Not So Scary: How to Navigate Difficult Conversations about Family Finances

not so scary

It is easy to get spooked by the thought of having difficult conversations about family finances with your loved ones. Members of the sandwich generation, in particular, may find themselves feeling especially anxious knowing they face the challenge of engaging their children under age 18 and their aging parents on various subjects related to personal finance.

Whether you’re level-setting expectations for how much you’ll be able to contribute toward your child’s college tuition or making sure mom’s estate plan is up to date, here are some tips from CornerCap Wealth Advisors to help members of the sandwich generation navigate these difficult conversations without feeling like you’re starring in a Halloween special.

  1. Preparation is key. One of the best things you can do to set yourself up for a successful dialogue with your loved one is to prepare ahead of time. Schedule a time to discuss the issues, concerns, potential obstacles and watchouts with a qualified advisor. You’ll feel more confident going into the conversation, which could lend itself to a better outcome.
  2. It matters how it starts, and how it ends. Lead from a place of love and be mindful of your body language from the beginning. Don’t try to start the conversation with awkward small talk and beat around the bush. Let your loved ones know you have something important you’d like to discuss and respect everyone’s time by getting right to it. End things on a high note by expressing gratitude for their willingness to participate.
  3. The trick to getting loved ones to listen. First, do yourselves a favor and choose a distraction-free environment. Make a point to put away your cell phone and turn off other devices to signal to your loved one that they have your undivided attention and that you’d like to have theirs, as well. Second, practice active listening. It may seem counterintuitive to getting your message across to your loved one, but it is important to model the behavior you’d like to see from them and approach this tough talk more like an open and respectful dialogue.
  4. An unlikely treat: building relationships. While uncomfortable and sometimes painful, conversations about family finances afford us the opportunity to strengthen our relationships. For example, if you’re asking to be more involved in an aging parent’s finances, ask thoughtful questions about how they’ve framed their financial picture and make it known that you can be trusted to act with your parent’s vision for the future in mind. Similarly, if you’re working to get a teenager to understand they won’t be covered by the Bank of Mom or Dad forever, invite them to be a part of the family’s financial planning process and encourage them to work with your advisor to create their own.
  5. Timing is everything. Life inevitably tosses the unexpected our way, and these events are stressful enough on their own, never mind having to navigate them while trying to figure out finances. Your future self will thank you for starting the dialogue before difficult circumstances set in and when emotions weren’t running high.

On a final note, to keep anxiety levels in check stay focused on the positive aspects of the situation.  It’s a blessing to have loved ones in your life who you can exchange stories with about the financial ups and downs that have taken place along the way as well as an appreciation of what has been accomplished.  It’s also encouraging to imagine the positive things that lie ahead.

Ready to start preparations for the challenging financial conversations you need to have? Still have questions about how to approach a loved one about your family’s finances? Schedule a time to chat with us today.

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