7 helpful tips for discussing money with your loved ones about money
Family and household finance discussions can quickly swirl out of control, which is why many of us avoid them altogether. In fact, one in three Canadians doesn’t feel comfortable talking about money at all, either because it’s considered impolite or because we feel self-conscious about our financial situation or spending habits.
But whether it’s budget talks with your partner or conversations about shared assets with relatives, these money discussions—no matter how difficult—can be crucial to a family’s overall financial health. Especially in these challenging times, they can clarify spending priorities and help establish mutual, long-term goals.
When you’re ready for ‘the talk’ with your loved ones, here are seven strategies for keeping financial conversations productive and on track.
Know your goal
Whether you need to discuss an action plan for aging parents or help a family member whose finances have gotten out of hand, know what you want the conversation to achieve, and stay on that path. You won’t be able to resolve every family or relationship issue—financial or otherwise—at once, and focusing on a specific goal or desired outcome can help the group stay productive and motivated.
Plus, if you’re starting with a set goal in mind, it will be easier to know which family members need to participate in the conversation. To be even more productive, make sure everyone involved in the conversation is aligned on the goal you set.
To avoid lengthy debates or group arguments, it might make sense, in some scenarios, to start the conversation with one or two family members before bringing it up in a wider family setting. That way, you’ll have a chance to gauge perspectives, gather additional information, and see if there is already consensus among everyone involved.
Make it official
Important financial conversations shouldn’t happen on the spur of the moment (i.e., at the Thanksgiving dinner table). Schedule these talks as if they’re meetings so that everyone takes them seriously and no one feels ambushed. Create an agenda, and be sure to share any relevant facts or details ahead of the meeting. That way, everyone can feel prepared and come ready to talk.
If you’re struggling to discuss finances with your partner or children, having scheduled meetings on the calendar will remind you to make time for those important household conversations.
Remember that everyone has made money mistakes. During these conversations, it’s important to focus on the future instead of making judgments about how money was handled in the past. The process will be smoother for all involved, and you can better avoid hurt feelings.
This is not the time to rehash old grudges; there’s little benefit to making someone feel defensive when the goals are collaboration and mutual accommodation.
Create a level playing field
Relationship histories and long-established family dynamics can create challenges when you’re having heated or contentious debates. As much as you can, try to create a dynamic where everyone’s input is valued rather than a situation where someone might feel cornered or unable to defend themselves. That means giving everyone equal air time to share their opinions, and not ignoring or discounting the voices of younger family members.
You may be going into the conversation with a set outcome in mind, but don’t automatically shut down the viewpoints and perspectives of others. Practice active listening, and try to remain open to alternative outcomes and paths. Understand that everyone manages their finances a little differently, and remember that one of the main goals of this exercise is to communicate needs and set clear expectations.
Have a backup plan
Talking about money with others can be difficult in the best of circumstances. Discussing financial challenges and setbacks with your loved ones can get thorny, so you should be prepared to pause the conversation and table it for another time if things get too emotional.
Remember that not every situation can be resolved immediately, and sometimes helpful financial conversations can still end in an impasse. So don’t get frustrated if these talks take time.