Families and Finances: Communication is Key
Face Money Topics Head-On to Accomplish Your Family Financial GoalsKathy Longo, CFP®, CAP®, CDFA Monday, 21 September 2020
Do families and finances strike you as two words that don’t belong together? If so, you’re not alone. Money is a topic people often avoid discussing with family members – and even with their spouse or partner. It could be because they find it confusing or overwhelming, or because it often leads to disagreements and bad feelings. The fact that personal finance isn’t taught in most schools can also lead people to believe it’s not important.
All of these things are true: money is a charged topic that can leave us feeling confused, overwhelmed, or even angry, and most of us aren’t educated enough about money topics. Yet, these are the exact same reasons it is crucial to maintain open communication about financial issues within your family. Avoiding or ignoring this very real element of family life only sets you up for failure, whereas talking openly with your spouse and children is the best way to accomplish your financial and life goals together.
Below, we’ll discuss why you should consider finances a family affair, and why communication is the foundation of any family’s financial success.
Did you know you have your own money story? Your spouse or partner does, too. Each person is made up of their entire history of financial decisions and influences. Your money story represents the emotional attachments you have to money, which impacts how you spend and save. Understanding your own money story and the emotions surrounding it – and communicating it to your loved ones – is key to your financial success.
If you’re concerned you and your spouse aren’t on the same page with your financial goals, talking through your early money memories and identifying sticking points for each of you can be foundational in the health of your finances, and of your relationship. So, make it a habit to talk about money. This means everything from how you can save on your monthly bills to planning a dream trip to take together once you hit a savings goal.
When you think about your own money values, can you pinpoint where they originated? For the vast majority of people, it’s our parental influence that plays the biggest role in defining our financial values. In fact, this study by the University of Cambridge showed that most of us will form our money beliefs and habits by the age of seven. So, think back. Maybe you grew up with a single mother who worked multiple jobs to make sure you had what you needed, leaving you with a true understanding of hard work and the value of a dollar. Or, maybe it’s a negative parental influence that shaped your money values, such as a parent who was mired deep in debt and lived with a victim mentality about economic circumstances.
Regardless of the details of your childhood experience of money, the point here is that what you saw and heard about finances in your formative years shaped your money values as an adult. Once you recognize this, you can begin to set an intentional example, in word and in deed, for your own children.
While many of the money conversations you have as a family may begin with a discussion of values, they’ll eventually need to transition to tools you can use, both individually and as a family, to reach your personal and shared goals. Let’s say you want your children to learn the value of saving early, for example. You’ll need to teach them about creating a budget and diligently sticking to it, but you may also want to give them a visual representation of how saving incrementally can make a big impact over time. Piggy banks are great in theory, but a clear jar allows a much better view of the progress they’re making.
A clear jar also gives your kids a much better understanding of spending. Sure, it’s beneficial to talk about how much things cost and teach them wants versus needs. However, when your child must physically remove five dollars from their jar to hand over to the cashier at the toy store, they’ll feel the true impact of spending.
When you’re talking with your children about the family budget, it’s an excellent time to discuss how much things actually cost. The cell phone bill can be a great place to start since it’s a familiar frame of reference for many kids, but it’s important that they understand that everything has a cost. If they never see a copy of the electric bill, for instance, they can’t truly understand or appreciate that your hard-earned money keeps the lights on.
It’s also important that you have family discussions about the reality none of us can escape – someday we will pass on, and we can’t take our money with us. By talking about our own values, as well as expectations for after we’ve died, we can be sure our intentions will be met. So, while it can be tempting to devise an estate plan in a vacuum, choosing to avoid an emotional conversation with loved ones, it’s truly best to talk openly about your wishes with your spouse and your children.
Closing Thoughts: Why Families and Finances are Better Together
There are so many family dynamics for which communication is key, and family finances are no exception. Open, thoughtful communication about money topics is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse or partner, and it is also the best way to communicate values, financial tools, and the realities of money to your children.
If you’re just beginning money conversations in your household, start slow and push through the feelings of discomfort. On the other side, you’ll find healthier relationships, healthier finances, and strategies to achieve your family’s financial goals.
About the Author
Kathy Longo brings over 25 years of expertise and experience to Flourish Wealth Management. Kathy is wholly dedicated to improving the life of each client and finds joy in making complex matters simple and easy to understand. She excels at asking the right questions, uncovering new possibilities and implementing the most advantageous strategies for success. Playing such a pivotal role in her clients’ lives remains an honor and a privilege. After earning a degree in Financial Planning and Counseling from Purdue University, she began her career at a small firm in Palatine, Illinois where she worked directly with clients while learning to build a viable, client-centric business. Over the years, she gained extensive knowledge and wisdom working as a wealth manager, financial planner, firm manager and business owner at notable, various sized companies in both Chicago and Minneapolis.