on his late wife. That’s pretty dramatic! He didn’t “step out” — we met after he was alone and widowed for three years. I’ve been a widow for 10 years. The daughter tries to poison his family and friends about our relationship and that’s made it awkward.
His daughter doesn’t realize her actions backfired! Her father wrote a will, cutting out his children and leaving it all to me. I asked him not to do this. His daughter will come around eventually, and I don’t want to look like I had undue influence. He’s now leaving me 75% and leaving all of our children the remaining 25%, effectively leaving his own children nothing (or very little, at least). He’s told me if his daughter is more respectful and I feel generous after he dies, give her more, otherwise he told me, “Buy a yacht.”
2. I will be able to give more money to my own children.
My daughters are snickering because if his daughter had been welcoming I would have combined my finances. But I can’t trust her. After we marry I’m reducing my assets, paying off my daughters mortgages and giving hefty amounts to my grandchildren. My fiancé agrees with this plan. He has enough to support us. Does this sound like a solid plan to you? Should I be suspicious?
“‘After we marry I’m reducing my assets, paying off my daughters mortgages and giving hefty amounts to my grandchildren. My fiancé agrees with this plan.’”
3. My anxious groom says if we marry this year he will save $20,000 in taxes.
4. He says I can go on his medical plan next year instead of Medicare.
I didn’t realize I could go on his medical plan. I thought I had to go on Medicare at 65. How do I compare his medical plan to make sure this is right for me?
5. I can drop my late husband’s Social Security, and I can take half of my husband’s Social Security, which would be a higher amount.
I’m confused by the Social Security rules. I took my late husband’s Social Security at age 62, and planned to take my own at age 66 because it would have been a higher dollar amount.
My anxious groom says he’ll collect Social Security at age 67. But once we marry I can drop my late husband’s Social Security and take half of his now. Is that possible?
Thank you for helping me sort through this.
It’s a big decision to get married after 18 months, but I know a couple who married within days of meeting — not something I’d recommend given that marriage is a business contract as well as a romantic commitment — and they are still happily married almost 15 years later. You are united in your estate planning and have a united front, despite his children’s misgivings. He is promising you the world, but you are surrounded by a lot of drama, so please tread carefully.
Perhaps your fiancé’s relationship with his daughter was challenging before you met him, assuming his version of events are true. By all means, help your children during their lifetimes, but please keep one eye on annual gift-tax allowances and please make sure you have enough to maintain your own financial independence — with or without your husband onboard. Jumping into marriage to save your husband $20,000 in taxes is not a reason to put a ring on your finger.
“Jumping into marriage to save your husband $20,000 in taxes is not a reason to put a ring on your finger.”
Yes, you can use your husband’s medical care. If your future husband’s health has better coverage than Medicare, it may make sense for you not to sign up with Medicare when you turn 65. You have a few options: you can enroll in Medicare when you turn 65, enroll in only Medicare Part A when you turn 65, or delay Medicare if/when you lose your husband’s coverage, according to UnitedHealthcare
Keep in mind, the rules vary depending on the job he has — including whether his company has 20 employees or less — according to Medicare’s website, so he should double check with his employer to avoid any extra costs.
And yes, you may save money on taxes when you file a joint tax return as a married couple. For example, your income could pull your husband into a lower tax bracket, if he had a higher annual income, and you can make individual contributions to two different IRA accounts. And perhaps the biggest benefit will occur if your husband predeceases you: as his spouse, you won’t have to pay federal estate tax.
You must have been married for 10 years to avail of an ex-spouse’s Social Security, and married for one for you to avail of your current spouse’s Social Security. “If you qualify for your own retirement and spouse’s benefits, we will always pay your own benefits first. If your benefit amount as a spouse is higher than your own retirement benefit, you will get a combination of the two benefits that equals the higher amount,” the Social Security Administration says.
“Yes, you can use your husband’s medical care. Yes, you may save money on taxes when you file a joint tax return as a married couple.”
“You cannot receive a spouse’s benefits unless your spouse is receiving his or her retirement benefits (except for divorced spouses),” the SSA adds. “If you took your reduced retirement first while waiting for your spouse to reach retirement age, when you add your spouse’s benefits later, your own retirement portion remains reduced which causes the total retirement and spouses benefit together to total less than 50% of the worker’s amount.”
You can always call the Social Security Administration to confirm your benefits, and ask for help making sense of it. SSA also offers a spousal benefits calculator.
I will leave you with one final thought: your husband has a fractured relationship with his children, but more often than not both parties play a role in the breakdown of relationships and, in an ideal world, both parties should take accountability for their part. If your husband believes himself to be blameless, will he also be free of all responsibility if or when you have obstacles in your marriage? You may, in a worst-case scenario, take on the role of his daughter.
The Moneyist gently waves an amber flag, and wishes you the best of luck.
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow Quentin Fottrell on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
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Previous columns by Quentin Fottrell:
‘They do not trust her, nor do I’: My elderly parents fear my sister will empty their bank accounts and steal their possessions. What can we do?
‘It feels like a nightmare’: My siblings hid our father’s will, which would have left me $135,000. What can I do?
‘I am watching my inheritance evaporate’: My brother and sister constantly hit our parents up for money. What can I do to stop this?
‘Buy a yacht,’ he told me. My fiancé, 67, is cutting his kids out of his will — and leaving everything to me. Should I be suspicious?