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Money Talks at Family Gatherings

Is talking about money taboo in your family? There are ways to gingerly broach the subject, especially with a legacy-focused mindset.

By Tom Sperling

It can be quite uncomfortable for your clients to talk about financial matters with their extended families when together on special occasions, but consider the benefits for your clients to do so.

Since both of my parents have passed away, family gatherings have a different atmosphere. When my brothers and I meet together, we tend to reminisce about our parents and early family life back in Kansas. 

My parents demonstrated many trustworthy principles regarding faith and family as I observed their lives. However, one topic missing from conversations with my parents was money. It was very revealing to go through their checkbook ledgers after they were gone to see what was truly important in their lives. But in actual talks with them, money was almost as much a taboo subject as sex. 

So, now as I consider how to approach conversations with my brothers and with my adult children, I could either continue the old taboo, or I could grow past my fears and actually engage in more meaningful money talks.

Fear-based Strategies

What may be keeping your clients from engaging in money talks with their families? Likely it has a lot to do with comparisons to others based in one’s fears and insecurities. For example:

  • Clients might feel like they don’t have enough money.
  • They may revert back to sibling roles from childhood—controller, black sheep, peacemaker, pampered child. (After all, each of us wanted to be Mom’s favorite.)
  • The flow of conversation may bleed over to politics. Now that would really be dicey.
  • They might end up in an argument and have hurt feelings. After all, aren’t the most important things about family gatherings to just eat, play games and watch sports and movies?

Legacy-minded Strategies

What would it look like for clients to sprinkle topics about money into family conversations? Here’s some advice that can empower them to talk about money with a legacy-focused mindset.

To be sure, it’s not helpful for money talks to focus on the latest short-term market move or a hot stock tip or the number of zeroes in their portfolio balance.

However, they could agree to put their phones away for a few minutes and actually look at each other for awhile rather than at a screen. They could:

  • Identify legitimate causes to support with charitable giving.
  • Celebrate success in getting out of debt.
  • Reminisce about loved ones who saved faithfully and gave sacrificially.
  • Encourage each other to make sure their beneficiary designations and other estate planning documents are up-to-date.
  • Share the name of a trusted tax advisor and estate planning attorney.
  • Highlight opportunities for volunteering in their communities.

It’s true that talking about these topics can be really uncomfortable.

But these money talks might lead them to a deeper experience of gratitude. They might become more committed to faithful stewardship of their material possessions. They might be prompted to forgive somebody. They might establish some new family traditions. And they might begin making new plans to invest in adventures with the next generation. 

Tom Sperling is a financial advisor representative with Dickinson Investment Advisors in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

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