Niche advisory practices come in all shapes and sizes and can sometimes be discovered right inside your own home. That is essentially the story of Tim and Alexis Woodward, co-founders of Blend Wealth in Indianapolis.
Tim, 41, and Alexis, 27, are married and raising two young boys from Tim’s previous marriage. Prior to the launch of the practice in March 2021, the two were working at separate Indianapolis-area registered investment advisers.
Blended families, as the couple explains, are not only common but also face unique financial challenges that are often overlooked by traditional financial planning models.
“The area we primarily focus on is merging household finances in what is the new second marriage for at least one of the spouses,” said Alexis.
The key is how things are blended, and what aspects of finances are kept separate when factoring in issues related to stepchildren, ex-spouses, child support and alimony.
Sometimes the idea of getting things on the same page requires separate pages and even separate bank accounts. But the goal is financial and marital harmony, which can be challenging even without multiple households and blended families to consider.
“Some couples like to go into it with everything together, and some prefer keeping certain things separate, but most prefer a hybrid approach,” Alexis said.
All situations are unique, but Tim said a typical hybrid approach will include each spouse having their own bank account so that they can manage finances related to their children or ex-spouse, and then also sharing a joint account for their own household.
In addition to the practical reasons for separating accounts for finances related to previous marriages, Alexis says there’s also the psychological aspect of not letting the financial responsibilities from a prior relationship become a wedge in the current relationship.
“It can be hard for the spouse to see a huge check leaving their account each month to pay child support or alimony,” she said.
When it comes to estate planning, for example, things can also get tricky when you have two or more households divvying up assets for heirs and dependents.
“When factoring in other parents, grandparents and stepparents, something we’ve learned is that oftentimes things are not equal in an estate plan,” Alexis said.
As Tim explained it, “you have to set the foundation as a blended family.”
“As Christians, we encourage people to blend their finances, but as financial professionals, we have to encourage people to do what works best for them, and some people want to keep everything separate,” he said. “After we know how the household finances are done, that trickles down to looking at the investments, which a couple might also want to do separately. Some people don’t want to be involved in the finances of the stepchildren unless they need to know something, other spouses want to see everything because they want to show they’re in this together.”
For those couples intent of keeping the ex-spouse at arm’s length, Tim recommends turning to one of several co-parenting apps, such as Our Family Wizard, which consolidates and manages all communications from that person to prevent “blowing your phone or company email, or ruining date night with a bunch of text messages.”
“It’s one app on your phone where your ex-spouse resides,” he said. “It’s such a game-changer.”
Tim and Alexis know they are sometimes moving beyond just financial advice and into the area of marriage counseling, but they believe the conversations are an important component of financial and marital harmony.
“Sometimes the clients have not had these kinds of conversations, so we’re doing a lot of counseling,” Tim said. “We are here to run analysis and tell you how you’re doing, but outside of that we’re your biggest cheerleader because we want to make sure this is your best and last marriage.”
The RIA is still small but it is being marketed through a blog, a regular newsletter, and outreach by Tim and Alexis at marriage and blended family events.
Alexis said the couple has also started hosting a blended family small group through their church.
“I’ve always had a heart for other blended families walking the same journey we are,” she said. “We know there are advisers helping people walk through the divorce journey, but there wasn’t anyone focusing on the rebuild journey, which can be difficult. Even when things are good, they’re just more complex.”
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