People don’t like to talk about money for a variety of reasons. But at the top of the list is that they find it difficult and uncomfortable.
You know what I find so fascinating about this:
Every meaningful and significant conversation you have starts off with someone feeling a bit of discomfort!
If you think about it, whether you initiate it or are on the receiving end, conversations that make you feel vulnerable and awkward are uncomfortable at first. For example:
- Asking someone out for a date
- Asking for someone’s hand in marriage
- Asking for a pay increase
- Asking the prospect for the business
- Telling someone you want a divorce (or to break up)
- A doctor telling a patient bad news
- Telling a client you’re going to miss a critical deadline
- Giving a critical (bad) performance review
- Laying someone off
With at least one of the above examples, I have likely knocked on your “door.” And that’s my point: We all have experience with tough, uncomfortable conversations.
But for some reason “tough and uncomfortable” goes up a notch when it comes to money. For many, the mere thought of talking about money feels precarious and daunting.
The short answer can be summed up in one word: Emotions.
While everyone reacts to money emotionally, what particular emotion gets stirred up at any moment differs for each of us.
Maybe it’s fear. Or, shame. Or, embarrassment. Or, concern about people passing judgment. Or, worry. Or, overwhelm. Or, stress. Or, pressure. Or…(fill in the blank).
Add into the mix an unexpected and undesired change in circumstances and it’s like opening pandora’s box.
Now throw in the angst that often accompanies the holidays, and you have a “goodness gracious moment.”
But, I am hoping you won’t let that stop you from accepting my call-to-action: to take the lead in organizing a family financial meeting during the upcoming holiday season.
Yes, your family may think you’ve gone absolutely bonkers. Yes, you’re likely to encounter all sorts of resistance due to the triggers that get activated for your family members.
That is precisely why I’m giving you this back-pocket game-plan to help get them on board. That’s why we’re starting the process NOW!
The Smart Way to Initiate a Family Financial Meeting
The first thing to keep in mind is that there is a process to this family meeting.
It begins with a proposal.
Now, is a good time to send a group email, to propose the idea. It can look something like this:
“Hey, Everyone, I’m looking forward to seeing you for (the holiday you celebrate). I would love for the family to carve out 30-60 minutes on (date) for a family financial meeting. I know, crazy idea! But I think it’s important for us to do this because we’ve never done it and it’ll be good tradition for us to start. (Or if more appropriate, you can say,”…because we haven’t done it in a while.)
Then tell them why this meeting is important to you. (If you can’t come up with a reason, tell them I suggested it and you wanted to give it a try. Tell them how I believe breaking the pattern of financial silence within families can help strengthen families – financially and emotionally.)
Choose a single topic for discussion
For your family members who raised their hands and said, “yes” to the meeting, prepare a list of potential topics to discuss. Your list can include: debt management, developing a savings strategy, cashflow management (or creating a budget/spending plan), salary negotiation, estate planning, or important documents (including your digital life).
The topic with the most votes is what will be discussed.
(For first time family meetings, I’d highly recommend selecting the topic of important documents/digital life. Think: insurance, beneficiary designations and a Will; does anyone know the passwords to their online life – especially the financial elements; have they made a photo copy of their credit cards/drivers license/passport that someone can easily access, etc.)
Create a meeting agenda
Once the topic has been chosen, it’s now time to create an agenda that you provide in advance. Use this as an opportunity to assign times to whomever is attending. Spit the time slots as evenly as possible so that everyone gets a chance to speak during the 30-60 minute meeting. Make sure to give a few minutes of cushion on the front end, to set the tone, and on back-end, to discuss next steps.
If the meeting is being held at the family house, make sure you create as much of an interruption-free zone as possible. If it’s not at the family house, provide the meeting location and directions. And do everything possible to make the environment conducive to the discussion at hand.
Have the meeting!
Yay…the day is here!! Start your family financial meeting by acknowledging how it likely feels awkward, and by thanking everyone for showing up in spite of this discomfort.
Make sure everyone has a copy of the agenda and set some ground rules – like not interrupting people; or making judgmental comments; or bringing up unresolved conflicts that have nothing to do with the purpose of the meeting.
However much time each person has, split that so that three-quarters of it is for sharing and the balance is for getting feedback, suggestions, or ideas of resources the person can utilize.
As you each share and listen and provide feedback, it is critically important to keep this top of mind: You each are there to share, discover and be helpful – not to fix or judge. You are there to focus on solutions, not problems.
If necessary, remind people that the purpose of this meeting isn’t to be intrusive. Rather, to be supportive, proactive and strategic.
What’s a good, productive meeting if there aren’t any next-step actions to be taken, right?!
Based on the discussion, each person should have at least one (1) takeaway or one thing for them to do. Whatever that is, determine what part of it can be done within a week; a month; and the next twelve weeks.
And create a follow-up plan that provides support and self-accountability for each person’s takeaway.
You have likely heard me say this before: I don’t think the issue is that we don’t talk about money. I actually believe we talk about it all the time; I just don’t think we have the “right” conversations about money.
The suggestion to have these family financial meetings is a way to have what I describe as “real” talk when it comes to money. Because I see far too many instances of the (avoidable) harm that is done when families don’t have meaningful conversations about money.
So kudos to you for accepting the call-to-action to take the lead and plan your family’s financial meeting during this holiday season. You are going to do it, eh?!
The “right” conversation about money requires courage…and compassion. And that’s a good thing. A glass of wine can’t hurt either! 🙂
p.s. Do you want to download a PDF version this post so you can easily share it with your family. Click the below link.