Having a hard time discussing money? You’re not alone.
For many Americans, it can seem like it’s harder to discuss money than it is to talk about death. We need to get over this taboo. Why? Because whether you’re part of a couple, on your own, raising kids, or caring for aging parents, you – and the people you love – should understand and decide on a vision for the financial future.
To kick-start these (potentially) painful conversations, we’ve pulled together a few ideas that can help you leap into the dark, murky waters of money talk.
If you’re in a committed relationship, find a way to broach money talk early on, without recriminations or passing judgment. Try to reach consensus on key issues like contributions to retirement savings, household spending habits, and paying for major purchases. Discussing goals ahead of time can help you avoid arguments and angst. Here are some questions you might to cover:
- How should we approach saving and investing our money?
- Will we pool and pay for everything jointly, or maintain separate accounts?
- Will the high-earner pay more of our monthly expenses?
Yes, talking to yourself is totally appropriate in this context! Work out how much money you will allocate toward your goals each month. Then, codify your plans and share copies with a trusted family member, friend, or financial professional. Be sure to organize all of your financial records, including your Will and updated durable power of attorney documents (for health and financial matters). If you have a safe deposit box, place copies in there, as well.
Next Gen Parents
If you don’t talk with your kids about money, you could miss out on an opportunity to set them for a better financial future. Keep the conversations age-appropriate, but continue to have them as your kids mature:
- What will you do if you want something and it costs a lot of money?
- What can you do to earn money?
- How can we help others who aren’t as fortunate?
The three-part piggy bank is an excellent method of encouraging younger kids to manage their money. Ask them to divide their funds into savings, spending, and sharing (charity). This helps them establish good money habits early.
When your child becomes a teen, consider giving them their allowance on a prepaid credit card. This way, teens can track how much they’ve spent and how much they have left. Being able to manage electronic money can be a valuable skill when it’s time for them to apply for their own accounts.
Aging Family Members
Many of us will be tasked with helping an aging parent or family member deal with their finances. In some cases, you may even need to supervise their financial decisions. Choose your moment carefully, and include your siblings or other interested parties, before a medical or fiscal crisis hits.
Your goal might be to reduce any stress that your relative is having and to help them understand how to make their money last for as long as they need it. In addition to ensuring all of their retirement and estate paperwork is updated and easy to locate, try these talking points:
- What’s your retirement savings picture?
- What are your monthly living expenses? How comfortably are you meeting them?
- Should we create a durable power of attorney in case of illness or incapacitation?
- Do you have a Will that states how you’d like your assets to be handled after your death?
These can be tough conversations, to be sure. But without setting a clear financial plan today, there’s a good chance of misunderstanding, conflict, and hurt feelings down the road. Getting the topic of money into the open may require courage, but once the discussion begins, this level of openness can actually relieve stress with your loved ones.
Have you had “the conversation” with your family? How did it go? We want to hear about your experience in the comments below.