Money Talks at Family Gatherings

To talk about money or not?

I’ve got some choices to make about talks with my extended family when we’re together on holidays and other special occasions.

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

My parents demonstrated many trustworthy principles regarding faith and family as I observed how they lived. 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 (a) continue the old taboo, or (b) grow past my fears and address money matters with a legacy-focused mindset.

Fear-based strategies

What keeps me from engaging in money talks with my family? Likely it has a lot to do with my fears and insecurities and comparing myself to others.

  • I might be exposed that “I don’t have enough.”
  • We might revert back to sibling roles from our childhoods – e.g. 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!
  • We might end up in an argument and have hurt feelings. After all, aren’t the most common activities in a family gathering to just eat, play games, and watch sports and movies?

Legacy-minded strategies

What would it look like for you to sprinkle topics about money into your family conversations?

(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 your portfolio balance.)

However, you could agree to put your phones away for a few minutes and actually look at each other for awhile rather than at a screen. You 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 your beneficiary designations and other estate planning documents are up-to-date.
  • Share the name of a trusted tax advisor, financial advisor, and estate planning attorney.
  • Highlight opportunities for volunteering time at your churches and in your communities.

It’s true that having these types of legacy-minded money talks can be quite uncomfortable!

But who knows? These money talks might lead you to a deeper experience of gratitude. You might become more committed to faithful stewardship of your material possessions. You might be prompted to forgive somebody. You might grow in your faith. You might establish some new family traditions. And you might begin making plans to invest in new adventures with the next generation.

After all, the next generation is watching and listening and learning, whether from your taboo subjects or from your intentional conversations.


[Financial Planning and Investment Management Services offered through Dickinson Investment Advisors, Registered Investment Advisor. Statistics and market information provided by Litman Gregory Advisor Intelligence.]

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