One Daytime TV Host’s Engagement Highlights This Topic

by Melissa Attanasio, CFP®, CDFA®, MAFF®

In November, viewers watched while Hoda Kotb announced her engagement to Joel Schiffman on the “Today” show. The 55-year-old morning show icon and breast cancer survivor shocked her co-hosts and viewers alike with her surprise on-air announcement.

Remarriage can open a beautiful new chapter of life. Financially established couples in their 50s deciding to remarry raises complex financial challenges and difficult conversations for the spouses-to-be.

Kotb, for example, reportedly earns $7 million annually as host of the “Today” show, while earning additional income from book sales. Her net worth is an estimated $30 million according to Celebrity Net Worth. Schiffman doesn’t have the name recognition of his Emmy-winning fiancée, but the veteran finance executive has compiled wealth and assets of reportedly $19 million.

Schiffman already had a daughter of his own from a previous relationship when the two started dating. Later, while living with Schiffman, Kotb adopted two baby girls, the older in 2017 and the younger in 2019.

This power couple’s new family dynamic highlights the need for preparation and planning when remarrying later in life. Specifically, prenuptial agreements (keep in mind, I have yet to meet a prenup that has not been challenged) and a separate property detail list of financial assets and liabilities. Financial goals and detailed estate planning should be discussed and secured before tying the knot.

Compare Financial Goals and Dreams
Begin by having an honest conversation between you and your partner regarding each party’s financial status. Discuss your ideal lifestyle and how it compares to your future spouse’s. Once your visions are aligned, you can then bring the conversation to the present to discuss the cash flow management by creating a spending policy and discussing dynamics needed to get there. This can range from establishing joint accounts, reviewing historical spending for both parties and fixed expenses.

When it comes to creating a strategy, the conversation is often best guided by a Certified Financial Planner™ who can provide wisdom and experience in cash flow management, which is often the area of contention for most couples. Creating alignment from the beginning assists in the success for your marriage. A Certified Financial Planner™ can recommend investments, insurance considerations, income tax, retirement, estate planning, and risk management. They can also open the conversation to areas like debt and liabilities that might otherwise be uncomfortable to bring up on your own.

Take a Full Inventory of Assets
Each partner should create a detailed inventory of their assets. You may have been single for some time and accrued wealth and property since your prior marriage, and it is best to list all separate property. List your bank, investment, retirement, pension, and children’s 529 accounts. This list should also include real estate, jewelry, automobiles, as well as anything remaining that is separate property. It is advisable to document all statements prior to the wedding date.

If you have been living with your future spouse for a while and have accrued substantial joint purchases or shared expenses, make sure those are discussed and documented as well. Both the separate property and joint asset lists can provide direction for your prenuptial agreement and can be utilized for estate planning to prevent conflict in the event of death or divorce.

Establish Property Trusts and a Legacy Plan
In remarriage, with each party bringing their own wealth and acquired assets to the equation, separate property trusts are often utilized. It is imperative that each party obtains separate legal counsel as each will need their own advocate. Separate trusts give you the flexibility to change the division of assets over time. You may want to ensure your heirs receive the benefit until longevity has been established in your new marriage at which point you can revisit the division. Be careful not to concede too much on the front end for the consideration of your beneficiaries.

Now that you have a better understanding of the net worth of your estate, you may work with your advisors to determine whether or not you have an estate tax issue. Life insurance may be utilized to reduce this future liability.

Whether you are a daytime TV host or a daytime TV watcher, as you enter a new marriage, consider various possibilities and secure your financial well-being and future. Always ensure that your premarital assets are managed properly and not commingled, listing out any joint investments, should you choose to do so. Create abundance.

Melissa Attanasio, CFP®, CDFA®, MAFF® and Women’s Choice Award Advisor is the founder and CEO of Abundant Wealth Strategies and Divorce Strategies Group. Abundant Wealth Strategies is a wealth management firm founded in 1992. The firm specializes in financial matters and comprehensive cash flow management for high net worth individuals, amongst them, women in transition.